Growing up in Brisbane as a baby boomer, I always knew something about the Battle of Brisbane. It was part of the rich soup of stories we grew up in: the impact of the Pacific War, the rationing, the American presence and how this sometimes led to fights between Australian soldiers and the Americans – ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’.
Some of the stories were funny. Here’s an American account of one:
Many Australian troops returning home resented the Americans. Dell Brooks [a submariner from the Seahorse] encountered that resentment in a theater in Brisbane showing Walt Disney’s 1942 animated classic, Bambi. In one segment, Bambi cries out, “Mommy, mommy, where are you?” From the balcony came a voice, “She’s out with some damn Yank; where do you think she’s at?”
Others were serious. Continue reading
It was purely coincidental that I visited the latest Queensland Art Gallery exhibition, California Design, on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, but they fitted together brilliantly.
California Design looks at the sleek, modernist, optimistic designs that came out of California between 1930 and the 1960s, and JFK’s Camelot image was polished – and tarnished – by the same broad-brush strokes. The Kennedys were always attracted by the lure of Hollywood. In lusting after Marilyn Monroe, the brothers were only following in the footsteps of old Joe, who made Gloria Swanson his mistress during the 1930s.
The exhibition begins with a pair of aerial shots of Los Angeles. In 1923, LA is little more than a triangle of country roads and an airstrip. By 1930, the triangle has been filled with houses, and outlying farms are already turning into suburbia. The pace of change must have been shocking or exhilarating to live through, and the boom in housing gave architects and designers an opportunity to concentrate on building – and filling – the private houses of a new wealthy elite. Continue reading
Another straw in the wind – or perhaps, rather, a scrap of paper blown away. The British Library has closed its newspaper library at Colindale in north London, and is moving the newspaper collection to Boston Spa in Yorkshire, where a ‘new purpose-built Newspaper Storage Building (NSB)’ has been built.
Many historians of my generation will remember working at Colindale, and will greet its closure without much regret. Colindale is on the Northern Line. When I worked there in the late 1970s, it was a featureless dormitory suburb completely lacking in charm. The library was just far enough from the tube station to regret forgetting an umbrella, but there was nothing you could do about the wind. Continue reading
Posted in australian history, historiography, personal and self-indulgent
Tagged Australasian Chronicle, British Library, charles fitzroy, Colindale, newspaper history, Newsprint, Sydney Morning Herald, William Augustine Duncan, wood chip
In Australia, Halloween has recently become popular, at least amongst children – what’s not to like about an occasion that gives kids a socially sanctioned reason to be out at night, wear silly costumes and put pressure on their parents to eat lots of sugar?
The shops love it too. Most Australians, I think, are pretty cynical about this imported commercial event – yet another example of creeping Americanisation. My favourite example of the way the marketeers have pushed it into our consciousness was the pumpkin I saw in Woolworths a couple of years ago, printed with dotted lines to show kids how to carve it.
Yet festivals morph and merge. Before there was Halloween (31 October), there was Guy Fawkes Night (5 November). I remember bonfires and fireworks from my childhood, long, long ago. I wonder if the rise of Halloween in Australia has occurred because nature abhors a vacuum? Continue reading