Last Ghost Train
THE DAY JOHN SATTLER BROKE HIS
was a Rugby League football player for the South Sydney
Rabbitohs - the team actor Russell Crowe now owns. He played in the 1970
Grand Final. His jaw was broken in several places in the 7th minute. He
played on for the entire game; refusing his teammates repeated requests
to leave the field. He was the team's captain and he led them to a
famous victory. His effort is often cited as one of the most courageous
in the annals of Australian sport. When I was old enough to start
drinking in pubs, it seemed that every hotel in the inner-city had the
famous photo of John Sattler being carried off the field on his team
mates shoulders. Jaw broken in a couple of places, blood on his torn
jumper but unbowed and defiant. It was like this photo had replaced the
portrait of the Queen that some pubs used to have hanging over the bar.
Gateway to the suburbs and the first major
railway station built in Sydney. It has twelve platforms and the
occasional riot. As kids we would torment the alcoholic guys that would
sell hot dogs at the front of the station. These old guys would turn up
at the football on the weekend sellin' programs and 'doubles' tickets
(see 'Double On The Main game') as well as their hot dogs. They used to
scare the shit out of me….
Railway View Hotel
(no longer standing - cnr Eveleigh & Lawson)
The RVH was situated directly across from Redfern Railway Station. In
those days it seemed there was a pub on every corner throughout the
inner-city of Sydney. The RVH was in a prime position for pulling in the
workers just before they had to jump on a train on their way home from
the railway yards and factories. It was usually teeming between 5-6 pm
with men spilling out onto the footpath, cloaked in thick cigarette
smoke and talking loudly. Kids would hang around and score soft drinks
and chips. The pub shut down in the eighties as the area fell into a
steep economic decline and the railway yards and factories were being
The main artery that would lead to the Sydney Showgrounds. It was - and
still is - populated with huge gothic terraced houses, Lebanese
restaurants with belly dancers, illicit gambling parlours, brothels and my
'Pig Iron Bob' Menzies
Australian Prime Minister 1949-1966. Cold War warrior, anti-union and a
communist scare-monger that sent Australian troops to Vietnam. Tory
Prime Minister for 16 years. Nobody liked this guy, at least not in our
Railway Yards (now Technology
A source of employment in the community for over a hundred years. A lot
of my family worked there. It now hosts art galleries and computer
A type of glossy enamel paint that was used on brick and cement. When I
was a kid, women would often be out the front of houses polishing the
step and the window sill. Every so often they would paint them with this
stuff. On those days it could really stink up the joint.
Often the beer of choice in our household when I was growing up,
although others were constantly under consideration.
Botany Rd, Redfern
The main road that runs from where I grew up
all the way out to Botany Bay with its oil refineries and tanneries
where a lot my family also worked.
Rabbit killers in old Ford
A man used to come around sellin' dead rabbits from the back of an old
Ford station wagon. Folks would cook 'em and eat 'em. He would skin and
gut them on the tail gate right there in front of you! I guess he was
one of the last in a long line of men that were known as 'Rabbitohs'
throughout the old working class areas of Sydney.
T.A.B. stands for Totalisator
Agency Board. They're government betting shops. There's nearly one
on every street in Sydney!! A lot of guys loved this place, and still do
- but not as much as they loved the bookie down the pub.
An area of the hotel that was set aside
exclusively for women to do their drinking. The one part of the pub that
had the ash trays freshened hourly!!
Dave Sands was the British Empire and Australian middle-weight,
light-heavy weight and heavy-weight boxing champion in the late
forties-early fifties Not just a source of pride for the large Black
community of the area at the time, but for everybody that loved the
fight game, which was a huge part of the working class culture that
existed in Sydney. Dave
grew up in Stockton, near Newcastle in N.S.W. but spent a lot of
time in the inner-city of Sydney. He was killed driving a truck. He was
26. His record speaks for itself. I had an Uncle who was a fighter and
he was lucky enough to have sparred with Dave Sands..
Library of Australia ref.
Outer western suburbs of Sydney. Ousted from the inner-city by rising
rents and the promise of an indoor toilet, people were left to the
government houses and cul-de-sacs of the outer western suburbs. Most of
my family and old neighbours live there now.
An Australian Rules football team that was re-located from Melbourne to
Sydney in the early 80's. They're famous for selling cappuccinos and
boutique finger food at their games. At last, a football team for people
that don't like sport. Only joking - sort of.
Official Sydney Swans website
At the annual Royal
Agricultural Show - more commonly known as 'The
Easter Show' - that was held at the
Sydney Show Grounds every Easter, a day would be set aside for
children to get in free of charge. Often this meant that the more
socially disadvantaged families would be able to have a day at 'The
Show'. It was also a day when some of the kids that slept 'rough' -
homeless children- would be able to escape from the inner-city streets
and lose themselves for awhile in Sideshow Alley..
