MANY of the drinkers at Archies Creek were creatures of habit. Tex was no exception. Without fail Tex would turn up at the Creek on a Saturday night – because he always had. Despite the fact that there were no longer bands on a Saturday night, and despite the fact that the rest of the locals came in the afternoon to place their bets in the front bar, and would be gone by 5pm, Tex doggedly came in on Saturday nights. Sometimes it would be only him and me in the bar, but with the restaurant full.
Tex reckoned his Norwegian grandfather, Ole, must have been one of the first boat people to arrive in Australia when he jumped ship at Port Phillip Heads in the 1850s and swam to shore. As a ship’s carpenter he was able to apply his skills on land and worked in Malvern before settling in Archies Creek in the late 1800s. He was influential in the district and was one of the founders of the Archies Creek Community Hall, working with Chequer and Co building the hall.
This is a chapter from Liane Arno’s memoir A Matter of Complete Embuggerance, about the regulars at the Royal Mail Hotel in Archies Creek.
Ole’s son and Tex’s uncle, George, seemed to be on every committee you can imagine, and after fighting for the Commonwealth in the Boer War, formed part of the first Wonthaggi Council and subsequently became mayor.
Tex’s uncles from his maternal side were oft drinkers at the pub particularly on Saturdays. Bill and Jack unfortunately suffered from polio having contracted it through the great polio epidemic of the `30s. Jack was wheelchair bound and used to get himself round in a huge old fashioned wooden wheelchair that took up nearly half the very tiny bar area. Such an unusual item was this wheelchair is that it has been restored and now is displayed at the Historical Society.
Tex lived on his grandfather’s farm all his life. Ole’s land was settler’s land which had to be cleared. “Mostly done by match,” according to Tex. The skies would have been black. Tex went to the Ryanston Primary School, walking the mile up the road to get there. He went on to the Tech at Wonthaggi but was told at 14 years of age not to come back the next year. I asked him what he studied. “Not much at all,” was his reply.
Tex always had a love of horses and for 40 years worked the barriers at the Stoney Creek Race Course. As he neared 60 he was told that he could no longer work the barriers because he wasn’t “accredited”. We live in a world gone mad where experience counts for nothing!
Tex always worked on the land, and in his day was one of the best leatherworkers around making world-class whips and halters. He learnt his craft off Billy from Cobungra. When Billy showed him how to plait the fine tanned leather, Tex’s first thought was that he didn’t show him anything. Then as he perfected his craft he realised, “he showed me a lot.” Tex perfected the four round plait and used over 500 feet of stringed leather to make a whip. When he sold his first whip he was asked how long it took him to make. “All me life,” was his reply because it was his first. Sadly Billy died before Tex could get back to see him – but surely Billy would have been proud of his protégé if he had seen Tex’s work.
Tex tried his hand at training thoroughbreds and racing them. Magic Trick won him two firsts, seven seconds, eight thirds, nine fourths and an equal fourth. Gypsy Lord also won a race by four lengths but not before he shattered Tex’s leg which had him in traction in hospital for four months. Whilst the injury was significant, what was also terrible as far as Tex was concerned was the fact that he was wearing a new pair of jeans that had to be cut off when he got to hospital.
He was in the ward with Barry who was a great ward mate because he used to smoke and drink all the time. It was a sad day when he got kicked out because of his drinking. “But Tex drinks as well.” “But he’s not an alcoholic,” replied the matron.
Dr Peter Brooks was responsible for monitoring the progress of the leg and made the diagnosis when Tex left hospital, “Don’t break that leg again or you will lose it.” Despite that he continued to train horses. When we first met him he had been crushed by a horse and decided to put horse liniment on to ease the pain. Only trouble was it was systemic. “Ruined the taste of the beer,” complained Tex – but he was right in a few days.
He was one of the true characters of the Creek and the final word goes to Tex, “I’m a man of few words and no principles whatsoever.“
Tex Abrahamson died on May 18 aged 80. A celebration of his life was held at the Archies Creek Hall this month.