GRANDMA: Part 3. My grandmother is my best friend!

MY AUNTY LEAH WAS THE FIRST TO SPEAK TO DAD WHEN SHE SAW THE OLD-NEW CAR. “SIB, YOU TAKE US ALL TO WORONORA THIS AFTERNOON. THAT’S WHERE MY MOTHER WAS BURIED. I SHUDDERED. I DON’T KNOW WHY?

FRANK MORRIS

MY GRANDMA: SHE NEVER GOT OVER THAT DRIVE TO WORONORA. LIKE MY LOOK-ALIKE GRANDMOTHER, ABOVE, SHE WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO SMILE OVER. Below: “SIB, YOU MISSED BY AN INCH,” BLURTED OUT MY AUNTY. SIB, WHO SHE WAS REFERRING TOO, WAS CYRIL, MY FATHER, HER BROTHER. Below: COMING BACK I CLOSED MY EYES.

Tiddlywinks, I thought. Dad had bought a new car. Or should I say old-new car. I was seven at the time. There it was parked at the gutter and shining – sparkling – green and white. It was a sedan – enough to seat six or seven persons.

The car he had before, I think, was a 1928 Hudson Six, in marvellous condition, with silver filigree and duco all brown. It was the only car I’d seen with blinds on the passenger windows.

“What’s it called, dad?” I asked all excited. “It a 1926 Overland son,” he said, with a touch of excitement. “All built in Australia.” I judge, he was proud to be an Aussie.

Grandma and my Uncle Bill came out to join the throng of neighbours who had also come down. While Uncle Bill was making his way across to the car; Aunty Leah would always speak her mind.

IT’S ACTUALLY ENGLISH

“Hey, Sib, you can all take us to Woronora this afternoon,” said Aunty. “What do you reckon?” He said nothing. Woronora was the funeral ground. Uncle Bill had already opened the bonnet and was poking around the engine.

But I knew dad would go. But I was thinking of the drive. I shuddered. I shuddered again. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. At long last, one of my friend’s showed up. But all through the morning I kept thinking of that drive.

Bill came in with good reports. “They thought of everything when it came to cars. Even a clock on the dashboard. Mind you, you don’t see too many of the Australian built cars of the 1920s.” But it was actually from Pommey-land right down to its hub caps.

We all had sandwiches for lunch and Aunty Leah kept her eye of clock. Bill wasn’t coming to Woronora. He put in some excuse that he work to do. He was dead-set frightened, no less, at the speed dad be driving up the highway. He and dad would always argue about his reckless driving.

“Come on, let’s get moving,” Aunty Leah said with a worried look on her face. Grandma and I went into the back, and Aunty Leah sat with dad in the front. And off we went. Dad wasted little time in getting to the highway.

SQUASHED LIKE A MELON

And then it was on. He hardly took his foot off the accelerator from Carss Park Drive to Sutherland. At one stage he was hitting some ungodly speed. “Come Sib, we’re not in a race,” Aunty Leah blurted out. “You’re are only inches from that bus.”

Aunty Leah was squeezing dad on the arm and she, herself, was screwed up like a melon. “Watch it, watch it – there are traffic lights going amber. Sib, you’ll never make it. He did. Aunty Leah relaxed and hung on to the side straps. The sign with “Sutherland” on it was in the distance. “Oh, thank God,” whispered Aunty Leah.

Grandma was a nervous wreck. Her rosary beads had been locked in her hands. She was mumbling away incoherently. I was weeping a little, I lay in a cruising position behind the seat where I peeled skin off my hands.
The afternoon drive was disastrous.

We got out of the car – Grandma stumbled – and we kind of marched to the cemetery. Dad looked fighting fit. We stayed a while and said a prayer. My dad looked down at Iris, his wife, and prayed. We made the two graves look spick and span.

“Let go home,” said Aunty Leah. We all marched to the car. Dad opened the back door for Grandma; Leah sat next her. I closed the door. I sat in front seat. I hung on to everything. Dad got in as if he were driving in a safari. The Overland blurred into action, and we were away.

Home.

A shuddering feeling went through my body. I closed my eyes, and they remained closed until we were home.
Frank Morris: A peculiar thing happened: Dad had quietened down. Two weeks after that disastrous trip to Woronora, he sold the Overland. Later he bought a 1928 Morris Bullnose, which was sprightly- looking. He only had the Morris just a few weeks. That was his ritual. I’d never noticed that before.

