Dick's Hotel & Obelisk Beach Family Picnics

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As a child I lived at No 5 Methuen Avenue, in the 1950s & 1960s (see story about the residents in the 1950s and 1960s). My father, Dick Sautelle, worked at that time for the Orient Line and subsequently the P&O Orient Line. Through business he met a delightful Englishman called Arthur Bennett. When Mr Bennett visited Sydney he would stay in a hotel in the city arranging his visits so that he would be in Sydney over the weekend. He did this because what Mr Bennett liked most, when he was in Sydney, was to visit us on a Sunday so that we could take him with us for a family picnic at Obelisk Beach.

On one occasion when Mr Bennett was not coming by ferry he came by cab and asked the driver to take him to Dick Sautelle in Methuen Avenue, Mosman. With Mr Bennett’s English accent, and the cab driver’s lack of local knowledge, the cab driver thought that Mr Bennett had said “Take me to Dick’s Hotel in Mosman”. For evermore we have referred to our family home as Dick’s Hotel.

The Sunday routine was the “car pool” (not called that in those days) – to take the local children to Sunday school at St Clements Anglican Church. Back home from Sunday school, Mum would have the picnic gear organised to take-off, soon after, for Obelisk Beach. We all carried something from the car, down the bush track, to the beach. Once at the beach we had our “reserve” location at the eastern end and would join the Langbys (my Aunt, Uncle and cousin, Warwick, and their friends, the Mobbs). In the middle of the beach, the Diamond Family had their spot and at the western end was a group including The Dunbars and the “Mayor of Obelisk”, Mr Richardson (aka Tony Chestnut – toe/knee/chest/nut), his wife and son, Richard Thorpe.

Picnics and BBQs at Obelisk were just wonderful – BBQ made from rocks and sticks and the snags in a grill resting on these rocks. The worst part was having to wait half an hour after lunch before returning to the water for the last swim before going home. If Mr Bennett were with us he would sleep on the front verandah in the cane lounge and then return to Martin Hall (? sp).

They were idyllic days…

Eve · 31 August 2006

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Not as fatigued as when writing my previous memories. Obelisk I fished from often, after school or Saturdays when not working…around age 10 . Above it was the housing of the Army barracks..where Charlie Tobin’s beautiful girlfriend lived…Sonia…They were closer to the entry of the Naval Depot than the army and further along the road south of Obelisk was the barracks…The Obelisk exists in the park off Military Road, Rawson Oval area there but so exists further around a naval relic, a mast ...from the old Sydney I think…

This area as are other areas in Middle Harbour, riddled with artillery magazines and transort tunnels leading to gun emplacements. All that from the sandstone wall near Taronga right through was apart of the defence against the “Red Peril”

I spent days, perhaps weeks over several years in those tunnels from Taronga through to the gun emplacements as a young explorer….occasionally frantic when walking into huge spider webs.

Years later I took my young children down to Obelisk to show them where I had fished when young. I gulped…a man stood on the single exposed rock to the left, jutting above the scrub …it has a name, I have forgotten…’castle rock’ perhaps… he looking like a post among the bush…and he had a more minor projection at right angles to his own bush!...”look Daddy…that man has no clothes”...”well, probably a pervert seeking attention…stay away from anyone you see like that…”...we walked forward and below was a mass of naked flesh and hirsute genitalia…..a gynacologists worst nightmare…Obelisk had changed…a whole secluded beach, but one with much history, has become a place for nudists or people who are comfortable with nudists. It used to suffer from bottles and rubbish drifting in but was no cleaner when occupied…

When I fished there it was rare to see another person there…I loved its solitariness….there were not flotilla of launches anchored in the bay with binoculars foraging for titllation on warm weekends as came later.

When the Military was leaving these areas south of Obelisk, I revisited the buildings…fabulous, empty buildings, tunnels…views to die for…and as usual they have been turned over to commmerce…and there is a point in that though one might recall the Bather’s Pavilion Fiasco..but some good came of that one I hope as through my representations to the Department controlling the land (not to council, it had an agenda already) about incorrectly used land.

Hopefully down in these old services residential areas the commercial establishments will be forced to maintain the buildings to “as were” condition and not allowed to rot and have the ratepayer pay. This is even a greater spot than Balmoral Beach in many ways…like going back in time…whereas at Balmoral even the evidence of the great fraud…the ampitheatre is really gone…and around the rocks of Wyargine some years ago I saw piles of debris and sandstone from some uncaring developer above….Vigilence is needed in these magic spots of Mosman.

These are real issues when these trade-offs occur amongst mutual admiration cliques. Just as a tale in case I forget..and it might warn someone…in the Balmoral rock pool I found two blue ringed octopus. I called the council manager to suggest some warning might be placed there. “Warning sign!!...what do you mean warning sign Mr Clancy”...we don’t want to turn people off going to Balmoral!”...well Mr. X…this is not about turning people away but protecting them against possible death….in other words ensuring they can all return to Balmoral!...you already have a sign warning of sharks and John Willis was killed at Wyargine and there was another attack outside Balmoral baths..(no sign there, I added)...but a child or adult could easily step on a blue ringed octopus when they thought it a safe place”...”Not interested Mr Clancy”..”So you refuse to send someone down to see these octopus or to take my word for it and make a warning” ?.


“well I will remember this conversation if ever a fatality occurs”...maybe others will after I am gone…

Down around nearer Taronga, not on the Athol side, the other below the gun emplacement one passed the old ‘20s’ tea house on one’s left “sur la route” to the water and there reasonably near the land edge is a old Greek carving there…carved onto a rock under the sea….worn a little from the constant sea.

I will not deviate too far as there are no facilities to edit these contributions once posted.

I recall very well the Parer’s Burley Griffin house at Clifton Gardens and further below them the Hotel which was alongside the baths there and the magnificent old barracks on the opposite point. One thing the military DID do was look after the properties. Private enterprise avoids everything it can avoid. Even when tax benefits occur capital expenditure on maintenance..and the benefits of depreciation tax allowances…are weighed against other wants rather than being applied to fulfil commitments or to restore property using depreciation tax benefits gained.

You know… traditional Mosman was Sydney’s outstanding beauty, as was Elizabeth Bay and up around to the lighthouse there but Mosman was better place, even without the light house…..

.Back around the back way from Obelisk and up through past Taronga was once a tip, just north of Taronga’s carpark….down near where Mrs Frewn lives….where I scavenged for radio parts around 10 years old.

I seem to remember that….as there was at Balmoral at one time…some kind of artists camp not far from there but well before my time. Was that why the artistic Delpratts moved to Balmoral years before I was a young teenager …I wonder.

Halcyon days unnecessarily taken from the community; days of Keats poetry and idleness, uncrowded places, lovely architecture, somehow naturally restful to the soul, fishing, peaceful walks, mind spinning webs of magic and philosophy in the sunny drowsiness…or the rain whiiiishing against a Mosman window as one sits alongside the coal fire, bags delivered to your home, looking at life outside through the mind activating blur, cocoa steaming in your mug…reading, dreaming, comfortable and loved and not harassed by the omnipresence of greed, latchkey parents and day care centres..

— Tony Clancy · 8 February 2008, 01:40 · #