The Antis

First published

The great difficulty with the Anti Football League was getting people to believe that we were serious. The wife of a United States ambassador, Mrs Ed Clark, had the best line about Australia. She had the feeling she was living in a gymnasium, she said. Australians rarely seem to be beyond the sound of a bouncing ball. Almost since the first white settlement we have been obsessed with sport. As the nineteenth-century immigrants moved inland the first items they built in any town were the pub, the racetrack, the school and the church, often in that order.

In the 1880s, 1870s and 1880s when our scullers, boxers and cricketers began to win international fame, these were the people we adored. Sporting heroes were our national gods, infinitely preferable to nation-builders, pioneers, inventors, politicians and scientists. Thinkers, writers and poets rated not at all. Henry Lawson in 'A Son of Southern Writers' wrote: in a Land where sport is sacred, Where the Labourer is God, You must pander to the people, Make a hero of a clod. We were a nation of immigrants; most of us had left another place, another culture, and we were desperate for reassurance. In this land of sunshine we were capable of producing a super race. Sport helped overcome a national inferiority complex. Our idea of heaven was to beat the mother country, old England, beat her at anything. It was the satisfaction of the child showing itself superior to the parent. We never changed in this. The national euphoria was unequalled when we won gold medals at the 1956 Olympic Games. The nation's cup of bliss ran over whenever an Australian won Wimbledon or when we took the Davis Cup. And the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, led the cheering when we won the America's Cup in 1983. On the other hand we cannot bear to lose. It is matter of national grief and questions are asked in Parliament when we lose.

Australian newspapers give more space to sport than do those of any other nation on earth. In 1962 Professor Henry Mayer made an analytical survey of the contents of Australian newspapers. He found that the quality newspapers covered sport in more detail than the popular journals. These were the national averages: take away the advertisements and there was actually 41.4 per cent news space; of this, foreign news took 7.4 per cent, political-social economic news 8.2 per cent, other news 10.8 per cent and sport 15 per cent.

Of all the sporting cities, the most dedicated, the most manic, is Melbourne. Melbourne attracts the biggest crowds for racing, the biggest crowds for tennis, the biggest crowds for cricket, and the crowds for football are more than double those of anywhere else in Australia. Living in Melbourne during the football season is like suffocating in a sauna bath; football seems to ooze out of one's pores. The sport dominates the newspapers, the radio and television. A good football story can gain preference over a landing on the moon, the death of a prime minister or the outbreak of the Third World War. Obituaries have gone out of fashion with Australian newspapers. Leaders of industry, famous professional people, politicians and actors die almost unnoticed except for the `Deaths' column on page ninety-six. But say that leader of industry, that professional, that politician or that actor played in his youth for Richmond or Collingwood, then he makes page one.

The Anti Football League began on Sunday, 16 April 1967. The office of the Sun News-Pictorial, as always on a Sunday, was filled with football writers and famous ex-footballers teaming up with their ghost writers. There was no conversation but football. Douglas Wilkie, the foreign affairs writer, sighed and said: 'There must be a better life than this. Couldn't we start an anti-football organisation?' I suggested this in my column and the result was overwhelming. We seemed to touch a tortured heart in Melbourne. I went to Lyle Turnbull, Editor of the Sun, and asked, 'What would you say if 1 used the column to start an anti-football league?'.

