There Goes The Charabanc – The CDFC Bulldogs Supporters Bus (1970-1976)

It was a long way from Goodman Road, Elizabeth to just about anywhere in the 1970s (and probably vice-versa), so for Centrals away games the only choice for the youthful me was to catch the Supporters Bus(es) that left around midday each Saturday, transporting hopeful followers southwards (as it always was) to one of the more exotic SANFL locations.

If we were lucky, the trip up Main North Road to the home of Barrie Robran (and as I later came to appreciate, Chocka Bloch), Prospect Oval (our shortest journey) would be done within 30 minutes, barely allowing us to time to take in the newly metricated speed limit signs (60, 110) that replaced the imperial 35mph or 60mph indicators that were fabricated at the Highways Department’s Northfield sign shop.

Maybe there was only time for a brief rendition of some of the choicer cuts from the latest Sparmac “Bawdy Ballads” album, with tales of The Good Ship Venus, or something about “Dicky Di Dos”, led by the older members of the unofficial Bulldogs Cheer Squad. Us younger ones pretended we understood and sang along with synthetic gusto.

Pre-dating the Barmy Army, but not doubt influenced by the same terraces that were brought to our small screens by Brian Moore and Jimmy Hill each week, there were constant chants and songs such as the CDFC equivalent of “10 Green Bottles” that went something like:

We’ve got Tony Casserly, number 1
We’ve got Tony Casserly, number 1
We’ve got Tony Casserly, number 1
We’ve got the best team in the League

We’ve got Rod O’Connor, number 3
We’ve got Rod O’Connor, number 3
We’ve got Rod O’Connor, number 3
We’ve got the best team in the League

We’ve got Sally Saywell, number 31
We’ve got Sally Saywell, number 31
We’ve got Sally Saywell, number 31
We’ve got the best team in the League

And so in, including the Reserves all the way up to guernseys numbered in their 50s.

If it was an early season game, we would be able to purchase from the selection of new felt patches that would adorn our Norwellan Bluey Junior duffle coat, perhaps one of the thin strips that celebrated our favourite player (Farnham, Mobbs, Norsworthy, Skinner, Jones, Vivian) or the larger cartoon Bulldog style.

We might even catch a glimpse of Mike ‘Patto” Patterson’s Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet soon after our driver negotiated the tricky five-way Gepps Cross intersection, reassured by the West End bottletop logo atop the corner of the pub.

A trip to Norwood was educational – it may have taken in the delights of Hampstead Road on the way, past the Pooraka (not yet Bridgeway) Hotel, where in a future life, I would be taking my bride to see Mental As Anything. But at twelve, I was still Central As Anything, and the twin certainties of a loss to the Redlegs and jokes about Roger Woodcock’s surname were par for a day at the Parade.

Sturt at Unley – pencil that one down for a loss also, but this time the journey included a trip through the City itself, past the glorious playing fields of Adelaide University (at that point I doubt whether anyone from postcode 5112 had ever set foot on them in a match for 2 points), the Zoo, the avenue of Platanus hybrida on Frome Road and the AMSCOL factory in Carrington Street. I secretly admired the Sturt team, especially their acrobatic full-forward Ken Whelan, who kicked these awkwardly effective flat punts. But their geriatric supporters from the nearby posh homes looked at us incoming Centrals supporters as if they themselves had accidentally trodden in some sticky and pungent bulldog by-product.

If we were drawn to play South at Adelaide Oval, the train was probably a better transportation option, and afforded the chance to visit the Darrell Lea store on the “not the Beehive” corner of the Mall. To see the cheerful but mildly frumpy ladies in their colourful but way too frilly and flouncy DL attire, brought almost as much joy as the purchase of some sickly Caramel Snows. Not to mention the likelihood of a win against the Panthers.

