Schooldays: Living in the ’70s

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 EducationPink 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.

Roneo machine for duplicating pages of work

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: Living in the ’70s

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’ RollKevin 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’s favourite band

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.

Records in the new CD4 format

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.

Quant, Mary: Living in the ’70s

Hey there, Georgy girl,

Why do all the boys just pass you by?

Could it be you just don’t try

Or is it the clothes you wear?

You’re always window shopping but never stopping to buy

So, shed those dowdy feathers and fly

A little bit

Georgy Girl- The Seekers-1966

Mary Quant is now 92 years old but in the 1960s she was one of the designers who took credit for the miniskirt and hotpants. Quant has been quoted as saying, ‘It was the girls on the Kings Road who invented the mini.  I was making easy, youthful simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted.  I wore them very short and the customers would say “shorter, shorter”.’

Leo told Joanne of his arrival in England in 1967.  He met up with the girls from the ship at Earls Court a few days after arrival and noticed they were all wearing mini-skirts.  Apparently they had spent their first day in England taking up their hems.

Joanne in 1972

It wasn’t long after this that Joanne looked through her wardrobe of homemade dresses and decided which ones could be shortened. When she finally began earning a wage in 1971 she spent quite a bit of it on clothes.  Her most daring purchase was a black velvet pair of hotpants with a bib and brace, worn with a long-sleeved white shirt, black tights and knee high boots.

Joanne’s mini dress 1972

Teaching with a mini skirt required very careful bending to retrieve items off the floor.  It must have been about 1973 that Joanne started wearing midi skirts.  These were long, well below the knee, but had a split up one side or the front to allow for easy movement.

Joanne loved long dresses for evening wear.  Dinner dances were very popular so she had quite a few in her wardrobe.  Her favourite was a long pink and white gingham dress she called  ‘Ryan’s Daughter’  after the film of the same name.

Denim on denim was popular, as was velvet and delicate floral patterns 1978

Leo was not to be outdone. His green velvet suit was almost as eye catching as his black jacket trimmed with tartan ribbon from the House of Merivale in Sydney.  When Joanne first met him he wore the teachers’ uniform of shorts (quite short), knee high socks, coloured short sleeved shirt and a tie.  

The Premier of South Australia, Don Dunstan, took the short shorts to extreme in this famous photo.

Flinders University Library Dunstan Collection

Joanne started wearing slacks to school, usually with a long jackets but later, more daringly, with a close-fitting top.  The bell bottoms became wider as the tops became smaller and tighter.

When Joanne’s mother remarried in 1978, skirts were just below the knee.  Joanne bought an outfit which brought cries of horror from her mother-in-law.  The material resembled a hessian bag, maybe a little smoother.  The skirt and waistcoat were beige in colour, worn with a loose cream shirt and a brown beret.  This is quite a contrast to fashion of the early 1970s.

Politics: Living in the ’70s

It’s time for freedom,

It’s time for moving, it’s time to begin.

Yes it’s time

It’s time Australia,

It’s time for moving, It’s time for proving,

Yes It’s time

Written by Paul Jones and Mike Shirley arranged by Pat Aulton lead singer Alison McAllum

Advertising jingle for the Labor Party in the 1972 election

Gough Whitlam with the singer Little Pattie, wearing T-shirts announcing ‘It’s time’ as part of his Labor election campaign in 1972.
Photograph: Graeme Fletcher/Hulton Archive The Guardian Newspaper Tue 21 Oct 2014 

11th November 1975.   Joanne kicked her off her shoes and flopped on the bed. The second English exam was over and she was free of university until next year.  She idly switched on the clock radio beside the bed.  What she heard made her sit bolt upright.  The Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, had been dismissed by the Governor General.

She heard the words of Gough Whitlam as he said, ‘Well may we say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor-General’

The Labor leader addresses reporters outside parliament in Canberra after his dismissal by the governor general during the constitutional crisis of 1975.
Photograph: Keystone/Hulton ArchiveThe Guardian Newspaper Tue 21 Oct 2014 

There would be a general election to determine a democratic outcome.  Meanwhile the opposition leader had become PM.

How had it all come to this when three years before half the country was rejoicing over the end of twenty three years of conservative government?  For people like Joanne politics had become exciting.  It actually was affecting the lives of people including herself.  The university course she was now undertaking part time was free since the Labor Party had come into power.  Even her grandmother approved of the new no-fault divorce laws because she had been through a nasty divorce herself.

