I have enjoyed writing this month’s challenge so much. It has brought back many happy memories and some sad ones. I’ve dragged out my records and turntable and am even planning a ‘70s party for our anniversary, complete with appropriate costumes and a fondue of course.
One of the unexpected pleasures of writing this blog has been listening to music from the ’60s and ’70s. Although I originally wanted to source all my music from the same decade as the title, the songs of the ’60s kept popping up in my head. I had to rationalise that with the thought that we played a lot of ’60s music in the ’70s.
To make it easier to find each post I am listing them below with a direct link to each one.
This is my 7th year of doing the A to Z Challenge. The reason I do it every year is because it puts pressure on me to complete a writing task I would otherwise put off, maybe forever. It also makes me go into greater depth and detail because I have to make twenty six separate articles. The best thing, however, about A to Z is communicating with others. This year I have found the comments to be longer and more meaningful than in past years, I think because so many people can relate to the topic. Even if they didn’t live in the ’70s they can relate to the common milestones in life this blog covers. I won’t list all the people who commented but will name some blogs I followed during the A to Z. I apologise if I didn’t reply to all comments. Some of the time we were travelling and I was too busy to fully commit to checking.
Now I know there are a heap of other blogs I read or dipped into so now I’m worried people will feel left out but I can’t put them all in now. Maybe I can squeeze them in later.
What to write next? My ongoing project is a children’s book for my grandchildren. I need to finish it before they get too old. For next year’s A to Z maybe some highlights of the last twenty years when I have been able to travel more frequently (apart from the Covid years). Even in those dark times there have been some memorable moments.
Many thanks to the organisers who make this event happen every year. To everyone who is going on the Road Trip, I hope we all get to meet lots more people we missed in April. I’m sure there are some amazing blogs out there just waiting to be discovered so I’ll do my best to find them and leave comments.
Zeitgeist is a very useful Z word that means ‘the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.’ (Google’s English Dictionary provided by Oxford Languages).
A word often used to describe the ‘70s is ‘liberation’ as opposed to the ‘60s which could be defined as the beginning of ‘anti-establishment values and alternative philosophies’.
Author Tom Wolfe called it the ‘the “me” decade’ where people became more concerned with the individual rather than the community.
For Leo and Joanne it was a time of opportunity. They were both able to complete a university education with help from the government. They could afford to buy land and build a house, despite interest rates rising to 18%. They both had guaranteed jobs as soon as they finished their teacher training. Unlike their parents, they had a smooth path through life.
They had seen a change in arts, music and culture from the antiwar sentiments and political unrest carried over from the ‘60s to the disco scene of the second half of the decade. They also saw a trend towards violence in the movies they watched. Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs were disturbingly menacing and The Exorcist was frankly terrifying.
Joanne and Leo read about the Watergate scandal in America, rejoiced at the end of the war in Vietnam and were concerned at the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979 and the Iranian Revolution in the same year. It seemed that as soon as one crisis ended another began.
Computers took up a whole room at the beginning of the ‘70s but the small Apple 2 personal computer made its debut in 1977. Joanne and Leo wouldn’t see computers in schools until the mid ‘80s. Personal computers, mobile phones and tablets were fantasies belonging to science fiction. Information was found in books, journals and newspapers and news was heard hourly on the radio and watched every night between 6 and 7.30pm.
The ’70s allowed Joanne the freedom to decide when she would have a baby by using the contraceptive pill. Advances in medical science saw the first child conceived by in-vitro fertilization born in 1978 causing fierce debate in Joanne’s circle of friends.
For homosexuals, the time of hiding and fear of prosecution was coming to an end. South Australia legalised homosexuality in 1975, followed by the Australian Capital Territory in 1976. It would take a while before the whole country was on board but it was a start. In 1978 the first Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras was held in Sydney to highlight the discrimination against gay people.
The 1971 South Africa rugby union tour of Australia was not something Joanne would have chosen to attend, but Leo was keen. Anti-apartheid protestors appeared, letting off smoke bombs. Joanne was frisked as her long black coat could be hiding all sorts of weapons. There was no more sporting contact with the Springboks until the 1990s when apartheid had been abolished.
Another form of protest was the Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up in 1972 (it’s still there) opposing the exploration licences granted to big companies to mine traditional Aboriginal land. The 1975 Land Bill saw the beginning of land rights for Aboriginal people.
Although seen by many as unions holding the country to ransom the Green Bans of the early ’70s saved the historic Rocks area of Sydney which was destined to go under the jackhammer, along with many other historical buildings in Sydney.
Australia’s performance in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal was so poor the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser set up an inquiry and the Australian Institute of Sport was established. The old attitude that the talented sportsperson will make their own way to the top was gone forever.
