Frogger, Bush Biscuits and Staring at Parked Motorbikes

 

Growing up in the country wasn’t simply footy, cricket and an occasional hit of tennis.

Frogger

A gastronomic and social revolution followed Johnny Guzzo opening The Kapunda Pizza Bar in the late 1970’s. Located on the Main Street, it was a superior example of the wider world invading. Goodbye chops and three veg!

This meant Rawady’s Deli no longer sold the town’s most exotic food: the Chiko Roll. Of course, neighbouring Nuriootpa had a so-called, “Chinese Restaurant,” but the Barossa Valley was always a brazen place.

The KPB immediately became a teenage hangout. Within its fuggy walls were a jukebox, pinball machine and cabinet game. Trigonometry and flora transects would not win me. Enter Frogger!

Our heroic frog needed to cross a road, and then a river teeming with turtles and alligators. Superior to Space Invaders and Galaxian; both were earnest and dull next to Frogger’s narrative silliness. Beyond the usual disposable deaths, it rewarded the escorting of a lady frog.

Full Boar 79

And the cultural legacy! In 1998, the game starred in the Seinfeld episode, “The Frogger,” involving George’s world record score of 860,630 points. While, “Space Invaders” by Player One featured on the 1979 K-Tel compilation Full Boar. Side 2 holds up well

Split Enz- I Got You

Flying Lizards- Money

Sniff ‘n’ the Tears- Driver’s Seat

The Sports- Strangers On A Train

Cheap Trick- Dream Police

Ry Cooder- Little Sister

The Aliens- Confrontation

Jo Jo Zep & Falcons- Shape I’m In

Graham Parker- Hey Lord Don’t Ask Me Questions

Jimmy & The Boys- I’m Not Like Everybody Else

Roller-skating

“Lay Your Love on Me” by Racey was popular when I started high school, and ceaselessly requested on 5AD’s evening show.

Roller-skating on the betting ring at Kapunda’s Trotting Track. In a wheeled version of musical chairs I won Racey’s follow-up single, “Some Girls.“ It wasn’t even in the shops!

Collecting the record from DJ and Tarlee farmer Tony Clarke, it was a dazzling jewel in a Tintin adventure. A giggle of girls gathered around me to behold it. For about five seconds I was John Paul Young.

“You’re so lucky!”

“That is so cool.”

“Can you even wait to play it on the Pye 3-in-1?”

The chorus was ruthlessly relevant

Some girls will, some girls won’t
Some girls need a lot of lovin’ and some girls don’t
Well, I know I’ve got the fever but I don’t know why
Some say they will and some girls lie

I was sure it’d make me outrageously popular with that most desirable of creatures, the older Year 9 girl.

It did not.

Extra ball! Multiball! Special!

The highest weekly pinball score at Johnny Guzzo’s won a can of coke. I know! It was usually collected by a yoof wearing a black duffel coat, and the black boots with a fearsome reputation among mothers everywhere, Ripples. Although some dressed tough, Kapunda boys weren’t.

When not applying plantations of pineapple to pizza (jalapeno and salami were yet to be invented) Johnny Guzzo would play pinball. He was fun, but kicked out anybody who tilted the machine too violently. Exiled onto the Main Street, Johnny’d be yelling after them, “Vaffanculo! Si cazzo rompi. Esci!”

Bang! A Special! A free game! The whip-crack always turned the adolescent heads away from their smoking and bantering, to see who’d won.

It is a Believe It Or Not mystery that I claimed the coke. Once.

I often think that when my mid-life crisis finally hits, I’ll buy a pinball machine. May be Fish Tales.

Bombing the Canteen

Every summer, every boy tried to splash Mrs Chappell, the Kapunda Swimming Pool’s manageress, as she sat in her canteen chair. Mrs Chappell sold confectionery, shelved seductively in glass bottles. These were probably taken from a Fowler’s Vacola preserving set.

Launched stealthily from the diving board, drenching the canteen could only be achieved with an impeccably executed bomb or cannonball such as a Storky, Arsey, Suey, or my cousin Boogly’s speciality, the Coffin.

Being built like a full back didn’t result automatically in a bigger splash. The best bombs had slick skill and my friend Lukey, still Robbie Flower skinny, possessed Grand Master technique.

Eating at the pool was ritualistic. Bush Biscuits were similar to Arrowroots, but larger, harder, and somewhat impossibly, more dreary and tasteless. According to the manufacturer, they were, “made for camping.” Forget blood brothers, Bush Biscuit bonds run deepest.

They became our currency. Decades on, and always over beers, fellow pool-haunter Fats and I still jest about the Bush Biscuit ledger.

“You still owe me a Zooper Dooper from 1983.”

