Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Trove Tuesday – My Dad and Jean Shrimpton

Melbourne Cup Day has always been a bit special for me.
Not always so for my Pa or my Dad – it was one of their busiest, stressful and most exhausting days of the year – more about that later in the post.
Pa, John GARRETT (1908 – 1992) had one of the biggest racehorse transport companies in Australia – Garrett and Griffiths.
My Dad worked for him for several years, including driving trucks especially on the busy days like Cup Days.
Trove isn't just for newspapers -
this is from the Australian Women's Weekly
Us kids used to go to races with Pa or Dad quite often. It was a very different view of the races than what I have experienced as an adult – going in the grandstand or the members’ car park. Then, we had to keep out of everyone’s way although I did get to pat Rain Lover one of the years he won!
I was talking to Dad about his experiences at the Melbourne Cup and whether he saw Jean Shrimpton. He said he was only a couple of metres away from her.
Dad recalls having a chuckle about the reactions and all the fuss made by the “old matrons” over “this young bird who had no hat, no gloves and a very short skirt”. Dad said she was “a very pretty, slim girl”.
Dad wasn’t that fussed – but then he was married to a pretty, slim girl!

The ‘other’ side of The Cup in the words of my Dad (a driver in the 1960s):
Garrett and Griffiths would have taken about 40% of all horses that ran on each day of the Cup carnival.
We would often start work at 4am on Cup Day to take horses for track work or even for a walk on the beach. Trainers had different warm ups and often gave very short notice.
People probably didn’t realise that we would take a load out to Flemington for the earlier races, tear back to pick up horses for later races, get them to Flemington, unload, then reload with the horses from the earlier races to take ‘home’, then race up to pick up the later races horses. We did a very large number of miles each of the days. There was only one driver per truck and we had to give the truck a really good clean out between each load of horses. There was a strapper travelling with the horses but they didn’t help clean – it was their job to get the horse settled.
There was enormous pressure to get the horses there on time and not have them shaken up by the ride in the float – could sometimes be difficult in the heavy traffic.
The trainers and owners were very edgy waiting for the horses to get unloaded. They didn’t want the horses there too early, standing around in the crowd but there were regulations that the horses had to be there a specified time before the race.
Your Pa (John Garrett) was always uptight on Cup Day and would get very edgy about us getting back in time – no mobile phones in those days.
One of the great jobs we had was to pick up the ‘clerk of the course’ horses from the police stables in St Kilda Road. I think the building is still there – a magnificent old building that even had a mounting yard inside.
Sometimes we would be given a good feed by one or other owner or trainer in their posh tents, or champagne and fancy food out of the back of their Rolls Royce.
I carried Piping Lane, and Rain Lover twice.
Not to do with Melbourne Cup Day, but still to do with Garrett and Griffiths: We were probably involved with the first mass shipments of horses to Korea – in a converted 727. They were ‘second string horses’, sent over to re-start the Korean racing industry because during the war they had had to eat all the horses.

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