Bowled (Canna) Lily – Park Cricket in 1970s Elizabeth

I spent my first sixteen years in the oft-maligned City of Elizabeth.

This satellite city, which was populated with a vast proportion of Housing Trust families such as mine, was designed from the ground up.

The expansive thoroughfares of Phillip Highway, John Rice Avenue and Midway Road did their best to hide the cramped, semi-detached rented dwellings in the streets behind them.

The town planners took advantage of the abundant reserves of land to ensure that no child of the 1960’s would live in recreational poverty.

You were rarely more than a five minute walk from an area suitable for a mass game of cricket or footy. By mass I mean upwards of ten-a-side, and I’m not counting the formal sporting reserves such as Mofflin, Ridley or Argana Park that were used by the local sporting teams

In fact, the park that you belonged to was akin to your tribe.

My park was the plantation next to the Elizabeth South Railway station (the ‘Station’). Many summer days were spent there playing short and long form cricket variants.

For some reason I think that we only ever bowled from the northern end. There was a huge native tree in the South West corner that provided shade for the incoming team, so the ground below it acted as the pavilion.

The leg-side boundary was a border of bright red “canna” lilies, a nuisance, but we respected the fruits of the Elizabeth Council workers who tended to them, and trod carefully whenever we had to retrieve the Spalding tennis or Monarch compo balls that were regularly dispatched there for four.

The Station players were drawn from some legendary (or not so, in my case) sporting names.

Central to this assortment were the Bishop family. Allow me to digress.

Des Bishop worked as a driver for Tip Top Bakeries. He had the skin of an outdoors man, a deep bronze colour. His baldness was often covered (but never disguised) by a towelling bucket hat. He was the epitome of “wiry”, carrying not an ounce of fat.

Gay (from memory), did some work as a GPO telephonist. She was an imposing woman, you didn’t want to find yourself on her wrong side (and I never did).

Their small Jeffries Road semi-detached was home to four sons: Mark, Glenn, Paul (aka Bobo) and Ashley.

It was there that I discovered (but avoided eating) the delights of tripe or lamb’s fry and cabbage that they seemed to have most evenings.

It was also there that I spied, among the collection of trophies and mounted cricket balls that Mark and Glenn had garnered before their teenage years, a trophy awarded to a G Sobers. I think it was in recognition of his winning the SACA batting averages in 1963/64 when playing for Prospect.

This was explained by the fact that Gay’s brother was Prospect and occasional State cricketer Graham “Clackers” Clark. Whether Sobie ever visited the Bishop household, I don’t know.

As well as the standard issue corrugated iron on bricks rainwater tank, they had a half sized turf wicket in their back yard, surrounded on three sides by a black nylon net.

This was rarely used for the muck around games of cricket that we played constantly. Instead, we played widthways across the yard, the spongy couch providing a test of young reflexes as there were no rules about pace or degree of arm bend.

Occasionally we would be able to set up diagonally, affording a longer run up.

The neighbours to the north (behind the bowler when playing widthways) were the owners of the fiercest sets of teeth in Postcode 5112. If you hit the ball over the “dog fence” it was goodbye ball.

You didn’t want to be the kid that hit the last of the balls over that fence, as it meant that stumps were drawn early until another could be scrounged.

One day I was that kid, my cross-bat thwack over Bobo’s bonce launching our last hairless but still seamed tennis ball next door.

After a peek over the five foot high fence, with no canines in sight, and the ball just out of reach of the rake we normally used, I placed my foot on the railing and vaulted over.

If an Australian Terrier ever mated with a Piranha, the offspring lived next door to the Bishops. Two, maybe three of them came from behind the tank-stand and, with a cacophony of yelps and snarls, began to attach themselves to my Dunlops. I swooped on the ball and with a touch of Fosbury, cleared the fence from the non-railing side, vowing to work on my straight bat shots from then on.