His shock was profound. He said nothing for several minutes. To his credit he finally replied: 'I suppose if we cater for people who love football we should also cater for those who detest it. Go ahead'. Obviously we were going to need a badge. I thought it should be square - symbolic of something that would not bounce. It should be red, the colour of rebellion, and small, tasteful, like the badge of the Legion of Honour. AFL members could wear it. Other members would recognise it and know that here, at last, was a chance for an intelligent conversation. I wrote this in my column and the next morning there was a telephone call. 'My name is Alf Phillips. I'll design your badge for you.' 'Who are you, Mr Phillips?' 'We're in the business of making and designing badges', he replied. 'I work for K. G. Luke and Company.' Sir Kenneth Luke, business person and breeder of Herefords, was also president of the Victorian Football League. Very startled, I asked, 'Mr Phillips, you are having me on, aren't you?'. 'No', he answered, 'if there's a quid in it for you and a quid in it for Sir Kenneth, it'll be okay'. K. G. Luke and Company subsequently made more than 100 000 badges, and every one of them had the company's name on the back. To be fair to Sir Kenneth, he did actually make a substantial donation to the AFL. The next call came from Walter O'Donoghue, Advertising Manager at the Myer Emporium. Wally O'Donoghue had red, curly hair, a great imagination and a huge sense of humour. 'Look', he said, 'we'll back you in this thing. We'll put up 500 dollars for badges and sponsor it through Myer's. But you must realise you will never get it off the ground without a nice air of respectability. You must do it for charity and I suggest the Berry Street Babies Home'. Berry Street was famous: it looked after the homeless, the foundling children. All was now set. The idea was to launch the Anti Football League as the lead story in the Sun's weekend magazine on Saturday, 17 June. On the Thursday Wally telephoned. He was very apologetic. His directors did not approve. An anti-football league would be very bad for Myer's image. The company also had a policy about fund raising. It just could not get involved in fund raising like this. It had not worked for charity before and it could not do it now.

This was disaster. The page was all made up ready to run in Saturday's Sun and it was too late to turn back. I now had to pay K. G. Luke's bill for the badges, 500 dollars'-worth. Five hundred dollars in 1987 on a journalist's salary seemed a great deal of money. On Monday morning I went to the office and waited for the reaction. There was none. There was not a single letter and by lunch-time still nothing. I sat in misery. 'I should have known. Who would want to be anti-football in Melbourne? I have just lost 500 dollars.' At 1 p.m. there was a call from the post office: 'We didn't bring round your mail this morning because s too much of it. How would you like it? We've got it all here in sacks'.

Every badge was gone by mid-afternoon and a desperate plea went to Mr Phillips for a new, quadrupled order. I hesitate to say the mail was entirely favourable. One writer said, 'If you don't like football why don't you do the decent thing, get out, go and live in Sydney, or even better Nome, Alaska'. Another wrote, 'Come to the Phoenix Hotel at 5 p.m. and give you a knuckle sandwich'. A third said: 'This is typical of the cheap, nasty things you do. I never liked anything you wrote, never liked anything you said. What's more I can't stand your dull, flat, weak, smug, characterless face on television'. A surprising number said Wilkie and I were either communists or homosexuals. 'You got to be a commo or a poofter', one person wrote. 'It's the only way I can explain someone doing a thing like this in Melbourne.' Yet other letters showed a huge sense of relief. For example: Sir, My mild pleasure out of football has been killed by the ever-present mass media playing each game in prospect, actuality and retrospect, and my Saturday night parties arc ruined by the boredom of football conversation by the vocal minority. Sincerely, Ron Taft, Reader in Psychology, University of Melbourne And: Sir, I have many friends who, of economic necessity, must live in Melbourne, but find the intellectual climate absolutely stultifying as no intelligent conversation is possible whatsoever, following the orgy of weekend sport. Yours, etc., L. Maginity, Caringbah The Anti Football League very smartly produced cuff-links, ear rings, T-shirts, sweat shirts and bumper stickers. We brought out a poster, which was most popular. It read in large letters 'THIS IS A FOOTBALL FREE ZONE'. All the football clubs had rousing songs, so we thought the AFL should have one also. Journalist David Rankine wrote the words. The chorus went like this: So all who are for us Come join in our chorus, What have you got to lose? I shun the game, Let's do the same. I've got the anti-football blues. Doug Owen the folk-singer sang the words and Ron Tudor of W & G Records produced a record, which we sold for a dollar, again for the Berry Street Babies' Home. The flip side of the record was a problem, but we decided to do something for humanity. We felt what every home needed desperately was silence. We recorded two and half minutes of silence, which, according to Ron Tudor, was a most difficult thing to do technically. The silence was a huge success. Some people loved it so much they played it over and over again. There were so many ways of raising money. By the 1960s the beauty contest had become a weary cliche. Why not for a change run a contest for females where beauty was no consideration whatever? We would run an anti-beauty competition where contestants could express their opinions on sport. The contest took place at the Hotel Australia on 19 July 1969. First prize was a 200-dollar wardrobe from Walton's and a fortnight's holiday at Surfers' Paradise, courtesy of Hotel Australia.

