Unthanks You Valda Much

Valda Unthanks Amazing Ride Adelaide-Melbourne Record Shattered

H.O.Balfe in The Referee, Oct 27th 1938

When you read about a young woman who smashes a cycling record over hundreds of miles, what is your reaction?

Do you visualise a hard-bitten, brawny, knotty-muscled ‘he-female’ with a weather-tanned face on which you could strike matches? If you do, you’re wrong; Joyce Barry; glamour girl of Australian distance cycling,proved that months and months ago. Now Mrs. Valda Unthank, latest to smash an inter-capital record with her amazing dash last week from Adelaide to Melbourne, follows suit.

They’re both charming feminine types, who look as if around of golf would be their most strenuous pastime.

In the years that have passed, our athlectic sisters have progressed from the adventure of a five miles ‘tour’ on mud-guarded, low-geared ‘wheel’, to track and road racing on the ‘bikes’ their brothers once regarded as sacred to them alone.

Although it is with Valda Unthank and her Adelaide Melbourne record of last week that this story is concerned, in the main it wouldn’t be chivalrous to disregard the others.

Joyce Barry, we know. Like Valda Unthank, she is ‘tops’ at the moment. Vera Harding and Anna Keenin,respectively 23-year-old brunette and 20-year-old blonde, who reached Melbourne last Saturday afterhaving ‘tandemed’ from Perth (W.A.), are right in thelimelight.

Pretty Elsa Barbour; first woman to set an Adelaide Melbourne record, and Mrs Price of Launceston Hobart fame, really pioneered the business of longdistance riding against time by women.

We take off our hat to them all. It seems incredible that they should possess the stamina, endurance andcourage to do what they’ve done but, there it is.

Valda Tells The Story

Had you listened to Valda Unthank’s laconic replies to my questions last Saturday, you might well have imagined that the riding of more than 400 miles and the smashing of an important record was nothing in her young life.

She left the general post office Adelaide at 5 o’clock last Wednesday evening ... rode right through to Melbourne without sleep ... and arrived at the G.P.O. Melbourne at 2.43 a.m. on Friday.

‘Did you have a good ride, Valda’?

‘Oh, yes, very pleasant.’

‘Any trouble on the way?’

‘No, only a puncture.’

‘How were the roads?’

‘Pretty bad on the SouthAustralian side, but splendidin Victoria.’

‘Were you troubled by head winds at all?

‘Oh no, I didn’t notice any.’

‘I suppose loss of sleep must have affected you?’

‘No, as a matter of fact, it didn’t. I had prepared myself for that.’

‘How did you go about that?’

‘Well, l did some longriding in training, and I made up my mind Iwouldn’t be sleepy.’

What a woman! Imagine getting home late andthinking she’d be fast asleep!

‘And what now? I understand there’s a record in Tasmania you’re going to attack?’

‘Yes, I believe there is. But I don’t know when, I leave that to the organisers. I’m just the bike rider, you know.’

What a woman! God’s gift to organisers. They make the plans, Valda does the rest.

Valda trained to a plan. Her friends plotted a route from Adelaide to Melbourne via Bordertown, instead of Adelaide-Melbourne via the Coorong - the track

other record attempters have traversed, and she rode over it once to make its acquaintance.

And Now - How She Broke The Record

On the advice or her, husband and Jack Dalton, Valda took things easily at the start. They wanted herto ‘warm up’ first. In the early stages, until she had climbed the Mount Lofty ranges, she only averaged about 13 miles an hour;

Gradually, increasing her speed, she soon maintained an average of 18 miles, an hour. The first 50 miles were covered in 3 hours 12min; 100 miles in 7.5.20;

150 miles in 11.56; 200- miles in 16.19; 250 miles in 19.12; 300

miles in 22 15; 350 in 25.15; 400 miles in 28.20; 450 miles in 32.0; and the full distance, 475 miles, in

33 hours 13 minutes. Valda covered the last 16 miles in 50 minutes, and when she dismounted at Melbourne

G.P.O. was fresh, though very leg-weary.

In this case, the record is reckoned as from post office to post office.

When Elsa Barbour made her record she rode by way of the Coorong,

Warrnambool, and Geelong covering 507 miles as against Valda’s 475.1.

