Monday, 1 April 2013

  by Dave Wheeler
   What are now known as "PCYC'S" (Police and Citizens Youth Clubs) began in NSW as Police and Citizens Boys' Clubs in 1937.They were usually just referred to as Police Boys' Clubs and their primary objective was to give direction to boys to assist them in avoiding lives of crime. Their title and function changed because they have for many years also assisted female youth. 
   I have previously written about the Turner PCYC in a book I wrote in 2011 entitled “TALES OF A CANBERRA BOY” which can be downloaded free of charge from this site above. In it I wrote an essay entitled “JACK DEALY AND THE TURNER PCYC” which describes how the late Jack Dealy was in charge of the Turner club during part of the early 60’s and how he saved it from financial ruin. Jack was a well-known and very tough Canberra policeman and wrestler who served in the ACT from 1949 to around 1973. He died in 2012 at the age of 94.
  This document however, is about the early history and establishment of the Turner Police Boys' Club (or PCYC), and in particular the building of the Turner club itself. I have not gone beyond the early sixties other than to describe the Turner club’s closure.
   The equivalent of today’s PCYC was founded in Canberra by the Canberra policeman the late Harry Luton, who in 1957 called for a public meeting to get the organisation established and a building erected. Unfortunately only five people showed up at the meeting, but it was enough to form a committee. Those who fronted were the previously mentioned Harry Luton, another policeman named Sergeant George Groves, Vic Sagacio who owned a gym in Queanbeyan, a Mrs Robinson and Dick Redman.
   Dick was the only living member of the original committee when I began gathering information for this document in August of 2012, and I thank him very much for the valuable information he gave me. I received much of the other information from Jack Dealy, old Canberra Times articles and PCYC newspapers.
A 2011 photo of the Turner PCYC
    Harry became the secretary of the committee, George became its chairman and all members set about the task of raising money for the club’s establishment. Within weeks they received £1000 in donations as well as offers of voluntary labour. The sum was to increase considerably in the next few years.
   Fundraising was initially done by the late Col Hillier, the late Ken Wood, the late Bill Lovejoy and the late Jack Dealy, who were all ACT policemen. They organised dances and boxing and wrestling tournaments. The boxing and wrestling was held at the Duntroon Gymnasium.
   Rotary also had a lot to do with the fundraising. More funds were raised by weekly housie held at the Services Club at Manuka, and committee members and many other persons set about organising an enormous garage sale covering at least half an acre in Ainslie Avenue where the Canberra Centre now stands.
   The club became an incorporated body in 1958 and the government granted the lease for the land in Turner. More donations came in from individuals, local businesses and other charities.   When work on the club commenced most of it was done by voluntary labour, with the volunteer adviser being a local architect, G.W. Dunlop. The building supervisor was Les Holland, who also became the vice president of the club.
  The building was completed in 1960 and officially opened on the 3rd of December by Viscountess Dunrossil. According to Harry Luton in an 11/12/90 “The Chronicle” article, the task of constructing the building cost around £50,000 but it was officially valued at £70,000 due to so much money being saved by way of voluntary labour and donations of material.