Richmond Oval was approached via South Road, as bleak a journey as you would get, as the stench from the Pooraka meatworks lingered in your duffle coat’s woollen fibres as well as your nostrils until well past Grand Junction Road. Westies supporters were similar to the racegoers I encountered in a few years hence, scratching around the Derby (but never the Flat) in zip up shoes and chocolate brown leather jackets, too old for Vietnam, too young for WWII, plenty of tales, but relics in the era of David Bowie, Skyhooks and Paul Hogan. After savouring the inevitable victory, a visit to the pie-man outside the ground ensured that my teenage self was nourished with that special blend of carrot, potato, peas, pepper, pastry and tomato sauce that I hanker for to this day.

West Torrens at Thebarton took a similar route, five minutes closer, with more people adhering to the traditional tartan rug, thermos of soup combo that provided so much comfort to football followers across the nation in the Whitlam years and beyond. The Richmond pie-man or his franchisee/son-in-law was there to greet us on our exit. Torrens was a funny side back then, changing jumpers (remember the microscopic spoggy version?) and coaches on an annual basis, but full of characters such as Ian “Rooster” Wallace, Fred Bills, Milan Faletic, Bulldog cast-offs Phil Ashmead and Adrian Hunt and of course Billy Barrot (for about 10 minutes).

I missed the opportunity to make the longest away trek to Brighton Road in 1975, as the Glenelg Disco Bay Tigers racked up a video game score of 49.23 against the Dogs. The sight of their sneering president, used-car tycoon John H Ellers would have been too much to stomach. The next season that particular fixture was club legend Sonny Morey’s 200th game (the club’s first such milestone), so I was duty bound to honour his stellar career and board the bus once more.

The quarter by quarter scores were

Glenelg 6.6 12.10 15.13 16.16
Centrals 3.1 10.5 14.9 23.12

The delirious scenes at the end of that game were the emotional highlight of my Centrals supporting career. One can only imagine the exhortations from coach Window at ¾ time as well as the sheer determination to atone for the previous year’s debacle. Glenelg supporters were, to me, new-money spivs (as opposed to Norwood/Sturt old-money spivs). I’m not sure if Schadenfreude was the technically correct way to describe the mood of the bus on the way home, after all, we were glowing in our success, not their failure, but it wasn’t a word that made an appearance in my copy of Verstehen und Sprechen anyway.

Oval Avenue, Woodville only lured me once or twice, as playing against the post-Blight-as-a-player, pre-Blight-as-captain-coach ‘Peckers generally meant that I would stay home and watch the U/19s and U/17s at Elizabeth instead. But I do remember the comfy expanses of grass on the southern mound behind the goals and the smattering of followers in the Barry Jarman Stand.

A similar route with a dissimilar result was the trip to the feared Alberton, against the once-feared Magpies. Without even really knowing what a wharfie was, on the bus to the game, we compiled a litany of nasty taunts and tunes, in readiness for our verbal assault on the Port ferals. Once inside the ground, we retreated into our shells like George Costanza’s genitals did after a dip at the Hamptons, and kept this abuse to ourselves until the trip home, where we regaled ourselves with what we would have said to them had we won, which of course, never happened back then.

1974 saw the introduction of the neutral but miles from home venue at West Lakes, known by K.G. Cunhm as Foopallparg. The Doggies played the Roosters in the first match scheduled there, but the ground proved a microcosm of Adelaide society – the best views were in the Members, but who could afford that? The smart money / artful Elizabeth dodgers realised that the ground level seats on the members’ side were the best, until the sun disappeared behind the stand and the aluminium seats reached zero degrees Kelvin.

But back to the bus itself – it wasn’t just for cheer squad members, but supporters of all ages and profanities. Decked out in our red, white and blue we could have been going to the Trooping of The Colour, starting out from the city named in the monarch’s honour, travelling along the road named after her consort. (By the way, Philip Highway was not really worthy of that moniker, but the town planners of the day were alert to the Benny Hill like implications of Philip Road, Elizabeth.)

