Ken Smith "Smithy"
2 March 1942 - 1 June 2023
Ken's funeral was at St Matthew's Anglican Church on Wednesday, June 14.
His son Jason welcomed all those who travelled for the service, and the many more who sent their condolences to the family.
Ken was born in Ryde, the oldest son of Fred and Eunice and one of six siblings: he had older sisters Beverley and Desly and younger siblings Deidre, Garrie and Averil.
Desley, in a tribute read by son Reiner, described her brother as a very quiet child of deep thought.
A few of her recollections included the day he brought home a goat, which had been given to him as a gift. Unfortunately it ate all the washing on the clothesline and it had to go.
One cracker night, young Kenny dropped a bunger in the box of crackers and the whole night's entertainment exploded in one go. A sadly early night for all.
On another occasion Kenny and a friend found an old bathtub. They wanted to play pirates and sail their ship down the local creek - unfortunately the tub had no plug so the boys fashioned one out of packed mud.
The ship sank when the mud gave out, and they were forced to haul it ashore.
In 1953, unfortunately the family unit split and the children were placed in Burnside homes- Parramatta. Dad did speak of his time at Burnside, generally in a positive manner.
He lived in "Son of the Rock" from 1953 till 1958. Jobs at Burnside included working in the veggie patch, collecting milk in the dairy and generally keeping themselves and their surroundings neat and tidy, as well as going to school and classes.
Games such as Cocky Laura and British bulldog were popular, as was swimming and Rugby League. Dad's best subject at school was PE.
Beverly was instrumental in getting Dad an apprenticeship on the railway as a train driver, after he left Burnside homes. But he was on the verge of having to sleep rough, unable to get accommodation without any money up front. He went house to house seeking board and found it with Mr and Mrs Stubbs at Concord - fortunately Mr Stubbs said yes after Mrs Stubbs said no.
Dad shovelled the coal for the steam trains as part of his apprenticeship and completed the run from Central to western Sydney - daily. Even with his dementia he could still rattle off all the stations in correct order!
One night his boss was late & drunk to get on the train, so dad had to drive it, despite the fact he hadn't been in the role very long! He was a quick learner.
Dad was a big believer in the underdog, these early days certainly toughened him up and he always looked for equality and a fair go for everyone. He hated to see anyone mistreated or not respected. He was also very generous in his nature to anyone that needed a hand.
Dad recalled many good times playing for Burnside Homes, which saw him hone his skills for his adult career. They had a good coach, he was also a teacher at the home.
Dad made a few rep sides and was coached by Harry Wells, a fine centre that played international footy for the Kangaroos. Harry was on tour with Ian Walsh in the 1958-9 Kangaroo side, which played 37 games on the UK tour.
Walshy needed a young 5/8- centre at Eugowra. Harry had just the bloke - Harry suggested a young 5/8, called Ken Smith would be a good fit at Eugowra.
Next thing, Dad flew to Parkes - with the pressure of a cattle class train return trip if he didn't perform!
It would be his first and his last flight - he said it was a shocker and vowed never to fly again, which he never did.
Dad played first grade for Eugowra from 1960 - 1966, winning four straight premierships and Captain/Coaching in 1966. His time in the top grade made him a local legend in a town that had produced some sporting icons.
He was fortunate to play in a team with plenty of talent and heart, which he loved. He loved playing for Eugowra, a town which had embraced him.
Barry Beath took the microphone to speak of Kenny's early football days in Eugowra, playing under captain / coach Ian Walsh in 1960/61 before John Hobby began coaching in 1962.
Hobbs was captain / coach when Eugowra won three consecutive Group 11 first division premierships between 1963 and 1965, and Ken took the role for the fourth premiership in a row in 1966.
Barry came to Eugowra in 1962 being one of the Gooloogong boys who were part of the glory days of Eugowra rugby league.
He distinctly remembers Hobbs hated flick passes, which Kenny and Frank Glover persisted in doing. As a result they were dropped from a game - much to everyone's surprise.
