Nobody did barometers or synoptic charts; television weather forecasts were off the shoulder routines delivered by newsreaders as a hurried and parting gift, the printed media donated a half square inch to the approaching weather on the top of page 19 and radio was little more than untreatable tinnitus at best, and yachtsmen perished, and swimmers were swept away, and all was pot luck for surfers.
At Bondi, a southerly meant the southern corner at Manly, and a northerly might be best used at Wollongong.
These were long and tedious drives during the summer months when the north-easter blew carloads of surfers down south of Port Hacking, all of them bored with Sydney’s predictable breaks and looking for something different and reasonably close to home, but regardless of the success of the trip south the slow return home over the Bulli Pass in the heat of the afternoon amidst the jammed traffic soon resulted into mischief.
The top of the Pass was a lonely 36 miles distant from Sydney and only one lane north was available through the heat and monoxide stink, where the tedium of the hot crawl preyed on the uncultivated minds of a mixed assembly of surfers returning home, scattered as they were amongst the stalled traffic lines.
Creeping past the temporary stalls that pressed up in ramshackle huddles by the roadside, all managed by Italians and Greeks and manned by their ferocious wives and untouchably virginal daughters.
Dark-eyed and shyly giggling girls hiding behind their black hair, too wary to take the money from the hand of a brown bodied youth who only wanted five pounds of overripe tomatoes.
Girls too shy to look, too beautiful to fathom, too distant to reach and too lovely for words – all in a second’s glance.
The scenario must be fully imagined at first; a long line of almost stationery cars threading their way home along the top of the pass in the soporific heat and heavy lassitude of a Sunday afternoon, and scattered here and the were a few old Buicks and Fords, standouts with their surfboard stacks.
These cars had no car radios, or tapes, or CD’s – no Doof Doof, no drugs, precious few girls, and they had nothing to do for all the hours it took to wait out the long delay.
Until the day one of the youngest of the seven youths in a South Bondi car slipped out and ran over to a tomato seller to buy a dozen Ripe Large, and he was almost immediately followed by a few more colleagues, all on a similar mission.
Thank you Kevin Brennan. Genius.
Mr. Jose Smith, a visitor from Algeciras, was patiently suffering the delay silently and doing his best to keep his three small children occupied while his wife slept alongside him, they were all heading home after a day visiting family in Bellambie.
Mr. Smith was finding it hard to keep awake until he noticed several lithe young boys slipping between the cars all around him, they were all wearing knee length coloured shorts and they all had the blackened shoulders and straw coloured hair similar to the surfers he had seen at Maroubra during the summer.
He slipped his clutch and watched them run half crouched past his car; all of them grimly alert with their eyes fixed on some unimaginable quarry in the middle distance, and most mysterious of all was that they were each clutching a large brown paper bag.
Six cars distant in the line of near stationery vehicles was their quarry; A Ford Merc. 8 with eight youths from Maroubra dozing in the car seats, all of them brain dead with the monotony and heat. Miniature Bra Boys, ripe for the killing.
It is fondly remembered here that the relationship between both beaches, Bondi and Maroubra in those early days was always competitive, and was regularly enlivened by chance meetings, such as this.
History has it that the South Bondi crew claimed wholesale slaughter that day at the Bulli Pass, and a rough independent count of direct hits inside the Maroubra Merc. was 30 tomatoes, a national record.
For hours afterward motorists wondered at the deep red stains by the roadside; the local Police when called had no explanation for the apparent phenomenon, and ambulance officers later confirmed that the red substance that covered large portions of the highway was definitely not spilt blood.
It was another 40 years after that inglorious defeat before Maroubra could claim any sort of surfing related ascendancy, and only then on the back of the idle banditry of the Abberton brothers and their publicist, Ms. Paris Hilton.
What is little known these days however is that this particular incident sparked worldwide interest at the time, and the Spanish festival ‘ La Tomatina ‘, held every year at Bunol near Valencia since 1965, was introduced by a Mr. Jose Smith, a Spanish accountant who had spent many years in working in Sydney.