My Life Story - A Sixties Teenager

My Personal Pages



In 1960 my family moved to Ingleburn, where my father used his war service loan to buy a house on Brenda Street. I started attending Ingleburn High School. It was a brand new school, built only that year, with only first year students. For that reason my older brother, who was in second year, had to go to Campbelltown High School. My younger brother went to Ingleburn Primary School and later to Ingleburn High. The picture above was an official school photo from 1962.

I like to think of myself as a pretty good example of a Sixties teenager. I entered my teens at the end of 1960, just as the new decade was beginning (given that people started counting in year one, not year zero) and I ended my teenage years by turning 20 on a troopship bound for the Vietnam War, the major historical event of my generation. Throughout the decade I had an almost obsessive interest in the music of the era, and that interest has never waned.


The move to Ingleburn came about because my parents wanted their three boys to have a high school education, and there was no high school at Dunedoo.  My father was offered a choice of three new housing estates on which he could use his war service loan to buy a new house. They were at Riverwood, Canley Vale and Ingleburn. He chose Ingleburn because he had trained at Ingleburn army camp in 1939.


When we arrived at Ingleburn, the local taxi driver (whose son, Warwick Hoy, would later become one of my closest friends) took my mother, my brothers and me to the house, while my father waited at Ingleburn railway station for Toby, our dog, who was coming on a separate train. Unfortunately, when Toby arrived my father couldn’t remember where the house was. After wandering the streets of Ingleburn for a couple of hours, he finally gave up and went to the local police station to ask for directions. When the police asked him whose house he was looking for, he told them “My *#@$%* house!”


In those days Ingleburn was a semi-rural town, surrounded by open country in every direction. Today it is just part of the Sydney urban sprawl. A steam train ran from Cambpelltown to Liverpool via Leumeah, Minto, Ingleburn, Glenfield and Casula. At Liverpool there was a connection to the suburban electric train system. The steam train was replaced by a diesel train called a motorail while I was in high school, and later the line was electrified. Ingleburn and its surrounding towns are now dormitory suburbs, with most residents commuting to Sydney for their work.

Ingleburn High School


This is Ingleburn High School's first-ever Leaving Certificate graduating class, 1964. I'm 4th from right, middle row.

Demographically, most Ingleburn High School students fitted into three main groups. There were the sons and daughters of military families from the army base, there were the sons and daughters of Second World War veterans like my father who were using their war service loans to buy their first homes, and there were the sons and daughters of first generation European migrants, also buying their first homes after moving out of the East Hills and Villawood migrant hostels. Just about all of my high school friends fitted into those categories.

On my first day at school, one of my classmates, John Derbyshire, was assigned the job of showing me around and introducing me to the other kids of my year. John was an army boy, his father having served in the same battalion as my father in the war. The first person John introduced me to was Warwick Hoy, son of the aforementioned taxi driver. Warwick’s nickname was “Shippa” Hoy, and he decided that I too needed a nickname. In those days nobody I met had ever come across anybody else called Lachlan, although every Australian school student knew about Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the man who cleaned up corruption and encouraged exploration beyond the Blue Mountains in the early days of British settlement in Australia. For that reason, I was christened “Governor,” which was soon shortened to “Guv.”

Ingleburn High School was built in the year my family moved to Ingleburn. Students had been temporarily accommodated at Macquarie Fields Primary School while waiting for the building work to be completed. The week they moved into the new school was the week I started at Ingleburn High. In those days there were five years of high school, with the Intermediate Certificate coming at the end of third year and the Leaving at the end of fifth year.


Our home was a good half-hours’ walk from the school. On the way, there was a creek whose surrounding banks were covered with temperate rain forest vegetation. Walking to work offered great opportunities for adventure. My mates and I could actually play Tarzan, swinging on vines from tree to tree, or dive from the trees into the entanglements of vines around their trunks. This activity created a problem for us, because it meant we frequently arrived at school late and had to report to the deputy principal for six of the best. Sadly, the forest has now been cleared and replaced by manicured parkland, and the creek now has a concrete bottom and banks.


Because it was a new school, in 1960 there were only first year students. In 1961 there were first and second year students, and so on. That means that those of us who started in 1960 were senior students for the whole five years of our high school lives. I was a member of the cricket and soccer teams, and one of the benefits of having no older kids at the school was that by the time we were in fourth year, we had been playing against older teams from other schools for several years. That had a great effect on our strength and team spirit. As a result, our soccer team was unbeaten in fourth year and won every game in fifth year. The cricket team also won every game in fifth year.



