Encyclopedia Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)

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Sabrina At Point Leo

or was it also Ocean Grove ?

4 January 1959

On 4 January 1959, Sabrina went to Point Leo on the southern coast of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Her role was to present a trophy. Thanks to her attendance, a record 10,000 spectators provided the Point Leo Surf Life Saving Club with a handy income.

The Age - 2 Jan 1959

Feature race at the annual Point Leo surf carnival on Sunday will be the John Marshall Memorial surf race for which the trophy Is a 100-gulnea perpetual cup.

The late John Marshall was a co-founder of the Point Leo club.

Tivoli star Sabrina will present the cup to the winner. Bill Knott, of Anglesea, won It last year and will again compete for it.

The carnival will start at 2 p m. and the feature event is timed for 3 p.m.

She went for a swim - with police protection!

For some context: this is Australia

And this is Ocean Grove and Point Leo, near Melbourne

In case you were wondering, yes : there is a ferry between Sorrento and Queenscliff near Ocean Grove, but that didn't appear until 1987. So it seems Sabrina travelled around the entire girth of Port Phillip Bay to appear in both venues..

Ralf wrote to correct me...

There was a passenger ferry that was established in 1953 that ran from Sorrento to Portsea and then across the bay to Queenscliff. You can find more info at  https://wongm.com/2013/05/sorrento-portsea-queenscliff-ferry/

However, Sabrina probably travelled the road route as there were 7 days between the Ocean Grove and Pt Leo carnivals and I image that she had accommodation and commitments in Melbourne.

Thanks again, Ralf!

But in November 2022, Ralf from the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club wrote to say.

(Editor's note: that seems to be Sabby's mum, Annie, on her right side)

My close examination [of the video of Sabrina supposedly at Point Leo] was primarily due to wishful thinking that I may find some media linking Sabrina to the surf carnival at Ocean Grove. Only then the video started to show its true location. Much to my joy. Now a classic piece of history for my surf club and the township of Ocean Grove.

I have attached a photo taken by a club member of Sabrina sitting amongst the crowd at the Ocean Grove surf carnival. Our clubhouse can be seen in the background and our President, Claude Williams, is just behind Sabrina. There is also a photo that I took from the video of Sabrina in our surf boat. She is sitting at the back of the boat below the sweep. I wouldn't have looked so closely had it not been for the club's Annual Report mentioning that she had been taken out in the boat. Quite a feat for Sabrina as getting rowed out through the surf can be a bit unsettling. I have also attached an excerpt of the Annual Report pertaining to Sabrina.

Glad I have been able to add something to your comprehensive tribute to Sabrina and now I can add something sensational to my club's history.

Thanks, Ralf!

From the Ocean Grove Annual Report 1958-1959

The Club Carnival was well attended by the Public and Competitors alike; and provided an enjoyable days entertainment.

During the afternoon, Sabrina graced our beach by making an appearance, much to the consternation of some officials on the beach. However Sabrina did not upset the Carnival to any degree and remained on the Official Dais until the competitions had been completed.

After distributing the prizes to the various winners she put to sea with the Ocean Grove boat crew who immediately became lost in the oncoming Sea Mist.

We think the boat crew, for once, enjoyed their brief rowing expedition.

We think that, even though some people might not agree with us, Sabrina did not upset our Carnival but rather contributed to the success of the day.

A unique home movie of the occasion was taken, and kindly sent to me in May 2016 by Adrian R.
Many thanks, Adrian!

2022-11-16 - Ralf wrote to say:

Hi. I'm Ralf and I'm the Club Historian at the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club in Victoria Australia. Not far from the Pt Leo Surf Club that Sabrina visited in 1959.
I have been following up reports in our club's 1959 Annual Report and two club newsletters in that year of Sabrina's visit to a surf carnival at Ocean Grove on the 11th January 1959.
This took me to your Encyclopedia Sabrina site and the pages regarding her visit to the surf carnival at Pt Leo on the 4th January 1959.

Disappointed that there was no coverage of her visit to Ocean Grove, I started to note some features in the Pt Leo video and I am 100% convinced it is actually of her visit to Ocean Grove , not Pt Leo.

I am not suggesting that the Pt Leo visit did not occur and the black and white photos of her with lifesavers there confirms that. But there is also a colour photo of Sabrina in a red bikini flanked by 3 police officers which is definitely Ocean Grove as the roof of our clubhouse is obvious in the background together with high sand dunes which is not a feature of the Pt Leo beach, a beach I am family with.

I also have a black and white photo taken of her visit to Ocean Grove with our club's president standing behind her. Sabrina is also taken out in the Ocean Grove surf boat "Gladys Bell" which is mentioned in our club's Annual Report but not your website.

