A dream that be­came a night­mare

Old Bike Australasia - - TRACKS IN TIME -

You’ve heard of the ex­pres­sion, “Money for jam”? Well, it could have been coined to de­scribe the for­tunes of the Lack­er­steen fam­ily, who owned a grand old man­sion called Glen­downer on the cor­ner of Con­sti­tu­tion Road and Bel­more Street, Ryde; at the time, in Sydney’s ge­o­graph­i­cal cen­tre. The house it­self had been built on a very large par­cel of land in 1890 by Ben­jamin Charles Mar­tyn, but the Lack­er­steens be­came the res­i­dents in 1907 and re­mained there un­til the house was de­mol­ished in 1964 to make way for the Hoover spare parts fac­tory. When Hoover moved out in 1999 Ryde Coun­cil pur­chased the fac­tory and it be­came their Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre. The Lack­er­steen fam­ily owned fac­to­ries in in­ner-city Glebe and Cam­per­down pro­duc­ing jams, mar­malades and other condi­ments, with pro­duce sourced from hold­ings in the Rive­rina, Bathurst (where they had a pulp­ing fac­tory in Rankin Street orig­i­nally man­aged by Arch Lack­er­steen) and the NSW Cen­tral Coast. The Lack­er­steen Condi­ment Com­pany was es­tab­lished around 1870 by Au­gus­tus Lack­er­steen and his sons Frank and Archibald sub­se­quently as­sumed con­trol. Archibald ‘Arch’ Lack­er­steen, a pi­o­neer of the Gos­ford district, was de­ter­mined to forge a ca­reer of his own, and at the ten­der age of 14 ½ years was asked what his am­bi­tions in life were. He replied that he in­tended mak­ing money from the land. His friend told him he was wast­ing his time, as the land was “so poor, even a bandi­coot couldn’t live on it.” How­ever Arch stuck to his in­ten­tions, and while still a youth had de­vel­oped 96 acres of prop­erty near Ourim­bah on which 10,000 fruit trees were flour­ish­ing. Although not a sportsman him­self, Arch be­came a pa­tron of an al­most end­less num­ber of sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions on the Cen­tral Coast and in Bathurst. He do­nated tro­phies (no­tably the Lanker­steen Cup for Rugby which was con­tested in the Bathurst district for many years) and spon­sored clubs as­so­ci­ated with hockey, trot­ting, vig­oro, cricket and foot­ball. He also stated that he con­sid­ered “the sport of motor cy­cling is typ­i­cal of the Aus­tralian youth, and he would there­fore do all in his

power to fos­ter the sport.” He fur­ther said that it was his be­lief that “the time must come when both Sydney and New­cas­tle will be­come so con­gested that res­i­dents would find it nec­es­sary to seek re­lax­ation in the near coun­try ar­eas. Gos­ford, be­ing mid­way be­tween these two cities, of­fers the ideal lo­ca­tion.” Pre­scient words in­deed.

By the time he was well into his six­ties, Arch Lack­er­steen was a ma­jor land­holder in the district, and in 1949 de­cided to donate 257 acres of land at Somersby to Gos­ford Shire Coun­cil for a sports and recre­ation area on the con­di­tion that the coun­cil formed a three-mile “Clas­sic TT” cir­cuit for mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing on 131 acres of the land. He fur­ther of­fered to pay £100 per mile to­wards the cost of con­struc­tion of the track, which had to be com­pleted within a pe­riod of three years. Un­der the con­di­tions for the trans­fer of the land, the coun­cil would re­ceive 10 per cent of the net pro­ceeds of all meet­ings held on the track, with an­other 5 per cent to a char­ity to be nom­i­nated by Mr Lack­er­steen. The con­di­tions also stip­u­lated that the track be made avail­able to the Auto Cy­cle Union of NSW for 26 week­ends per year, as well as all hol­i­day week­ends. The land was lo­cated right be­side what is now the Sydney-New­cas­tle Free­way, near the in­ter­sec­tion of Dog Trap Road and Moun­tain Road, Somersby. One vis­it­ing jour­nal­ist de­scribed the set­ting thus. “Bub­bling springs, wa­ter­falls, tall tim­ber, moss-laden val­leys, the rich smell of pine trees, and mag­nif­i­cent scenery. That is ‘Lack­er­steen Park’. This beau­ti­ful prop­erty is sit­u­ated within the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Gos­ford, mid­way be­tween Sydney and New­cas­tle, and has been in the hands of the Lack­er­steen fam­ily for over sixty years. From the high­est point of the es­tate one looks down on Tug­gerah Lakes, and on clear days can see well out to sea.” The pro­posed new bi­tu­men-sealed “TT Cir­cuit” was in ad­di­tion to a one-mile oiled-dirt “Minia­ture TT” track that al­ready ex­isted on the Lack­er­steen Park

