The Willi Willy at Woy Woy.(Memoires)


The journey of acquiring my first car, the trip to learn in a rhythmic tempo of moving thighs, the Fox trot and the tempestuous Austrian Waltz with Phyllis Bates, would now surely also include a first date? It was on the cards long before any of that. Growing genes and rocking hormones does all that for us, irrespective of will and choice. The world is full of people now as sure proof of this.

The Vic’s cabaret at Strathfield was a large hall that had a raised podium on top of which to house a small orchestra. The ceiling was high and made of weatherboards painted a stark white as were the walls. There was seating on both sides with ample wooden benches. On the opposite side of the entrance the benches were occupied by the girls but on both sides of the entrance and opposite the dance floor all the boys. It provided a clear view of both sexes to study each other. The boys were much more blatant, the girls much more coy but also darting quick looks across assessing possible dancing partners.

In the middle of the ceiling was a large rotating ball which held little mirrors that threw fascinating effects around the walls and floor adding excitement and an atmosphere of expectation. I mean those flickering images and the music added to a letting go of inhibitions which of course is a requirement of daring to dance with another body, let alone another body of the opposite sex.

All boys and girls on entering were looked over and sniffed for any hint of alcohol. They were strict on that and that was good. All were stone sober so all initiatives to a dance were of free will and cold choice, no chemical help of any kind. My brylcreme with artificial little Kookie hair-wave and the Pelaco shirt was about the only external aid I could use. It must be remembered that at the late fifties and sixties Australia was swamped with young man and this created a shortage of women.

However, if a man had car it would give him a bit of ‘a leg-up.’   I had a car; what’s more a Ford V8 single spinner. But, I could hardly go up to a girl and say,” Hello, my name is Gerard and I have a big V8, would you like to dance?” With the abundance of men and shortage of girls on the dance floor, many a refusal had to be lived with. The “no thank you”, had to be overcome time and time again. It was also true that at that time the girls were more attracted to the true blue Aussie male. The foreigners had strange accents and eating habits, often far too polite and formal, shaking hands and all that stuff, taking the girls back to their seat after the dance.

However, there was one sure way of getting to dance. It was the ‘Pride of Erin’. This was a dance were a kind of circle or Conga line of boys and girls was formed in equal numbers. It took some time to organise but the excitement was at fever pitch. Everyone loved the Pride of Erin. Many a boy was straining at the leash. This was the time to strike out and get a date. The music started and I remember well the tune. It was ‘ What’s the matter with kids today?’ I soon got in my stride and swirled like the best of them. I tried an air of utter nonchalance and even practised the Australian ‘could not care less’ bravado. You only had seconds to strike out for a date but with the second round and same girl one could get a rapport going that hopefully would result in a date and exchange of addresses afterwards. (Of course texting was decades off let alone sexting or incriminating selfies. Now people have amazing sex through vibrating IPhones or Tweets.)

To cut the story short and after many a visit to Vic’s and endless Prides of Erin, I did manage a date. I took her to Woy Woy which the week before had been struck by a Willy Willy or tornado. It was the best I could come up with. I could have gone to the Blue Mountains but to stare at a mountain-view sitting inside a car might be fraught with some aspects of awkwardness. I felt touring around the devastation of roofs having been blown off and boats blown out of the water could offer a distraction and something to talk about. There was also a very famous artist living in the area and I thought it might be worthwhile to drive past his house and possibly have something to talk about.

The day wasn’t a great success. The talk wasn’t flowing. I tried history and Dresden with WW2, the state of neglect of our cemeteries, ( we drove past one)nothing worked and she kept saying ” oh, that is lovely, and oh, thank you’ over and over. It was difficult. We stopped on the way back when she finally said something; “I would like a malted milkshake”, she said. I think we stopped at Hornsby after the Ford V8 blew a lot of smoke going up a very steep hill when crossing the Hawkesbury river. We sat in the milk-bar and slurped the milkshake. She was really sweet and very shy. Perhaps it was her first date as well. I did not want to ask because it might indicate a kind of unpopularity with boys. It is such a delicate time. I drove her back to Coogee where she lived. The door was opened by her dad. He was a huge tree of a man, and looked me over. She fled inside after another ‘thank you’.

It was my first date.