“What about the time I bought Boogly, Lukey and you Sunnyboys?”

“I remember the day you pinched my Wizz Fizz, you know, when I got kicked out for bombing Mrs Chappell in the canteen!”

For the record, Fats remains indebted to me.

Staring at Parked Motorbikes

I never loved the motorbike. Several of my schoolmates did. Upon arriving, during recess, at lunch, and after school, they’d gather under the tree where the teachers’ motorbikes were parked.

Like a hypnotised cult they’d stare at the machines as if in a David Lynch film. Or Puberty Blues.

Through barely-opened mouths, they’d mutter about carbies and clutches. They had nicknames like Gomer and Lumpy.

“How’s the throttle action?”

“What do you think’s the top end?”

“I reckon Mr H polished his petrol tank last night.”

When every working part had been mentioned, they’d cycle through them again. Never making eye contact, but staring, bewitched, at the motorbikes.

After school, they’d then break camp to Johnny Guzzo’s and, on the footpath, repeat their low automotive mantra, while gazing at a different set of Kawasaki’s.

Working at a Catholic school in Hertfordshire, I was reminded of Gomer and his Suzuki pornologists. A friend, the Religious Instruction teacher, once had the following priestly exchange

“So boys, it is a sin to masturbate, because, in the eyes of God, in so doing, you are thinking about sex with a woman.”

A hand crept up. “But sir,” an anxious boy asked, “is it still a sin if you’re thinking about your favourite car?”

Hot Bubblegum Ripper 76 Scorcher

Cutting Loose Right On Disc O Selector

 

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. Multi-ball pinball changed my life. Destroy Centaur.

    One of the most distinctive sounds on the planet is the sound of a pinball replay pre-1980. It was like there was a small resident of Amsterdam in the cabinet whose job it was to hit two clogs together when the replay score was reached.

    I have been to the New Year’s meeting at the Kapunda Trots which featured the marathon – then 5 and a half laps of the track.

    Loved the piece Mickey.

  2. We ran laps of the Trotting Track for pre-season footy. A badly sliced drive on the first would end up skimming across the Trotting Track car park. Rocket and a few others had their 21st parties there. Some learnt to handle (or not) a car in the wide, white space of the car park too. It was a big venue growing up.

    I reckon there’s plenty in our demographic who, if blindfolded, would pick the replay crack. Easily. I must research this!

    Thanks John.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Bewdy Mickey.

    Met Mrs Swish over a Donkey Kong console, she used to kill me every time. Frogger was genius, elegant and clever.

    Ahh pinball, the Elizabeth Town Centre snooker hall had a bank of four machines, always the latest ones with electronic scoring – the older ones with the rotating dials seemed to make an even more mechanical “thwack” whenever I scored a free game due to the lucky matching of the final digits (it was never for a high score). Kiss and Playboy were favourite machines (pinball imitating life).

    There were some cracking compilations back then, that side reads like a Countdown episode, including “live” performances from the ABC Ripponlea studios.

    We had the Elizabeth Pool, Mum didn’t like us going there because “Poms pissed in it”, but it had the diving tower. I never did go off the top deck.

    Only did Kapunda Trots a couple of times, Friday nights I think (or was that Kadina?)

    Sunnboys and Wizz Fizz still get a run in my household at Royal Show Time.

    And it’s probably a double sin if it’s a “volvo”

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A life rewind there , Mickey nearly all of us would have spent time in a pizza bar with jukebox , playing pinball ( love your mention of the , Racey song )

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Brilliant Mickey. I only know about Frogger because of that wonderful Seinfeld episode. Side 2 of that comilation does hold up very well. Nice work getting Exile on Main St into one of your lines!

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Just a pity George and ‘slippery Pete’ couldn’t get the frogger to the other side of the road…

  7. Thanks Swish.

    Introduced our eldest to Pac-Man last Christmas at the Mawson Lakes Tavern. It’s good, but no Frogger.

    Every trip to Adelaide with friends included a walk down Hindley Street, and time and money spent in Downtown and the edgier Tilt. The Bay meant Magic Mountain.

    I reckon the Kapunda Trots were mostly Tuesdays. I think the growth of Sky probably killed it. There might be a couple meets a year only now.

    Thanks Malcolm. I think there’s a good book in the social impact of The Pizza Bar on Australian life!

  8. Thanks Luke. Split Enz, The Sports, Jo Jo Zep: agree that’s a pretty good snapshot of the national music scene at the time. Cheers!

  9. Full Boar – brilliant, was thinking about that album just yesterday, very erie!. I had the poster from the album on my wall, brilliant

    Sunnyboys, Razzs and Glugs

    I was an Asteroid boy myself.

