31 Dec When we went up to Wedge when I was younger…
Dad spent a lot of time up at Wedge talking to anyone about Wedge and the virtues of being a member of WIPA. We always had people dropping into the shack to discuss the latest news or issue, or just to catch up. On one instance he met up with the Lockyer family who shared a passion for fishing and he would take them out for a fish in the boat, while they would take us for a fish from the beach. Such were the differences in our fishing strategy. One thing both families shared was a Landy, and that is normally enough to get any two people talking straight away like long lost friends.
When we would get up to Wedge, my brother and I would always go straight over to the shack where our friends the Lockyers stayed to see if they were up. They had 3 boys who were around the same age as us and we got on really well. We learnt to scavenge really well and built some great cubby houses around the shacks. There was always washed up timber or plywood that we could use for walls and a roof. Two of the Lockyers boys, my brother and I formed a group and called ourselves the “The Wedge 4” with cardboard membership cards that we had to show to get into the cubbies. Call me a hoarder, but I still have my card 28+ years on.
We went surfing all the time on our foamies with them, going out in some scary surf sometimes. We didn’t care if it was blown out or glassy, we would catch the waves and always call, “Out the back!” when the sets rolled in. Wetsuits were a luxury we didn’t get until we were teenagers and in the cold water in Spring I always came out shivering and with numb feet.
My favourite game in the bush was hide and seek. In the scrub behind the frontal dunes on the south bay there were many places to hide. We would hide where we could and then chase down anyone who was found. Cuts and scratches were the norm but we seem to care. And of course shoes were discarded as soon as we were at Wedge. Playing Hide and Seek, I would always be the last to be found as I always crawled into the middle of a bush and could lie still for an hour. So long so that on a lot of times the others just gave up and left me out there.
I know our parents liked it up at Wedge as they were always able to let us play for hours at a time unattended. We could tell them we were going to the island or going to the tip, or going to make a cubby house and as long as they knew roughly where we were they didn’t worry. Of course there were risks at Wedge, and we knew them, getting cut on old corrugated iron in the bush, snakes, sunburn, but these were risks that we had to learn to manage. I remember walking around the island when it was joined to the mainland, and the goal was to walk at close to water level but not in it. There was much scrambling over very sharp rocks (no shoes) or squeezing through jagged holes. I lost some bark on my feet, hands, knees but we did it.
The Lockyers were part of a big family and they always had their cousins staying with them and their shack was full to the brim with kids. That was how I met my wife. We met when we were about 12 and she was one of the kids spending her holidays in a shack. Being one of the few girls in the group of kids she got her fair share of teasing, but she had (and still has) a very strong character that meant she could throw the taunts (or a fist) back. I liked her when I met her and would always try to impress her. I remember riding on the roof of their family car back from a beach fishing trip with her and even though it was cold I made sure I didn’t show it front of her.
Us kids spent a whole day making a raft out of anything we could scavenge. An old pallet made the deck, empty 20l and 100l drums were for buoyancy and metres of old cray rope tied the contraption together. When it was finished we all man-handled it down to the beach on a trailer made of cane poles and floats as wheels. In hind sight we should have slept on the idea and tried launching in the calm of the morning, rather than into the teeth of the daily 25 knot sea breeze. The craft didn’t make it past the shore break, before itself breaking back into its constituent pieces. Lesson learned.
The next boat we tried to take out to sea was one that my wife and one of the Lockers found. Thus was Christened the Marica. It was a small 10ft wooden dingy that unfortunately had had the bow sheared off, so really it was a 8 and half foot dingy. That didn’t stop us kids from patching it with a tarp and nails, and we were able to paddle it out to the refuelling Dolphin in the bay and try catching some whiting. It worked and we got a feed.
I learnt to fish at Wedge and I think we were very privileged to be able to get a good feed any time we went out. Be it crays, skippy, herring, whiting, or Jewies. I loved driving the boat and did so from an early age. I got the job of starting the motor while dad pushed us out through the waves. He would hang off the back step while we ploughed through the shore break as there was no nicely protected boat ramps. Dad made getting the boat into and out of the water so much easier by having a tow ball fitted to the roo bar. This meant that we weren’t backing the trailer into the water or into the shed, but instead we had full view and excellent control of keeping it straight. This was vital when we had to time running the boat into the water in between waves.
My brother and I were given an old VW Beetle beach buggy that we would drive up at Wedge. We had a great time painting it bright red on the outside and bright yellow on the inside. It had big tyres and we very, very rarely got it stuck. Not bad for a 2 wheel drive on the sand dunes. One day as we were returning from a surf up North, we were surprised to be over taken by one of the front tyres of our car. We’d managed to lose all of the wheel nuts and the tyre took off by itself. The weight balance of the car meant we didn’t skid to a halt buried in sand and instead could coast to a stop on 3 wheels. Each other tyre donated a wheel nut to get us back to the shack.
Fuel for the buggy was bought on more than a few occasions from proceeds of selling aluminium cans from the tip. We could always scavenge up a few kilos of aluminium cans, crush them down and sell them for 60c a kilo. That could get over a litre of fuel then for the next trip.
Preparing for a Wedge trip always required a bit of work as we had to take everything we need and either pack it in the back of the Landy (Landrover that is) or tie it to the roof. I got the job often of tying the surf boards on, and because I knew the track was so bumpy I made sure they made it and didn’t get any dings. To do that I always laid out a huge canvas tarp on the roof rack, placed half a foam mattress in it, surf boards in on this, wrapped up the tarp over it and used about 3 lengths of old cray rope to secure the package. It was a 40 minute job, but the never moved. Other things we carried on the roof was our beloved “Moggy box”. This was a chipboard box made to the size of a standard pet carrier with air holes drilled in it. In it would go our cat who accompanied us to Wedge rather than being left in Perth. Thinking back I don’t know if it really enjoyed the 3 hr trip swaying and bumping every which way. It never did like getting in (legs splayed out wide hoping to stay out in fact) and it was always very happy to get out at the other end.
I liked taking my school friends up to Wedge and started doing so from an early age. I would always love trying to explain to them the fact that there were no roads there, no electricity, no shops. I used to think that any of my friends that I took up there would be extremely lucky to then be considered in the privileged few that knew about Wedge.
Wedge was a mystery back then, not everyone knew about it and it was very hard to get there. It has changed lots over the years as more and more people had access to 4 wheel drives, and now the new road. It will never be the same place that I grew up in and I am enough of a realist to know that no other place has remained unchanged over that same time either. But Wedge is a place that I want my daughter to know as she grows up.
Wedge Story by: Greg Robinson