Jumping the generation gap
Writers are merciless. Everything that takes place, everything that impinges, is another raisin in the editorial pudding. During casual conversation or at dinner parties the haunted writer is hunting for material, checking over the conversation wondering what can be used. Columnists are the worst; their eyes and ears are on the alert, every waking hour. They are the worst because their need is the greatest. The column is a vast vacuum that sucks in all that is available and the vacuum is there daily. The columnist's family is caught in this ravenous drive, it becomes part of the notoriety. Unquestionably the trickiest time for me was in the 1960s and 1970s, when we lived in East Malvern.
The first house we ever actually owned was at 22 Central Park Road, East Malvern, just one block away from 13 Coppin Street where I was born. To say that we owned 22 Central Park is an exaggeration. We had a War Service Loan, a loan from the National Bank and a further loan from my mother. East Malvern was not Toorak, not as smart as Hawthorn or Camberwell and certainly not as affluent as Brighton. It was somewhere in between, comfortable middle class. The Reverend A. P. B. Bennie, then warden of St Paul's College in Sydney, commented: 'I know East Malvern very well. That's the suburb for spinsters and maiden aunts'.
Yes, our suburb was quiet and well-behaved; the Anglican Church team played cricket at Central Park on Saturday afternoons, splendid orchids grew in the park greenhouse. It was difficult to imagine anything untoward taking place in East Malvern. And it was utterly flat. The area from Central Park Road through to Dandenong Road was originally the site for the
Metropolitan Golf Course before land prices became too high and the club moved to Oakleigh. Our house was part of the glorious housing scheme, the grand subdivision of 1912, and we often wondered precisely where we were in the historic order of things. Was our house on the fourteenth green or was the fourth tee on our back lawn, close by our vegetable garden? The result of the great subdivision was pure Edwardiana. The houses in Central Park Road were variations on the one architectural theme: red-tile roof, red brick and stucco walls, with wooden additions at the back for kitchen and outhouses. They were built flat on the earth, with an eternal problem of rising damp.
At the end of Central Park Road, bounded by Wattletree Road, Burke Road and Kingston Street, was the lovely Central Park. John Landy, the world champion mile runner, used to train there. His parents lived opposite the park, in the area the real estate agents thought the better end of Central Park Road. Sometimes when I was jogging on foggy winter mornings he would pass me, perhaps two or three times in one circuit, and say 'Good morning'. One time the police picked him up in Central Park Road. There he was, running down the street in the dark, long after midnight. The wireless patrol thought anyone running along Central Park Road in the dark, wearing a track suit, had to be up to no good. East Malvern was home to us for eighteen years. The three girls went to Korowa Anglican Girls' School, David went to Caulfield Grammar.
I always believed that good marriages begot good marriages. My mother and father had an extraordinary relationship. Although Dad was a forceful extrovert of a man, I cannot recall a cross word between them. Their example made a profound impression on Marie and me. If ever we had a tiff, if ever we had a cross word, the crisis was never so grave that I actually missed a meal. For one thing the cooking of Marie Rose was too good, and for another I needed her love.
Marie was, and is, an inspired and extremely inventive cook. My mother was a gifted cook, and she passed on to Marie all the remarkable family recipes, but, like a violinist, she had her repertoire and she never added to it. Marie has never been like to it again. that. She can cook, say, a great paella and never return. She gets excitement and satisfaction from always trying out something new. In forty years of marriage almost every meal has been an adventure. There was the day, for example, at Calabasas in California when Marie discovered home pasta. There was no machine to make it: every piece had to be hand rolled, cut into strips and put out to dry. We had pasta on clothes-horses, chairs, towel rails, all around the apartment. Inevitably pieces dropped on the floor, so we had pasta underfoot, pasta sticking to the soles of our shoes, but the dish she made that night was one of the greatest of my life.
Marie thinks about food. There is ricotta gnocchi, that's good, but why not make a gnocchi with ricotta impregnated with fresh peas? So she will go to work, carefully crafting every individual piece. Yes, gnocchi e piselli, another culinary triumph. Like all great cooks she has a library of cookbooks, but her aim always is to use what is fresh, in season and available in the garden. Alas, sometimes it tends to destroy the pleasure of restaurants - the food always seems better at home.
It is absurd to think that you are in love when you get married. Love is something that is developed over the years through a hundred thousand shared experiences and mutual understandings. Love is like a forty-storey building, created piece by piece from all those thoughts you have had together, places you have been to, houses you have lived in, roads you have travelled. You learn to think each other's thoughts. Whenever I have been worried or groping for an idea for a newspaper article it has been amazing how often Marie has been first with the idea. That is why it is always a shock when the marriages of old friends break down. Are the partners really that different? It is hard to imagine the emotional earthquake that has taken place.
