NSW President’s Weekend to Wallerawang  12-14th March, 2021                                  by Gary Ferrett

Leaving Camden at 9am Friday, 12th March, to join up with fellow Buickers at the Information Centre was another easy run for us along The Northern Road and onto the Great Western Highway to Blaxland by 10am to join up with twelve other cars.  Good to see Len and Fran Wright from Melbourne here to join us.  10.30am launch time for a date at midday in Lithgow in a light mizzle, rain on and off this morning, but nothing serious, as we crossed the Blue Mountains.

To Eskbank House Museum, on one hectare of its grounds, to view the inside of this historic sandstone house and its out-buildings, including a stone hexagonal Garden House, stables and workman’s cottage.   The house was built by a stonemason, with some convict labour, Alexander Binning, in 1840-41 for Thomas and Mary Brown (1804-1878), as part of the Eskbank Estates original grant of 210 acres, later purchases and it grew to 630 acres.   Thomas (1811-1889) was an amateur geologist into mining, including Eskbank Colliery, magistrate, business entrepreneur and later a politician.  Three years after Mary’s death, he sold Eskbank to James Rutherford (of Cobb & Co. fame).   Having had various leasers and tenants including owner, blast furnace manager (1892-1908) William Sandford, until Eric Bracey bought “The Grange”, as it was called then, for 300 pounds from Australian Iron and Steel (1908-1948), Hoskins Brothers in 1948.   Bracey and the Lithgow District Historical Society set about restoring the property and established a museum collection that reflected the period of Thomas and Mary Brown’s era.   Eskbank opened to the public as a museum in November 1966.   Eric Bracey owned Bracey’s Dept. Store in Lithgow and was inspired by Vaucluse House.   He sought out furniture and objects from that time including the “Barton Park” 19th century box pianoforte made by Broadwood of London.

A pottery museum was built in 1993 with sandstone, before Wallerawang Valley was flooded, from “Barton Park” old stone barn when Lake Wallace was formed to provide cooling water for Wallerawang Power Station.   The Pottery Museum houses a nationally significant “Lithgow Pottery” collection that was produced by Lithgow Pottery Colliery Co. between 1874 and 1907.

No picnicking today, so on through the rain to the Lithgow Small Arms Factory to have our lunch inside the old canteen building as eating outdoors was off.   Thanks to the LSAF volunteer staff for opening the spacious dry old building and use of their urn for a cuppa to wash down our sandwiches, cake, etc.

Paying a meagre admission fee, we viewed the weapons stored from other countries there for reference purposes, e.g. German Mauser pistols, American service revolvers to Australian made 303 rifles, through to modern F90 MBR Atrax semi-automatic rifles.  A lot to see from old small ladies handguns including Ron Hayes’ large collection he donated in 2006 of 800 pistols to the museum, to large machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.   AD Lithgow is now owned by Thales Aust. and continues making F85 Austeyr and F89 Minimi carbines currently used by the Australian military.  Non-military items also manufactured over the years were sewing machine brands “Pinnock” and “Jones”, sheep shearing hand pieces, handcuffs and medical instruments.

After exiting through the gift shop, us guys could march up the hill to see some of the original old machinery stored in a disused building, from multi-headed drilling machines, Capstan metal lathes, shapers, rifle barrel hobbing machines, card operated (like a pianola roll) milling machines and gun sight testing aligners etc.

All very interesting, but, it’s getting late, so on to The Black Gold Motel to book-in and clean up for our dinner date at the Wallerawang Bowling Sports Club for a pick-up by the courtesy bus.  The Black Gold Motel was originally the old Wallerawang School from 1881 – 1994.  In 1959, enrolments reached 400.  Classrooms had been brought in from Angus Place 1949, Glen Davis 1953 and new rooms built in 1954 and 1958 and later another building from Sodwalls Public School in 1984.   Rob Cluff was a former student there, as was his father, so he and wife, Linda, bought the site in 1994 when the NSW Govt. sold the school as a new public school had been built on the modern side of town overlooking Lake Wallace.  The Cluffs have transformed these old two and three room buildings, admin. office and Principal’s residence into cabins and villas, plus adding more motel style buildings plus another motel block being built.  A function room, lounge and bar along with The Crib Room Restaurant, with the old boys and girls toilet still in operation.  BGM is now rated in the top 1% of best motels in NSW.

Dressed and ready to go, the bus was on time at 6.30pm, for a short drive into town over the railway  bridge and sign in, temperature check and all.   Over drinks and dinner, some of us joined in buying meat raffle tickets or bought tickets in the club’s raffle to win a chance at winning $1,300 jackpot playing a bowls – hit the jack game- “Corner to Corner”.   If you got drawn to play $20, instant cash, then two chances.  Ticket T20 was drawn, Barbara Gentilcore come on down!   Try your luck!  A bowl and a miss!   A bowl and a miss!   Oh well, $20 is better than nothing and lotsa fun.  More drinkies and call for the first bus, to be safely delivered back to the BGM.

Next day, a cloudy Saturday, Henri and Nicola Hendriksen joined our day’s activities in their green and black 1927 Buick Tourer, now 21 cars = 47 people.  So, onto Portland following Margaret’s run sheet to park in “The Foundations”, site of the old limestone quarry and plant, with more locals from the “Historic Portland Car Club”.  The old cement silos these days are painted with portraits of local identities like Herb Coleman (2nd from the left).

