Merv Allen Remembers (Part 3)


We used to go do a lot of fishing on the jetty, but my older brother was a better fisherman than I and we’d ride our bikes down to the jetty mainly in the night to catch Tommy Ruffs.

And I don’t know why. You could always catch Tommy Ruffs in the winter. You use maggots for bait. And one night I caught 17 dozen and five Tommy Ruffs. Tommy Ruffs, they’re big enough to eat, they’re about five – six inches long, (12-15cm). But one of my older brother’s friends knew all about fishing notes, and so they put in ‘The Advertiser’ in the fishing notes that Merv Allen caught 17 dozen and five Tommy Ruffs on the Henley jetty one night.

But after that netting came in. The Stafford family were a very prominent Henley family. They owned shops opposite the Henley swimming pool and Roley Stafford was a very keen netter and he used to go netting mullet along here and he’d catch 20-30 dozen mullets and feed the Port Adelaide football club with all his mullet.

One of my colleagues imported monofilament nylon fishing nets into South Australia. And monofilament nylon nets, you could have a set net that would say 50 meters long, anchor it at the shore end, anchored at the deep end, and just put it out there and come back an hour later and pick up the fish. Well, we used to do a lot of that netting with gill nets.

But after I’d grown up and had children my own, I actually had a monofilament net of my own. And some of my children’s friends came down they were about 20 years old and one was a prominent Stuart footballer and I won’t mention his name, but he said, Come on, we’re putting the net out tonight. I said, “No, look, we’re not putting the net out tonight – what were we going to do with the fish’? He said, “Listen, if you catch any fish, I’ll take them all”.

I said, “Okay, you take all the fish”. So we went straight out here in front of my house here. We put the net out and in two to three minutes at the most, the net was absolutely full of fish.

Instead of having a set net, we went round as a circle and circled like that. And we had 80 dozen mullet. Eighty dozen mullets filled two wheat bags. We struggled to get these fish off the beach and I said, “What on earth are you going to do with these fish? I said, you’re taking the lot, I don’t want them”.

And he gave them to Meals on wheels!

(Video recorded on April 24, 2023).

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 

Local Characters


Billy Spears

I can remember the Billy Spears. Billy Spears was the mad one. Billy Spears would go to Henley swimming pool and be able to dive, one half somersaults off the 30-foot (10m) springboard with a twist – no trouble at all. He’d repeat it and do it with two and a half somersaults next time. He was really good.

Kenny Fletcher

Another fellow was Kenny Fletcher. Kenny Fletcher was a bad boy and he was two or three years older than I am. The story was that he got grabbed by the local policeman and went to court. He stole £5 ($10) off the Judge’s table.

The Foord family

The Foord family consisted of Mr. Ford, Edgar Foord and the two sisters Foord. None of them were married. The Foord family owned owned the Ford and Dowden Steel Company at Kilkenny. That was on the old railway line up to Adelaide. But the Foord and Dowden Steel Company no longer exists.

The interesting thing about Edgar Ford, was he was the sole survivor of a major plane crash. It was an ANA plane (that was Australian National Airlines), which was later taken over by Ansett. A DC four crashed just out of Perth just after takeoff and Edgar Ford sat in the rear seat of this plane that crashed and he was the sole survivor for probably ten days then he died of complications, probably chest injuries, ruptured abdominal organs, probably head injuries.

After the Second World War, we always have a great big bonfire on the esplanade at Guy Fawkes time and the Foords would come out and say ‘Put that fire out otherwise we’ll call the police‘. The police would come down and usually be Mr Parsons on an old bike. The old policeman’s bike used to have about size 20 seats. They were huge seats. Mr. Parsons would say ‘Come on, boys you better put that fire out now‘.

So how can we get back on Miss Foord?

Well, Miss Foord had a vacant block of land on the northern side of her property. So we’d get into that vacant block of land and throw handfuls of wheat over the fence and a few weeks later she’d have a garden full of weeds. I remember (perhaps we shouldn’t record this), but my younger brother and I, we broke into empty houses. We’d open up the windows, they have locks that you could just slide the latch over with a screwdriver and go and explore the empty houses. The house that we did explore was the house immediately next to my parents’ house that still exists. We used to get up through the ceiling upstairs.

The Foord house got cut in halves. That was the next house along. You think, how could a house be cut in halves? The Foord house was on a double block of land, a beautiful old house. It was too big for one house, and they made two for one by getting it sawn and literally cutting a section out of the middle of the house. And those two houses still exist.

(Video recorded on Monday April 24, 2023)

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 

Local Shops


I can talk a bit about the shops.

The shops that spring to mind were first of all on the corner of Henley Beach Road and Seaview Road. On the southeastern corner was Vale’s Grocery shop. Laurie Vale had only one hand. He had a hook on his other hand to pull the Cornflakes packets out of the shelves.

On the northeastern corner of Henley Beach Road in the esplanade there was Newcombe’s.

Newcombe’s were also a gracious shop and a Green Grocers shop. Newcombe’s family were very, very prominent. They’ve contributed a lot over the years and some of their sons, Noel Newcombe became a member of this historical society.

Newcombe’s also rented a kiosk on the corner of the Esplanade and Henley Beach Road on the southwestern corner. That kiosk went into the sea along with the toilet block which was on the northwestern corner in one of the big storms.

There are also shops immediately adjacent to northern side of the Henley Hotel. There was a delicatessen there. The tram used to come up the hill and the hill. The old Henley Beach Road is a curved road and that was to cope for the tram to get up the sand dune from the flats on Military Road up onto Seaview Road. So that’s why Henley Beach Road has got that S bend in there to allow for an incline for the trams to get up.

On the northeastern corner there was a big block of land where there’s now a reserve that was used to be for advertising placards from Seaview Road all the way down to Military Road, Amgoorie Tea and whatever else they could think to advertise.

(Video recorded on April 24, 2023)

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 

Henley and Grange Council


Going back to the Henley and Grange Council.

I had two stints on the Henley and Grange Council. And why they go on the council? Mainly because no one else wants the job. And I got talked into it. They asked me what I was going to stand for, and I said – “I’m standing because no one else wants to stand but I am interested in looking after the beach”. And so, I was a very strong advocate for sand drift fences. And the Mayor at the time, Bonnie Edwards, he was on the Coast Protection Board, and he supported me.

And we got a lot of sand drift fences on the front of the Esplanade at Henley South. I can remember one Council meeting, the Councilor said, how much more sand fencing, drift fencing, do you want? And I said, “Well, we need to keep pushing the sand back and back and back. I said, eventually we’ll get to York Peninsula, but I said, the chance of that happening is zero”.

I said, “We’ll reach a new equilibrium”. That’s my aim was to reach an equilibrium. We’d get our sand dunes back to what they used to be.

(Video recorded on April 24, 2023)

Note: The transcript above was created using AssemblyAI to convert the video into text then manually corrected. 


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