Tag Archives: United States

Thanksgiving and the Battle of Brisbane

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’.

Aussies in WWII

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

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Oscar Ameringer and the Life and Deeds of Uncle Sam

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.

We seem to be going through a phase of extreme cynicism about politics and politicians, so I’d like to introduce a delightful author and, by all accounts, a very nice man.

Oscar Ameringer was born in a small town in Bavaria in 1870, and brought up in a conservative Lutheran household.  He had a talent for painting and music.  His father was a master craftsman, and young Oscar learned furniture making from him, but in the 1880s, industrial production was taking over traditional craftsmanship.

One after the other, guild masters gave up the ghost [and] were sucked into factories… I never minded learning the furniture trade… There is something fascinatingly creative about helping a dead piece of wood evolve into a thing of beauty and service to man.  But young as I was, I foresaw the end of the golden age of handicraft.

Oscar left for America 8 months before his 16th birthday – to seek his fortune, but also to avoid call up for military service. Continue reading

The President and the Barmaid

And I spent my soul in kisses, crushed upon your scarlet mouth,
Oh! My red-lipped, sun-browned sweetheart, dark-eyed daughter of the south.

With all the kissing and cuddling that’s been going on lately between Barack Obama and Julia Gillard, maybe it’s time to quote the words of another American President with a thing for Australian women.

I have heard several times in the last week that until LBJ came to Harold Holt’s funeral in 1967, no American President had visited Australia.  The truth is, Australia is a long way from the rest of the world.  Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said (though I can’t find hard evidence) that he had never visited Australia, because he had never been on the way to Antarctica.  So it is not surprising that world leaders didn’t visit Australia before the era of fast air travel.  Nowadays, of course, they all find an excuse to come, especially during the northern winter.

But in fact, one American President spent a considerable time in Australia and left his mark on it.

President Hoover stamp 1965

Hoover stamp, 1965, from Wikimedia

Herbert Hoover arrived in Kalgoorlie as a young geologist straight out of Stanford University, in 1897. Continue reading