“suppose you come down from the clouds” – feedback to aspiring writers

Back in 2011, I wrote a post about Louisa Lawson in support of the digitisation of her ground-breaking newspaper, The Dawn. That project was successfully crowd-sourced through the efforts of Donna Benjamin, and editions are now accessible via Trove, The National Library of Australia’s digital collection.

You can find more information about Louisa Lawson’s life over here on the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry.

dwpicture - royalty free Louisa Lawson

There is much source material available in The Dawn which may well appear in future Now and Then postsToday’s offering, though, features a selection of feedback for would-be contributors to the publication which ran from 1888-1905.

The regular column Answers to Correspondents incorporated advice, household hints, subscription details and responses to unsolicited stories and verse. Here’s a selection of mostly short, sweet and very direct feedback to hopeful correspondents gleaned from editions of The Dawn on Trove.

1 Dec 1896

M.B.W.  Story hardly concise enough and the incidents want rearranging.

V. S.  Not quite up to standard, would not the first theme be sufficient for one poem. Try again.

1 Jan 1900

Myra Howard.  You have a very good idea of rhyme and metre but not mechanical skill enough for the mythical theme you have chosen. Suppose you come down from the clouds and try something more mundane.

Isabel.  It would be a good plan to study the characteristics of a paper you intend writing for before commencing the work. It will save the editors time as well as your own.

1 Oct 1902

Anonymous.  Why make [your] first attempt on broken verse? Why not try simple subjects in regular metre?

1 Aug 1903

Cissie (Newcastle).  The Spelling Book Superceded will give you the instructions you seem to need for correct verse writing.

1 June 1905

Literary.    If you distrust your own judgment concerning your work, then submit it to some capable and impartial critic. Avoid consulting any relative, friend, or literary acquaintance unless you are certain that the one you select is clear-headed and hard-hearted enough not only to consider fairly what you have written, but also to tell you without, fear or favour exactly what he thinks of it.

1 July 1905

the R.W. and B.  Would you kindly send your name and address and your story “Australian Bobby” will be returned to you. The story is not without merit but it is rather crude, and you would do well to rewrite it.

C. M. (Taralga).  Your story “The True and the False” has been received, and if you forward a stamp it will be returned to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


60 years since Australia’s first drive-in theatre

drive-in-theatre

On 17 February 1954, The Argus ran a feature on the first drive-in theatre in Australia, some twenty years after they were introduced in the USA.  The writer of the piece paints an amusing picture of future clients happily, and perhaps shabbily, ensconced in their own vehicles while catching up on their cinema idols.  This particular drive-in closed on 22 June 1983.

ITS COMFORT LIES IN ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN DO

At dusk this evening “Skyline,” Australia’s first drive-in theatre, will open in Toorak Road, Burwood, with 1,500 picture-goers snugly seated in their own cars in a ten-acre auditorium.  Probably the most interesting development in entertainment here since the advent of sound pictures, the drive-in theatre provides the ultimate in relaxation and comfort for movie patrons.

The key note is informality. Unlike the ordinary cinema-goer, you can smoke to your heart’s content, crack peanuts, wear slippers or shorts or a dressing-gown, come unshaven, or do your knitting. What’s more, you can bring along liquor-provided it’s drunk in moderation. And if you don’t care for the movie . . . just settle back for forty winks and snore your head off. You’re in your own car and can’t disturb a soul.

There are no gossips in the seat behind to irk you, nobody to squeeze past your knees just as the villain draws a bead on the hero. The programme is continuous, and you may come and go as you please.

Husbands who for years have refused to budge out of the home to go to an evening show will relent when they can jump into the car and roll off to the movies without having to “get all dressed up.” If it’s a night out for the family you just pile into the car, pay at the ticket office without getting out of your seat, and let a “car hop” direct you to your parking spot.

The screen, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, towers 50ft. high and 34ft. wide at one end of the large enclosure. It is designed to take not only standard 2-D movies, but also technicolor films and 3-D offerings.

A small loudspeaker hangs on a post beside every parking space. You merely, lift it into your car, attach it to your window or steering column, and adjust the volume to suit yourself. Above the loudspeaker’s volume control is a small switch which, when pressed,flashes a red light on your parking stand and summons an attendant to carry out your slightest whim.

If you feel peckish during the show, nattily-garbed refreshment boys, travelling through the theatre on tricycles, will serve you with hot-dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, sweets or cigarettes. But that’s not all. If your car develops a mechanical fault there’s the specially selected staff of “car hops” who will fix the trouble.