Daylight Saving was introduced in 1971 in N.S.W., Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the A.C.T. The following year Queensland discontinued it as many farmers found it disruptive. Most of the country has stuck with it ever since. Compulsory front seat belts were introduced in 1969 with the intention of saving lives. 1971 saw them mandatory on all seats. The 1970s also saw a change in the attitude to drink driving. In 1968 a new law meant a driver could be breath tested only after an accident or driving offence. However it took until 1980 before the legal limit dropped from 0.8 to 0.5 and 1982 before random breath testing began.
The change to the metric system was another feature of the 1970s. In 1974 Joanne found herself suddenly teaching mathematics totally in metric. Conversions were not encouraged. Shops were only allowed to advertise in metric. The success of conversion has been attributed to the fact it was planned across all sectors of society, all states and the federal government were on board, the speed of the change was rapid, the whole of the population changed together and the benefits were continually reinforced.
The 1970s and 1980s saw 120,000 southern Asian refugees migrate to Australia. People arrived by boat and air from Vietnam and as Australia had no refugee policy at the time, the Fraser government developed it on the run and a policy of resettlement and multiculturalism emerged. Although many Australians were opposed to refugee resettlement the government did not succumb to public anxieties the way they do today.*
Looking back at the 1970s, even though there were aspects which were universal, there were also some changes which reflect the unique nature of the Australian people. Their acceptance of regulation and new ideas contrasts to other countries where the right of the individual was considered more important than the needs of the community. Although the country was rocked by a constitutional crisis it picked itself up and continued to work towards the common good. It was an era of freedom, but not at any price. It was a time of change, but a greater appreciation of heritage was developing.
As Joanne flew back from America in 1977 she read a flight magazine which inspired her next class project. It was all about Renewable Energy. It cited Solar energy, Geothermal energy, Wind energy, Hydropower and maybe a few more as being the way of the future. Proposed as an attempt to reduce pollution and take the place of dwindling non-renewable resources it seemed like it would solve many problems. There was not even a discussion about global warming in those days. Pollution was the word on everyone’s lips. Plastic was becoming the scourge of the world. Scientists were alarmed at the growing hole in the ozone layer and aware of the link to chlorofluorocarbons. Slip-Slop-Slap emerged in the early ’80s as a sun protection campaign in Australia and New Zealand to beat the deadly solar rays.
So what was the Zeitgeist of the ’70s? Liberation? Opportunity? Recognition of minorities? Multiculturalism? Freedom? Regulation? Medical miracles? Scientific advances? Standing up for your beliefs? Unapologetic hedonism?
I think I’ve written enough in the last 26 posts so will leave it up to you to decide.
*Thanks to Rachel Stevens of The Conversation (Misha Ketchell, Editor) for the article We can’t compare Australia’s intake of Afghan refugees with the post-Vietnam War era. Here’s why.
RL24 trailer sailor for sale. One owner since new.
Joanne picked up the crying baby and offered her breast. At least she was quiet when feeding.
‘I think we should go for it. We know it’s a good boat. It won the State Titles’, she said. ‘You can race it and we can use it for holidays. I’ve got to cash in my Superannuation anyway because I can’t pay my contribution plus the government’s on one income.’
‘And I’ll cash in that Life Insurance Policy,’ said Leo. ‘We might just have enough.’
Joanne took plenty of nappies the day they bought the boat but the baby used them all by eleven o’clock. Something must have upset her. She washed them and hung them on the line to dry in the boat owner’s back yard while Leo climbed all over the trailer sailor, pronounced it satisfactory and wrote a cheque. They had to buy disposables from the chemist as the cloth nappies were still wet. They towed the yacht home excitedly, planning their first night on the new boat.
The baby took to sailing better than expected. She fell asleep rapidly as the waves gently rocked her from side to side.
If Joanne ever felt stressed managing one and then two babies on the RL24, she still felt it was privilege to own such a beautiful boat. After all she married a sailor, so she knew what she was in for. Leo, his brother and his father had been sailing yachts for years so at least she had confidence in the skipper. They sailed and motored on Lake Illawarra, Lake Macquarie and the Myall Lakes.
In the early ‘80s the trailer sailor fleet was always large, with families camped by the water’s edge crowded around glowing campfires and drinking from wine casks before wading through the shallow water to their children and their bunks. Large prehistoric lace monitors stared at them from tree trunks and silent eels moved gracefully through the weed, frightening some of the younger ones as they stumbled to their boats.
Joanne sat with the children until they were asleep and often preferred to stay curled up in the cabin with a book than return to the conversation of the campfire. The steady breathing of sleeping children and the gentle lap of water offered a peace rarely found on their water-based holidays.
Turn, Turn Turn – Adapted by Pete Seeger from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Sung by The Byrds in 1965
Half way through the decade some important things had happened. Leo and Joanne were in their own home. Leo had graduated from university with his hard won Arts Degree. Annie (Joanne’s mother) was living in Sydney and her mother Ruby, who was always full of life, had died from heart failure.