Elsa’s time, 71 hours 36 minutes undoubtedly was a very meritorious ride. What is more to the point, however, is that Valda’s time bettersby 13 hours 14 minutes the Adelaide

Melbourne record time for men, 46 hours57 minutes made by Ted Waterford in his

Melbourne-Adelaide-Melbourne recordin 1934. This is the official record for men

for the Adelaide Melbourne ride. It was made on a course of 543 miles.

Valda Unthank’s ride was checked officially by Mrs. N. Smith, who followed

throughout by car as representative ofthe Victorian Women’s Amateur Cycling

Association. Incidentally, Valda is hon. secretary of the Australian Women’s Amateur Cyclists’ Union, and also is an official of the Victorian Tourists’Association.

As capable a rider on the track as she is on the roadshe is holder of the following records; Victorian quarter mile (board track), 32 1/5th sec; Melbourne-Nyah (240 miles), 15.28.23: Sale-Bairnsdale (45 miles), 2.18; Melbourne-Wonthaggi (85 miles) 4.51.30; Melbourne- Wonthaggi-Melbourne (174 miles), 10.13; tandem, Sale-Bairnsdale, 2.7.31; one mile, tandem, 1.23.

After enjoying a short spell, Valda Unthank will go to Tasmania where she will attack major long-distance records and carry out official duties on behalf of theAustralian Union.

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Hector Thomas & Fleet Cycles

Hector Thomas was born in 1900. He joined the army when he was 15 years and 11 months old and went to England.  An accidental meeting with his father, who was also in the army, found him out and he was sent back to Perth.

He was determined and rejoined the army and was sent to Belgium and France. He was certainly one of the youngest to serve from WA. Hector was a signaller with the 13th Battalion. In the battle of Hamel he was wounded but stayed with his unit until the Armistice was signed.

After the First World War he returned from service and worked in the cycle industry from 1919 - 1940. He worked for Armstrong Cycle & Motor Company on Hay Street from 1925 to 1940.

The below reference is from Armstrong when Hector applied to work in a munitions factory. He didn’t end up working in the munitions factory but went off to the Second World War for another five and half years of service.

When he returned he started his own cycle shop, Fleet Cycles on Beaufort Street, Inglewood near 7th Avenue. He used to paint the bikes with enamel with the Fleet Cycles logo and then bake the enamel under lights. He also did bicycle repairs. Hector retired in 1968 when his arthritis became bad. His GP told him to stop working which he did immediately, closing the shop up and selling the property with everything intact.

The name Fleet Cycles was taken over by a bicycle shop owner in Morley for many years.

Hector Thomas lived at 22 Normanby Street, Inglewood.

Mark Powell (Hector's grandson)

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Fred Buzza and Swift Cycles

This article is mainly recollections of Fred’s son John Buzza, with some additional detail provided by Allen Buzza. Fred’s Grandson Wes Buzza is keen to find out more about the history of Swift Cycles, please contact the club if you have any recollections to pass on.

My Dad, Alfred William Buzza (Fred to all that knew him), was born on 12th June 1901 in North Perth. His family moved to 2 Mint Street East Victoria Park in about 1902 or 1903. He was the youngest of four with a brother John (Jack) and 2 sisters, Vera and Olivia (Olive).

He attended the state school at Cargill Street Victoria Park and Perth Boys school in Perth. Jack was Killed in action in WW1 on the Western Front.

When Fred left school aged 14 he went into the rag trade and served his apprenticeship as a tailor’s presser. WW1 was in progress and while he was too young to fight he probably worked on military uniforms a lot of the time.

In about 1925 he started a garage business in what is now Rivervale at or near the corner of what is now Enfield Street and Kitchener Avenue. It was called Buzza’s Garage. Fred was hit pretty hard by the great depression of 1929-31and Buzza’s Garage was closed at some point. Ever resourceful Fred worked on stations around Yalgoo in shearing sheds and on farms for a time.

Around 1932 he went into a partnership with Phil someone and they started Sprint Cycles on the corner of Gresham Street in Victoria Park. This partnership dissolved in about 1934 and Fred moved to a shop at 471 Albany Highway; Swift Cycles. Dad used the Buzzalong name for the bicycles and tricycles he manufactured in-house and the Swift name on the bicycle stock he would purchase from the trade.