Drive in program 17 Feb 1954No need to hurry home after the show, either. There are hot and cold meals available in the ultra-modern snack bar inside the big projector-room building.

As each car enters, the theatre attendants give windscreens a thorough cleaning to ensure perfect vision during the show. At the first sign of rain your car’s windscreen will be coated with a special glycerine preparation to make raindrops run off the glass without blurring your view. Even a thick fog won’t mar the show. Heat from portable braziers standing inside the theatre’s fence will clear away all but the most dense “pea souper.”

Later this year, patrons will be able to join in supper club dances after the show, on a dance floor in the middle of the theatre ground. This will be inclusive of the admission price, and music will be supplied from modern dance recordings.

Skyline’s doors are open to any vehicle on wheels, except bicycles and scooters. So if you drive a motor-cycle, utility van, or even a horse and cart, all this is yours – and movies, too !


don’t move – the 19th century transition to reduced exposure photographs

SF Instantaneous Photographic CoOn the hunt for some more shopfront photographs, I came across the so-called San Francisco Instantaneous Photographic Company. This newspaper advertisement on 4 October 1883 appeared in the Warragul Guardian and Buln Buln and Narracan Shire Advocate.  They could have saved on printing ink by shortening the paper’s name, but I digress.

So what was this thing called instantaneous photography, and why were customers and photographers alike excited by it?

The UK’s National Media Museum posted this to their blog in June.

The earliest photographic processes normally required exposures of many seconds, or even minutes, rendering the photography of movement impossible.

However, with the right combination of lighting, subject, lens and plate size, exposures of a fraction of a second, whilst still very difficult to achieve, were possible.

The taking of such photographs became known as ‘instantaneous photography’. Whilst the term was in common usage during the 19th century, there was surprisingly little discussion or agreement as to precisely what it meant.

In practice, it was applied to any photograph which contained an element of movement or which was taken with an exposure of less than one second.

In November 1880, an article in the South Australian Register explained.

Instantaneous Photography

INSTANTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHY— The system of instantaneous photography has been recently adopted by Messrs. J. R. Dobson & Co., of the Temple of Light, Bundle-street, and the result of the improvement is the production of photographs infinitely superior in clearness, accuracy, and general effect to the likenesses taken under the old style. We were shown some sixty portraits of adults and children, and all of them were remarkable for the minuteness of detail as well as naturalness of expression, rendering them very faithful portraits. For photographing children this instantaneous process must be an invaluable aid, as the fleeting expression of a restless child’s face can be taken in a second ; and for adults it is very much more comfortable to sit for only a moment to have a portrait taken, without the inconvenience of having the head pilloried in an iron rest. In the photographs produced by the instantaneous process the natural expression of the eyes, the texture of the garments, and the softness of the lights and shades were particularly noticeable. The only fault some people could find with the process would be that it might too accurately portray the features, but they could remedy that by calling up their sweetest expression, and assume a virtue if they have it not.

This (out of copyright) photograph from the State Library of Victoria‘s collection was taken in Toongabbie, Victoria c 1890-1891 by the aforesaid photographic company. I’m not sure that the woman was calling up her sweetest expression as she looks quite sad, even without the inconvenience of her head being pilloried in an iron rest.

Toongabbie, Victoria - portrait

Woman, three-quarter length, to right, lace panel down front of dress, inscribed in black ink on verso: Toongabbie

reverse photo - stamp

postscript

I just had to add this comment to the body of this post.  Thanks to pellethepoet for an amusing story on the discomfort of posing for long exposure photographs.

 

Sir William Macarthur tells a humourous story of the ordeal for sitters of the long exposure –

“One day,” he says, “an old lady from the country was sitting before [William] Hetzer’s camera. Mrs. Hetzer, whose name was Teckla [sic – Thekla], helped in the studio and sensitised the plate in the darkroom while her husband posed the sitter. When the old lady was ready for the plate, Hetzer called out to his wife, ‘Teckla! Teckla!’ whereupon the nervous sitter jumped up in terror and exclaimed ‘For heaven’s sake don’t tickle me, sir, I can’t Stand any more!’”

from The Story of the Camera in Australia by Jack Cato (Melbourne : Georgian House, 1955), p. 17.


tattoos

For those who are riding the 21st century wave of skin decoration, here’s a nod to tattoos.

The Argus – 6 April 1946

Donald Duck - tattoo cartoon

.

.The Sunday Times – 19 November 1905

Take your pick – blushed cheeks or a serpent wrapped around your arm.