I had hoped that the winner would be plain to the point of ugly. She turned out to be not only extremely eloquent but also attractive. She was Pixie Rose, 18, of Middle Park. She said in her winning speech:

The game is a national disease and children are brainwashed to it as soon as they can walk. If you don't like football in Melbourne they think you're some creature from Mars. My dentist is in Harrison House and the trees outside are an example of this hysteria. After tribunal nights there are streamers everywhere and limbs broken off the trees outside where fanatics have been climbing. Pixie, or Peggy as we called her, was a loyal supporter of the AFL for the next decade.

Berry Street had a fund raiser, a master organiser, Fred Coding. Fred was a slim, slight little man, who appeared to be devotedly anti-football. I found out only years later that he had been first rover for Richmond in its years of greatness when it won all its premierships. Fred was keen to earn money on a large scale so we organised a series of raffles.

The AFL needed a focus, a rallying point. We instituted an Anti Football Day, which always took place on the eve of the Grand Final. The first time, we went to Ian Johnson, who was secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club, and asked him for the ground-plan of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Ian, who was less than devoted to football, said: "I will give you the plan, but you won't broadcast the fact, will you? If you do, I'll be ruined'.

We took the plan and printed anti-final tickets that were almost a replica of the tickets the VFL was selling for the Grand Final. We printed 120 000 tickets and our followers could buy a book of ten for 2 dollars. Purchase of a ticket gave a follower the privilege of staying away from the non-match. We considered the tickets great value because a purchaser could stay away not only from the non-match but also for the entire season. There was a further advantage: all tickets were numbered, all tickets were for various grandstands, so purchasers could nominate seats at the MCG that they found particularly undesirable and stay away from those. Before females were allowed (at last) into the Melbourne Cricket Club as members, many women bought tickets with great vehemence in the Members' Stand so that they could stay away from it. Indeed, women were always our best AFL members.

They made up two out of three of our entire membership and particularly included wives of footballers. Lucky seats carried prizes. For the first non-match in 1972 the first prize was a Ford XL Cortina and the second prize a holiday for two to Singapore and Malaysia, courtesy of Qantas. It was a splendid money raiser for Berry Street.

We instituted our first Wilkie award in 1967, the very first year of the AFL, and from then on it became an annual event. The VFL awarded the Brawnlow Medal, just before the finals, for the best and fairest player. The award was always conducted with huge radio, television and newspaper publicity. There needed to be an antidote for this. So we founded the Wilkie, in honour of Douglas Wilkie, the AFL President, and we awarded it to the male or female who had done least for football in the fairest manner.

We awarded the first Wilkie to the then prime minister, Harold Holt. We had noted that governors and, in particular, politicians liked to pick up popularity by associating themselves with a football club. Sir Robert Menzies was number one ticket holder at Carlton, Arthur Calwell was number one at North Melbourne, Sir John McEwen at Fitzroy and Billy Snedden at Melbourne. Gough Whitlam, whom one would have presumed had zero interest in Melbourne football, became the number one ticket holder at Geelong and also had himself photographed in a Collingwood guernsey.

But Harold Holt did none of this. We did careful research and discovered that never while he was a politician had he been seen at a football match. So in September 1967 we advised Mr Holt of his award. Two weeks went by and there was no answer. I telephoned his press secretary, Tony Eggleton, and said, 'Tony, the Prime Minister has received this extraordinary honour but we have received no reply'. 'Oh, I know he appreciates the honour', replied Eggleton. 'The trouble is he has an election coming up, and if word gets around it might be his downfall. I'Il tell you what, he would be delighted to receive the award privately, with no photographs.' So, on 11 September 1967, Bruce Matear, Chairman of the Berry Street Babies Home Appeal, presented Harold Halt with his medal. Holt explained that he had won his football colours at Wesley College in Melbourne and had even broken a collar-bone playing for Queen's College against Ormond College, at Melbourne University. But as for watching football, that was not for him. 'I like to play sport myself, he said. 'I like tennis and I like swimming. For example, I went spear fishing last weekend at Portsea'. We commented that anyone who went spear fishing at Portsea in frigid September deserved a medal. Just three months later, on 17 December, at the very spot he had mentioned - Cheviot Beach near Portsea - Harold Holt went into the water and disappeared, presumed drowned.

