Young Verns Story

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Young Vern is a proud Bays supporter and member for more than 50 years (Vern turned 80 in Feb 2010). In January 2009 Vern provided Snouts Louts with this insight into the immigrant's view of Aussie Rules. It featured as a four part story, each of which is quoted below.

A Pommy bay supporters story Pt 1.

Hi Guys.

I'm going to kick off the between season's story telling. I've just joined the bays for my 50 year. So my story is how a 10 Pound Pom started following Aussie Rules, in particular the Mighty Tigers. And how I came to strongly dislike port supporters. I hope to send in a weekly story if its of any interest.

On the 2nd of Oct 1951 the good ship Orontes arrived at Outer Harbour. On board was myself and the boss (Just Married ) I was keen to get on dry land as I was somewhat thinner having spent most of the 32 days at sea spewing up. We were both keen to meet the locals having been told the Aussies were a fairly good lot. But warned to be a bit careful of the white ones.

Having disembarked down the gang plank there stood our first local Australian. He was surly looking chap who was winding up a rope from the ship. We both greeted him with a friendly, Good morning , isnt it a lovely day. His reply was. Oh no. Not more pommy bastards. I knew that in my case it wasnt strickly true as I had seen my parents wedding certificate, and my mother had told me once that I had a choice of fathers. That's when I noticed he was wearing a black and white striped shirt. At that time I didnt realise of how over the years I would come to dispise those colours.

We were met by my sister and brother-in-law, and travelled in luxury in a car that had wooden spokes on the wheels and a canvas hood. A 1934 model Overland light four, the oldest car I had ever seen. We headed through Port Adelaide with houses covered in rusting iron roofs, old verandah's with lace bits hanging off. Once clear we took the coastal route through Largs Bay heading south. Barren sand hills with goat herds on them. I was later to learn the land was owned by an old lady who kept the goats. What would she be worth now. West Lakes here we come.

I was keen to find out just were we staying, On the ship the Australians from Adelaide had enquired we were going to stay with my sister. When I told them the address was Parkside a smile came to their faces as they winked at one another. It wasn't until we arrived that we found that Parkside was the original Glenside. Being sent to Parkside usualy meant you were a bit light up top, or as nutty as a fruit cake.

Enough for today. If your still interested, Next week its my introduction to Aussie rules and the Mighty Tigers, plus my second brush with nasty Magpies.

Young Vern.


Now were was I?

That's right. Just arrived Oct 2nd 1951. Our total wealth was 40 pounds. I owed 10 to my mate Roy that we had borrowed on the boat. My brother-in law took the other 30 to pay for an old secondhand bed and wardrobe that I suspect may have been left ashore by my fellow Yorkshire man Capt Cook. So we were flat broke. A job was needed quickly, luckily at that time they were reasonably easy to get.

I started 3 days later as a wood machinist at a firm building one of the three migrant hostels. Getting even a room to rent was just about impossible. I can recall a tent city down in the creek on the South Road just below the start of Ayliffs Rd.

Jean and I slept in the lounge. My brother Gordon had just been discharged from the Repat hospital after being wounded in Korea, he slept in the passage. My sister-husband and baby had the only bedroom. Then our friend Rene rang to say she had heard that a room was to let. Straight after tea we rushed there, knocked on the door for five minutes, then a man appeared in his nightshirt, followed by his wife with the same attire, then the other couple of lodgers. joined us. We were asked in but couldn't move for empty beer bottles, the four of them were as pissed as parrots, but showed us round the house with the help of a torch. Jean nudged me and said, let's try and escape.

Then things got even worse, Jean said one day, Guess what your going to be a dad. Oh shit. (I hope your all in tears by now)

Then a few weeks later my sister said her friend had had heard of a couple of rooms to let opposite them down Broadway Glenelg. We immediately went there to find they were still vacant. Two rooms and a lean too kitchen. LUXURY. The only proviso was NO KIDS. Jean wasn't showing by then thank heaven, A definite no was our answer.

The owner was old Mrs Symons and her spinster daughter. Life was certainly better apart from the the pudding club problem. Jean finally said, I can't hold my stomach in any longer when I see them. You will have to tell them. I sweated on it for a couple of days working out the best way to approach it. Finally I said to Mrs Symonds? Weve just had some good news, Jean is expecting a baby. How delightful she said. Congratulations.

Just when things were looking rosy again the firm I worked for sacked 10 of us including myself. This was just before Xmas 1953, jobs were not only a lot harder to get but if they took you on it meant paying the Holiday pay. We only had enough money to last one week. ( If your not crying by now all I can say is you must be hard bastards) I even went to Port Adelaide on my motor bike to try for a job. Just think if I had got it I could have been a Port supporter. The thought makes me feel sick.

