Author Archives: AllanB

Storytellers February 2020 – 117th Meeting

The third on-line Storytellers Zoom Meeting was held last Tuesday 16th June.

Once again, we had members tuning in from abroad, this time with Libby Scherrer all the way from Switzerland. Zoom really is a fun way to connect during these crazy days, especially as members are getting more adept with each Zoom meeting.

We welcomed Gabriella Kelly-Davies to the Storytellers. Gabriella is a member and established a BBC Memoir Writing Group about 18 months ago so is well known to many members already. If you should visit Gabriella’s website – you will quickly realise that she knows what she’s talking about!

Gabriella ran ‘storytellers’ as an interactive memoir writing workshop where we learned the top 5 tips for writing one’s memoir. This was a first time for Storytellers – a workshop – and it went really well. Gabriella initially explained the difference between memoir, autobiography and biography, and gave us many tips on how to construct a story:

  • Plan your story
  • What is your goal? – who is the audience?
  • Organise a writing space ..
  • Develop a regular writing habit
  • Use memory joggers, photos, food, smells, music, memorabilia and so on ..
  • Anecdotes
  • Funny stories, sensory detail – lipstick / Chanel 9 that your mother might have worn
  • Write detail e.g. magnolia rather than just write flower
  • Include expressions that characters used to say ..
  • What do you share in your story? Your observations, insights, thoughts and feeling

Rather than share all the tips, I would recommend that anyone considering writing, should pop along to Gabriella’s Memoir Writing Group sessions. Several members of her Group joined in the conversation and provided an insight to their writing progress and spoke about the enjoyment they obtain from the sessions.

Gabriella then gave us all some ‘homework’ and we settled down to write a paragraph or two about our earliest memories, using some of the tips we had just learnt. Everyone got into the spirit of things, put pen to paper and then shared their memories. A fun evening and once again we learnt something new about our friends. Thanks must go to Gabriella who not only knows how to write a story but can motivate others to do the same.

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Storytellers February 2020 – 115th Meeting

Due to the current Covid-19 isolation rules, the first on-line Storytellers Zoom Meeting was held last Tuesday 21st April.

We had 6 x members (Alan McCartney, Ron Wilson, Heather Curd, Rob Johnson, Dick Morath and Jon Attwater) sharing their photographs and stories of their involvement with the shocking fires that NSW experienced earlier this year and the aftermath. Once the on-line Zoom meeting was promoted, many members indicated their interest to attend and to also learn how to “Zoom” so they could join the meeting. This was rather a challenge, but we got there in the end with a really good attendance. We allowed for 15 minutes prior to the presentations to allow for members to ‘tune in’ and join the meeting. This was very amusing as there was much “Can you hear me?”, “You’re on mute”, “How do I unmute?”. Then once familiar faces appeared there was a chorus of greetings and so on .. you had to be there!

It certainly did not have the atmosphere of the usual meetings held at the club and the presenters had to accept ‘virtual’ applause, however, being on-line allowed for some of our more remote (regional, interstate& international) members to join in the fun too. In all there were about 70 members plus a number of partners listening to the presentations in the comfort of their own homes. They were also generously offered ‘virtual’ tea, coffee, cheese, wine, beers, and popcorn though there wasn’t much uptake!

The feedback to date has been most encouraging to have more such meetings. The technology worked well. The presentations were all well prepared, interesting, and informative, and the photos were graphic. In general, members enjoyed the opportunity to get the BBC Club feel back into the blood! A recording of this 1st Zoom meeting will be made available on the BBC Website shortly.

For those interested this week the ABC’s Australian Story was on Shane Fitzsimmons, giving a great insight to the man, the NSW RFS and challenges of the recent fire season

Available on ACB iView on the link below.

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Storytellers February 2020 – 114th Meeting

Greta Davis, who first presented to the Storytellers back in 2012, was our Storyteller for the night and provided some most interesting details about her family history which she had been tracing for some 30 years. All of her ancestors came to Australia in the second half of the 19th century. Some were mad, some were bad, and some were good!

Greta began with the story about her great-grandfather on her mother’s side Solomon Richards / Richter. Solomon, a Jew, was from Krakow, the Polish side of the family. He was born in 1859 and migrated to Australia in 1878 and with little money began trading with a horse and cart in the Riverina region, settling in Narrandera in 1883. Greta’s research told of ‘S Richards’ stores in Narrandera and Leeton and managed to obtain a photo of the Leeton store. Solomon struggled in the early days losing his entire stock in a fire. The Narrandera Argus reported that he had a reputation for integrity and a strong sense of justice. He died in Melbourne in July 1914 returning from London because of ill health. A good ‘un!