Cyril Pearl, author of The Girl with the Swansdown Seat, Wild Men of Sydney, Morrison of Peking and Dublin in Bloomtime, was one of our most brilliant Wilkie winners. In angry letters to newspapers he described the various scourges that had plagued New South Wales. There was the dreadful louse phylloxera, which had swept across Victoria, virtually destroying a wine industry, then invaded New South Wales. Then there was the insidious pest prickly pear, which had come down from the north to devastate the farmlands. Now there was the equally horrid pest Australian Rules football, which was coming from Melbourne to contaminate Sydney. We asked Cyril Pearl if he would fly from Sydney to accept his Wilkie award for 1972. He said yes he would, on condition that he could burn a football once kicked by the immortal Roy Cazaly. We tried very hard to find a football that had been kicked by Cazaly, but it was impossible. Royce Hart of Richmond was an extraordinary hero in 1972. We did have a football that had been kicked by him. Would this do? Yes it would. Anti Football Day was on 28 September. Fred Goding asked K. G. Luke to make the Wilkie Medal. It was a beautiful thing: large, gold and much more impressive than the Brownlow. Recipients wore it on a red ribbon hung around the neck. Mr Pear! in his acceptance speech said he felt like the Grand Ambassador Extraordinary from Uganda. The ceremony took place in the middle of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It felt quite eerie and awesome with the 60 000 AFL members who had paid to stay away. Nearby the Royal Australian Navy Band was practising for the imminent Grand Final. I asked the commander if he would play an appropriate tune while we burned the football

'Certainly not', he replied, in dipped tones. We placed the football on a little stove and lit it, but there was no result. We soaked it in kerosene: still no result. 'I told you so', Ian Johnson said. 'There are things you can do and can't do on the MCC. There is something special about the atmosphere of this place. The football will never burn. It won't be allowed.' I must admit I started to feel guilty. It was a bit like taking one's pants off in St Paul's Cathedral. But suddenly the football began to burn. There was a marvellous column of black smoke and the sinister smell of burning leather. The Navy people relented. A sailor with a bugle came across and played 'The Last Post'. It was a most moving experience. In 1974 first prize for our great non-football match was a Qantas trip for two to Bangkok. Colour television was the novelty of the moment so our second prize was a Sanyo colour television set. The Wilkie winner was Leon Hill, general manager of CTV9. Channel Nine was the first television station to have the courage to give up football match replays on Saturday nights. We decided this time to bury a football at sea, and we felt it should be done properly with a tasteful old-time service. We hired all our gear from Formal Wear and our team, which included Fred Coding, looked fine, indeed, in top hats bound with black crepe. We called almost every funeral director in Melbourne but not one would supply us with a hearse. Ultimately we were saved by a young gentleman, Ian Vinnicombe. He was a part-time taxi driver and, curiously, a member of the Collingwood Cheer Squad. Hearses, he said, had become most fashionable. He announced that he had a superb 1940 Dodge hearse that tipped the scale at just over 2 tonnes. He had bought it just ten months ago for 150 dollars from a funeral director in New South Wales. We drove the hearse to Williamstown at a respectful 30 kilometres an hour. The idea was to hire a boat from Parson's Marina and have our burial at sea. Clearly the gods were against us. There was a true Melburnian storm, with 100-kilometre winds blowing straight from the Antarctic, and the wharf had all the atmosphere of a scene from Hamlet. All boating on the bay was banned. There was only one thing to do: conduct our burial service at the end of the Williamstown Pier. We had a beautiful coffin for our football. I placed bricks in the bottom, bored holes in the lid and the four pallbearers gently, with appropriately mournful music, lowered the coffin into the sea. 'In loving memory of the ailing body of the once great Victorian Football League and its suffering attendances, we commit this expired body to the deep', we all intoned.

Then came disaster. Under pressure down below, the lid flew off, and the football popped to the surface like a cork. The wind caught it and soon it was scudding across the surface of the choppy sea. The last we saw of that football it was racing towards Port Phillip Heads, which stood out like the great goal posts in the sky. All four Melbourne television stations were there with their cameras. They made a great deal out of that story.

In 1977 our fi t prize was a holiday for two in Singapore, with two weeks at the Ming Court Hotel, courtesy of Qantas. Second prize was a Datsun car and third prize was the new, exciting gimmick of the year - a videotape recorder. Our charity now was the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Victoria. Fred Goding announced that the AFL in its first decade had raised 100 000 dollars.

