Cape Conran community remembered with pride

Cape Conran community remembered with pride

Nostalgia was in the air on Saturday, November 16, as 40 people, former residents of the Cape Conran community, gathered at the Wairewa Hall for a reunion and DVD launch.

They began by visiting a farm shed on the property of Brian Blakeman and Elizabeth Bakewell. It was a shed they’d known well as youngsters as Brian purchased the Cape Conran Hall when the village disbanded in 1985/6.

Afternoon tea completed, they sat down to watch a much-anticipated DVD about the Cape Conran community. Glenys Hammond, who has spent much of the past 30 years gathering information on the former village, known by everyone as ‘The Houses’, presented.

As the DVD played, the audience, with their eyes firmly focused on the TV on top of the old piano, remained still and silent; somewhat awe struck. History was being re-enacted and it was easy to imagine them doing the same thing 40 years ago when, much younger, they’d sat side by side in the hall near Sailors Grave to watch cartoons and movies together.

Saturday night’s venue was different, but there were many familiar faces. Across the screen rolled an hour and a half of films and photographs taken of their old beach houses, families, pets and people they’d known well, doing what they loved best at Cape Conran.

As the footage progressed, voices of long ago spoke about how the community evolved you could have heard a pin drop. There were lots of oohs and ahhs as vivid memories resurfaced. The familiar sound of waves crashing on the beach kept the audience transfixed, transporting them back to another time when summers were long, hot and simple. From the claps and cheering heard as the final credits ran, Glenys’ efforts were appreciated.

The Cape Conran community comprised 14 small shacks built on Crown Land leased from the government for an annual fee. Developed on the East Cape between 1945 and 1957, mostly by farming families from Orbost, the village, through working bees in which everyone helped, evolved to have a generator for electricity and, later on, telephones. Their bar, manned by volunteers, was very well known. Attendance at the bar was by invitation only with cold drinks traded for paper tokens.

Extended members of the Lynn, Nixon, Cavagna, Pardew, Weston, Hammond, Luckins, Steed, Harry, Andrews and Stone families of Orbost and their friends enjoyed halcyon days at the beach year after year.

When families were elsewhere, they lent their houses to friends. Invited guests, many who were famous celebrities elsewhere, spoke about their visits to the simple, rustic community of friendly, open-hearted people with great respect and envy.

Everyone chipped in to help and divvied up the costs when things needed to be done in the community. New Year’s Eve parties in what is now Brian’s shed were famous, not just for the crayfish suppers, but also for the music, dancing and often, champagne breakfast.

For many years Steve Scukovic and Mike Krasowski, from Melbourne, cooked a pig on a spit, an annual feast that became legendry, so it was only fitting that Saturday night’s DVD launch was capped off with another pig on a spit feast.

Cold beer from Sailors Grave Brewery at Orbost was on tap and plates of food were shared around. Everyone helped and happy laughter and chatter filled the hall.

The DVD, Cape Conran ‘As we remember...’ is a time capsule, a photographic history of a joyful, playful and highly respected community, gone since 1986, but never forgotten.

Full of old, historic and not-seen-before family photographs, there are glorious film footages taken by residents who recorded bushfires, shipwrecks, salvages and other occasions in colour.

For most of the audience Saturday night’s get together was a chance to revisit their childhood, a rare treat indeed.

PICTURED: Many ex-residents of Cape Conran relived their youth with a reunion and DVD launch recently, their children and grandchildren finally able to see what they missed out on.