Greta spoke of several name changes in the family, perhaps due to cultural assimilation in a new country and in the army as quite a significant number of Jews volunteered for service in Australia during WW1 & WW2. Greta was also surprised in her research as to how much travelling her ancestors did in the 19th Century.

We then heard of Solomon’s sister Bertha. Bertha married Joseph Kops in Sydney in 1881, Joseph was also from Krakow. They opened a shop in Yass and then a store in Cowra. A suspicious fire ‘happened’ and Joseph was found guilty of attempted arson. There was an appeal, but the conviction was sustained by four judges to three. Joseph died the following year in Parramatta Mental Hospital. Bad and mad perhaps!!

Greta then looked at her father’s side of the family. Her great-grandfather was Marcus Benjamin who hailed from Lithuania. Marcus was a watchmaker, not only repairing them but making them. This was an amazing accomplishment as parts were scarce and making watches involved several separate skills all needing lengthy apprenticeships. Another good ’un!

We then heard about Marcus’s daughter Theresa Taube who married David Davis Klippel. David must have been quite an entrepreneur of his time. Sheet music was all the rage and he focused on selling sheet music that was out of copyright as there were no royalties. He became one of the richest men in NSW. Not resting on his laurels, he started to import records, the next big thing, from the USA. Due to tariffs he decided that it would be more profitable to press the records in Australia and opened the first record press in Australia in 1924. He bought an estate in Bowral, and property in Sydney, Manor Flats, Macleay St, Darlinghurst, as you do.

As is often the case when money is at stake there were family issues with his will as he left large amounts to charities, hospitals and Sydney University whilst disinheriting his boys. Wealthy family fun & games!

Lastly, we learnt about Greta’s father Jack Davis. He was another entrepreneur and must have been a good salesman. He travelled regularly to the USA to see his suppliers. He started talking to a book company and managed to obtain the rights to sell their books in Australia, their books being the ‘Little Golden Books’. Rather like the sheet music, the sales of these books went crazy and Jack sold the music company and concentrated on the books. Mindful again of the import tariffs he decided to open a printing press. There were 3 presses in Australia, one being owned by Frank Packer, who Jack knew from sailing together. Against advice Jack sold 51% of the business to Frank. A good ‘un but could’ve been better!

Members have to be on the lookout now for ‘S Richards’ stores when out and about in NSW country towns. Photos of faded facades will do nicely!

Many thanks to Greta for preparing and sharing her research.

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Storytellers November 2019 – Sandy MacCormick a mix of life experiences

Sandy MacCormick was our storyteller for the evening and spoke about a mix of her experiences:

  • driving to Perth in the 70s, and across the Nullarbor in flood.
  • working in Karratha managing a rent a car company
  • working on a prawn trawler in the gulf for a couple of seasons

Sandy is a born storyteller and kept everyone amused and totally engaged (even Peter stayed awake) with her adventures. Many Aussies in the early ‘70’s took to travelling OS to London and the like, but Sandy chose a somewhat more daring and dangerous path which provided plenty of excellent stories to share accompanied by wonderful ‘priceless’ photographs (see some included with these Minutes).

Sandy spoke about the trigger for her adventure which was a girlfriend and herself meeting a guy who had just returned from travelling around Australia in a VW beetle. He had a map of Australia up on the wall. Lorraine and Sandy looked at each other and said “LET’S GO”

They were looking for a new adventure, so she sold her car and pooled their money and bought a 1965 VW combi van which they paid $1200. It was 9 years old! Sandy’s Dad helped kit it out. Gas bottle on the roof, fold down stove on the door, large water bottle in the back and most importantly speakers for their music.

They set off going south as it was January and too hot for north. Goulburn, Albury through Victoria to Melbourne. Ballarat, Bendigo, Echuca [paddle boat on the Murray] Swan Hill [folk museum] and onto Mildura, Broken Hill, Barossa Valley. A variety of jobs followed; salad hand, waitress and barmaid, grape picking etc. All invaluable ‘university of life’ courses. Many stories later they travelled on through the Flinders Ranges, their first bit of dirt and onto Port Augusta, Whyalla, Pt Lincoln and Dutton Bay, Ceduna and the Nullarbor.

