In Caringbah we settled back into the life of a New South Wales family who had, of necessity, had to live in the backwater of Adelaide for three years. Pre-Dunstan Adelaide was a strange place. It was a mixture of Victorian, (and by that I mean Queen Victoria) conservatism and the very early days of multi-culturism (I well remember my dad saying that you’d be hard pressed to hear a person speaking English in the Adelaide markets); indeed, next door to our house an Italian migrant ran his market garden.
My dad used to say, when asked about Adelaide, that it was a lovely city. It was well laid-out, it just hadn’t been buried yet! And, in 1958, when the Russians launched the first Sputnik into space, the news made Page 3 of the Adelaide Advertiser! Seriously.
In Caringbah mum and dad got reacquainted with a man who had, 11 years before, been the best man at their wedding. Wes was now a policeman and was attached to the station at Sutherland where he rode a motorcycle in the Pursuit division, the forerunner of today’s Highway patrol. In 1961 he rode a gleaming Triumph Tiger 110, and we were fascinated. Wes was tall and handsome and we idolised him. He would visit often for a “cuppa” and it was a big prop for my brother and at school that we had a friend who was a policeman and who rode a motorcycle.
He would regale us with hairy tales of pursuits and the crims he had encountered. He once pursued a driver in a 1961 Chevy Bel Air along the road past the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights at speeds of over 100mph (160km/h) Pretty quick for those days.
Imagine our disappointment (and his disgust) when, one day, he turned up riding a BMW. The Police Force had gone for reliability over speed and had equipped their pursuit officers with what were, I am calculating, R50S’s. Wes was furious. They were comfortable and reliable, yes, but they were SLOW, and suddenly pursuits became a farce. He and his colleagues would try and get out of riding them and go back to using the one or two Triumphs that were left at the station, but the Sargeant twigged the game and made them ride the Beemers.
So Wes and the other riders would park their bikes on the footpath and then, when moving off on a job, ride them as fast as they could down the gutter and onto the road. They figured that doing so would prematurely damage the exhaust systems (which it did) and then they’d have to go into the shop for repairs and they’d get to ride the Trumpy instead.
Again, another contact, but not enough to turn me on to motorcycling. It was still regarded as an incredibly dangerous pastime, and it WAS.