Instead, we were following our chosen ones, our team, the highlight of our week, the highlight of our lives.

Since there was a fair chance that the older folk may have known both you and your parents, there was a raucous but good natured tone especially toward the back, although the homeward journey may have included a higher than was absolutely necessary quota of said bawdiness.

There was a sense of community and safety, as even a ten year old could travel to the other side of the city and back, safe in the knowledge that the bus was full of like-minded locals who could be relied upon lest anything went wrong.

Over the course of the season(s), you would meet, see or make friends as you bonded over your love of the Bulldogs during the fortnightly winter’s travels to Adelaide’s different social strata. And win (occasionally), lose (often) or draw (don’t remember any before 1979 1977), you would be back the following weeks and years.

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. Mickey Randall says

    Swish- wonderful piece. So much in here that evokes, but my favourite line is “K.G. Cunhm as Foopallparg.” How can we not love KG’s diction?
    The SANFL is still a great way to spend a few hours. There’s old rivalries, and on occasion, you can spot a player who’s a footballer first and not an athlete or basketballer who’s desperately trying to learn how to kick. Brilliant memoir.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Loved it Swish , plenty of memories there mine were on the Norwood bus , people who i still catch up with today nearly 40 years later . The pies under those hessian bags were sensational . KG on the channel 9 Footy show was a institution

  3. Trouble is I remember everything in your articles Swish. I came to Adelaide from Kadina in 1972 aged 17 and a bit. I went to most Torrens games until the early 80’s. Scarey to think that you, Rulebook and I probably stood next to each other commenting on ‘the nerdy loudmouth in the weird scarf’.
    Thanks for the memories.
    What about Gordon Schwartz, Blair Schwartz, Pat Hall etc on the Adelaide version of Ch7’s World of Sport? Charlie Walsh on the roller bike races?

  4. Loved the read Swish. Can’t tell you how much I’d love to time travel back to 70-76 to board that bus with you folk. And on centrals, what a time you had in the noughties! 10 flags in a row or something wasn’t it?

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks all.

    PB – Ch9 also had some pretty good Sunday choices – the whole footy panel – Max Hall, Eldon Crouch, Wally May, Ian Aitken, Ron Kitchen, Bo Morton, Dave Darcy, Ted Langridge, with guest spots from groggy players (I seem to remember WA’s John Hayes being on almost every week in 1975, despite only him playing the one season for Westies) and “video action highlights” from several games, plus the Mark and Goal of the Day candidates. It was followed by the wrestling and VFL replay.

    You’ve probably blanked out the Bert Day/Vin Lewis comedy hour that preceded the football part of Ch7 World of Sport. I used to love the “direct telecast” of the Seconds – Sturt seemed to be on every week, with names such as Romeo Zoanetti, Kalleske, Kennett who could never make the Ones, but went alright before noon.

    T-Bone – the only Centrals GF I’ve seen was the loss in 1995 – I’m not game to jinx them again.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says
  7. Mark Duffett says

    Funnily enough I arrived here via http://www.talkingfootysa.com/t3712-sanfl-grounds-of-the-70s-on-the-centrals-supporters-bus. And even more funnily(?) despite a later start I do remember a pre-1979 draw. Arriving at Prospect during the third quarter to see Centrals end up tied with North in – I think – 1977 is one of my earliest footy memories. Hitherto I don’t think I’d realised draws could be a thing. I seem to recall feeling relieved we hadn’t lost.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    That’s very funny Mark D. Thanks for the correction. I was at the Prospect game in 1977. Gary Jones was awarded a mark in the goalsquare after the ball grazed the left hand goal post at the southern end (right in front of me) and he duly converted, so that draw was a bit tainted. I was initially remembering the draw against Torrens at West Lakes.

  9. Great yarn Swish. What was the difference between Football Inquest Part 1 and Football Inquest Part 2 on NWS9 !!?

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