Take a trip back in time to Caves House Yallingup | Along came the surfers in the 1950's

Photo taken in 1962 at Yallingup Caves House Hote, pictured are Des Gaines, Alan Hamer, Dave Williams, Bob Keenan, Ray Evans, Kevin Merifield and Terry Williams. Image supplied by Kevin Merifield.
Photo taken in 1962 at Yallingup Caves House Hote, pictured are Des Gaines, Alan Hamer, Dave Williams, Bob Keenan, Ray Evans, Kevin Merifield and Terry Williams. Image supplied by Kevin Merifield.

The birthplace of surfing in WA really began at Yallingup in the early to mid 1950s when a small group of ex surf lifesaving clubbies ventured down south to tackle the raw elements that Yallingup offered.

Caves House became an integral part of the surfing culture as it evolved over the years providing an outlet where surfers would meet, enjoy a beer and exchange stories of the great times they spent in the surf that day.

Nothing's changed over the years as surfers still gravitate to the grand old lady and rave about the day's events. Just like 60 odd years ago the stories become taller and taller as the night went on.

Initially home at Yallingup was an ex-navy hammock hitched between the melaleuca trees and a camp fire perched on the beachfront overlooking the now famous Yallingup Main Break.

Even back then surfers were different and it took a while for the locals, mainly dairy farmers to come to grips with these weird bods who ventured out into "wild shark infested seas" and were intent on stealing their women at the local Saturday night dances.

Back in the 50's and 60's Caves House was a state owned hotel managed then by Bill Copley.

Fortunately Bill didn`t think the surfing crew were all that bad and after a few years of getting to know them he agreed to let us use the old disused laundry as our new home and hence the "Shack" was born in 1962.

The shack was great, no more sleeping in the rain and only 50 metres to stagger back home after a night out at Caves.

With double decker wire beds it could accommodate about a dozen of the early crew all from the newly formed West Coast Board Riders Club, the first in WA.

There were many memorable times in the shack, taking the piss out of each other being the order of the day.

Trust in the surfing crew grew and there were times when Bill Copley would announce it was closing time being 10pm back then.

We would bid him farewell as he left heading upstairs to his bedroom, take over the bar, pour the beer, put the money in the till, continue drinking for another hour or two, lock up shop and stagger back to the shack and crash for the night in anticipation of hitting the surf at daylight the next morning.

In subsequent years the trust remained with a few of the surfing crew working as bar staff. Harbo (Tony Harbison), Coley (Brian Cole) Jimmy Lick (Jim McKenzie) and George Simpson just to name a few all spent time pouring the beer but also sorting out anyone doing the wrong thing, that usually meant being turfed out by the scruff of the neck by Harbo or George who were both pretty tough cookies.

Darts at Caves was also a regular past time with Harbo being the best of the bunch.

There was the odd brawl or two at Caves usually started by bikies converging on the scene with the intention of taking over the bar, making dickheads of themselves and starting a fight with anyone in their way.

It would be on for young and old and with the help of Harbo, George and a few other hard core surfers that were around, the surfers usually won the day.

Often when the sea breeze was in and the surf crappy a few of the original crew would head to Caves House in the afternoon for a bit of liquid refreshment.

We would camp on the gravel road out front of the public bar playing 78 vinyl trad jazz records on an old wind up gramophone.

We were all jazz lovers and one of the crew Jim Keenan had a favourite it was "I want a gal just like the gal that married dear old Dad."

Well Jim would play it over and over and after about the 10th rendition it would get a bit much and we would all be pleading for a change including the honeymooners at Caves House who would hang out of the windows telling us to shut up.

Back then Caves House was a very popular honeymoon destination.

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Just to further annoy the honeymooners we would often flick up gravel pebbles from the road aiming for their windows during those sessions.

There were times when we would scare the living daylights out of the honeymooners when they would venture down the "ghost trail" at night.

Hiding behind the bushes we would let out weird ghost like noises and when least expected jump out in front of them wearing a white sheet over our heads.

They would very quickly retreat back to the hotel for safety and sanity.

Sunday afternoon sessions at Caves during the 70's and 80's were legendary.

They were a must for Yallingup locals and in particular the surfing crew. Everyone new everyone and were entertained by some great local talent including Gina and Vance Burrows.

The current owners Libby and Neil Jilley have done a great job restoring the pub to its former glory. The "Grand Old Lady" has never looked better.

If you have any memories or photos of Caves House from years gone by that you would like to share, please email editorial@busseltonmail.com.au.

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