The Bishops were tied up with the fledgling Salisbury Cricket Club, which was finding it hard going in the top flight of the district cricket comp. Their vast pool of talented juniors would form the basis of Salisbury’s dominance of the late 70s and early 80s. Many of them put in appearance at the Station ground.

There were always bags of cricket gear floating around. I think they were able to get hold of the cast-off equipment. I’ll always remember one well used Gunn and Moore bat that bore the inscription “Specially Selected. Substandard.” It seemed to describe the club from Brown Terrace at the time.

Des eventually became the groundsman at Salisbury Oval. Glenn scored his first A Grade century for Salisbury when he was seventeen, on the pitch tended by Des.

Mark was a handy cricketer too, representing Salisbury in the Schoolboys comp. Ashley was said by some to be the best of the lot, but he was a few years younger than us. Bobo was Bobo.

Other members of the South tribe included future multiple Mail Medallist for Two Wells (but indifferent cricketer) Geoff “Scoffa” Davies and his mate, big Stuey Davis, whose mother was known by many as a local kindergarten teacher. I only ever went to Stuey’s place once, to play Totopoly. Stu had a big brother, who I didn’t know back then. Some twenty years later, I moved next door to Test umpire Steve Davis. It was couple of years after that before I discovered that he was that big brother.

Another tribe within the tribe was the McKee family, Steven, Trevor and Brian. The Buttons, the Harleys, Robert Harris, Dave Linton and other names that elude me, all trooped down to the end of Blake Road for our regular summer sporting ritual.

Sometimes it was informal, similar to our primary school lunchtime days, everyone gets a bowl and a bat, can’t get out first ball, sometimes a bit of tippy-go-run and one bounce, one hand.

Our big matches down at the station were planned with all the precision of the World Cup. Out came the hard balls, pads, proper wickeys, wooden stumps and bails and real rules.

There was a broader purpose to these big matches. Other sub-suburbs had their own patch, and once a summer, the tribes met in series that pre-dated the summer ODI competitions that entered the international cricket calendar.

Opposite the Goodman Road shops was a smaller reserve that ran between Bubner Street and Goodman Road. Known as “The Park” (not to be confused with the suburb of Elizabeth Park), the lush playing surface was home to a smaller collection of sportskids.

Foremost of these was Bruce Ramsay, son of larger than life baseballer/cricketer Ted. Bruce had to play second fiddle to Glenn Bishop as a cricketer at Elizabeth South Primary (and beyond), but daylight was third. Bruce ended up playing a few seasons for West Adelaide firsts in the SANFL, so he won that personal battle (although Bish topped the SANFL reserves goalkicking in the late 70s).

David Smith was a brisk bowler and his sister Kathy, the best netballer and softballer in our school, could turn a leggie square off two paces. Their numbers were further bulked by the Norwood supporting Potter family – I think there were about twenty of them, all of them knee high to a Robert Oatey.

Two Station v Park contests were slated each January, one at each venue.

The results were immaterial, there were two dozen or more kids having a healthy crack.

I don’t remember how I went, apart from being bowled around my legs for a blob once by Kathy Smith at the Park. It was a mark of our enlightened youthful approach to gender equality that I didn’t get bagged, it was unplayable. I was a crap cricketer (baseball ended up being my go), but I got to run around safely, throwing, hitting, catching, laughing, making others laugh.

I revisited the Station thanks to Google Maps – the cannas are long gone. Ironically, it was the alleged damage to the cannas caused by the reckless vandals playing sport there (i.e. us) that, after an uproar on the front page of the News Review, saw ball sports banned there from 1974. Since the only Full Bench any of us had access to was in the front of a locally made vehicle, a legal challenge was not feasible.

Fortunately by then most of us were ensconced in one or more of the local sporting clubs, but future generations were denied the chance to have their first hit, catch or a laugh.

