In this special guest post, Joel’s dad Jeff Catchlove shares some of his memories and photographs from camping trips to the South-Western Fleurieu in the 1950s and 60s.
Second Valley has always been close to my heart. I’ve just turned 70 and reminiscence is inevitable. Our childhood was unencumbered – most of us were poor, though we didn’t know it. There was no TV but we just as eagerly listened to Biggles, Hop Harrigan, the Goons and Hancock’s Halfhour on ‘the wireless’. We also played outdoors every day, both at school and at home. Children’s books were limited to Enid Blyton, Captain W E Johns and Eagle or Daily Mail Annuals. We dressed in suits to go to ‘town’ on the trolley bus or train and the family acquired its first car when we were ten or so years old. That revolutionised the possibilities of where we could go as a family. Our FJ Holden quickly ushered in trips to Mt Gambier, the Great Ocean Rd, even Queensland so my dad and we could visit his Air Force mates again.
The FJ was also really handy for dropping off my brother, our mates and me at convenient coastal locations during school holidays. We’d load it up with dreadful canvas stretchers, a bulky army tent, and old Primus kero stove, random utensils and dozens of tins of spaghetti and baked beans and a few pounds, shillings and pence earned delivering Messenger newspapers each week. Dad would take us to delightful locations such as Normanville and Second Valley, then drive off leaving us to our own devices for a week or two. We’d find nice groves of pine trees close to the beach, pitch the tent and rough it pretty much alone, entertaining ourselves swimming, walking, showing off to the local girls, proving our toughness and manliness by showing what we thought were handsome muscles as we played beach bats and swam really fast.
Remarkably, Normanville and Second Valley are as recognisable today as they were in the 1950s and 60s. Normanville still has its stumpy jetty and a café – there’s still an unobtrusive caravan park and the sea-front car park is more manicured but basically the beauty of the beachfront is undeveloped and untampered with. Fortunately, the subdivisions and real estate development have occurred inland and well away from the immediate coast and quite modestly at that.
Second Valley too is easily recognisable today as the place we loved inhabiting for a couple of weeks each summer. Recent housing development there has also been discretely hidden from view, the pines under which we once sheltered from blistering sun remain, the compact beach is just as beautiful, the cute jetty is still great for a lazy walk, the hills are equally as devoid of trees and the rocky coastline still wonderfully dramatic. Perhaps the only significant change to the area is the removal of the fishermen’s boat sheds which once nestled in an arc on the protective rock outcrop immediately south of the jetty. Like spokes on a bike wheel, rails crept from under the shed doors down to the waterline allowing easier entry and retrieval of the boats to and from the sea. A rusty winch or chunk of steel is all that remains today of that chapter in Second Valley’s history.
We managed to befriend a few locals each year when they came down to the beach for a swim after their hot and dusty day’s work on the farm. Spearfishing was a favourite past-time during our teens but interest understandably tapered off a little in the wake of shark attacks. I personally knew of three victims, one of whom was killed well off the coast near Second Valley. I SCUBA dived for two years at that time but never saw a shark, for which I was thankful – my interest was underwater photography, particularly in the lovely clear waters around Second Valley.
And now, my interest in the area has been re-kindled as our son Joel, his wife Sophie and family have a farm close by on land which we passed countless times as we headed south for our annual holiday. Re-visiting Second Valley is as pleasurable as ever!