Potted History

Delivered at the club Christmas Dinner at Novacare December 15 2012.

The first meeting was held in the Broadwater Food Hall just over 15 years ago, at 5pm on November 21, 1997. There were 15 people present, including ten women. Thus began a great club tradition. Men and women are equal in this club, but women are more equal than men.

Seven office bearers were elected by the meeting. Every one of them was a woman.

The first president was Jill Manning. Her vice president was Jean Sunderland. Her secretary/treasurer was Margaret George. Her four committee members were Lexie Bell, Ann Dixon, Pam Gaglia and Nancy Trigwell.

Denis Lane can confirm all this for you, because he was at that meeting, and is the only club member still riding today who is an original member. His wife Betty was also there, although she does not ride, and they are both here tonight.

Membership was set at $5 plus $1 a ride, and the first ride was on a Monday, November 24 starting from the Health Centre carpark at 7am. It was a short ride, to Port Geographe and back. The rides were to be every second Monday, with the committee organizing the routes.

The next meeting was nearly three weeks later, when a constitution was adopted, and three suggestions for a name were put forward. The Busselton Wheelers got two votes, the Busselton Cycle Club got four votes and the Geographe Cycle Club got eight votes. By ten votes to three, it was agreed that members had to be aged 55 or over.

The club bean-counters were soon at work. They didn’t like the government debit charge of 30c on each cheque and the Member for Vasse Bernie Masters was asked to seek exemption for the club. Bernie tried, but you can’t beat those government bean counters.

At that same meeting, Dennis Lane suggested that a first-aid kit be obtained, and the club has had one or more ever since.

In October 1998 the name Whiteside appears for the first time, and Lyn and Peter became long-time members, with Peter taking a prominent part in the club’s affairs from that moment. Dick Shore’s name also appears, and he became the ride co-ordinator.

A grant of $1000 was obtained from the Lotteries Commission and the club trailer with a steel roof was purchased, designed by Peter Whiteside.

The idea of morning tea also came from Peter, with a backup vehicle carrying the tucker, just as it does today.

In January 2000 there was some discussion about a Kalgoorlie trip by the Bunbury Club, and later our club took part in this ride.

By February 2002 new names were appearing in the minutes. Kath Noakes became the fourth president Mary Watts began her first of four years as secretary and Peter Whiteside began his six years as treasurer. Max Kewish became ride captain, a position he held with great distinction for nine years, and for which he was later awarded a life membership. From this moment onwards, Mary Watts became an incredibly active and busy member. A bike club can’t ride on an empty stomach, and Mary made it her business to see that on long rides stomachs were never empty.

Over subsequent years, members became accustomed to the kind deeds and mechanical expertise of Peter Whiteside, who used to be an RAC roadside mechanic in an earlier life.

He fixed my broken spokes on the Kalgoorlie ride, and he and later Frank Dickinson have always been the riders to go to if you have trouble on a ride. Typical of Peter was the day he repaired the toilet door of the Yoongarillup hall off his own bat because he felt the hall people had been so kind to the club.

A note in the minutes of August 29, 2002 said the club was going to participate in Seniors’ Week, with the club theme to be “Join us for an easy ride, peddle your way to fun and fitness. All you need is a road- worthy bike, helmet, sense of humour and an iron constitution.”

Kath Noakes started to introduce some new rules, like riding in single file and getting off the road when you stop for any reason. At meetings she constantly referred to this question of safe riding, and even today she is remembered for her strict insistence on road safety.

Things are always changing, but often in a way that demonstrates how people never change. At the 2002 AGM someone moved that Monday rides in Winter should start at 9am. An amendment was moved that they start at 8.30am. The amendment was lost by10 votes to 9. The original motion was then put and lost 10 votes to 6. What happened after that is not recorded in the minutes. Kath Noakes recalls that a small group did not like the earlier start and soon after left the club and started a small breakaway group. The club then returned to an 8am start. She said there was also trouble over whether a wash-up basin should be carried on rides and whether poly- styrene cups should be used, and she thought this was the catalyst that resulted in the formation of the breakaway group. The details are in the minutes of a committee meeting of January 22, 2003. This business of what should be the winter and summer start time appears again in the minutes, and many a club orator has honed his debating skills on this very subject.