He married our mother on 10th March 1934, so there may have been a change in the structure of the business at that time. Mumwas a highly qualified nurse, no office wallah, and I think she would have exerted plenty of say in how the business was going to be run from then on. The house they lived in was built in 1928 by Mum’s parents and leftto her and her sister. (Sister Melva lived with them for many years until she married and went to live in Manjimup)

I didn’t come along until 1939,so all I ever knew during my childhood was that Dad had a bike shop and he made bikes. I spent a fair bit of time at the shop with Dad during the war years because Mum was in charge of a first aid post at the Cargill St school and attended there quite a bit. I saw Dad build the bikes from scratch. He used to buy all the components in; various tubing, lugs, rims, spokes, hubs, seats, handle, bars, bells, chains, sprockets, mudguards, ball bearings, brakes, brake rubbers and so on.

He had a forge and brazed the frames together with silver solder. During the war years he went to join up and was “manpowered” because he owned a small business which could be set up if required to manufacture for the war effort. It never came to that, although he was asked to make 2 samples of a small mechanism from a drawing supplied bythe Dept of War. It was top secret and at the time he didn’t know what it was. Years later, he recognised the chap who was from the DoW in the Broken Hill Hotel and was told the samples hemade were a part of a 303 rifle bolt mechanism.

As children, Allen (4 and a half years my junior) and I used to build wheels in front of the kitchen stove while we listened to the radio. We would have been about 6 & 10 by then. Dad was meticulous about the spokes being in the right place. I don’t know if it still the case but there were I think 32 spokes in the front wheel and 40 in the back. We could true the wheels and put the tyres and tubes on when we were quite young too. Dad used to do all his own painting; he had an oven for baking the enamel. He used some decal transfers but all the lining and fancywork he did himself. He had a set of lining brushes.

He also made tricycles to order for disabled and geriatric people. These were tricky as they were specially engineered frames and had to have a split rear axle to enable cornering. I was a test rider o these on more than one occasion. They were tricky to ride too because you didn’t need to try and balance them. They only had a front brake too.

The bikes he made to order were called Buzzalongs. The length of the seat pillar bar and inside leg measurement were critical. Racing bikes were a specialty. He had racing bike riders who used to ride for him in the big races like Beverley to Perth and Northam to Perth. The Northam to Perth came via Red Hill. I can remember going in the car early to Beverley. Mum would pack thermoses and sandwiches. Can’t remember breakfast but we must have had some. I think we went up Great Eastern Highway, branched off at the Lakes and went via York. Idon’t ever remember going via Brookton. It started outside theBeverley Town Hall.

We would then follow the riders down to the finish line in Maylands outside the Peninsular Hotel. As with Northam same thing startedat the town hall came via Toodyay and finished a the MaylandsPeninsular Hotel. They were exciting times.

His road racing activities was mainly sponsorship, although he did some road racing himself. I remember Lionel Felstead and Phil Kidd as two of the riders but I’m sure there were others.

Another scheme he had going was where you bought a book of 10 tickets and sold them for a pound each. That gave you 10 pounds to buy a new bike with. The people you sold the ticket to all came and got a book of tickets and so it went on. It would be illegal now as it is classed as a Ponzi Scheme. Back in those days it sold a lot of bikes.

In 1952 Dad sold the shop to Hi-way Cycles, owned by Les Andrews, whose brother had Swansea Cycles on the corner of Teddington Road and Albany Highway. Hi-way was a motor bike business as well. He had small bikes like BSA Triumph and Nortonbut I don’t think he had any Harleys or Indians.

The bike business was tough in those days. Starting from Hampshire Street in East Victoria Park there was Balmoral cycles, Sprint, Swift, Malvern Star, Swansea - I may have forgotten a couple.

Fred Buzza passed away at the age of 74.