It is interesting how couples have special names for each other. 'Dear', 'Love', 'Precious', almost anything is better than the real name. It is a warning on the Richter earthquake scale when one comes out with the brutal, honest name. I don't enthuse over Keith. Marie prefers to be called Marie Rose, and particularly she likes to be called 'my Dove'. When the doves are around everything is fine.
Certainly there were tensions during the 1980s, and they were mostly male caused. Ours was a classic Australian household: it was the female who made all the sacrifices and it was the female who brought up the children. It is interesting to compare the last decades of this century with the 1950s or 1960s. Today it is normal for both husband and wife to work. The joint earnings are vital to pay for the children's education or to meet those interest rates. So both husband and wife have to find ways to share the domestic load, the cooking, the cleaning, the looking after of the children. In the male-oriented world of the 1960s this did not seem possible. The female did 95 per cent of the domestic work.
Marie would have loved to return to nursing. Every time she went near a hospital she had a thrill of excitement. just the smell of antiseptic in the corridors evoked a desire to get back into uniform and start working again. She had no chance to do that until all the children had left home. They came first.
But there was the problem of one income. I worked out that, even though I was on an A grade journalist's salary with a margin, it was necessary to double my salary to keep four children at public schools. This had its complications. Just as the Vatican in Rome possessed its servants, so the Herald and Weekly Times owned its journalists body and soul. The company considered that the honour of working for it should be enough. It was a benevolent organisation that looked after its employees in time of trouble, but it was a mortal sin for any of its journalists to indulge in freelance activities for Press, radio or television unless these were under the company blanket. During the 1960s I did the 'Batman' column for the Bulletin and wrote an advertising column for Georges department store, news commentaries for 3DB radio and a Saturday feature for the Sun, as well as a daily column.
The 'Batman' column began in 1961. Peter Hastings, Editor of the Bulletin, chose the name in honour of John Batman, one of Melbourne's founders. The column ran for four years before Frank Daly, Editor of the Sun, began to detect curious similarities in style between it and my Sun column. He called me into his office and demanded to know whether I was Batman. I confessed that I was. For quarter of an hour I was poised between resignation and dismissal, but finally Daly agreed to keep my secret as long as the Sun did not miss out on any stories.
The secret of Georges never leaked. Horde Taafe, a master merchandiser, opened the men's store at Georges in 1962. He wanted a weekly advertising column on the front page of the Age, something with a twist, that was both informative and amusing. He asked me to do it for him, unsigned. So at one time I had copy running in both the Age and the Sun. just occasionally someone said: 'Did you see that ad for Georges in the Age? I think they're pinching your ideas'. Fortunately no one took it any further.
It was a tricky balancing act, always done at 5 o'clock in the morning before the house was awake. The Georges column had to be written on Tuesday morning, the Bulletin column on Wednesday morning and the feature article for Saturday's Sun on Thursday morning. News commentaries for 3DB three days a week were done at 5 p.m.
What drives a person to work like this? It is partly greed, partly hunger for recognition, partly fear - fear of that warning, 'You will end up as a hack sub-editor, working at 3 a.m.'. There was the even greater fear that if I stopped the ideas might stop, the curious knack God had given me might be taken away. Everything would come to an end. Even now, whenever there is a dry period and columns seem hard to find, that fear returns, and the thought comes to mind: 'There won't be any more. You're finished'.
There was one result from all this. Marie brought up the children. I worked every Sunday, so theoretically I had Friday and Saturday off, but often it was necessary to use Friday for research at the State Library. Saturday was the one family day.
To make matters worse often the column was on the move. Whenever a royal person, the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Philip, Prince Charles or Princess Alexandra, came to Australia, the Sun columnist had to trail behind. The Sun had to serve rural readers, therefore the Sun columnist had to keep touring around country areas. Week after week Marie was left alone with the children.
Marie and I had different views on religion. I said it was essential to go to church regularly. How otherwise could you have discipline with your religion, how else could you gain spiritual refreshment? You needed the stimulation that came from your fellow church members. Marie said no, sometimes she found church a dull rote. Real Christianity was looking after people, caring for others, being practical. She believed she could do far more good outside the walls of a church that often seemed merely self-indulgent.
Marie was true to her word. She looked after people's children in times of trouble. Rosemary, her niece, aged 15, came to us from Canberra because her mother was ill in hospital. Rosemary stayed for twelve months. She was not the only child that Marie took in. Perhaps the most intriguing of all was our exchange student.