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right

Comments

  1. Great yarn Swish. I have clear memories of ‘Clacka’ Clark opening the bowling for SA. Of strong more than imposing build, he had a classic left arm, high action perfect for bowling stump-to-stump with a little movement either way. A journeyman at first class level (when the Sheffield Shield was first class – not third rate), but a Faulkner class bowler in today’s terms.
    Loved your tribute to the SA Housing Trust and the green layout of Elizabeth, despite its parched northern suburbs location. Hugh Stretton is one of Australia’s great public intellectuals, and he was the driving force in creating social capital where economic capital was limited. In some ways you are the creation of his parks, schools and services Swish.
    When I grew up in Adelaide our neighbour’s in-laws were the Dwights. John Dwight was the SA Housing Trust chief landscape gardener who designed your parks and (drought tolerant) cana lily’s – together with our much more modest front garden.
    Thanks for the memories Swish.

  2. Swish- enjoyed this very much. It’s wonderful that any exploration of Australian childhood is an exploration of space and games. I love this. Even as a kid I was struck by how much parkland there was in this part of the world. In some ways it seemed more spacious than the small town of Kapunda. And of course Elizabeth oval appeared as the biggest space of all!

  3. Good stuff, Swish: the Substandard Gunn & Moore bat, Totopoly, the canna lillies, the dry parks, the families, the cabbage, the dogs over the fence. Quite evocative.

  4. Helen Gray (herd) says

    Hi,thanks for the wonderful memories
    While I lived in the South and know these places very well I loved the great areas where one could “explore”
    I mainly knew people from the Elizabeth Football club and Argana Park -as netball was everything to the young ladies
    I loved your writing style-our education was pretty good as well!-thanks:)

  5. Cheers Swish, great story, spent plenty of time kicking a footy around at the station, lived on Jeffries Rd, next door to the Harleys, played some cricket with Mark Bishop and knew the McKees well. Some great memories, never regret growing up in Elizabeth, unfortunately not sure about the quality of life there these days.

  6. What great memories! I knew/know of all the families mentioned, I think we must have had our “sporting glories” a year or two before your cricket games, and although we played some cricket there, I definitely remember some classic footy matches at the station, there never appeared to be any boundaries, and I think the only rule that I remember was that, Frank Hollander had to play full back ,and was not allowed to kick goals or have shots at goal from full back (The full length of the reserve). I certainly remember Stuey Davis,as I was there the day stuey went to do a stab pass or droppy and kicked the spigot of a council tap well concealed in the grass,and I think a Dunlop volley quickly filled with blood.
    We would have return matches against the Grove boys on the reserve at Secombe street, Elizabeth Grove, some pretty fierce games,with the likes of the Hollanders, the Figallos, the Noakes, Smith’s (Eric I think),Siciliano’s (Rob & Enzo), Librandi, The Addison’s, Jacopetta’s, and a myriad of single “others”. I still occasionally catch the train into “town” from Gawler, and as it speeds through the “south”, very rarely stopping these days, I quite often think of those days,and summer holidays that seemed to never end, thanks Swish.

  7. Ran into Potter, S in Coromandel Place just yesterday. One of the batch you mention I reckon.

  8. Fantastic Swish. Really enjoyed your piece – and can relate so strongly to so many experiences. Thanks.

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks all

    PB – Hugh Stretton has a lot to answer for if I’m the result

    Mickey – loved playing on Elizabeth Oval, it gave me the most space away from the ball to hide in

    Vin – I can still smell the cabbage

    Helen – yep, our education was pretty darn good

    Wayne – I remember your sister Sharon, a very good softballer (and footballer) – wasn’t there a small park across the road from you?

    Alan – yep, those footy matches paralleled the cricket ones. Remember the Sicilianos and Librandis – Vin went on to be a very handy player.

    Mike – yep, Steven, I think

    JTH – and you thought I was making this stuff up

  10. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    In a poignant postscript, I found out yesterday that Des Bishop passed away after a long illness, on the day after this piece was posted.

