This old black and white snap captures my brief turn as Hustling “Jack” Cornwall (all Johns were Jacks in ‘50s Queensland), secretary-manager of the Queensland University boxing team, about to board an Ansett DC3 at Essendon airport with “my boys” for the return flight to Brisbane, August 1954.
As a young veterinary student I was always on the look out for ways to stretch my modest quarterly university allowance of £50. After a short but ruinous stint as the resident student SP book maker – where I’d punted away the profits and then some – my turn as a boxing promoter-cum-manager meant I could tap into the richly funded student union’s “all expenses paid” deal on the intervarsity sporting circuit.
My ‘boys’, students from courses ranging from medicine and engineering to forestry, won every bout they contested from flyweight to light heavyweight in the Intervarsity finals in Melbourne.
Note the Ansett DC3 in the background. Ansett had not yet become a major player in Australia’s two airline policy but was the only airline giving student concessions. His DC3s flew the ‘milk run’ from Melbourne to Brisbane, landing at Wagga, Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Coolangatta and finally Brisbane in a flight that took more than eight hours.
Those were the days, strolling onto the tarmac and climbing up two stairs at the rear of the aircraft for our next big adventure. In fact the DC3s had an excellent safety record. World War II versions had numerous names, particularly the Dakota and the Gooney Bird.
Extract from “After work, After play, After all” (www.afterworkafterplay.com) pp 41-42
‘In 1954 I became aware that the University Students Union was relatively flush with funds and that a substantial amount of this money was allocated each year to pay the fares and expenses of students participating in intervarsity sporting contests. There was no chance of selection in any of the team sports but I thought I must be in with a chance of selection as a lightweight in the boxing team and that year the national university boxing championships were being held in Melbourne. This might be a way to get to Victoria and home for the second term vacation at the union’s expense. I attended the gym three times a week, did a little road work, punching the air like a pro, and took some advice from an old timer who was training us – left lead, right cross, feint, counter punch, uppercut.
‘When my mate Tony Johnston queried the adequacy of my training regimen and more particularly my ability I assured him that I was ‘good with my hands’. It was unfortunate for me that in 1954 the lightweight title was contested by a third year medical student, a skilled and lightning fast southpaw. All my instructions on defence and counterpunching came to nothing and at the end of the first round I felt as though I had been run over by the proverbial Mack truck. I agreed enthusiastically with my seconds and the referee that it would be unwise and probably dangerous for me to emerge for the second round.
‘It was clear that I was not good with my hands so the time had come to use my head. The AGM of the Boxing Club was upon us and they needed an experienced secretary. My credentials for the job were impeccable – six weeks of light training and two minutes of boxing made me a clear choice. Within a month I was flying to Melbourne as secretary-manager of the very successful University of Queensland boxing team’.
Extract from After work, After play, After all (www.afterworkafterplay.com)