Australia Day 1957.
Saturday the 26th January 1957, if memory serves me correctly, wasn’t the normal stinking hot and humid northerly wind (which you could cut with a knife) blowing day, but a pretty cool almost balmy day. Joan suggested we take a walk down to the beach. Now the Albert Park beach which is just a couple of hundred yards or so down the road from Joan’s house is/was not what people think of, if and when thinking, about Australian beaches. If the surf ever pounds it I never saw it, it was I suppose the ideal beach for this Pommy boy, I’m not into swimming, come to that I’ve never been much of a beach lover
I didn’t mind flopping around on the beach at times so when she suggested we go down I went; not being a hot humid day there were very few people on the beach cooling off in fact we almost had the entire beach to ourselves.
We were just sitting there looking out across the bay at nothing, relaxing and out of the blue Joan said “lets stop buggarizing around and get married”, those were her very words. I’d never heard her come out with that word before. We had spoken about getting married obviously, when you are ‘going steady’ for 18 months or so it’s quite natural for the subject to arise at some stage. I don’t know what you’d call this, not really a proposal or an ultimatum or suggestion, a confirmation of an implied agreement perhaps, but whatever you call it I answered “Okay” and carried on relaxing on the beach.
“When”, was what she said next, talk about put a man on the spot; so after a bit of thought I suggested September 1959, yes September ’59; 2 years 9 months away, she looked at me raising one eyebrow which meant I had to explain my reason for such a long engagement. I told her that she would be turning 21 then and we wouldn’t have to worry about getting her fathers permission and signature (there was no love lost between Jack and me).
Naturally she agreed she’d got an okay and a date, so we became engaged, unofficially for the time being but engaged. Too, the time frame that I came up with, September 59, didn’t have much merit with Joan and she had other ideas on a date, which I was to find out about a bit later. I’d said okay all she had to do now was work on me to come up with something not so ridiculous, not that I was aware then.
Actually I didn’t know much about marriage and what it entailed, the only marriage I knew anything about was my parents; and that wasn’t anything I’d want to write home about. My mother was a right wing Tory and my dad was a left wing socialist and I have no intention of going into the fights and arguments that got extremely firey and bitter at times. I knew that we were not going to have this problem. We had too much in common. Books, music movies we had much of everything going for us.
Except for one thing!
I cannot recall exactly when we came out and announced that we were engaged to be married and Joan started wearing her ring I think perhaps around my birthday in April, but it’s of no great moment now. The thing is when it was announced somehow the date of the wedding had gone from September 59 to April ’58. in one years time, and the date selected was the 19th, and the reason for that date? Simple Joan had decided that as my birthday was on the 17th and she was not likely to forget my birthday if we married two days later then I’d have no problem or reason to forget her wedding anniversary.I must admit I admired her logic.
I won’t bore you with the rest of 1957, it was pretty much the same as 56, two people going about their everyday lives; working and playing as normal but as the year came to a close, changes which would eventually affect our lives for ever came into play!
Was our first full year together, I was going to say courting but that doesn’t seem the correct expression I suppose we were but somehow that does not seem to cover it. The expression full year together seems to imply that we were living together which we weren’t. but truth be told Joan was never far from my thoughts and I was never far away from hers. We spent as much time together as was both possible and practicle.
On occasions we went away together sharing the same room and bed but retaining our chastity, I suppose the temptation was there at times but was always kept in check. It never seemed the right time to consumate our growing love and we both innocents in the wide world when it came to such things were quite content not to shall I say? Experiment.
Obviously we discussed the possibility of it happening in time, but Joan was constantly aware of her father and his “girl friends/women” which had given her a suspicion of the advances of men, and I think perhaps my attitude towards women had given her cause for hope.
Always wearing a hat I never failed to raise it to a lady or young woman of my acquaintance on meeting, I always stood when one entered a room and would never dream of walking on the inside of a lady on the footpath. To this day if riding on public transport and a lady gets on and there are no seats I will rise and give her mine, can’t help myself.
