I transferred from 2MG Mudgee to 2LF Young I think around Winter 1955. Young was bigger than Mudgee and a really nice town.
My memory’s a bit creaky these days but when I arrived I’m fairly sure Mr Marchant was still Manager but soon to retire to make way for Bill Marsden, Colin Humphries (later of 2GB and 2CH) was Chief Announcer, John O’Reilly (later of ABC Sport, Sydney) called the Rugby League which was absolutely huge in the country in those days, definitely attracting a lot more attention in the country than the Sydney league. I remember Lawrie Shaw, Ian Nicholls, John Caughey and I think Ian Elstob(?).
Sadly, l went almost instantly into Breakfast which I hated because I didn’t sleep that well in those early years. I recall going to work at 4:30 in the morning in mid-winter when the ground was frozen. When you walked on the grass it didn’t bend, it cracked.
I confess there were also a couple of occasions when Chief Engineer Bob Milne (later of 2GB) had to come into the Robertson’s house early in the morning to pull yours truly out of bed. This was a time when no one locked their doors at night , not even in Sydney. And many neighbours had a gate in their fence, connecting the two houses. Neighbours dropped in regularly for a “cuppa”. I loved those days in Australia, an atmosphere only recreated in Sydney during the amazing 2000 Olympics, and then – unhappily – for just the briefest time.
Ian Nicholls arrived from Melbourne not long after me and—unfortunately for him—ended up doing the 9-1 womens’ shift. Now, things were pretty quiet in Young at the time and I seized on just about anything I could find to provide a bit of extra excitement/humour.
Once I found out where Nicko was boarding that was pretty much the end of his life as he knew it. Around 8:30 I’d start describing how Ian had just left the house and where he was en route. Obviously these reports started out as complete fabrications but after a short time, women started to call me and tell me where Ian was. This was marvellous. Soon, they were hanging out at the front gate yelling encouragement to Nick and even suggesting that if he didn’t get a move on he might be late.
This was lots of fun for me but a total embarrassment for Nicko. So, he changed his route to work, taking a longer, but less predictable journey. Didn’t work, pal, did it? The women were on to it like a flash, reporting to me immediately that you were no longer taking your normal path but had now switched to another road. Not only that but my spies were now reporting in on what Nicko was wearing, information which was embellished cruelly by the breakfast announcer to bring even further embarrassment to his colleague.
Ian still wakes up at 2 O’clock every morning, in a cold sweat, after dreaming that he’s walking down a quiet street in Young and suddenly hundreds of housewives race out of their front doors to cheer his daily walk to work. I’m amazed that he still talks to me but he does. Indeed we had a Gloria Jeans coffee near Central a little while back while he was in Sydney and it was wonderful.
I should say, I love this guy. He’s a radio legend. Anything you want to know, ring him. He knows all the history and where quite a few skeletons are buried.
By the way, I broke a rule earlier on when I used the phrase, “in Young”. One of the first lectures I got on arrival was that I could say “2LF, Young,” and, “2LF at Young,” but never, “2LF, in Young”. Apparently that term had a different significance in the country areas, something to do with falling pregnant, and for reasons I still don’t understand this generated all sorts of excitement, when mentioned in the local community. I couldn’t figure it out but I adhered to the memo and never used, “in young”.
The other big dispute in those days was with the major record labels. They argued the radio industry should pay to use their product. The stations argued in turn that if they didn’t play the records no one would hear them so there wouldn’t be any sales at all. This went on for a time, forcing all stations to wire off parts of the music library, isolating the record labels in question, so that no one would inadvertently trigger a major legal action.
During that time we all got used to these extremely large records, as big as a giant pizza, called, I think, World Records. These contained as many as 12 tracks on one side and we flogged the living daylights out of them while the dispute raged on. When it stopped, we just removed the chicken wire and went back to business as usual.
It was during this time that something occurred that left me totally mystified and still does. I’ve only told this story in public once before, on the Brian Bury radio show, and in writing it down today I know I’ll risk being laughed-at as a bit of a goose. But I’ll tell the story exactly as it happened, with the firm note to doubters that I wasn’t drunk, indeed I hardly drink at all even today.
I boarded with Mrs Robertson and her son Cyril at Young and we were invited to go rabbit shooting on her daughter Thelma‘s farming property just out of Town. I went there with two friends, packing our 22’s and plenty of ammunition. We’d made our way to the side of a hill where the bottom was completely cleared but up above remained heavy forest and bushland. All of a sudden there was this tremendous noise, like a train was coming from behind us. Second later this huge big red kangaroo came careering past, within a metre or two, scaring the life out of all three of us. We went berserk firing round after round at this big 'roo as it disappeared down the hill. This was clearly not politically correct, but in 55-56 what did we know. We were just galahs like all the other youths of the time.