Our Wilkie winner for 1977 was Kate Baillieu, television star of GTV9. Kate won her award by refusing to play in the Kerry's Angels all-female football team. The Angels were named in honour of the Nine network's proprietor, Kerry Packer. Kate Baillieu was a keen balloonist and she suggested that the best way to destroy her football was to explode it in mid-air. With two ballooning friends, Tony Norton and Bruce Blake, she created a beautiful thing, bright red and 4 metres long. We took the balloon to the centre of the MCG and attached a fuse. The theory was that the football would explode splendidly in mid-air.

The balloon went up, up, up, high into the sky, and was scooting towards Government House when, suddenly, it exploded. There was a sheet of flame and it went down like the ill-fated Hindenburg, right over Brunton Avenue, one of the big arterial roads into the city. Once again Ian Johnson was present. He grabbed me by the arm and said, 'I just hope you have got plenty of insurance'. There was an hour of terror waiting for the report of some incinerated automobile, but the remains fell into the railway yards and not on the avenue. In other years we cut up footballs with chain-saws, we hired magicians who made them disappear and in 1985 Wilkie winner Barry Humphries, alias Sir Les Patterson, engaged a camel to eat a football. He had a little trouble. The camel was more interested after Barry had smothered the ball with cream cake.

The eating of footballs became popular. How wonderful it would be if we could recycle all footballs and turn them into food, we thought. We bought a fresh football, boiled it for several days, minced it and, with the aid of carrots, onions, tomatoes and lots of herbs, Peter Russell-Clarke, our cooking expert, turned it into a lovely curry. We served it nice and hot at our 1988 Wilkie award ceremony when Terry Lane, writer and ABC broadcaster, was our Wilkie winner.

Sometimes it seemed God was not quite on the side of anti-football. One year Robert Joyce, a sky-writing pilot, offered to draw the Anti Football League symbol across the Melburnian sky. We asked him if he could do it for us on the next Saturday, right above the Melbourne Cricket Ground where the Demons would be indulging in their regular clash with the Magpies.

Mr Joyce took off in his small aeroplane and he did indeed draw in smoke a wonderful anti-football cube plus the letters AFL. He had suggested the right height for our symbol would be 3000 metres. There was just one thing wrong with this, the wind at 3000 metres on that day was blowing at 160 kilometres an hour. By the time Robert Joyce had finished his sky writing the symbol was somewhere over Dandenong. It all seemed a failure, a disaster. However, on the Tuesday morning this letter arrived from Mrs Lesley Dingle of Mitcham:

During the season my husband carries his trannie round like a wart. And on Saturday afternoon he had it blaring - you know what - on the handle of his wheelbarrow. Well, just as we got to the forty-ninth barrowload of leaves, I reached breaking point. Thoughts of murder or suicide surged through my tortured mind and, in my hopelessness, I turned my eyes to heaven - and Oh miracle! Oh happy day! Hallelujah! There before my unbelieving gaze was THE CUBE! And, as I stood transfixed, an 'A' appeared and then the noble little aeroplane created an 'F' and an 'U. I waved my rake in triumphant gestures and the transistor was struck dumb. After this great happening I now have the strength to go on living until the finals.

From time to time the AFL published The Carefree Motorists' Clean Air Guide to Victoria. This was a series of exquisitely charted courses that took members on routes comfortably free from all football grounds. We discovered, however, that escaping from football, keeping oneself football pure, on Grand Final Day was extremely difficult. In 1983 we had an idea. We hired the entire Princess Theatre for a special matinee performance of West Side Story. We sealed off the theatre and the plan was this: AFL members would be able to enjoy a shrine of their own in which not a word about the Grand Final would be uttered.

