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Category Archives: reminiscences

My December-January South Sydney Herald story

Shuffling the years with Bev Hunter

Like old Dan in Judith Wright’s “South of My Days” John and Bev Hunter have seventy years of Darlington memories hived up in them like old honey. “It was a great place. We had the best of it,” Bev recalls. “It was a really safe area. You could leave your key in the door, or leave it open, or the key under the mat. You never got shut out.”

“It was terrible, what happened. ‘Progress’ they call it, but the Town Hall where everyone had their birthday parties, engagement parties, wedding parties – that went. But we did save the old school, which is a music room now, and the gates with the war memorials. How many were affected? You’d have to look at the James Colman Report on the expansion of Sydney University into the Darlington area.” Bev has a copy in front of her; it came out in 1976 and is in Waterloo Library.

There were some, apparently, who helped themselves to people’s property even before they had fully moved out. Some of the local hard men soon dealt with that. “It was pretty tough in those days,” Bev says. “But we did get enough support to stop them crossing Shepherd Street” – referring to the University of Sydney which began encroaching on Darlington in the 1960s and has now swallowed up almost half the suburb.

Not the first time the area was devoured of course. In 1788-9 the “Kangaroo Ground” (as it was then known) was set aside for educational and other purposes, though it would be the 1850s before the University actually appeared just above the swamp and lake that formed one of two sources of Blackwattle Creek. By 1791 most of the Cadigal had succumbed to smallpox and other hazards. In 1835 the botanist Thomas Shepherd had a nursery there named in honour of Governor Ralph Darling; the street names – Ivy, Rose and so on – reflect that origin. By the late 19th century Darlington was well established as the working class suburb John and Bev Hunter were later born into.

One of the attractions for young people in the 40s and 50s of last century was the Surryville. Johnny Devlin & the Devils, from New Zealand, started a permanent Tuesday night dance at the Surryville, but the place had been jumping long before that. St Vincent de Paul’s had an event there: “In the winter of 1903, the Society organized at ‘SurreyVille’ for the’ distressed poor of the parish’ a Bread and Butter Dance which was hailed as ‘a perfect success’. Thirty-three lady parishioners, ranging from Madame Huenerbein to Madame McSweeney furnished a generous table free …Rickett’s string band discoursed the music and Miss May Stanley played the extras’ . G.Smythe provided Arnott biscuits, E. and G.Humphreys the cordials, the chemist Mr. M.H.Limon the programmes, and four local butchers the meat.” Bev remembers the alcohol-free dance nights. “We used to walk up to the Surryville, where the Wentworth Building now is, and walk home again around 11pm – that’s how safe it was then”

But the University did provide work too for local people in the 60s and 70s. Bev herself worked as a cleaner in the Wentworth Building from 5-9am, then worked at a shop on the corner of Calder Road and Shepherd Street, which she eventually owned. Later she was in the hamburger bar upstairs in Wentworth. The Calder Road shop did much business with students from the new Engineering School; among Bev’s customers was Frank Sartor with whom Bev would in time be on Sydney Council. Bev’s activism in that role is local legend now. Her community work was acknowledged by the Council in 1988 with an Australia Day Award for voluntary work. She had also become a JP during those activist days so she could save people having to walk up to Newtown Court to get their documents witnessed. She is still an active JP.

Bev and John raised three children in Darlington. Retired to Long Jetty, she still feels part of the Darlington community. Some of their old neighbours now live not far from their new home, including one who was John’s next-door neighbour in 1939. Bev still has relatives and friends in Darlington and visits quite often. A sister-in-law and her family still live in Calder Road.

Acknowledgement: St. James’ Forest Lodge parish history (online) for the account of the St Vincent de Paul event of 1903

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I was led to one of those English Teacher moments…

By my reading of that newly found archive, that is. Back in June 2004 I noted this:

One of those nice English teacher moments that happen very occasionally.

Are you my English teacher from TIGS? If so, I just thought I’d let you know that the doors you helped open for me helped make me what I am today — a reasonably successful author.

Check out my website.