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25 Responses to “The Willi Willy at Woy Woy.(Memoires)”

  1. Silver in the Barn Says:

    It’s nice to read a story from the other side of the dance hall. There was such awkwardness then, wasn’t there? I remember the Joni Mitchell song “Come In from the Cold”, one of my favorites of hers. It describes a school dance in 1957:

    Back in 1957
    We had to dance a foot apart
    And they hawk-eyed us from the sidelines
    Holding their rulers without a heart
    And so with just a touch of our fingers
    I could make our circuitry explode
    All we ever wanted
    Was just to come in from the cold

    Lovely post, Gerard.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. gerard oosterman Says:

    That is a great song and poem. Did you ever see the movie, The last Picture show?
    Thank you, Barbara.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. berlioz1935 Says:

    As usual an entertaining story. Talking about Dresden and cemeteries must have put you into “they are weird those New-Australians” box.

    I hope your Coogee date is reading your blog and is having a chuckle.

    I was lucky, that I was not in need of a girlfriend. My score would have been nought.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. bkpyett Says:

    The Pride of Erin was something we all enjoyed! I loved your descriptions of the hesitant phases. My mother warned me about the drive-in, and my first date, I returned without a kiss very disappointed!! 🙂 I was 17.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, the dance was very popular. Of course, the drive-ins were hotbeds of passion. Sometimes cars were driven off with the louspeaker still hanging inside the car.
      Ir was a strange way of going out. I remember people in pyjamas going to the drive-in. Of course, first dates are hesitant affairs and fraught with mishaps and misunderstandings.
      The first cigarette was almost better, certainly easier to achieve in cahoots with my friends.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. auntyuta Says:

    In the 1950s in Berlin I knew of no young man who owned a car. Yes, there were bikes, and public transport, and of course a lot of walking. I would never have thought that a car was a requirement. It was of course different when we came to Australia in May 1959. After only a few months Peter drove me and our young children around in a twenty year old Austin A 40, and he did not have a driver’s license yet I might add! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I did not know anyone with a car in Holland either. You could walk anywhere or use the bicycle. Cities were lived in by people. Here people live around the cities and towns, different form of housing and the car is a need.
      What happens when people can’t drive anymore? I keep looking at living near shops, station-hospital etc. but that is not as easy as it appears.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. rod Says:

    What a clear picture you paint here. I have no recollection of a first date and wondered why, since my memory still functions. I think the reason is I was never had one. I just sort of ‘ended up’ with one girl, then another.

    One thing I do remember is a Christian girl who 1) told me I would go tell hell if I didn’t believe what she believed and 2) made such a rapid and vigorous move on my body I couldn’t reconcile her behaviour with her professed beliefs. I have been confused ever since.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Oh boy. This is a good one. First dates are sort of nightmares. But gee everybody has to start somewhere and you were off to a good beginning since you had a V8. By the way, here in the states there is a juice called V8 that is tomato mixed with 7 other veggies. It is good stuff if you’re young and can tolerate lots of sodium.

    Getting back to the gist of your post, I imagine an uneven count of males outnumbering females, would leave lots of guys out in the cold. I wondering if that is why some men left Australia to seek a lovely lady as a life partner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      This male did leave and found his love on distant shores. Try as I might, it was destined to be like that. I could say, ‘like a needle in a haystack’. Many European males did find brides overseas. The cultural gap wasn’t always so easy to overcome.
      We have the same V8 juice here, very salty.

      Liked by 2 people

    • auntyuta Says:

      Well, this was then. Some fifty or sixty years later these girls would be old women now and greatly outnumbering men. The few old men that are left probably do not mind at all that they are outnumbered by women.


  8. Lilith Says:

    OH! So funny in so many ways. Brylcream etc…Woy Woy, good choice and state of cemeteries, how could that girl resist you!? thank you..

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I laughed at the description of your work at conversation, Gerard. You get an A for effort, but tornados, Dresden and Cemeteries. 🙂 My first formal date in high school involved mom and her boyfriend plus girl. Boyfriend drove since I only had my learners permit. I think mom regarded me as something of a catch. Not so sure about daughter. On the way home, mom’s boyfriend insisted I drive. After grinding every gear in the car, I finally go the feel of it and was happily driving along feeling quite snazzy. That’s when I ran over the skunk. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Curt.
      I can’t say I ever drove over skunks but crunched many a gear. The starter motor used to get stuck on my V8 and the whole car had to be rocked backwards and forwards to release the rotor that drove the starter motor.
      The girls were less than enthusiastic doing that.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Patti Kuche Says:

    Such a smooth operator Gerard!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Great story from the boy’s point of view. I always wondered what was going through their minds during all that silence.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lorena and Chris Hunter Says:

    The Pride of Erin dance – was that what we in New Zealand called the Gay Gordon? Given the current overdue marriage legislation it could make a revival?


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