The new government voted in on 5 December 1972 was unusual to say the least.  Two people, the PM and the deputy, Lance Barnard, held 27 portfolios between them. The duumvirate, as the mini ministry was called, made 40 significant decisions in a short time, including release of all draft resisters from jail, the removal of troops from Vietnam and recognition of Communist China.   The Governor General, Sir Paul Hasluck made the third in the quorum so that there was no breach of propriety. Thirteen days later the 27 ministers were sworn in.  A new era of reform had begun.

What went wrong?

Well, there were scandals and dodgy loans and accusations of overspending. In October, 1975, the Senate refused to pass supply, which meant the Commonwealth would soon run out of money and thus not be able to function. The Whitlam government decided to tough it out (bad decision). The Opposition Leader said supply would be passed if an election was called for the following May or June 1976. Whitlam refused. That meant there would be no money over the long Christmas break

The Governor General then dismissed the Prime Miinister and his government, appointed the Opposition leader as caretaker Prime Minister and called for an election in December. The Opposition led by Malcolm Fraser, had a resounding win.

Looking back at the 1071 days the Whitlam government was in power, most would agree Australia was never the same again. Reforms to education, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders rights, women’s rights, foreign affairs, human rights, healthcare, social security, defence, multiculturalism, the arts, the law, heritage etc left a lasting legacy.

How the Whitlam government handled the economy has been the source of much public controversy. Inflation, the 1973 oil crisis and other factors saw the end of the post-war boom and coincided with the huge increase in expenditure by the government. Of course the Opposition was scandalised by the Khemlani loans affair and the state of the economy and because Labor did not have a majority in the senate, the Opposition was able to block supply and bring them down.

Surprisingly Whitlam and Fraser formed an unlikely friendship in later life.

Just to take you back to the heady days in the lead up to the 1972 election I will add this website showing the musical advertising campaign.  For those of you who live overseas and know nothing of Australian politics it might still be fun to watch.

Thanks to The Conversation for their reference material Australian politics explainer: Gough Whitlam’s dismissal as prime minister Published: April 19, 2017 1.56pm AEST 

Our House: Living in the ’70s

Our house is a very, very, very fine house

With two cats in the yard

Life used to be so hard

Now everything is easy ‘cause of you

Graham Nash  (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) 1970

1973-1974 – House and land prices were rising at a phenomenal rate. Leo and Joanne would look at blocks of land, decide they liked one, only to find it was sold and the one next door had almost doubled in a matter of weeks. They had to move fast. Leo was keen on Mt Warrigal where the land had views over Lake Illawarra and the beaches to the east.

They were able to borrow enough money to become the proud owners of a steep block of land in Cuthbert Drive.  Sitting in the long grass where their house was to be they imagined the view from their balcony.  To the east they could see waves crashing on the white sand. To the north  the sun was shining on the placid waters of Lake Illawarra, and to the west was the escarpment, looming over the Illawarra with its rugged outline silhouetted against the sky.

All that remained was to choose a house plan.  Every weekend was spent visiting show homes in north-western Sydney.  They finally narrowed it down to a split-level house designed by Pettit and Sevitt.  Suitable for a sloping block, it was designed on three levels.  On the ground floor was a lounge room, a study and double garage.  Up a few stairs and the kitchen, dining room and family room faced the back yard.  Up some more stairs and the three bedrooms with two bathrooms faced the front.  Joanne imagined waking up each morning and looking out at that view.

Dream home by Pettit and Sevitt

One slight problem was the matter of finance.  On their first visit to a bank they were dismissed almost immediately as having insufficient funds to service a loan.  Joanne’s income wasn’t even counted as she would be having babies and giving up work.

Leo was most put out and declared he would be banking elsewhere in future and moving all his money out this very day.  The bank manager was probably not concerned with the loss of an account that dwindled to nearly zero once a fortnight.

The National Bank was more accommodating.  They would loan them the full amount, with a variable interest rate of 10.38%.  

They were all set to go.  What could go wrong? Everything, it seemed.  Pettit and Sevitt had severed all ties with the Illawarra because of problems with building contractors. Not to be daunted the couple redesigned the house, moving the living area upstairs and the bedrooms below.  They then found a draftsman to draw up the plans and presented them to a builder for a quote.

The quote came in at twice the cost of the Pettit and Sevitt home.  They found most builders wouldn’t even bother giving them a quote.  They just shook their heads and said it would cost too much.

It was time for a rethink. Leo had started a University degree which involved attending lectures several afternoons a week after school.  Maybe they could sell their land and buy a block near the University? Then they could build a house (not their dream home, but a cheaper, locally built project home) which would get them started.

That is precisely what they did. In May of 1975 they turned the key of their brand new home, exactly three years after their wedding.

