(In 1932) We knew the two Stephens boys, Jack and Percy. Jack was prone to get into conflict with smaller boys, young Percy gave us no trouble. We had to wear ties when going out or to the pictures and this brought us into conflict with Jackie. He’d grab our ties and muck about, safe in the belief that he had us bluffed.
Dad woke up to this, and sent me off to Patrick (Paddy) Hubon’s gym at Victoria Park. It was at 56? McMaster Street and there I would go twice a week, for boxing lessons at 1/- (10 cents) a time. We had exercises, rope skipping, bag punching and sparring in the ring. Paddy and his family were well-known. The boys trained hard at the gym and one of them, Syd, was shaping up into a promising young boxer. The main boxing venues in Perth were the Unity Stadium and the Luxor Theatre, and Jack Garside and Bobby Edgehill, who both trained at Hubon’s, fought in these rings. It is possible that Cyril Pluto, one of the State’s best boxers, did also train at Hubon’s in my time. When Dad felt that I knew enough for me to look after myself the lessons came to an end.
They were to prove useful in the future and give my confidence a lift. Young Syd Hubon was in later years to fight Paddy Boxall (Woodall) with success. Paddy Woodall’s brothers played junior football with me. They were Joe, Arthur and Jimmie. Arthur sold papers at the same time as I did. Jimmie turned out to be a top welterweight. Paddy and Jimmie were still going in 1989.
My boxing lessons and workouts at Paddy Hubon’s gym at Victoria Park turned me into a boxing fan and I kept following the fights of the Hubon boys and the other fighters trained by Paddy. Bobby Edghill, a welterweight, fought that good boxer Cyril Pluto in 1935 and Jack Garside fought mainly in preliminaries. Syd Hubon was sixteen when he won the WA Bantamweight Championship in 1935. He went through to the final in 1936, but pulled out of that final to concentrate on the Featherweight Championship which he won. The younger Charlie Hubon won the Flyweight Championship at 18. Both boys fought as amateurs and in 1936 Syd was able to give one of his best performances when he fought an exhibition bout against Harry Cooper, the Olympic boxing champion, in which he had the edge over his opponent throughout the fight.
In later years Syd had some stirring fights with Paddy Boxall (Woodall) and these bouts drew good crowds. Paddy later defeated that great fighter Tod Morgan for the Australian Lightweight Championship. My Dad was a great wrestling fan and I used to go with him to the Luxor or Unity Stadium just over the Beaufort Street bridge. One of his favourites was the American Joe (Sharkey) Gotch, who was about 220 pounds (100 kg). Other wrestlers of those years were Paddy Nilan, Leon Labriola, “Tiger” Higgins, the Turkish Champion Ali Bey, Con Ricardo, and the Maori wrestler “Tiki”. One of the best-known wrestlers was Spiro Kilonikos, later a referee also.
WA Temperance League
A group which did a lot of good work with young people was the WA Band of Hope section of the WA Temperance League. The man most prominent in these activities was Mr W.H. Rose, a round-faced stoutish man who was dedicated to his work. He would talk with boys wherever he met them and try and steer them on to the right road to take in life. Mr Rose would call on some of the parents to explain the Band of Hope activities and hand out leaflets on temperance and the evils of alcohol. A meeting of paperboys was organised by Mr Rose and held at Queen’s Buildings in William Street.
It was on the corner of Murray Street, opposite the Wentworth Hotel. The Perth Central Band of Hope group was formed that night in March 1933 (Correction: newspaper records indicate February) and the foundation members joining were nearly all newsboys. Our regular meeting place was to be the Rechabite Hall in William Street, between James and Francis Streets. Mr Rose was appointed Superintendent and he had a chap named George Wilson to help him. Tom Day was elected football team captain and as secretary. Joe Mosey was vice-captain and Neil Pyne, the coach. At the meeting we signed the joining member’s pledge which read:
I promise, God helping me, to abstain from all intoxicating liquors as beverages, and to get others to do the same.