When we talked about her schooling which we did quite often and from time to time, her memories were all good with the nuns at the convent school, however, the priest assigned to lead the girls at Mass was somewhat young, I imagine that that is where they had to go to practice being a priest. Anyway this young one had made what Joan said were inappropriate passes at her, having grown up in the enviroment which she did she was well aware of passes and where they were designed to lead.
She never ever went to Mass again after leavng that school, I never knew her to make any mention of God in any shape or form. I believe that the actions of that priest killed off any religion she may have had; he picked the wrong girl, she may have been young, but she’d seen much of men and the lascivious of many of them including her father. Her memories of her mother didn’t do much to help either
It was her desire though that when she did marry it would be the full thing, I will be telling about that very soon now.
How she put up with me though is still beyond my understanding, I loved going to work and doing what I did, we both enjoyed the movies, occasional concerts when visiting top class performers came to Australia, they were few and far between back then.
In retrospect I think I must have been a pretty boring sort of bloke. I did have a beer with the ‘boys’ at work most lunchtimes (everyday Monday to Friday) and sometimes after work, these were the good old days of the 6 O’Clock swill, that’s when the pubs stopped serving at 6 pm and you had to be off the premise by 6.15pm; and then I’d meet up with Joan if not working late, which I did 2 or 3 nights a week, nowadays I suppose I’d be classed as a workaholic, a word that wasn’t around back then.
And so 1956 just passed on by, me drifting along in love and happy, content boring and selfish; this was about to change in January of 1957, but that’s for next time.
Back in the early 1950′s after arriving in Melbourne I discovered the Savoy Theatre up in Russell Street which specialized in ‘Continental’ Movies; the connotation being that as continental they must be sex movies. Not so! There may well have been some nudity in some but not as far as I can recall, I did see a Bridget Bardot film there once and that may well have had sexual overtones which would have sailed over my head.
The only films that I went to see were French and some great movies did I get to see,”Le salaire de la peur” ( “The Wages of Fear”) starring Yves Montand, my favourite actor back then directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot who went on to direct a movie that I intend to write about in this post..
“Du rififi chez les hommes “Rififi” a masterpiece of suspense directed by an American Jules Dassin who’d been kicked out of Hollywood, there is one scene in this movie that lasts for it must be all of 15-20 minutes without music, talking, the only sound was the breathing of the rogues, amazing and suspensful, well worth seeing today if you can get to see the original.
Why I only went to the French movies you may well ask thinking the worse, again ; not so!, I went so I could hear the spoken language, I’d had 4 years of French from 1945 (August/September) to April 1950, and I was rather good at it (I topped the school in both written and spoken French in April ’50 exceeding the Matriculation graduation mark with a 77%, I still have the final certificate attesting to this.), at age 14 I had the opportunity to go as an exchange student to Paris, there were if I recall correctly 35/36 children from various schools in Essex selected of which I was one, but my mother would not allow me to go.
So now you know why my interest in the French movies, it was to keep my mind working and attuned to the language, nothing dirty or sordid, hope this hasn’t spoilt this for any reader! :P
Clouzot the Master directed the most chilling, frightening, movie I ever saw, I believe it is still, after all these years, regarded in the top ten most scary movies ever produced. I know I never saw anything before or since that can match it; ” Les Diaboliques” .
I knew nothing about this movie; all who went to see it were sworn to secrecy. Not to spill the beans and reveal the ending; actually there was nothing to stop people it was an honour thing that everybody seemed to agee to and abide by.
Anyway, I asked Joan if she’d like to go see this French movie that I knew nothing about, and knowing that I wanted to see it, she readily agreed, she did not speak or understand French to well, in fact not at all, which was unfortunate. Along we went to what I hoped would be a good thriller that would excite and of course thrill us.
No way, this movie would be moving along quite innocently when a small view of something unexplained struck horror even unto the most hearty, a shadow/person at a window would send a shudder, and so it went on until almost the final most terrifying scene that I’ve ever seen on the silver screen, and if you want to know what it is then you’ll have to go see the movie yourself, I’m still bound by that oath of secrecy.