In the cycle of life the time had come to think about having a baby. Joanne and Leo had good jobs, they had a house with four bedrooms and the time was right to fill those rooms with children. Except nothing happened.
When Joanne was 28 years old, and still not pregnant after two years of trying it was time to see the doctor. First of all he gave her an examination and declared everything looked to be fine. ‘I would like a sperm sample from your husband,’ he said.
Leo was rather nervous. With a bit of bluster and bravado he supplied what was asked of him and Joanne took it to pathology in a jar wrapped in a warm blanket.
Much to his relief all was well.
The doctor then turned his attention to Joanne. ‘We might try a little exploratory procedure to check there are no blockages. It will mean a night in hospital and a full anaesthetic but is quite safe.’
Joanne had never been in hospital before (except when she was born). It was scary going under anaesthetic as she felt she was suffocating although the sensation only lasted a few seconds as she counted backwards from ten. Later that night Leo came to visit but she just couldn’t stay awake. She felt guilty because he had travelled all this way and yet she kept closing her eyes.
The next visit to the doctor was perplexing. He said there were no obvious reasons why she couldn’t become a mother. Maybe just wait awhile before looking at further treatment.
Leo and Joanne were out eating dinner in a restaurant.
‘Not having children means we can travel. Children cost a lot of money you know,’ said Joanne brightly.
‘I always thought I would have children,’ said Leo sadly.
Joanne stared at him, eyes puzzled. ‘This is the first time you have said you wanted children. All the time it has been me saying let’s have kids and you saying you are not ready yet. Now is not the time to change your mind!’
The anger subsided and the topic of children remained on the back burner as they had a holiday to look forward to. They were having a reunion with their American friends who had returned home but were planning a holiday to Fiji.
‘This time we are going to a beach in a beautiful resort and we are travelling by plane, not ship,’ said Joanne happily.
They had two weeks at Pacific Harbour, a new resort 50 kilometres from Suva. Their friends chose to stay in cheaper, older accommodation a little way along the beach but they met up a few times and enjoyed snorkelling and sailing together.
Pete announced that he and Peta had decided not to have any children and so he had had a vasectomy. Leo was horrified. ‘You’re still young. What if you change your mind?’
Peta was adamant that she didn’t want to raise kids. There was too much else to do in life and the world had enough children.
Joanne agreed that life would be easier without children but she would be sad to miss out on the experience.
That was the end of that, or so they thought. Life was busy, with school and a house and garden to maintain. Leo sailed every weekend and sometimes, so did Joanne. She was teaching at a demonstration school by this time so found she had little spare time. However, one day she dropped into a chemist shop to pick up a pregnancy test. She had been experiencing some of the classic symptoms but still couldn’t believe it could be true.
She did the test and hopped back into bed where the two of them waited nervously. After the required time she went to check and it was positive.
The visit to the doctor was a formality because she already knew. She thanked him profusely for getting her pregnant (joke) and listened carefully to what she had to do next. She would need to visit once a month but would be seeing two different doctors. They had a joint practice and shared their patients to lessen the onerous working hours. This doctor was round and jolly, the other was thin and older and a little crusty. What confused her was that they often disagreed with each other or put the other down. Who would be there at the birth? She hoped it was the jolly doctor.
Meanwhile she enrolled at the hospital for childbirth classes. They were given in a very traditional manner by an old school matron. She pooh-poohed some of the modern ideas proposed by ‘those groups’ but gave demonstrations of baby washing, how to fold a nappy and showed diagrams of the birth process.
Joanne sought out the Childbirth Education Association. They gave talks on preparing for the birth, how to breathe, how to avoid painkillers and how to make the birth a memorable experience. They said that lying on pillows was bad and to take a beanbag for the best sitting position. They lobbied the local hospital to provide a full length mirror so the mother could see the birth of the baby.
By going to both sets of classes, Joanne felt she was a prepared as she could be. Her baby was due in March so not only did she have six weeks leave before the birth, she also had the Christmas holidays. Twelve weeks of freedom that she treasured as a moment in time with no responsibilities or worries. Each afternoon she would do her breathing and relaxation exercises. She felt so energetic and healthy that camping and boating posed no problems.
Of course both sets of grandparents were delighted. Annie had married Lars and he would be a grandfather to the new child. Leo’s parents had given up on their son ever becoming a father so his mother did a little war dance when she heard the news.
Leo and Joanne had read all the books. They expected that one night Joanne would say, ‘I think the baby is coming,’ and he would drive her to the hospital. It didn’t work out like that. On her last visit to the doctor (the jolly one) he said, ‘Baby’s cooked. Ready to come out. I’ll book you in for an induction. Check into the hospital tonight and you’ll have your baby tomorrow.’
