1956 Olympic torch still burns brightly for Alf

Alf Bonanno presents Deputy Mayor Cr ill Trevor with a framed photograph of Childers runners who participated in the 1956 Olympic Games torch relay.
Alf Bonanno presents Deputy Mayor Cr ill Trevor with a framed photograph of Childers runners who participated in the 1956 Olympic Games torch relay.

With Queensland bidding to host the 2032 Olympics we look back to 1956 when a young Alf Bonanno carried the Melbourne Olympics torch in a relay squad from Childers to Howard.

An ability to run a mile (1600 metres) in just five minutes was the standard requirement.

Alf, now 86, was a fit, willing and able young man of 23 when selected with 18 other runners from the former Isis Shire, and two runners from Biggenden, to carry the torch on it journey through the district.

Olympic torch Childers, Alf Bonanno
Alf Bonanno with the flame.

This week, Alf presented a framed photograph, captioned with the names of the runners, to Deputy Mayor Cr Bill Trevor with the photo to be displayed in the Childers Library.

Alf looks back with pride on the part he played in progressing the flame on its journey to Melbourne.

“We were all pretty excited to be a part of the event although in those days there wasn’t the media coverage of similar events today. There were no crowds lining the street waving us on – certainly no camera crews or live crosses from the runners,” he laughed.

Alf said he had been harvesting cane on the day of the run.

“It simply was a matter of stopping the harvester, having a shower and putting on my white running gear and being dropped off by car at my start point,” he said.

“Likewise, when the run was over it was just a matter of going back home and continue working. To mark the occasion, they gave us each a brass medallion once we finished the run.”

“My relay leg, run in November, took me along what is now the old highway route past the Childers airstrip and South Isis Cemetery,” Alf said.

“You wouldn’t believe it, but it rained cats and dogs as we ran but the torch flame didn’t go out.

“There was an Army truck in front and behind us.

“It became so dark and overcast that the lights from the truck really stood out in the gloomy conditions.”

Olympic torch Childers
Showing their running styles. Runners from 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games torch relay Merv Rieck (left) and Alf Bonanno impress Deputy Mayor Cr Bill Trevor.

Photograph tells tale of Alf's run Olympic torch Childers

Alf said the fact that similar runners from Bundaberg have their names recorded for posterity was motivation for him to have the photograph framed and placed in the library for posterity.

“Many of the runners have passed on so it was somewhat incumbent on me to undertake the task on their behalf,” he said.

Cr Trevor said the photograph captured a moment in time.

“It’s great to recall these events that demonstrate that smaller communities had a role to play and were included in an event of national and international significance.”

During the presentation a man who ran a leg of the relay in the Gin Gin area made himself known to Alf and Cr Trevor.

Merv Rieck said he had a clear recollection of the event and his family had gone to the trouble of having his medallion mounted with photographs of the run.