Arthur Richardson

A born adventurer, among his many feats at the turn of the 20th century Arthur Richardson planned and executed the first solo circumcycling of Australia. Hugh Richardson, Arthur's grand nephew, has republished the famous and rare account of Arthur's trip "A Remarkable Ride". Hugh spoke at the January 2018 meeting. Copies of the book are available from Hugh's website

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Richardson Reaches Katherine The West Australian Monday September 11th 1899

On Friday evening we received the following telegram from Arthur Richardson, who is engaged in an attempt to cycle round Australia, and who left Perth early in June last :

KATHERINE, September 8.
From Hall’s Creek, the last telegraph station on the West Austral- ian side, I rode across very rough, mountain- ous country to Flora Valley, then running the Regenda Creek down to Booty’s station. Here the bad country for blacks commenced with a rough piece of country to Ord River Station. I got through all right, and, spelling there for two days, I got a look at some maps of the country, for there are no roads or tracks from Ord River to the Katherine. I also got a good supply of our, beef, etc. I made a seven days’ stage “per boot” to Wave Hill, having a very rough time, running out of tucker, and living like a black- fellow. I struck Wave Hill Station all right. Mr. Cahill, the manager, made me very wel- come, and I had a good spell there.
Then, with the worst patch of country in Australia in front of me, I got a black boy to show me a short cut across the ranges to the Victoria River but he “reckoned plenty blackfel- lows all about,” and ran away, the rst night, leaving me “on my own.” I had a very rough time from constant exposure and several falls caused through travelling at night, and had very little sleep, for the blacks are very bad. I had no “ tucker“ but what I could catch, and I was fairly tired out by the time I struck the Victoria River about seven miles below the station. Here Mr. Watson, the manager, insisted on my having a good spell, absolutely refusing to let me go on.
Luckily, while I was there he had news from Wyndham that would take him to Port Darwin at once, so I travelled in with him. We were both glad of company for the blacks are bad all through here, and no one ever goes out mustering without a 9in.“colt” in his belt. The last two hundred and forty miles to the Katherine has not had any wheel traf c on it for four years, so that I could not travel much faster with my bike than Mr. Watson with the horses. We got in here this afternoon. My bike tyres are all right, and I am going strongly.
ARTHUR RICHARDSON. 

A Cure For Sleepless Nights

The WA State Government has rewritten the Association Act, the new act came into effect in July the 1st 2016. Pretty exciting, huh? Just you wait!

The West Australian Historical Cycle Club's constitution needs to be updated to comply with the new act. Yes, your heart is racing!

A special general meeting has been called on Nov 20th to vote on the club's new rules. That's right, it's no longer a constitution (they've fallen into disrepute didn't you know), they're just rules.

Please familiarise yourself with the new rules ahead of the vote. 

Alan Hind 1938 - 2017

Long term club member Alan Hind died suddenly at home from a heart attack in July. He was aged 79. Alan had suffered heart issues since a valve replacement operation in 2008, though that didn’t dampen his love of cycling or spirit
of adventure.

Alan was one of 5 children born to William and Mary Hind in Glasgow in April of 1938. Following his schooling he completed an apprenticeship as a fitter and joined the Merchant Navy in 1959, working for a few years on the cargo ship Sundra. In 1961, while fourth engineer on the passenger ship Oriana, he met his future wife Pam. After marrying in Glasgow in 1962 Alan and Pam emigrated to Australia.

Cycling and travel are natural bedfellows and those that knew Alan will know that his passion for both remained undiminished through his life. He began riding in his teens, travelling around Scotland with friends. He travelled all over WA with his young family and his 50th birthday treat was a trek in Nepal. His last big cycle tour through Europe was undertaken just a few years ago at the age of 75.

Like many of us Alan was an inveterate “joiner”. Apart from the WAHCC he was an active member of the Over 55’s Cycling Club, the Canning Mens’ Shed, the WA Cricket Association and had been a member of several photography clubs. Alan joined the WAHCC early in the life of the club and was rarely absent from a meeting. 

He was a frequent contributor to show and tell, either with one of his beloved Flying Scots or one of many intriguing unusual frames he had collected along the way. He often joined club displays and almost always joined club rides, usually piloting a Claud Butler fixie. Alan served on the club committee a number of times and was a committee member at the time of his death. 

His contributions to club life go far beyond that though; over the years many members were beneficiaries of Alan’s knowledge, his good humour and of his generosity. We will all cherish the memory of Alan’s smile.

Alan is survived by two sons, Ian and Alistair, and Christiaan, his grandson

WA Bicycle Number Plates

Bicycle registration is a bit of a hot button dog whistling topic these days. It’s been tried and dropped in WA in the past, but the relics of the experiment live on in a few club members’ collections. If they’re still hanging off a bike they could help establish the bike’s age or origin.