    I had no idea of any of this.

    RIP Des

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great read Swish and a tribute to you that your memory is so good of your younger years. Glenn Bishop is the only batsman that I know of that caused tennis to be abandoned on the courts re Ad Oval number 2 when he made 170 odd laced with 13 sixes; an amazing puller of the ball off the front foot. Ashley was a bloody good player and could and probably should have reached higher level than district cricket.
    Saw Steve Davis Thursday at the Kensi . .
    ( I liked your v accurate description of the spacious roads of the area )

  12. Brilliant Swish. The way you reel off the names of the families, and all the links in between, really conveys a sense that Elizabeth and Salisbury wasn’t just a neighbourhood in that era, it was a vibrant community. One can see that the endless distractions of sport, whether in formal competition or the more serious park rivalries, must have played a huge part in that. It’s a great shame that the positive energy of your upbringing is so hard to find out there these days.

    Your story brings back memories of my first game of senior cricket, playing for Prospect against Salisbury at Salisbury Oval. David Clarke, son of Graham, opened the bowling for Prospect. He was ‘Clacker’ too and moved the ball as prodigiously as his father. On his Shield debut a few years earlier he had drawn a nick to first slip with his first ball – but Hookesy dropped it. Bowling at the other end was a young tearaway called Mark Harrity. ‘Hags’ was yet to play Shield but according to the Gestetner Pace Challenge he was the quickest in Australia, sheer pace rendered all the more terrifying by the lack of the control he developed later. Gus Logie was Prospect’s star recruit that year, which for a schoolboy was completely thrilling.

    Salisbury’s team won yet another flag that season and was chockablock full of SACA heroes: Glenn and Ashley Bishop, Wayne Bradbrook, Noel Fielke, Mark Sorell, Anthony Heidrich, Brenton Opperman, Trevor Bailey. They were a marvellously tight unit of talented cricketers. Whether they were dominating or had their backs against the wall they backed themselves and each other. I feel like your story explains something important about how they got that way.

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks ‘Book. I left out Main North Road, our lifeline to the world at large.

    Tom, thanks for your perspective. Growing up, you think everyone is doing the same stuff as you are. We made a lot out of a little.

  14. Kathy stidolph says

    Well done Mark, I have fond memories of the ODI and two day test matches that took place although there were occasions that this little black duck was exempt possibly to do with a certain brother being embarrassed to have his sister tag along. I do remember the rivalry between the kids of the two parks and the games played with all the proper gear and the insistence of fair umpiring.
    The Groundsmen from the council kept all the parks lush and green in those days and they would even mow us a pitch or two if we asked them nicely. This brought on a week of intense match playing with wicky gloves being used instead of the tree next to the picket fence.
    The Elizabeth South Primary had some amazing success with a lot of the kids mentioned. In 1969 I think the cricket team were runner- up in the state for Primary School cricket with mainly Year 6 s which is an indicator of how good they were. The following year they took the title. There was an excellent teacher who took a great interest in the sport at the school called Moore, I recall. He left a year later but he taught me how to use a softball glove and encouraged all the kids to have a go!
    I feel quite sad that these venues have deteriorated because it was pure joy to play on them and the opportunities we had set us up for a life enjoying our sports, not to mention the other social skills learned interacting with all the kids.
    By the way it’s Bob Ramsay you were referring to and he is still in Bubner Street.
    Other kids who were hysterical to play along included Fred Kinnaird who brought falling over to an art form, also big Franky Habit, Ian Jones. The Potter boys were mainly Grant, Wayne and Steven. There are a few others but all combined to make our childhood great fun whether it was footy or cricket season.
    Lovely memories Swish

  15. Luke Reynolds says

    Love this Swish. Growing up on a farm my childhood cricket experience was very different but had a glimpse of your city style neighbourhood cricket when staying at my cousins during school holidays. Sadly not sure this type of experience is common these days.

