A hard little worker, he spent holidays and Saturdays helping at the family’s farm, and took over the ploughing of 24 fields when his father broke a leg. Despite Lennie’s considerable responsibilities and solid work ethic, he had dreams – dreams that he nurtured with as much gusto as his farm work.
Born in the early 1920s, Lennie grew up in ‘the decade of change’ and was in awe of the progress happening around the world. In January 1932, he learnt that the Sydney Harbour Bridge would soon be opening. He was obsessed with machinery and engineering, and dreamed of attending the opening ceremony. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was an engineering marvel and, at that time, the largest single-span bridge in the world. Lennie was only a small boy and his dream was very big, but his hard work at the farm paid off. His parents – even his mother, despite her reservations – agreed that he and Ginger Mick, though they were both only nine years old, could go to Sydney alone with only their wits to guide them. Off they went to see the bridge upon its completion and celebrate with locals.
The pair set off in February, with 600 miles (965 kilometres) of terrain to cover over a long seven weeks of trotting towards Lennie’s dream. And Lennie’s dream, as he found out, was a far bigger undertaking than he could have imagined. The journey became a great adventure: they were startled by a rogue tramp, chased by wild bushfires, and offered food and lodgings from growing numbers of fans as they made their way along the roads.
After The Sydney Morning Herald published an interview with Lennie, he inadvertently found celebrity. On Saturday 19 March 1932, Lennie’s dream was realised with an additional treat: much to his surprise, he was asked to participate on the opening parade. But this was only the beginning. After the ceremony, he met the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Sir Samuel Walder, had tea with the Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, and even rode an elephant at Taronga Zoo!
Lennie had arranged to catch a boat home from Sydney, but he was having such a good time that he managed to convince his father to let him ride back as well. When boy and pony returned to their little corner of the world in the foothills of Leongatha, four months after their departure, it was forever changed from the town they had known. Lennie and Ginger Mick were greeted by a civic reception attended by 800 people, keen to welcome them and celebrate their outrageous achievement.
Lennie did not leave his love of engineering in the big city. When he grew up he became an engineer at General Motors’ Holden plant at Fisherman’s Bend, and his passion for machinery would shape the rest of his life. In 2017, Lennie and Ginger Mick’s remarkable journey became a sensation all over again. The local community of Leongatha, led by Lennie’s sister and daughter, came together to raise funds for a statue commemorating the town’s famous adventurers.