Steven (Ox Head) Rea was different. I’m told by Bondi expats living in the Avoca area that despite many years passing, nothing much has changed. Despite keeping very fit and even going as far as tying on the boots for the Nuts ’n Bolts, the Ox suffered not mild but serious Hypochondriasis.
One morning in the mid 60s, Bondi was pumping off the binoculars and we were all down for the early. As usual, Ox was up to his angry antics, getting in the way of everyone and being a general nuisance. Those were the days of instant crowd—us!! If one attempted to sneak out for a wave, everyone else would follow, including Ox, and the mayhem would start again. We needed a plan.
I’m not sure who came up with the idea—perhaps Snoopy or Waldo, aka “the Arm”. We had all heard of the strange diseases Ox often contracted. So, with practiced spontaneity, something along the following lines occurred:
“Shit Steve, are you okay?”… “Why? What’s the matter?” …. “You look crook!”… By this time there were a few ‘ohs’ ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ from the gathering crowd.
“Ox, how long have you had that rash on your neck?” and “I think your glands are swollen.”…. “Have you been coughing?” all fired in rapid staccato.
By this time, Ox was shaking. Alan Watson, who was an electrician and lived close to Ox, offered to drive him home. Steve accepted, saying he felt like death warmed up. He grabbed his things, leaving his towel hanging on the rail at the first ramp and wandered off with Alan.
Out for another surf without the Ox.
At the same time there were two Hamilton brothers who should not be confused with Ross and John Hamilton from North Bondi Surf Club. We called them the Prune, or Billy Laguna and Hollyrock (Hollywood star with a face like a rock). The Prune was a notorious tea leaf attempting to follow in the wake of the Head, but falling far short. We always caught him.
This day, the Prune grabbed Ox Head’s towel, dried himself and wandered off home taking the towel as his prize. No more was thought of it,… until the next morning when Calf Head, the Ox’s younger brother, arrived to tell us that the Ox had the crabs and not to use the towel Ox left behind.
A short while later, the Prune and Hollyrock arrived with the Prune complaining about itching all over and madly scratching his balls. He was quickly diagnosed with the crabs from Ox Head’s towel and we commenced dishing up remedies such as the tried and true “wash with Borax”… “shave your balls” and so on—things that sounded like they might work. Then, Chris Brock came up with “soak your balls in Tarax! This poofta I heard of reckons that works. But you then need to go to Chez Ivy to have them cleaned off.” We all had a great laugh at the Prune’s expense, then Steve Tierney (“Babe”) came up with the goods.
Babe pulled the Prune aside and whispered, “Forget all that shit. You need to go to North Bondi at low tide and get a couple of buckets of small rocks. Take them home, put the rocks in the bath tub, add lots of salt and cold water to cover the rocks, then strip off and sit on the rocks. After soaking for about 15-minutes, let the water out real slow and the crabs will think it is low tide and climb off onto the rocks! Then get out real quick, put on gloves and get rid of the rocks.
Off went the Prune and we discretely followed. About an hour later, Hollyrock opened their front window in Warners Ave and called us up to see the Prune sitting in the bath quietly saying “shoo shoo”. Where were cameras when you needed them.
The Ox stayed in bed for 3 days; so we were later told. Then there was the time he self diagnosed with malaria….