stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
With the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Parkes Library history blog will focus on Olympians from the Parkes Shire. Each post will provide a snapshot of the sportsmen and sportswomen who have worn the green and gold and called the Parkes Shire home at some point of their lives. The first sporting star to be featured in our series Olympians from the Parkes Shire is also the first Parkes Shire Olympian, swimmer Rex Aubrey.
Rex Aubrey was a sporting pioneer for the Parkes Shire, displaying his swimming prowess at State and National Championships before earning selection in the Australian Olympic team that went to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. His exploits in the pool kept him constantly on the front page of Parkes Champion Post as the local paper assisted the residents of the Parkes Shire to follow and support him. For most of today’s residents of the Shire, Parkes had a very different appearance in Rex’s day. Woolworths had not yet opened its doors and street signs had not yet been erected. To dial the Parkes hospital one would press “15” and advertisements informed that for pain relief it was best to take Bex!
Rex Aubrey was just seventeen years old when he was selected to represent Australia in the Games of the XV Olympiad. Aubrey was selected to compete in the Mens 100m Freestyle and also Mens 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay. In the individual freestyle, Rex won his heat, and finished second in his semi-final. In the final he finished sixth with American swimmer, Clark Scholes, taking gold; Hiroshi Suzuki (Japan) silver; and Sweden’s Göran Larsson claiming the bronze. Rex’s time in the final was 58.7 seconds, with the gold medal being claimed in 57.4 seconds. In the semi-final, Rex swam the fastest time for an Australian at the time – 57.8 – which would have been enough to claim bronze in the final. Source: Wikipedia and NSW Olympic Council website
Aubrey was one of the Australian Mens 4 x 200 metres Freestyle Relay team. The other Australians were Frank O’Neill, Garrick Agnew and John Marshall. Unfortunately for Australia the team did not make the final, finishing third in Heat 1 and having the 9th fastest time (the eight fastest times qualified for the final) Source: Sports Reference website
Attending the Helsinki Olympics meant Rex today is part of the exclusive Kapyla Club – named after the suburb in Helsinki where the Olympic village was located. The comraderie and Aussie sense of humour gained notoriety at the Helsinki Games, with pranks played on fellow countrymen, while respect and training tips were earned from international stars, such as star athlete Emil Zátopek (known as the “Czech Locomotive” and the only person to win 5,000 metres, 10,000 metres and marathon at the same Olympics!) Source: NSW Olympic Council website and Wikipedia
While the 1952 version of Parkes is vastly different to today, the journey of an Australian Olympian is also tremendously varied from those about to go to Rio de Janeiro. Athletes were amateur and most of the 84 strong team had to pay their own fare to Finland (a total of £750 which in current currency is approximately $26,369 as checked on Reserve Bank of Australia’s Pre-Decimal Inflation Converter). This meant that all of the Australian athletes were involved in fundraising before departing for Finland. Parkes Shire contributed to the fund raising efforts, and the interest intensified once Rex Aubrey was selected on the Australian team.
Rex Aubrey went on to further swimming success in the United States of America when he attended Yale University. He set a then world record time of 49 seconds for the 1oo yards freestyle. While Rex Aubrey did not compete at any other Olympic Games, he did represent Australia at the 1954 Vancouver Empire Games (now called Commonwealth Games). Rex Aubrey was school captain of Parkes High School in 1951, and his school record time in 50 metres freestyle lasted for 17 years before finally being broken. Rex Aubrey was awarded the Parkes High Achiever award in 2004 and returned to Parkes in 2006 for the Parkes High School 75th Reunion. Parkes has honoured its first Olympian by naming a street after him – Rex Aubrey Place.
Rex returns to Parkes…. and the front page! Returning for the 75th celebration of Parkes High School and to award the 2006 Parkes High Achiever Award, Rex Aubrey returns to his high school and home town. Source: Parkes Champion Post August 23, 2006
Rex Aubrey passed away on April 20, 2021 at the age of 86. Tributes flowed in for the former Olympian, who was remembered for his efforts in not only swimming but for the 40 years he was Athletic Director at the Detroit Athletic Club. Rex excelled at a number of sports. During his time at DAC he won multiple National titles as a squash player and also enjoyed tennis, scuba diving and golf – where he held the distinction of scoring three holes in one!
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following organisations for their assistance in making this post possible:
If you have stories or memories that you are willing to share about Rex Aubrey or any of the other Olympians of the Parkes Shire , please contact Parkes Shire Library via firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.