Ballarat Rovers Motor Cycle Club
My first Motorcycle Club
If any current member of BRMCC reads this page, please contact me by e-mailing phil DOT drdisk AT gmail DOT com , as I want to try to clear up some of my hazy memories about the club, especially if someone like George Langley or Alwyn Sobey is still about.
When I moved from Gippsland to Ballarat in about 1965-1966, someone introduced me to the Ballarat Rovers Motor Cycle Club. I had never been a member of a motorcycle club before, but I soon found that I fitted right in. The first clubrooms were located near an intersection overlooking Skipton Street. Later on we moved to premises shared with a Carpet Bowling Club above shops in either Doveton or Dawson Street. After I had left Ballarat, the club moved to its present clubrooms in Hut 25 out at the Ballarat Airport. I only attended one or two meetings out at the airport.
It was really good to hang out with other guys who loved motorbikes. After our club meetings every Thursday night we would all ride around to a shop in Mair Street near Lydiard Street where we would all have milk shakes, Pizzas, or whatever. Some of the guys sometimes liked to drink something stronger than milk shakes, and more than once somebody needed to be carted home in my sidecar ...
Events conducted by BRMCC in those days included the annual Kangaroo Rally, which was conducted in the showgrounds at Learmonth. Apart from the sheer joy of all camping out there together and listening to all the motorbike stories which got taller and taller, and the movie shows which were put on and the gymkhana type events that were conducted there, the biggest highlight was when we would get a police escort and ride along Learmonth Road all the way into Ballarat City, right down and up Sturt Street and around Lake Wendouree and back out to Learmonth. To be part of more than 800 road bikes travelling together in one procession was always an incredible and unforgettable experience. I am not sure of this, but I think the Kangaroo Rally was actually the first major camping rally organised for motorcyclists in Australia. At that time, the Elephant Rally in Europe was a famous meeting place, and someone at BRMCC caught the vision to organise a similar event.
Another annual event was the motorcycle Scramble Championships held out at Korweinguboora. I still recall an incident when organizing this when "Bozo" (The late Brian Bowes) was heard to state in a meeting that if it rained before the Scrambles were held, then he would personally jump into the Korweinguboora Creek. This was duly noted in the club minutes, and as his weather forecasting ability was not of high accuracy that year, and the rain came pouring down turning parts of the track into a quagmire, many members joined together to throw him into the creek after the Scramble meeting. It was at Korweinguboora that I first enjoyed the thrill of riding various Scrambles bikes.
The BRMCC Stunt Team will be covered under its own heading further down the page.
Other events were regular weekend rides. Sometimes we would go to Road Races or Scramble Racing somewhere, and other times we would just go out for a ride for a picnic or just for the sheer joy of riding somewhere together. As lots of our members could not afford to purchase new bikes and some of the bikes that members used for riding around on the roads were considered "geriatric" even way back in those days, it was almost inevitable that somebody's bike would break down along the way. I can remember one member (although I have forgotten his name) who put together his AJS just in time for a weekend run somewhere. This was after I had fitted the sidecar to my YDS3 yamaha and when the sidecar body was the famous white "Fish Box" (see above). We all soon started to wonder about this member's toolkit and his mechanical ability or lack thereof. If I recall correctly, the first portion of the AJS to be added to my sidecar was its centre stand. Some miles further along one of its mirrors fell off and was added to my sidecar. The headlight came adrift. Then the muffler fell off and was placed in the sidecar. The front mudguard fell off next and was added to the sidecar. The taillight fell off. Then I think it was the back mudguard shortly after that. Then the pillion saddle. The toolbox fell off. The horn fell off. Then the front exhaust pipe. By the time we arrived home in Ballarat that night, there was more of that AJS in my sidecar than there was still on the road! He was by then riding a bare frame with fuel-tank, engine, gearbox and two wheels: long blue flames spurted directly from the exhaust port on the cyclinder head!. The rest of the bike was in my sidecar!
Many weekends we had official or unofficial "meetings" in Alwyn Sobey's back shed at 611 Ligar Street. Sometimes these were organised so that club members could perform regular maintenance on the Stunt Team bikes which were kept garaged there. Other times members just ended up congregating in Sobey's shed because there was nothing else planned for that weekend and nothing much else to do. I remember one incident which occurred when Sobe had an old motorbike magneto on his workbench and some new member had arrived for the first time that day. Now to put things into perspective, one of the things we used to do to show that we were tough was to kill the engine of somebody's pride and joy by short circuiting the spark plugs by simply placing the fingers of one hand on the spark plug and the other hand on a metal part of the bike. We were all used to letting that 15,000 volts go surging through our bodies and were pretty good at staying perfectly still as we did so. Now on this particular day, a bunch of us formed a human chain by holding hands and somebody at the end of the chain was idly turning the magneto over and letting the charge go surging through all of us. Then somebody on the chain shook hands with this new guy and he nearly jumped out of skin from the electric shock. Someone else shook his hand and the same thing happened after four or five shocks from shaking hands with blokes who somehow managed to remain poker-faced without letting on that anything unusual was happening, this poor bloke panicked and crashed out through the back of Sobe's shed straight through between the sheets of corrugated iron in which the shed was clad. The sheets had to be nailed back on later. By then everyone was rolling around on the floor laughing. Looking back it seems to have been a mean thing to have done to that poor bloke, but it sure seemed funny at the time.
Many years later, I made use of this "skill" when a bloke who owned an A-Model Ford which had recently been restored had the bonnet open and was really going to town crowing about how wonderful the motor was and the fuel system was so good and the ignition system was so good that the motor, once it was started was absolutely unstoppable. I listened to him blowing his bags like this for a while and then without saying a word, I leaned forward with two hands and placed two thumbs and two index fingers firmly on the top of his four spark plugs and just held them there. the "unstoppable" motor died instantly and someone said, "well, Phil sure stopped it didn't he!" as everyone went rolling on the ground laughing.
I guess somebody ought to write a book one day about the BRMCC. Those were some of the best years of my life.
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