Fifty Years On

by Vern Gilbert

Thankyou for inviting me to speak at the 50th anniversary dinner. I’m certainly glad to be here. In fact at the age we are, I’m glad to be anywhere.

In preparation for tonight, I looked up my old log books and on the inside cover of Volume Three I found inscribed the words to Guadeamus Igitur; I will pick up from Ian Ross’s words in the 40th anniversary magazine:

“Thus SUBW happened – a club born of free spirits, not very disciplined, but not inexpert either.”

We were that. We were young and joyful and the restrictions of wartime were fading (except those imposed by ex-service personnel amongst us.) Groups that contributed to the founding of SUBW included the Rover Crew, many independent walkers, the Junior Science Association and our own group inelegantly names the “Exclusive Society”.

I quote from my own log book:

“Interlude from History: Formation of SUBW. The thought had struck many of us and when we decided to go ahead we did with gusto, A lecture room was borrowed, posters rushed up, adverts stuck in Honi Soit and Paddy Pallin was invited as guest speaker. One hundred and twenty rolled up to the first meeting and Paddy was almost visibly moved.

The next meeting set about approving a constitution and electing officers. The Exclusive Society (pardon my egocentric views) did well: Billie Harrison, treasurer; Quentin Burke and Charlie Crossman, committee members; Vern Gilbert, vice president. Perhaps we could also claim Eric “Wog” Howie, ex-serviceman and Quent’s scoutmaster. Others elected were: Ian Ross, president; Fred Doutch, walks secretary and Don Tugby, committee.”

A walks program appeared for the long vacation; I don’t think the first walk eventuated, so a mass weekend at Kilcare (Putty Beach) was the first event – December 13 – 15, 1946.

More from my log about Putty Beach:

“Mal Stewart and I were working and left Central on the 1.15 pm train Saturday. We were met at the wharf by Willie Gilder and he led us to the campsite. Quentin Burke left at 4.30 to return to the city and his job as a carriage cleaner.

We discovered that the others had endured a bad storm Saturday morning after a hot night spent killing mosquitoes and trying to sleep.

We had a game of cricket in the late afternoon using a stick and potatoes. Most of the runs scored were byes

There was more rain Saturday night”

On Sunday more cricket on the beach – Billie Harrison’s VI vs Enid Gaskill’s VI. I have the names of 19 who camped at the north end – some stayed at the south end, including Ian Ross and Eric Howie. “Thus new friends made and SUBW was under way.”

Thus began the games of youth, faithfully carried on for these 50 years. Our group probably formed a significant part of the great diaspora of the late 40’s and early 50’s; I left in 1952 and wound up in Toronto, (whence I arrived yesterday morning, by the way, so excuse any incipient sleep talking).

Now we reach the post molestam senectutem, the vicissitudes of old age. But its still possible – I was in the Canadian arctic six weeks ago at Resolute Bay, 7443′ N, and managed a 200m hill across limestone scree

What’s changed?

SUBW letterhead, e-mail and so on, vs Fred Doutch’s hand cranked roneoed walks programs.

Air-conditioned, automatic drive instead of hitching.

Kosciusko – 10 minute parking at Charlotte’s Pass.

Blue Gum – no camping.

Glenbrook Creek – $7 to get in.

Narrow Neck – a bloody road.

Kanangra – I couldn’t find the mud hut but at least no charge for parking.

Burragorang – can’t even have a swim.

Yerranderie – its still there, but I confess to going via AAT King’s three years ago.


But the Paris (Paragon?) Cafe is still there. So is the unspoiled view from Sunset Rock at King’s Tableland.

What’s next?

Nos habebit humus – a grim thought. Already some are gone. Let me close with a personal tribute to my old mate Charlie Statter (né Grossman) who died about two years ago.

Met in school
First overnight bike ride
First hitch-hike
Followed him up many a mountain.

I hope he is pressing on, and we will all press on, regardless.

Thanks. It has been worth the trip.