— James

Yes, it is still there.

hartley

 

Another from the recently found archive

Most of us write because we like ourselves better when we write. We write because it gives our lives meaning, because we get to tell our stories.

That is from the web pages of Jessica Page Morrell, author of Writing Out the Storm (Portland, Starbound Press, 1998). I have quite an extensive library of books on writing, ranging from the usual reference texts to manuals to literary theory and linguistics. Morrell’s is in the self-help or writing-as-therapy genre, which some might regard patronisingly–but I do not. There are truths about writing in such texts, truths more useful in fact than in much of the academic theory–certainly more useful than most of the postmodern stuff I have had occasion to read lately. But it is not really a case of either/or; different focus, that’s all.

Writing makes your life better because you get to speak your truth and turn a discriminating eye at this weird planet and tell other people just how you see things. Most people who write regularly, who make writing a crucial component in their existence, like themselves better than when they’re not writing. It’s pretty simple. I know it works because it worked for me. If you write regularly–no matter what the subject or format–you’ll shift your muddled worries to clarity, your vague hopes to reality, and your denial to crystal truth….

Some of us write for the sheer joy of putting words on paper, but for others there are leftover hurts or a deep, dwelling loneliness begging to be healed. Most writers know that pain is eased by the company of words. So we write. [Writing Out the Storm pp. 2-4]

Certainly this diary began (offline) in 1999 because of a "dwelling loneliness begging to be healed." I am less lonely now, thanks to certain events over the past two years, but the writing bug is still here, and I recommend writing to anyone. I don’t write every day, but pretty damned close! Just fifteen minutes or so is as good a form of meditation as I know–and now and again it even results in something better than a rant!

Writing Out the Storm has some good practical advice on writing, all the more valuable as it counterbalances the tendency to dehumanisation that academic writing inevitably produces. Academic writing is often very bad writing; is it not ironic that we actually have to teach some of the very worst vices of academic prose to students whose natural inclination is to write well? We have to prepare them to stifle their authentic writing voices so that they can produce the turgid over-nominalised polysyllabic stuff that academics regard as appropriate.
Gary B. Larson’s portal to an annotated directory of writing Web sites, editorial style manual, concise writing guide, personalized advice and writing forum is also well worth visiting.

On other matters, a very well-researched book I have been reading lately is Neil Miller’s Sex-Crime Panic (Los Angeles, Alyson Books, 2002) — from the excellent Surry Hills Library. It is very fair in its depiction of 1950s therapeutic and criminological views of homosexuality, American of course but not dissimilar to what prevailed in Australia and coloured my own views in my late teens and twenties. It is quite a cautionary tale. The review I have linked to tells you more.

— 15 September 2002

 
 

…another school term, and much else, going down the tube…

New Series: Entry 12

rabbit 16 September 2004: It turns out the Salt Mine’s Deputy went to the same school in Armidale where Mister Marsden (see previous entry) was a junior seminarian…

Oh yes, the computer – a Pentium 4 – in my Salt Mine staff room was stolen yesterday afternoon: all its inner workings neatly removed. There’s been a bit of this happening lately.

Back in 1962 Dr Marsh, the best lecturer on Shakespeare I ever had – he had completed a book on Cymbeline while in prison in South Africa, told our tutorial group who, at the time, were discussing Yeats’s "The best lack all convictions, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity" that the problem with the then South African regime, which he opposed, was not that they were evil but they were so absolutely sure they were right. This came back to me while watching With God on our Side last night.

You will get the general picture very effectively by perusing The Jesus Factor, a PBS production. On that site Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner Magazine – well worth visiting, says:

… When Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney talk about the necessity of American power and supremacy, military supremacy in the world as the only way to peace, I understand that as a foreign policy. I think it’s not a wise foreign policy, but I understand it.
When President Bush adds God to their formulation and says God’s purpose or intention is somehow linked with American military preeminence, that’s a very dangerous thing. President Bush [and] the White House basically choreographed a liturgy at the National Cathedral. President Bush was a chief homilist. In the pulpit of the National Cathedral, he made a war speech. He called the nation to arms in the pulpit of the National Cathedral, and he claimed a divine mission for our nation to rid the world of evil.
That is not only bad foreign policy or presumptuous foreign policy — I would say it’s idolatrous foreign policy to claim God’s purpose for that mission. And in the language that Mr. Bush has used, he does this again and again and again. Our role, and his role as president, this is acclaiming a righteous [decree] that Pax Americana is God’s foreign policy. This is a very unsettling thing.

