Cal Malouf

Cal Malouf was born in Brisbane on 14th August 1929. He joined the Toowong Rowing Club in 1952 and enjoyed significant successes with his crew in the mid-1950s. He was instrumental in the rebuilding of the Toowong Rowing Club on its present site after the original club was washed away from its Coronation Drive site during the devastating floods of 1974. Here is the story of Cal’s association with Toowong Rowing Club:

Cal joined the Toowong Club early in 1952 to get some exercise. He went out in a pair and thought it was great. “So started a love affair that lasted until probably now.”

“In those days things were a lot more primitive than they are now. Les Keefer was the captain of the club at the time and he, with his deputy, Ron Ormand, more or less ran the club and, I think Ron Mahony was the secretary at the time. They seemed to be the main people running the club. It was really good, everyone was involved with it.

“The main rowers at the time were, Jack Pritchard, David Bray was a coxswain, Lloyd Hinckfuss, Toby Trueman, Austin Ashe, Raoul Mellish, John Garnsey, Keith Mole, Ron Grant, Cliff Hill, Jon Cameron. I think that was just about the full club at the time. And it was only about 20-30 people in the club, actively rowing and supported by a Ladies’ Committee that did work for the club in raising funds etc.

“We didn’t have a very big fleet. I think there was a tub there, there was a clinker training four, there was the “Davies” which was a skin boat and it was in good condition. There was a Best and Best, as we called it, which was a clinker boat called the Monteith and then we had a training eight called the Simon, and I think, the Osbaldiston, an eight which we used to race. It was in fair repair at the time. The club wasn’t well endowed with boats in those days but with a lot of work we got them on the water and kept them on the water.

“When I came down there, the Ladies’ Committee was fairly well formed under Mrs Ward and Ron Mahony’s mother. They used to make sandwiches and cups of tea when we had regattas and used to hand them out through the little cubbyhole in the committee room of the old shed. It was enough to keep the club running. Any major fundraising had to be done outside, by the boys themselves. The boys put in a lot of money to keep the fleet on the water and a lot of it was just donations in time, material and money. At one stage we didn’t have a set of blades so each put in ₤10 to buy a set of blades which was enough to buy 10 blades, ₤80.00 for ten blades in those days.

“As soon as I came in to the shed, there was a problem in the Brisbane District Rowing Association. The selection of officers was coming up and they wanted to have a bigger say in how the Brisbane District Rowing Association was run. It is defunct now, but it used to run the District area. The club stacked the meeting and appointed me to be Secretary. Anyhow I got in there and I didn’t even know which end of a boat was which. Anyhow I soon learnt. We had a great influence on the BDRA. In those days, the draw for positions wasn’t controlled by BDRA. Each club controlled its own regatta and if you had a crew that you wanted to beat, you put them in the dead water across the other side of the river or something. We rowed on tidal rivers in those days. Anyhow when Dave Magoffin came up here in ’53, he brought a lot of ideas that they had in Sydney up with him and one of them was to have a draw for positions, which was very good and cut out all the arguments about positioning on the course. One of the other things he did do – in those days, they used to have an umpire that used to stand on the bank. I don’t know how he umpired but he looked down the river as the crews were coming. He introduced putting the umpire in a boat. We had a boat at the time which was a donation from Jon Cameron’s father and that was the first boat on the river to follow races. There were other things did we do at the time. Regattas used to run extremely late. Sometimes we didn’t finish a regatta until after 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock at night and due only to crews not being on the line. So we tightened that right up and everything went very smoothly.

“Dave Magoffin was a great inspiration to the sport in Queensland. He came up from Sydney and took over the rowing in BBC and Toowong. Initially he was to coach the coaches only and then when he got into Toowong he coached the coaches but he also took over the senior coach position from Les Keefer at the time. This was back in ’53. Dave made a remarkable impression on rowing in Queensland. There were times Toowong, under his leadership would win every race on the calendar in a regatta apart from the ladies races. We didn’t have a ladies crew. It must have been disheartening for other people around the place, the other clubs. He did have an enormous influence on our club until he got a little bit older. To my way of thinking, he was a magnificent coach and he was well respected by Toowong and BBC especially and is still spoken about now.

“Our major fundraiser was the Exhibition stall which ran each year for a week and a bit during August. It was actually an allocation of a room at the RNA and we had to build on to that a shop front to serve from etc. The shop front was made up of bits and pieces of – not cardboard so much, three ply and stuff and we used to hammer together and paint it and it used to look all right. It did raise up to ₤1,000 a year for us which seemed to be a lot of money in those days. Later on we – talking about myself now, we had closed down the business and we had a lot of fixtures, fittings and material for a shop front. We had Jim Dowrie make up a set of steel frames etc. and we clad these with this material. We had black Carara glass on the counter benches that made the place look really good. In addition to that, we had the big benches which we were able to have in the kitchen and it streamlined the whole operation. About 1953, ’54, we went into what were called waffle-burgers which was a pretty big undertaking. We had bought the equipment from Henry Berry’s up in Adelaide Street and Graham Hussey, one of the members, was employed by them got us an account which he ultimately paid. We were then able to make these waffle burgers which people loved. They used to queue for up to half an hour sometimes, just waiting for one to eat with their cup of tea. And we used to make up to 3,000 a day, so it was fairly big operation and pretty well organised. And that seemed to be stepping stone of getting out of debt a bit and we went on from there.