All our own children were very different. David, the eldest, was very much a child of the 1960s. As a history student at Monash he was an agnostic, a radical and determined to change the world. Kate, our second daughter, seemed like the recreation of my grandmother Carrell, the one who had had all denominations in Ballarat praying for her when she was ill. Kate was talkative, clever at everything she touched and extremely ambitious. She was small, blonde and, like her father, abysmal at sport. Marie's heart constantly went out to her for Kate so desperately wanted to succeed in school sports. Time and again Marie watched Kate performing on the diving-board, hying to compete against girls larger and far more athletic. Kate never gave up. Our youngest child was Sarah - tall, blonde and, unlike Kate, athletic. Sarah was a natural mixer, always surrounded by friends and, like her mother, keen to care for others. Our eldest daughter was Jane, not a brilliant student but thoughtful and introspective. David was the radical, but Jane was the one who really wanted to mend the world, a natural for any cause that came her way. Jane wanted to find things out for herself, and in her eighteenth year, with single-minded purpose, she set about becoming an American Field Service student.
The AFS was then, and still is, a remarkable organisation for widening international understanding. American children aged 17 went out all over the world, to Japan, Europe, Africa, South America and Australia, and lived with families for a year. In turn people from these exchange countries sent their children to the United States to volunteer families, not necessarily ones that had sent their own children.
The selection process was very rigorous and the chances of acceptance maybe one in fifty. We thought Jane had little chance, but the interviews kept coming, until eventually the person who chaired the selection committee said she wanted to meet Jane. She wanted all the family to be present. It sounded like group therapy.
The interview was a disaster. We all sat round in our high-ceilinged Edwardian living-room, the space set aside for important visitors. It was after dinner and coffee was served. The interviewer was charming. She questioned us all about our interests. David, who was just the right age to be conscripted by ballot for battle in Vietnam, had just returned from an anti-war demonstration. He let loose with his anger and talked of the evil Americans who were creating havoc and slaughter with their indiscriminate B52 bombings of innocent Vietnamese. He told of the dropping of napalm and discussed the toadying of the Holt and Gorton governments to the United States. The interviewer listened with great attention.
She left soon after ten, and as soon as the door closed there was a cry of pain and floods of tears from Jane. `Why did you tell her all that? Why did you have to go on about your wretched Vietnam, criticising the Americans? You've ruined it. They will never choose me now.' 'I haven't ruined anything', replied David. 'She came here, surely, expecting us to be honest.' As it turned out he was right. Jane did receive the scholarship, and in July 1970 she flew to the United States to spend twelve months with a family in Toledo, Ohio, and have an academic year at an American high school. Jane was very nervous the day she flew off from the brand-new Tullamarine Airport. She hadn't realised the impact of the whole thing until the very last moment. Marie literally had to push her out onto the tarmac. But was she as worried as her parents? There was the terror as she flew off. What would her new American parents be like? Would they be kind to her?
Sam Downs and Mary Howard were kind to her, indeed. Sam was a senior executive with the Owens Illinois Glass Company in Toledo, Ohio. The Downs had three children of their own and were good church people. Sam at that stage did not smoke or drink, so that was the first adjustment. Jane had been used to an occasional glass of wine on the table. Not any more.
Jane went to the local school and it was almost as different from Korowa as it could be. Ottawa Hills High School was co educational, with large numbers of high-spirited boys. The students had no uniform, it was wear what you like. Furthermore at Ottawa Hills students could study liberal arts, which utterly lived up to its name. If a child did not wish to turn up for class that was his or her prerogative. It was puzzling after all the tight discipline of Korowa to switch to the easy freedom at Ottawa Hills. One thing in particular struck her: how uninhibited the American children were. Jane remembered the American AFS students who had spoken at Korowa. She had been amazed by their easy eloquence in front of the microphone. It was the same here.
Education covered a broad spectrum at this American school, and the liberal arts teacher was particularly gifted. He helped make Jane's year fascinating. She could choose her own subjects within liberal arts; alas, none of them were much help for her future Matriculation exams, although they were splendid right then. She picked such areas as public speaking, poetry and American history. Her fine teacher inspired her to study the wonders of T. S. Eliot, and they made a special study of a famous American musical and how it was put together.
During the year the liberal arts teacher made the students do a thesis. Jane chose relations between blacks and whites in the United States. This was a matter of some wonder to Sam and Mary. Why would an Australian girl want to research such a difficult subject? Growing up in North Carolina, Sam and Mary had been very close to black repression, and here was Jane studying the activities of the Black Panthers and bringing home books by black radicals. Yet everyone was co-operative, and as a climax Jane spent several days at an all-black school in an industrial suburb of Toledo.
