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.
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.
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.
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
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’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think I love you Isn’t that what life is made of? Though it worries me to say I never felt this way
I Think I Love You – The Partidge Family 1970
There was a feeling of uncertainty in the air, of not knowing one’s future. The Department of Education, in its wisdom, would decide Joanne’s fate and send her a telegram towards the end of January. In it would be the name of one of the 1500 Primary Schools in NSW where she would be appointed.
In the meantime the long summer holidays stretched ahead and Leo, also at a loose end, suggested they pack the tent and drive to Queensland.
‘I’d love to go,’ she said doubtfully, ‘but my mother…. I don’t think she would approve.’
‘We’ll call in on my uncle and aunt in Newcastle,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Tell her we are staying with my relatives up there.’
Uncle Jack owned a corner store. He greeted Leo and Joanne with enthusiasm.
‘We’ll get takeaway Chinese tonight. We always do on a Friday night. Gives Martha a bit of a break.’
Joanne found the food stuck in her throat. She was feeling very unwell and slipped off to bed early, complaining of a sore throat.
The next day they farewelled their genial hosts and drove as far as Coffs Harbour. Leo pitched the tent, which was a primitive affair, just a triangle with no floor. Joanne lay curled up on her sleeping bag in misery, her body aching, her throat increasingly painful. After a restless night where she burned up with fever Leo decided to take her to the hospital. She lay face down on a bed while the doctor injected her in the bottom with a large syringe.
‘Where are you staying?’ asked the doctor.
‘At the caravan park in a tent,’ said Leo, looking worried.
‘She is too sick to go back to a tent. If you can get her into a motel with air conditioning and a proper bed she should recover quite rapidly. I’ve just given her an injection of penicillin for her Strep throat.’
Joanne couldn’t remember much of that day. She slept in the cool air conditioning and woke to the sound of Leo lighting a small gas camping stove on the floor of the motel room. He opened a packet of soup and added water, stirring the contents rapidly. Then he removed the saucepan and carefully balanced a piece of bread on a folding toaster contraption.
‘Here you are!’ he said, passing her a bowl of soup with bits of toast floating around the top. ‘Would you like me to feed you?’
She tentatively swallowed the hot soup and found her throat was already improving. Hopefully they could continue travelling north tomorrow.
The big attraction on the Gold Coast was Marineland. Joanne, feeling almost fully recovered, sat next to Leo in her orange bikini, letting the hot summer sun caress her skin. They were watching dolphins leap from the water as the keeper held a fish above their noses on the end of a stick. They were asking for volunteers to feed the dolphins from the end of a long diving board. A man came up to Joanne and asked if she would like to do it. There would be rewards for her participation.
She stepped gingerly onto the diving board and hung the fish out over the end. The dolphin leapt, grabbed and then a hand pushed her from behind. As she fell into the water all she could think of was her contact lenses. She swam, eyes closed, to the edge of the pool and was relieved that the world around her was still in focus. They gave her tickets to shows and bars and restaurants but Leo would have to pay his share so they didn’t use most of them because money was short.
They set the tent up in Noosa. The caravan park was on the edge of a creek. Across the road and over a small grassy knoll was the beach, where long haired youths rode surfboards on the perfect waves. A few shops straggled along the road but they left them alone, preferring to cook on their camp stove and drink instant coffee.
On the way home they splashed out on another motel in Grafton as Joanne was still not fully recovered from her illness.
One thing she had learned from their rather disastrous holiday was that Leo was there for her ‘in sickness and in health’. However they were both careful not to appear too committed and their favourite travelling road song was:
Starting in 1962, the war in Vietnam was considered by most Australians to be necessary to stem the spread of Communism. Conscription was introduced in 1964 and by 1970 many Australians wanted all troops withdrawn. This was especially so as the number of casualties grew. Young people marched in demonstrations, carrying banners and chanting anti-war slogans.
Joanne was fairly immune to all the controversy until her second year at college and her introduction to Shauna’s passionate views.
‘Last year the moratorium marches in America showed that more and more people oppose the war,’ said Shauna. ‘This year they are going to be held all over Australia. We are going to march against conscription and bring about the end of the Vietnam War!’
Joanne helped Shauna and Margo paint a few posters but declined to participate any further. She had to go home for the weekend. She was amazed at the strangers invading their share house, all preparing for the march. Margo and Shauna told her that a new friend of theirs had been called up in the draft and was refusing to go. ‘He’ll get prison if he’s caught,’ whispered Margo.
Arlo Guthrie sang on the record player.
You can get anything that you want at Alice’s Restaurant.
Meanwhile Leo had a dilemma. His American cousin was coming to Sydney on R&R from Vietnam. He was planning a day trip to entertain him and thought a visit to Canberra might be a good thing to do. He asked Joanne if she would ask a girlfriend to come with them on a double date.
Joanne asked several girls but they were not available. She wondered about Margo, who was preparing to march with Shauna.
‘You want me to go out with an American soldier?’ Margo looked at her in disbelief.
“Well, he was drafted, so he can’t really help it if he’s in the war,’ said Joanne. ‘ He needs a bit of normality after what he’s been through.’
Margo agreed to go. Leo’s cousin seemed happy to have some female company. Joanne was not so happy. Just days before their planned trip the phone had rung at Mrs Kruger’s house. It was her mother, Annie.
‘Look, I don’t know what you want to do, but I’ve just had a phone call from the American chap who stayed with us in the Christmas holidays. He’s back in Australia and wants to see you.’
Joanne had received several communications from the American. He had returned to the United States but was now fearful of being drafted in the Vietnam war. He thought if he moved to Australia he might avoid conscription but was doubtful how long he could stay. Now he was coming to Yerrinbool on Sunday to have a talk about the future.
She felt she had to tell him face to face that she had moved on, but how?
Finally she arranged with Leo to stop at her home and leave her on the way back from Canberra. She would catch the rail motor to Wollongong the next morning.
They had an interesting day in Canberra, viewing the embassies, visiting Parliament House and exploring the Australian War Memorial. Margo was stressed by the graphic depiction of war and announced she was going to throw up. What the cousin thought we’ll never know but Leo and Joanne sang all the way back and it was with some sadness that Joanne bid the others farewell when they left her at her childhood home.
The American was there, keen to tell her of his plans to move to Australia. She told him about Leo and he said that was wonderful and that he had high hopes that there was a future for him with his other penpal.
Time passed and the American had to go home, was drafted and served in Vietnam. Joanne often wondered what happened to him but she was sure she saw him on an American reality TV show late one night.
Leo’s cousin finally was demobbed and returned to his home.
Conscription ended in Australia in December 1972. 63,735 national servicemen served in the Army, of whom 15,381 were deployed to Vietnam. Approximately 200 of those conscripted men were killed but the mental and physical aftermath of the ‘American War’ will never be fully realised. As for servicemen from the United States and the Vietnamese people themselves, the scale of death and destruction cannot be put into numbers or words.