    Ace memories, really grouse Mickey

    Sean

  10. Thanks Sean.

    The Ripper series of compilations were probably the best known of the genre, but Full Boar is one I’d track down on vinyl. A poster, nice work!

    Ahh, Glugs- the joy of frozen cola. Like the Bush Biscuit, sadly gone, I believe.

  11. Rick Kane says

    We had a Biology teacher confess to a couple of us in his Yr 11 class that he’d prefer to rub down his Bentley than a woman. He wasn’t the coolest teacher at Belmont High in 1978. Nor the weirdest!

    Fantastic piece MR, triggered a plethora of memories (sadly, including the one just mentioned!)

    Yes to Aussie’s bands on Side Two … but what about Sniff ‘n’ the Tears, Graham Parker, Ry Cooder!

    I am partial to Jimmy & The Boys version of the great Kinks song, ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ as well.

  12. As a Kadina boy I can confirm that the trots were always Friday nights. Kapunda and Gawler on Tuesday nights. Spent plenty of time skating (on thin ice) in the betting ring at Kapunda trots. The track was uniquely up and down hill. No flat land in Kapunda apparently.
    BUTTERED Bush Biscuits as a giant slab sandwich were my other weakness. I retain an affection for buttered milk arrowroot bikkies (the closest current equivalent) to this day.
    I was not into pinball, video games or motor bikes (tragic lack of hand to eye coordination). However my hand to other bodily organ coordination was enhanced by my complete collection of K-Tel compilation LP’s in my Disc-O-Selector (purchased solely for their eclectic musical collection in the days before compilation tapes). Ripper, Scorcher, Hot Bubblegum, Right On and Cutting Loose were rarely out of my (left) hand.
    I have taken the liberty of inserting cover images into your important cultural and historical recollections. Thanks Mickey.

  13. Thanks Rick.

    I vaguely recollected the Full Board album, but when researching the Space Invaders song, and the track list came up, I was mightily impressed. Ry Cooder’s version of Little Sister was my introduction to his great guitar work.

    Thanks Peter- what price on eBay for a Disc-O-Selector? Wonderful. Terrifically kitsch and functionally useless! The Scorcher LPs went OK too. There can’t be many provincial trotting track still operating in SA anymore. Such a shame.

  14. PS- the album covers are fantastic! I reckon there’s a great article in these too.

  15. Don’t know too much about Bush Biscuits but here’s something else to ponder.

    Saladas with tomato (pepper) and cheese were after school delights and had to be consumed before any sweet biscuit or slice could be considered.

    My mother would sometimes apologise, “Sorry, we only have bought biscuits today”. In other words not home baked biscuits so she was apologising for the likes of Butternut Snaps, Milk Arrowroots and Iced Vo-Vos.

  16. The Cornish Pasties were legendary at Kapunda Trots – gee it was bloody cold up there mid winter.

  17. John- the Salada still goes very well. They were a good utility- excellent on their own, with cheese, or my favourite, as a vegemite sandwich so you could squeeze the two Saladas together, and delight in the vegemite racing out of the holes like little black snakes.

    And your mum apologising for Iced Vo-Vos! Not many recorded instances of this across the nation, I’m guessing.

    Crio- I reckon the Cornish pasties were probably from Masters, the local bakery, which has been sold and is trading as the Eudunda bakery.

  18. Hi Mickey – a delightful read. I was not much into the pinnies or arcade games but memories of the pool came flooding back of which the canteen lollie selection was a very important part. Fizz Wizz, Sunny Boys, big boss cigars, fags! and many others spring to mind. Of course we also had the beach where I grew up, but the relatively safe confines of the pool meant it was usually a full day without any parents around and there was always some excitement as to who was buying a seasons pass for the pool over the holidays.

  19. djlitsa- thanks for that. I remember Fags! too, which disappeared and then re-appeared as Fads. I imagine they’ve gone altogether now.

    Growing up in dusty Kapunda was great, but when I moved to Adelaide, I went to Glenelg as I wanted the reassurance of the beach being right there. In this way Warrnambool must have been great.

    It’s curious that living on this tiny island, the beach is not a big part of our lives. Perhaps we are too reliant on our pool, perhaps its that much of the accessible coast is consumed by the world’s second biggest port!

  20. The first time I went to Sri Lanka I headed straight to the hotel at Ngombo, which is on the coast. I was staring out to see with one of my colleagues and I said to him, Gee I miss the ocean. Then realised I live a 5 minute drive from the coast in Singapore. Its just not the same. There is no life to the Straits of Singapore (or at the Marina for that matter). I don’t think its a focus on the pool at your condo, the ocean here just doesn’t have any wonder to it. In that regard, HK is so much better.