Joan’s scream was echoed by every woman and most men in the audience, I kid you not, whether I screamed or not I can’t remember but the sheer terror even now can send a shiver down my spine.
We were too shaken to go to our café for our coffee with Gus that night, both shaking I drove Joan home. she was still in a state of total shock and fear, I’d recovered somewhat and when we arrived at Albert Park she asked if I would stay with her until she could calm down, I could not refuse her anything so of course I stayed.
About an hour later she seemed to be okay and I said I’d better get going so she could get some rest and I waited ’til she was in bed and as I was about to leave she implored me not to go, once again she was in a state of terror. How could I leave her there shaking trembling an utter mess? I’d never seen her so distressed of course I said I’d stay.
That was the first night that we shared a bed, nothing else happened I promise, indeed it wasn’t until very much later in our relationship that anything did, I just lay there holding her and eventually she slept, I got very little sleep, I just held her close. I should not have taken her to see such a movie ( I must admit a day or so later I was glad that I’d seen it). <3
I never went to see a “Continental Movie” again.
Joan was just 17 at the time.
A great post beuatifully illustrated and well worth reading.
Originally posted on Good Gentlewoman:
There appears to have been some confusion concerning the portraits of the three Molesworth sisters in the Springhill collection, County Londonderry.
This portrait is catalogued as being of the Hon Louisa Molesworth, Lady Ponsonby, later Countess Fitzwilliam who was born in 1749 and died in 1824. However it is now thought to most probably be a portrait of her elder sister Henrietta, later the Hon Mrs John Staples, who was born in 1745.
And this one called Louisa Staples, Lady Pakenham is now believed to be that of Elizabeth Molesworth born in 1751, the wife of James Stewart, Henrietta and Louisa’s younger sister.
A third portrait in pastel and graphite, supposedly of Louisa, has confusing inscriptions written on the back in two different hands, causing some doubt as to the sitter.
In recent years the identity of these three women has become confused, which is somewhat surprising as during their…
View original 1,060 more words
An apt pupil.
There’s no point in my going into great detail regarding our burgeoning relationship, needless to say it went very well indeed. I don’t know what Joan was actually getting from it, looking back all I can see is me with my head in a book, listening to music on the radio, and records on Joans gramophone. Back in ’55 I had quite a collection of ‘Jazz’ records.
I’d developed a passion for jazz back in 52/53 and I used to spend my Saturday mornings when not rostered for work at Clemens Music Store up at 31 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Clemens was a pokie dump but a veritable treasure house, I once managed to find a recording pressed in the mid 20′s from a recording made in 1916 with Louis Armstrong playing second trumpet/cornet to Joe “King” Oliver, this platter must have been ½ inch thick at least, and it became my prize possession, weighed a ton. I had a great collection of “Hot Five & “Hot Seven” recordings Jelly Roll Morton, some fine old acoustic recordings, the King Oliver was originally an acoustic. I’d also bought several books on the subject although “Shining Trumpets” by Rudi Bleshis the only one I can recall now.
Before Joan, I often attended dances at the Collingwood Town with Doyley and “The Bulls” ( less said about them the better) all on a Saturday night when Frank Johnson and his Fabulous Dixielanders were playing, they were great nights and the “Jitterbuggers” were out in force, I couldn’t jitterbug much to my regret. They were the top jazz band in Australia for yonks. The trombone was Warwick “Wocka” Dyer and he used to handle the vocals too, sometimes he was sober. Wocka was/is the only left handed trombone player I’ve ever come across.
The tuba player, he actually played a Sousaphone, had to play with his back to the crowd as he drowned everything else out when he got going. Nick Polites was on clarinet Nick was probably the best clarinet ever in Australia. The band folded after Wocka was killed in a car accident up Wangaratta way I seem to recall, the word got around that Frank was driving the car and was as drunk as a lord at the time, I can believe that, the band liked a tipple.
Why am I relating this? All will be revealed later.
