We came to live in York in ’79. I came to take up the position at the old school as the deputy principal.
If you’d only ever lived in the city you wouldn’t have understood the importance in a farming boy or girl’s life of certain annual events in the farming calendar. These events were usually at the same time every year and it was the opportunity for the farm kids to help out and spend some time with their dad, who they otherwise might not see for weeks on end, such as during seeding.
There used to be a joke between me and my farming friends in the ‘80s that their sons would develop ‘woolitis’ or ‘seeding disease’. These kids would have been the 11 or 12 year olds, who would try to wag school to be in the shearing shed to help dad with shearing, bringing in the sheep, or to take lunch out to dad on the tractor and all these types of things. These were the same stories and jokes that were shared in the ‘20s in all farming towns, but in the ‘20s kids got away with it because 12 year olds didn’t really have to be at school. The stories were also told when I was at school in Bruce Rock in the ‘50s. These matters are intergenerational and timeless; while machinery and farming habits have changed, traditions on the farms haven’t.
Once we settled in York I was also part of the Rotary Association here and we were involved in helping setting up the Flying Fifties race. The pomp and circumstance of it was amazing. The man who engineered it, Peter Briggs, was fairly well known as being a pompous type of person. He would ride around with his leathers on and he’d have his leather coat and – I mean – he played the part of a 1920s driver, and he played it very well because I think he actually believed he was one. The race brought a lot of people into town. It also divided the town; there are and were a lot of people in the town who don’t like their main street closed. But the majority accepted that the town is a place where tourists come, just because it’s York.
The original York jazz festivals were absolutely sensational. A lot of them weren’t ticketed and a lot of people came back to York year after year just to walk the streets and enjoy performances. James Morrison and Andrew Fife just jammed for an hour one evening at the York hotel, totally unsolicited. That would never usually happen.
This is a town that moves at a pace of its own, it has a history of its own and you can’t take that history away from it.