Your Pt Leo story also mentions that Sabrina came prepared with a one piece swim suit but she is obviously in a bikini in the video and the colour photo of her at Ocean Grove. The videos takers suggestion that the video is of Pt Leo may come from the very last seconds of the video showing an Anglesea surf boat at what is very likely Pt Leo.

There may have been more than one video on the film with both Ocean Grove and Pt Leo featured. None the less, the Pt Leo video is definitely Ocean Grove.
Thank you.

More breaking news as it arrives.

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Point Leo information from related pages

John, on the Memories of Sabrina page said

29 September 2010. John H of the Point Leo Surf Life Saving Club - where Sabrina appeared in 1959 - wrote:

Sabrina - Point Leo Life Saving Club 1958

Further to your email to Point Leo SLSC, I mentioned your request to a number to a number of older club members at a luncheon last week, many of these guys were at Point Leo when Sabrina was there and have vivid and fond memories and of course these memories become more vivid and much fonder as time goes by.

From my point of view, I accompanied Alan Forster [club president] (as a wide eyed 18 year old) to pick up Sabrina and her mother from the Regent Theatre in Melbourne to bring her down to the Flinders Pub, where they spent the night before the carnival at Point Leo.

Unfortunately I sat in the back seat with her mother with Sabrina up front with Alan. All they wanted was fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and we were able to buy that in Prahran. My brother Brian, who has been involved in publishing the club's 10 year and our 50 year history book thinks that he may be able to help you with photos.

All the best with your search, she was a nice person, cheers


Brian said on the Colour Pictures page...

Sabrina at Point Leo Life Saving Club 1958

Sabrina at the Point Leo Life Saving Club in 1958, thanks to Brian Horwood. He said:

Attached is the photo we have of Sabrina at a surf carnival at Point Leo in December 1958. She came down to the club during the period she was doing a show at the Tivoli Theatre in Melbourne. She presented the trophy to the winner of a major surf race. Plenty of publicity (about her presence) meant we had something like 10,000 spectators there, giving very good takings at the gate. Trust this photo is of interest to you. Best wishes ... Brian Horwood

The 1959 Life of Sabrina page reports that on the next day, the Melbourne Age wrote...

Record Crowd at Point Leo Carnival

A record crowd yesterday saw John Olsen, of Angelsea, narrowly defeat Victoria's top surf swimmer, Bill Knott, in the John Marshall memoria trophy race at the Point Leo surf carnival.

The crowd, estimated at 14,000, paid 520 pounds at the gate - a record for a Victorian club carnival... Tivoli star Sabrina presented the trophy to Olsen for his win yesterday.

Crowds moved into the competitors' area when sabrina surprised carnival officials by going swimming during the afternoon.

Police and lifesavers forced the crowds backwards while officials warned that they would halt the programme if the area was not cleared.

An unpublished autobiography by a person who worked with Sabrina during her first Australian visit wrote :

Sabrina was a very good swimmer, having learnt to swim when she had polio, so we had invitations from almost every Surf Club and finally chose to visit the Point Leo Surf Club's Annual Carnival. We were collected by the Club Captain, Alan Forster, and on the way Sabrina said she would like fish and chips in a newspaper. All the way down the South Coast she munched on her fish and chips.

On arrival I took one look and prayed that the police had got my message and were there to protect us, but could not see any. There were more than 10,000 swimmers and spectators on the beach. As the car pulled in I really thought it would be turned over. We eventually managed to get into the Club House with the help of those burly lifesavers and outside we could hear the crowd chanting "We want Sabrina".

She had brought a one piece bathing costume to change into and I got into my costume and with the President we braved the crowd. She presented the John Marshall Memorial Surf Race Trophy to winner John Olsen (John Marshall had founded the Club).

Sabrina was then presented with a Club jumper (a bit small) and then she suggested she would go for a swim.

I of course, decided I had better go with her, so did thousands of surfers. Sabrina, being a strong swimmer was soon out beyond the waves. I stood there and just wondered if she would get back as the crowd of swimmers swam out to her. Twice I was knocked off my feet in trying to reach her and shouting for help which everyone thought was just a stunt.

Eventually she came out, as always, quite calm, and sat on the beach chatting to spectators while we just stood around getting our breath. Every move was being photographed and written about.

Point Leo Surf Club would always remember the day Sabrina took over their beach. On our way home we called in at Liberal Member, Robert Dunstan's home for drinks. It was another day over for me with many more to come, just as hectic.

Page Created: 14 May 2016

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