My jazz time went into recession after I started ‘going steady’, but I still loved my music and would quite happily singalong without Mitch, Bing Crosby was at the top back then and I used to do a great Crosby, I couldn’t do a Sinatra but I could do a Crosby, Joan thought it hilarious for some unknown reason but I think it was because she wasn’t to fond of Bing. Anyway she got the idea that I should take up singing lessons, so she booked me in with some singing teacher, trouble was this teacher wanted me to sing properly like Mario Lanza, who was big at the time, but that wasn’t for me so I gave it away.
I was pretty lucky really she was a great teacher when it came to teaching the appreciation of the finer points in music, now I was (and still am a great lover of Frank Sinatra – my mother told me that her mother was a great fan of Frank before the war, must be from where I got my good taste) and it was back in August of 55 I think it may have been, when Frank made his first visit to Australia we went to a performance which we found devastatingly disappointing. It was at the old Stadium and the boxing ring was the stage, which was fine in a way, but the trouble was the band.
The band was made up of local musicians who were paid up members of the union, not a proper band. No Nelson Riddle & Orchestra that’s for sure and they did not know how to, a) swing and b) follow a singer like Sinatra. He tried to get them to pick up the beat, it was heart rending watching him try to stir some life into these so called musicians that were forced upon him. So he did what he was paid for, left the stage and that was it, forget anything you may read about the 55 concerts this is the truth. The 59 was something different and I’ll tell you about that in time.
Joan had taught me an important lesson how to listen properly and hear, she taught me Sinatra’s amazing power, how to appreciate his diction, (she was a great believer in diction) she taught me how to watch for a change in key, he was a master of changing key in the middle of a word, I learned how and when to anticipate it and then hear it. Wow, it was enlightening and I relished it and have never forgotten it
Well that goes without saying here I am writing about it nearly 60 years later. :/
The YouTube clip is of Frank Johnson and His Dixielanders a 1946 recording, Vocal by Wocka Dyer and this is before Nick Politis joined them. Enjoy! :D
I had some doubts regarding the King Oliver recording I had so I went to trusty old Google and came up with the following:
In 1922 Oliver and his band returned to Chicago, where they began performing as King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band at the Royal Gardens cabaret (later renamed the Lincoln Gardens). In addition to Oliver on cornet, the personnel included his protégé Louis Armstrong on second cornet, Baby Dodds on drums, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lil Hardin(later Armstrong’s wife), on piano, Honoré Dutrey on trombone, and William Manuel Johnson on bass. Recordings made by this group in 1923 for Gennett, Okeh, Paramount andColumbia Records demonstrated the serious artistry of the New Orleans style of collective improvisation or Dixieland, and brought it to the attention of a much wider audience.
I believe this is where my recording originated not a repressing of a 1916 record. Also I now believe that my recording was an actual first copy, made in 1922/23 and as such very rare indeed. Now I’m at a loss as to the who what and where of the record I thought I was writing about, I can visualize that disk but now I can’t recall what was on it, and I feel it’s too late now to ever remember what it was, sad.
A blockage of the mind!
It was my intention to write about the first tme I took Joan along to meet my family and for some reason I can’t; I have a complete mindblock on that event, I’ve no doubt it was an event because of my mothers continuing hostility towards me and my refusal to give up on my deepening feelings for Joan. I cannot recall anything of that initial meeting, all I can remember is that after taking Joan home and returning home my mother upbraided me and proceeded to advise me that Joan was not only ugly, she had a disgusting long neck and she was a Catholic to boot and I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for!
Somehow and for some reason I’d always been under the impression that a swanlike neck was a sign of great beauty. You be the judge.
I’ve written an email to my young sister who is now living in retirement in provincial France in the hope that she may have some memories of that obviously forgettable event and can throw some light on it, but at the time she would have been but 10 or 11 years old and it’s more than likely long gone from her memory, then again when one meets such an extraordinary beautiful person as Joan was it’s impossible to forget that first encounter. I remember the first time as if it was now, right this moment!