Joanne walked out of the doctor’s surgery in a daze. It was too soon. She wasn’t ready. She went home to pack. Of course she had already packed but she needed to check it all again. Leo drove her to the hospital and promised to see her in the morning, early. The nurse offered her a sleeping pill. She took it but it didn’t work. She lay awake all night. After all, she was going to be a mother in the morning. How could she possibly sleep?
Leo was there as she was wheeled into a room. The crusty doctor arrived to get her labour started.
‘Too soon, if you ask me,’ he said. ‘Should have waited another week at least.’
He broke the waters and soon the contractions started. A monitor showed the baby’s regular heartbeat, a comforting sight. Joanne was asked if she needed painkillers but she said no.
A nurse looked at the screen. It was a straight line. No need for panic. The monitor had fallen off her stomach. However, the doctor was brought in and he thought they might need to do a caesarean. Leo asked repeatedly to be allowed into the room but now he was told to stay away.
“We are giving you an epidural because I need to use forceps to get the baby out,’ said the jolly doctor.
By this time Joanne didn’t really care. All she wanted was for this to be over. The thought of being knocked out and waking up later seemed appealing. The epidural, however, left her quite conscious of all that was happening. The child was born, she was told it was a little girl and then the baby was wrapped in a space blanket. By this time Leo was back in the room and unknown to her, Annie was outside, waiting to hear the news.
The seventies were well and truly over over and a new period of responsibility and child rearing had begun.
Joanne’s mother had been a widow for ten years. Since she found Hayden dead from a heart attack on the floor of the chicken shed she had two main focuses in life. One was to get the business back on track and the other was to get Joanne through school. When Joanne left home to go to Teachers College the house became eerily quiet. The only thing to look forward to was Friday night when Annie would drive to Moss Vale, meet the rail motor from Wollongong and take her daughter to the new Chinese restaurant in Mittagong on the way home. She listened attentively as Joanne talked of lectures, flatmates and practice teaching. She was relieved that there was no boyfriend to take her away. What she would do without those chatty weekend visits she didn’t dare to think. She worked in a man’s world of steel and piping, making gates and fences so there were few pleasures. Her daughter’s return every weekend was the only thing to look forward to.
It had to happen. Joanne met a man. He seemed pleasant enough and even drove up the mountain to visit her on several occasions. She could see her daughter drifting away and felt a rush of panic and loneliness. She had to get away from her isolation.
When Hayden died, she was torn between moving to the city where her mother lived or staying on the property to run the business. He had left things in a mess, with a hefty bank overdraft and a propensity to give credit unwisely. She thought about her daughter, still in primary school and decided life in the country would be the best thing for them both. She proudly watched Joanne complete high school and take up a scholarship to Teachers College. Her business acumen had turned the second-hand steel and piping business around so that it made a comfortable profit. Now it was time to think of herself and move to Sydney, live a little before she became old and grey.
The business was placed on the market and she spent weekends visiting houses in southern Sydney, sometimes with her mother, sometimes with Joanne. Finally she found what she was looking for. It was an older brick house divided into two flats. Although it didn’t have a particular style it was basically a rectangle with a pitched tiled roof, boasting views of Gunnamatta Bay. The small flat was in good condition so she imagined living there while the larger apartment was renovated.
She was friends with a retired builder who offered to renovate the house with the help of his sons. Finally she moved into her newly appointed half house, letting the smaller flat to a young Lebanese man. Her mother lived nearby, she joined the RSL Auxiliary, took up indoor bowls and thought she should be happy. She didn’t see as much of Joanne as she would have liked, as she was living down the coast. Then her world was turned upside down with the death of her mother Ruby, at 79. Their relationship had sometimes been rocky but they enjoyed each other’s company now they were older. With Ruby’s death Annie felt entirely alone.
There was no such thing in those days as online dating but people who were single and lonely could meet like minded people at organised venues. Her first date was with a Dutchman but she kept her distance when she found he was still married, although going through a divorce.
Undaunted, she tried again. Another Dutchman introduced himself and she began to see him regularly. His name was Lars. His first wife had died shortly after they arrived in Australia in 1951. His second wife had died six months ago. He was a man who needed companionship and she was lonely.
Joanne was happy about the relationship as she felt it lifted the burden off her to keep her mother happy. Lars had a house in Glebe. It was his idea to sell both their houses and buy the house of their dreams.
‘Does that mean you want us to get married?’ Annie asked.
‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you,’ he said.
The first item on the agenda after their wedding was a world tour. Lars had not been back to Holland since he left after WW2. Annie had only been to New Zealand so she was keen to see the world. They visited his relatives in Holland, toured Europe on a coach trip and then flew to Canada where they saw more relatives. Shortly after their return they put their respective houses on the market and bought the dream house. It was situated on the border of Cronulla and Woolaware. From the upstairs bedrooms you could see Botany Bay. From the kitchen/family room the blue sea off Cronulla Beach was visible. Downstairs, off the lounge room, was the solar heated swimming pool.
