Richard Mewjork grew up in Surry Hills in a Chinese family. In this interview he remembers his 1930s childhood, his mother’s work as a seamstress and cafe proprietor, and his stepfather’s work at the produce markets. Richard also discusses his own varied careers in newspapers, milk bars, door-to-door sales and the car industry. In the excerpt below Richard recalls his brief career as a ‘professional’ wrestler, entertaining the crowds at the Redfern velodrome.
And in those days, of course, wrestling was quite popular in between the cycling events at the sports arena which was over in the Redfern area, not far from Cleveland Street. For some reason, I was called a ‘Chinese Champion’ – I just forget my professional name now – but I think Chong was one of the names that I was given. My dressing gown was a bright yellow and it was silk. I remember Mum saying “Here, you might as well wear this”, and it was blue and gold, or blue and very bright yellow and it had a dragon on the back which was, I suppose, symbolic of being Chinese. I was called a ‘Chinese Champion’. I must admit I was nowhere near as professional as the rest of the team, ‘Snowy’ Dowton, ‘Major’ Jones, but I was what you might call – there’s always a baddie and there’s a hero and I was the hero. Well, the hero had to win, of course, and he had to more or less look very, very confident and almost unbeatable in the ring. You took on, if you like, a more superior role, out of yourself and your opponent, and you strutted around and thrust out your chest and you menaced your opponent. It was all put on.