As the longest-serving member of the Townsville Picnic Bay Surf Life Saving Club, 86-year-old Jack Paterson has plenty of fond memories.
How did you get into surf life saving?
Well I first joined when I was 18. That was in 1948. The club captain in those days was George Sadd. I was playing footy at the time and he convinced me being a life saver would be a good conditioner for the game.
What did you enjoy most about being a life saver?
The comradeship. I was a member of what was called The Dirty Dozen and we were the gear stewards. We’d set up and look after all the gear used in the carnivals — the beach sprints, ropes, flags, belts… My best mate in the club was Stewart Braddick. He had a boat and we got very pal-y because I loved going out on the water. We went to school together in South Townsville actually. We become really firm friends. He worked on Palm Island building houses (he was a carpenter) and we used to go out to the reef.
It was the best way to meet girls. In those days girls weren’t allowed in the club but they’d come over to enjoy the beach and for Thursday night dances. As time went on the girls became members and I thought ‘You beauty!’.
Do you remember any pranks being pulled in the good old days?
In the real early days the publican at Picnic Bay had a menagerie out the back — ostriches, ducks and chooks. I heard some of the boys got up there and grabbed them all and took them back down to the clubhouse for a laugh.
Did you win any competitions?
Yeah, yeah. I got fourth in the open belt race state titles. Now I think about it I won a North Barrier Belt Championship once. A bloke from Forest Beach I could never beat jammed his reel so I had an advantage. I’d never have beaten him otherwise.
Were you over the island most weekends?
Yes even when you weren’t on patrol, you’d still go over to socialise. It was the best way to meet girls. In those days girls weren’t allowed in the club but they’d come over to enjoy the beach and for Thursday night dances. As time went on the girls became members and I thought ‘You beauty!’. I had a reputation as a mad dancer (The Jive). I was pretty outgoing in those days. I was the first one to wear togs that laced up the side instead of having the tie-up front.
Do you still go to the club?
Yes I went to the branch dinner and the club dinner this year and I’m looking forward to our 90th anniversary celebrations.
For information about joining the Townsville Picnic Bay Surf Life Saving Club visit www.tpbslsc.com.au