Barry was impressed that Kenny went from 5/8 for Eugowra in the 1960s to playing on the wing for West Newcastle in a 1970 premiership.
To quote the Tina Turner song, as a player Kenny was "simply the best".
Life in Eugowra
In 1960, Dad's first job was with Theo WyKamp, a local identity and mechanic.
Theo was a real character and included Dad in all his crazy ideas. A few of these included Dad and Theo catching a few of Mrs Donaldson's turkeys to cook for Sunday lunch, with a big long piece of wire to hook up their legs. They made a hell of a noise as they chased them trying to hook them by the legs! Dad said Dawn made a beautiful roast dinner with them.
Theo also got Dad on a motor bike, which dislodged him out the front of the Cafe and also on a horse which bucked him off over a fence. No major injuries from these episodes thankfully.
He also held jobs at Boree Shire Council working with Ted Molloy and Brian Shine.
He worked a long time at the Chaff Mill - lugging bales of hay which was great as there was no gym memberships in those days, so this line of work kept him fit for footy.
The footy Club had a few paid players accommodated in the Central Hotel. Very smart really, as when I spoke to Dad about what they did, he said, played cards, smoked, had a few beers, talked and planned for footy games. No wonder Eugowra was a powerhouse in the 1960's in group 11.
The accommodation at the central was referred to as "Beverly Hills". He was in Room 9 and shared this with Ted Archer. Many paid football players lived here including, Frankie Glover, Hobbs, Tinker Tailor and Bomber (Lionel Bloomfield). Dad enjoyed their company and the banter.
Mum and Dad met in town and had their first date at the movies in August 1960. They would go to the parties and picnics and general community activities. Dad got on well with the Archers, particularly Nan (Doris Archer) mum's mother.
They married on the 25th of April, Anzac day, 1966, the same year Dad captain coached, which meant the wedding had to fit in with the football draw! Winning the comp as captain/coach and getting married made 1966 a big year.
In 1967, Dad Captain Coached in Coolah and also worked as a roust-about. It was a good financial decision, but not a lot of footy success due to the socialising from the local lads.
Late in 1967, Dad trialled for Wests Newcastle and got a contract with the Rosellas.
From 1968 to 1974 dad played for Wests Newcastle. He was a bit awestruck by how hard the training looked when he got there, particularly the road runs up around Blackbutt but he was a perfect fit for the Rosellas. All up he played 133 games for Wests- 54 -1st grade- 48 reserves- 31 thirds.
He was known as a utility player and played all positions except hooker in his time at WESTS. He was even selected on the wing in the 1970 Grand Final v Maitland Pumpkin Pickers. He had a great game in the Johnny Raper captain/coached side and capped off the win with a try.
Dad spoke highly of Glenn Maloney (Secretary -Manager of Wests) Glen helped Mum and Dad with their first house in Shortland and also employment, which made Wests a great family friendly club.
In 1968, I was born and then Nathan in 1972. Dad was very proud of the family he and Mum had created.
Dad worked across many industries including: the Wool stores, BHP, Cellar man - they were good jobs and he met some great people.
Dad loved the lifestyle in Newcastle, which included beach fishing & prawning at Stockton beach along with many family orientated activities.
Back to Eugowra
In 1974 Mum and Dad move back to Eugowra due to the loss of Alan and Ian, Mum's brothers, in a catastrophic family year.
Dad worked hard on the farm to cut, rake and press hay with our Uncle, Tom Megaw. He also graded wheat with Mick Mongan plus various other labouring jobs.
There was a comeback in 1974-75 with Dad teaming up with fellow frontrower David Glasson to play his final season in Eugowra.
For 28 years, Dad worked on the Parkes Railway with John Mackenzie, Ted Round & many other good friends. The last 12 to 14 years he worked way out west at places like Roto- Hillston, Menindee and Ivanhoe. He worked up to 14 - 21 days away at a time. Some of the people he worked with included Bourkey, Red eye, Graham Coleman, Johnny Burton- all becoming very good mates.
During this time away, blokes like Billy Hoswell and Graham Hoswell did a lot to help out on the farm.