Bags sold to children at The Royal Agricultural Show. They were full of
crap like mini-jars of peanut butter and rubber geeks on sticks and
plastic cowboy pants. They were/are amazingly over-priced. They're
pretty cool if you're a kid, though. My Mum and Aunties worked in the
stalls every year and would bring me back show bags. My favourite was
the World Championship Wrestling bag with the Brute Bernard mask!
The Wild Cat
A roller -coaster. They would give you a badge
that said 'I rode the Wild Cat!' I was a bit of a pussy as a kid and,
therefore, can't claim to own such a badge of honour…
Famous Canadian wrestler. The
Brute. Incomparable. Favourite move was the 'Brain Buster',
Brute in action
Bay Fig Tree
There was a huge tree near one of the entrances to the Sydney
Showgrounds. Vagrant men would congregate there and drink and sleep.
People would walk by them on their way to the Easter Show.
DOUBLE ON THE MAIN GAME
Double On The Main
Betting tickets sold at football grounds. If you got the first scorer
for each team then you'd win money. They were often sold by guys who
would wander around the football ground who were, kinda, borderline
homeless alcoholics. Collecting your money was half the fun..
Cook Hotel in Paddington cnr Flinders
St. and Moore Park Rd
A famous Sydney hotel situated next to the Sydney Cricket Ground. In the
winter, football would be played at the S.C.G. every weekend and the
hotels in the surrounding area would overflow with people on their way
to and from the matches.
Sydney Cricket Ground (S.C.G.)
Before the old stands were replaced with the more generic modern
grandstands it was a place of real majesty. Better than any church!!
Sharman ran a travelling boxing troupe. Before the government banned
it, he would set up at the Easter Show and put on exhibition bouts.
Outside the boxing tent a man would beat a giant bass drum while the
barker would shout 'Who'll take a glove?' Men in the audience could win
money by taking on one of the Jimmy's fighters and lasting a round or
so. Around this time you would see a lot of men walking the streets
where I lived with black and blue faces. The answer to the Barking Man's
Midnight Oil's Jimmy Sharman's Boxers
The name of the area that contains the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney
Show Grounds. Often a place for the homeless to congregate and sleep in
The Moore Park Precinct Centennial
Champion Ruby Tobacco
Folks often roll tobacco to make their own cigarettes. If they use
Champion Ruby Tobacco it's sometimes called 'rolling a Ruby'..
An amusement park adjacent to the north pylon of the Sydney Harbour
Bridge. I was never real good at working out a place to take a girl out
on a date. Luna Park always seemed like a safe bet and even though it
was pretty much shut down when I'd go there, at least we got to ride
across the harbour on the ferry… One night, the Ghost Train at Luna
Park caught fire and six kids were killed…
History of Luna Park
Old trains that were a distinctive red colour. I used to love riding red
rattlers on the city circle when I'd go into the city to buy records and
guitar strings - they shook just like Sense-A-Round!!!
The famous roller coaster at Luna Park. Some time in the 80's,
apartments were built near the park and were soon filled with 'young
professionals'. They complained about the noise - which had been a part
of the area for fifty years -and the Big Dipper was closed down.
This was the main thoroughfare that ran down the middle of the carnival
section of the Easter Show. It had all the usual stuff - Ghost Train,
House of Mirrors, Fortune Tellers, Headless Lady, a half boy-half
chicken and the Boxing Tent. Tom Waits would've loved it!!
Sydney Morning Herald freakshow story
The main road that runs along side the S.C.G. and the Show Grounds. Tens
of thousands of people would fill this road whenever there was something
on. When I was a kid, this stretch had a number of old wooden bus stops
and they were often filled with men & women who would sleep and
drink in them until the cops moved them on.
He was the last man hung in Australia. His impending and subsequent
execution caused a great outcry and still resonates today. I thought
using his name for the main character in this song was kind of apt.
Death of Ronald Ryan
These were cheap white canvas tennis shoes that were popular up until
around the late seventies…They were good for wearing to the beach.
Ice Block & The
The former was one of the great Australian ice
blocks (orange flavour) of my childhood. The latter was one of the great
Sydney bands of my teenage years.
Alfred Park Municipal Swimming Pool (Central Station, Surry
This is a council swimming pool that's situated inside a huge park that
runs alongside Cleveland Street and down to Central Railway Station. The
back area of the pool would slope down towards the train tracks that run
along the back of the park. Once a week, council workers would clean out
the needles and broken bottles that littered the area. When I was 17 I
had a girlfriend and we would lay on this slope and watch the trains
rushing by while we drank beer…the songs 'N.Y.E.' and 'Bonfires of
June' - from 'Meter' - are about her and that time. My high school had
this whole area as its playground - it was somethin' else!
