Monday, 26 October 2015


   by Dave Wheeler   
  In late 2014 or early 2015 I gave my friends Dave (who I went to school with) and Margaret Yarra, of Captains Flat, a visit. While there Dave showed me an old tennis court roller he bought from the O’Connor Methodist Church several years ago. It was surplus to their requirements. Dave uses his roller to flatten sand, which Margaret uses to perform activities with her horse.
    If you think this post is just about tennis court rollers be patient. It gets far more interesting.
  Dave is not sure how old his roller is because it does not have a maker's plate. If it was purchased new when the church was built it would be an early 1950's model, but I suspect it is much older than that.
  Ancient tennis court rollers are not uncommon because they don’t wear out, they are bulky and hard to dispose of and they are rarely stolen. They are not the sorts of things that are sold on the black market. Also, unlike owning a flash motorcar, owning a flash tennis court roller is unlikely to assist young men become sheila magnets.
   Pictured above is Dave and Margaret Yarra's roller, which is a family heirloom.    
   When I returned to the Berra I mentioned to another mate, Graeme “Rosy” Rossiter, (who I also went to school with)that Dave Yarra owns an old roller and that I thought it was made in the early 20th century. Graeme was thrilled to hear this as he is very enthusiastic about classic cars, and I deliberately did not make it clear I was talking about a tennis court roller. I let him think that Dave had bought an old Rolls Royce.
  Eventually Graeme discovered that Dave owns a tennis court roller; not a Rolls Royce. It must have made him feel a bit let down. But, as Graeme is an enthusiastic tennis player he told me it just so happens he also owns an antique tennis court roller. Graeme got his roller from the Weston Creek tennis club when they decided it should be thrown out. The Weston Creek tennis club got the said roller from a farm clearance sale. I suspect Graeme's roller would be no younger than 1930 and it may be much older.
   Graeme's roller was made by "Metters," the same Australian company that became famous for making fuel cooking stoves, such as the well-known "Beacon Light." 
  Although Fred Metters and Henry Spring focussed mainly on making fuel cooking stoves, they also made at their Adelaide and Perth foundries a variety of other products, including water tanks. They supplied some for the troops in WW1 with the latter and as such were a competitor for the famous "Furphy" water tank. They of course also made tennis court rollers like Graeme's.
 Pictured above is Graeme behind his Metters tennis court roller, which is his pride and joy. Below is a closeup of the wrought iron on the same roller which spells out the famous Metters brand. Graeme hopes there will be no fighting amongst his kids in regard to who inherits the family roller after he and his wife, Maureen, go to the big tennis court in the sky.

