The roar of the motorcycle engine, lure of the road and smell of leather was strong in Melbourne’s west in the ’60s and ’70s.
Now, the history of a western suburbs’ bikie club, the Angels, has been documented in a new book.
Angels is an autobiographical account of life in the motorcycle club in the 1960s and ’70s, co-written by Altona couple, former member David King and historian Maureen Lane.
Mr King was just 10 years old when he met one of the original members, Johnny Wilde, now living in Melton.
Ms Lane said she felt it was important to preserve the history of the club, which at its peak boasted 305 members.
“All the boys are getting old now and we didn’t want the Angels to be forgotten,” she said.
“So, as a historian, I felt it was my duty to record it in some way.
“We never meant for it to become available to the public – it was just going to be a book for the ex members of the bikie club.”
But the book’s popularity grew through word of mouth, leading to more reprints.
The Angels started hanging together about 1954, when Altona’s Cherry Lake was a race track and “Marlon Brando ‘wanna-bes’ flocked there in droves”.
Later, Calder Park Raceway would be established in the Diggers Rest farming community, beginning as “a dirt track carved into a paddock by a group of like-minded, motoring enthusiasts wanting to create a place to race their FJ Holdens,” the book states.
The Angels and the Vikings were two of Melbourne’s major clubs.
Angels would meet at Williamstown beach or at Mama’s deli in Footscray or in one of the paddocks in Laverton where they would “party with the local ladies”.
Mr King, who counted AC/DC’s Malcolm Young among his drinking mates, said he “loved everything” about riding with the Angels.
“Just the freedom of riding and just having a good time with your mates,” he said.
Members would attend the Sunbury Rock Festival held on a private farm between Sunbury and Diggers Rest on the Australia Day long weekend from 1972 to 1975.
“Sunbury was an orgy of sex, drugs and rock and roll with near naked men and women ‘letting it all hang out’,” the book states, as it details members’ antics.
Mr Wilde recalls in the book that alcohol was banned so a ‘modified’ keg of water was brought in by the club.
“We had our own marquee at Sunbury – a tent set up for the Angels and for freeloading coppers.”
As the teenagers grew into family men, they would hold their own festivals at Mr Wilde’s Mount Doran farm near Ballarat, raising money for sick children.
“The biggest thing, I reckon, is your mateship,” Mr Wilde said. “Because you’ll be riding with a group of blokes that you trust with your life.
“Always mates. Never ever was there an argument between anyone in the club, which is a bit rare.
“No one had any bad words for anybody … like a big family.”
Mr King would go on to join the army and become a chauffeur for Victoria’s governor Davis McCaughey, including during the presidential visit of George Bush Snr.
When the completely separate Hells Angels appeared on the scene, the Angels were either patched over or retired.