'At first I was pretty frightened', Jane recalls. But I think it made a difference being a foreign student and they asked questions about Australia. They didn't even know where Australia was. I remember they had this wonderful school assembly with music and they all clapped hands and sang. It was a real culture shock for me. Then I was billeted with a young black girl and her grandmother. We went out to a party where they played all the glorious black soul music I had never heard before.'
Jane wrote her thesis, and she finished it with the hope and dream that all the races might intermingle so there would be no blacks and whites, just a perfect world of beige. By coincidence it was an ideal that was also being suggested by the Australian Nobel Prize winner Sir Macfarlane Burnet.
It is not easy for a 17-year-old being away from home for a year. Winter in Ohio is dramatically cold and at times Jane wondered whether the warm sun would ever come again. One day a fellow student in class drew her a graph explaining what to look for as the first signs of spring. Yet there was the compensating excitement of travel. The Downs family took her home to North Carolina, to New York and to Niagara Falls. Then, at the end of the year, Jane had a bus tour across the United States with all the other AFS students, young people from Switzerland, Colombia, Cambodia, India - and, of course, Australia. It is a matter of debate how wise it is to send a child away right in the middle of year twelve; the academic years in Australia and the United States do not match, so in effect the visit actually disturbs two years not one. Year twelve is graduation year in the United States, a year of winding down. Year twelve in Australia is a climactic year of intense study. Whether it was good for Jane we are unsure, but it was very good for us. Sam Downs and Mary Howard became lifelong friends.
When Jane went off, we applied for a student in return. The result was fascinating. We had not realised at the time that the whole object of the group interview was to carefully match families. David had proved that radical socialists lived in peaceful Central Park Road. We received a radical in return.
Vivien Kane, 17, daughter of a medical family in Buffalo, New York State, arrived just in time for the January holidays of 1971. Vivien had lovely thick, brown hair, with just a glint of red. She wore very plain spectacles and not a hint of make-up, and she was carrying a guitar. The lack of make-up was part of the new mood: liberated females did not go in for such pathetic sexual lures.
There was that paralysing first moment of meeting, that twenty-fifth of a second before a word is spoken. We could see Vivien looking us over and thinking: 'My God! I've got to live with this lot for a whole year'. We no doubt were thinking precisely the same thing. But Kate and Sarah were carrying a big 'Welcome' notice with a caricature of Vivien done for us by Peter Russell-Clarke. There is nothing like good public relations. This helped overcome at least two hours of shyness. It was holiday time, so we immediately put Vivien in our old Humber and drove to a house we had hired at Lorne. The house had the inspired name Rufanredy.
Of course, Victorian holidays should never be in January. Schools should take their recess in late February or March when the weather is mild, soft, dry and sublime. In January it takes on all sorts of ingenious variations, both hot and cold, designed to torture campers. In January 1971 we had a week of rain, with southerly winds blowing straight from the Antarctic. Vivien looked at our little house, watched me trying to prepare a barbecue under an umbrella in the near blizzard and commented, 'Boy, what a dump!'.
Vivien grew on us slowly. The AFS theory was this: you were their parents, absolutely, for a year. The students called you Mum and Dad. Vivien did not find this easy; she tended to call us Marie and Keith. She was not only intelligent, she was very intelligent, indeed. She thought United States intervention in Vietnam was outrageous and that President Nixon was an evil, conniving man.
Vivien was Jewish, but she did not believe in God. Just over in Armadale there was a wonderful Jewish family who also had an AFS student, a Japanese-American from California. They would say: 'Isn't it amazing? You're Anglicans and you get a Jew. We're Jews and we get a Japanese Buddhist'. When the great Jewish festivals came round Vivien always suggested that she go over to Armadale to see the Jewish family. 'Why?', Marie would ask. 'You're not religious.''No', replied Vivien, 'but they have such incredible food'.
Vivien, like our girls, went to Korowa School in Malvern. It was all part of the exchange plan. Local schools very generously accepted AFS students free of charge. She could not believe it when she saw the uniform: pleated tunic, blazer with badge on the pocket, straw hat, stockings, shoes, gloves. This was something out of the last century. Vivien's favourite expression was 'Oh my Card!'. She said 'Oh my Gard' on this occasion and pleaded could she please take it home when the time came? Vivien was not sentimental about her Korowa uniform. She wanted to show this astonishing curio to all her friends. Vivien never quite fitted in at Korowa. She made plenty of friends but the Australian school discipline was too much for her. All this business of wearing hat and gloves, virtually under the pain of death, seemed unbelievable. In the United States, unless a student was in a military academy, he or she went to school in jeans, a sloppy-joe sweat-shirt and sneakers. Vivien always walked home, through Central Park, with her long hair astray, hat off, trailing her maroon jumper behind her. Then there were those radical views, which she never tried to keep quiet. The local United States consulate asked her to give talks at other schools. Vivien gave one and they never asked her a second time. She gave the audience her complete, unabridged views on American intervention in Vietnam.
