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The cultural & debating society


Prior to 1979 all hotels in N.S.W. were closed on Sunday. If a number of the old hardened drinkers, (I wouldn’t say drunks, just the older guys that you might see sitting around pubs of a day with a 7oz. beer happily talking stories and swapping yarns.) wanted to have a beer on a Sunday, they had to sneak into the back of the pub and run the risk of being caught by the Police who were a hell of a lot tougher than they are  today. There were no civil libertarians around in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.

One of the older guys a member of what was known as ‘The Byron Bay cultural and debating society” had a friend in Lismore who was a retired barrister or lawyer who had found a loop hole in the law which enabled them to drink on a Sunday. It appeared that they were legally entitled to drink outside,  provided that the person who purchased the alcohol didn’t drink it. This person was “Elected” by the society and known as the “Taker” and it was his job to purchase the alcohol the day before, not drinking any of it overnight (Sure!!) and bring it along the next day.

The Society met up the Main Beach on Sunday mornings at 10 o’clock, usually in the sun on the grass beside the old shelter sheds that were near the Surf Club. Sadly just about all the old characters I remember from these photos have passed on, they were a harmless bunch and always good for a laugh.

There was also a more clandestine club which I used to frequent from time to time known as “The Lantana Club” Which met under one of the storage sheds at the Whaling Station. It got its name from all the Lantana that grew around the shed, effectively blocking it from view of the Police.

It was quite well set up, each regular had his own seat which was usually the back seat out of an old car, on any Sunday it was quite common to have up to 20 people there. Unfortunately there are no photos of these gatherings, it would have been a brave person who took a camera under that shed to take happy snaps!!

It’s just another old part of The Bay’s colourful history which is now just that…..History.  But boy! You should have been there!!!


The most common question asked of Max is “Have you lived in Byron Bay all your life?” His laconic reply “Not yet!” Born in the Bay in 1943, Max has been in or on the ocean from the age of eight, swimming, surfing. diving, sailing and fishing. You could call him a true waterman. These interests have enabled him to travel extensively throughout the Pacific and particularly to his beloved Hawaii, where 30 years ago his great friends Rell Sunn and Keoki Puaoi introduced him to the true Hawaiian way of life. Max and his wife Yvonne were the foundation members of the Byron Bay Malibu Club of which they are both life members. Although they both no longer surf competitively, for the past 22 years they have organised and conducted a surf contest in conjunction with the Byron Bay Malibu Classic called “The Future Legends” for kids under 12 years old. Each year Max writes and illustrates a colouring-in book for the contest, mainly aimed at water safety, surf etiquette and the ocean environment, to gently try to educate the kids about the ocean. Still surfing “when it pleases me“ Max admits he is a little slower getting to his feet these days but he is trialing a new board which is a radical version of the Hawaiian Paipo so he can “Lay down surf!” and be more relaxed about it. Likes: Hawaiian music (He has an extensive collection), surfing the Cape, or “Little Beach” as it was always known. Early morning walks on the beach, being with family. The description of “Island time”, “Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe not at all!” Dislikes: Crowds, People who take the ocean for granted, inexperienced people that put peoples lives at stake....There is a saying on one of the islands “A fool and the sea is soon drowned!" We are not fools and we are only drowned sometimes...


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