   Let’s fast forward to the 15/10/15. On that day I attended the funeral of an old workmate, Alan “Scottie” Sutherland (5/5/47-10/10/15). To get there I first parked my car at my sister’s place in Ainslie then walked into Braddon to St Columbo's Church where the service was to take place. I did not want to drive there as parking anywhere near Civic is painful.
  In regard to my old mate Scottie, he was a wonderful bloke and always good for creating laughter. I worked with him as a chainman in 1972 and accompanied him, several other chainmen and two surveyors on a field trip to an area about 100 miles NE of Alice Springs in 1973. We worked there for a couple of months.
   Pictured above, many miles outside of Alice Springs, are from left to right, my former workmates, the late Scottie Sutherland, the late Possum Painter the younger, Bob Utting and Laurie McCauley. Robert Law is squatting at the front. Possum the younger was found dead at the bottom of a cliff about 30 years ago. He was also a good bloke. I am unsure of the circumstances surrounding Possum the younger's death. 
   The above photo was taken in 1964, showing Scottie when he was trim and athletic. It was taken in the field when he was working as a chainman in the Berra with a surveyor named Russell Wenholz. Thanks for the use of the photo Russell.
   On the night before I was to return to the Berra, Scottie, Robert Law (who I also went to school with) and I were bashed by a large gang in the main street of Alice Springs. Scottie was knocked unconscious. I was not knocked unconscious but I had a really good look at every star in the Milky Way and my bruising was extensive. Robert didn't get off too lightly. He was also assaulted by the gang at the same time Scottie and I got it, but Robert had also been assaulted earlier on that evening by the same gang. Twice in one night! It was straight out favouritism!
   I describe our bashing and what led to it in "Tales of a Canberra Boy," which can be downloaded free of charge by hitting the button above with that title written on it. Within the book, which is a series of anecdotes, the story of the bashing comes under the heading, "The night I was bashed in Alice Springs."It is on page 94.
   Scottie was a short, stocky and powerful bloke. He had the perfect wrestler’s build and excelled at the sport during his youth. He received a NSW and possibly an Australian title at one stage. When I first knew him he was aged 27, and unfortunately by that stage his sporting activities were over, as he'd been involved in a bad car accident.
   Scottie’s build would not be considered unusual within Polynesia, but he was a Scotsman, having come here from Inverness as an 11 year old. Yet I could never detect any trace of a Scottish accent. 
  Scottie had his share of scraps as a youth and from what I understand he did well in them. He was involved in a famous brawl on a Friday or Saturday night in the early sixties between Canberra and Queanbeyan lads outside the Golden Fleece service station in Braddon. Scottie starred for the Canberra boys, and the incident made the Canberra Times.
   There were several ex chainmen and retired and practising surveyors at the funeral, which meant I ran into people I had not seen for many years. As a result I experienced mixed emotions.
   As to the funeral, I could see how devastated Scottie's family were, which is a sure sign he had been a much loved dad and a good provider. 
   This is in stark contrast to a funeral I attended several years ago of a mate's dad. My mate said he did not want to add anything to the eulogy because he couldn't think of anything to say about his dad that was of a positive nature.
   After the funeral I walked into Civic. I walked past Northbourne Oval, where I played many games of rugby as a lad as well as a few league games. While playing on that field I have vivid memories of being unable to tackle large numbers of opponents and failing to score a larger number of tries. 
   Still, I have an attachment to the place because I associate it with having good times, and I hope they don't destroy too much of it while it is being "developed." My maternal uncle played on that oval as a kid prior to WW2 and I knew one now deceased bloke who played on it in 1929 when it first opened.
   Even the smelly old concrete toilets that were built on Northbourne oval back in 1929 bring back memories of nervous and euphoric anticipation prior to my games. I hope they don’t get the bulldozer, but I am led to believe that is the plan, and I doubt the ACT Heritage Council will do anything to stop it given their unwillingness to have the Turner PCYC and many other historic structures Heritage listed. 
  The above photo was taken in June of 1961 inside Northbourne Oval. It is of the under 10 north side rep team before we played the south side team. I should have played under 9’s that year. Our game was the curtain raiser to the ACT-Fiji game. I can’t recall if we won.
  The photo below is of Ainslie under 17's. It was also taken inside Northbourne Oval in 1969 after we lost our grand final to Royals by one point.

    As I continued my walk into Civic I could see that it looks nothing like it did when I worked there with Scottie at the chainies depot in 1972/73. The chainies depot was located in Bunda Street Alley, and within the Griffin Centre. The Griffin centre was razed with the authority of government vandals several years ago.
  There were around 60 or 70 other chainmen working with me in the Bunda Street Alley depot. If we were not painting pegs in the mornings we would congregate in the yard prior to being called out by the surveyors we were assigned to. Sometimes a particular young lady aged about 20 would walk past us, and in doing so she would receive a chorus or wolf whistles. Some readers will say such pastimes are sexist in these PC times, but I could tell by the look on her face she loved it, and she would come back for more. I would refer to her as "the belle of Bunda Street Alley."
   If Bunda Street Alley still exists it is unrecognisable and must have had a name change. There is another building today in that area which is also called the Griffin Centre.
   I only went into Civic that day because I needed to buy something I could not get elsewhere. Since the place became so overcrowded and its buildings became very dense and tall I avoid it like the plague. I have heard Civic described as "Hell without the fire."
   After making my purchase I walked back towards my sister's place where I had parked my car via St Columbo's Church where the funeral had taken place. I then cut through a nearby alley that went past a day care centre and emerged next to the bowling club opposite Ainslie Primary. On my way through, to the right of me, I noticed some tennis courts. And what did I see within the tennis courts? An old roller! 
   I'm guessing the bulldozers will in time demolish the Braddon tennis courts and the bowling club, and multi storied flats will be built on the blocks. I hope I’m wrong.
   It had a brass plaque on it stating it was made by "W.N. Stone, Sydney, Municipal Appliance Manufacturer."
   Being a twisted wretch I took some photos of the said roller and emailed them to Dave Yarra and Graeme, accompanied by the following message.
Gooday you mongrels,
  I went to a funeral at an Anglican church in Braddon today, and after it finished I walked to Civic then walked back towards Lou's place, where I left my car. I was at the rear of the bowling club opposite Ainslie Primary when I noticed an old roller. And as you two are proud owners of old rollers I knew you'd be interested, so I took some shots.
  It has a brass plaque on it stating it was made by "WN Stone," "Sydney," "Municipal Appliance Manufacturer." I'm sure he'd still be in business, working out the back of a small factory in the western suburbs, wearing a Jackie Howe singlet.
  You two should drop around and have a cup of tea with him. You could show him photos of your rollers and discuss rolling technique. I tried to look him up in the yellow pages but I had no luck. I'm sure he'd be in there somewhere.
Yours cobberly,