Then our fortunes changed again. When I first came out I had joined the Union just like I had in England. The little Union guy went everywhere to find me work and talked to the boss at a small firm, Paringa Joinery Works on Oaklands Rd, Glenelg. I started on the Monday. The pay was low but I loved it. This was not only the start of the friendship with the owner Keith Mattsson that lasted til he died a few years ago. In later years I repayed him by putting a large amount of work his way.

And two weeks later Patricia was born. (Naturally she was Premature) The old dear turned out to be the Grandma that Pat didn't have in Australia.

This was the about the first time that I can recall the footy being mentioned. The local men's hairdresser was on Broadway, it was just past the Pub. Saturday mornings was full of bay supporters having a complaint about the players and umpires and how we were robbed.

At work I noticed the apprentice started coming to work wearing yellow and black socks. On enquiring he told me that he played for Glenelg's under 19s.

After a couple of years in which I learned so much about Joinery and Cabinetmaking I was ready for a new challenge. One day my wife told me that one of the woman who she worked with had told her that Fereday's, the building firm her husband worked for, was looking for a second fix carpenter to replace a man had just left. It was ideal for me as the wages were better, I could gain more knowledge, and it was near by on Diagonal Rd. I was accepted and reluctantly left Paringa. Little did I realise that this would not only vastly improve my knowledge of the building industry, but lead me into my great passion. The Mighty Glenelg Football Club.

Part three next week, Its less of The Days Of Our Life stuff, Its into footy.

Young Vern.


Monday morning, I started work as a 2nd fix carpenter at Feredays Builders Oaklands Park. At 10 o'clock it was smoko time. We were joined by 3 plumbers and 2 roofing carpenters.

As it was the football season and a Monday this was the conversation. It was first started by Mick Moyle one of the Carpenters. He was trying to explain how if it hadn't been for that white maggot Glenelg could have won last Saturday. I was somewhat bemused how a maggot of any colour could cause a team to lose. Then Ray Holmes, the Plumber boss and only Port supporter there, said "Every Monday its the same Mick, you've got more excuses that a dog's got flees."

It was the other carpenter that really took my interest, he hadn't said a word and had only nodded when I was introduced. A man about my size but looked about 50 years old ( later I found he was 45 ). He was wearing a hat with a large brim that was all tattered. He started to make a cigarette by hand, then from his top pocket out came a long 15cm cigarette holder. I sat fascinated as he lit it. I had only seen these previously being smoked by ladies in the old time pictures. This would have made a lovely scene but for the fact that he was wearing a pair of large baggy pants and out of his left leg was hanging his crown jewels. Being the young shy English boy that I was, I tried to look away and not notice. Our Port supporter friend wasn't as polite and said, Arthur for god's tuck your balls away you're putting me off my sandwich.

This was my first meeting with Arthur Link, one of the Glenelg greats, the first rover in the 1934 Glenelg Premiership side. It was the start of our great friendship that lasted until he died a few years ago. A true gentleman and tradesman, I learned so much from him not only about the building game and football, and it allowed me to meet some of the other greats of that side.

One I recall from a few years later. Arthur had invited me to a party of a friend of his. One of the guests was Blue Johnston, the feared high marking ruckman from that side. I had been told even our own guys got out of the way when they heard him coming. As the night wore on and a few more beers went down he decided to show me how to deliver a perfect hip and shoulder. I was then in my prime about 36 years old, Blue was retired and well over 60. I remember flying through the the air the full length of the passage, coming to rest as I slit down the back door. Blue being the perfect gentleman that he was, helped me up and brushed me down (with a large grin on his face).

A year or so before that I had enjoyed an evening down the club with Arthur, sharing a table with some of the old premiership side. I just listened as they talked of the old days. I finally asked how much money did you get in those days per game. Arthur said "I got two shillings and sixpence, paid at the end of the year. I think it was doubled for the Grand Final win." One of the others agreed, then the guy who was captain said, "I got five shillings a game during the season." The rest of the guys looked at him and said, we didn't know that. You must have been the first contract player down the bay. We all cracked out laughing.

Back to the first Monday. For the next few weeks it followed the same pattern, I finally said, "Dont you guys ever talk about anything else but football, there's a lot more going on in the world you know." ( WASH MY MOUTH OUT WITH SOAP )

I soon got into the ways of the other workers there. Friday after work we all went down to the Holdfast pub on the corner near the club. This was in the days of 6 o'clock closing, known as the 6 o'clock swill. Five minutes to six a row of pints of beer lined the bar. I was slowly learning the Aussie evil way's.

