From the moon landing to Yo-Yo records: memories of growing up in rural Victoria

Sep 20, 2023
This blogger takes us on a walk down memory lane of living in the small regional town of Yarroweyah, regional Victoria. Source: Getty

I grew up in regional Victoria, in a small rural community called Yarroweyah. Yarroweyah at that time, largely comprised a local public hall, a general store, my parent’s garage and a light engineering business, with a few other houses. The nearest major town was Cobram.

Yarroweyah is of historical importance as it was a Soldier Settlement area established after World War II. It became a major dairying centre and fruit-growing area. It was also home to the Yarroweyah Sports Carnival which became the third largest sports carnival in regional Victoria. Events included the Yarroweyah Gift, the Yarroweyah Mile and the Yarroweyah Wheelrace.

The sports carnival attracted numerous visitors to the local area and funds were raised for local community groups and causes. Organisations to benefit included local sporting teams, the Cobram Hospital, local ambulance and scouts, cubs and guide groups. It became a large draw card with events including Highland dancing, rides, exhibits and family entertainment. It was attended by MPs including former Country Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Sir John McEwan also known as Blackjack. Blackjack went on to serve as Prime Minister after the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt off Cheviot Beach Portsea in 1967.

Prime Minister Menzies had also been invited.

Interestingly the sports carnival was used by some athletes to prepare for the Stawell Gift. One of those was international runner Ricky Dunbar known as the Flying Scotsman. Another famous runner was Norman Yemn who ran at Yarroweyah winning the Yarroweyah Mile.

Yemn would be remembered by many, for his roles in the Crawford series Homicide and The Sullivans.

My education was in Cobram. I attended Kindergarten, the Cobram Consolidated School and then the Cobram High School. I started school in 1969, aged five.

My first year of Primary School was in 1969. It was of course the year of the moon landing. It was broadcast continually, and I recall watching it on the television at school. Imagine young primary school children sitting through it. It meant nothing to me at the time. We all knew that the moon was habitable, that’s where Mr Squiggle lived. I watched him every afternoon.

Of course, now, as a mature age adult, I recognise the significance of the event.

Interestingly I commenced my secondary education in 1976 and our year was the largest class group, as baby boomers were coming through. Cobram High School was experiencing rapid growth and undergoing a huge building program.

New buildings established a new assembly hall in 1977, a technical wing in 1979, library in 1980.

Prior to the construction of the new Assembly Hall, students would assemble outside.

As many readers would recall the 1970’s was a time which saw several fads become very popular. Yo Yo was one of these and it was a worldwide trend. Many tricks became popular and many large brands including Coca-Cola and Fanta were keen to be involved. Many yo-yos carried the logos.

Interestingly, four students decided to attempt the World record for YoYo. They contacted The Guinness Book of World Records and to raise funds for the new Assembly Hall.

The four students were David Braithwaite, Darren Flanigan, Chris Hicks and Brian Saltmarsh. They raised over $500, a considerable sum in 1976. They were successful and broke the previous record. Our principal Mr Ian McKean announced at a school assembly that Guinness confirmed the record had been broken. Sadly, a US college team had heard about the Australian attempt and decided to attempt it. The Cobram High School team did establish an Australian record. The four students were then just 14 and 15 years old. From memory, I think the attempt was over 58 hours.

Darren Flanigan went in to play Australian Rules football for Geelong. Cobram and the surrounding districts produced a number of talented sportspeople. Other well-known sportspeople included the Hocking Brothers Steven and Garry.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up