Yet what strength of character she had. While fighting with the principal at Korowa she developed her own views on what should be done for suffering humanity. There was an appeal for donations to an organisation called the Brotherhood of Man Fund; she would work for that. Quite independently Vivien took part in walkathons, went from door to door, firm to firm, and raised over a thousand dollars.
She thought it was unfair, a terrible injustice, that students should be sent to Australia for year twelve. Just when they should be enjoying themselves what happened? They had to go through the torture of Australian Matriculation exams. Vivien did not study hard, and we did not think she took school work seriously. Whenever she felt lonely or found Korowa a little too much she would go to her room for hours and play the guitar. In her Matriculation she passed every subject with honours and very nearly topped the State in Australian History. She returned home at the end of 1971, went to college, then university, studied medicine and is now a radiologist.
In the 1960s and early 1970s there were times when it was a nightmare being a parent, and we wondered often where we had gone wrong and how things could have been done better. Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, it was all irresistible for the young. I remember going to rock festivals at Sunbury and again near Tocumwal up on the Murray, the reek of marijuana everywhere. One could even smell it in picture theatres in Melbourne.
Marie was smarter than I was; she was the first to detect it in our house at Central Park Road. One Saturday afternoon David was in the house with three or four of his friends. There was no doubt they had been smoking pot, grass - it had so many fancy names. It was time for a confrontation. Perhaps some people would have forbidden it outright. Marie, to her eternal credit, had a different approach.
don't know what you see in this stuff', she said. 'Why do you smoke it? If it's really so marvellous, I'd like to try some.' We sat in what we called the family room, half a dozen of us around the coffee table. David rolled a cigarette from material that he had in a small bag. He did not roll his cigarette with one hand, but an old-time bushman would have approved his skill. He lit the cigarette, puffed and passed it to his left. And so it went, round and round. This practice we found charming. Some would feel it was not sanitary, but there was a fellowship and togetherness about it. It was similar to passing the chalice at the altar.
As for the result, there was perhaps a feeling of elation but coupled with a sickness in the stomach. The sickness could have been caused by the worry and obvious drama of the occasion.
The argument continued: 'Is this all there is?' and 'Why do you do it?'. We smoked only the one cigarette. We never heard of them again at Central Park Road, and we like to think Marie's action helped circumvent a dangerous situation. Certainly David very quickly swore off drugs, and all those present became remarkably responsibly, successful citizens.
Marie Rose was anything but a dove when real action was required. Apart from marijuana there was tobacco. David was an incessant smoker. She tried everything to rid him of the habit: cajoling, putting anti-tobacco literature by his bedside. As soon as she saw a cigarette she destroyed it, and she would cut up his cigarettes in front of him. She threw them on the floor and jumped on them. But her most inspired move was to appeal to his stomach. She took all his cigarette butts, made them into a cigarette sandwich and served it to him for lunch. That sandwich was so revolting poor David finally gave up the unequal battle.
The 1960s was the time to drop out, the time for an alternative society, the time to be anti-war. In the 1940s and the early 1950s it was exciting, different, to be left wing, to become a young communist. This was the way to straighten out and improve the world. But in 1969 there was disillusionment with both left and right: neither had anything to offer. Why should 19-year-olds be ordered by an Australian government to put on uniform to fight in Vietnam, in a war that was incredibly remote from Collins Street?
David while at Monash University took part with waterside workers in an anti-war demonstration at Williamstown. There was a clash with police. One huge policeman grabbed David by the hair, threw him into a police wagon and charged him with assault. Arrested at the same time was Laurie Carmichael, Communist Party member and Assistant Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, plus his son, who was a draft resister. David remembers Carmichael in the watch-house at Williamstown. The police had all the protesters locked in a cell together, and Carmichael was so angry that for three hours he would not talk to anyone.
When the case came before a magistrate, David's best defence seemed the law of probability. Here was this huge policeman who could, and probably did, play in the ruck for Collingwood. And here was David, 19 years old, a head and a half smaller. David was able to demonstrate how he had been thrown into the truck by his long hair. The magistrate saw the point and the case was dismissed.
The question was, what would his grandfather have thought? How would W. Dunstan, VC, have reacted to the news of his grandson being arrested for demonstrating against Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War? We could not answer that because he had been dead for more than a decade, but it seemed to me that had I been a Monash student in 1969-1970 I, too, would have been anti-war. Just as Harold Holt had followed in the wake of President Johnson, crying 'All the way with LBJ', so Australians, it seemed, were dying in Vietnam just to score good behaviour points with the United States.
