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Lenny Beadell - Larger than Life

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

Memories of Lenny Beadell who remains one of the larger than life figures who dominate our history...By Loma Silsbury, Woomera resident (early 1950s - 1963; 1968 - early 1970s).

Photos credit: Beadell Family.


I learned it is OK to be different....

Len taking some Woomera children to school November 1956

"My own recollections of Len, outside his omnipresent cartooning visits to the Area School in younger years, were based on his arrival, as first point of contact back on the Range, at my post, V8. On these occasions, often in the company of the late Percy Hawkins, copious quantities of steaming hot tea thick enough to stand the spoon, were the preferred beverage. Len would yarn by the hour, showing off a new acquisition (often as not an orphaned marsupial as it was a fossil or rough gemstone of unimaginable beauty), before making his way back to the civilisation which he barely tolerated. Len was ‘quite a character’ and, from him, I learned it is OK to be different"


Soul Medicine no money can buy.....

'We arrived not long after the Rogers Clan (beginning of the 1950’s), lived at the top end of the same ‘U’ - Booromi Street - Educated, married and departed in the opening days of 1963 to return March of 1968 whereby we commuted for a couple of years before heading off to Puckapunyal via Port Wakefield and Inverbrackie. Have continued to haunt the old place on a regular basis ever since – mostly as a civilian/tourist. The very earth has a magnet pull which I cannot explain and, when feeling blue, the only sure fire cure is to head up there, find a rabbit squat or a nice clay pan and pitch camp in order to watch the most magnificent event known to man. Sunrise on the Donga. Soul Medicine no money can buy.'


Len buys a car.... with modifications.......


Woomera children off to school, November 1956

"As a kid at Woomera I have fond memories of Len, covered in road grime, wearing Bombay bloomers atop desert boots, sans socks and laces and, sporting his trademark Stetson with is permanent sweat stains on the brim, as he pulled up out the front of the Area School fresh for a stint on the Gun Barrel.


Len had tall tales and true to relate as he cartooned his way through his latest exploits and you could have heard a pin drop. His dusty Rover packed to the hilt with the necessities of the track – a veritable Aladdin’s Cave to we ‘kids’ . . . Ah so long ago. . .


There were so many stories of this incredible man and his wondrously dry sense of humour so dry it positively crackled. Hard to know where to start however, one particular exploit always brings a chuckle as it is at the expense of a much loved relative of mine now likewise gone on ahead.


Arthur Carolan was real go getter and, upon discharge from the Navy at the end of WWII he became a salesman for BEA Motors at their then King William Street Address. He was not yet 21 as he showed the family through his new job proudly taking in the show room with a sweeping gesture and telling his Uncle (the Pater) one day, Uncle Perce, this will all be mine. True to his word, this came to pass and the elegant Flinders Street Show Rooms will long be remembered for their marble floors and fabulous chandeliers salvaged from the Grand Hotel South Australia.


Enter our Len kitted out in his usual “early Scruffy”, sporting a kit bag and no denture as he wandered around the showroom peering into the illuminated interiors of these latest releases from Germany. Sensing a potential catastrophic confrontation with this country dead beat and real paying customers, Cousin Arthur – ever the gentleman diplomat – rushed over to offer his services and shepherd the great unwashed away from the socially elite.


“Would you care for refreshments sir ? Would you care to take the virtual reality tour of the New Model from drawing board to Showroom Floor ?” he solicitously enquired as he steered Len into a sumptuous office with heavy drapes and mini-theatre set up.


The two settled down with a couple of icy cold drinks and an ample cheese board, for the next hour, curtains drawn, as they discussed the pros and cons of the latest machine, its colour range, availability and, optional extras. Len seemed suitably impressed however, he said, he would need a couple of modifications. Did Arthur think this was possible and, how long would these modifications take. ?


Arthur then started up the second filmette which gave a conducted tour through the workshops which abutted the new prestigious showrooms, explain that providing the modifications did not require any major structural intercession, most client modifications could be completed in and hour or two at the most. Len scratched his stubble chin momentarily then, rising to his feet he approached the movie screen with a ruler and, pointing to the glittering chrome front bumper, asked if it were possible to weld a bracket on to this so he could sling his Canvass Water Bag when he went bush ?

If you reckon this rocked Cousin Arthur to his foundations, that was absolutely nothing to his shattered composure when Len dragged out his dusty Gladstone Bag, slammed it on the polished wood coffee table and promptly proceeded to stack piles of cash neatly in front of their afternoon empties. “Reckon this should cover it” he observed as he clasped the battered bag shut. “Suppose all the on road costs are tossed in for cash, mate?” he said as he hefted the bag and headed for the door leaving my astonished cousin speechless in his wake. “See yah in a couple of hours then, eh ?”

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Postscript....this is one perspective of a story of which there are a number of slightly different versions. Each one has an element of fact and some good story telling!



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