Stewart let’s talk about the speedway. When did you become interested in the sport?
It would have been back in February 1958.
The Warrnambool Hot Rod Club started having meetings at the Warrnambool racecourse.
They were to run five meetings but due to bad weather and a lack of entries, they only staged three meetings in 1958.
A few meetings were run under lights at the racecourse.
There were always good sized crowds that attended the meetings.
The last races that were held at the racecourse were in March 1970 before the club ventured out to the facility at Allansford.
I was there for the opening meeting at the Premier Speedway on December 5, 1970 – when the Governor of Victoria Rohan Delacombe switched on the lights.
People from all over the district were there for the opening night.
I can still remember the first running of the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic in 1973.
They had 25 competitors and most of the drivers came from around the local district back in 1973.
It’s a far cry from what will happen on January 18, 19 and 20 when drivers and cars from over the world will compete at this year’s Classic.
I find it amazing the Classic is in its 47th year.
The only year it has not been run was back in 2006 when it was rained out.
I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the hardworking committee and the volunteers plus David Mills for making the Classic such a great event.
What positions have you held out at Premier Speedway?
I was asked to help out with the broadcasting back in 1958 and I stayed on the commentary team until 2004.
I had a wonderful time in that role.
I’m a life member at Premier Speedway and was on the committee for years.
Stewart, the history books show a robbery took place out at Premier Speedway in the early hours of January 26, 1998, while the Classic was being run. The end result was that $174,000 in takings was taken in the robbery.
What are your memories of that famous night in local speedway history?
I was in the main broadcast area, which was upstairs in the building.
I would say the robbery was committed nearly under my feet.
I never found out until the next day about the robbery.
It was very disturbing.
The amazing thing is no-one was caught.
It was a huge amount of money - $174,000.
The robbery put the club under a lot of financial pressure for many years.
I felt very sorry for all the volunteers who give so much time to ensure the event is a success and then to have the robbery leaves a very bitter taste in your mouth – it still does today.
I said previously, David Mills and the committee have done an outstanding job in making the Classic a world-class event.
We have an incredible facility out at the speedway.
I’m not sure the speedway gets all the credit it really deserves.
The Classic injects millions of dollars into the local economy and the same will happen in a few days’ time with the running of the 2019 event.
Which other sports have you played?
My wife Clarice and I played lawn bowls for the Lawn Tennis Bowling Club down in Pertobe Road for many years.
We were both past presidents and skippers and very active playing and helping to organise social events for the club.
I played footy for a side called West End, which used to play at the Showgrounds and at the Friendlies oval.
We used to play against sides like South Rovers and Merrivale.
I was a wingman and used to get out there and just run and run.
I had a stint playing cricket with Nestles in the B grade competition.
The highest score I made was 11 runs but I fancied myself as a bowler.
The reason why I played cricket with Nestles was because I worked out at the factory.
How many years did you work at Nestles?
I worked at Nestles for 48 years.
I started as an apprentice fitter and turner and was there for my entire working life.
They were a great company to work for.
There were more than 900 workers at Nestles back in time and everyone knew everyone.
Nestles had a wonderful social club and sports club for its workers.
They used to have a regatta on the Merri River.
It used to be a huge day for everyone back in the 1950s.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of soft drinks and lollies would be given to the Australia Comfort Funds.
Nestles also had basketball sides in the local competition.
I think in one of the ladies sides there were six McDonald sisters who played for Nestles.
The company gave gold watches to any workers who had been there for 25 years.
I was presented with my Omega gold watch back in December 1967.
The strange thing is the watch just stopped the other day after all those years.
It’s been great that Fonterra since it took over Nestles, has kept up acknowledging the people that had given 25 years’ service to the company.
I can still remember when Nestle workers would catch the train out from Warrnambool to Dennington to work.
The train would make the trip each day with coal and briquettes plus one carriage train.
It’s hard to believe in this day that would happen.
The main places for work in Warrnambool used to Nestles, Fletcher Jones or down at the Woolen Mill.
The town was so very lucky to have those places where people could go to work.