News Satire People Food Other

Eskies Still Chilling Out Sixty Years On

By Em Allen on May 1, 2014 in

Picture: Duncan Horscroft

Picture: Duncan Horscroft

Sydney rarely gets cold enough to build igloos, but every Sunday morning at Clovelly during the winter months you will definitely see a dedicated tribe of Eskimos.

The Clovelly Eskimos Winter Swimming Club is bathed in history and the month of May signals the club’s 60th anniversary.

Since its formation in 1954, the ‘Eskies’ has played host to champion Australian watermen including water polo Olympians Charlie Turner, Chris Harrison and Chris Wybrow and Olympic swimmer and former Australian coach Terry Buck.

And it isn’t just the champions who have made the club great. Colourful Sydney identities such as Perce Galea and Eric O’Farrell, who ran a string of Sydney gambling houses in the 1950s, were also poolside regulars.

Entertainment was always a winner on ‘Pound Days’, where schooners were 60c and singers such as Norm Erskine and Ricky May belted out a few tunes. Some say May performed to settle his gambling debts with Galea.

In those days the club was ‘men only’ and many say its success stemmed from the fact you could get a cold beer there on Sundays, when other establishments were closed – unless you drove for miles to imbibe as a bona fide traveller.

Those halcyon days are over, but the club is still going strong. Women were allowed to become members in 1992 and it’s now a family affair.

The Hooper family has its roots firmly embedded in Clovelly and former Eskimos’ president Ted Hooper is still an active member.

He first joined the club in 1956 and has been a member of the Clovelly Surf Club since 1940.

His office is adorned with photos of his beloved swimming club and he recalls the days when members of the Eskies would swim in any conditions and had no recollection of a swim ever being cancelled.

“One day I remember a wave came down and it was so big it took everyone with it,” he said. “Ernie Macdonald was carried the full length of the promenade and dumped in the pool, yelling all the way.”

“The wonderful Perce Galea, who ran baccarat clubs in Kings Cross, was very supportive of the club and we always had great gear thanks to Eric’s (O’Farrell) sponsorship.

“Everyone congregated together and winter swimming was successful because it opened up the opportunity to get together.

“The Hooper name is synonymous with Clovelly. My grandfather (Edward) refereed the first ever game of rugby league between Balmain and Wests in 1908 and also managed the surf sheds at Clovelly, and my father (Stanley) lived across the road.”

The 60th anniversary ball at the AJC, Randwick, is scheduled for July 19 and it’s a safe bet that Ted will be reminding all those ‘young whippersnappers’ what life was really about in the fast lane at Clovelly Beach.

A collection of old photos will be on display at the Clovelly Surf Club and the first person to correctly identify all the members in the 1957 photo will receive a ticket to the ball.