Dad worked simultaneously on the railway & the farm in his time off, a huge effort really, indicative of his strong work ethic. It reflected another strong personal trait of his toughness, he rarely complained of illness, injury or his work.
He also had a stint growing Australian natives, with a view to selling them to create another cashflow source. All up there were 400 various native trees & shrubs, This was until a mob a sheep ate the them out, can't knock Dad for trying so many different ventures!
He was also the local SP bookie for a while, working with Kevin Norris, which tied in with his great love of a punt. Our place also hosted many card nights, which were always eagerly anticipated, with raucous laughter & merriment into the early hours of the morning.
Over the years, Stan Rawsthorn became a very close mate of Dads. They had Friday nights at the pub and Saturday mornings working out their bets. Stan worked with Dad on the veggies and tomatoes & became very close to the family.
Dad was involved with APEX during this time, working with guys like Ted Hay. Many laughs were had along with many BBQs/parties/celebrations. APEX contributed a lot to the local community & these guys were always busy. Mum & dad had many great memories from this time.
The green shed played a big part on the farm. It was Dad's "man cave", this was way before the term came into vogue. Most days he had the radio on, listening to the races/news, a few cold ones in the fridge and selling veggies to customers. We also sold relish/jams, made by Mum.
Prior to the shed being built, most fruit and veg was sent to Flemington Markets in Sydney. Semi-Trailers of watermelons and pumpkins were picked daily over the month of February, which was always hot.
In recent years we had to scale back the farm to mainly growing tomatoes and cucumbers, Down From 1-2000 plants down to a couple of 100.
Dad received lots of help from Johnny Dukes, who has became pretty much the third brother in our family.
Julie and John Jukes stepped in to assist Mum and Dad in everyday life, helping to pick the oranges/Tomatoes/, fixing busted machinery, helping with house issues and generally keeping an eye out.
Dad always had to keep the yard neat and tidy, he loved chipping burrs , mowing the grass and raking leaves.
He also enjoyed travels across Australia, with group bus trips with friends, travelling across the continent. He went to all states and territories except Tasmania.
He did make it to Tasmania for a wedding but by ship of course, not a plane, as he said he could swim but not fly.
Dad was very proud of the grandchildren and what they were able to achieve. I think he was extremely grateful that the family he and Mum had created was so happy.
On the 14th of November 2022, the big flood hit and devastated Eugowra. A few times that day, we thought Mum and Dad had gone. They were trapped in the water for hours.
The flood and the clean up /rebuild made the last seven months very hard for the whole community.
The process of rebuilding was extremely difficult for Dad to comprehend with his dementia. There were too many changes and he just wanted the "old life" back to what it was.
For the past five months, Mum and Dad took to "glamping" in the back of the house, whilst waiting for the rebuild, amongst medical appointments, red tape and bureaucracy.
It was a hell of an end to Dad's time in Eugowra.
To use some card playing terms, Dad you were dealt a pretty rough hand early, but you certainly played it well throughout your life.
You bluffed a few, trumped a lot, aced many and definitely came out way ahead.
To quote Kenny Rogers, you knew when to "hold them and when to fold them"
Dad, you have left behind an amazing legacy and I invite each of you here to day to keep Dad alive in your hearts and memories.
Granddaughter Madison concluded with tributes from Kenny's grandchildren - herself, Libby, Lachlan and Maggie. All spoke of their love for their Poppy.
Each learned to drive on the farm in the old ute and helped pick the veggies including the prize-winning tomatoes their Poppy was so proud of.
There was always a supply of Pop's old workshirts in the shed because they were needed for on-farm activities, chief of which was the mud cake making enterprise.
The play kitchen under the tree produced cake after cake from wheelbarrows of Poppy's soil - flavoured with locusts during the plague and decorated with flowers from Grandma's garden.
Kenny took a great interest in all the grandkids' activities and a high point was when Madi and Libby won the Western women's rugby league grand finals with Orange Vipers - on the Eugowra football field where their Poppy had experienced such success.