Next: I get a nasty cold; and five years later dad goes into hospital for the last time.


DEATH OF A KING: THE DAY THE CROWN WAS IN DANGER.

ROYAL ASSASINATIONS: The Crown was in danger on Thursday, July 16, 1936, when the King Edward V111 failed to fall to an assassin’s bullet. A policeman on duty hurls himself before the gun went off. An onlooking spectator could see how the “hit man” was holding the revolver and called the police. Someone cried: “Stop him”. The series starts next week.


The Princes of the Fourth Estate: Part 2. The reporters found the pen is mightier than the sword!

“I CAN NEVER FORGET MY FIRST DAY AS A REPORTER,” SAID MARK TWAIN. HE WROTE THAT 10 YEARS LATER IN ROUGHING IT.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

READ ALL ABOUT IT!: ANOTHER EDITION OF THE “FIRST PAPER IN NEVADA”, THE ENTERPRISE. Below: REPORTERS, READING IN THE DANK AND GASLIT PRESS ROOM, WAIT FOR THEIR PROOFS. Below: THE OLD-STYLE BUILDING, ONCE OCCUPIED BY THE ENTERPRISE.

When Mark Twain joined the growing Enterprise staff he was a careless, abrasive Missourian who took a reporter’s job because he preferred using a pencil to a shovel.

Until February, 1863, he signed himself “Josh” and had sent in correspondence from Aurora before being offered the $25 a week job. “I can never forget my first day’s experience as a reporter,” he wrote 10 years later in Roughing It.

Among other hilarious and dumfounding experiences he recalled that in the afternoon he had found some emigrant wagons going in to camp and had learned “that they had latterly come through hostile Indian country and had fared rather roughly.”

Continued Twain: “I made the best of the item that the circumstances permitted, and felt that if I were not confined within rigid limits by the presence of the reporters of the other papers I could add particulars that would make the article that much more interesting.

TO MAKE TROUBLE

“However, I found one wagon that was going on to California, and made some judicious inquiries of the proprietor. When I learned, through his short and surly answers to my cross-questioning, that he was certainly going on and would not be in the city the next day to make trouble.

“I got ahead of the other papers and took down his list of names and added his party to the killed and wounded. Having more scope here, I put this wagon through an Indian fight that to this day has no parallel in history.

“My two columns were filled. When I read them over in the morning I felt that I had found my legitimate vocation at last. I reasoned within myself that news, and stirring news too, was what a paper needed. I felt I was particularly endowed with the ability to furnish it.”

Mr Goodman says that Twain was as good a reporter as Dan, therefore he desired no higher commendation. With encouragement like that, reports Twain, I could take my pen and murder all the emigrants on the plains -- if need be.
“The interests of the paper demanded it,” said Twain.

EYES OF A WOLF

Those two quick glimpses of the wagon train are enough to hint at the characteristic differences in viewpoint of the reporters. It was De Quille’s clear, straightforward description versus Twain’s distorted and exaggerated vision.

If is easy to picture them as they sat on a winter’s night at a table in the press room, stabbing their steel-binned pens into a shared ink bottle, scribbling madly and bantering back and forth. Mark Twain, 27, was stocky and rumpled, with a bushy auburn moustache and eyes of a wolf; and Dan De Quille, 33, tall, slender and dark, a stringy black beard and an amiable nature.

As each story is completed, it is handed to the printers whose hands fly over the type cases like trained birds; and the reporters drink beer waiting for the proofs, each reading the other’s copy.

Twain remarks that it is cold out, and De Quille launches into an animated description of a former Enterprise building on A Street, with its simultaneous extremes of hot and cold; when the stove was stoked until it glowed cheery red in the freezing building.

HEAVY WOOL COATS

Everyone pulled their writing tables and type cases as close to the stove as they could get … the pressmen worked with feet wrapped in burlap bags against the biting cold.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

The worst of it was when the weather warmed up a little and all the snow and ice began to melt and trickle through the holes in the roof. De Quille pantomimed for the grinning Twain how they had tacked strings to the ceiling at the worst of the leaks, to lead the dripping water over the side of the structure away from the furniture and machinery.