Flush of youth tattoos - Japanese 1905

Tattoo illustration 1905

The Sun-Herald – 12 September 1954

I’m pretty sure that dragons and butterflies are back, only not just on men’s bodies.

Tattoo topics


bloomers – and I’m not talking spring flowers

When I’m hunting down future posts for this blog, it’s often a previously unknown word that attracts my attention.  I was looking generally for articles on women in so-called unusual occcupations in days gone by. The word that attracted my attention on this occasion was ‘bifurcated’ which means, as I now know, split into two parts.

So emerged this post on Amelia Bloomer, who did not design the famous bifurcated dress, but did wear them and advocate their use.  (Image source – PBS).

Amelia Bloomer image via pbs.orgMrs Bloomer was a temperate woman and a suffragette.  The Evening News (Sydney) of 25 August 1894 takes up the story of how Amelia’s name became attached to this garment that was the forerunner of women’s modern trouser and gym wear, to say nothing of the benefits of eschewing a large hoop dress to enable one to climb on and ride a bicycle.  I particularly like that her married life was apparently ‘unmarred by other than the fleeciest of temporary clouds’.

Amelia Bloomer - Evening News 1894

(article continues)

now 76 years old, carries her years easily, her 54 years of married life having been unmarred by other than the fleeciest of temporary clouds. It was in 1851 that she began to wear the costume which is now known throughout the English-speaking world as the ‘ bloomer.’ She was then living at Seneca Falls, New York State, where she was publishing a temperance paper called The Lily. In addition to being a prohibition advocate, the paper also devoted considerable space to the subject of woman suffrage. A Mrs. Miller, who in 1851 paid a visit to Seneca Falls, appeared in the bifurcated dress, and Mrs. Bloomer published a description of it. She and Elizabeth Cady Stanton adopted the style and advocated its general adoption. Mrs. Bloomer wore the costume on several lecture trips, and in this way it became associated with and finally known by her name. By and bye (sic) Horace Greeley took the subject up, and was followed by other editors, the result being that the bifurcated dress became known all over the country as the ‘ bloomer.’

.

So, did Mrs Miller invent the bifurcated dress / miller / bloomer, or was it someone else?

A few months after Mrs Bloomer’s death Australian Town and Country Journal printed this article on 18 May 1895.

Amelia Bloomer ATCJ 1The %22divided%22 skirt
Amelia Bloomer - ATCJ 2


David Webster’s Tea Rooms

David Websters Tea Rooms in Brisbane 1900

David Webster’s Tea Rooms in Brisbane, 1900, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

This image by an unidentified photographer was taken in 1900.  It illustrates the attention to detail and marketing skills of a man called David Webster, creator of Webster’s cakes and biscuits.  Originally a baker of bread, he introduced machinery to make his product and soon held a large share of the market in and around Brisbane.

Articles and advertising (it is sometimes hard to tell the difference) in Brisbane newspapers of the time showed Webster as the consummate networker. The company catered at many sporting and large social events including tea rooms at the races and community picnics.  Many organisations held their evening meetings in his tea rooms. In their early days, Webster and Company won government tenders to supply bread to public institutions.  David Webster had the odd skirmish or two in the industrial commission and the courts, and in 1898 was fined 2/6 an ounce for short-weighting his bread by 15 ounces after the original hearing was deferred when it was pointed out that he was a supplier of bread to the judge.  (Brisbane Courier – 4 October 1898).

bread case DW

The series of articles below gives an indication of the range of products and services the company provided.

The Brisbane Courier – 22 December 1900

DW - 1900 item part 1DW - 1900 item part 2

The Brisbane Courier – 6 December 1912

David Webster's Dainties - 1912

Cairns Post 28 October 1930

Webster's biscuits

The Courier Mail – 4 February 1936

The Webster family company also instigated the historic and much loved Shingle Inn recently resurrected in the newly renovated Brisbane City Hall.

Shingle Inn plans

On the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, an article about Mr and Mrs David Webster appeared in the Courier Mail – 11 December 1936.  Six months later, David Webster died.

Mr and Mrs David Webster - golden anniversary

DW commenced business


forgotten women: Hazel de Berg – oral historian

The digitising of collections in our national and state libraries and museums is making much more than just photographs and objects more accessible.  The content of reels of tape, recorded decades ago, is also finding its way online.

The work of Hazel de Berg forms the basis of the oral history collection in the National Library of Australia.  Around 4 years after Mrs de Berg began using a tape recorder in her work with people with visual disablities, this article in the Canberra Times noted her prolific rate of recording the voices and work of Australian poets and the modest grant she received to continue collecting their readings and stories.