There was a series of anti-Vietnam War marches, led by Dr. Jim Cairns, MHR, who was to become federal treasurer in the Whitlam Labor Government. The biggest came on 8 March 1970, and it had the curious, even awkward, title of moratorium. A moratorium, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is a legal authorisation to defer payment. The moratorium theoretical)} then, was a stay, a pause, a time to think this thing out.
We are a peculiarly unemotional people, but rarely have I seen such crowds in the city. It was a Friday and shops in Bourke Street, fearing the worst, boarded up their windows. Myer. Buckley's and stores all along the route closed their doors. It is interesting how you become educated by your children. The moral issues of the war, and indeed many other moral issues of the day, could easily have passed me by but for the daily debates across our breakfast table, debates that were difficult to win. I was told that if I did not believe in Australia being represented in Vietnam it would be an act of hypocrisy not to be at the march.
David and I marched together. First the crowd gathered at the Treasury Gardens, where we listened to folk songs and anti-war speeches. Then at 3 p.m., led by Jim Cairns, we started marching to the city, with the marchers chanting 'Stop the war' and 'We want peace'. At one stage Bourke Street was a solid mass of people from Spring Street all the way to Queen Street. We sat down on the tram tracks in front of Buckley's to listen to speeches, then we inched our way to the Town Hall, sat down again and listened to more speeches.
It seemed to me the crowd was exactly equal in size to the crowd that had come to the city for the Moomba parade the previous March. The official police estimate for the moratorium was 70 000. The official police estimate for the Moomba crowd was 500 000. The Victorian premier, Henry Bolte, said he was delighted with the figure: if 70 000 turned up for the moratorium, there were at least three-quarters of a million anti-moratorium people who had decided to stay away. The moratorium was a failure.
There was another moratorium on 18 September 1970. David and I marched again. There were many famous names in the march. Stephen Murray-Smith, the historian, was there. So, too, was Dr Bertram Wainer, the crusading abortionist. Wainer marched out front with Jim Cairns. This time the marchers chanted We shall overcome.
It was not as dramatic or as deeply impressive as the first moratorium. Second-time-around events never are. The police estimate was now 20 000, the estimate by the Sun News-Pictorial was 40 000; Henry Bolte described the moratorium as 'a total flop'. Certainly there were at least 40 000, but this time it was a younger crowd, more student oriented. The earlier moratorium was particularly significant because it was a protest by people old and young and from all classes of the community.
Once again we sat down on the tram tracks in Bourke Street, and once again we heard stories of the futility of the war. The most telling moment of the march came when a voice over the loudspeakers gave us the list of the Australian dead. The voice came over in dull, flat tones. It was monotonous, but it was the monotony that drove the point home. It took fifteen minutes to read the names, more than enough time for us to absorb the horror that every one of them was a young Australian who had died in action and that there would be more to come.
In the 1960s and the 1970s the talk was all about the generation gap. There was a gap all right. We had seen a complete turn around, from wowserdom, 6 o'clock closing and the sacred Sunday to the era of the Pill and sexual permissiveness. Once parents used to cover up, but not any more. Now mothers in the most respectable families were prepared to admit that their beloved daughters were living with 'a very nice boy' in Carlton. Even a vicar we knew told us sadly that his son was living in sin. Did he reject his son, forbid him the house? No, for what could he do? He had a choice between accepting the new moral behaviour or losing his son. The mental adjustment on the part of parents was enormous, and one wondered if ever again there would be such a rapid social change. Would the next generation, our children, have to cope with such a gap?
David was a typical captive of the times. In 1971 he was editor of the Monash University student newspaper, Lot's Wife. He ran a very dashing, lively, left-wing journal and Mrs Lot certainly lived up to her reputation. That year David was in trouble because the paper was running a campaign to exclude a series of advertisements from the Defence Department. The department was looking for university graduates, and, of course, anything to do with defence was anathema because of the Vietnam War. But David's real trouble came from an unexpected quarter.
Wendy Bacon, later an outstanding journalist, was a notorious radical. She had been the editor of Tharunka, the student newspaper at the University of New South Wales, and she loved to shock. She used obscenity as a weapon, not only against literary censorship but against every kind of repression. Wendy Bacon gave a lecture at Monash and unquestionably it was disturbing to tender sensibilities. She graphically described a sex festival in Copenhagen. The piece de resistance was a live performance on stage. She told in picturesque terms of an act of bestiality involving a man, a goose and two women. Lot's Wife ran a complete, word-for-word report of her talk.