One speaker told us that the greatest professional players in the world did not touch alcohol. He named Walter Lindrum, Don Bradman and Hubert Opperman as Australian champions who were non-drinkers and splendid examples to the young people of our time. Lindrum in the previous year had made a world record billiards break of 4,137 in 175 minutes. He was the greatest billiards player of all time and was born in Kalgoorlie, where in later years I picked up a billiards cue for the first time. “Our Don” was one of the best batsman cricket had seen up to 1933 and fifty or more years later “the greatest” is still the Don’s own title. “Oppy” won his first Australian road cycling championship at 20 and went on to win three more in 1926, 1927 and 1929. He rode with success overseas. In 1931 he was named the most popular athlete in a newspaper poll held in France where he established many cycling records. Three great sportsmen who, by their dedication to their sporting careers, were examples to others. WA’s top-class footballer and umpire, Mick Cronin, and champion goalsneak, George Doig, were two other sportsmen who set an example for us. Mick came along to talk to us and warn us on the effect of alcohol on sports performances.
I do not say that all boys of my age who were “hero” worshipers never took a drop in later life, but their sporting idols could have delayed the first sampling. The drinking problem we now have in the community is helped along by the persistence of newspapers in publishing photographs of popular personalities holding a full glass or can in their hand after some sporting success. The brand identification on the can or bottle usually features prominently in the picture. In recent times we have seen on television the pouring of a can of beer over an Australian test cricket captain by a fellow test cricketer. In the last few days we have seen the same test captain drenched again after a test match win. They can shower in champagne or XXXX if they like, but not on TV, please.
Advertisements have conned young people into accepting alcohol and tobacco as the “in” things for their use by associating their various products with success in sport, and acceptance in the business and social world. Parents are not blameless in these matters for what many of them do, so do their children. One hopes that eventually common sense will prevail.
The town (Coolgardie) had a visitor in August (1937) who looked me up at the office. He was Mr C L Meins from the Temperance League in Perth. He was the country organiser sent up by Mr Rose to establish one of their Cobbers’ Clubs in Coolgardie. Well, that was a good move for there could never be too many clubs like that. The aim of the Temperance League was to try and guide young lads along the better pathways of life where they would see that good health and success could be theirs without involvement in alcohol. In those days such a programme would have been seen as “wowserish” but today would be regarded by most as “commonsense”.
The Temperance League had for many years filled a different role for which it never received the credit deserved. In the 1930s and 1940s the great progress of junior football in this State was mainly due to the unselfish work of the men associated with the League. I have mentioned earlier the names of some lads who went on to play for WAFL teams but there were many more who achieved that fame, right up into the 1950s. In 1953 I umpired a game in the Temperance League at North Fremantle oval and the star of the South Fremantle team was John Todd who knew the rule book as well as most umpires did. Two or three years later he was a WAFL player and a Sandover Medallist. Two other players who made the top grade around the same time were “Bluey” Rowles (East Perth) and Ken Armstrong (Perth). I remember umpiring a match at Perth Oval when they opposed each other in the ruck in a Temperance League seniors game. Ken finished up as State coach and later the ABC’s top football panellist.
Mr Meins had a good response from parents when he canvassed for potential members for the Cobbers’ Club proposal. He had earlier asked me if I would take on the job of “Leader” and I had agreed. The first meeting was held in the Drill Hall and twenty-five young lads attended. The position of leader carried the title of Chief Cobber so that was how I was known officially. Games were held as a warm-up to the business of forming the Coolgardie Cobbers’ Club and after that we had competitions till our special guest spoke.
He was Mr R M Dynes, a well-known solicitor from one of our main neighbour towns Southern Cross, 118 miles (188km) west of Coolgardie. Mr Dynes spoke on “The Effect of Alcohol on Sport” and it was very well received. He mentioned the Aussie champions who were non-drinkers and WA’s top footballer, Dick Lawn, was one. I make no apologies for repeating here what I wrote earlier about Dick Lawn’s message to young footballers, “I have seen many teams and footballers handicapped through drinking habits, and yet I have never known one player who could definitely say that his drinking habits assisted him in his game.”
One of the players of Dick Lawn’s day who was a non-drinker was that great full-forward from East Fremantle, George Doig. In the war years I would serve at the same RAAF station as two of the Doigs, Charlie and his cousin Norm, who were both strong players for East Fremantle. George was a dynamic player with a straight kick, but also a wizard at kicking goals straight back over his head or shoulder, and “around the corner”. He was great to watch. He headed the League goalkickers for five years in a row with tallies of 106 (1933), 152 (1934), 113 (1935), 109 (1936), 114 (1937), and in 1941 with 140 goals. The success of our new club led us to making arrangements to play football against Cobbers’ teams from Kalgoorlie. Our numbers held up enough to field a team for this.