Cycling in Sydney Australia
I heard over the weekend that Jack Walsh's Punchbowl bicycle shop has closed. It truly marks the passing of an era in Sydney's south-west and in Australian cycling. Jack once rebuilt a set of wheels for a road bike of mine and his handiwork is a prized posession of mine. Jack has run his shop on Punchbowl road continuously for 65 years. The shop has some fantastic murals, and the obligatory selection of cycling photos, some of which have made their way to his great mate Mick Mazza's shop on Marrickville Road, Marrickville. More on Mick later.
I haven't been out to Punchbowl for a while so I can't confirm his shop's shut, but it's got me thinking (and linking) to a few little web snippets about the man. I hope I'm wrong and that someone has taken it over and respected Jack's great work for cycling and retained the murals and the classic look of the shop. Sadly, methinks not.
According to MP Tony Stewart, who delivered a short biography of the great man in the NSW Parliament in 2006, the now-85 year old Jack Walsh is one of Bankstown's 'living legends'. "Jack started work at the age of 13, when his father died. He was left the breadwinner for his family. He looked after his family courageously and well. At 14 he entered an apprenticeship, which changed his life forever. The apprenticeship was at F. D. Walcott, a large bicycle shop situated in Wentworth Avenue, Sydney. Jack quickly showed his love for bicycle racing. He was an athletic young man. It did not take long before he was into bicycle racing. During that same year, when he was only 14 years of age, he won his first junior New South Wales championship at Canterbury velodrome, which is now Wiley Park.
Jack went on to win 21 Australian championships and 19 New South Wales championships. As a professional, Jack beat every rider he met—including overseas champions—at sprint races and half-mile races. When the war broke out in the 1940s Jack served his country in the Pacific, which meant that he was unable to continue his athletic career in bicycle racing. He also missed out on a guernsey in the Olympic Games, which were cancelled in 1940. Nevertheless, Jack was a living legend even back then. He has provided opportunities for many people who have been under his wing. Under his guidance, they have become sporting stars and sporting heroes. Jack was paramount in ensuring the Bankstown velodrome was used as an Olympic facility and for servicing the needs of riders during the games. Jack is a family man. He has eight children and 19 grandchildren. Throughout his life he has been an amazing character. He has been generous to charity. He gives away thousands and thousands of dollars to local charities and wider charities without a word said. He never wants credit for his generosity. He actually says, "Please don't tell anybody."
In 1964 he was decorated by the Queen and received an OBE. He is a life member of the Roads and Traffic Authority and the League of New South Wales Wheelmen. He is also a member of the Bankstown City Hall of Fame."
What a legend. According to Mick Mazza, Jack is now in a nursing home. I wonder if he still owns this amazing piece of cycling memorabilia?
While I'm on this tangent, Mick himself is muttering about giving the gig away. His health's not so good, and he tells me he wants more time to lift weights and get back into shape. Since he had his health problems, he's been off the bike and grumbles about it constantly. Now he's all that's left of Sout-west Sydney's cycling history.
If he ever sells, I'd like to buy the business, keep the name, the photos, the memorabilia and history and keep his tradition going of keeping EVERYONE, regardless of their income status, on their wheels. If you've ever entertained this thought, get in touch, I'd like to discuss it. We could do this and keep a legendary name in cycling going.