It was a failure. One character sat with an ear-plug in throughout the entire performance. When poor Maria was pleading for a new Cl Dorado 'Some Day' among the cut-throat gangs of New York, this fellow was getting a blow-by-blow description about the thugs on the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Then, at interval, I went out to the men's lavatory and another four of them were tuning into the football on their trannies. Heaven knows what went on in the female lavatory, but I suspect it was worse. The Anti Football League still survives; we still have Wilkie Medals and many thousands of members. We now sell badges from St John's Homes for Boys and Girls, at 18 Balwyn Road, Canterbury, Melbourne. The APITS column supported many societies of protest and reform. One of them was the Pro Mini Club, which I proudly believe helped set back Melbourne fashions at least ten years. In 1965 the English model Jean Shrimpton arrived at the Melbourne Derby in what we would call today a fairly modest skirt. Barrie Watts wrote in the Sun: There she was, the world's highest paid model, snubbing the iron clad conventions of fashionable Flemington in a dress five inches above the knee. NO hat, NO gloves, and NO stockings. The shock waves were still rumbling around fashionable Melbourne last night when Jean Shrimpton - The Shrimp - swore she hadn't realised she was setting off such an outraged upheaval at Flemington on Saturday.

It did not take long for the young of Melbourne to awaken to the beauty of bare knees and bare thighs. Skirts became shorter and superbly shorter. By 1970 the fashion industry was alarmed. There is little material and little fashion in a miniskirt. Furthermore, as skirts became shorter and shorter, it was easy to economise by merely taking up the hems of existing clothes. It is not so easy when skirt lengths go the other way. The winter of 1970 saw the arrival of the maxiskirt, which went almost to the ankles. The Myer Emporium was so determined to establish this fashion it issued a decree that all female sales staff had to wear the new maxi.

The miniskirt was in peril and some of us thought the time had come to save it. Brian Goldsmith, President of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Victoria, thought maybe we could set up a society as a fund raiser. Of course, we needed a badge. We called in Peter Russell-Clarke, a Herald cartoonist, to design one. His conception was brilliant: a pair of scissors to symbolise the cutting down of the maxiskirt, in the shape of the female form. We decided we would sell badges of imitation silver at 50 cents each for annual membership. Ah, but for life membership there would be a badge in imitation gold for a dollar. The silver badges cost us 15 cents each and the gold cost us 20 cents. The psychology was splendid. Few people wanted to be branded as miserable annual members, so nine out of ten went for gold. In the first three weeks alone we cleared 8000 dollars for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Letters poured in from males all over the globe. We had a Pro Mini Club branch among the RAAF in Malaysia and there was a Saigon branch for the Australian troops in Vietnam. There was such enthusiasm in Gippsland that the Traralgon Racing Club offered us a racing day. All women in miniskirts would be admitted free. Brian Goldsmith believed this could be a marvellous means of raising cash for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He organised a bus and we filled it with miniskirted fashion models. All afternoon they diligently went around the track selling Pro Mini Club badges and asking for donations to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The models were so beautiful the money poured in. By 5 p.m. I thought the job they had done was so brilliant that I should take them into the club and buy them a drink. They accepted my offer with much enthusiasm. I was surprised by the extraordinarily exotic drinks that they ordered. When we boarded the bus I told Brian I had thought the models were so wonderful that I had bought them all a drink. 'Oh, my God', he said, `I had already done that'. The effect of all those cocktails soon became evident. One of the models at the back of the bus announced, 'I'm too hot', and began to strip. Soon she was displaying a lovely pair of bare breasts. When we reached Drouin there were shrieks to the driver that they desperately needed a rest stop, so he obligingly pulled into a cafe. This was the signal for them all to go topless. There were squeals of laughter as they clambered out of the bus, showing much more than the Pro Mini Club had ever asked for. Brian shouted to them to make themselves respectable before showing themselves in the town but it made no difference. They were having a lovely time. They went into the café, had soft drinks and went to the lavatory, while I tried to keep out of sight. The cafe proprietor took the naked invasion with surprising calm and we managed to get the models back on the bus. All the way back to Melbourne I sat, miserable, pondering my ruin. Truth newspaper, certainly, would get hold of this. I could see the headlines: DUNSTAN'S NAKED HAREM SENSATIONAL LURID BUS JOURNEY CLERGY CONDEMN IMMORALITY

If Drouin had a local correspondent, that person mercifully missed the story. I wrote of the day's events in my column on Monday, but I was careful to censor my description of what had transpired on the way home.