Unsettling all right. "It is sobering to recall that … Athens, as the leader of the Delian League, was destroyed when it arrogantly began to impose its will on other states," writes Denis Kenny in the latestDissent. "President Bush especially, has been congratulated by his supporters for his ‘moral clarity’ in waging the ‘war on terror’, when by any recognised thical standards his pronouncements read like those of a moral cretin." In the same magazine, Dirk Baltzly says: "Whatever its moral value, deception has sometimes been used successfully as an instrument of foreign policy. Self-deception never has." Looking at the escalating insurgency in Iraq, and the manifest continuance of terror elsewhere, not to mention the fact that recruitment to terror is actually rising, it is hard not to see the black-and-white nostrums so beloved by George Bush and his offsiders – Condy Rice is another born-again for example – as setting them all up, and us, for self-deception. Not evil: just too damned sure they are right.

"Two-valued orientation, the mindset that perceives a clear separation between good and bad, black and white, right and wrong, is a stage of consciousness that everyone experiences as part of the maturation process. Some people remain there instead of growing into the more nuanced stage of formal operations and beyond, and these people can be described as fundamentalists. They exist in Islam, and also in our society. Not all, or most, fundamentalists are terrorists or capable of terrorism, but all, or nearly all, terrorists are operating at the fundamentalist level of human consciousness." So writes Courtney Nelson in "THE NATURE OF THE CONFLICT: AFTER 9/11/01." Good stuff too.
We have not been well led…

  • "Let’s look at the facts for a second. The Bush/Cheney administration’s record on terrorism is not exactly the best. They delayed military operations in Afghanistan long enough for Osama bin Laden to escape our grasp. They failed to crack down on Saudi Arabia, the country that produced fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. And, in the coup de gras, they attacked Iraq, a war that terror experts feel was a diversion from the real war against Al Qaeda. In the words of the author of Imperial Hubris, who wrote anonymously but is known to be a senior CIA official fearful of losing his job, the Iraqi war was a ‘Christmas present’ to bin Laden. We gave him a delay from our operations against him while at the same time leading many new recruits to terrorist groups." — "The Politics of Terror" by Dave Rosenberg (The Bentley Vanguard | Bentley College Thursday, September 16, 2004.)
  • Far graver than VietnamThe Guardian (UK) Thursday September 16, 2004: "’Bring them on!’ President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is ‘winning’ in Iraq. ‘Our strategy is succeeding,’ he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday. But, according to the US military’s leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush’s war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: ‘Bush hasn’t found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it’s worse, he’s lost on that front. That he’s going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It’s lost.’ He adds: ‘Right now, the course we’re on, we’re achieving Bin Laden’s ends’…"

    Falwell_Robertson Last night we had a reprise of Jerry Falwell’s disgusting comments on the subject of September 11 2001:

    I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way–all of them who have tried to secularize America–I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."

    A soul-mate of Abu Bakar Bashir?

    # Just in case you have been wondering and hadn’t noticed the date, this is from my long dead Diary-X blog, second series 2004. I have found a CD-ROM with quite a few archives on it.

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    Posted by on September 14, 2009 in blogging, nostalgia, reminiscences, reminiscing, replays

     

    For the fifty million dead — 1

    Seventy years ago today World War II was declared.

    I am strictly speaking not a baby boomer as I was born during World War II and even have a memory of the end of the war. Looking back, there is no doubt World War II profoundly affected all of us for years to come.

    Take two men: my father, and a neighbour of ours in Wollongong in the 1970s.

    aaa 014 Chiang2

    That is my father on the left, but the person on the right is not our neighbour Willy, but rather a person – and curiously a Chinese person which Willy, a Prussian, was not – in the uniform of a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. However, Willy was a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and such a picture sat on the dresser in Tilly and Willy’s bedroom. Willy was on the Russian Front. Of 1,000 nine (including Willy) got back home. “It was all stupid”, Willy would say to my father as they sat together swapping war memories. Willy’s war was certainly rougher than my father’s, as my father served most of it in Richmond, Melbourne and Cootamundra, only getting to Papua in the last year or two of the war and then just in Port Moresby where he was on RAAF ground crew.