The Canberra Times – 17 October 1961 Hazel de Berg

A woman with an unusual hobby visited Canberra yesterday. She is Mrs. Hazel de Berg ….. a tape-recorder enthusiast from Sydney.  Mrs de Berg’s interest in tape-recording originated from her idea to present taped recitals at Blind Institutes in Sydney.  She was granted £100 from the Commonwealth Literary Fund after she presented some of her recordings at the Adelaide Festival last year.

Since then she has travelled Australia collecting recordings of Australian poets for the National Archives. She has recorded all living recognised Australian poets – 68 altogether – reading their own voice.  Dame Mary [Gilmore], Kenneth Slessor, [Dorothea] McKellar, Douglas Steward and Lady Hope are a few of the many she has recorded.

Last night Mrs. de Berg played some of her collection to the Canberra Fellowship of Australian writers and told them some of her experiences making the recordings. She does not interview people but records them talking about their work, interests and themselves.  The tape recordings are converted later into records and sent to the National Library archives.  Mrs de Berg will leave for Melbourne today to begin a series of recordings of Australian artists.  This afternoon she will speak to some in the Melbourne Art Gallery.  She hopes to follow that series by one on Australian authors and dramatists and another on Australian composers and musicians.

From the Australian Dictionary of Biography,

By the 1970s she was recognised as the pioneer of oral history in Australia, yet it was not a term that she favoured. She regarded herself not as an interviewer, but as a recorder of the voices, recollections and ideas of Australians of diverse ages, backgrounds and talents. She brought to this work great energy, enthusiasm, charm and perseverance, often managing to record individuals who were notoriously reticent or reclusive. Her practice of excluding her own voice from the tapes has been criticised, while the brevity of the earlier recordings limits their value. Taken as a whole, however, the de Berg tapes provide a unique record of the voices and memories of hundreds of Australians born between 1865 and 1956.

I’ve been listening to a few of the recordings.  They were not sophisticated by any means and this adds to their charm.  In the sessions with May Gibbs (then over 90 years old) you can hear traffic noise and bird sounds from her garden.  The recordings of people who knew Henry Lawson give some of the back story away. Dame Mary Gilmore (in her late nineties at the time of recording) is adamant that Henry used some of her own family’s stories to create his – The Drover’s Wife being a case in point.  Casually she drops in the odd gem – “He wanted to marry me of course”.

In 1960, Doris Fitton, actress and founder of the Independent Theatre, recorded her memories in a strong voice that was in no need of amplification from the stage.

May Gibbs (illustrator and creator of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie) had several starts for her sessions recorded in 1968, apologising for her hoarse voice brought on by fatigue.   “I could draw almost as soon as I could talk”.

There’s John O’Grady – author of “They’re a Weird Mob” using his pen name of Nino Culotta. Norman Lindsay, George Johnston, photographer David Moore and many many more.  Hazel de Berg interviewed many people shortly before their lives ended.  What might we have missed if she had not had such an enthusiasm for carting around a tape recorder and collecting their wisdom.

Postscript

11 June 2013

I was thrilled to receive this comment from Hazel de Berg’s daughter, Diana Ritch.  It gives some insight into the characteristics that Hazel applied to her work, none the least of which was the determination to achieve quality sound reproduction and to not accept no for an answer.  Thanks also to Diana for sharing more about the story of May Gibbs’ interview.

Diana Ritch has also contributed interviews to the National Library’s collection.  You’ll find them here.

Hazel de Berg was my mother and I was delighted to read your article. We, her family, are very proud of her, and my brother, sister and I grew up with her recordings as an important part of our lives. They are frequently used for radio and television programmes, and as research material for books and articles. It’s great that they are being made more accessible on line and will be enjoyed by many more people.
Mum didn’t put her voice on the recordings as she wanted the listener to feel that the person was speaking directly to them and they were not listening to an interview between two people. She went to a lot of trouble to get good quality sound on her recordings, using the best available equipment, and once even getting a group of road workers to stop drilling while she was doing a recording.

You mentioned the recording of May Gibbs. Doesn’t she have a strong voice! Not knowing Mum, she didn’t want to be interviewed, so Mum rang her every day for a month and eventually was asked “Hazel, why don’t you come over and bring your tape recorder?” When she arrived May Gibbs was in the garden and she wanted Mum to sit on a cushion on the steps and record her there, which she did. Hence the bird sounds.
I’m glad you enjoyed her work and appreciated the quality of material in the collection.

Best wishes
Diana Ritch