St. High School (Now Intensive
Language Center. Cnr Cleveland & Chalmers St.)
Where I went to high school. It was close to the city and the
second-hand record shops that I'd piss off to during 'sport'.
Cars Every year there was a motor show at
the Show Grounds. It was where you could go and see all the latest car
stuff and get your photo taken in the Batmobile!!
muscle car sales
muscle car museum
Iconic Australian muscle car of the 1970's..
Iconic American muscle car of the 1970's..
A holiday in which Australians celebrate those that have given their
lives in war. It was always a big day for football at the S.C.G.
Everybody would stand as they played the Last Post directly before
kick-off. It was pretty dramatic stuff. If you were a soldier you could
get in for free...
ANZAC Day Gallipoli
The Bomber Man
(Footy player John
The Galloping Ghost (Footy player Brian
Sportsmen with nicknames always seemed a helluva lot more interesting
than other players to me when I was a kid. Maybe now, too..
Great John 'Bomber' Peard
of the biff
Rugby League Hall of Fame
Railway Station, Sydney
Sydney's largest railway station. Built on a cemetery, it has 27
Station Tunnel, Chalmers St, Surry Hills
An underground thoroughfare that enabled you to walk from one side of
Sydney's largest Railway Station - Central Station - to the other.
There's always a lot of busking going on down there. I've never busked,
though Joe Strummer seemed to be into it quite a bit..
AT THE SPEEDWAY
(no longer there)
Sidecars, midget racers, hot rods and smash up derbys!!! As the area
around the Show Grounds became gentrified, less people appreciated the
value of a place like the Speedway. It was quite a thing, though. The
floodlights, the track announcer's frantic exaltations and the noise of
the bikes & cars would spill across the adjacent streets. Just like
the people that once flocked to it, The Speedway was shifted out west..
'Down By The Banks of the
Ohio' - Olivia
My Dad would take me and my
brother on drives on Saturday nights when we were kids and this is the
sort of stuff they would play on the radio in between the greyhound
Betting slips. If my Dad had a good day on the 'punt' (gambling on horse
racing) he would take my Mum, my two brothers and myself out,
invariably, to a Chinese restaurant. If he didn't do so well, we'd stay
home and watch Hawaii-Five-O
Down Shotty (Shotgun)
Scary shit done by scary people, of which, there was plenty - back in
It's an Australian version of a pick-up truck. A little less bulky.
on Red Hot Jazz site
Flying V guitar
A guitar that came to prominence when Jimi Hendrix, among others,
started using one. The first guy that I ever started a band with stole
one from a guitar shop on Cleveland Street. He was a drummer…but he
loved playing Van Halen riffs on his Flying V.
Truckin' - Deep Purple
song off 'Machine Head' album
When I was 8 years old I had a cousin that was about 15 at the time. He
told me that Deep Purple's 'Machine Head' was the 'loudest' record ever
made!! His Mother was deaf and mute so he would crank his stereo up to
the max and never get into any shit for it!! He was also into Neil
Young's 'Harvest' which, when he would play it at full volume, would
sound just as loud as 'Machine Head' in parts - funnily enough.
restaurant on Botany Rd, Redfern. No longer there.
The pre-eminent Chinese Restaurant where I
grew up. Situated next to the local T.A.B., winners and losers alike
would seat themselves behind a formica top table in a cramped booth and
enjoy everything from the more up-market Prawn and Pork Combination
Omelette to the Losers Special - chips & gravy with a small fried
rice. When I inevitably die of heart disease this establishment will
have been primarily responsible for my (and many others) early death.
Dim Sims Kinda like Chinese meatballs. Hard to tell if they're made out
of meat or not but they're pretty good with sweet & sour sauce and
A Cop. Or a Police Constable - if you prefer.
MATTHEW TALBOT'S BLANKET
Matthew Talbot Hostel
Since just before the last world war this has been a shelter for
homeless men in Sydney. It provides over a quarter of a million meals a
year and it's beds are used almost 37,000 times a year. One night, after
finishing a taxi shift - I sometimes drive a cab -, a couple of drivers
were talking about a homeless man that was found outside the major
cinema complex on Sydney's main street. He'd lain there, dead, for
almost 12 hours before anyone noticed..
Archdiocese of Sydney
Groups - Matthew Talbot Hostel
Morning Herald article
R.S.L Taxi Cab
Sydney's oldest Taxi Company. The letters stand for Returned
Servicemen's League. It primarily serves the inner-city of Sydney. Every
year, during the ANZAC DAY march on April 25th, R.S.L. cabs are used to
transport old soldiers to and from the march, which begins at the Martin
Place Cenotaph and then moves down the main street of Sydney.