  16. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks Kathy – I’d forgotten about ESPS’s SAPSASA cricket deeds, but I remember well that we won the Chrysler Cup for baseball around 1970. I played (along with Bish, Darren Roberts, Mick Gillen, Steve Conry, Doug Sabel and others) in a losing Chrysler Cup final in Grade 7, 1972, on the day Gough Whitlam was voted in. It even made it onto the TV news that night. I coached the primary school baseball team when I was in First and Second Year high (including one of the Potter boys), so I must have loved that school.

    Only have vague memories of Mr Moore (tall, short dark hair, glasses?), but fond memories of Clyde Williamson, who, as well as being my baseball coach at Centrals, was my footy buddy at Elizabeth Oval for many years. Not so fond memories of John Greening, who smashed me into the “nature cabinet” and kicked me out of class for the day when all I did was ask him in front of the whole class how on earth he got a job as a teacher.

    You’ve also reminded me of a few more names local names.

    * “Ted” appears to be a nickname used by Bruce’s dad, I always thought it was his real name. ( R.J (Ted)Ramsay West Torrens Eagles – extract from SABL annual report 2012)

    Luke – Thanks. Does anyone stay at their cousins in school holidays any more? Does anyone still have cousins?

  17. Stuart Davis says

    Mark Schwerdt – “Schwerdty” in those days, I recall.
    Thanks for this fantastic piece and for dragging those names and faces from the depths of my memory.
    Yes it was a great place to grow up.
    Tears of laughter in my eyes remembering the viscious terriors over the dog fence and the fact that their owners had no compassion whatsoever for our plight of limited supply of “cricket” balls.
    Thanks Alan – yes I still have the scar of the ten stitches in the top of my foot – I remember being amazed at how precisely the tear in my “goose boot” and sock matched the tear on my foot.
    Sad to hear about Des Bishop – a terrific bloke who loved his sport and gave his kids every opportunity. Also the source of much amusement for us as kids.
    I remember the footy matches more than the cricket and the “inter-park” matches we had, in between playing official games for Central Juniors.
    The school teacher was Brian Moore – I remember we were all amazed that he could bowl either hand (we thought he was pretty good, anyway).
    Had many great days with Bishops, McKees, Scoffa (who actually played a fair bit of A grade district cricket as a wicket keeper) Owly Button, Dave Smith, Bruce Ramsay (who was called Rambo before the movie was thought of), Vinny Librandi and Wayne Vitnell.
    Thanks again.
    Thanks again

  18. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Wow Stuey, took a punt on your email address.

    Had forgotten that Scoffa was a ‘keeper, apologies Geoff if you ever read this.

    I was keeping an article on the park footy matches up my sleeve – I remember one game against the Grove (i.e. Plattens, Dave Gapper, Peter Howard, Sims boys I think) at Mofflin Road – I think the cry was if you hurt Schwerdt, we’ll flatten Platten.

    Did we join forces with the Bubner Street kids in that one?

    Do you remember that mad couple of weeks where we played games of about 10-a-side in Owly’s back yard with a plastic footy? I seem to remember it all ending in (Trevor McKee’s) tears.

    Did you know that I once lived next-door to your brother?

    And I thought it showed great courage by you to buy a Clash album when you were working in the bank. Respect.

  19. Stuart Davis says

    I’m sure Scoffa will forgive you – he’ll acknowledge that he was an easy beat in the important contests of backyard cricket.

    My specific memories are pretty vague – but I do know that almost every fixture ended in (or included) tears from Trevor (Leg) McKee; mainly caused by his brother Steven (Ace).

    Yes, I recall the conversation about you living next door – Hawthorn, wasn’t it?

    Still love The Clash and my neighbours were playing the Sex Pistols the other day – I just stood in the front yard and listened!

  20. David Smith says

    Thanks for rekindling the memories, Kathy showed me while we were holidaying in the Barossa. Really quite formative and fun times.

Leave a Comment

*