Sometimes there were so many strings, Twain said, that the upper part of the building looked as if it were festooned with cobwebs, the gleaming wet webs of some hideous huge spider.

When they had corrected the proofs, they shouldered their way into heavy wool coats and thundered down the stairs to the wooden sidewalk of C Street. They hurried south through the frosty night into the International Bar where they swept in almost to applause.

They were the minor princes of the fourth estate (here) to drink whiskey and eat oysters in the company of prosperous men.

<< Written by David W. Toll. Adapted from the Modern Monthly, 19??.

Next: At the Enterprise, Mark Twain and Dan De Quille’s partnership did not last.


PART 2: HEIDE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART passes on the curiosity like the painters did

THE REEDS LEAD THE WAY IN THE 1930S. THEY PURCHASE THE HEIDE PROPERTY, WHICH IS NAMED AFTER THE NEARBY TOWNSHIP OF HEIDELBERG, AND THE FARMHOUSE, AND RENOVATE IN FRENCH PROVINCIAL STYLE.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

ATTENTION: A QUIET SUNDAY AFTERNOON – MAX HARRIS (LEFT), SUNDAY REED, AND JOHN REED AT THE OTHER END OF THE TABLE. Below: WHO WAS REALLY “ERN MALLEY”?

The Reeds meet the Russian émigré artist Danila Vassilieff in 1937. John was about to open his first exhibition in Melbourne. Young painter Albert Tucker becomes a friend of the Reeds.

1938

John Reed, George Bell, Adrian Lawlor and Gino Nibbi establish the Contemporary Art Society (CAS).
Other friends they meet are artist Sidney Nolan and music critic John Sinclair.

1939

At the Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art held at Melbourne Town Hall, Albert Tucker introduced Sunday Reed to Joy Hester.

Journalist and budding author, Michael Keon, forms a friendship with the Reeds.

1940

The controversial painting, Boy and the Moon, done in 1939 to 1940, by Sidney Nolan, polarises opinion at the CAS annual exhibition.

1941

The wedding bells start ringing when Albert Tucker and Joy Lester marry on January 1.

Sidney Nolan and first wife, Elizabeth Paterson, are separated. Sidney moves to Heide. He lives there semi-permanently until 1947. A long affair with Sunday begins.

John’s sister Cynthia lived at Heide for several months.

The Adelaide poet and editor Max Harris meets up with the Reeds. Harris is from the radical journal Angry Penguins.

1942

Sidney Nolan is conscripted for war service; he takes on doing it in country Victoria.

While Albert Tucker serves in the army, his wife, Joy Hester, remains at Heide.

Michael Keon, the writer, stays at Heide until August.

1943

Max Harris and the Reeds set up the publishing firm Reed & Harris, with offices in Melbourne and Adelaide. Harris and John co-edit Angry Penguins.

1944

(Frank Morris wrote in 2003. “It was shock, horror! A case of literature, lies and headlines. The ‘Ern Malley’ hoax … was a “backyard” affair compared to the nation-stopping headliner of the 1990s – the Demidenko/Darville literary scandal.)

But, for the period, the 1990s is a long way off. The Angry Penguins saga, nevertheless, about the Ern Malley “hoax” poems, was causing a scandal which opened many jaws. The hoax severely damaged Reed & Harris’s reputation.
In July, Sidney goes absent without leave from the army and hides from authorities at a friend’s Parkville loft. He is made fourth partner in Reed & Harris.

1945

The Tuckers’ son, Sweeney Hallam Tucker, is born on February 4, that year.

Headlines! Max Harris moves to Melbourne where he will work more closely on Reed & Harris. The firm launches a broadsheet newspaper called Tomorrow.

<< Heidelberg Museum Modern Art; Frank Morris.

Next: Sidney Nolan finished his painting of Ned Kelly.

PART 3 OF THE HEIDELBERG MUSEUM WILL RESUME IN JULY.


Shop Window: Part 4. Heritage Place – A gift to the nation

Written and adapted by FRANK MORRIS

This is Collingrove in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Collingrove is a magnificent country homestead complete with English gardens, The Angas’s built this homestead in 1856 to show how a family lived. It a rare example of how our pioneers attempted to recreate the ‘Old Country’ atmosphere of their origins. The homestead offers bed and breakfast stay overs … with each bedroom done in the French provincial style.  Shop Widow will resume later this year.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 11 May 18

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