Mike Pointer's incredible journey in LSC&PH - Lord Somers Camp and Power House

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Mike Pointer’s incredible journey in LSC&PH

This evening I thought I would reflect on my journey through this wonderful organisation – Lord Somers Camp and Power House; because I suspect it reflects the journey of most of us. 

It started for me when my name appeared on a school list that I think should have been headed “The following have volunteered to attend Lord Somers Camp”. That was at the end of 1954 and I attended Big Camp in January of 1955. 

I had no idea what Lord Somers Camp was and no idea what to expect, and as a result the week before I was due to attend I became very apprehensive about going, and even considered not going at all; however that thought was overpowered by the feeling of responsibility I had, having already agreed to go. 

Therefore I followed the instructions and presented myself at Flinders Street Railway Station on the appointed hour and day, and found myself surrounded by a group of equally nervous young men, only four of whom I knew as we came from the same school. 

We travelled by train to Bittern, which at that time was a township of 300 people, and then by bus to the camp where I was told I had been allocated to Yellow Group with nineteen other young men, none of whom I knew. 

And that was the start of a great journey. 

That Yellow Group, like all the other groups, consisted 10 boys from schools and 10 young men working for Myers, HV McKay Massey Harris, Oliver J Nielson, PMG’s Department, Coates & Co, Sands & McDougall, Vickers Ruwolt, Moulded Products and Kodak Aust. 

Most of those companies are no longer in business. 

By the end of the week many of these young men became very firm friends, and some of those friendships continue to this day. Unfortunately 1955 Yellow Groupers David Burke and Rob Sublet are no longer with us, although I still have contact with their wives. 

Having spent the previous ten years at an all boys boarding school I actually had a very narrow view of the world without realising it. 

Big Camp changed that in one week. Not only did it broaden my view on life it made me realise that there is something that everyone is good at, and I think that realisation is due to the team spirit component that is involved in all the camp activities. There are no individuals at camp. Everyone is part of a group, and I think that team spirit is best exemplified by the fact that everyone remains around the cross country finishing line until the last competitor finishes. 

I then returned to camp later in 1958 and 1959 as an AGLU (an assistant Group Leader) to David McPherson in Red Group and Charlie Sligo in Light Blue Group, and that was one of life’s great experiences that created another group of lifelong friends. 

I discovered the prerequisite for being an AGLU was the ability to go for an entire week without any sleep and I recall one year leaving camp on the final Saturday absolutely exhausted and going straight to the Power House Rowing Club at Albert Park for a training session but instead of rowing I fell asleep on the club house floor. 

Being an AGLU or a Group Leader gives you the opportunity to see how the camp can affect young men, and women, during the course of a single week. It enables them to develop self confidence, an understanding of others and new friendships. It always amazed me how such a transition could take place in just a few days. 

I think that demonstrates what a visionary Lord Somers was, and particularly when you consider that the objectives of the organisation are the same today as they were 95 years ago. 

Although it is important to note that the Power House modus operandi has changed in that the activities of the organisation are no longer targeted to sporting activities they now include very important and effective social activities such as Mirabel Family Camp, Camp Diversity, Atlas and Very Special Kids Camps. 

However the sporting clubs such as the Power House Football Club, the Power House Rugby Club and the Power House Rowing Club continue as important associates of the organization. 

My own involvement was with the Rowing Club that has had an interesting history. It was established in 1932 and was the reason the organization was able to build its clubhouse on the present Albert Park site. 

The entire organization, including the Rowing Club went into recess during the Second World War, and by the mid 1950’s the rowing club had not recommenced. 

At that time the lake was administered by a trust known as the Albert Park Committee of Management that was chaired by Senator Pat Kennelly, who ran the place like his own personal fiefdom. He appointed his son-in-law as general manager of Albert Park and the trust built a house for him and his family in the park on the corner of Lakeside Drive and Fitzroy Street. That house had to be subsequently demolished to move the family on. 

Pat Kennelly reminded the Power House organization that the tenure at Albert Park required a rowing club and subsequently a small group that included Max O’Brien, Ken Dowdney, Jim Petty and Bill Raper reestablished the Rowing Club. 

I became involved in the late 1950’s when we had a small membership and had a lot of fun rowing in regattas all over Victoria. 

This was the time of very strict and restrictive licensing laws with pubs all closing at 6:00pm and certainly not open on Sundays; however it was also the start of casual dances, and led by Max O’Brien and Ken Dowdney the Rowing Club was able to start a casual Sunday night dance at the Club House. How that all came about is a very interesting part of the organizations history, and is a story to be told at another time. 

The extraordinary and unexpected success of those dances led to other Power House organizations running casual dances on other nights of the week. The proceeds of the Dances were shared with Power House and made a major contribution to the organization at an important time in its history. 

At that time Albert Park Lake was unusable for rowing because it was overgrown with weeds and the proceeds of the dances enabled the rowing club to build a state-of-the-art club house on the Yarra River where it operates today as one of Melbourne’s leading Rowing Clubs. 

My recent involvement with this extraordinary and unique organization has been attending this wonderful weekend once a year when we all have the opportunity to believe that once again we are eighteen years old and enjoy the company of a unique group of friends. 

And together with John Harrison, Jean Bowes, John Robert and Dennis Troedel working on the organizations archives. It is a delight to be immersed in the fantastic and unique history of a 95 year old youth organization that has so many 80 and 90 year old youths who are still actively involved. 

Thank you for indulging me with some reminiscing, and may we continue to enjoy good fun and good fellowship. 

Michael Pointer
16th March 2024 

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