Pictured above is an ancient tennis court roller parked in Braddon, made by W.N. Stone of Sydney. Below is a close-up of the maker's brass plate.

  I received replies, and the reply I received from Graeme was one of amazement. He informed me that he and Russell Smalley, (another lad we went to school with), used to drive the "W.N. Stone" roller on Saturdays in preparation for pennant tennis. 
   As Graeme, like me, was born way back in 1952, it must have been marvellous for him realising that while Braddon is being destroyed there is still a remnant of his youth, waiting there for him to see in all its majesty, as if time around it had stood still.
  Pictured above is Graeme with several of his tennis-playing mates sometime in the mid sixties, about the same time he regularly used W.N. Stone's roller to prepare the Braddon tennis court for pennant tennis. Graeme is the tallest lad in the photo.
   I had also forwarded what I had sent to Dave and Graeme to my mate, Jan Aamodt, (who we also went to school with). Jan, and his wife Julie, now live in Clare, SA. I knew Jan would be delighted with the photos of the roller and he responded by saying:
  "My fascination with rollers remains undimmed.Thank you for this fascinating communication. I will forward this to Lloyd as I know he shares my love of rollers."
   The Lloyd he was referring to is Barry Lloyd, a fellow ratbag (who we went to school with at North Ainslie Primary and Dickson High). Barry became famous at school for using his massive IQ to assist him partake in disruptive behaviour and to needle teachers. 
   In "Tales of a Canberra boy" I tell a story about Barry in regard to how he was able to use lateral thought to benefit a bloke he was minding when he worked as a psych nurse. It is at the bottom of page 15 (in red italics).
  After my email and photos had been forwarded to Barry, who is currently living in Sydney, he, as I expected, did some research on "W.N. Stone," (William Nelson Stone) and responded to us all with the following email. I was able to verify the accuracy of Barry's research; not that I doubted him.
  "Good to see that due respect is still paid to the articles manufactured by good old William Nelson Stone. In his 24 years of business at Ultimo he was a contractor to Sydney City Council and other public bodies as well as manufacturing his own branded municipal appliances. Ah, there’s a phrase that rolls off the tongue...... municipal appliances.” "The quality of his goods were so well known that in 1922 his horse drawn road rollers were used by the Queensland Commissioner of Main Roads for their works. Although one would assume that his son and business partner took over after W.N's death in 1933, he obviously didn't have the magic touch that made the family name a byword in municipal appliances as evidenced by the fact that I have never seen a W. N. Stone horse drawn roller at even the busiest of road sites."
Historically and cobberly,
  By writing up the death of Scottie and discussing Canberra rollers, all in one post, I mean no disrepect to Scottie or to trivialise his life and death. To begin to explain my reason for combining the topics I....
  "Hold on Wheeler! Here we go again. You had to spoil it didn't you? Because I can read you like a book I'm preempting you. You were going to say that after attending Scottie's funeral to celebrate his life and mourn his death you really knew his life was over, but because of where the church was located you also became reminded that the Berra's past and a better Australia is also vanishing, even though it has yet to vanish entirely.
   You were also going to say that after seeing W.N. Stone's roller and the densification of the Civic area you were reminded of the fact that you do not like Australia becoming overpopulated and having a continual emphasis on economic growth. And you object to our having become so much a part of the global economy, and as such getting further and further away from self-sufficiency and socialism.
   What's next you whinger? Are you going to ask readers if we will ever see Australians manufacturing items like W.N. Stone's roller again? Are you going to ask them if we will ever return to the sort of semi self-sufficiency we once had?
   After that your rave would have reminded us that when another depression hits we will really be in Shit Street because of our lack of self-sufficiency and our being totally reliant on selling what we dig up and grow to the unstable global economy. Who are you Wheeler, Happy Jack the hangman? Just get over it! And you said at the bottom of your last post you were no longer going to be overtly political in future posts?
  You know he's right in regard to what he raves on about 2, but he seems to be having problems accepting the reality of the situation.
  He goes on about humans not having contra causal free will, yet if he really believed that he would not keep moaning about the idiotic politicians Australians continue to elect. You'd think he'd just accept the reality of the situation and get on with his life instead of bringing it up in every post he does. I think he's becoming a bit obsessive.