Ingleburn High School’s unbeaten 1964 cricket team. I’m third from right in the back row.


Ingleburn High School’s unbeaten 1964 soccer team. That’s me holding the trophy. Thanks to the high level of skill of the players around me, I was the top goal scorer in that team.


The success of the soccer team was especially noteworthy, given the discrimination the team suffered over the years. This was the era in which anyone who played soccer in Australia was branded a sheila, a wog or a poofter. The school’s headmaster clearly hated soccer, and gave the team as little support as he could get away with. At assembly the day after sports day, all of the school’s rugby league results would be read out in great detail, whether they won or lost, and the scorers and best players named and congratulated. The soccer team would never rate a mention. I was the leading goal scorer in an unbeaten team, and my name was never called out at assembly.


I was a prefect in fifth year. Other than that, I was a pretty ordinary student. I was too easily distracted by sport, music (it was 1964, after all) and girls. I should add that my interest in girls existed entirely in my own fantasy world. In the real world I was excruciatingly shy and unable to interact with them in any way.




One of the more interesting things that happened during my time at Ingleburn High was the day some boys blew up the metalwork room. Ingleburn is situated on the Georges River, although it was a fair hike from the town to the river. The popular swimming spot was a place called the weir, where the river was accessible by a historic, convict-built pathway down the precipitous river banks. The bank across the river from the weir was out of bounds, because it was an artillery live firing range. Some of the local boys had an unusual hobby. They would cross the river and collect “souvenirs.” It was a competitive hobby, the object being to have a better collection than the next guy. One day somebody (I know who, but I’d better not name him) brought in to school what turned out to be a live mortar round, which he and some of his mates decided to put on the lathe in the metalwork room and dissect. The resultant explosion, in which fortunately nobody was killed, was front page news the next day. When Army public relations sent some officers to the school to deliver a lecture about safety and firing ranges, every TV network turned up to cover it. Ingleburn High School was famous for a day.


Ingleburn & Vietnam

Maybe it says something about the socio-political structures of the time, and maybe it doesn't, but I find it interesting to compare the number of boys from my year at Ingleburn High who went straight from school to university with those who served in the Vietnam War.


University: only Ian Gale, who was dux of the school and was awarded a Commonwealth scholarship.


Vietnam: Myself (Army); John Derbyshire (Army); Ivars Lanskis (Army); Ray (Bluey) MacGuire (Army, Killed In Action); Ross Pajuk (Army); Noel Humphries (Army); former school captain Bill Watson (Army); Neville Marshall (Navy); Lou Mordaunt (did a full 12 month tour of duty with an American entertainment troupe). There may have been others, but those are the ones I am aware of. 





Extra-Curricular Activities

The Air League

I had quite a full life outside of school, with plenty of extracurricular activity. I joined the Australian Air League when I was thirteen. This was an organization similar to the Boy Scouts, except that its emphasis was on learning about flying, and about the structure and discipline of a military unit. One night per week I would walk to Ingleburn railway station and catch the train to Liverpool. My mate Ian Gale would already be on the train, because he lived at Minto. Another mate, Ivars Lanskis, would join us at Macquarie Fields, and we would go on to Liverpool and walk to the hall that housed Liverpool Squadron of the AAL. We would train for a couple of hours, and catch the train home together. Most weekends there would be a parade or civic event somewhere in Sydney in which the Air League would participate. Ivars, Ian and I were members of Liverpool’s flag party. If there was no parade, something else would be organized, such as a visit to an air show, or to Richmond Air Force base or some other suitable activity. Every year we were involved in the main Sydney Anzac Day parade, usually as a guard of honour in Martin Place or as bearers of unit banners.


Weekend Sports

I also played soccer on weekends. A couple of school friends and I played for the junior teams of a club called Prague. They were one of the top clubs in Australia during the “Federation” era, when ethnic clubs were dominant. I would rise at about five o’clock on winter Saturdays to catch an interstate steam train that came through Ingleburn at about seven. My friends would get on at Macquarie Fields, and we would go on to Central Station in Sydney. There we would get a bus to Bondi Junction, and walk to the vast expanse of playing fields called Queen’s Park. We would play our game, maybe stay for a while and watch some other games, and then we’d set out on the long journey home. You had to be keen.


