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PROTRACK » GENERAL » A Stawell local reflects on the 80 Stawell Gifts he's watched live.

A Stawell local reflects on the 80 Stawell Gifts he's watched live.

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Changes that helped shape Stawell
Stawell Times
03 Jun, 2011

Stawell - There's not much Stawell identity Curly Hall hasn't seen or experienced in the past nine decades.

Having just turned 90, Curly has lived in Stawell all his life and has seen sweeping changes in that time, including many industries coming and going.

However, it's Curly's passion for sport that grabs the attention. He not only succeeded at football, but took on the men at age 14 in the Stawell to Glenorchy cycle race and actually won, an achievement he will never forget.

Curly also prides himself in the fact he has witnessed every Stawell Gift since 1928 - an astonishing 80 in a row and it would have been more had it not been for the four years the Gift went into recess due to World War II.

"I watched my first Gift in 1928 when an aboriginal by the name of Lynch Cooper won and I have seen every Gift since," he said.

"My brothers ran in the Gift so I was always interested in it. I did run a bit, but wasn't registered.

"I remember watching John Stoney run nine and a half yards inside even time in the 1930s, that was a colossal run and Ravelomanantasoa, to run 12 seconds three times on wet tracks was a mighty effort.

"I was fortunate enough to see Bill Howard win twice and Harry Downes from Portland was a top two miler and a pleasure to watch. I remember a runner named Morgan who used to run in bare feet, he didn't own a pair of shoes. If it was wet, he would try and borrow some but didn't need them. He finished up winning by a lap and a half in bare feet in a race in the 30s."

Other finishes that stick clearly in Curly's mind are the dead heat between Martin and Gardiner in 1947, Cathy Freeman's astonishing win in the women's 400 metres that brought the crowd to their feet and Josh Ross winning the Gift twice, the second time off scratch.

"I remember them all well, there have been some great runs," he said.

Curly said he had been happy with his life, sport of course playing a big part, but he was always prepared to work hard to provide for himself and his family.

After leaving school, Curly worked at the flour mill and at the age of 19, took the mill over. For the next nine years, he never had a day off or a holiday.

That was during the war years and Curly remembers them being very tough times for all businesses.

"The Depression was very tough on everyone. At the end of 1935, people were still feeling the effects of it."

After the flour mill, Curly farmed 500 fowls on his two acre property in Lake Road and also operated a market garden, selling home grown vegetables.

He worked for a few years at the timber mill, but then Curly and his wife opened a family fruit and market garden business in Main Street, one of nine fruit shops to be operating at that time.

"We didn't buy an existing one, we started our own and were told we wouldn't last a month or six weeks," he said.

"We sold out something like 29 years later and proved the knockers wrong.

"I just love growing vegetables and selling them and I'm still doing it now."

Curly's passion for football started at a young age and he was fortunate enough in 1939 to win a grand final with Warriors at Rupanyup by a single point.

Four weeks later, he rode second in a 52 mile bicycle race in Stawell, proving his fitness and agility.

The following year, Swifts and Warriors went into the Ararat and District Association and Curly won not only the Warriors best and fairest, but also the league award and to cap it off, a premiership.

"I got cleaned up and thought I was finished, but I was asked to play finals for Stawell in the Wimmera League," he said.

"They had me at half back, but in the grand final, I was moved into the midfield where I had always played. We won the premiership with Stawell, so I had two in two weeks."

The war sent Wimmera football into recess, but Curly recalls there were two red and black teams in Stawell that would play the Nhill Airforce in matches, just to keep footballers who didn't have to go to war in the game.

Curly kept playing football with Stawell until 1949, when the body told him enough was enough. In that time, he was fortunate to have won four premierships.

"Some people play all their lives and don't win one so I was very lucky. I made some great friends along the way, but most have gone now," he said.

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