Thanks to Lee O’Hara for providing these lovely words for her grandfather, Lawrence George “Lockie” O’Hara.
Lockie was born on 16th October 1913 in Penshurst in the Western District. His family moved to Geelong when he was about 5 years old. His mother used to say he was as hard as the hobs in hell, as he was so tough.
He always had a lot of seasonal jobs as a youngster to earn a bit of money to get into the footy - he sold newspapers, worked in a bike shop. He loved cycling and rode his bike from Geelong to Melbourne for fun. As a young man, he worked for the Dalgety Wool Stores during WWII, but then left that job in 1947 and took on the role of a stevedore at the Port of Geelong. He made steadfast friends on the wharf and was well-liked. He also strongly supported the union and workers' rights.
He didn't drink, but he smoked until he was about 55 years old. Being a teetotaller meant he was chosen to work on the winch, as he was deemed more responsible. He was a cheeky larrikin who loved stirring the sailors from the ships, by calling the Indians Pakistanis and vice versa, for example. Not out of malice, just for his idea of a laugh. He often asked the international sailors for matchboxes, which he took home to his granddaughter (me - I still have the collection of the matchbox lid covers). He loved dancing and was a great dancer. He also loved jazz - Louis Armstrong in particular.
He married a local girl when he was 22 - Hazel - and they had 4 children. The highlight of his career was that he was able to work enough on the wharf to look after his family. He was number 31. He only worked when a ship was in port.
In 1953, he had a serious accident - the ship he was working on (it might have been The River Hunter) had a leaking winch. As he was walking away for smoko, he walked in front of the winch and the other guy there didn't know that there was a problem with the winch. It swung out and knocked him off the boat and onto the pier, severely injuring him after a fall of 32 feet. He spent about 6 weeks in hospital with a fractured skull and ended up blind in his left eye and deaf in his left ear. But he didn't let this stop him, and he went back to his work as a wharfie once he had sufficiently recovered.
As soon as he turned 65, he retired, proud to become a lifetime member of the Waterside Workers' Federation, but happy to be able to put up his feet.