Building a house

It was designed by a local building company called Radnor, but Leo and Joanne introduced many of the ideas they had picked up from the Sydney show homes.  They replaced the windows in the living area and front bedrooms with floor to ceiling glass doors, they squeezed an ensuite beside the master bedroom, they chose colourful benchtops, lime green in the kitchen and orange in the bathroom, cork tiles for the kitchen floor and a luxurious synthetic shag pile through the rest of the house.  Marimekko curtains in red, black and white added a vivid burst of colour while the various shades of green in the dining room curtain matched the kitchen benchtops. A Tessa dralon velvet lounge, glass coffee table and the silky oak round table and chairs completed the furnishings.

Of course this didn’t happen all at once.  Sheets were pinned up on the windows until Joanne got around to sewing the curtains and making fabric blinds.  A borrowed cast-off lounge sufficed until the new one could be purchased.  A new cat arrived.  Selina was a Siamese with magnificent blue eyes, dark coloured points and creamy coloured fur.  Despite her beauty she had a quirky nature like her predecessor.

It may not have been the house of their dreams but it was a place where dreams were made.

Not in the Fondue: Living in the ‘70s

Gimme head with hair

Long, beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming

Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Hair – 1968 original broadway cast

The book has lost its dust jacket, and a strip of dark blue masking tape holds its faded covers together. Inside the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook an inscription reads, ‘To Joanne with love from Grandma 1971’.  Grandma didn’t want it as she said she was too old to be following recipes.  She thought that Joanne, with her new flat, new job and new boyfriend, might like to use it.

Joanne studied it assiduously.  Leo often dropped around for a meal so she decided to impress him with oxtail casserole. The recipe asked for four oxtails.  She wondered if that meant the tails from four oxen?  Maybe it meant four pieces of oxtail?

Haricot beans were needed but hard to source.  She found them in the Health Food store and covered them with water the night before.  On Saturday morning she boiled them in salted water for an hour while preparing the onions, carrots and tomatoes.  She had never peeled tomatoes before but her flatmate told her to drop them in boiling water and the skins would come off easily.  A large can of cream of tomato soup was added to the mixture with a pint of red wine.  She had bought the second cheapest wine at the local Bottle Shop.

The casserole cooked for four hours, cooled in the fridge and then Joanne inexpertly skimmed the congealed white fat off the top.  She drained the haricot beans, added them to the mixture and reheated for an hour in the oven.

When Leo arrived he commented on the appetising aroma. Four of them sat at the red Laminex table donated by Annie. Joanne placed one oxtail piece on each plate with the rich red sauce. Mashed potatoes and green beans filled the empty spaces.

‘Um….where’s the meat?’ asked the flatmate’s boyfriend.

They all tried in vain to find something resembling meat but even with the aid of toothpicks little could be retrieved.  

Joanne had more success with Sweet and Sour Pork but the dish that became Leo’s favourite was Savoury Lamb – ‘a colourful combination of vegetables and simple but subtle seasonings make this the perfect family or party casserole’.  The secret was the combination of sherry, brown sugar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard.

The International Cookery section introduced Joanne to chicken and almonds from China, smorgasbord from Scandinavia, cannelloni from Italy, beef vindaloo from India and sate kambing from Indonesia.

The coveted beaten copper fondue pot

It was the Fondue section of the book that intrigued her the most. She read that fondues could be based on cheese, chocolate or oil. It was the oil based fondue that attracted her, as morsels of beef could be speared, cooked and slipped onto the plate, smothered in sauce and eaten. She purchased a book called Fondue Cookery and created elaborate dips to go with the kidney, veal, chicken, pork and prawns. In the interests of health she moved from oil to stock. Her first fondue dish was red painted metal although she coveted the beaten copper one depicted in her cookbook.

On the night of her first fondue dinner half a dozen guests happily speared their morsels, but leaning across to grab a piece of garlic bread Joanne’s long hair caught fire in the fondue flame.  It only singed the ends but left an acrid scent of burnt keratin in the air.

Me and My Arrow: Living in the ‘70s

Straighter than narrow

Wherever we go, everyone knows,

It’s me and my Arrow

Harry Nilssson 1970

The cat clung desperately to the boy on a bicycle as he rode into the school yard.

‘Here’s the cat I was telling you about,’ he called out to his teacher.

‘I thought you said it was a Siamese,’ replied Leo. ’This cat looks like a bit of everything’

‘It’s mum is Siamese but as for its dad, who knows?’

Leo had never seen an uglier cat.  It was tortoiseshell in colour, skinny but strong and not averse to showing its claws and teeth.

