LEGEND IN THE CITY
It’s Saturday morning, it’s not quite 9:00am and it’s raining.
Ken Harvey turns the corner at the bottom of Maddox Street and continues his long walk to Alexandria stadium. In each hand he carries two large bags full of Basketball uniforms, he also has another bag draped across his shoulder. He looks like Santa’s helper in a cloth hat and a Columbo style raincoat. Nevertheless, the rain, the walk and the load do not seem to be of any bother to a gentleman of 75 years. This is understandable really, since he’s been making the same walk, after the same bus and train trip from Dundas, four days a week for the last twenty years. This time he’s coaching the YMCA Under 10 boys at 10:00am and the YMCA Under 14 girls at 12:30pm.
It was in 1944, as a 16 year old, straight out of school, that Ken joined the YMCA. The remarkable thing is however that he never left. Imagine being with and playing for the same club for 60 years. (Of course Ken still plays). Ken initially joined for Gymnastics and the Social Club, but quickly adopted Hoop. He can remember playing at Leichhardt Dispensary Hall and at the Leichhardt Veladrome (if the boxing ring wasn’t erected). He remembers during the floods of “around” 1952 that Basketball had to move to the basement of the Paddington Town Hall complete with concrete floor and foundation columns that had to be negotiated.
When he was of age Ken purchased a 1949 Ford Prefect and in 1952 he and future Basketball Australia General Manager and CSBA Life Member, Bob Staunton drove down South to experience the Melbourne Olympics. Ken did 240,000 ‘miles’ in that Ford Prefect until it died of rust sometime around the mid 70’s. But he remembers it fondly because, as he puts it, “we drove that car to Basketball carnivals through heat waves, snow, floods and once through a bushfire”. He sounds like the, ‘Man from Snowy River’, but you get the picture.
Basketball was different in the 1940’s. To start with the duty team had to supply the referee’s so Ken became a referee at virtually the same time as he commenced playing. Furthermore it was customary that the Captain of a team acted as the Coach, so there he was, player, referee, coach, everything. And success was imminent. In 1946 his team won the Division C2 title. In 1957 Alexandria stadium was opened and the YMCA were an original club. Ken went on to play representative basketball for the City of Sydney Basketball Association in 2nd Division and remembers the first ever district competition. How could you forget? Both first and second division games were televised live on Saturday afternoon from Channel 9’s Epping Road studios. Basketball, free-to-air, prime-time.
Ken of course also had another life. He was born in Stanmore, moved to Randwick, met Joan, married her and moved to Dundas. The good news is that the Dundas love-nest is still going strong after 46 years. As an earner, Ken worked in the Shipping business and being one not to make hasty changes stayed with one Company, Burns/Phillips for over 30 years.
After the Ford Prefect departed, Ken found it hard to love another car so he started his train/bus regime in the mid 80’s. Dutifully he traveled without major incident until the 8th December 1997. Returning home, Ken noticed that the bus driver was irritated by the efforts of several less co-operative drivers. As he alighted from the bus Ken offered soothing condolences to the driver “Having a bad day?” This was prophetic.
Ken waited at the lights, not a jaywalker our Ken, when he suddenly felt extreme pain in the abdomen. He then went through a checklist, “it’s not a heart-attack and it’s not Piles”, but something said to him, your not going to make it home, and he collapsed. Fortunately a passing nurse got out of her car and made the correct diagnose “You’ve been shot”, she said.
Apparently a couple of youngsters had found a loaded gun that their father hadn’t hidden, and since he was outside tending his drug crop they thought they might fire the weapon out the window. Poor Ken, he happened to be in the way. Seven hours of operating and then the same again a month later saw Ken on the way to recovery. He started back coaching in April and was back playing and refereeing before the end of the year. Everything was back to normal, that is, refereeing twice a week, being club Secretary, coaching and playing.
Ken is involved with teams that range from Under 10 to Under 14 boys to Under 14 & 16 girls to 1st Division men to 5th Division B Grade men AND he plays the game.Sunday night at the home of Sydney Basketball, Ken slips on the sand shoes and runs the floor for the Division 5B YMCA (of course) men’s team. Evidently he managed to score in November and the stadium rose as one, as they should.
By the way, Ken also put in 20 years as a Board member, Twenty Years! Lastly here are two favorite stories about Ken Harvey. When I first come to Alexandria I was sitting on a plastic chair at the end of Court One watching Bill Tomlinson coaching an individual session. On court two, Ken had a mixture of young girls and boys weaving around every other available plastic chair in the stadium. I did not know who Ken Harvey was and I looked across to his session. Bill laconically mentioned in my ear, “you better watch out, Ken is looking at you, because he wants that chair”. On the surface this was a funny comment, but recognize this, Bill Tomlinson, NBL Coach knows this mans name and rightly so.
Second story. Ken, the bagman rocks into Alexandria stadium, he turns the corner and there are the Dunscombe twins, Asha and Shatana. Two athletic 13 year old girls with everything to smile for and they use those smiles for the bagman, “Hello Ken”, cheerful, informal but respectful. That was nice.
By Tom Maher