LOCAL identity, Cecil ‘Curly’ Wamsley has seen great changes in his 90 years.
He has been to war, had a hand in transforming the Manning’s power supply and has grown up, and reared a family in Wingham.
His special milestone was recently marked with a surprise gathering of friends at Wingham Services Club.
Curly was chairman of the Services Club for 10 years and was also secretary of the RSL sub branch.
He was born in Bobin in 1923 where his dad, Harry worked at the butter factory.
Sadly his mother died when he was three years old. He can’t remember much of that time but has a recollection of a swing under an awning.
Curly said he was a ‘Lone Star Ranger’ until his father remarried and he had a step sister, Dorothy.
He explained he was named after his uncle who was killed in the First World War, not only taking on his first and last name but his nickname Curly too, which has stuck for nine decades.
He completed his schooling at Wingham District School until he was 18 and became an apprentice electrician at Tyler Bros.
When he was young the butter factory supplied power to Wingham.
When his first boss was killed in an electrical accident, Curly worked as a private contractor wiring power in houses.
In the early 1940s, Curly spent much of his time working from a workshop.
In 1942 he joined the army.
“I said to my boss, I’ve got to do something about this war. I can’t sit around while others are going,” he said.
He enlisted in the navy as they were calling for tradesmen, but later was more or less conscripted into the army.
His army career began at Victoria Barracks where he was trained as a signalman as he had a background in electrical equipment.
He was assigned to a motor regiment and sent to Kingaroy in Queensland where he rode motorbikes from Greta across the tablelands to Kingaroy.
One of the most exciting parts of being based in Queensland was when he and a group were asked to pick up brand new Indian bikes and ride them back.
“Talk about fun!”
He was part of the 24th brigade infantry battalion ninth division.
After more training in Cairns and Townsville, he was sent to Milne Bay.
His time in Papua New Guinea saw him train in barge landing before moving onto Borneo.
“Because I could repair telephones I became sigs in Beaufort.”
A railway line had been converted to carry Jeeps and Curly was in charge of signals and communication on the lines. He said the natives in Papua New Guinea were always friendly.
Curly vividly remembers witnessing the signing of the peace treaty by the Japanese at Beaufort.
One of the scariest moments he experienced was when he was sent to Jessleton from Beaufort with an offsider to inspect a radio station on top of a mountain. As they were making their way, they could hear a strange noise.
As they emerged around the corner they came across a whole line of Japanese soldiers, which sent panic through them.
“Luckily they were captured by the Australian soldiers. That was the worst experience I had,”
In an amazing twist of fate, Curly passed his wife-to-be’s father, Jim, in a car on a road in Milne Bay.
“I was going one way and he was going the other so we told our drivers to stop,” he said.
They both recognised each other from their home town of Wingham as they crossed paths on deployment.
After a few years his time in the army was up and he returned to the Manning Valley and got a job as an electrician in Taree with Lonnie Hamilton.
He and his wife Rae married on December 22, 1951. The pair met when Curly was running a cinema at the Wingham Town Hall.
Rae was helping out at the cinema and Curly said “One thing led to another and I ended up marrying her.”
Curly recalls the success of the cinema which drew in hundreds to see top class films.
“When we opened the picture show there were more than 400 people in the Town Hall to see National Velvet,” he said.
They had three children - Kerry, Vicky and Julie who brought them many grandchildren and great- grandchildren.
He built a house in Wingham when the land was just scrub with no road or neighbours.
Curly took up a job offer at council where he dedicated 30 years of his career, retiring in his early 60s.
He was a respected employee and was presented with a momento on his retirement which outlined the vast contribution he played in the roll-out of power infrastructure in the area.
The album is enscribed “In memory of the rules you made and broke”.
He was responsible for wiring and hooking up countless houses and was involved in the laying of power cables underground.
Curly marches in Wingham’s Anzac Day ceremony every year and is proud of his contribution to his country and community when he returned home.
He is known by many as a decent and kind man who has dedicated himself to others.