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Waverley’s Urban Myths

By Dan Hutton on February 14, 2012 in

Charles (2nd from left) and his buddies

The Waverley area boasts a number of urban myths, stories of obscure origin with little or no supporting evidence that are repeated so often they take on the status of a real event.

We also have a uniquely Waverley variation of the urban myth, which I have termed ‘the Bondi distortion factor’. In this variant, anything that happened on a beach anywhere in Australia is deemed to have happened at Bondi.

Despite the tens of thousands of beaches along the enormous Australian coastline it seems that a story is all the greater if it happened on Bondi Beach. Here are some of the most common urban myths and the real facts:

Myth: Aviator Charles Kingsford Smith was one of the people rescued on Bondi’s ‘Black Sunday’.

On February 6, 1938 the biggest mass surf rescue in Australian history took place at Bondi Beach. In a day of unprecedented drama, approximately 250 were rescued, 35 were unconscious and ultimately there were five deaths. The day has been known ever since as ‘Black Sunday’. A regularly repeated myth is that Charles Kingsford Smith, as a young boy, was rescued that day.

Fact: On January 2, 1907 lifesavers on Bondi Beach did rescue 9 year-old Charles Kingsford Smith (then simply known as Charles Smith), along with his cousin Rupert Swallow. The two boys had been caught in a rip and were being pulled away from the shore. The boys panicked, struggling to stay afloat in the surf. It was a near brush with death for Charles, he was unconscious when brought in to shore but he recovered after resuscitation.

Ironically, Charles Kingsford Smith did end up dying in the ocean when, in 1935, his plane crashed into the sea somewhere off the coast of Burma. However, this was three years before Bondi’s infamous ‘Black Sunday’.

Source: The Bondi Lifesaver: a history of an Australian icon by Sean Brawley.

Myth: Prince Charles on a visit to Australia was spontaneously kissed by a bikini-clad girl on Bondi Beach

Fact: In 1979 Prince Charles was kissed by a bikini-clad model, Jane Priest, on a visit to Australia, but this took place on Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia. This was not a spontaneous event, but a media set up. On an earlier visit to Australia, in November 1977, Prince Charles did go surfing at Bondi Beach, but he remained unkissed.

Source: On March 2, 2005 in an interview with the ABC radio news program ‘AM’ Prince Charles expressed his gratitude to the people of Perth for the warm welcome he had received during his visit.

Myth: Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped the North Bondi headland in fabric as a public art installation.

Fact: In 1969 avant-garde artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped a headland at Little Bay in fabric as a public art installation, reputedly making the largest artwork produced anywhere in the world.

Source: Weekend Australian Review, 26-27 September 2009, and numerous 1969 contemporary newspaper reports.