By Ron Lane
It was in the early summer of 1967 that lifesavers of the Noosa Club, on an early Saturday morning, spotted what they described as two cowboys sitting on the rock wall to the left of the clubhouse.
Wearing big sombreros, check shirts, jeans and riding boots and with bed rolls between their boots, they sat quietly talking.
Later in the morning they approached the club and after identifying themselves as the Duggan brothers, Tommy and Liam, they quietly asked to speak to someone in charge.
Little did we realize that the conversation that followed was to be the start of what to become one of the true legendary periods in the history of the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club – the Murgon-Wondai Invasion.
With the surf club doors securely opened by these new members, the Duggan Brothers (with the third brother Tim to join a year later) the Murgon-Wondai boys started to join.
Then in 1969 among the new boys was a young skinny kid named Kerry Sorensen who was tall and incredible thin – so thin, in fact, that he soon became known as Pencil.
Now some 49 years on he is still a member and still known as Pencil but above all he is now a Kerry Sorensen Life Member. An honour well earned.
Situated some 50km west of Gympie, this farming and cattle district, known as South Burnett, was to be the provider of many young men who were destined to become proud patrolling members of the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club and in all reality it could have not have come at a better time.
“The club was in desperate need of new members,” Kerry said, “so now, when we sometimes get together for a few quite drinks, we jokingly refer to ourselves as the boys from the bush that saved the Noosa Surf Club from going under.”
Now this Saturday, 12 August, many of these now middle aged old boys, along with others, will assemble at the Noosa Club to celebrate their 50 years since the start of what can only be described as a fantastic, exciting and somewhat different period in the history of the club.
Two other Murgon members who, along with Kerry, have received the club’s highest honour of Life Member, Tim Irvine and Mike Horner will be in attendance. Members such as Murtagh, Postle, Mickan the Duggans and Mills, just to name a few, will also be present.
Despite coming from the bush, a lot of the boys were members of the very strong Murgon Swimming Club, so not only did the club get a lot of new members but also members who were top swimmers.
On receiving their bronze medallions they quickly fitted into the patrol routine with some, including Kerry, moving on to the Jet Rescue Boat Service as either drivers or crewies. Others moved into the carnival life of surf sports.
“Our biggest problem was, of course, distance. To drive from Murgon was something like three hours,” Kerry said, “so we had to pool our car resources.
“Then, with so many of the boys getting their bronze, the people of Murgon got behind us and, along with some of the fathers and businessman, chipped in and bought us an old electrician’s van.
“At the time I worked at a place called Clifton Motors so I would service it and fill it up; on the trip home with a van full of blokes we paid a $1 each for fuel.
“Also the driver never drank and the van was painted in the club colours – white with a big wide red stripe down the centre of the roof and down the back.
“To give some of the boys comfort one of the fathers donated a king size mattress which we sat on for the trip.
“However on Saturday nights we went to the Noosa Drive In and the driver would hide us under the mattress so we got in for nothing.
“But this came to an end when our club captain Laney got a phone call suggesting that the driver would be well advised to leave the mattress back at the clubhouse.
“For us bushies, life at the club was good; a big dormitory upstairs which could bunk some 30 members in a pinch and downstairs a kitchen, dining room and toilet block with showers.
“Meals for juniors cost 10c and for seniors 50c and we were always rostered to prepare the meals.
“All our money was raised by chook raffles at the reef and house to house collections in Brisbane and Noosa.
“All this plus patrols kept us busy. Discipline on patrols and in the clubhouse was strict. Any serious violation of patrolling or clubhouse rules and they wouldn’t hesitate – they would throw you out. This created a very strong united club – all doing their bit.”
After obtaining his bronze and learning to handle the long hours of travel every weekend, Kerry soon started to show his true colours.
After several seasons he was appointed to the position of club Vice-Captain. Then moving further up the ladder he was voted club Vice President and finally when the position of President became vacant he was elected to office.
However in the year 2003 came one of his biggest honours when he was awarded the prestigious Lobban Cup.
This is the most prestigious award any member in Noosa can receive.
To do this the member has to stand head and shoulders above all others. When nominated all aspects of his club life (except competition) comes under scrutiny; if no one is seen as eligible the Cup is not awarded.
Other achievements include Secretary of the Supporters club and President of the Old Boys Association. But perhaps Kerry’s greatest achievement came in 2003 with the publication of Noosa’s official club history, Bush to Beach.
Written by Robert Longhurst, this hard back publication was well received and provides documented records of the Noosa years, right from 1928 to the present time.
From start to finish it was Kerry’s project and the club will be forever grateful. The title, which he instigated, is indeed appropriate not just because of the Murgon-Wondai period, but because from the very start it was definitely a country boys club.
When on Saturday the bushies who rallied to save the Noosa Club gather for their reunion and a well-earned drink, their hair may be grey but their memories will be forever young and standing among them, Kerry Pencil Sorensen Life Member will take pride in their achievements and remember forever their mateship and, above all, their loyalty.