I wonder what Joanne will think?

He needn’t have worried.  She was used to cats and decided to keep it without question.  

They both agreed on the name Arrow after watching an animated  TV  show called ‘The Point’ where Oblio, the pointless boy, had a dog called Arrow.

Arrow had inherited a Siamese cat temperament.  She didn’t like to be held for long, exploring the flat from top to bottom, including shimmying up the curtains.

Leo and Joanne were horrified as Arrow made herself at home. They had been working every weekend to give the flat more of a modern vibe. Leo’s parent gave them free reign. They painted the kitchen cupboards white and lined the walls with red, black and silver patterned contact paper. The dark bathroom became known as ‘the sunny’, with yellow walls contrasting with the green painted water pipes.

Honan matting squares brightened up the floor (but were a devil to clean). Leo made book shelves which filled two walls above the lounge and Joanne sewed purple curtains shot with red. The bedroom had a bright orange quilt to make up for the dark heavy wardrobe.

They both loved antique furniture and spent many hours searching antique stores for their future home. They couldn’t afford the coveted writing desk, the marble topped hall stand or the chiffonier but they both fell in love with a silky oak round table and six chairs. Many hours were spent in the backyard, sanding the accumulated grime of many years off the legs, arms, splats and spindles. Arrow happily leapt from chair to chair.

Furniture restoration with Arrow

Once they went camping to St Georges Basin, taking Arrow with them. She disappeared on the first day and they thought they would never see her again. She must have used up some of her nine lives but on the day they were to leave she reappeared.

Arrow became sick. They took her to the vet and found she had an incurable condition commonly found in Siamese cats. How unfortunate for Arrow to have missed out on the good looks but to have inherited a health condition. Arrow’s pointy little face looked at Joanne anxiously as she said a last goodbye. Hers was a short life but she would be remembered as a cat with a prickly personality, much loved by her young owners.

L for Lay, Lady,Lay: Living in the ‘70s

Lay across my big brass bed

Stay, lady,stay

Stay with your man awhile

Until the break of day,

Let me see you make him smile

Lay, Lady, Lay  Bob Dylan 1969

May 1972

The Oriana pulled away from the wharf, the streamers broke and the faces of family blurred into the distance. Joanne and Leo rode the lift down the bowels of the ship and found their cabin.  It was small and dark, with narrow double bunks and only just enough room for their suitcases.

Reuben Goossens Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Lecturer source of this photo

‘It’s not as if we will be spending much time in here,’ said Joanne. ‘We’ll be outside doing lots of activities, won’t we?’

She had heard so much about Leo’s voyage to England on the Fairsea. Stories of swimming like seals in the ship’s pool, dancing and drinking all night, and performing in a magnificent Egyptian themed extravaganza had all seemed so exciting.

They arrived at the dining room and were shown to a table where they met their dining companions for the next seven days. They found they had very little in common with the singles they met. The first course was always consommé.  In fact, Joanne felt that the entire dining deck smelt of consommé.  She could sense its pervasive aroma it as soon as she stepped out of the lift.

Every morning at 6.00am there would be a knock on the cabin door, the lights would come on in the pitch dark room and a steward would bring them two glasses of orange juice. There was no such thing as a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign to hang on the door. There was no such thing as ‘tipping the steward’ either, or at least Leo and Joanne didn’t.

The storm hit the next day, with grey skies and huge waves rolling the ship from side to side.  The pool was closed and the dining room emptied out as more passengers took to their beds.  There was a washbasin in their cabin but the bathroom was at the end of a long corridor.  Joanne had to step over the remains of people’s meals to reach the shower but she was determined she would not succumb to seasickness.

It severely tested her strength when she decided to iron one of Leo’s shirts in the laundry room.  The heat from the dryers and the roll of the ship was almost too much for even her strong stomach.

They gathered on the deck in the wind as Ball’s Pyramid and Lord Howe Island slipped by.  How inviting the curved beach looked.  It would be so wonderful to stand on level, still, unmoving land.

Finally they could go ashore.  The ship had pulled into Suva, Fiji and they gazed over the railing at the dancers performing below them.

‘Let’s find a taxi and get to a beach,’ suggested Leo.

They were both astonished and underwhelmed at their destination. Beside a plain rectangular motel was a cement pool with absolutely no charm whatsoever. Behind the motel were rows of mangroves where glimpses of water indicated the possibility of an ocean beyond.

‘At least the pool hasn’t got huge waves in it,’ laughed Leo.