“During the day the women’s committee ran the stall until the boys knocked off work and they used to take over at night. Most of trade was done from about 4.30/5 o’clock on, going through till about 11 or so. Then the fireworks started and that was the end of the day. It was a big effort by the members. I can remember, I was exhausted by the end of the week. Some of the members went down before work and fixed things up and took deliveries of goods etc. I only went after hours and stayed until it was finished and closed up etc. By the time you got home, it was well after midnight and then up again at about 6.30, you started again.”

Cal described what rowing training was like in those days:

“Most of the training was done at night. Shops used to close at 4.40pm, which was rather early and offices around the same time – because it was a six day week. And we were able to get down to the club around about five or so. Most of the training went on from 5.30 through till sometimes about 8 o’clock at night. And it was intense. We rowed every night of the week, apart from Thursday. On Thursday night we went to Rickett’s gym up in Adelaide Street at the time in Desmond Chambers and used do a workout there. It was good fun. You had plenty of energy in those days and had to wear it off somewhere.”

Cal’s Toowong crew won the 1953 Brisbane River championship convincingly.

“The crew was Jimmy Nunan stroke, I was seven, Col Bath was six, Ron Mahony was five, Raoul Mellish was four, Austin Asche was three, Lloyd Hinckfuss was two and Ron Ormand was bow. The cox was Robin Eales. We then rowed the Queensland Championship down on the Hamilton Reach a couple of weeks later. We went down the week before in Jim Cameron’s boat and worked out which was going to be the best course to take. Anyway, as it was always rough we decided to go on the south bank. In the race I think we must have travelled a lot more than anyone else because we followed the quiet water. We were beaten by a crew from University who finished the race with seven men. It was later found that they had taken pep pills, except for one chap and he was the one that got tossed out. I couldn’t believe it, I was the youngest experienced in the crew and I just couldn’t believe that we’d been beaten. I just put it out of my mind, and when I found out later that they’d taken Dexedrine, I think it was, I was horrified. Time past and we moved on.

“Later that year we had a great row, we had the basis of a great four. Peter Griffiths, myself, Kev O’Dwyer, and Owen Oakeley was the base, that was the original four that we had that won so many races. That four was strengthened by the inclusion of Jack Pritchard and Hussey, Graham Hussey replacing O’Dwyer with Tom Jack as coxswain. That crew rowed the state championship 50 years ago last November in Rockhampton. The race was over two miles and it was the hottest day of the year, around the end of November. And it was stifling conditions, it was really bad. We led out from the start and were rating very highly and after a quarter of a mile, I thought we should have been just about at the finish but it we had only gone a quarter of a mile. But we kept going and won that race easily. Actually after the race we were spitting up blood. We’d dried out too much. In those days we felt that you should dry out before a race, so the water wouldn’t roll around in your tummy or something or other. I don’t know whose idea of it was. But it was all completely wrong and we were virtually on the point of dehydration. Anyhow we were given a keg of beer by McLaughlin’s Brewery as part of the winnings and no one could drink the damn stuff. I don’t know who drank it in the end, but we didn’t. Just a little three-gallon keg.

“In the afternoon we rowed the river championship there and won that easily again. And then we left the boat at Maryborough on the way back and rowed the river championship there. We won all the river championships in Queensland except Bundaberg, we didn’t compete that one, and the State title. It was a good crew.”

“From then on, we had a series of problems with Tweed; we seemed to win everything but the state title in eights. About this time I got sick for a while with a suspected heart condition, I can’t remember exactly, about 1955, I think. But the racing, we won a lot of races but only up to river championships standards. We were beaten by Tweed in the State eights about three times in a row and that would have been ’54, ’55 and ’56 in the state title and we just couldn’t click it. They were a good crew Tweed. They were well coached, had a lot of fighting spirit and then in 1957, we thought that we had the crew to beat them. It was Gordon Funk as the bow man, John Murphy was the two man, Frank Moss was the three man, Alan Butler was four, Jim Dowrie was five, Jack Hutchinson was six, Ritchie Magnus was seven and I was stroking it with Toms Jack Coxswain. We won very convincingly on the lead up races, so much so that Tweed weren’t going to compete the regatta up in Maryborough. Anyhow, Dave Magoffin, who was coaching at the time and he talked them in to coming. Tweed led out from the start. We were overtaking them, and this was fairly soon after the start, we were overtaking them quite well and going ahead about four or five feet every stroke, it was really good. Anyhow there was a crash, I don’t know what caused the crash but there was a crash between ourselves and Tweed. They took us back to the start and started the race again. The second time, we just didn’t get rowing properly and missed out but it was a good race I suppose, but very disappointing. In the afternoon we thrashed them. That Tweed crew actually went south representing Queensland, and came within ¾ of a length of winning. So if things had’ve been right, we might have had a chance that year.”

