The sky’s the limit in terms of the work which goes into keeping a community garden running. Even more so, when that community garden is in the midst of doubling in size.
But for Southern Beaches Community Garden volunteer Tony Curtis, he’d really prefer to have it no other way.
For nearly forty years, Curtis worked as a rigger and a dogman. Setting up and dismantling worksite cranes along with assisting in all facets of the construction process. The building of many of the high rises which today are so ubiquitous on the Gold Coast in which he was born and raised.
The work agreed with him. Enough so that, along with his three brothers, he’d end up owning his own rigging business, Curtis Steel & Rigging, for eight years.
Taking a quick break from building another wicking bed plot, Tony admits he loved the rigging work and the industry as a whole. The industry was good to him and he says he always enjoyed seeing the progress made at the end of each day.
But that was nearly five years ago. And despite his rigging days now being behind him, the sixty-something ex-rigger has found a new way to satisfy his industrious proclivities.
Today, when not flying his extensive fleet of large, remote control airplanes, Tony and his trademark weathered leather full brimmed hat, can be found in the SBCG at least three days a week. There he’s been a member assisting in various garden tasks for almost a year. But most recently, he’s been instrumental in leading the charge in constructing the recently expanded premise’s new garden plots.
Thirty-six at last count. With more on the way. A roll call of success Tony is quick to attribute to the organisational skills of those he’s surrounded by.
“Getting things done is a matter of having all the right people around you and the right equipment to do it.”
Tony lists names such as Kerry Hurse, Mandy McKinnon, Steve James, Nic Day, Dianne Casey and Deb Robson. Friends and fellow volunteers who Tony says are instrumental in providing the elbow grease in getting the heavy lifting accomplished.
“They all enjoy the work, and I think it’s the same as me, we’re getting something done. They enjoy that side of it.”
As for the planning and procurement of various necessary equipment, Tony doesn’t hesitate to give credit to SBCG President Di Gunther, Vice President Arch Cruttenden along with Ron Hasketh who oversees the Expansion Committee.
“Organisation is nine-tenths and if it’s organised properly, the job’ll go properly and Di and Archie always try to keep a step ahead and I enjoy that side of it.”
And President Di Gunther is happy to let Tony’s master plan continue playing out as it has been the past four to five months.
“We will not stop until Tony says so,” says Gunther. “There has been no other member who has the skill, ability, leadership, respect or integrity that Tony’s quiet presence exudes.”
It’s lofty and well-deserved praise. Especially good for a guy whose definition of gardening until only a year ago simply implied mowing his lawn.
“I’ve always had my own property since I was 17 or 18 old so I always looked after the yard. I’ve never been big into gardens. Just as long as they looked neat, I’ve always been happy. But since I’ve come here, I’ve got an interest in learning all the different stuff.”
Some of that different stuff, he says, revolves around wicking bed construction. And then there’s the fruits and veggies of his labour. A thriving list that includes radishes, lettuces, kale, tomatoes, and, even, a small lime tree.
As for gardening tips, the ex-rigger likes to keep it simple by keeping an eye on the plots of his more experienced gardening friends. “You have to look around, see what stuff is growing the best and which is getting least affected by any bugs we do have and that’s what you grow.”
But ultimately, it’s the garden in its ever-expanding entirety that Tony seems to derive the bulk of his satisfaction from. On this day, when not admiring the periodic small planes flying low over the garden on their final approach into the GC Airport, Tony is quick to point out the hive of activity around him.
New plots being filled. Old ones being watered. Families in the park and playground. Numerous inquisitive faces taking in the sights and
various areas of the garden.
There is no mistaking the garden’s expansion to the north side of the SBCG clubhouse has given the garden added exposure. And it’s irrelevant whether it’s the garden reaching out to embrace the nearby playground and public park, or vice versa.
Because, all that matters is, on this day–as has increasingly been the case–people are everywhere.
And Tony Curtis couldn’t be happier. “I’m proud to be a part of it.”