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Old-Timers: Magnificent stories from mighty Australians

Author: Sandy Thorne

When Published: December 2011

Publisher:ALLEN & UNWIN

Available: All good bookstores, and the web.

Description: Format: Paperback - C format
Pages: 336

Subject: Biography: general

An earthy, entertaining collection of yarns about twenty larger-than-life outback characters.

Meet Ron Canlin, who one day began sculpting the sandstone walls of his opal mine. Ten years later, every drive and tunnel in Ron's claim is full of wonderful sculptures - the eighth wonder of the world.

Or Peter Venables, with his flowing white beard, puffing his pipe like a character from the pioneering 1800s, whose teams of Clydesdales plough, sow and harvest the crops they eat.

Or Janie Marshall, contract musterer, ex-amateur jockey, known as 'F...kin' Jenny' after her favourite word, which she roars frequently-even in front of the parson! She's as outback as a road train full of emus, and you'll love reading her story.

In Old-Timers, jillaroo, opal miner and bush humorist Sandy Thorne has assembled twenty vital snapshots of Australian life that inspire and enthral with their energy, originality and genuine pioneering spirit.

Thorne treats us to tales from wharf labourers, coalminers, battling cockies, stockmen, spies, prisoners of war, pioneer fishermen, politicians, policemen, pilots and racing and rodeo horsemen. Sparkling with wisdom, wit, forthrightness and irreverent humour, these stories celebrate a courageous national character that squeezes every ounce out of life, through good times and bad.


Sandy Thorne has had incredible success with her books. She may not be exactly 'literary' but she spins a great yarn full of humour, life and colour that engages the reader from the first word. A former jillaroo, horse breaker and bull-catcher she is now Australia's first and only female professional bush humourist. She has performed at countless festivals, concerts, conferences and other events as well as on TV and radio all over Australia, New Zealand and the US since launching her first book on 'The Midday Show' by ripping the top off a stubbie with her teeth.

'Mighty Australians': Manilla old-timers star in book


Northern Daily Leader

05 Dec, 2011

It took just two interviews and a couple of hours for Lightning Ridge author Sandy Thorne to get more than 100 years of stories from two Manilla men.

The bestselling author was recently in Manilla signing copies of her new book, Old- Timers, which features the stories of two locals, 78-year-old Paul Calokerinos and 79-year-old Toby Grant.

Originally intended to tell the stories of WWII veterans, Old-Timers - Magnificent stories from mighty Australians turned into a discovery of the fascinating lives of elderly Australians.

Ms Thorne met Mr Calo-kerinos and Mr Grant more than 12 months ago after the past president of Manilla Rotary, Sandy Allan, recommended the two men for her book.

Ms Thorne has authored 10 other books depicting bush humour, including I've Met Some Bloody Wags! and Laugh Yer Guts Out! but she said her latest novel dealt with the "great old lives of old-timers".

Apart from her Manilla subjects, her interviewees included men and women from Dubbo, Dalby, Coonamble and her home town of Lightning Ridge.

She said that, in Mr Calokerinos and Mr Grant, there was an interesting contrast between life in country NSW and life which began in Greece, on the other side of the world.

"They lived in Manilla in the early '50s and '60s ... those were the days of milk bars and cinemas, rather than pubs," Ms Thorne said.

Mr Grant's story began in Manilla, where his father was a mailman who used the traditional horse and buggy to deliver the mail.

He had stayed in Manilla ever since, was now a third-generation resident, and said everyone knew him now.

"I'm a real local ... I could tell you yarns left, right and centre," Mr Grant said.

Mr Calokerinos was born in Greece and moved to Australia on what Ms Thorne described as a "dodgy plane trip", finally arriving in Manilla at the age of 17 in 1950.

Mr Calokerinos said he had no idea he and Mr Grant would be in the book until Ms Thorne had called him a couple of weeks ago.

Ms Thorne said he was "the last dinky-di Greek cafe owner" in Manilla, owning the Canberra Cafe and the New York all his life.

MAGNIFICENT STORIES: Paul Calokerinos, author Sandy Thorne and Toby Grant at the Old-Timers book signing at Manilla on Friday. Photo: Barry Smith

Question and Answers with
Sandy Thorne
author of Old-Timers : Magnificent stories from mighty Australians

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Despite my mother jumping off every wardrobe in the house when she knew I was “on the way”, I clung in like a little scrub tick and was born at Nundah Private Hospital, Brisbane, capital of the Sunshine State. I was extremely fortunate to enjoy the best of all worlds during my childhood, living on the northern outskirts of Brissie in a rural area (which then was “out in the bush” but close to the ocean as well); so I galloped my horses around paddocks after cattle, and also along the beach to terrorise sunbaking silly buggers. Because I hated school, I kept getting expelled and attended several (between frequently playing the wag) in Brissie and surrounding areas.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
12: A show-jumping star like my hero Pat Smythe (U.K.);

18: Gulf cattle station owner and horse breeder;

30: as successful a poet as Pam Ayres.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That I would never marry and have children.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

My mother taking me to the library to select books, from a very early age; marrying a western cattleman who introduced me to bush poetry; having a premature child and filling in “waiting time” in hospital by beginning to write my first book.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Books will never be obsolete. No technology or entertainment can replace the enjoyment gained from sitting quietly, reading from an actual book held in your hands; nor can they generate the sense of pride felt when looking at your own book collection.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

“Old-Timers” is a collection of condensed life stories from twenty fascinating Australians who have led unusual lives, or achieved a great deal. They are from vastly different backgrounds but they are all people who have lived for a long time, and experienced huge challenges, triumphs, and tragedies; known fear, great danger, desolation and joy. They are all magnificent characters in their own style. As my personal writing style is conveying dry Aussie humour on paper (as well as on-stage), there are many laughs amongst the admiration, tears and trauma.

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

To engender more respect for older and elderly people, for what they have achieved and endured.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

One of the subjects in my “Old-Timers” book, in the chapter titled The Battler. Tony Dowton was also the inspiration for three earlier novels written for Horwitz-Graheme in the early 1980′s – the Battler series. He was/is the hardest working man I have ever known, and the greatest battler I have ever known. He overcame – against all odds – monumental challenges, to survive and succeed in an outback region that is extremely harsh and difficult. The other reason for my admiration of him is that all his efforts were for his wife and family. Coming from a family that was dysfunctional long before the word was coined, I passionately admired his love and devotion to his wife and children. Since they became adults, he was faced with, and overcame, an appalling holocaust of treachery, pain and loss, that would have put most ordinary human beings into the nuthouse or the grave.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
To write an international best-seller. To enjoy a peaceful, enjoyable old age, with plenty of time to write beautifully and consistently, without constant interruption.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

To always carry a pad and biro, everywhere, plus keep a diary. To always put anything they write away in a drawer for at least a month, then read and edit it. To assess the time-wasting factors in your life, e.g. watching crap on t.v., verbal diarrhoea on the ‘phone, cut them out, and use that time to write. To only write about what you know about.

Sandy, thank you for playing.

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