It wasn’t long before they made the acquaintance of two Americans.  Pete and Peta were heading to Australia.  With the shortage of teachers in Australia Pete had accepted a position as a science teacher at Picton High School while Peta would try to get work in a laboratory somewhere.   They would be living in the same geographical area as Leo and Joanne, so promised to catch up later in the year.

Oriana in the background at Nadi, Fiji

The Oriana set off for Nadi, but not before Joanne and Leo bargained for a huge woven clothes basket which was stored in the ships’s hull. Some passengers decided they would cross the island and meet the ship on the other side. The less time spent on the Oriana the better, as far as they were concerned. On the other side of the island of Viti Levu the ship docked at Nadi and then sailed on to Noumea where they arrived in an ugly industrial port.

‘It looks just like Port Kembla,’ said Joanne.  Somehow the image of idyllic Pacific Islands was fading rapidly.

Precariously they jumped aboard the tenders, and reached the shore where a bus rattled into Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. Joanne was left with an image of muddy roads full of potholes and rain drenched markets but Leo saved the day. They entered a magnificent patisserie and ordered a concoction of icecream, meringue and fruit called Chantilly Glace.

Boarding the ship they found themselves accidentally in the First Class section.  Expecting at any moment to be evicted they looked with admiration at the grand dining room, ballroom and lounge areas. Tourist class looked very plain when they finally made their way back.

At the Captain’s Cocktail party Joanne wore her long blue and black dress, once intended for the wedding. Probably a wise decision to leave it for the honeymoon.

They had one more interesting event before they left the ship.  As they had to put their suitcases out into the corridor on the last night of the voyage, they had to make sure they had clothes ready for the next morning.  Waiting on the deck until their number was called for disembarkation they saw an amazing sight.  Mini skirts were the norm at the time, and leaning over the railing was a girl who obviously had forgotten to leave out her underwear the night before.

Built in 1959 for the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the SS Oriana became part of P&O in 1966. She changed to a one class cruise ship in 1973, the year after our honeymooners’ brief voyage and was based in Sydney from 1981 to 1986 after which she was retired and sold to become a floating hotel in China. As a result of being badly damaged in a storm she was subsequently scrapped in 2004.

Knock Three Times: Living in the ‘70s

Knock Three Times

On the ceiling if you want me

Mmm, hmm, twice on the pipe

If the answer is no

Tony Orlando and Dawn-1970

‘Let’s make it legal.’

Joanne stared at Leo, wondering what he meant.  

I think he is proposing!

There were all sorts of reasons to say no.  In two years Joanne could proceed with her plan to travel to London, teach and travel.  On the other hand, if she married she might never have the chance to fulfill her dreams.

However, might it not be more fun to travel the world with a soulmate?  She envisaged the two of them teaching somewhere in the snowy Canadian mountains, using their holidays to explore the continent of North America.  Of more immediate importance, Leo said they could paint the flat under his parents’ house in bright sunny colours with only $10 a week rent.

Suddenly Joanne wanted it all to happen straight away but Leo thought they should wait until the following year.  After all they had to plan a wedding!

The first task was to buy an engagement ring.  They looked in the window of Angus and Coote for a few minutes before stepping inside.  As soon as they mentioned ‘engagement’, they were ushered to comfortable chairs and presented with trays of glittering rings. Joanne liked a flat gold ring with a small diamond flanked by triangular metal buttresses.  

Joanne had never been to a wedding.  All she knew was that she didn’t want the flouncy white dress, the father walking her down the aisle (there was no father) and a minister officiating.

In 1972 the options were a church wedding or the registry office. Marriage celebrants did not exist although some outdoor weddings took place with a person of the cloth in charge.  They heard stories of people who visited their priest or minister several times for counselling before the wedding and of some who had been refused a wedding because they were not regular church goers.  

Joanne’s mother Annie was horrified at their plans for a registry office.  

‘People will think it’s a shotgun wedding!’ she said. ‘I’m not allowing it!’

But Joanne would be 21 the month before her wedding so she could legally do what she wanted.  Fortunately, Annie came around in the end although she did tell enquiring friends that her daughter was getting married at the Anglican Church in Wollongong.

The wedding took place at the Wollongong Courthouse, just across the road from Wollongong’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral.  Leo decided to wear white trousers, a black and white paisley shirt, white tie and a black and white tweed jacket.  At first Joanne planned to wear a long blue dress with a black yoke but relented when she saw the perfect unconventional wedding dress.  It was made of figure hugging white crepe, the hood and bodice trimmed with a tapestry of mauve and yellow flowers surrounded by green leaves on a cream background. She could wear the hood until she said ‘I do’ and then pull it back off her head.