Joanne and Leo were impressed. Annie kept it a secret until her old house sold. She was sure she went grey overnight worrying about the bridging loan when the sale of her Cronulla house fell through. She should have taken note of Leo’s favourite saying. ‘Most of the things you worry about never happen.’
Lars had a weekender in Bundabar, a tiny village in Port Stephens. Here he had planned to retire with his former wife. Annie had spent enough time in the country to know that now she was a city girl. It was fun to stay for a few days but there was always work to do. She wouldn’t live there for quids.
This was the happiest time of Annie’s life. A child born on a Saturday, she said, works hard for its living. As Saturday’s child, she was deserving of this period of peace and harmony.
Leo had completed two years of Teachers College before he was appointed to his first class at the age of 18. It was his intention to further his education by completing an undergraduate degree part time over a number of years. Meanwhile Joanne was continuing her third year of Teachers College by correspondence. She had the choice of another year on campus but the lure of a job that paid money was too much.
When she finished her third year, Joanne was inspired to start a degree as well. One of her fellow teachers was studying by correspondence through New England University, based in northern NSW. That sounded like a good option because she wouldn’t have to attend lectures. It did require a residential school in the holidays but that might be interesting. For three years she studied English, flying up to Armidale and staying in different residential colleges each time.
She realised country NSW was very different to the city when she and a few others turned up at the local pub for drinks. The publican stopped them at the door of the bar and asked that the ladies to go to the lounge. Joanne and the other women were affronted.
‘We are living in 1975,’ said one, ‘not the Dark Ages.’
‘Well, you see,’ said the man uneasily, ‘it’s a university town and the local men and the students have fights over the women if they are in the bar.’
The following year when she was about to fly away, Leo said he would drive up to meet her and bring her home. She sneaked him into her room on the last day of the residential and they faced an uncomfortable night sharing a single bed. About eleven o’clock they both heard knocking and a scared voice calling out, ‘Go away’. It was in the same corridor as their room and it appeared that some males were hanging around a girl’s door and harassing her.
‘Do something,’ said Joanne. Leo wondered if he was ready to face a group of belligerent males, especially as he wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. He made his voice as deep as possible and called out, ‘Leave her alone or I’ll call the police.’
It seemed to have the desired effect as all went quiet. The next day they made their escape and drove the 600 kilometres back home (Australia had gone metric in July, 1974).
Leo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1975. Almost immediately he started a Masters of Commerce. Living close to the university was a bonus as he started tutoring as well. At times they felt they were rarely there for each other, that university was consuming their nights and work was consuming their days and they were just ships that passed in the night.
Joanne decided after three years to transfer to Wollongong University. After all it was just down the road. They gave her credit for her three years at Teachers College and her three years at New England University. She decided to specialise in Education, as she was a teacher after all. For the next two years she studied History, Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology of Education. She was given some time off school to attend lectures with a casual teacher taking her class. Her students benefited from her studies and experienced some interesting practical experiments which they enjoyed immensely.
Meanwhile Leo was working on his thesis. In 1979 he completed ‘Poverty in Australia with particular reference to the role of education as an anti-poverty strategy’. Gough would have been proud of him.
By the end of the decade they had finished their university studies, for the time being anyway. They had survived and thankfully were still together. The decade ahead would bring new experiences but probably nothing would match the stress of those last few years of the 1970s.
California Dreaming – The Mamas and the Papas – 1966
It started over pasta at Barnie’s Restaurant. Joanne wanted to know when they were going to travel and Leo said the problem was their summer holidays were no good for overseas travel in the northern hemisphere.
‘In England the days are short, grey and miserably cold. You wouldn’t enjoy it at all.’
‘Well, how about we go somewhere else? We’ve got friends going to Canada this Christmas and other friends who’ll be in Los Angeles. Then there’s your aunt in Muskegon.’
They talked about it some more and began to get excited. An ad in the paper sealed the deal. It was for a fly-around ticket which would take them to up to 20 destinations in the United States, paid in advance. All they would be up for was accommodation. With the excellent exchange rate (the Australian dollar was worth considerably more than the greenback in those days) and a number of friends to stay with, the holiday might be affordable. There could be no expensive side trips once they got there but at least they were going.
In 1976, on Christmas Day, Leo and Joanne arrived in San Francisco after an 18 hour flight via Fiji and Hawaii. It was their first experience of America and Joanne’s first big overseas trip (you can’t count New Zealand). There she is in her inadequate orange parka braving minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 F). They were staying with Leo’s aunt (a war bride) in Muskegon, Michigan. Looking outside at the bright blue sky they decided to take a walk, so borrowing scarves and gloves they set off down the road. After about ten minutes the cold penetrated their clothes and they started to shiver. A car pulled up and a friendly face looked out.