  21. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Great stuff Mickey. My brother still has Full Boar and Scorcher on tape! Bought at Brash’s. Sucking on Sunnyboys, took ages to wash the color away, sucking on Fags pretending to be cool while listening to Sniff ‘n the Tears: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blrHHRWKygw

    Sounds with Donnie Sutherland on Saturday Mornings. Happy Days.

  22. Fat Tony says

    I do believe that the ledger is square, all bush biscuit transactions have been locked away. I am somewhat surprised that a golf ball tree has not sprung up in the trotting track carpark , god knows I’ve put enough seeds for it to grow . Possibly dames’s circle work , sorry learner driver education , probably kicked them up. Would have put a schooner on that with Whitey , but he lost it all in the betting rink. Loved the sound of the PA from home . I miss that as much as the Wednesday night train. They had a stand in a couple of years ago . But a tractor pull doesn’t really cut the mustard. Oh how life has changed. iPod,IPad and enough electronics to cause cancer in the best of us. Whilst I embrace our future I morn the past our children will miss as they tap their screens. I’m glad my children still live in kapunda and get to enjoy the dirt, the cold and smoke of the 24 hour ( wasn’t that an IT that went past it sounded like an IT) and get more out of life than they can google . So much more to write about our Micky . Keep it up and I’ll pass the hat around I reckon I can get a bit more an buy u a new pair of Romes. Cheers Fats

  23. djlitsa-we were taken on an orientation tour of Singapore and stopped at the East Coast. I was dismayed by the pollution, and resolved that I’d not swim there. I agree that there isn’t any wonder to it, beyond how many enormous ships are coming and going. The Straits of Singapore are a stagnant bath in a Hell’s Angels clubhouse.

    Phil- thanks for that. I reckon Sniff ‘n’ The Tears rank highly in that most esteemed group: The One Hit Wonders. Let’s not overlook that Side 1 of Full Boar included ‘Escape (the Pina Colada Song)!

    FT- that’s a rich tapestry you’ve woven there! Perhaps you can use all that invested Bush Biscuit money and get me that pair of Adidas Romes! The 24 Hour Trial. There’s a story worth telling too.

  24. Rick Kane says

    Side One had Dave Edmunds great version of the Elvis Costello song, ‘Girls Talk’. I don’t think it got better than that.

  25. Paddy O'Peace says

    Top article Mickey and worthy replies. I’m getting hungry and excited reading about it.
    Who can forget home grown tomatoes, Grosse Lisse variety and the trips out to the trotting track to collect the manure & a tip.
    Prince Charles Waterstreet has depicted growing up in a country town evocatively in his memoir ‘Precious Bodily Fluids’.

  26. Vic Gecas says

    My first takeaways were from Bunny’s (ex copper) caravan in my country town. He put an old caravan up on blocks and cooked burgers from there. Run that by a Health Inspector these days and see how far you would get!
    Did you ever have those big lollies called Cough Drops, a big pink disc the size of your palm and eating wise, about the half life of some nuclear fuel…

  27. Rick- Side 1 also has The Reels. Their subsequent song and album Quasimodo’s Dream is excellent. May be an Almanac event could be a Full Boar listening party!

    Thanks Paddy. The Waterstreet memoir is a good tip; I try to track it down.

    Vic- An ex-cop called Bunny selling burgers from a caravan? Surely this is the opening scene from Tim Winton’s next novel! I vaguely remember Cough Drops although I don’t think they were common in SA. Thanks.

  28. As I read the Blog last night. My son walked home from his part time job(not a corporate company to be seen in this town) sharing his chicken salted chips with his mate Sharpy ( an ironic nickname if I’ve heard one before). This morning my daughter played netball as I write this I can hear the football siren and breathe the cool air,soaked with the sweat of the under 15’s as the oval is a mere 100m from our house .As is the Clare Castle,Rawady’s Deli,Billy Scrapers Servo and everything else in Kapunda. I contimplate taking ,the boy, out to Laubsch’s farm to get back to nature as he tears up yet another lap on his gas guzzling bike as we burn up a little more atmosphere. What is the EPA again. I feel somewhat vindicated at my decision to stay in tis small town and raise my kids. Because it occurred to me as I read you comments that even now as you get on with your high powered lives and travel the world that your humble child hoods are not forgotten. Hopefully one day my kids will say do you remember when. I’ll keep you informed when the next Trots meeting is. Rupert Hines oh what a word smith

  29. black ripple soles – classic.

  30. AT- I never had a pair of Ripples as they were too tough for me, and I was happy with my Adidas Romes and desert boots.

    I have not seen Ripples for years, but am sure they are out there in some hipster or ironic way.

  31. “I was sure it’d make me outrageously popular with that most desirable of creatures, the older Year 9 girl. It did not.”

    Oh, but it did. ;)

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