On 28 October 1970 the Pro Mini Club held a rally in the plaza of the Southern Cross Hotel and invited all miniskirt wearers to attend. The day was frigid and wet. Attendance by young women in minis was almost zero. However, by extraordinary happenstance, the gallery on all levels was packed with enthusiastic males. There was some small opposition to the rally. Jonathan Crawford, the fashion designer, arrived with a team of models in maxiskirts. Mr Crawford, himself wearing a maxicoat, led the arade. He reminded me of Basil Rathbone in his nineteenth-century army greatcoat, when he played opposite Freddie Bartholomew in Anna Karenina. Guests of honour were the former football stars Jack Dyer and Lou Richards. Richards told the crowd: 'I am in favour of the mini. I am a religious man. I have read the Bible right through and I have noticed that Adam's girlfriend wore the greatest mini ever'. The stirring part of the meeting came when Mr Richards was asked to carry out a symbolic act: the cutting of a maxi down to mini size. Gina Blau, wife of Brian Goldsmith, modelled the maxi and Mr Richards, using a huge pair of gold scissors, hacked away until it turned into a jagged-edged but still delightful mini. Those present felt that the sight of Gina in this sensible, completely practical garment proved the justice of the cause, even if Mr Richards, as someone said, could hardly have gone any further above see level. The campaign had a profound effect on Melbourne. Even when London, Paris, Rome, New York, Los Angeles and indeed the entire world had abandoned the miniskirt, mercifully it was still being worn in Collins Street.

In 1971 'A Place in the Sun' launched the National Distrust. There was a National Trust dedicated to preserving old buildings of great merit, but there was no similar organisation for getting rid of buildings of outstanding demerit, buildings that people could not stand. The newly formed National Distrust established various categories: C was noteworthy of destruction, B was 'should be pulled down at once' and A was 'outstandingly awful, worthy of destruction at all costs'. Every year in January we gave our UGH awards. UGH stood for Ungodly Horror. We gave UGHs to car parks, UGHs to new buildings in the city and an UGH to the pure horror that was St Kilda Junction. Jeff Hook designed our UGH award - a telegraph pole stuck in a block of concrete - and we published the illustration in the APITS column. The Sun Editor was very nervous about these UGHs. `You take care', he said. 'Before long some builder or some architect is going to sue.'

One year a tyre firm in Elizabeth Street in the city won our top UGH. The owner had painted his building in a striking shade of puce. Having done this, he covered it with the entrails of automobiles, tyres, crank shafts, differentials and such. The day after the announcement there was a call on the telephone. Good morning. I notice that I am the winner of your UGH award.' I groaned inwardly. Ah, yes, here it was, the writ at last. Yes Sir, that is correct. You did win our UGH award.' All right, where is it?', he asked. What do you mean, where is it?' `Good God man, you say I have won an award. All right, I want it.' That meant I had to spend half the weekend making the darned thing. When finished it stood nearly a metre high and was composed of concrete, a broom handle, cross-pieces of dowling and some of Marie Rose's beads for insulators. We sent it round to the tyre firm by taxi. The owner was thrilled. He displayed it in his front window for an entire year.

There were many other organisations championed in APITS. For example, there was the Scrooge Society for those who could not stand Christmas and were fed up with hunting for presents. There was one society of which I was particularly fond: the Society Against Progress. SAP believed that nothing was ever as good as it had been in the past, that things only deteriorated, never improved. SAP looked back with nostalgia to the days when the dollar was a splendid, unchangeable thing, not subject to absurd daily variations, and to the days when there were two postal deliveries on a week day and one on Saturday morning. Members mournfully remembered the time when wine was tax free, a glass of beer cost threepence, Myer's, David Jones, Walton's and Georges were happy to deliver an article free of charge, there were still parking spaces in the city and it was possible to breathe the air. In the old days we had not known about AIDS and there had been afternoon newspapers that carried news in the afternoons.

Everybody over 30 wanted to join the Society Against Progress, but, alas, it was not within our power to turn back the clock.

Continue to chapter twelve: Jumping the generaton gap

In this first chapter of his first book of memoirs, 'No Brains At All', Keith reflects on growing up in Melbourne in the 1930's and at school.

Keywords in this article

Anti-Football LeagueAustralian Rules FootballBarry HumphriesBrownlow MedalBruce MatearFred GodingJack DyerKate BailleuLou RichardsSir Kenneth LukeSportDouglas WilkieSun News-PictorialWalter ODonoghue

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