I started with the Prague under 14 team, and went on to the under 16s. The club was strong enough to field two under 16 teams in the same competition, and both of them made the premiership play-offs. I spent most of the season in the B team, and after my game I would wait and see if any of the A team didn’t turn up. If that was the case, I would play a second game. Three members of the A team went on to play for Australia. One, Gary Manuel, was a member of Australia’s squad for the 1974 World Cup in Germany. The others were the Miner brothers, Colin and John. We used to call them Major Miner and Mini Miner.


Apart from playing alongside great players, what I loved about Prague was the fact that, in a competition in which most teams played in plain red, white or blue, or red and white or blue and white stripes, we played in a black strip with a red, white and red diagonal sash. We made everybody else look ordinary.


Music and Me

My interest in music continued to grow during my high school years. My family did not have a record player until about 1962 or ‘63, so I the radio was the only way I could listen to music. When we did eventually get a record player, the first record I bought was Let There Be Drums by Sandy Nelson. Roy Orbison was the first singer of whom I could actually say I became a fan. I became aware of the Beatles in about 1963, when I first heard Please Please Me. They changed everything. From then on, suddenly there was a whole new music scene just for me and other teenagers like me. The Beatles toured Australia in 1964, at the absolute peak of Beatlemania, when I was sixteen. At school, three of my mates and I adopted Beatle identities. John Derbyshire was John, Ian Gale was George, Tom Breen was Ringo, and I was Paul. Whenever we spoke to each other, we only used our Beatle names, and always spoke with Liverpool accents. We knew all the lyrics, and could mime every song to perfection.


A boy called Terry Nalder came to our school shortly after I started, and I was given the job of showing him around, as John Derbyshire had done for me when I was the new boy. Terry didn’t stay in Ingleburn long, but he visited me in 1963 and it didn’t take long for our conversation to get around to music. Terry asked me if I had heard of Bob Dylan. I replied that I loved the Dylan songs I had heard, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary and others. Terry looked at me with scorn and asked if I had heard Dylan songs sung by Dylan himself. He played me the Freewheelin’ album, and right away my appreciation of music went up a notch. I have been a Dylan fan ever since.


In the flood of new British music that followed the Beatles in 1964, one particular musical style really appealed to me. It was the blues-based rock’n’roll played by the Animals, the Rolling Stones, and my particular favourites, the Yardbirds. Yardbirds lead guitarist Eric Clapton was then, and is still today, my favourite guitar player.  


My first concert was a huge outdoor event at Lane Cove National Park in Sydney in October 1963. As I recall, I went with Ian Gale and Tom Breen, and maybe one other person. I remember the Bee Gees were there, I believe Barry was fourteen years old and the twins were twelve. The Atlantics played their big instrumental hit, Bombora. Other performers included Warren Williams, Lonnie Lee, Col Joye, Johhny Rebb, Judy Stone, Laurel Lee and the De Kroo Brothers.


Another memorable concert was at the end of 1964, when Warwick Hoy, Brian Stoffel and I (maybe one or two others?) went to Surf City in Kings Cross to see Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and Ray Brown and the Whispers. It was a celebration of the end of school, and it was a great night. It was also the beginning of an exciting 12 month period in which I would attend an extraordinary number of memorable concerts.






My leaving certificate exams finished in November 1964, while I was still sixteen. Results would not be announce until January, so I went straight out and got a job. I was a junior clerk in an American insurance company. I believe it was called Hartford Insurance. I remember its logo was a stag, and it was situated in the same building as the United States Information Service, in Margaret Street Sydney, but that is about all I remember about that job. At this stage I was still living at my parents' house.

Keeping Score

From this point on, my life story will be characterized by frequent changes of job, and frequent changes of home address. Starting here, in November 1964, when I left school at the age of sixteen, the score is one job, one home address.


Off to Crookwell

Some time early in the new year, my Leaving Certificate results came out, and I decided to find an employer who paid a higher salary for Leaving Certificate graduates. I chose the Bank of New South Wales. My school friend Warwick Hoy made the same choice, and we went for our job interviews together. After the interviews, we compared notes. We had both been asked if we would prefer to start at a branch close to home or be sent to a country branch. I asked Warwick what his answer was. He said “Send me away!” I said “Me too!” Warwick went to Binnaway, and on the 2nd of February 1965, I started work as a junior bank clerk at the Bank of New South Wales in a country town called Crookwell. There I boarded with an elderly couple, Angus and Annie Howard.



2 jobs, 2 home addresses.

