Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Trove Tuesday: Commonwealth Games in Perth

Australian Women's Weekly, 28 Nov 1962
The British Empire and Commonwealth Games [now that is a mouthful] were held in Perth (Western Australia) in 1962 and my husband's grandparents, Mary and Ralph Alford, went over from Victoria. They travelled overland both ways by train, met up with several relatives and explored some of the areas around Perth prior to the Games. They went to the stadium several times, including the opening and closing ceremonies, and out to Canning River to see the rowing one day. It was quite an adventure for a gentle couple from the quiet farming community of Mologa.

Mary and Ralph Alford, Commonwealth Games, Perth
Mary wrote a travel diary but here I'm only posting her record of the days they attended the Games. They stayed with a host family near the stadium in Floreat Park. The square brackets enclose my comments.

Thursday 22 Nov 1 [1962]
Floriet Park is a good suburb (Toorak!) all new brick houses, nice lawns & gardens. We are fortunate, too, to be so close to the Games Stadium [at home of Fred and Ellen Black of 36 Alderbury St, Floreat Park] Our room is very nice & roomy with D.B. & plenty of hanging space in built-in wardrobe, also empty drawers for our use. Mrs B comes from Ireland, has 4 attractive children & Mr B is an Auditor in Govt Dept , also helps organize Games (so were pleased to take Games guests. Took bus into City this morn, Did some shopping (flask and sun hat), sat in the lovely upstairs lounge in National Bank (where Gordon ... works), signed visitors book. Made to feel like honoured guests with our Games visitors' badge on. Saw the Duke [of Edinburgh] go by. Hurried back for dinner.  Mrs B[lack] filled our flask with tea, and took us up to the Perry Lakes Stadium. Our seats were near main entrance so saw everyone come in & go off - the VIPs, bands, athletes & others taking part in the march, marching girls very spectacular. A very hot day & the first couple of hours a bit trying but a breeze sprung up later. Our rubber cushions saved the day! ( Our Melb Olympic ones) & back rest. A wonderful sight to see all the crowds, the flags of other Empire countries, the athletes marching behind their banners, the naval army & pipe bands, the youth clubs all marching in also the State Governor, Prime Minister, the Duke arrive in separate cars & go out again at end of the day. Were disappointed not o be able to hear the choir of voices better as the amplifier system was poor. "The Heavens are Filling" was one of the numbers sung. Heard the Duke's speech, beginning " I have a message from the Queen". An exciting day. Met some lads this morn who'd driven from Ireland.

Opening Ceremony [WA library]
Very hot day. Mrs B drove us down to stadium for 10 am session for athletes. After waiting around for the gates to open, it was given out that there was no morning session. Owing to the extreme heat, the heats were run off yesterday, leaving only the finals today. So we trudged home & ate our sandwiches there when time came. Had a shower & relaxed - a good thing for us.
Mr B took us again for afternoon session. We had good seats & could see the finishing post. (Here the dearest 2 pounds ten shillings so ought to be good.) Hot at  first but shaded later under the T.V. stand. Saw the high jump. Aust 1st & 2nd (Hobson & Porter)... Betty Cuthbert failed to get a place. Saw the 6-mile, Dave Power 2nd to Canadian.

Dave Power, Australian Women's Weekly, 28 Nov 1962
Mon 26
Pleasant weather. Mrs Black took family and I for a dip in the surf this morn. Left Dad [Ralph] at Stadium where he got a ticket for Chris [Ralph's sister]. We came past the Games Village. After dinner Mr B drove Chris, Dad & I to Games. Saw men's discus throwing, Selvey of Aust, a powerful thrower won easily. Saw the 3-mile race (Snell of N Z, Clarke Aust 2nd, Kill Canada 3rd). Heats of 880, heats of womens 220 ( Aust has 4 in final) Womens high jump (Aust 1st, 2nd, 3rd). Bigger crowd than Sat. Plenty of room in some stands facing sun. We had a good position near No. 1 & shade part of time.

Tuesday 27
Out to Canning River for rowing 10 am (sun very hot on stand). A pretty spot and ideal calm stretch of water for the events. Aust won 1st race, the eights from N.Z. & England. Saw Duke there. It was the finals of all the rowing, 4s, pairs, singles, 8s and coxless 2s & 4s. Buses all crowded back to Perth & city crammed. Didn't get meal until 2 pm. Both tired out. Sat in Nat Bank lounge a while and watched Diving on T.V. Did bit of shopping, cup of tea & back home for rest. I was too tired for tonight's cycling so Chris took my ticket & Mrs B went too. Played games with girls. Left foot sunburnt after paddling in sea then sitting in hot sun this morn.

Thurs 29
Warm & cloudy. Went the athletics after dinner. Drizzling fine rain set in & after getting wet through went home to changed, had our flask of tea & returned in plastic coats - lucky to get car rides each way. Folks are very kind and helpful. There were finals of mens 220 yards, womens 220 yards, mens 440, hop, step & jump, javelin (women), hurdles (men) and the marathon 26 miles started and finished in the Arena. (D Power 2nd).  A huge jet made slow swoops over the Stadium as we arrived & nearly deafened everyone & broke windows in a nearby house with the vibration. 50 or 60 treated for noises in all. Further showers but cleared up. We took newspapers back & distributed to others to keep them dry, also umbrella. Cool evening. I donned a skirt.

Sat 1st Dec
Closing day of Games
Lovely weather. Dad & Chris went to morning session. I washed & packed up, took all morn, morn session to clear up heats of various events.
After dinner Mr B drove us to the Stadium which was packed, a change from the rest of the week when stands half empty. We were opp. side of arena, close to the Pole vaulting, a spectacular event, & not far from discus throwing, more difficult owing to the wind. Mens relay - Aust dropped baton. Womens Relay provided us with perhaps our biggest thrill when Betty Cuthbert running as the last leg, coming from a late start passed her opponents with a magnificent turn of speed & won the race for Aust. The crowd just roared its delight. (Betty had shown poor form in her previous race.) Finals of mens hurdles, 880 yds race, Womens long jump - Aust 1st & 2nd. Pole Vault took all day. Aust 1st & 3rd. Finals Womens hurdles Pam Kilborn 1st also in long jump.

Betty Cuthbert, Australian Women's Weekly, 28 Nov 1962
Closing ceremony com. just after 4 p.m. Boy Scouts picked up papers off arena first. Red coated Army Band marched in (also the Navy Band in white and the Guard of Honour then the standard bearers of the various nations, followed by the vast army of athletes all mixed up together. (Fun was caused by some of them with banners made of anything they could pick up - an old bag on a stick, a roll of toilet paper, one carrying a Peters Icecream tray, another with 'Blocks of Land for Sale', another dark chap rode a bike in and out. But that was later.) The Duke mounted the dais & declared the Games over after the Games flag had been lowered with ceremonial & presented to Games Chairman for keeping till next Empire Games at Jamaica.
The Choir of 700 voices sang 'Waltzing Matilda', also a specially composed song by Mary Durack, 'Will ye no Come Back Again', "Now is the Hour', etc, accom. by Police Band, and the crowd joined in. Also 'Auld Lang Syne'.

3 cheers went on all around the vast arena, someone in a red coat jumped up on the conductor's stand & conducted the cheers! The Duke finally entered an open car & was driven all around the arena as close as could get to the people & everyone stood up & yelled & cheers and he smiled & waved cheerfully. Then the crowd swarmed over the arena mixing with the athletes & everyone & thus ended a wonderful display and the 1962 Empire Games.

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