Eventually Sandy scored a prize job in Perth at ‘LETZ RENT A CAR’ which led to an offer to manage ‘LETZ KARRATHA’ (only 1500 kms away) for a few months because they had lost their manager.

“One experience worth mentioning. I had to take a new ute to replace one coming off lease to Goldsworthy mines. The mine was the first mine in the Pilbara owned by BHP. I set off and drove all day in my little Letz uniform. Imagine…. Mini skirt… White bowler hat. The mine was 100 km past… Port Headland. I arrived at the pre-fab mine office in my little Letz uniform…They just turned around and stared…”.

Sandy’s next adventure was working on a prawn trawler in the gulf of Carpentaria. Sandy and a girlfriend wanted to save money to go overseas. They had heard about getting a job on a prawn trawler, so they went for an interview and got the job as cooks. The boat was called the KAIGEL it had been specially built by a private owner. Their job was to cook and sort prawns. This led to may more anecdotes, photographs and even some video footage.
All in all, a great evening.

Many thanks to Sandy for preparing and sharing her terrific experiences. A born Storyteller!

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Storytellers Tuesday 17th September “The Art of Truffling”

It was a rotten old night due to heavy rain and wind, however, the hardy BBC members, resilient as ever, ensured that there was a decent attendance at Storytellers to listen to another diverse subject, namely ‘The Art of Truffling”. Member Mike Katz and his wife Frederique shared their experiences of planting a trufferie and the delights which come from owning a truffle dog, Tibor.

Mike took us on a fascinating introduction to truffles, explaining what exactly truffles are, Mike & Frederique’s journey into the world of truffles, comparing dogs v pigs to find them and finishing off with a demonstration. He told us about the White Truffle, found in Italy, and now being attempted in WA. We learnt about the Black Truffle along with Summer, Autumn, Winter and Chinese Truffles. The Winter Truffle is regarded as the most powerful of the dark truffles and found in many parts of the world, Périgord in France but also Italy, Spain and now Australia.

As we listened to Mike’s story it was very evident that there was a lot of hard work, expense and time invested in attempting to produce truffles. One needed to try and find the most suitable land, not always the best soil, establish an irrigation system, get the right PH balance, fence the site, plant the inoculated seedlings, wait and pray!
Key success factors being:

  • Soil – PH, Friable, limestone is ideal.
  • Water
  • Temperature – at least 20 days a year < 0
  • Properly inoculated seed stock-Oak, Hazelnut
  • Time, Talent, Tenacity
  • A good dog -Tibor in their case

For their part Mike & Frederique happened across ‘Truffling’ after a chance read of the Delicious Magazine back in 2001. Something struck a chord with them. It was very different and there was of course the associated romance that truffles have along with other high-end luxury goods such as caviar and fine wines. By 2003 they had found their plot of land, west of Goulburn, and built an 8 mega-litre dam, ploughed, balanced the PH and planted a mix of inoculated French Oak, English Oak and Hazelnut trees, 720 in total. They have had success with producing truffles, though certainly not in a commercial volume (as against their Wagyu beef interests). In fact, their trees are 15 years old now, and about 10% of the trees have produced truffles. These trees are marked for reference. So as explained there is plenty of hard work involved. Commercially the going price per kilo of truffle is in the region of $2000 – $3000 ..yes, a luxury indeed!

Mike talked about the difficulty of actual discovering the truffles, as they are found under the soil at the base of the trees, and not evident. It takes the fine senses of pigs and dogs to sniff them out. He showed a great photo of a huge pig, presumably in France, in action, earning its keep. A close-up would probably show the farmer distinguished by a lack of fingers! Mike & Frederique bought a Lagotto breed of dog, Tibor, and took it to be trained as per airport sniffer dogs. Tibor now has perfected the art of discovering truffles, makes no attempt to eat the truffle preferring a well-deserved treat from generally Frederique.

We were treated to a demonstration of Tibor in action after several pieces of truffle were secreted around the room. No problem for Tibor.

Finally, Mike gave a few tips on how to serve truffles:

  • Do not cook
  • Scrape or slice on plain food
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Mashed potato
  • Pasta without pesto
  • Risotto
  • Soup

Many thanks must go to Mike & Frederique and Meredith Aveling for arranging them to share their wonderful story with the BBC. The subject really resonated with the audience evidenced by the large number of questions.

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