The registry office was small. Joanne sat beside Leo, his brother on one side and her flatmate on the other. Joanne’s mother and Leo’s parents stood behind them. The District Registrar made a short statement about marriage and then proceeded with the vows. When Joanne’s name was spoken with the word ‘spinster’ attached, the flatmate gave a loud snort. The laughter was infectious, and Joanne tried grimly to stifle any sound by holding her breath and biting her tongue. They signed the register, followed by Leo’s brother and the flatmate, who were ‘best witnesses’. It was with great relief that Joanne walked out onto the courthouse steps to pose for a photo taken by the flatmate’s boyfriend.

In the months preceding the wedding Leo and Joanne discovered a new reception centre in Atchison Street only a block away from her old flat.  It was called The Barclay and had three themed rooms for small, medium and large receptions. They chose the smallest, the Moroccan Room.  Joanne, in her naivety, told Leo’s parents that her mother was paying for the food and that they would be paying for the drinks.  As it turned out they also paid for the band which continued to play late into the night because no one would go home.

The best wedding ever

They had invited a few friends and lots of relatives.  Joanne didn’t have any relatives to speak of, just her mother and grandmother.  Her flatmates from Teachers College had not arrived and she looked anxiously at the empty seats.  Where were they?  The main course had arrived when they walked in looking somewhat dishevelled.  It seems they had ridden down from Sydney with their current boyfriends on the back of motorbikes and had a number of problems on the way.

Soon they were all in a circle dancing ‘Zorba the Greek’.   The dessert arrived, a flaming Bombe Nesselrode and the drinks flowed. Joanne agreed with everyone that this was the best wedding ever.

Back at Leo’s parent’s house his mother tentatively brought out a wedding cake she had secretly made.  Leo and Joanne had been adamant they didn’t want ‘tradition’ but Joanne could see how worried she was and gave her a big thank you hug.

Downstairs at last in their own little flat still there was no peace.  A friend of Leo’s challenged Joanne to a chess game and to her surprise she found she was winning.  Then it was time for everyone to leave because tomorrow the newly married couple were off on their honeymoon, a cruise on the Oriana.

Journey to the Centre: Living in the ’70s

Get your motor runnin’

Head out on the highway

Looking for adventure

In whatever comes our way

Steppenwolf – Born to be Wild 1969

May 1970

When Joanne heard about the Centre Trip she was desperate to go. Camping in tents, they would travel through four states, visit Cooper Pedy, Woomera, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria, Cairns and Brisbane. The cost was $120. Joanne didn’t have that sort of money but she borrowed it from her mother, Annie, promising to pay it back when she started teaching.

Oh the places she would go!

When the time came for her to leave, she wasn’t quite so keen.  Surprisingly none of her friends had shown any interest in going, so she knew no-one on the trip. Also she had been seeing Leo for only a short time and didn’t want to spend the next three weeks apart from him.  Who knows, he might have found someone else by the time she returned?

He turned up on the day she was to leave, helped her pack by reading out her list and then took her to a Chinese Restaurant for lunch.

Sitting alone in the bus full of chattering students she was relieved when, just before they left, a girl asked if she could sit beside her.  She looked French, with her dark bob and her slight accent. Her name was Michelle and she proved to be an excellent travelling companion for the next three weeks.

They didn’t camp in tents the first night. Arriving at 9.20pm in the decidedly frosty air of Bathurst, they slept in a scout hall and had cold showers that warmed up just as they finished. The next day they drove through Orange and Dubbo, stopping for lunch on the side of the road near Narromine where they made their own sandwiches from an array of fillings, vegemite, peanut butter, tuna, baked beans, tomato, apricot jam.

As they rumbled through Nyngan and then Cobar, Joanne considered each town as a possible location for her teaching position the next year.  Twenty miles past Cobar they set up camp at Springfield Tank where the soil was red and soft and small trees dotted the landscape.  Michelle and Joanne pitched their tent, pumped up their lilos and arranged their sleeping bags.  A short game of wood cricket was followed by a meal of chops, veggies, rice-cream and peaches, prepared by the group on duty.  Joanne practised her trumpet in the bus and then joined the others singing songs around the campfire.

The night was cold, making sleep difficult.  In the morning the tent dripped water wherever it was touched.  Joanne dressed rapidly and rushed off to help prepare the breakfast of onion and tomato on toast.

The bus drove over to the water supply which was as cold as the morning air.  About two thirds of the students were from the Physical Education faculty.  They were noticeably more athletic than the Primary group and wasted no time dumping one of their own in the water tank.