   Above is a photo of “The Corvettes” playing at the PBC in 1961. They often shared the venue with “The Alpines.“ The Corvettes, as shown in the said photo, are from L to R Jim Miller, Ron Sankey, Ken Weaver, Ray Storey and George Lazenby. George Lazenby played James Bond in the 1969 film “On Her Majestry’s Secret Service.” He was able to get the lead role because he was from Queanbeyan. The Alpines were the first band to play at the club, on the 3/12/60. Other local bands, “The Casuals,” and “The Invaders,” also played at the club, and eventually “Bruce Lansley and The Presidents” became the regular band for the 50-50 dances.
   Thanks to Val Starr for providing me with this information and Jim Miller, who, through Val Starr, provided the above photo of his band.
  The former World Boxing Champion, Jimmy Carruthers, assisted the club by purchasing for it a boxing ring and associated equipment. I believe the current PCYC still possess that boxing ring.
   A minute from one of the first committee meetings after the completion of the club states:
  "Ladies Auxiliary - Without the Ladies Auxiliary we feel that the large numbers of voluntary tradesman and labourers at weekends could not otherwise have been properly catered for, and we feel that the meals supplied by the auxiliary was, in addition to the public spirited feeling that was present, a great enticement for volunteers to come along and work on the building, especially those who lived in hostels."
   Names I have received from the CT’s articles and other sources indicate that the following people were office bearers and committee members of that era and/or involved in the club's establishment, fundraising and construction. They are Harry Luton, Ken Wood, Bill Lovejoy, Col Hillier, G.W. Dunlop, R.L. Odlum, Frank Thornton, Dick Huckstepp, Bob Smith, Dick Redman, Mrs Robinson, Sgt G.H. Grove, JD Button, K Schreiner, S East, K Hardwicke, Les Holland, Mal Grace, M.McDonald, Bert Vest, K. Hatcher, Vic Sagacio, Mrs J.W. Ashton, Mr and Mrs Vincent, Mr & Mrs BJ Donoghoe, Mr Gruzas, V. Ford, K. Batley, E.W. Waterman, W Osbourne, Jack Dealy and Bill Reichel. There were many more.    
   I had two interesting Canberra Times newspaper clippings dated 20/11/59 & 11/2/60 which showed the club being built and named those who were on the committee as well as businesses and individuals who donated labour and materials. Unfortunately a woman from the Canberra Times library informed me the Canberra Times could not give me permission to publish the articles and photos in “ Tales of a Canberra Boy,” as they did not know if they were done by CT’s staff. Maybe The Paparazzi travelled to Canberra specifically to cover the construction of the club. The CT’s library was also not prepared to guarantee the CT’s would not sue me if I published the articles and photos and at a later stage it was discovered that the CT’s did have copyright. What a nice corporation!
Below are the links.
   Another photo and article from the CT’s dated 5/4/63 I would have liked to have published in "Tales of a Canberra Boy,” showed the junior PBC Judo team, led by coaches Robert Carveth and Eric McCabe, prior to a trip to a tournament in Griffith, NSW. My mate, Spud Murphy, aged 13 at the time, is in the photo and remembers with fondness the sympathy and support he received from Eric McCabe after he (Spud; not Eric) vomited in the bus on the way to Griffith.
   One of the previously mentioned CT’’s photos shows the slab being poured with voluntary labour from the building firm “W.J.Campbell.” It indicates the cement was donated by “Portland Cement,” the metal was donated by “Australian Blue Metal” and the concrete was mixed with the voluntary labour of “Transit Mixed Concrete.” The floor of the club was laid by voluntary Scandinavian labour from the Ainslie Hostel and the builder, Karl Schreiner, and his employees, also spent many hours of their weekends building the club with their donated labour.
  I don’t know if any of these businesses still exist; nor do I know if there would be any Canberra businesses today who would be prepared to show the same degree of benevolence as the latter businesses should there ever be a call for assistance in restoring the Turner PCYC.