Geoff Owen's Books

The club had the great pleasure of hosting a presentation by Geoff Owen on March 20 2017. Geoff is a book collector with a focus on cycling books. While his collection encompasses many areas of cycling he is particularly fascinated by the personal history genre - stories of the mad endurance cyclists traversing a new nation, many in the days before roads. 
A bibliography of the books covered is below the photos.

The Ingenious Mr Pedersen; David Evans; Alan Sutton 1978

Pedals, Politics and People; Hubert Opperman; Haldane Sydney 1977
First race at age 15
Died on an exercise bike in his retirement home
Record breaking 2875 mile ride Fremantle to Sydney
Held 24 hour record for a time
Idolised by French
Won Paris-Brest 726 miles
Became a federal politician - Minister for Immigration

From Ocean to Ocean; Jerome Murif; George Robertson 1897
Adelaide to Darwin 74 days traversed marshy lakes Gibber Plain and railway ballast, wore pyjamas and high boots

By Bread Alone; Ernie Old; George House Melbourne 1950
Anzac soldier, born in poverty ,mother died in childbirth, long cycling career,  cycled Melbourne to Perth and return in 62 days in 1948

The Book of Albert McDonald of Orroroo; By one who knew him; The Austral Cycle Agency Ltd( sellers of Swift Cycles)
1895 Time Darwin to Melbourne 33 days 5 hours 30 minutes - daily average distance 78 miles, -distance 2596 miles. Orroroo 3 hours north of Adelaide, population currently 540.

My World on Wheels; Russell Mockridge (posthumously completed by John Burrows) Stanley Paul 1960
1928-1958 killed in collision with bus Dandenong and Clayton Roads Melbourne
Rode with Hubert Opperman
Won 12 consecutive Australian championships

The Story of a Remarkable Ride; As Related to “Pedal” of The West Australian; The Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. of Australasia, Melbourne 1900
Arthur Richardson’s circumnavigation of the continent. Photocopy only - an exceedingly rare book. 

Battle Fronts of Outback; Francis Birtles; Angus and Robertson Sydney 1935
A re-cap in part of next item

Lonely Lands; Francis Birtles; New South Wales Bookstall Co. 1909
(see also Francis Birtles;Australian Adventurer by Warren Brown Hachette 2012-and Grit, an Epic journey Across the world, Peter Wherrett., Ibis date ?)
1891-1941
1910-1911 rode around Australia
1905 Perth -Sydney Record
Subsequently held Sydney-Fremantle Record 31 days
1927 London to Darwin-customs at Darwin wanted to impound

H. Grivell; Australian Cycling in the Golden Days; Courier Press Adelaide 1949
89 articles by various authors including Hubert Opperman,an article entitled ‘ The Decline of Cycle Racing’- see comments by Major Taylor

Round the World on a Wheel; Fraser ; Nelson Londonpost 1899
John Fraser 1868-1936, knighted 1917. 19237 miles in 26 months on a ‘Rover’ safety bicycle.

Cycling to War ; Austin; Slouch Hat Publishers 2008

The Bicycle and the Bush ; Fitzpatrick;  OUP 1980
Unparalleled as a history of cycling, especially of Western Australia-essential reading

Last of the Explorers (Story of Donald Mackay); Clune; Angus and Robertson 1942
Trip taken 1899 with Alex White 11500 miles,24 inch bike overall weight 29 pounds DUX brand bicycle, carried a revolver. Includes exploits in New Guinea and N.T. Worked for a time with Basedow Famour anthropologist, lots of good photos of aboriginal life.

Hard Liberty ; Fred Blakely; Harrap and Co 1938
1930 Looked for Lasseters Reef

Major Taylor in Australia : Jim Fitzpatrick Star Hill Studio 2011

Horizon Bound on a Bicycle ;Eywind Earle, Publisher Earle and Bain 1990 (a cycle trip solo commenced in 1937 across America -difficult to believe)

A few of the books are available online at the National Library of Australia website. Links to a couple of the shorter, rarer ones;
Albert MacDonald of Orroroo

Story Of A Remarkable Ride

 

Perth to Sydney - 1933 Record Tandem Ride

There was no made road across the Nullarbor and at one stage they spent two days wheeling their cycle through heavy sand. Another section was pitted with camel tracks; sometimes the country was overgrown with brush and near the Madura Pass the jagged edge of limestone had been exposed by strong winds.