‘You must be the Australians,’ he laughed. ‘No-one else would be out walking in this weather.’
They gratefully accepted a lift as he turned out to be a cousin and were soon back in the warm house. Never had they seen so much snow. Leo enjoyed shovelling snow from the path each morning so they could get out the door.
They had already visited friends in Seattle and Vancouver and were on their way to New York. Walking home from Broadway one night after seeing Richard Chamberlain in “The Night of the Iguana”, the snowflakes falling gently on their heads and shoulders they couldn’t believe how different this was to life at home in Wollongong.
Of course the Twin Towers were there then. They were still relatively new but they didn’t go to the top, choosing to go up the Empire State Building instead. They had a good view from the ferry as they forged their way through ice to the Statue of Liberty. They were too cold to get off so waited in the heated boat until it returned to Battery Park.
After three days in New York they looked at the map to find somewhere warm. Unfortunately Florida and New Orleans were not listed on the fly-around so they chose Las Vegas via Los Angeles. It was a bright, brassy town even then, although they stayed in a cheap motel close to the action and not a casino. First priority was getting tickets to a show! There were legends like Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin performing but everything was booked out. All they could get was ‘Bare Touch of Vegas’, a topless dancing act which was quite entertaining as they had a table at the front. They were beginning to tire of wearing the same clothes as their luggage had gone missing on the flight from L.A. Joanne wore her black striped dress and black boots hiking the Valley of Fire by day and to the Casino at night. She watched in horror as people put whole dollar notes in a slot machine. She would only ever put in 20 cent pieces.
Back in L.A. they looked up some Australian friends who had a three year old boy. What better excuse to visit Disneyland! Joanne’s strongest impression was how clean and well maintained it was. Most of the theme parks she had visited in Australia were in a run down state but this was a world apart, with an army of young people continually sweeping and picking up rubbish.
They were less impressed by Universal Studios and thought Jaws looked decidedly unrealistic as they viewed him from a little train. It was interesting to watch the stunt men and women perform and seeing Lucille Ball’s old studio and cowboy movie sets brought back glimpses of the past.
Their last excursion was a drive from San Francisco to Monterey where they experienced the best weather so far. Driving through Castroville they were introduced to the artichoke. Avocados were cheaper than they had ever seen before. They remarked on the gum trees and how the coastline reminded them of Australia. After reaching Carmel they reluctantly drove back to L.A. All that remained was a long flight home, a new year of teaching and some wonderful memories.
Looking back on that holiday Joanne marvelled at their lack of planning. The only night’s accommodation prebooked was the Mark Twain Hotel in San Francisco. She remembered them standing in a New York City street, hailing a taxi and asking the driver to take them to a reasonably priced hotel not too far from the action, which he did. At some airports they scanned the pictures of motels on the wall and picked one, ringing the number on the wall phone, only to be picked up minutes later. They were impressed by American efficiency. It only took a phone call for things to happen and nothing was too much trouble. In fact everyone was so nice. They all said Happy New Year and Have a Good Day. They decided Australians could learn a lot about service with a smile.
It’s a horror movie right there on my TV Horror movie right there on my TV Horror movie and it’s blown a fuse Horror movie, it’s the six-thirty news Horror movie, it’s the six-thirty news And it’s shockin’ me right outta my brain
Horror Movie – Skyhooks – 1975
Joanne bought herself a black and white television the year she started teaching, in 1971. It was a Healing, the cheapest she could find and it proved that you get what you pay for. It developed a habit of taking up to an hour before the picture would appear, so Joanne would switch in on when she arrived home from school in the hope she would get to watch something before the news.
Colour TV first arrived in Australia in 1975. Three years earlier, Bruce Gyngell (TV executive) famously quoted the then Prime Minister, Billy McMahon, who said that the Australian economy was in such a fragile state it could not afford the Vietnam War and colour TV.
It was at least two years later before Leo and Joanne became the proud owners of their Sony Trinitron Colour TV. The fact that they could only receive two channels (WIN 4 and ABC 2) did not worry them unduly but it did affect their viewing habits. The ABC was the public broadcaster and favoured current affairs, British comedy and drama and some Australian made content as well. WIN provided local news and American TV with advertisements so ABC became the channel of choice.
So much British comedy was pouring into Australia and it was good. The Two Ronnies, Dad’s Army, Are You Being Served?, Fawlty Towers, Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part and The Good Life poked fun at everything British but also matched Australia’s sense of humour.
Locally produced shows were popular. Number 96 broke boundaries in what was acceptable on TV and Graham Kennedy was banned from appearing on live television after his infamous ‘crow call’. Countdown appeared in 1974, hosted a year later by Ian “Molly” Meldrum and lasted fourteen years. It was the most popular music program in Australia’s TV history. Molly was a bumbling but endearing host who is credited with turning the Australian music industry around. Video clips were a new thing. Joanne and Leo were amazed at the colourful costumes of ABBA as much as their catchy music.