We were joined by Arthur's two brothers: Bill, a plumber who had played for the seconds, was Arthur's double in looks and just as nice a guy; and his half brother Bob, who just happened to be a proxy selector. With it being a Friday night the team had been selected. Can you picture it. The place was packed with half pissed bay supporters who were all experts. One after another we were interrupted by "Why the hell did you pick him for centre half back, he couldn't get a kick in an electric chair."

Looking back I now realise that this must of set the seed of my interest in the Bays. After listening to this for a few weeks, Sunday morning over breakfast I would look at the sport pages, I wonder how Glenelg went, Lost again, but what was the name of the guy they said was worse than useless. Did he make the best players. The rot had set in. I was slowly being pulled in.

Next week part 4. My first game. It just happened to against the evil Port Mob.

Shit its hot. Its all right for you lot who are used to it, but what about my peaches and cream english skin. Young Vern.


By the time I had been at Fereday's a year or so I had not only improved my Carpentry, but learned that if you came from overseas the only way to survive on a Building site was to have an hide like an elephant, learn to bull sh*t like the rest, and give as good as you get. Strangely the one who gave me the hardest time was an Italian, Johnny Gava. He was one of the three Gava brothers, the best cement and terrazzo firm in South Australia. He gave me heaps. For some reason he couldn't say Vern. I was known as Roberto (Roberts) the Pom Bastard Carpentero. I actually liked it, it had a certain ring with it. Boy could he lay in on. I remember a couple of years later an English labourer started with us who was straight off the boat. It was Monday lunch time. Johnny was at his worst, he soon had the poor devil almost in tears, every couple of minutes Johnny gave me a wink. After lunch I followed the poor chap out and tried to explain that it wasn't really meant in a nasty way, that night he handed in his notice.

Next day I told Johnny about the poor guy leaving because of him. "So what" he said, "if you only know what we put up with in our early days." He told me the story of the three teenage brothers arriving broke in the 1930's, working like dogs, called wogs and every name going, then when Italy entered the war they were all interned into camps. I said well you should know what its like then. Roberto, he said, please don't spoil my fun, The Poms are the only ones with the thin skins.

The football season is over, its into cricket with the ashes started. Now its War. Coming from Yorkshire the locals presumed that I would be an expert at it. Why should I tell them otherwise? My knowledge of cricket was about the same as football. Now was my chance to show them, I casually dropped the names of famous Yorkshire cricketers, like Wilfred Rhodes, Herbert Sutcliffe, do you know that the English Captain Ray Illingworth not to forget Sir Len Hutton came from Pudsey, only four miles away. I was in full swing and added and what's this about you lot claiming Sir Douglas Mawson for an Australian, he was born at Shipley only three miles from where I was born. The Tests were great fun, everyone carried a little transistor radio with them. Even up in the ceilings.

It must have been about 1958 when Ross Black a plumber bay supporter said "You do enough complaining about us talking about football all time. Why don't you come and see for yourself. This week we're playing Ports down the bay, we will probably lose but it should be a good game." "Why not" I said, "see you outside the Oval Gates."

It was about 5 minutes into the first quarter when we arrived. "Not much action going on", I said to Ross, "why is everyone stood around"

"Follow me", he said, "you will see why."

As we moved to the front of the main stand, I saw they were loading a Port footballer onto a stretcher, blood was slowly running down the side of his face.

Ross said "The Port mob wont be too happy about this, its Brian Luke, one of their best and a State half forward." I looked around for the culprit, he stood near by with an unconcerned look on his face, I've forgotten his name but my memories are of, a huge body with no neck, straight down from his head, I later found out he was the State life guard champion. As the stretcher was taken down the race there was polite clapping from the crowd. At the same time I heard the locals murmuring "Serves the dirty bastards right, Its time they got some of their own medicine back."

By half time I think we were about three goals down, the usual story against this mob said Ross.

At the start of the third quarter we moved around in front of the Cricket stand. I was amazed to see the two rows of seats were taken up by old woman all wearing black and white. The curious thing was they were all knitting. As we approached about six of them were taking it in turns to argue with a couple of Bay supporters. I now learned what the knitting was for. Anyone who came close was stabbed by a needle. Now this entertainment was better than the football, its was worth the entry money alone to see them.

I must have got too close listening to the altercation when one who I swear had no teeth shouted at me "And you can piss off as soon as you like." I had a feeling that some time in my past I had witnessed a scene like this before. Then it hit me. It was a film of the French Revolution. The horse drawn Tumbrils (Carts) that brought the Royalty to have their heads chopped off. In the front were rows of old hags wearing black dresses, no teeth, and knitting away. Every time a head was chopped of they all cheered.

I think we lost by about six or so. On the way out Ross said "Well Vern what do you reckon?"

To use an Aussie expression, "I wouldn't have missed it for quids." I was hooked.

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