My parents moved to North Shore during the war – about 1943 I think - because Dad was working as a lead burner at the Phossie. He worked in the acid plant where the sulphuric acid used in converting phosphatic rock into superphosphate was stored in huge lead tanks.
Dad and Mum bought a house at 66 Melbourne Road. At that time it was the ninth house from Ford (on the east side of Melbourne Road) and the second from the corner with Donnelly Avenue.
I was born on 5th July 1934 so I was about nine at the time we moved. I had been given the Christian names William Robert because William was a traditional family name (my father, grandfather and great grandfather were all named William) but Mum got sick of the confusion of having two Williams in the house so I became Bob.
My father was William George Edward Barclay, his father was William Hector Barclay and Dad’s grandfather was William Edward Barclay. The William tradition stopped with me because Gwenda and I named our son Wayne.
I think that Dad had been born in Fyansford near Geelong. His mother was Ellen Sarah (“Nelly”) Lomas. Dad, who had been born in 1909, grew up in the company of five red headed sisters: Ivy (born 1902), Vera (1904), Violet (1907), Lila (1912) and Phyllis who was born in the early 1920s. Auntie Phyllis married Bubbie Gourley. Dad had a brother Sydney born in 1919 but sadly he died as an infant.
My mother grew up in South Geelong almost opposite the railway station. Her parents were Garnet and Lucy Bray and Mum was the second of three girls. Her elder sister was Lilian Wyatt Bray born in 1909, Mum was Queenie Victoria Bray (1912) and her younger sister was Jessie Maria Bray (1915).
I don’t know how my parents met but they were married in the Noble Street Methodist Church in Chilwell and rented a house in Crofton St, West Geelong. Mum had worked in a mill down on the Barwon River but like all women in those days she became a full time housewife after she married. My sister Norma was born in 1936.
I started school at Newtown but then transferred to North Geelong State School when we moved to another rented house in Edward Street, North Geelong.
One of my earliest memories of North Shore days was seeing army tanks being driven along the Melbourne Road outside our house. Melbourne Road was at that time made of concrete from Separation Street to outside our home at No 66.
Our neighbours at 64 Melbourne Road were Harry and Alma Woodfull and on the other side at No 68 were Mr and Mrs Beach.
Adjoining the back of our block at No 1 Donnelly Ave was the Swindells family: John and Annie with children Ted, Bob, Elsie and Mary who everybody called “Bubbins”.
My parents made friends with the Cahir, Newman and Larkins families and my mates were Harold Cahir and Noel Newman.
Mum played tennis at the North Shore Tennis Club around the corner in Wendover Avenue and I played there on Saturday mornings with Harold, Noel, Elizabeth Minns, Ruth Mapleson, Betty Thomas, Yvonne Harris and Peter Tudor. The Tudors lived next door to the tennis courts. The adult players were Bob and Tot Cahir, Vinnie and Clarice Cahir, Mrs Ivan Brown, Mrs Gladys Grant, Neil Merryck, Athol Poustie, Jimmy Spitty and Eddie Clarke. There was also a deaf man, Mr Hatley, who played. He played with the North Shore cricket team too. His wife was also deaf but they had two daughters who could talk like anything.
Mrs Clarice Cahir had been a Kidman before she married and for a time her family ran the shop next to the petrol station opposite Ford.
The first car I can remember Dad owning was a small Ford roadster with the registration number 177 353. The next was a 1938 Willys (LB 544). He bought it from the publican at the Oakleigh Hotel but wasn’t too happy with his purchase as the car had a cracked head. He later bought another 38 Willys followed by a 39 Willys.
Norma and I continued to go to school at North Geelong State School. We travelled on Wise’s battered old buses and later on the much better buses when Benders took over the run. The Nelsons and Noel Newman also came on the bus to North Geelong while Val and Bryan Power, the two Heffernan girls, Bob Swindells and Peter Tudor also got off the bus with us to go to nearby St John’s in David St, North Geelong.
At school my mates were Buster Kidd, David Anderson, Billy Nelson, Geoff and Laurie Taylor, and Peter Hopkins. My girl friend there was Irene Robertson whom everyone called “Chooka”. Heather Smail was another one of the girls. Her sister married Johnny Way.
I remember our school footy team winning every match against the other state schools only to lose the grand final. During the war an underground air raid shelter was built beside the hall. It was completely covered over so we were able to play footy on top of it.
Our family summer holidays were always at Lorne. We first went there in 1947 in a tent in the camping ground but Dad built a caravanette and later a caravan which gave us more comfortable holiday accommodation.
In 1944 Dad suffered a terrible accident at work. I don’t know exactly what went wrong but he must have been trying to repair the lead wall of a tank and the acid spilt on him. He suffered terrible burns and was put into a bath of peanut oil at Geelong Hospital. Dad spent nine miserable months in hospital and times were very hard for us as a family. One of his workmates came to see him in hospital with what was left of the clothes that Dad had been wearing at the time of the accident. The remains were fitted into a match box. Fortunately Dad’s sight was saved but he lost the little finger from his left hand.
As Norlane grew in size a scout troop was established with Mr Dunstan as the scout master. We met in Plume Street in a scout hut that had been a crate used to bring an aircraft fuselage to Geelong during the war. There were three patrols and I became the Patrol Leader of the Kingfisher Patrol. Harold Cahir was PL of the Lion Patrol and Ben Foot the Cobra. We were taken down to Anglesea camps in the back of a truck owned by people named Russell who owned the Four Kings roadhouse at Anglesea. We also went up to Wonga Park for two weekends to prepare the Jamboree site and later we attended the Jamboree with a big contingent from Geelong.
