Who was the 17-year-old boy from Broken Hill who dumped the suitcase with clothes and a rifle stock on Somerton Beach the weekend before the Somerton Man died there?

Commenter ‘Clive’ had had no luck with the Adelaide Court archives (in fact, Janey found out a few weeks ago that “all [Adelaide] Youth Court files prior to 1984 have been destroyed”), so decided to trawl through the Police Gazette. Luckily, what Clive found there was that “the youth, aged 17, was named as Frederick William Pruszinksi. He was fined 4 pounds and 10 pence for unlawful use of a car”.

Actually, it seems very likely to me that the youth’s name was Richard Frederick (“Freddie”) Arthur Pruszinski, of 247 Williams Street, Broken Hill: and we can trace many aspects of his (unfortunately) short life through Trove.

10 December 1945: Fred Pruszinski was in Class 2CP, and got “1st English (aeq.), 1st Technical Drawing (aeq.)”

29th November 1947: a relative (presumably?) was working on the mines but fell ill: “C. Pruszinski was taken to the Hospital and admitted after he had become ill at the Zinc Corporation. His condition last night was stated to be quite comfortable.” (He seems to have flown back from Melbourne on 4th January 1949.)

Despite his young age, Fred Pruszinski was a keen member of the Silver City Miniature Rifle Club: his first newspaper mention is from 8th March 1948, and by 20th August 1949 he was Honorary Secretary.

29th November 1949: his sister Eileen Patricia Pruszinski announced her engagement to “Harold, only son of Mr. and Mrs H. Payne, 608 Beryl Street”. They were married on 11th March 1950 at 9am:

Fine needlerun lace and misty tulle was chosen for the bride’s picturesque period gown, which she had made herself. Underlined with rich satin, the frock was made with a high round neckline and circular tulle yoke piped with satin and outlined with a soft frill, and the slender satin-piped waist line was met by a hooped crinoline skirt. The centre panel of soft tulle frills was edged each side with satin piped scallops caught with sprigs of orange blossom, and the skirt swept out into a graceful flowing train flnished with a deep tulle trill all around. A trail of orange blossom was caught across the back waistline above a shirred bustle of satin-lined lace, and her long peaked sleeves were buttoned to the elbow. A coronet of orange blossom backed with a frilled lace halo surmounted her frothy veil of six tiers of scalloped tulle, and she wore a double strand pearl necklace. […]

By 14th May 1951, Fred Pruszinski was shooting for West Broken Hill Rifle Club.

12th July 1951: “Failure to observe a halt sign at the intersection of Argent and Kaolin Streets cost Richard Pruszinski a fine of £2 and 10/ costs.” (Might have been Freddie or his father Dick, I don’t know).

8th January 1952: in an apparent change of direction, Fred Pruszinski passed an Engineman Driver’s Examination (“AC and DC”). By 1st July 1952, he had passed his Diesel examination too.

Yet sadly, he died suddenly at Morton Boolka creek on 7th March 1953, having shot a bird and tried to swim to get it, before falling into difficulties and drowning. (The Coroner subsequently ruled that his death was an accident, e.g. Barrier Miner, 31 Mar 1953.)

There were plenty of funeral notices: a typical description of Pruszinski’s funeral appeared in the Barrier Miner, 11th March 1953 edition:

The funeral of Mr. Richard Frederick Arthur Pruszinski took place yesterday afternoon. The cortege left his residence, 247 Williams Street, for the general cemetery. Envoy J. Crocker conducted a service at the grave. The bearers were: Messrs. D. Hargraves, K. Cook, P. Fitzgerald, D. Carlin, J. Heslop, and J. Hamilton. The following representatives were present: Mr. J. P. Fitzgerald <W.I.U. of A> Mr. L. Farrugia (Zinc Corporation Sickness Fund); Messrs. F. Anderson and J. Brownett (West Rifle Club).

He was buried in grave #214 at Broken Hill Cemetery, the same one as Richard Walter Pruszinski (1928-1934, presumably an older brother).

According to this, Pruszinski was born and educated in Broken Hill, and “was employed at the N.B.H.C. as a miner. He was a member of the W.I.U. of A., Zinc Sickness Fund, and the West Rifle Club”. This funeral notice lists his close friends: “DON PURCELL, DON HARGREAVES, DON CARLIN, KEVIN COOK, JOHN WINKLER and PAT FITZPATRICK”. (They were also his pallbearers). At the West Broken Hill Rifle Club, “the flags were flown at half-mast and members stood in silence in respect for late member F. Pruszinski.”

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