The surfies and the rockers divided Hunter Street in the early 1960s

Subculture: The cast from Quadrophenia, a cult movie about mods and rockers. Musician Sting starred in the film at age 28.
Subculture: The cast from Quadrophenia, a cult movie about mods and rockers. Musician Sting starred in the film at age 28.

Back in the early 1960s, Newcastle was divided between the surfies and the rockers.

The surfies (obviously) loved to surf and the rockers wore jeans and leather jackets and rode motorbikes.

Topics wrote last week about surfers and revheads in Novocastrian subculture, which generally referred to the ‘70s and ‘80s.

New Lambton’s Ross Greig took us back further to the early ‘60s.

“A famous incident happened in the top end of Newcastle,” Ross said.

At the time, Hunter Street ran through Pacific Park in Newcastle’s East End.

Both sides of the street were dotted with cafes and fish and chip shops, Ross recalled.

Youngsters would hang out there, tucking into hamburgers, milkshakes and ice cream.

“There’d be motorbikes lined up on one side of the street and surfboards on the other,” Ross said.

“The southern side was the surfie side and rockers congregated on the northern side.”

Tension between the two groups came to a head when someone painted a white line down the middle of the road.

The word rockers was painted on one side and surfies on the other.

“They were dividing their territory,” Ross said, adding the story was shown on TV news at the time.

“That’s when police said ‘that’s enough’. They didn’t want a brawl or war.”

The rivalry between surfies and rockers in Newcastle mirrored conflict between the mods and the rockers in England, which was immortalised in the movie Quadrophenia, starring Sting.

“There was less reason to be surfies in England, obviously,” Ross said.

Ross said tension between surfies and rockers in Newcastle and elsewhere appeared to dissipate somewhat, when the Beatles toured Australia in 1964. 

“From then, the young fellers considered being a mod – combing their hair forward and wearing tight suits and skinny ties.

“Blokes started to realise that music was another avenue to impress girls, rather than being a surfie or a rocker.”

Fashions on the Field

Back in the 1980s, shoulder pads were in.

Back in the 1980s, shoulder pads were in.

Speaking of old-time culture, Belmont North’s Diana Taaffe sent us this photo of her two daughters, getting ready to head to a Melbourne Cup party in the 1980s.

“Shoulder pads were the fashion then,” Diana said.

The Naming Game

Rick, of Blackalls Park, told Topics last week about a library with no books at a high school in Maitland.

Rick pointed out that the word library comes from the Latin librarium, meaning “a place to keep books”.

A library without books should be called something else, Rick said. But what?

Reader Sue, a retired librarian, suggested “Information Resource Centre”.

Hmmm. Nice idea, but it sounds a tad bureaucratic. We’d prefer something more modern. How about InfoZone?