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Down Memory Lane – How it was


 More on the Migrant Experience

While I was searching for something else recently, I came across the full 1998 film* version of  "The Sound of  One Hand Clapping” based on Richard Flanagan’s book of the same name. Having just written about Tullah and the Hydro Villages, it seemed an odd coincidence, so I’m adding it here. A couple of scenes at the beginning were shot in Tullah, though the early part of the story most likely took place in the Highlands - possibly Bronte Park judging by the gum trees, especially as work in Tullah didn't start until the 1970s.

Though a poignant story on its own, it will have special meaning for anyone who remembers that era or who wants to know what it was really like for the post war migrants working on the big Hydro schemes , not just in Tasmania, but also on the Snowy River in NSW. People of different nationalities and backgrounds were all thrown together and that glass of beer at the pub may well have been the closest thing to communication between them. Homesickness was an ever - present companion for many.

Some, like our Dad, returned to Europe as soon as that became possible. Others eventually reached some kind of truce with their new home. While recognising that they would always be regarded as 'foreigners' or New Australians, they appreciated the wide open spaces, the opportunities for their children and the peace which they could enjoy here, far from the troubles in Europe. Then there were those like my sister and I, caught between two worlds, with happy memories of another place we once called home. Once air travel became more affordable, we became the global nomads. I'm not sure if we were looking for a lost past or perhaps that unconscious sense of belonging and security which we've rarely experienced since.

*Non -commercial use of the film is free under CC 3.0, but if you watch it, it would be good to put in a few dollars to support the Tasmanian Film Archives if you can. The donation page comes up when you click on the link above.

Christmas in Australia in the 1950s

While looking at this on YouTube there were a couple of other interesting blasts from the past including this one about Christmas in Australia in the 1950’s (around 9 minutes). These were typical of promotional material commissioned by the Government to encourage migrants to come to Australia. There are similar short segments for each city such as the one for Launceston from the same era. Judging by the trams and Myer’s windows, the one below would have been shot in Melbourne at around the time we moved there in about 1958 -1959. Note the frocks and the men in their Stamina Trousers and Pelaco shirts, the Office Christmas Party - there was no wine in Australia then, and the fact that these were the heady days when “Australia rode on the sheep’s back”  -that is, we produced a lot of wool. It should bring a smile or a tear to any Aussies who were around at the time. 

Our lives were much simpler then and we were much more optimistic. The baby boom was in full swing. There was plenty of work for all comers and life got better every year, with appliances, cars and holidays becoming commonplace. Few women worked outside the home. Even if  the Cold War was hotting up, Australians were still for the most part blissfully unaware of what was going on elsewhere in the world. Television only started in Australia in 1956 and few people owned a set until well into the 1960s and 70s.



A 1970s Visit to the West Coast

 The last clip I watched was about the West Coast  -A trip to Queenstown, Strahan and Zeehan (around 18 mins) in the 1970’s. It was no doubt a very early attempt to convey the beauty of the Gordon River, although it really doesn’t do it justice. Cinematography has come a long way since then, but it made me smile because of the clothes and hairstyles  - I literally wore clothes like that, inspired by the outrageous mini -skirts brought to us from "Swinging London" by the likes of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy. I also had a haircut just like that.

This film  had a special resonance for me for another reason too. When I got to the credits it turned out that it had been shot by my old friend Chris Morgan who'd been a cinematographer with the Tasmanian Film Corporation. Unfortunately he died two years ago, but I wonder what he would think now about the production values. We grow, things change, but sometimes it's nice to look back and see where we've been.  

 Yes, at this time of year we celebrate with those who are near and dear but as the year draws to a close we also sing the Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne" which calls on us to not forget old friends and old times.