The first tour with Herb went through the buildings, so I walked around the ten cars from the Portland Club, from Shirley’s Morris Minor to a Buick Electra.  The second tour start 40 minutes later, I would have liked more old furniture, desks, tables etc., maybe big old photos would lift the place to give the bare rooms a little more atmosphere, but they were being converted into cheap accommodation.   Portland Cement started in 1906 until 1991, when it became uneconomical to compete against cheaper imports.   Since then, the community and Govt. are trying to better utilise the old buildings.   “The Foundations” committee holds markets and weddings (for up to 400 people) since 2018 in the Power House building.   Ms. Harrie Fasher exhibits her steel welded art in the grounds.   The NSW Govt. granted half a million dollars to restore buildings in 2018.  Guido Van Helten was commissioned to paint the eight bin silo which has become a tourist drawcard for the area and town.

After the ladies got back from walking around town to the Quilt Shop, Glen Museum, looking at murals and old signage, and a coffee or tea, we headed out through Sunny Corner and across the Great Western Highway to Tarana and its hotel for lunch.  Some took a slight detour to turn around (left not right, the sign was knocked drown) then crossing a few causeways and a railway station viaduct, who counted the 15 camels, 2 bison, 8 alpacas etc. at “Billeroy Farm” on Diamond Swamp Road, arriving outside the hotel at 12.30pm.

Michael and Fiona Djatschenko were there to meet us in their black 1941 Sedanette, the “Black Dahlia” (see The Buick News June 2017 – it has been four years since you bought it), they live in Rydal and operate a swankie two bedroom B&B guest farmhouse “Kookawood” that has breath-taking mountain views.

The Hotel’s staff were in shock to see all of us drive up and we overwhelmed them with us all ordering drinks and food, as well as the local’s patronage, at the bar.  Confusion reigned as table numbers didn’t match our orders, but things eventually settled and the waitress unwound and laughed especially when Saddo offered to wash the dishes, so she took John up on his offer and got young, 14 year old Liam, to show him how to unload and load the dishwasher.  The young master and his statesman like apprentice, Saddo reappeared with tea towel over his shoulder, making out he had done some work.  Not!

I don’t think Tarana Railway Station has many travelling train passengers but it has an Opal card reader just in case.   It might be a special request stop for the Indian Pacific?  Rydal township Alexander Hotel might only be a café these days, but the railway station looked a bit bigger by Geoff’s photos than Tarana.  We backtracked across the causeways having missed a T intersection, following back to the Great Western Highway, turning right then left and onto Range Road, back to BGM for a shower etc. before drinks in the lounge.

Wait a minute, Helen Stewart said, we need a photo, a big epic panorama-graphic photo of all the cars in a semi-circle.  So, Helen took over marshalling cars onto the old school’s cricket pitch oval, grills pointing inward.  A lot of herding of cars, or Buicks, and a lot of laughs, but it got done in the end for a great photo opportunity.  Rob Cluff’s son also took some photos to put up on their facebook page.

Dinner saw us all mustered onto three long tables in the Crib Room Restaurant where our choice of the three main meals was noted (ipad) and served without a glitch.  The frivolities began with Paul Cook’s trivia quiz to tease our minds and debate the answers.  Was that Swan Lake or The Dance of the Sugar-plum fairies???   I don’t know but it was a nut-cracker!!!    The lucky door prize, a beautiful blue and white quilt, donated by the Portland Quilt Shop, was drawn and won by Linda Farrow.

Then came the entertainment from songs, poetry, jokes and much laughter.  First up Peter Cook leading the audience in “Click go the Shears”, Paul White playing a guitar solo of two tunes.   Happy birthday choir (all of us) wishing Pam Ward a happy birthday.  Applause for Tony and  Barbara’s 45th Sapphire wedding anniversary.   Claus and Wendy’s version of Billy Bonk In.   Peter Panich doing a Banjo Paterson poem ‘Rio Grande’s Last Race’.  Len Wright singing two Frank Sinatra songs, of course, “I Did It My Way”.   Colin Castle with four male volunteers and later four ladies doing the amazing balancing act, removing four chairs leaving four bodies suspended in mid-air.   The ladies won on the second attempt after Cathy’s leg cramped up at first attempt.  Colin, or was that Luigi, and fumbling assistants near bringing the house down with laughter.   Who said it couldn’t be done.  Luigi proved it could be!    Keith Packham telling jokes including the Donald Trump version of a plane crashing with four people on board and there are only three parachutes, when it comes down to the school boy and pilot.  Trump went first and the boy says there are still two parachutes left as the smartest man took my school bag.   Much laughter followed at Keith’s rendition.  Hah! Hah!  Hah!   John and Maggie’s version of “Buicks are a great design, they’ve stood the test of time!”   Ten verses with member’s names and type of car substituted, to a beat of clap!  Clap!  Clap!  Clap!  Clap!  Clap!  Based on a kid’s song from an album by Joni (a quadriplegic) Eareckson Tada “Wheels” (also a bingo song) that encourages disabled kids to clap, stamp their feet along with Joni, as it did for all of us, a mass audience participation.   Dave Scrimo sang a sentimental Bobby Darrin song “The Curtain Falls”  – Off comes the clown disguise.  That’s all there is.  I would spend it again with you.  But now the curtain falls.

And the Best Performance Award went to our special guest, brought to us at great expense all the way from Melbourne, Len Wright.    And, finally, a tumultuous round of applause for Margaret and Peter Cook for putting together (on the second attempt) this great weekend’s President’s Run.   More conversations over last drinks and then off to bed.

Sunday morning, most Buickers are up early for some to have brekkie at the motel dining room.   Then bid our farewells until we meet again.   Our run home was all down hill after Blaxland with constant rain all the way back to Camden.