The sighting of three emus and a kangaroo caused great excitement.  Every ten or twelve miles they crossed a cattle grid with fences stretching out each side as far as the eye could see.  Arriving at the caravan park in Broken Hill (population 30,000) the students enjoyed hot showers in the amenities block which put everyone in a good mood.  After the meal Joanne and Michelle decided to wander down to the main street but found a determined gathering of lecturers at the gate. They were told was too dangerous for them to be let loose on the sinful city of Broken Hill.  Furious, but unable to do anything about it, they settled for a sing song around the campfire with a group of other travellers.

Their first excursion was to the North Broken Hill Zinc-Lead-Silver Mine where they observed basic elements being extracted from a muddy conglomerate. Amid the noise and smell, a guide described in great detail the process, which remained a mystery as no-one could hear a word. A similar scenario occurred at the South Broken Hill Mine. The highlight of the day was the free lunch and finally crossing into South Australia.

Bound for South Australia – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

Here they encountered fifty miles of dirt road, with sheep, rabbits and kangaroos slowing their progress. Their camp was set amidst saltbush with a few stunted small trees so finding a “restroom” was difficult. It was a case of girls to the right and boys to the left. This was the first night they decided to risk sleeping in the open without the tents and found they were still comfortably dry in the morning.

Driving through Horrick’s Pass in the Flinder’s Ranges they learnt that an explorer, John Henry Horricks, lost his camels and found the pass. They descended into the city of Port Augusta (Population 11,000) and happily explored the shopping centre, free of the lecturers at last.  At the Town Hall they found a wash room where they freshened up before buying some genuine artifacts at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs including a boomerang and a woomera.

After filling their water bottles the intrepid group set off for the Centre Track.  Joanne dozed until she woke scarcely able to breathe for the heat and the dust, only relieved by a stop at 4.00 pm to set up camp. After the sun set Joanne wandered into the bush and looked back at the camp.  She saw the glow of the fire, heard the muted voices and then there was nothing in any direction for hundreds of miles but desert and stars. She contemplated the passage of time, the people who lived here long ago and stood mesmerised for a while.  Reality hit when she found someone (one of the boys) had let down everyone’s lilo so there was no sleep until they were pumped up again.

Rain woke them all at 3.00am so there was a sudden rush to the bus carrying damp sleeping bags and packs. 

Caught in the rain – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

Out in the middle of all this vastness was Island Lagoon Tracking Station.  Inside were enormous computers filling whole walls.  The saucer was eighty-five feet in diameter and was currently tracking Pioneer 8 and relaying information to America.  One of the workers told the story of a Landrover parked under the telescope. When the dish swung down that was the end of the Landrover.

The demise of the Landrover – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

Driving into Woomera was no simple deal. There was a considerable amount of discussion between the authorities, the lecturers and the bus driver. Joanne and others were told to put away their cameras although they couldn’t imagine what harm there would be in snapping photos of the small shopping centre, swimming pool, cinema and neat houses. The bus stopped at Lake Hart and the students ran half a mile across the dried up salt as if released from prison.

Running across Lake Hart – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

At Cooper Pedy a guide named Helena, who originally hailed from Germany, jumped on board. She regaled them with funny stories which had them all laughing. They were impressed with the underground dugout scooped out of the rock, the only room above ground featuring a swimming pool. It was a show house in the winter while its owner lived in a double decker bus but as soon as the weather warmed up she moved into her underground home. Joanne felt she could have lived in that house while digging for opals but from Helena’s stories gathered that Cooper Pedy could be quite a wild place.

Over the border into the Northern Territory they passed a perfect mesa called Mount Conner.  Everyone was straining to catch their first glimpse of Ayers Rock. It was 5.00pm when they finally arrived and set up camp at the base of the rock.  Again they decided against putting up the tents but it was still 10.00pm before the camp was quiet.

Camped at the base of Ayers Rock – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

The lecturers informed them that the first objective next day was to climb Ayers Rock. There was only one climbable section with some posts and chains to help the climber. Further on there were only broken white lines to follow. At the top a visitors’ book was found which everyone signed as well as posing for photographs.

Ready to climb the rock – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

One of the female lecturers and the girl who was dumped in the Springfield Tank had a mock wedding on top of the rock with confetti sprinkled for the occasion.  After a rapid descent the students travelled in the bus to the Olgas where they only had time for a short walk.  Joanne hoped to come back one day to explore the area further as the tracks disappearing into the red rocks looked enticing.  Michelle, Joanne and a few others chose to walk the five and a half miles around the base of the rock until they reached their campsite.  That night Joanne and Michelle visited the local establishment, the Log Cabin, spent 52 cents each on a vodka and orange drink and listened to an Aboriginal man playing a guitar and then later a didgeridoo.

