PHIL Ainsworth’s favourite subject at school was geography, but you wouldn’t pick that from his lack of migration from his birthplace.
“At one stage I decided to revisit everywhere I’ve ever lived. I did it in a day,” he said.
His first home was in the community of Dairy Flat. It had three houses; Phil’s home and those of two uncles. He moved later to a house in Girard State Forest and that’s where some of his happiest childhood memories come from as an eight to 10-year-old.
He attended Drake School where he admits he wasn’t a good student, “in fact a real thick head”, he said. He credits former Tenterfield High School principal Ray Curry with somewhat indirectly encouraging him to complete his leaving certificate.
“He told me I’d never make it, so I was determined to prove him wrong,” Phil said.
He then got work at Anderson’s Meatworks as a by-products sales clerk. The position required him to wear a white coat, which attracted numerous missiles of said by-products whenever he had to visit the floor.
“I eventually got permission to wear a grey coat, and nothing was ever thrown at me again,” Phil said.
Following was a sales position with HG Palmer, a homewares retailer that occupied the premises where Country Curtains now operates. Phil said he worked hard racking up sales when electricity first reached Mole River. He and Patti had just married and could make good use of his sales commission cheque.
“I earned £2,500 in sales commission, and this was in the mid-1960s. The company went broke the day my commission was due, but I did get two white shirts for being salesman of the month.”
After spending 27 years as a civilian employee of the Department of Defence based at the Wallangarra Ammunitions and Store Depot, Phil climbed to the position of second-in-charge, but it was his next position as groundsman and general handyman at the local TAFE campus that he counts as his favourite.
“There was no pressure,” he said.
He considered several decades as a husband equipped him well enough for the handyman duties, but this extensive experience didn’t save him from stuffing up his first task to hang a noticeboard. He stood back to admire his work to find he’d hung the corkboard side against the wall.
His sense of direction hasn’t improved much over the years, He recently left a door with a local carpenter with detailed instructions of where to install a doggy door for a visiting canine friend, only to find when he went to hang the door that the doggie access was in the top, right corner.
Now in semi-retirement he is very busy as captain of Tenterfield Golf Club where he works to tweak the course to keep visiting golfers returning. The committee’s success is evident, with events scheduled each weekend until March next year, with Phil finding it hard to slot in the second annual Loudmouth Golf Day where players are required to wear items from the rather flamboyant clothing line of professional golfer John Daly. (It’s now scheduled for August 25-26.)
Golf is his passion, and has been since he was in his late teens when he was recruited to the sport by Merv Kneipp and Rex Weight.
“It’s just you against that bloody little round ball,” he said.
Sadly, his enthusiasm didn’t translate into a high skill level and he never won a club championship, for which he blames Allan Jones and Barry Daly for standing in his way. Val Davidson, however, has carried him to victory in eight NSW mixed pairs titles.
One of his adages is, “Don’t complain if you don’t get involved”, and get involved he did with Apex, Lions, Oracles of the Bush, the golf club and the local radio station.
One of the most satisfying periods of his life was in the late “noughties” doing breakfast radio on Ten FM. He walked to the station each morning for his 6am shift, where his sometimes controversial opinions were occasionally divisive but always made for good listening. He recalls current radio manager Rebecca Carpenter attending training sessions as a teenager 12-15 years ago, “and she stood out then”, he said.
“From her first stab at radio she was always above average,” he said.
Phil said he’s had plenty of opportunities to leave Tenterfield, but is here for the duration. He loves the upgrades to local national parks to make them some of the best in the country, and closer to home finds the town’s parks and gardens very impressive. He lives here for the climate, the lifestyle, the people in town and, of course, the golf course.
“When we were approaching 50, Patti and I sat down and each wrote a list of 10 things we wanted to be doing over the next 20 years. Eight of them we could do in Tenterfield, and the rest were only three hours away in the city.
“Patti can finish work (at the Visitors Information Centre) at 5pm and we can be having dinner at the Gold Coast that night.”
There haven’t been too many late-night dinner dates lately with Patti battling illness and Phil changing from an admittedly-spoilt spouse into doting househusband. While Patti remains his greatest love and inspiration, his feeling for the Tenterfield district isn’t too far behind and he has great confidence in its future.
“I look at the young ones today and I know we’re in good hands,” he said.