At the same 2002 AGM the names Norm Watts and Max Kewish appeared for the first time in the minutes although they had joined earlier, Max having joined in 2000.

So we now have, by the year 2002, the names of four people who all contributed a huge amount of time to this club. They are all life members – Mary Watts, Norm Watts, Peter Whiteside and Max Kewish.

But there is a fifth life member of this club, and there is no mention of it anywhere in the minutes. His name is Alf Gaglia. Alf was a very early member, but was unable to ride, so he became our first “backup man,” a job he did every week in the early years of the club. His wife Pam, who was on the club’s first committee, still has his life membership certificate dated June 17, 2000. Alf is in the nursing home at Ray Village.

When did Eddie and Melva Pimm start entertaining us with their music? It must have been in 2003 because Kath Noakes in her president’s report in November that year referred to three camps held that year in Denmark, Woodman Point and Big Valley and said what fun they were, made “even more enjoyable now we have the great music supplied by Melva and Ed…”

The subject of a bike path from Busselton to Dunsborough comes up regularly in our minutes, like a running sore. In 2003 club members collected 770 signatures on a petition, which was presented to the council. Kath delivered a speech to the council which was prepared by Mary Watts. Afterwards Kath’s comment on this was “I really thought we were getting somewhere but we are like the little girl in the World Vision ad BUT STILL WE WAIT.”

The bike path was finally completed in 2013 when a bridge was built overToby’s Inlet and many club members took part in the first official ride from Busselton to Dunsborough. “Hooray” we all thought. Earlier I referred to the way women really run this club. Continuing in this fine tradition, Nola Helman persuaded the club members in November 2003 to sign a letter to the Shire saying that the pioneer plaques, some of which we visit on our rides, did not contain the names of any women. Nola, who regularly used to win the club prize for attending the most rides for the year, was the great upholder of women’s rights.

There are many references to our road verge cleanups, which started when Peter Whiteside suggested in August 2002 that members do a clean up in the Ludlow-Tuart Drive-Wonnerup area. The Shire agreed to pay the club each year for this.

In October 2004 Kath Noakes stepped down as president, and Norm Watts began his four years as chairman. Norm always kept us well informed, and at morning tea he would hold forth about some coming event. Sometimes a small voice from the crowd would say “no Norm, you’ve got the date wrong” and, amid great laughter, Norm would modestly concede that it’s really Mary who runs the show. Norm was not the only one to suffer this indignity. I remember a later president, Gwyn Cracknell, getting the same treatment from his wife Wendy.

In October 2005 Peter Whiteside retired as treasurer after 6 years of meticulously keeping the financial records of the club. But a year before that, at a committee meeting on October 28, 2004 Peter was appointed to a new position called Ride Director despite his reluctance to accept the job. Before this the job was called Ride Co-ordinator, and the minutes show the first person to occupy this position was Dick Shore, who relinquished it at the AGM in September 1999 when he had to go away for three months. Peter accepted the position for three months but the minutes don’t show what happened then until Peter became Ride Director in October 2004. He was still Ride Director and treasurer in May 2005, when the committee minutes recorded that he asked Betty Evans to collect the ride money on Monday mornings. The first mention in the minutes of a new post called Ride Captain was at the AGM in October 2005 when Max Kewish was appointed to that position, a job that he performed with great distinction until he was succeeded by Ken Bonser. A close perusal of the minutes does not show the true history of the position of ride captain, but in fact Max Kewish held the post for nine years, for which he was made a life member.