   The club struggled financially after its opening, but with a loan from Vic Sagacio, the hard work of committee members and volunteers, and eventually the enterprising skills of Jack Dealy, the club survived.

Immediately above is the club while it was being built some time in early 1960. The top photo is of it when it was near completion towards the end of 1960. Thanks to Jim Hosie and Neophytos Pertsinidis who rescued these photos and other documents just before they were about to be thrown out.
   Above is the opening of the Police Boys’ Club in 1960 by Kathy Morrison, the Mrs of the then Governor General, Bill Morrison, whose mates called him Viscount Dunrossil.
    A highly controversial decision to close the club was made by the 2006 PCYC Board of Directors who had other plans for the site, and it was closed in that year. Part of the reason for its closure was because a structural report seemed to indicate it should be written off. The report, of which I have a copy, was publicly disputed by a top QLD builder and the board was criticised for not having called for input from users and the public before making its decision. 

   In the above photo facing us is the late Bruce Vincent sparring an unidentified opponent. Bruce, who did much for the club and was a life member, was ACT's best heavyweight boxer of his era and an excellent judoka. The photo was taken in 1975. Bruce died from a heart attack on the 3/3/14. He was a very high quality human being who will be missed.
  The building did not have a problem with asbestos as has been reported, as that problem had been fixed several years before its closure. It does however, have some asbestos in it, as have most buildings of that age, but it is the type that is harmless unless it is disturbed. 
  I had previously attempted to have the building heritage listed, but, as expected, it was rejected without my being consulted. The ACT Heritage Council has a reputation of being very much pro-development and lacking true independence. They must have realised the building's heritage value, but it would seem they simply did not care. 
    So far nothing has been done with the site and the building appears to have been totally neglected. Even though it still stands the vandals and the elements are slowly destroying it. I am guessing this is being done deliberately by the current PCYC Board of Directors in the hope that if a fire, the elements or vandals destroy the building, to the extent that it is beyond repair, when what remains of the building is bulldozed blame will not be directed to the current PCYC Board of Directors. 
   Although that is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to the art of attempting to get rid of historic buildings in a way that will minimise public discontent, the public are now fully aware of that tactic and it can no longer be executed in a credible manner.
    I would like to make the current PCYC Board of Directors aware that although Canberrans are aware that they, the current Board, was thrown a hospital pass by the 2006 Board of Directors, and as such should not cop the blame for an error of judgement that was not their own, it is up to the current Board to rectify the error of the 2006 Board.
      And contrary to what some Board members believe, they have a moral obligation to many individuals, charities and taxpayers to keep the building functioning, as all of the previously mentioned gave time and/or money in order for the Turner club to be built. Had the past boards and committees accepted no public or private money or labour in establishing the Turner club it would be a different story.  
    Should the Turner PCYC succumb to fire, the elements or vandalism, to the extent that it is written off and bulldozed, the persons who hold office in the PCYC Board of Directors at the time will be written into Canberra’s history for all the wrong reasons.

   Above is a recent photo of the Turner PCYC wrestling room. Why is the place being allowed to deteriorate? Is it a case of "demolition through neglect?” This has become a well-used phrase because it describes a practice that has become widespread.

   After the Turner PCYC Board of Directors decided to close the Turner club in 2006, without putting enough effort into consulting users or supporters, (I was the secretary of ACT Wrestling which used the club at the time and I was definitely not consulted nor were any other users I knew, and when I tried to get a certain person on the board to reconsider their decision I was told that the decision had been made and that was it.) it created very bad feeling amongst past and present users and supporters as well as the general community. 
   Although there was only one AFP member who was on the board at the time of the Turner club’s closure it is my understanding the AFP hierarchy may have thought that the actions of the said board had brought the name of the AFP into disrepute, and it decided it needed to distance itself from the decision-making processes of the club from then on.
   As a result it is my understanding that the AFP no longer staff the PCYC in Tuggeranong but instead grant the board the money they would have spent on staff had they retained the old policy of staffing their clubs. I also believe they no longer have an AFP member serving on the board, but I may be wrong on that matter. It would seem the AFP thought it  could disassociate itself from further stupid decisions made by future boards.
    If this is correct I believe it was a huge mistake on their part, as there is now much less contact between coppers and wayward kids, and I know that when I was young the positive contact I had with coppers at the Turner PCYC made up for some of the negative interactions I had with other coppers outside the PCYC. 
   All the PCYC hierarchy had to do was to decide to continue with the old system but to instruct the board, and in particular further AFP members on future boards, to consult with users and the general community when making major decisions, such as whether or not they should close a particular club. They could have got away with issuing such a reasonable demand given that they were funding almost all of the club’s operation.
    I have had two builders look at the PCYC building as it stands and it is still not beyond repair, particularly if assistance was sought from the building industry in its restoration. If the AFP returned the club to its former glory and staffed it with its own members it would be much appreciated by the Canberra community and may keep more kids from taking the wrong path in life.