Great Rail Journeys of the World: Goulburn to Crookwell

When I heard that I was going to Crookwell, I looked it up on the map on a railway timetable, and saw that it was on a railway line. So I decided to go there by train. I had to take a train to Goulburn, and wait there for several hours for a connecting train to Crookwell. I was a little puzzled by the fact that the timetable suggested the train would take something like four hours to travel the thirty miles or so from Goulburn to Crookwell.


I arrived at Goulburn in the middle of the night, told the station master I was there, and settled down to wait for my train. When it arrived, I could see it was a goods train. The station master told the guard on the Crookwell train that he had a passenger, and the guard said "I've got a what?" He then grabbed a hose and proceeded to hose down a compartment in the guard's van. It seems passengers were rare on this particular journey.


Eventually the train got going. There were a lot of stops, and some of them seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. After a while I got curious, and at one of these stops I opened the door and leaned out to have a look. The train driver was spotlight shooting! As the train chugged along, he was shining a spotlight on the surrounding countryside. Whenever he found a kangaroo or a rabbit, or some other suitable target he would stop the train and have a shot at it. At last I had my explanation for the unusually slow journey from Goulburn to Crookwell.

New Kid in Town

One of my lasting memories of Crookwell is of some of the more cerebrally challenged local blokes whistling at me as I walked to work. It seems I was the first long-haired male they had ever seen. That soon stopped when I started playing for the local rugby league football team.


Crookwell was where I saw snow for the first time in my 17 years of life. I was playing for Crookwell against a team from Canberra, and the snow started coming down at half time. I had never seen the stuff before, and I had to go out and play the second half ankle deep in it. It snowed several times that year, and not only in winter. Shortly before I left Crookwell, it snowed in November. For northern hemisphere readers, let me explain that November is late spring.

Music, Music, Music!

While I was in Crookwell, I often hitch-hiked back to Sydney for the weekend, particularly when there was a significant concert on at the old Sydney Stadium. Some of the acts I saw were The Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, The Searchers, The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, Tom Jones, Herman's Hermits, Gene Pitney, Del Shannon, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Seekers, plus local acts such as The Easybeats, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Ray Brown and the Whispers, and many, many others. The only significant touring group that I missed was the Beatles, who toured the previous year when I was still at school and had no money of my own. Some of these groups played at other venues, but most were at the dear old Stadium at Rushcutter's Bay. It was an old boxing stadium, affectionately known as the old tin shed. It had a rotating stage in the middle, and the seats were wooden benches on rising terraces. The roof was made of tin. Acoustics were appalling, but that was not the point. The punters could stamp and shout, adding their own noise to the sounds of the artists, all of which would mix together and bounce back at us from the tin roof, creating an atmosphere that could not possibly be reproduced in a modern stadium.

On some of my weekend trips to Sydney, my mates and I worked as ice cream sellers at the Sydney Showground Speedway. So I guess I should add that to my employment list.

3 jobs, 2 changes of address.

The Army

In 1965 Australia started sending combat troops to Vietnam, and I became increasingly interested in joining the army. As a schoolboy I had been a member of the Australian Air League, and my ambition had been to join the air force and be a pilot. That ambition had faded, and my Leaving Certificate result was not good enough anyway. My high school and Air League mate Ivars Lanskis was already in the army, having joined up on his 17th birthday.


Although the RAAF Academy was beyond reach, I still thought I might be able to fly helicopters or light aircraft in the army, so I applied for the pilot training programme of the Army Light Aircraft Squadron. I passed all of the physical, psychological and aptitude tests, only to be told by the selection board that I was too young. Although I was within the required age limits, they told me they didn't usually take 17 year olds unless they already had a pilot's licence. They apologised, and said they had expected the selection process to knock me out, but I just kept passing everything they threw at me. They suggested I join the army and apply for the Officer Cadet School. Then, once I was an officer, I could apply for the squadron again. So I joined the army. I was accepted in December 1965, but decided to have Christmas with my family, and took the oath on the 2nd of February 1966.

4 jobs, 3 changes of address, and I've been out of school for a year. A sign of things to come.

To be continued ........

My Life Story - The Army

My Life Story - Vietnam 1967-68 - Tet

My Life Story - Vietnam 1967-68 - FSB Andersen

My Life Story - Vietnam 1967-68 - The Long Hai Hills

My Life Story - Vietnam 1967-68 - The Battle of Coral and Balmoral

My Life Story - Homecoming

My Life Story - Itchy Feet

My Life Story - On The Road Again

My Life Story - London, QPR, and the North Sea

My Life Story - Vietnam Veterans

My Life Story - The Welcome Home Parade

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