David was not present when Wendy Bacon gave the talk; the job was done entirely by one of his reporters. But he was the editor so he was the one arrested on charges of criminal obscenity and ordered to appear before a magistrate at the Port Melbourne Court. Why Port Melbourne? Lot's Wife was printed at Port Melbourne. There were suggestions that this was a matter of some ingenuity on the part of the police. Port Melbourne was a working-class suburb where they could find an ideal magistrate and have the best chance of establishing a conviction. It wouldn't be so easy anywhere near Monash. Out there the new, sexually loose ideas would prevail.
A case like this could have been taken as simply a normal editorial hazard except that a frightening precedent had just taken place in London. Richard Neville, a young Australian and the Editor of Oz, had been sentenced to gaol for obscenity. Unquestionably the police were looking to this to establish an Australian benchmark. They, too, wanted a gaol sentence. The Williamstown case had been a minor affair, but this one had us really worried. We called on our good friend Bill Thomson, senior partner in the legal firm of Read and Read. Thomson engaged a rising young barrister, Stephen Charles, who later was to become one of the Bar's most distinguished silks.
On the day, we gathered at the Port Melbourne Court and waited for the usual run of drunk and disorderlies, petty thefts and assaults to go through. Bill Thomson took David aside and told him to plead guilty. 'If you do that', he said, 'we can make a deal with the police and you will only get a suspended sentence. Look, you can't take any risks. If you get a conviction against your name you will never be able to become a lawyer.' David was studying law-arts at Monash and the Thomson warning was dire, indeed. 'I can't plead guilty', David said. 'Why not?', roared Bill. 'Because I'm not guilty', replied David. 'I haven't done anything wrong. We were entitled to report a speech at Monash. It is simply a matter of freedom of speech. We weren't corrupting anyone. If I confess that I'm guilty I deny everything I stand for.' 'You will go to gaol.' 'I can't help that', said David. 'Well, there's nothing much that I can do, is there?', sighed Bill. David had lined up a distinguished panel for his defence. First wicket down was Phillip Adams, film producer, columnist, advertising executive. Second wicket down was Ian Turner, professor of history at Monash. Third wicket down was Dr Bob Birrell, sociologist. Philip Adams, in his traditional black skivvy and black trousers, plus sports coat, turned up in his red Maserati sports car.
We waited and waited, becoming more and more worried. The petty thefts and other cases dragged on all morning and into the early afternoon. Finally, when our case did come up, things looked even worse than we feared. The magistrate was a little man, aged about 50, with horn-rimmed glasses. Marie nodded. Oh yes, we could see precisely why the police chose Port Melbourne. Here was the very magistrate they wanted. He looked the perfect pillar of Victorian respectability. David was practically in gaol already.
The charges were read, and Stephen Charles brought out the argument that Lot's Wife was restricted to a university audience and could hardly be described as a family newspaper. Students were open to every kind of literature and it was unlikely that this journal would corrupt them. He called Philip Adams.
'Mr Adams, did you think those articles in Lot's Wife were obscene?', the magistrate asked. No, he did not. Phillip was brilliant. He talked at length about how these articles were important for the enlightenment of a community that had been almost starved of sexual education. They were not obscene: they were merely statements of sexual fact and frank descriptions of sexual activities. If such writing was obscene, obscenity was in the eye of the beholder. The 'nasty' little magistrate listened intently, then commented. 'Thank you, Mr Adams. I have been waiting a very long time for someone to define obscenity for me. The police have never done it. As far as I'm concerned the case is dismissed.' There was a stunned silence. The police had been geared for a noble battle. Now suddenly it was all over, practically before they had started. It was nearly 5 p.m. Phillip Adams's day was ruined. Just before he stepped into his Maserati he looked at Marie and looked at me. 'Have you got any more like that at home?' It was a turning point for David. He was a rebel, but his anger became much better controlled. He never did become a lawyer. History was his first love and his particular passion was historical Melbourne. A history of the Melbourne City Council earned him a doctor of philosophy at Melbourne University. How else do I remember the 1970s, that passionate period when Australia threw off the mores of a by-gone era and appeared to grow up? I remember it particularly for the end of Robert Paton Dalziel, dear friend since school days.
The outstanding trait of R. P. Dalziel was this: he never did anything that was predictable. When J. R. Darling asked him what he proposed to do after he left Geelong Grammar, Dalziel gave the opposite answer to the pious one expected. 'Make a lot of money', said he. However, first he intended to study law. But you don't want to be a lawyer', we all said. 'No, but like learning to swim, there are occasions when it can be extraordinarily handy.' His father, the old sea captain, had left him barely 5000 pounds. Dalziers theory was that the 5000 would be just enough to pay his way through Trinity College at Melbourne University. It was more than enough. Even when he was sweating over torts and property and criminal law, Bob was studying the stock market and doing very well, indeed.