prop­erty. This had been built by vol­un­teers and mem­bers of the Gos­ford District Motor Cy­cle Club, whose pres­i­dent, lo­cal dealer Jack Ryan, was ef­fu­sive in his praise. “Mo­tor­cy­clists look on Mr Lack­er­steen as a ‘fairy god­fa­ther’. It is the first land grant ever made for motor cy­cling in Aus­tralia,” he told the lo­cal news­pa­per. While the ACU would con­trol the new cir­cuit (in­clud­ing sub­leas­ing on se­lected dates to the Aus­tralian Sport­ing Car Club), the Gos­ford club would re­tain con­trol of the dirt track. Mr Ryan pointed out that the future of the Mount Panorama cir­cuit at Bathurst, which had at­tracted a crowd of 30,000 at Easter 1949, was un­cer­tain given the po­lice ob­jec­tions to clos­ing the pub­lic road for motor rac­ing. (In 1947 the an­nual Easter week­end races at Bathurst were can­celled af­ter po­lice re­fused the ap­pli­ca­tion to close the pub­lic roads. Af­ter le­gal ac­tion, the event was held in Oc­to­ber). He said that Lack­er­steen Park was ideally po­si­tioned to take over as the state’s pre­mier rac­ing venue. Gos­ford Coun­cil how­ever, was non­com­mit­tal on the ex­tremely gen­er­ous of­fer, stat­ing only that if it chose to pro­ceed with the scheme, it would set up a com­mit­tee of six, com­pris­ing three each from coun­cil and the ACU. While the pro­posal awaited coun­cil’s dis­cus­sion, Gos­ford Club stepped up ac­tiv­ity at the dirt track, pro­mot­ing the big­gest-yet meet­ing on Au­gust 28. Star of the day was the dash­ing Eric Deben­ham, who took out the Trans­port Queen Cup, while Ray Ver­non shat­tered Tony McAlpine’s five-lap record by five sec­onds. An­other meet­ing, sched­ule for Oc­to­ber 23rd, had to be post­poned be­cause of a short­age of petrol, and was restaged on Novem­ber 13. All was not well how­ever, with Arch Lack­er­steen’s phil­an­thropic ges­ture, nor with his own health. Be­fore the of­fer could be ac­cepted, the Lands Depart­ment be­gan moves to re­sume the land for the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture which had se­lected it as a site for a Citrus Re­search Sta­tion. An­other re­port said that the Lack­er­steen fam­ily dis­puted the le­gal­ity of the do­na­tion and suc­cess­fully legally chal­lenged Mr Lack­er­steen’s san­ity. Un­like the coun­cil de­lib­er­a­tions, the Lands Depart­ment moved quickly, and Lack­er­steen Park hosted its fi­nal dirt track meet­ing on Fe­bru­ary 26th, 1950 where the star rid­ers were Ivan Martin and Ron Fal­coner. The Gos­ford club wasted no time in find­ing a new home, which was named Jus­frute Park, at West Gos­ford, on land owned by Jus­frute Lim­ited’s Colonel G. Ad­cock and Guy Ad­cock. The cir­cuit opened on May 28th, 1950.

Af­ter be­ing hos­pi­talised sev­eral times in the pre­ced­ing year, Arch Lack­er­steen passed away at Roma Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal, Gos­ford, on Jan­uary 5th, 1951, aged 70. Speak­ing at the funeral at Ryde Ceme­tery, Jack Ryan said, “Mr Lack­er­steen was the great­est friend the (Gos­ford) club had known. He was al­ways will­ing to lend the club as­sis­tance and had been of in­es­timable help in set­ting it soundly on its feet.”

It must have been dis­tress­ing for Arch Lack­er­steen that his dream of cre­at­ing a fully-fledged mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing cir­cuit failed to reach fruition. He talked of­ten of his plans for the venue, say­ing that it would be far more than a world-class race track. He wanted to in­clude “elab­o­rate chil­dren’s play­grounds com­plete with swings, slip­pery dips, wa­ter sprays, sand pits, and all the other things that de­light the hearts of small chil­dren, to­gether with cricket fields, foot­ball grounds and ten­nis courts – what­ever youth de­mands for out­door sport”. When asked why he had made this ex­cel­lent gift to youth, his re­ply was that it gave him much plea­sure to do things which oth­ers, per­haps, would not think of do­ing.

Left to right: Ed­die McCutcheon, Glen Smith, Archibald Lack­er­steen, An­thony Ben­de­ich, Vic McCutcheon, Earl Al­lan, Owen Crosland and Sid Crosland.

ABOVE LEFT Glen­downer, the Lack­er­steen fam­ily home at 1 Con­sti­tu­tion Rd Ryde. ABOVE Lack­er­steen’s fa­mous prod­uct. BE­LOW Map show­ing the lo­ca­tion of Lack­er­steen Park, just off the now M1 Mo­tor­way near Gos­ford, NSW.

MAIN New­cas­tle rider Ray Ver­non, who set a new lap record at Lack­er­steen Park in 1949. INSET Ad­vert from the Gos­ford Times, 1949. ABOVE Tony McAlpine, orig­i­nal lap record holder at the Lack­er­steen Park dirt track.

LEFT Short-lived suc­ces­sor to Lack­er­steen Park, Jus­frute Park in Gos­ford.

ABOVE Eric Deben­ham starred at the Au­gust 1949 meet­ing.

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