There are only two or three occasions where I can recall and visualize them together, the first was was when Joan and I went to Sunshine/Braybrook together on the 17th April 1956, it was my 21st birthday and I’d opted out of any form of celebration. I did not want my mother to be at her best/ nastiest insulting and making snide remarks about my girlfriend behind her back to all and sundry. My mother was more than capable of doing this. However, on this day she was very quiet and subdued. My father took me aside and told me that my mother had received a telegram/cablegram that morning advising her that her mother had died and she was quite upset and putting on a brave face for my benefit, I can’t understand why she’d do that after the previous few months of hell she’d been dragging me through.
I personally did not feel any loss or sorrow, I barely knew my maternal grandmother, or my paternal one come to that, all contact with Grandmother Wright and Aunt Marion (Mick) was lost during the war. It was assumed, and please don’t ask me why, that they’d both been killed when the Underground Station they were sleeping in got a direct hit, they were however amongst the lucky ones to actually survive this bomb the only injury if it can be called that was sustained by Aunt Marion. The shock caused her hair to turn snow white instantly, and it would never take a colour thereafter.
The picture on the right here is of my mother, her mother and Aunt Marion in the yellow frock, as you can see they were “Flappers” :roll:
My mother told me that her sister was a mad dancer and a great exponent of the “Charleston” , and I must admit that I too loved the “Charleston” it was great fun on the dance floor, pity was that it rarely got played in the 50′s when I was a mad dancer.
Looks like I’ve drifted off course once again so I’ll finish here and hope that my sisters memory comes to my aid in this instance because for the life of me I’ve got that damned blockage which will not go away .
The Michigan-Ohio War 1835-1836
AKA the Toledo War.
The states of Ohio and Michigan went to war in 1835 over what was known as the Toledo Strip, they both wanted and claimed the city/town whatever was there at the time as their own. So war was declared. It wasn’t much of a war, indeed there were no shots fired in anger, and to cut this story short it was settled by taking a great hunk of the Territory (not State; Wisconsin didn’t get statehood til May of 1848) of Wisconsin the upper peninsular and giving it to Michigan,
If you look at the map you’ll see who got the best part of that deal. The Territorians had no say in the matter as it was all settled by the government in Washington.
I’ve met many people from the State of Wisconsin and I always recall what ‘Josh Lyman’ in the “West Wing” series said about ‘Donnatella Moss’ when she was suspected of some wrongdoing; “Not Donna, she’s from Wisconsin!” and this pretty well sums up the honesty and integrity of the people from there, well it does of the many I’ve met and I’m about to tell you of a group I met on the 11th Novmber 2008.
On Tuesday the 11th November 08, I was on duty as a guide at the Australian National Maritime Museum, (I used to guide there every Tuesday and the occasional Thursday or if they were desperatly short of guides I’d sometimes pitch in at othertimes), I was first rostered that day on the ‘Meet & Greet’ slot, I loved this part the most, when the doors were opened to M&G the people would stream in, sometimes, and I’d be there big smile on the dial to greet them, and one of the first groups to arrive were seven people from Wisconsin, when looking back I sometimes think I must have this wrong and there must have been eight – four couples, but I can only recall the 7 perhaps there was an eighth who wandered off alone.
And they were delightful, I naturally teased them about the war (of which they knew nothing) and suggested that I come back with them and lead the Wisconsin Army into battle to regain their stolen land and a jolly time was had by all, lovely people, open and friendly , not like the ‘Ugly Americans of the 50s 60s and early 70s. I so enjoyed chatting with them that I told them that at 10.30 I was scheduled to conduct a tour of the Museum proper and I’d like to take them around if they were interested, they asked the cost and when I told them ‘nothing’ they came aboard immediately, I told them to meet me at the same spot at 10.30 and we’d be off on the ‘Grand Tour’.
Normally a tour was scheduled for around 50 minutes which really isn’t enough/much time to cover the Museum but on this day I was scheduled to have an half hour break at 11.30 so I was able to give these folks from Wisconsin the “Grand Tour” of an hour and a half, as I didn’t need a break.