After primary school I went to Geelong Junior Tech where on the first day the teacher put us in desks in alphabetical order which saw me seated beside Barry Crocker. I left the Tech in 1949 with my Proficiency Certificate and started a fitting and turning apprenticeship with Aikman Engineering that was located next to the Gordon Institute in Geelong.
Norma went to Geelong High School and after that did a hairdressing apprenticeship in Newtown. She eventually was in charge of the hairdressing salon at Solomon’s store in Moorabool Street. Norma was a very good dancer and performed in many musicals with the Geelong Musical Comedy Company.
I started football with North Geelong Under 18s in 1950 and played with the club, mostly as a centreman, until 1962. Over those 13 years I played in seven premiership teams and was made a life member. In 1963 I went with a couple of other North players to help Grovedale who were a struggling club up until then but we won the premiership that year. The grand final was played at my old home ground at Osborne Park, North Geelong and after the match I hung my boots up on a coat hook and left them there. By then my ankles and knees were gone and I couldn’t have played another game.
When I was called up to National Service in 1954 you could indicate on a form which branch you wanted to go into. I put as my preferences ‘Navy, Navy and Navy’ so I was very disappointed when I finished up in the 15th Battalion at Puckapunyal. My best mate there was an old St Joey’s boy, Bernie Kirby, and we were referred to as Bluey and Curley. I didn’t enjoy my time at Puckapunyal and enjoyed the weekly parades afterwards at the Geelong Drill Hall even less.
I completed my apprenticeship with Aikmans and after five years there I resigned and took up a job in the maintenance department at Rylands in North Shore.
The Palais dance hall in Moorabool Street was the place that everyone went to on Saturday nights and it was there that I met Gwenda Tomkins.
Gwenda was living with her family at Boyne Street in East Geelong. She had gone to school at Tait Street State School and Matthew Flinders and was working in the furnishings department at Solomon’s. Gwenda and I were married on 1st December 1956 – the day that Vladimir Cutts won the 10,000 metre race at the Melbourne Olympics.
Gwenda’s brother Boyd was a wool classer. He married Marj Thompson from North Shore and they lived initially in a house owned by Marj’s father in Myrtle Grove.
Gwenda and I have two children: Wayne born in December 1957 and Colleen born in November 1959. Wayne is a policeman with the current rank of Inspector. He and his wife Susan have three children: Brent, Abbey and Hailey.
Colleen is married to Ashley Burville and their children are Ryan and Hannah.
Norma married Les Borrack who worked with the State Savings Bank until it collapsed. He was also a very good footballer and played as a centreman in the great Geelong teams of the 1950s.
Dad and Mum were great Geelong supporters so Les was made very welcome by the family. Norma and Les’s children are Nadine and Greg.
I wasn’t a Geelong fan because I’d played football at North Geelong with Donny O’Hara and from the time he went to play with Richmond I became a Tigers’ supporter.
I’ve always loved motorbikes and cars. The first of the 34 cars that I’ve owned was a rear engine 1950 Renault. I then bought an Austin A40. My other early cars were HR and FX Holdens and a 64 Pontiac Parisienne. However my favourite car is the Bristol that I bought in 1986 and spent 2½ years restoring.
My first motorbike was an AJS. My present one is a Yamaha. Motor bikes were almost my undoing on a couple of occasions. Once I was riding back from the motor bike races at Ballarat with Iain Davie on the pillion. He was wearing a long army greatcoat and the end of it got caught in the bike’s drive chain and we were both thrown off.
Another time I was riding home via Bullengarook with a couple of mates when we came upon three horses wandering in the fog. We dodged the horses and flew off in all directions and I finished up losing some skin in a barbed wire fence.
Racing from the Geelong Post Office to Torquay in under 14 minutes on a Sunday was another mad challenge among my motorbike mates.
At Rylands I had worked my way up to becoming the manager of the maintenance crew of 25 blokes but after nine years there I was looking for a change and took on a mixed business at the corner of Arthur and Watson Streets in Belmont. I lasted two years there before going back to my work as a maintenance man at Rylands but before long I left to work as a school cleaner for a couple of years in Highton,
In 1972 Gwenda and I bought a 50 acre farm at Paraparap where we ran Belted Galloways and Charolais cattle and I commuted to work from there each day.
From the cleaning job I returned to maintenance work, this time with an old Geelong company, Polar Dairy in Bloomsberg Street, Newtown. But after I’d been there 15 years, Polar was taken over by National Foods and we were retrenched. I was not ready for retirement – I loved my job – but restoring my cars kept me sane.
Gwenda and I sold the farm in 2002 and we now live in Highton.
After I finished work I volunteered to drive for Vision Australia and did that for four years.
I also took up indoor rowing. This is done on a gym machine and I put in many hours of training before winning the gold medal at the Masters Games held in Adelaide in 1999. Unfortunately my knee went on me so I was not able to defend my title in Newcastle the following year.
Looking back on my life my proudest and most satisfying memories are of my marriage and my children, grandchildren and, now, my great grandchildren. On the sporting side, eight premierships are great memories that few footballers get to enjoy. And my love of cars and motor bikes continues to this day. I am currently working on restoring an FX Holden having just finished an HR Holden for my grandson.
Interviewed by Bryan Power