In 1974 Brisbane experienced a devastating flood and the Toowong Rowing Club, located on the river in front of the Regatta Hotel on Coronation Drive, was washed away.

“I had sold my business here in Brisbane and had gone away on a holiday with my family to Melbourne. We’d bought a car and took it away over the Christmas period of 1973. We had Christmas in Sydney and went on to Melbourne and had New Year in Melbourne and had a bit of a holiday and driving back. The rain was continuous, it was unrelenting and we were coming along the road at night, coming into Sydney and the roar of the water as it cascaded down was deafening and so we got in, can’t remember the town, we got into this town and stayed there the night and took off next morning to the Gold Coast where we had a holiday house. We arrived at the Gold Coast and it was still raining, and I said to Mary Rose, my wife “I think we’d better get out of here, this rain is just phenomenal!” So we packed quickly. The road through the old crab farm area was up and we couldn’t get out through there so we went out the back way through Nerang. We were one of the last cars to get out of the place. Got back to Brisbane and went home. The river was starting to rise then and that was on the Saturday, I think. By Saturday night it had risen up and I got a call to come down to the club and went down and we removed the boats across the road, and then the boat shed went down, I think at about 10 o’clock in the morning. It was just completely just washed away; it just sunk below the waves. It ended up under the bridge at, under the Victoria Bridge. It was plotted out by one of the people from the Council. That flood was enormous.

“I got home after that on the Sunday morning, we were going to go to mass when one of the people down the road, whose house had gone under water in a flash flood, wanted a hammer and stuff and my daughter went down with them and we missed mass. Then in that short period, the water had come up and I couldn’t get the car out of the garage. It had come up in our street up our driveway so I couldn’t get the car out of the garage. So I said “Oh well.” We had two cars so I drove the light car through the garden bed and up the side of the house which was higher, on a bit of a knoll there. I started to drive the other car through the garden and it just went down. The earth was so full of water, that it just went down, and got bogged. I pulled it out and put it back into the carport. The water continued to rise and cover the car by that evening. There was a snake on top of it, curled up. It was the last to go under the water. The car actually went completely under the water, only three months old, at about 10pm. The flood subsided next day and the clean up started. When I was cleaning up and I think Terry rang me to say – this was a day or so later, Terry rang me and said, “What are you going to do about redoing the club?” And I said “Oh shit, I’d better do something.” So I said I’d better ring the City Council and see if I can get an appointment with the powers that be and find out what’s happening. So I rang the Council and asked for the Lord Mayor’s secretary to make an appointment. Clem Jones was the Lord Mayor at the time. He came on the phone and said, “What do you want?” I said, “I want to start building the rowing club again.” He said, “You can’t build down where you were.” I said “Well, where can we go?” He said “Guyatt Park.” He said it straight out like that and so I said “Very well.” He said, “I’m busy, deal with Mr Fardon.” I can’t remember his first name now. He was the Chief Engineer at the time on the Council and he was a lovely bloke and we did that.

“When we started looking at Guyatt Park, the bank was very steep and I was a bit worried about trying to get boats in from there. In the mean time, quite unbeknown to me, one of our members of the club had written a thesis for his university thing and he had mentioned that the club was going there. Mr Webster, the chap who owns the twin pitched roof house there thought that Guyatt Park was his park and he kicked up a row and we were out. So then we had to find another spot which was found rather quickly for us by the Council again and that was where we are now. And that’s how it all came together. We’ve got a magnificent site now. It’s much better than the one that was there previously. When we got the site, car bodies and everything were there in the rubble and we had to clean them all out and level it. We planned the shed to be on the higher level there so it’s a bit of a walk up from the river, but apart from that, everything is great there. We got the running tracks around the University we can use. It’s a tremendous site, about ¾ acre and we got it for about – in those days $5,000 a year.”

The money for the rebuilding of the new club was raised mainly through Bingo.