Australian comedy was quirky and a bit hit and miss. The Aunty Jack Show hit Australian screens in 1972. Joanne and Leo watched it regularly, agreeing some parts were brilliant, some not so good. For some reason the writers chose Wollongong as the object for their satire, which had letter writers and the Lord Mayor in a flap.
Joanne was dedicated to an Australian TV series called Certain Women (1973-76). It grew out of a six part mini-series showcasing six talented women actors and covered the issues facing women in the 1970s.
From watching mainly American TV in the ‘60s Joanne and Leo had changed their viewing habits. That is not to say the US was forgotten. They (mainly Joanne) watched the Partridge Family, M.A.S.H, All in the Family, The Brady Bunch and Mary Tyler Moore. As life became busier, the time for TV watching became less.
It was later in the ‘70s that friends suggested they all meet in Sydney to see The Applecart performed on stage, starring Keith Michel. Joanne noticed a flyer advertising a performance of Henry IV at the Nimrod Theatre. It caught her eye because she had studied that play at university and enjoyed the escapades of Prince Hal. It was a memorable experience. Sitting in the front row they ducked as a sword slid across the stage. At interval the actors (but not John Bell) circulated with the audience and shared Middle Ages food with them, and mead of course.
That was the beginning of many visits to the Nimrod on a Friday or Saturday night. They would drive up the coast after a week of teaching, or a day of sailing on the lake, eat dinner at a nearby restaurant and rush to make it to the first act before lights out. Sometimes Joanne was so tired she simply fell asleep but some plays were so good she stayed awake the whole way through. Anything with John Bell in it was sure to see Joanne paying full attention. David Williamson’s Travelling North hit a chord. Everyone could identify with it. Some of his other plays had them yawning but you can’t win them all. The most horrifying play was The Choir, where the slow dawning of how the choir boys retained their high voices had the men wincing.
The Nimrod Theatre company was founded by John Bell, Richard Wherrett and Ken Horler and while it had its share of tried and trusted plays it promoted ‘good new Australian drama’ (and some not so good) from 1970 to 1985. By the time Leo and Joanne started it had moved from Nimrod Street, Kings Cross to Belvoir Street, Surry Hills but retained the name. John Bell went on to establish the Bell Shakespeare Company and is an Australian Living Treasure.
We don’t need no education We don’t need no thought control No dark sarcasm in the classroom Teacher, leave them kids alone Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall All in all you’re just another brick in the wall
We Don’t Need No Education– Pink Floyd- 1979
Joanne completed three years of teaching at her first school. Now she was a fully qualified teacher and the bond to the Department of Education was automatically wiped. She decided she would apply for a transfer closer to home and was excited to receive notification of appointment to a school nearby.
She was somewhat disappointed to discover that she was a supernumerary (surplus to requirements) and spent the first couple of weeks doing odd jobs, taking classes for an hour or so and generally feeling directionless.
The principal called her to his office. The inspector was there as well and had an interesting offer. If she stayed where she was she might be transferred anywhere at any time. However, a position had come up at a nearby school teaching a class of special needs children. The previous elderly teacher had gone off on sick leave and wouldn’t be back. Over the past weeks there had been a series of teachers who didn’t stay for long and the children needed someone who was there for the long haul.
Joanne thought she could do it. I mean, how hard would it be? Sure, the children had learning difficulties but she would give them the security they needed.
It was scary arriving at the new school. She had loved her previous appointment, with its swimming pool and happy band of young teachers. Her classroom was a separate building out in the middle of the playground. The children filed in after Scripture lessons and stared at their new teacher. Joanne emphasised how she wasn’t like the others. She would be staying with them all year and they would have a great time together.
This didn’t impress one of the children. He decided he had had enough and climbed through the window. Joanne picked the most well-behaved child and sent her to the Principal to report the absconder. It was difficult to continue after the disruption but she had to. What else could she do?
The window climber was put into one of the school’s mainstream classes to cool his heels for a while. Joanne spent hours each night preparing individual lessons for her students. She tried to make them fun and interesting. Whatever she tried didn’t work. Some children swore at her, some argued with their classmates and began fights. Joanne concluded that these children did not just have learning difficulties. They had behavioural difficulties as well.
Leo would come into the little classroom of an afternoon to see Joanne, her head in her hands, weeping at the desk. Stones hit the roof and rattled down the corrugated iron.
‘I’m not giving in,’ she said. ‘They will come round eventually.’
Who knows how things would have transpired because what happened next came totally out of the blue.