    How we were all caught up in this!

    As my mother wrote about thirty years after the war:

    The night was still. The stars and the moon shone brightly on a troubled world. War in Europe; the second time in a quarter of a century. France was again echoing to the sound of German guns and the rest of the world paused waiting–for what? In an Australian city the young woman was waiting also–for the commonplace, the everyday miracle–the coming of a wanted child.

    The curtains stirred as the wind whispered gently and everything seemed poised listening. The child in the womb stirred, waking the sleeping woman. The whispers grew stronger and she knew this day her babe would be born. What did life hold for this child already loved? What lay ahead, not in the dim distant future, but in the now–the immediate, with this world so shatteringly troubled. The mother trembled and prayed for peace in this babe’s time and a better world for the young to live and grow in bodily and in spirit… Of all the miracles of science in this twentieth century none can surpass the miracle of begetting and the birth of a wanted child…

    That day in 1940 the child was born–a girl–bringing with her all the tenderness of love that one small babe has brought over so many hundreds of years.

    Shortly after, the father in the full flush of manhood with hundreds of others became a number in the R.A.A.F. The next six years held strife and fear, home-comings and leavings, waiting, hoping, praying while free peoples everywhere struggled to regain seemingly lost power and prestige against overwhelming odds. He, the father, served his country faithfully and well through the long dreary years. At home his small daughter grew, and, as it is with children, accepted the world around her. Mummy, Grandpa, Grandma, her big brother, and the baby brother who came later, and the father who appeared sometimes.

    Sadly that girl was to die just six and a half years after the war ended.

    raaf

     
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    Posted by on September 3, 2009 in events, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing

     

    In 1998

    Thomas did a post on this a few days ago. He was about 12, so I added a comment there about myself when in Year 6 – rather different from Thomas’s world. Of course I could (with a little difficulty) do 1948, if I chose – in fact I did a few years back. Or 1958 or 1968 – again done a while back. Not to mention 1978 and 1988…

    In 1998 I was English and ESL teacher at SBHS and decided to upgrade my ESL qualifications. So I found myself back at uni (UTS) after a very long absence doing my Grad Cert TESOL – which was very good. Also I liked all those letters: Grad Cert TESOL (UTS) looked pretty impressive after BA (Hons) Dip Ed (Syd). 😉 The lovely Jennifer Hammond wanted me to go on to Masters level, but I’m afraid I didn’t see the point at that time. M and I had been together for eight years. Wasn’t a bad year at all, 1998, and I had a rather nice Year 12 English class. I was as yet an internet virgin, having only a marvellous Brother PowerNote which had at least 32k of memory! But it was enough to do my essays.

    I did spend rather too much time on Oxford Street, but as you will see from the essay linked above that too had its relevance.

     
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    Posted by on July 22, 2009 in personal, reminiscences, reminiscing

     

    Glebe revisited

    As I mention on the photo blog, I went over to an old stamping ground of mine today: Glebe and Forest Lodge. One reason was to drop off copies of The South Sydney Herald at the bookshops whose proprietors I had interviewed (on Skype!) for my article in the July edition.

    Bit of a private joke this:

    glebe 001

    Cornstalk Books was one of my destinations. The room above the shop – empty then – was the place all but the last issues of Neos were launched between 1981 and 1984. Memories!

    glebe 022

    In the $5 tray outside I picked up something of a treasure: A D Fraser (ed), This Century of Ours: Being an Account of the Origin and History during One Hundred Years of the House of Dangar, Gedye & Malloch Ltd, of Sydney, 1938. I am sure Jim Belshaw would be interested. (I’ll sell it to you for $100, Jim! ;)) I see it is $25 on that catalogue at the link.

    This is the frontispiece by artist Raymond Lindsay.

    glebe