A long dusty drive deposited the students into Alice Springs.  Here they erected their tents and enjoyed hot showers.  Joanne thought it was a beautiful area, especially after visiting Stanley Chasm as the sun slanted onto the rocks at midday.  She and Michelle explored the main street and slipped into an art shop where they saw paintings for sale by Oscar Namatjira, Albert’s son. Enjoying their first taste of a big town the group were treated to dinner at the Oasis Motel and some even ordered wine. Joanne was running out of money fast so had to stick to water.

Moving north they saw a mobile school at Ti Tree which moved with Aboriginal families.  The next stop was a mission where an experiment was underway concerning Aboriginal housing.  As the bus drove along they passed very basic humpies, then one roomed houses with verandahs all around, then the same in brick and finally three bedroom fibro houses. 

Different styles of Aboriginal housing – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

The guide from the mission explained that when families showed they could look after their house they were promoted to a better one. Joanne and the other students thought this seemed a good idea at the time. In hindsight it could be perceived as protectionism and ignoring Indigenous rights and freedom. While I won’t go into the history of the treatment of Aboriginal Australians in this story (Joanne had very little idea as she only knew what she read in the newspapers) suffice it to say that the ‘60s and ‘70s saw massive changes in the status of Australia’s First Nations people.

At Banka Banka Station the students took photos of the Aboriginal children of the stockmen and their wives. When the students climbed back aboard the bus they were stunned when one of the lecturers told them off for their thoughtless actions.  It hadn’t occurred to anyone that they needed to ask permission or that they were being disrespectful.

Stopping at the Devil’s Marbles they climbed over the strange, round rocks.  Previous visitors had painted their initials in large brush strokes on a few of the rocks which Joanne thought was a terrible thing to do to such remarkable formations.

The strange sight of the Devil’s Marbles – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

Still the bus roared onwards until it arrived in the dark at a Mount Isa caravan park. The hot showers were greeted with moans of delight. The next day (temperature 65 degrees F) they were driven out to Lake Moondarra where Joanne joined the others in the chilly water, swimming out to a platform with a slide and enjoying herself immensely.

Heading steadily north they drove through Normanton with their proposed night stop four miles further on.  Suddenly they heard a loud bang.  Close inspection confirmed their fears.  They had a flat tyre.  The driver continued to the campsite with the tyre making a huge racket.  The next morning the bus was driven into Normanton to get the tyre fixed before they headed off along a sandy track to Karumba, on the Gulf of Carpentaria.

House in Normanton – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

There was great excitement when the students learned they could earn $80 a week working on the prawn conveyor belt if they came up here in the summer. As the ribbon of seafood passed by Joanne had a turn at picking out anything that wasn’t a prawn and throwing it to one side. Initial excitement subsided when they considered the heat, the wet, the insects and the monotony of the job. The pool at the Karumba Lodge was a highlight as the temperature had increased considerably since Mount Isa.

In Georgetown they met a couple of young school teachers in the only pub in town.  The men, originally from Cairns, were friendly and obviously starved of female company.  They said Georgetown had never seen so many girls at once in its history.  The girls told them they would be camping about an hour up the road so they promised to follow.  Camped by the banks of Routh Creek they did see some headlights slowly going past but the lecturers must have scared them off because that was the last they saw of them.

Camped by Routh Creek – from the journal of Joanne Walsh

The bus made its way through the Atherton Tablelands to Cairns, where they set up their tents in a caravan park.  Joanne and Michelle thought they were very daring to hitch a ride into town but they were picked up by a taxi and given a free ride. They met some young men in the pub and were shouted cans of XXXX.  Joanne hated beer but felt she had to finish it in case she offended the buyer.  Their reward for travelling 3,580 miles through deserts and tropical regions was a boat trip to Green Island. The island was small and could be circumnavigated in less than an hour. They swam in the warm clear water, wishing they could check in to the resort and stay for a week.

One of the friends Joanne had made flew home from Cairns as she was missing her boyfriend too much.  The PE students couldn’t believe anyone would let a romance upset a good holiday and thought she was the worst kind of wuss. Travelling the 1500 miles from Cairns to Wollongong was a bit of a blur as they covered long distances with few stops. They planted sugar cane from a tractor, slept in a motel storeroom in Surfers Paradise as the rain poured down, and dropped off several students at their hometowns as they travelled down the NSW coast.

Home at last, Joanne was met by Leo, who was limping and had a cast on his leg.

‘Hockey accident,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Broke my foot.’

Joanne had never been so pleased to see anyone in her life.