They have to be the most amazing holidaymakers in Australia… every year in the life of Barry Childs, almost 65, he has spent his Christmas break in the Port Elliot Caravan Park.
And ever since Barry met his best mate on the beach, Graham Kaesler, 64, when he was just five-years-old, the pair from Hahndorf have come here with their parents or nowadays with their own children and grandchildren.
Coast Lines revealed their incredible 58 year duration at the park several years ago, but it was only recently that Barry’s mother, Betty, realised that he had actually been holidaying here every year since he was eight months old.
With Barry in his 65th year in the park, and Graham having just celebrated his 60th, these likeable larrikins are also well known to other holidaymakers for possibly being the last to wear “Budgie Smugglers” on the pristine beach.
The Childs’ grandchildren are fifth generation holidaymakers at this park, and yep, they’ve booked in again for next Christmas-New Year and plan to continue this fabulous tradition for years to come.
So why come here every year, and why not try somewhere else? “We just love it,” they both said, and their wives, Di Childs and Julie-Ann Kaesler, agreed.
“We’ve also been overseas,” Barry said in a jokingly defensive tone as if we thought he was mad. But then he revealed it was to Thailand for seven years in a row. “Yeah, I guess we’re creatures of habit.”
For Barry, it all started when his grandfather, Stanley Childs, built his own tiny plywood and masonite caravan, and with his wife Gladys would come down here for Christmas.
According to Graham, the thing is, once you give up your spot in the park it’s gone and with so many on the waiting list if you don’t re-book straight away you may never get back in.
As Barry says: “Where else can you go camping or caravaning 50 metres from one of the best beaches in the state and still be so close to home?”
Of course, these blokes have seen a lot of changes, including the move from the old park site 33 years ago. They recalled the days when there was a dump between the current park and the Port Elliot Surf Lifesaving Club and the kids would scrimmage for cardboard or iron and slide on it down the sandhills.
“I remember when we’d back the caravan up to the edge of the cliff and dig out our own makeshift steps so we could just walk straight down on to the beach, but now the park is so well looked after and there are proper places to walk though,” Barry said.
Looked after? These blokes are so well organised that when Graham’s brother-in-law, Ken Swain and his wife, Annette, come here to the same spot weeks before them, he waters and fertilisers their lawn patch so the Kaeslers have this beautiful lawn area. “No one can work out why the grass is always greener where we stay,” Graham said.
The Childs and the Kaeslers are hoping their kids and grandkids continue the tradition, which is most likely because they just love the park.
Julie-Ann said she was not keen on flying and this was the best place in Australia. “All of the kids love this place for different reasons,” she said. And Di – known as “Ace” for years – noted that a lot of people who stay at the park don’t go down to the beach. But no names were mentioned.
It’s almost like home away from home because the influx of Adelaide Hills dwellers – especially Hahndorf – is amazing. Close friends from the old football and basketball days, including Hadyn and Lorraine Duffield, have also been coming here for years too, so when this past or current Hills crew converge on the Port Elliot Caravan Park it’s like a progressive dinner night after night, sharing the meals, the hosts being responsible for the nibbles ’n nuts, and rekindling some wonderful memories with Thomas Cooper & Sons til the early hours of the morn. Other holidaymakers must surely recognise Graham’s voice.
Every Australia Day for decades now the families have headed for the camp kitchen for their traditional breakfast in real Aussie style. Then there are the barbeques and the birthday parties and gatherings just for the heck of it all. In recent years they have always supported the Port Elliot SLSC barbeque nights as their means of saying “thanks”.
The crew and their children and grandchildren will no doubt celebrate Barry’s 65th year and Graham’s 60 years at the park for some time – they have legendary status in this regard – and perhaps ponder for no longer than a fleeting moment what it would be like to go somewhere else for a holiday.
But amongst all of this, some things do change. It is such a remarkable coincidence that Ace and Julie-Ann both bought their husband a pair of board shorts to go swimming in next summer. It seems the Budgie Smugglers won’t be packed again. What a moment that will be; no women and children screaming on the beach.