The major war memorial in the centre of the city.
On a Saturday night in the city, young guys from the suburbs in their
muscle cars will do laps of the main section of town, hip hop and heavy
metal blasting through the sub-woofers..
Hoyts Cinema, George Street,
The major cinema complex in the city. A lot of guys from my high school
would get jobs as ushers here. Between the age of 15 and 18 I never paid
to see a movie once!
1963 Ford Fairlane
girlfriend once hired an old vintage car for me on my birthday and we
got driven around in it with the top down - I felt a bit like Lucy
- Darlinghurst Rd
between Oxford St. & Burton St.
I first started driving taxi cabs just before
the 2000 Sydney Olympics. One of the things that struck me hardest
during those initial night shifts was the amount of kids that were
sleeping rough in and around the central parts of the city. In the lead
up to the Olympics the government installed new park benches and bus
stops that would make it harder for somebody to sleep on. The Wall is an
infamous stretch of road on the fringe of the red light district. Young
men lean against the old Sydney sand stone with their heads bowed,
covered in hoods, waiting for work from the passing cars.
Article in The Age http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/03/16/1015909912443.html
Youth: A Story of Hope
DALE BUGGINS DREAM
Dale Buggins was a dare-devil stunt motorcyclist. He'd perform all
around the country, a lot of times in rural areas where not a lot of
entertainers of note would go. I remember when I was about 15 seeing a
guy on the news. He was about 40-50 years of age and he was crying. I
asked who it was and my older brother said it was Dale Buggins' Dad. It
turned out that Dale had just shot himself in a motel room in Melbourne.
He was 20 years old. Dale was like Australia's Evel Knievel. Evel was a
big deal when I was a kid. Heaps of broken collar-bones on my street…
Holden Precision Driving Team
This was a bunch of guys who would do stunts in their cars…they were
Video - Monaro holden ad
The western was a big deal in our house. From 'Bonanza' to 'Once Upon A
Time in The West'. I always loved that scene in 'The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly' where Eli Wallach says 'We don't need no stinkin' badges!'.
Where I grew up there were a lot of guys who lived that sort of
attitude.. I tried to get Warren Oates into the song but I couldn't get
it to work. Maybe next time.
Hanlon lyrics - Eli Wallach
When I was a kid it was every boys dream to own a mini-bike. Most of us
had to settle for a skate board. My little brother 'scored' one when he
was about 14. I think it came from one of the carnivals down on the
beach…he gave it back, later.
High handle-bars and a long
sloping seat. This was the shit in 1975..
Joe wrote the best rock'n'roll lyrics, ever. He had the biggest
rock'n'roll heart, ever. An absolute Inspiration!!
River - Howard Hawks' classic western.
One of my all time favourite movie scenes is the one in Red River when
John Wayne hits Montgomery Clift. I saw a lot of father and son stuff
that was just like that during the local kids junior football every
Saturday at Waterloo Oval.
of The Dead
A Clash song title from the 'Black Market Clash' EP.
Leader of the British Miner's Union during 1985 miners strike When the
British miners went on strike in the mid-eighties the nightly news would
be full of images of the picketing workers facing off long lines of
English Bobbies… Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Rupert Murdoch.
The Forces of Darkness had taken hold of the reins with only Ken Loach
standing in their way! In those days I looked at the world through a naďve
kind of rock'n'roll filter and I remember watching the TV. and thinking
- the world needs The Clash to get back together…real quick.
American actor and inspiration for The Clash song 'The Right Profile'.
This was the title of a song I
wrote when I was 17 about a girl I liked. It's a kinda naďve teenager
Beach Boys-esque love song!
The New Deal
U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt initiative during 1930's depression
THE LAST GHOST TRAIN HOME
Every weekday during the evening rush hour around Sydney's Central
Station, thousands of commuters on their way home make their way towards
the various terminal entrances. Later in the evening, after most people
have left the city, the homeless congregate in the various parks and
thoroughfares that, just hours earlier, were teeming with commuters.
Later in the evening, after most people have left the city, the homeless
congregate in the various parks and thoroughfares that, just hours
earlier, were teeming with commuters. The title comes from the question
- What kind of train do you catch to get home when you no longer have a
home to go to?
Clock Tower - Redfern Post Office
on Redfern St
Every second Thursday on Redfern Street a long line forms outside the
Post Office doors as people wait to collect their welfare..
Sky Bar - opposite Redfern P.O.
Once paid up, a lot of folks then cross the road to play the poker
machines that, nowadays, fill up large sections of every pub in Sydney.