One day, at recess, the principal called her into his office. ‘I’ve just heard from the inspector,’ he said. ‘He is trying to place a teacher newly returned from New Guinea. He is trained in the teaching of children with moderate intellectual disability. Also one of the teachers at your last school has gone off on sick leave and may not be back for months. They need a teacher. You don’t have to decide straight away but would you consider going back to your former school?’
Of course Joanne had to say how much she would miss the children and what a difficult decision it was to make but she knew this was a gift she could not refuse. The next day she was back at the school with the swimming pool.
‘It’s a difficult sixth class,’ said the principal. ‘They were devoted to their previous teacher who has been in the school for many years. You might find it hard to take his place.’
Joanne assured him that nothing would be difficult after her recent experience and she was right. She spent five happy years at the school, growing in experience and confidence, always conscious of her lucky escape.
As for the replacement teacher specially trained in teaching children with intellectual disability, he lasted one day. The class was eventually disbanded and the children returned to their own schools.
Rock’n’Roll I gave you all the best years of my life All the dreamy sunny Sundays, all the moonlit summer nights I was so busy in the backroom, writing love songs to you But you were changing your direction and I never even knew That I was always just one step behind you.
Rock ‘n’ Roll – Kevin Johnson – 1973
Arriving at college in 1969, Joanne was impressed by people who knew a lot about music. Her flatmates Margo and Shauna started a Folk Club which she joined, listening to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Cat Stevens and Woody and Arlo Guthrie. The college library also had records, turntables and headphones where she worked on music assignments based on ‘Carnival of the Animals’, ‘The Planets’ and ‘The Grand Canyon’ suites. She also joined the college orchestra, playing a trumpet somewhat inexpertly but enjoying the combined sound they made.
When she first visited Leo’s parents’ house, she noticed they had a very modern radiogram. It was stereo, meaning it had two speakers built into a glossy timber box with gilt and plastic trim. Leo played his favourite records, brought back from England. The Bee Gees equalled the Beatles as his favourite group, he said, and he loved to mime, ‘You don’t know what it’s like, to love somebody, the way I love you.’
Leo also had Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Manfred Mann and the soundtrack to Hair, but it was a problem having to go upstairs his parent’s house to play music once they were married and living in the flat.
They had to buy their own sound system. Meeting up with the Americans from the pool in Fiji, they were impressed by their music system. ‘You have to get individual components,’ said Pete. ‘That way you get the best of each, put it together and you have great sound.’
Pete and Peta had a Marantz amplifier, Bose speakers and a Dual turntable. Joanne and Leo decided to try and get the same combination. After all, it sounded fantastic.
Despite saving for a block of land, owning no furniture and receiving comparatively low teachers’ salaries, the young couple thought that a music system was more important than anything else. They drove to Miranda Hi-Fi which was where you went if you were serious about your music. Buying a sound system was not as easy as they had imagined.
‘You’ve got to keep up with the latest,’ said the salesman. JVC have just brought out an amplifier that gives you Quadraphonic sound.’
‘But we can’t afford four speakers,’ said Joanne.
‘Buy two now and two later,’ said the salesman. You can still get good quality stereo sound on all records. There aren’t many CD4 records out now but there will be. It’s the sound of the future.’
It seemed the Bose speakers weren’t available but the salesman showed them two large Marantz speakers with thick padded speaker grills. They at least managed to get an automatic Dual turntable which had a tone arm that had to be carefully calibrated and balanced. A cleaning brush that sat on the record as it spun and another brush for the stylus ensured that all would be dust free.
They were too exhausted and traumatised at how much money they had spent so they left the boxes unopened that night. Next morning Joanne woke to the sound of glorious music coming from the lounge room. Leo had put the system together while she slept and it worked! ‘The Mexican Hat Dance’ had her up and jumping in minutes. She just had to be careful she didn’t bump the needle.
While Quadraphonic Sound faded into obscurity in the 1970s it was resurrected in a new form in the 1990s with the introduction of home cinema. However this didn’t worry Leo and Joanne unduly as they could play regular records with no loss of sound quality.
The purchase of a Sony Tape deck, attached to the JVC amplifier, heralded the era of copying records onto cassette tape. Visiting friends for the weekend involved hours spent in front of the record player, recording their music and writing all the songs in tiny print on the cassette case. The same would happen when friends came to visit. Of course this wasn’t strictly legal, and some people recorded their own records to “save” them from wear and tear. The cassettes could be played in the car, except when they got stuck and spools of tape went everwhere.
CDs were a thing of the future. They wouldn’t appear until 1982. Records were still the most popular way to play music, although Leo and Joanne did buy some pre-recorded tapes.
Records were expensive so their collection was never large. Saying that it included Elton John, Air Supply, Carole King, Ike and Tina Turner, John Lennon, Wings, Kate Bush, Bryan Ferry, Bread, Gordon Lightfoot, Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan, Melanie, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Diamond, ELO, Billy Joel, Boney M and the Little River Band so they didn’t do too badly.