Peter was succeeded as treasurer by Eric Criddle. At a special committee meeting held after morning tea at Chapman Hill on September 18 2006, right next to one of those pioneer plaques that Nola so strongly objected to, the committee decided to award a life membership to Peter. The motion was moved by Max Kewish and Brian Wood, and five weeks later at the AGM at the Esplanade Hotel the award was presented by President Norm. This was my first AGM, and being a new member I had nothing to say at the meeting but I remember wondering to myself as Peter got up to accept the award “why are they making this bald headed old bloke a life member?” I was soon to discover why, and having this week read through the minutes of the club back to the year dot, I can truly see and appreciate the value to the club of the services of Peter Whiteside. And he’s not even 80 yet.

In October 2009 Max, who was still Ride Captain, was made the club’s fourth life member. Some of us might not realize the ride captain’s responsibilities. He must see that each ride is carried out in an orderly manner so that the different groups arrive in a manageable time for morning and afternoon tea, but he is also responsible for the safety of the riders. A big responsibility on a long two-week ride.

Max was a stickler for safe riding, and both he and Norm would urge members to ride at a speed that they could manage and not to worry about the others, and also to ride in single file

I remember on my first long ride, to Pemberton and return about five years ago, Max warned us about the big hill down into Nannup on the return journey.

“Stop at the top.” he said, “and check your brakes. Don’t go too fast down that big hill.”

I got to the top of the hill, and did all the things Max had suggested. Gingerly, I launched myself slowly from the top of this Everest. Half way down I heard a machine gun behind me. “Hells bells,” I thought. “There must be an Army rifle range near here.”

Wrong. It was Max’s riding jacket flapping against his thighs as he whistled past me at more than 50 kmh, a look of uncontrollable joy on his face.

Norm Watts, in his president’s report in October 2006, said indications were that the bike path to Dunsborough would be finished that year. “But,” he reported mournfully, “most of us will believe this when the path is in place, so let us hope for the best.” As noted earlier in this article, it was another seven years before the dream came true.

In 2007 preparations began for the Kalgoorlie ride – the biggest ride to that date for the club. It took place in April 2008 with more than 40 riders setting off to do nearly 800km in two weeks. They averaged 67km a day. There were no casualties, everyone was fed with plenty of good tucker and the whole ride was a tribute to the organisers, especially Ride Captain Max Kewish and food boss Mary Watts. Just before the ride members were saddened to learn of the passing of Harold Mumme.

At a committee meeting on November 8 there is a reference to a “gender imbalance” with seven men and one woman on the committee. “Hello” I thought. “The women are losing control.” Don’t you believe it. The women were still running the show, as proved on the Kalgoorlie ride. Women cooked the meals and men washed up according to a roster placed inside the van. John Slee was silly enough to declare that his washing up team was the best the club had ever seen. The women running the roster promptly rostered him for a double dose the very next day.

Neil Hastwell, who had become secretary in 2006, reported at the AGM in October 2007 that membership had reached 68. Neil was secretary for three years, one of those jobs that attracts little attention but lots of work. He was replaced by Gordon Douglas.

In September 2008 a special committee meeting considered and approved a proposal by Dennis Lane that life membership be conferred on Norm and Mary Watts. At the AGM six weeks later the meeting enthusiastically endorsed the life memberships for the two long-serving members. Norm was president for four years, and Mary was secretary for four years. But that is only part of the Watts story. Mary orders the food and supervises all arrangements for meals on all camps and is on the go at all times. Norm, apart from his official duties, is always available for club jobs. Between the two, they are a big part of the heart and soul of this club.

At the September 2008 AGM, Gwyn Cracknell was elected president.

Secretary Neil Hastwell said in his report for 2007/2008 that the most significant decision for the year was treasurer Eric Criddle’s idea that annual membership should remain at $15 but there should also be an annual ride fee of $50, which relieved the treasurer of mundane weekly collections and banking but made it easier in budgeting for ongoing expenses.

I am not going to take this potted history further than 2009. That is for a later historian. Others can write about the gargantuan ride to Lake Grace and return. It has been a great pleasure for me to put this snapshot together so that members can have an opportunity to reflect on the work of those who have made this club what it is today.

John Slee OBE (Over Bloody Eighty.) Slow bike rider.