Come 1950-1951 there was a boom in uranium shares. Brokers were taking on staff, so Dalziel, the young lawyer, managed to get a job with Wallace Smith and Company. He had a natural gift for sharebroking, a real nose for finance, and he succeeded quickly. In 1954 he bought a seat on the Melbourne Stock Exchange, went into partnership with John Davies and started the firm of Davies and Dalziel.
Everything about Dalziel was neat. His features were small and neat, perhaps a trifle French, indicating his ancestry. His hair was very short - the sea captain would have approved of that - and invariably he wore a double-breasted, grey flannel suit and a black tie. He faced a thousand questions about that tie. 'In mourning, Bob? Have you lost a relative?' 'I am in mourning today for the economic policy of the Government: Or, when he became tired of that: 'I wear a black tie as a gesture to efficiency. When I get up in the morning what tie I wear is one less decision I have to make'. The real reason was he hated any personal display, any kind of publicity. He wanted to be a back room operator, a manipulator. Flamboyance was not for him. Dalziel did not need a tie to put on a show, the show came from his personality and his sharp mind. He was a member of the Melbourne Club and his favourite game at lunch there was to taunt the other members. He would observe the tenor of the conversation - maybe the members were discussing the latest strike of the waterside workers, the need for banning the Communist Party or the awful R certificate movies depicting males and females copulating - then automatically take the opposite view, until the crusty members were very nearly beating the table with their fists.
Yes, he was unpredictable in everything. He made money, a lot of it. Just after his fortieth birthday, he telephoned me.
'No, I'm not. I finished at Davies and Dalziel this afternoon.' 'Tell me, Bob. Perhaps I can help. You've done something terrible, haven't you?'
'No, I haven't. I've just retired. There's no need any more to go on with sharebroking. It's a bore just doing the same thing over and over again. I've got enough money now, so I'm going to do nothing. That requires a very special skill, doing nothing.'
For a time Dalziel really did retire. He considered the mere making of money, once you had enough, a pointless exercise. In 1985 he bought a pearl-shell business in the Solomon Islands. This was very romantic, a throw back to his origins, we felt, a hankering after the seafaring life of his father. It proved to be a good way of losing money and he sold out in 1968. Actually Dalziel did a great many things. He was a considerable force behind the scenes in the Liberal Party. Again this was his style, to be an influence without showing his nose. He tortured his fellow Liberals just as he tortured the members of the Melbourne Club.
In 1988 Roy Everard Ross, the quarry king, died and left nearly 9 million dollars to charity. Bob became the trustee of the R. E. Ross Foundation and chairman of Hillview Quarries. He set about his work diligently and many an orphanage for boys and girls, many an organisation such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society, received his cheque for thousands. Now that he was in the quarry business he was the target for every environment group and good earth enthusiast. They won few arguments with R. P. Dalziel. He produced photographs that invariably proved his quarrying operations left the country better than he had found it.
In 1972 he went into the Freemasons Hospital to have a kidney removed. Yes, he could live on one kidney. But cancer was there, and he knew it was just a matter of time.
At the beginning of 1977 the doctors told him the time was quite definite: six months. As it turned out the time was a year. 'The reaper will not take me', he said, 'until the Government has abolished the inheritance tax'. He liked the idea of a financial reason for staying alive and he managed his illness well until the Government bill went through. He was an extraordinary man. At all times he knew what the cancer was doing to his body, yet his good humour was unfailing, his brilliant, agile mind forever probing. Even when he was in the Austin Hospital, paralysed from the neck down, senior Liberals called him for advice.
I went to see him at the Austin Hospital almost every second day. Only once did I hear him complain. He cursed that dying was such an undignified business. He did not lose dignity in my eyes. Finally the pain became too much. 'I want to die', he told me. 'Find someone who will finish me off.' I rang doctor after doctor.
'Can't we give him something? Surely there is a drug, an unnoticeable drug that will take him away easily, quietly?' The doctors told me it was part of the Hippocratic oath that they heal people. It was not their job to murder.
'This is not murder, this is human relief.'
Only one said he would go to see Dalziel, but he would promise absolutely nothing. Dalziel died a few days later, on 13 February 1978. I don't know whether that doctor did anything. I did not ask him and the subject was never discussed. Bob's wife, Elizabeth, endured all this. A flinty character, she was as brave as he. Soon after the funeral she said there was a history in her family of cardiac asthma and she would be dead within a year. Her prediction was precisely correct. They left two sons, Andrew and Matthew. The Daiziels I will always remember as my people of the 1970s.
Continue to chapter thirteen: Pedalling passion