Anyway, as the 'roo headed away, for some reason I looked up the hill and there standing at the edge of the bush was this creature looking straight at me, eating leaves from a tree complete unconcerned. My mates were still firing wildly and yelling but this creature wasn’t even remotely spooked. It looked almost human, with two arms and legs, but was covered in dirty red-orange hair.
We were about 25 metres away I’m guessing. I’d put its height at around 5 feet, sorry I can’t convert that to whatever we use these days. But it wasn’t tall. One thing I remember, and will always carry with me, is that it looked straight into my eyes. There was this mesmerizing contact. The animal/creature had big brown, sorrowful eyes. I will never forget them.
When I saw this creature I must have said something pretty dramatic and with a certain amount of vigour, because my two mates stopped shooting immediately and looked at me in amazement. Obviously I got their attention and I remember explaining how I’d “seen something” and turning back to the forest up the hill. “Please God,” I begged, and remember I’m an atheist, ”Please God, let it still be there”. IT WASN’T. As we all turned and looked in the direction I was pointing, all that could be seen was the rustle of the leaves.
I then faced a momentous decision. Did I tell my friends the whole story and go charging up into the bush trying to find it risking being labelled an idiot, or did I lie and try to change the subject, with some lame excuse? I chose the latter. Now, you’ll ask yourself why? Let me explain. I was an incredibly innocent 18 year old. You would be amazed how innocent. Perhaps if I describe it this way. An 18 year old in ’56 was about as sophisticated as a 12 year old in 2007. I had absolutely no benchmark in making my decision. There were no terms of reference. And do you know what I was thinking? Not about the creature and what I’d just seen, but about my friends and what they were thinking about me and most important of all... WOULD THEY TELL ANYONE? Was I going to be totally embarrassed and pointed out as a whacko? This was my total concern. So I blurted out something stupid and we continued on our way, with both mates looking at me from time to time, wondering what the hell I was on about.
So we returned to the farmhouse where Thelma had prepared a beautiful afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream. We sat there, and I just pleaded inside for my friends not to say anything. Which they didn’t for a time, 'til Jim returned from his chores to have afternoon tea with us.
“How did you go?” he said and I lifted my head, hoping beyond all hope that my friends would forget the incident. And they were fine for a few minutes, reporting that we hadn’t bagged one rabbit. I don’t think we even saw one. Then just when I thought all was well, one of them said, “Oh and Frank saw something, up there in the bush,” at which point the two burst into giggles, like a couple of 13 year old schoolgirls.
Farmer Jim looked across and asked what it was, and I remember making some stupid excuse, like it might have been a cow or something. I looked up and Jim’s eyes met mine. My jaw dropped. The subject was never mentioned again even though Jim and I met several times but I knew the minute he looked at me that afternoon. The thing I’d seen, he’d seen it too. I confess that made things a lot better.
Time went by and I pushed the creature back into a corner of my mind, marked “too hard basket”. It stayed there 'til 1975.
I was relaxing in Perth, having morning tea, and thumbing through the Sunday paper when I turned a page and there it was... the creature looking straight at me. This wasn’t approximately like what I’d seen. It looked exactly like it, barring the colour obviously. It was an artist’s impression of the YOWIE, a creature which went way back into aboriginal folklore. The article was by the Yowie hunter, Rex Gilroy.
I rang Rex the next morning and we spoke at length about my sighting and how it was identical to hundreds of other such incidents. He told me the aboriginies had a long history of accepting that their country was also populated by a “great hairy man” and that this had been the case for as long as they could remember.
Now, I had never heard the term Yowie before. I’d never read about it and to my best recollection no one had ever mentioned it even in an aside. This was extraordinary information. Rex was leading an expedition in the Blue Mountains in the next few months and I followed every step of the trek, reading everything I could about the hunt. It came to nothing.
I spent the next 10 years researching this subject and – just like the YETI and the BIGFOOT – I produced absolutely nothing. No one had captured a live Yowie. There were no skeletal remains and no one had ever found their habitat. As archeologists will tell you, nothing walks on this planet without leaving a trace. If we can find the bones of dinosaurs from 65 million years ago, we can surely find the bones of a Yowie. No one has.
In the end I had to do what I’d had to do in many of my searches into famous crimes... I had to admit that you went with the evidence. It said overwhelmingly that there was no such thing.
So, that’s how it finished up. I saw this thing: it wasn’t an hallucination. But I have to accept that it just doesn’t exist. This remains a complete mystery to me. I have no explanation. All I can offer, at the risk of a great deal of embarrassment, is to describe the incident exactly as it happened. I’m still hunting through my records, looking for that newspaper article. When I find it I’ll make sure it’s posted as part of this series.
When we next meet up, I’ll be telling you about my stage comeback – and we’re not talking King Lear here folks – and of my birth date coming up for national service.
In the meantime, for those of you looking for a bit of adventure... get your boots and backpack on and go find me a Yowie. PLEASE!!!!!!!!! I’m begging you.