“We had a fundraising dinner at Murray Street. Ritchie Magnus owned it at the time. Tourist Minister, John Herbert launched it for us and we raised $8,000 from debentures and life memberships. We used part of that money on a bingo machine and equipment and we started bingo at the Milton Tennis Club. We were looking at ways to raise money. John Garnsey had been watching TV and saw where sporting clubs made money, bingo, and raising up to $1,000 a night. We started a new game at Milton and we raised about $12,000 in the first six months. We started the building programme then. We started to get everything together and started working. We were able to fund it also by the following. At that stage Gough Whitlam was the Prime Minister of Australia and he had just got in and he was throwing money around like a man with no arms and we caught some of it. We were given a quarter grant by this Federal Government and the State Government matched it with another quarter so half the money was found by the both governments. The program was under the control of John Herbert, the local member here, the member for Tourism and Sport. I knew John fairly well and made it very easy for us to get the application in and get it approved. They were grants, just grants so we were able to use the money quite easily.

“Later we got into the Valley Bingo. We got the building up by that stage but we still had a debt on it and we got into the Valley. Sam Doumany was the Minister at the time. I knew him also and I said we wanted to get in there. Anyhow in those days, we were getting up to $1,000 a night and it was remarkable. We got out of debt. We had about $35,000 in credit in the bank. We had a good shed, we had a great shed, actually, the best in Queensland. We had a very good fleet. We had really got under way properly.

“At the time, Russell Kerrison was out of work and he had formed a company here with a partner, Cheeseman, an architectural company. There wasn’t much work coming in so he had plenty of time on his hands and he actually designed the shed with Cheeseman which functions very well. He did it at cost. He was actually driving a taxi at the time to pay for the bills that came in. So we were able to pay him and the shed is a very good shed. Its gymnasium is about the same size as our old shed. Jack Hutchinson was the builder and did a great job and again, at cost. And for the first time we had ladies’ facilities there and we had accommodation for boats, fours and eights and some smaller boats and it was just a great shed.

“Later on, unfortunately, Reinhold Batschi, Australian Rowing Head Coach said that all rowers should start in small boats and that’s why we’ve got a proliferation of small boats at the moment. And that caused a problem, we were wheeling these sculls and pairs etc. in and out of the shed every day. Some 25 years later where we had to make accommodation in the shed for these boats and that’s led me to the second stage. It had been planned for a long time but nothing had been done about it. Jack Hutchinson who attended a meeting and heard what was going on and said to me, quite off the cuff – really it won’t happen unless you get behind it, Cal. Would you do it?” “If you help me I will.” And we did it together. He asked me how I intended doing it and I said there’s not much money out there for rowing at the moment. There’s no elite rowing that could attract sponsorship. We’ll just have to get it from the club. We raised about $80,000 or $90,000 by direct donations and selling life memberships etc. and in this regard Silvio Praddella was instrumental in helping on this. He elected to get the money from the veterans as he calls them, and he, Silvio, Jack Hutchinson and myself each put in $10,000 to get the thing started. Then on top of that we had a dinner at the Queensland Club with for $500 a seat and we raised nearly $20,000 at that so that was a quick one. We had over $100,000 and we were able to apply for an overdraft of $60,000 which again Silvio, Jack and myself guaranteed at the Bank of Queensland and the subsidy from the State Government in regard to the dollar for dollar and the estimate on the building was $260,000. We applied for $130,000 and we got it and then we started off and we built the thing. There was an overrun of about $30,000 due to other things that wanted to be done at the time and extra things for Council and that – we’ve still got that, I think about $25,000 of that still owing to the Bank of Queensland but everything else is paid off and we’re in pretty good shape at the moment. But already that extension is pretty well to capacity.”

Cal believes the Club has a bright future and would like to see younger members being encouraged to join.

“I always thought that the club should have younger members. There’s a great need for it, I think. After speaking with Terry the other day, he suggested that I was wrong – that the younger members, the elite members, as he called them, don’t last with you, they go through, if they’re any good at all, they go on to the AIS and the Queensland body and then you lose them and then if they’re not winning races, they just don’t stay. So I don’t know what the solution is. I still think that there is a need for a club to be there for young people that will take on responsibility. They don’t have to be 100% of young people, but there has to be a facility there that will take them on through like they did in the old days. Veteran rowers are good but they’re only part of the club. There should be this second tier of younger people coming through and continuing the tradition of the club. I think there’s probably something there that could be fostered a bit more. Space at the moment is still a problem. The veterans are doing a great job down there. They’ve got the place looking good and they virtually built the second part of it. Most of them put their hand up for money. So things will evolve, I think. The club is stronger than it’s ever been. I think the organization is good. I think the club is functioning well now and I think it’s going to go on forever by the sound of it.

“My association with Toowong Rowing Club has all been joy. I’ve really had a great time. I’ve loved rowing. I’ve loved coaching, although I haven’t done that much in recent years. It’s been a joy and it’s even now, I’m having lunch next week with a few old rowing blokes that have been around for over 50 odd years now. We’ve stuck together and although we don’t see everyone every day, they’re friends for life. It’s been a very satisfying situation for me. I’ve enjoyed it.”

(Cal Malouf was interviewed in March 2004).