It’s amazing the number of silly (stupid) questions one gets when doing a guided tour and often there is some smarty who knows the lot but with this group of 7 I had a party who when they did ask questions they were not frivolous they were intelligent and interesting, and it was an enjoyable tour, especially as I saved what for them was the best ’til last.
President Reagan made a gift of 5.000.000.00 United States Taxpayer Dollars to Australia as a Bi-centennary Birthday present to this country to be used to establish an American Gallery at the Australian National Maritime Museum that was being built in Sydney. Somebody had told him that we had a long history together going back to Captain Cooks discovery of this land, which of course is true, (I did a few blogs about that some time ago) so he generously gave us some of your money.
The US gallery was a favourite of mine too, and I always saved it for last, I won’t go into the details of this gallery needless to say it’s brilliant and my Wisconsin group were rapt, especially so having a guide who was extremely interested in the US connection, many of the guides there are somewhat ambivalent when it cames to the US of A and cut their tours short.
I didn’t meet up with my “Cheeseheads” until much later in the day. I normally finished my guiding onboard the Endeavour replica, (we liked to boast that it was an exact replica of Cooks ship but I have my doubts). Entrance to the ship closed at 8 bells in the afternoon watch, we actually do use the ships bell on the Endeavour and it can generally be heard in all the outside areas of the museum which is quite delightful to hear in this day and age, I always got a kick when I manned the gangway welcoming the visitors aboard ths ship as it was my duty to ring the bell, a big kid at heart.
They were the last visitors allowed on that day and it was my good fortune to receive them below decks after they’d done a quick tour of the fo’c’stle and the mess deck, in what we call the midi-mates mess. I won’t go into the full history of this mess except that Americans generally get pretty excited, for want of a better word, when I point out the cabin that was occupied by one Lieutenant John Gore, a New Yorker serving in the Royal Navy. (There’s a post and picture somewhere on this site that I did on Lt. Gore a year ago during the NaMoBloMo).
As it was now getting late in the afternoon, nearing ship and museum closing time I radioed the guides at the remaining two posts telling them I had the last visitors with me and I’d take them through the rest of the ship and they could knock off, one Russ, decided he’d stay (we’d normally finish the day together and stop off for a breather) and wait for me on the wharf. My happy little band of Cheeseheads and I finished up right on closing time and they went ashore while I checked out with the ship keeper, letting him know the ship was clear and he could close up and headed for the wharf myself.
There was my happy little band standing under the awning that had been erected that morning for the Armistice Day service that was generally held there every 11/11 at 11, gazing upon a little boat tied up there in pride of place, and so it should be, always, but to my everlasting disgust is only brought to this prime spot once a year on the 11/11. The little boat is the “Krait” (pronounced Cry t) the only vessel in the whole museums fleet that actually saw action, and what action. there is much written about the Krait and it’s exploits so I’m not going into much detail except to say that this little boat with a motley crew of one British and 13 Australians sailed this boat from Australia to Singapore Harbour in 1943 where they sank a total of seven, yes seven, Japanese ships with no losses and got clean away an amazing feat.
In 2008 I know that there was still one survivor of that raid at the memorial service , a little old man in his 90s.
Anyway I told my Wiconsinites the story and then bade them fairwell, as I was walking away one of their number came up to me and whispered quietly ‘ We’ve been trying to work out what you are” and with a triumphant grin told me “you are a retired Professor of History” I could but smile at the compliment and wished it were true but I did not tell him the truth, I didn’t want to spoil their day, they had a grand day out at the ANMM. they’d actually spent the whole day there from the minute it opened to the last ones out when we closed up for the night.
As we Russ and I were toddling off we looked back at a group waving and calling out “Bye Brian” and Russ said something about a nice crew and I replied ‘yes they’re from Wisconsin!’
They were a lovely group probably the best I’d ever had, I shall never forget them.
Now for anybody interested in an amazing true story here are some links which will take you on an interesting voyage: I highly recommend them. and once again where would I be without Google
USS Wisconsin Picture Courtesy “Uss wisconsin bb”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -