The Birth of a Legend – The Hay Weekend

Lorrie Anshan

The funniest thing about the Hay weekend is that it was meant to be a “one-off.”
Following the success of the Mini Monte Rallies (and post event parties in Sydney) in ’65, ’67 and ’68
John Stoneham (SA) came up with the “Let’s party on again in June” concept and was supported by the NSW club. A motorkhana was to be held for fun and add some spice to the party.
1968 saw a pretty basic weekend. No luxuries like motels and beds. The boys stayed in cabins or tents at the Caravan Park, the girls mostly slept on the floor in the upstairs lounge of the Commercial Hotel. This lounge was also the scene for the first “entertainment” that grew to become “The Party”. It was not a big room and was packed with Mini clubbers from SA and NSW, all whom had partaken freely of the fermented fluids. John Stoneham (SA) was Master of Ceremonies, and told the story of the two men on the railway platform which had the punch line of “C’mon Train!!!!” This became the catch cry for a time.
As part of a skit done, Des Cavanagh (SA) had to appear as a baby. That occasionally had to be explained to curious passers-by in the main street, why a bloke wearing nothing but a badly pinned baby’s nappy and sucking a dummy was shivering on the outside balcony adjoining the lounge.
Lunch catering at the ‘khana had been done by the CWA women so they attended the party…they seemed considerably over-awed by it all.
Earlier, at the cabins there had been “an incident.” Garry Mundy (NSW) had objected to the attentions that Dick Wright (SA) had paid to Mrs Pam Mundy. Rather than create an ugly scene, he was persuaded to take the issue to a Court, hastily convened in a commandeered cabin. Peter Dwyer (SA) was appointed judge and Peter French (NSW) defence lawyer. The prosecution began with 19 people crammed into a 4 person cabin. The court was at times unruly; however the day was won by a brilliant defence strategy. Witnesses were called who all agreed Pam was indeed a thing of beauty, and any man who did not pay her attentions should be thrown into prison.
With that settled it was off to “The Garden of Roses” café for dinner. This café in later years was re-christened “The Garden of Weeds” and the lane running beside it was the scene of many unwell people on Monday mornings who had tried to face up to bacon, eggs and sausages.
It was decided by popular vote to “do it all again next year!”
1969 More people! Accommodation was scarce as the town was full of lawn bowlers who had regional competitions each June as well. Tony French (NSW) brought along a fine trophy donated by G.B.Staunton (forever thanks, Gus!) to be presented to the winning club. Des Cavanagh transported, from Adelaide, a full porcelain toilet suite on the roof of his HD Holden and drove this around town all weekend.
Tony French had made arrangements with Hay Golf Club that we could be their guests for a barbecue on the Saturday night. It was decided to hold the draw for motorkhana entrants there. Tony’s letter to the clubs about this noted, “Dress is to be casual, but turning up in Castrol soaked overalls may be a tad unsophisticated.”
The Party moved to the Memorial Hall and a local band, “Chain Reaction” played then, and for years to come. The loo then appeared onstage as part of a funny sketch with pants-less Des sitting on it.
As there were some Victorian members that year, it was interesting to see each club claim its “territory” in the hall. After Hall parties in cabins started and the Mini Monte game of “Signs” introduced to a new audience. This was to mini clubs what two-up is to Anzacs.
1970 Hell…this is getting serious! So many entries that the ‘khana finished under headlights. Some SA club members were entranced by the golf club pokies – at that time banned in SA. The lunch catering was done by the local Miss Hay committee and they attended the party. They also appeared quite over-awed. This was the year that a new ritual arrived. Adrian McClelland (SA) had introduced “And the crowd Roared”…a chant to mark Hay forevermore!
This year also had NSW and VIC clubs decorating their territories in the Hall with Club banners and colours. The Band was joined by John Stoneham on lead guitar, Tony French on drums and Kylie French on maracas. As a former professional rocker, John belted out a version of “Gloria” which also grew to be an annual event. Two NSW ladies did a marvellous strip tease to music, shedding car club clothing to finally appear in bikinis. Their identities will be protected here!
Next morning, at the Caravan Park, a NSW bloke woke to find he had been sharing his small tent with a sheep and Peter (or was it Phil) Drew (SA) woke to find his cabin mates had carried him in his sleeping bag outside. Something to do with air pollution, I believe, but he was covered in a thick layer of frost.
1971 The year of getting big. The ‘khana really became serious, going from 2 lanes to 6 and having proper pit areas and flagged garages etc.
The Party was taking on a life of its own – the Vics came in fancy dress, made up of characters from “Clockwork Orange” and “The Sting”, other clubs wore outrageous gear, fire crackers were detonated in iron garbage bins, and the “after Party” parties became more memorable (or not). By now the clubs had moved into the Commodore Motel and Peter French had been thrown in the swimming pool so often that when he saw a bunch of “mates“ heading for him with that look in their eyes, he jumped in by himself. The people of Hay loved having the Mini clubs stay, because it was the bowlers that trashed the rooms.
Following this, the event moved to bigger grounds, the entries increased, members attended from Tasmania, and from Western Australia came eight people making the long trek across the Nullarbor in 2 minis. Victorian members flew to Hay in light planes and one year the motorkhana ground was flour-bombed from the air. The Hay Pony Club catered for lunches and special “horses versus cars” events were run. Roomy tents were erected at the grounds to act as crèches for the growing crop of junior members and for scoring.
1975 Leyland Australia was the sponsor and David Abel and Frank Andrews attended with their ladies. David was the whiz kid sent from UK to fix L.A. problems, Frank was MD. They trailered in a Mini Clubman, did a morning’s coaching with Declan O’Hara, and then competed in the ‘khana. These top executives then showed up at the party dressed in playboy bunny outfits and told outrageous jokes.
By then, the fancy dress had developed. Warwick Gill (VIC) stood tall in his complete “Sgt Schultz” outfit, Ross Whitbourne (VIC) in a nun’s robes with a body suit of pendulous boobs and pregnant belly – it looked great as he skateboarded around the room. Another VIC member had his “dirty old man” mask and outfit, and even in those early years, there was luminous powder or glow sticks to add to the night.
More clubs were formed as different interests and directions arose. Mokes and modified Minis added to the competition. The mid 70’s saw the arrival of the Modified Mini Car Club (Hotbricks) with a new brand of humour and spirit of competition. At The Party the variety of fancy dress increased. One club would dress in strict formal wear while another was all in animal costumes, some in 50’s rock’n’roll, cowboys and Indians and other themes.
Now, many years after the first “Hay” it remains “a legend”. The junior members who slept in the crèche tent in the ‘70s are now running and competing in the event – and producing the next generation of junior members.
Many changes of ‘khana grounds and events have occurred. The Party was tried in the RSL club, but it staggered back to the Hall and DJs have replaced the bands.
New motels have been built and booked out; there is no longer the need for some blokes to bed down in nearby shearer’s quarters.
The bowlers have surrendered the town to the car clubs and the procession and display of marvellous Minis involves the townsfolk of Hay.
The show and shine give today’s Mini restorers an opportunity to show off their skills and talents, as well as show just how pristine the car can be. Hay Heroes is as much a spectator event as it is for the drivers with car clubs wildly cheering for their fellow members as they go head to head in 100th of a second competition.
But the fact remains that even though this level of competition exists, they are all still great mates from all around Australia, who will share drinks and laughs at any time!
Who would have thought that such a major sport event could have grown from an excuse for a Party?
Long live Hay and the Minis!