President of the Old Bastards
It turns out you don’t need to be old to be an Old Bastard.
We’d been told that John Wheelock has been the president of Carnarvon’s Old Bastards since its inception in 1982. A quick google revealed that the Australasian Order of the Old Bastards is an Australia-wide organisation, far less organised than the Rotary Club or the Lions, but just as effective where fund-raising is concerned.
According to the website, membership qualifications are:
Marital status of parents is irrelevant.
Age is irrelevant - it is sufficient to have been acclaimed at least once by friends as an Old Bastard.
Drinking habits must be hearty and jovial, whatever the drink of choice.
On encountering other OB's one must administer a hearty slap on the back, together with the cheerful greeting "Hello, you Old Bastard!"
Membership card or badge must be carried at all times. Failure to produce same when challenged by another OB incurs a penalty of one round of drinks
The Carnarvon branch meet once a week for Happy Hour at the Gascoyne Hotel. We joined them one evening to ensure they were abiding by the rules. (They were.)
As well as regular quiz nights (John is both quiz master and question compiler), the group’s main ongoing fund-raising project is collecting, sorting and crushing empty drinks cans for recycling. Caravan parks and station stays throughout the region collect guests’ cans and there’s always a big wool sack by John’s front gate where anyone can drop their empties off. Accompanied by his elderly dog Jessie, John can be spotted most mornings at sunrise wandering the streets of Carnarvon picking up discarded beer cans all around town. So far this financial year, the group has raised $36,000 for the Royal Flying Doctors, and it’s estimated that over 30 tonnes of recyclable waste has been kept out of Carnarvon’s landfill thanks to the efforts of a handful of Old Bastards.
I’d actually already spotted John a couple of days before hearing about him. His house had caught my eye, partly because it was standing alone, a green oasis bedecked in the Aussie flag and other paraphernalia, just off the main street, but also because of the interesting-looking character having a chat over the gate.
When I called in to ask if I might take a few photographs, John was on the phone organising practical help for a community member in need. After arranging a catch up in a couple of days time, I left with an appreciation of his community-mindedness, and a couple of home-grown cucumbers.
On the day we’d arranged for our photo session, John called to ask if it was OK for his friend Joseph, the local taxi driver, to be there too. So these are the photos from my hour or two spent with these gentlemen and Jessie the dog, inside and outside John’s family home of three generations. Along with an increased appreciation of what community spirit means, that visit I also took home a jar of homemade chilli jam and a bag of pomegranates.