After 43 years, Barry Agar retires

BARRY AGAR is the face of the Cooma Ex-Services Club, the consummate professional whose caramel-smooth voice entices members to enter the latest raffle, with the chance to win big.

He's been there virtually every week for more than 43 years, but in a few days he'll step down as operations manager for a less hectic retirement, when he can find some more 'me' time.

Barry will be missed, not only for his mighty contribution to the Club, but also for the friendships he has forged over those 43 years.

He began as a casual barman in 1970, working to supplement his regular income at a local electrical shop, so that he could buy a 'reasonable' car.

He was only 18 - an age when he could legally drink, but couldn't legally play the poker machines.

Within a few months, he had that 'reasonable' car, and had taken an overseas trip as well.

It was a long time ago. In 1970 John Gorton was prime minister and Robert Askin was still NSW premier. Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch and the Rabbitohs beat the Sea Eagles in the grand final, with John Sattler playing most of the match with a broken jaw.

John Newcombe won Wimbledon, and Glenn McGrath was born.

Back then, a middy of beer was 18 cents, it's close to $4 now. Bert Knowles was Club president, a supermarket chicken sold for $1.15, and for the first time residents could phone Canberra and Sydney direct.

After his first six months as a casual Barry accepted a full time position offered by secretary/manager Jim Arrold, who insisted on a three month trial period. To this day, Barry has never been told if he passed - a point he joked about with Mr Arrold many years later.

Barry worked at just about everything - cellar work, the bar, as wine steward, bar supervisor, head steward, and finally as operations manager (and assistant secretary/manager), a position he's held for getting on for three decades.

And, of course, there has been about 35 years as the frontman with the microphone in hand, smooching the raffles and bumper giveaways with all the aplomb of a conductor in front of an orchestra. And, it seems, knowing every member by name.

During all of that time, he's worked with 12 secretary/managers, and nine presidents.

For Barry, it's all been a massive pleasure, working with people at the Club he regards as family. He'll miss them, in retirement, but plans to pop in occasionally for a catch up.

He'll also miss the Club members.

"I'd like to thank all the members for their support and for standing by me. It means a lot to me - without them things don't happen.

"It's been a privilege to work here and I've met some wonderful people."

He's also mingled with stars and other well known celebrities who have visited the Club. When asked for the top three he responds with Troy Cassar-Daley (absolutely at the top of the list), John Howard and Adam Brand.

In fact, being involved with some big names of the show business world has been a definite highlight.

He's also humbled by the support he has received from the Club, as an employer - "It has been remarkably good to me," he says.

What now for Barry Agar?

There will be a special Club farewell for him later in January.

Then he's footloose and fancy free, staying in Cooma and heading for that special 'me' time, perhaps a spot of lawn bowls, some travel, maybe a sea cruise or two, and giving his MGB sports car a workout.

As Barry says, he's not sad that it's over, he's just glad that it happened.

And as he tells the members several times a week, "If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours."

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