  Talk about jumping the gun! I'm really sick of you two know-it-all bastards! I wasn't going to say any of what you have guessed I was going to say 2
   And as for you 3, I accept the fact that the universe is in constant motion and therefore, to say the obvious, nothing can be permanent, and I really don't believe we have contra causal free will. 
  I could also however, accept the reality and pain of being kicked in the nuts, but that doesn't mean I would be able to enjoy it. Nor would I remain silent about it.
  It's okay for you blokes; you just sit in our brain doing nothing but criticise. I'm the one who has to actually live in this world and make decisions (
I use the word "decisions" loosely considering we don't have contra causal free will) for all 3 of us!
   Although it wasn't my original intention, just to piss you blokes off I'm going to upload a few photos of items Australia once produced when we were not overpopulated, were more self-sufficient and did not decide to export so many jobs to the Third World. If you two don't like it that's your problem. Get over it!
The Tarrant, as shown above, was one of Australia’s first Australian-owned and Australian made motorcars. The Australian Six, shown coming off the assembly line below, was another. I wonder if W.N. Stone owned a Tarrant or an Australian Six.

  The photo directly above was shot at the end of my bed today. In the left of the photo is my foot, which is inside a sock. My foot was made in Coonamble, NSW, over a 9 month period in 1952, along with the rest of my body. In the centre is a small can of "Power Plus" valve-grinding paste my late dad bought many years ago. It was made in Australia by Norman ? (couldn't read his last name) and sold from his shop, which was located at 229-231 Castlereigh Street, Sydney. The pure woollen blanket to the right of the photo was made in Australia in 1942 from sheep that bleated with loud, nasal Australian accents. The army ordered Australian made woollen blankets in bulk during WW2 and sold the unwanted surplus very cheaply after the war. My parents bought several woollen blankets in 1946 at an army disposal shop, including the one in the photo. The blankets have had constant use since they were purchased and are still in perfect condition.
  Above are several Australian made items that have been passed down to me ranging in age from a 19th century pint pot to a 1950-60's eggbeater. Australian manufacturing is currently near death and similar items are now imported from China. Once Bluescope Steel closes that will be the end of it. My foot, which also features in the photo, was passed down to me via DNA.
  The above roller was photographed recently at the Yarralumla Tennis Club by a mate, Bob Calaby, who is one of Australia's many connoisseurs of tennis court rollers. The Yarralumla roller is missing a maker’s plate, but it does look to be quite old, probably pre WW2. It was probably Australian made.  
   Above and below are photos of an “Alexandra” tennis court roller, which was made sometime in the early part of the 20'th century. The photos were taken by roller enthusiast Graeme Rossiter, the owner of the previously shown Metters roller. This roller was probably made to order by Alexandra for the famous department store, “Anthony Hordern & Sons,” who are named on the cast iron maker’s identification plate. I say that because the latter did not manufacture anything themselves. The roller is located in a Canberra front yard at 15 Masson Street, Turner. It has been a big hit with tourists who often come to Canberra specifically to view the now famous Alexandra roller of Masson Street.

I have embedded below a youtube clip which depicts the sort of society our federal and local governments seem to want. It is brilliantly done and well worth watching.

  Above is a photo of a roller located at Lanyon Homestead. It is well-secured by a chain and padlock lest another attempt is made to steal it, considering several attempts have been made to steal it within the last two years. When I was last there, just before taking this photo, I had to break up a fight between two young blokes who both wanted to steal it so they could impress the sheilas. 
   The roller was probably made in the early 20th century and I would be very surprised if it was not made in Australia.

For more Canberra-based yarns click on the “Home” button above.