Saturday, November 10, 2018

Diggers, Army boots, and Chunder Loo of Akim Foo

The origin of the term Digger is unclear. Some authorities believe the nickname may have started at the Battle of Gallipoli (1916), and referred to new recruits from mining areas. However, there is no written evidence to support this and Australian troops were more commonly known as Kangaroos, or Tommy Kangaroo and sometimes Johnny Kangaroos at the time. Other nicknames included Cobbers, Trooper Redgum and Billjims.

Survival at Gallipoli was dependent on finding suitable cover, and fox holes were life-saving. Many linked to communicating trenches so the survivors of the nightmare landing may have earned the title because they survived by digging in. Elsewhere, the British Tommys used Diggers as a term of endearment when they referred to Maori battalions who dug out communicating trenches. After the Battle of the Somme (1916), Australian soldiers generally referred to themselves with pride as "Diggers." By 1917, the name had spread from the New Zealand Division to the Australian Division in the ANZAC Corps and gained general acceptance. The sobriquet 'digger' was commonly used in World War II (1939-1945) to refer to Australian and New Zealand troops who fought side by side but in separate battalions. By the Vietnam War (1962-1973), Australian and New Zealand troops formed combined units and the term Kiwi was used to refer to New Zealanders and Australians were diggers.

When a country mobilises for war, the whole industrial might of that nation goes into full swing. Governments unable to meet the demand from limited resources subsequently out-source items to civilian manufacturers. In the Great War, production at all levels doubled and sometimes even tripled. There was an enormous boom in Australian boot making industry, with companies like Baxter Boots of Goulburn, employing hundreds of people at their boot factory and tannery. Four hundred (400) pairs of boots (or heavies), ‘Fit for the boys’ were made per day for troops at Gallipoli and in France. It is estimated in Australia, over 2.5 million pairs of boots were made for Allied troops in the Great War. An estimated 380k cattle were slaughtered to provide hides necessary to make the boots. Laid end to end this would run the complete coastline of WA (20781 km), or five times the distance between Newcastle and Perth.

The Australian ankle length army boot was basically a “workman’s boot”, but more pliable and hard wearing. Until 1916, Australian boots were not hobnailed nor did they use heel or toe plates. Instead, the boots had small rectangular nails on the sole and heel to reduce the wear of the soles. Australian made brown boots became the envy of the allies and often were exchanged for favours. No self-respecting digger however, would be without their dubbin or shoe polish. Not only did this make their boots even softer it also helped with waterproofing, not to mention gave it an eye catching a shine.

By far the best shoe polish was developed by William Ramsay (Scotsman), who named the product after the flightless bird endemic to New Zealand. This was the home land of his wife, Annie Elizabeth Meek Ramsay. The world’s best-known shoe polish (Kiwi) was first made in Melbourne Australia in 1906. Sales in boot polish rocketed during the Great War and Kiwi shoe polish became the Commonwealth troops’ favourite. Doughboys took it back to the States where it became so popular they started to be manufacture it in the US. After the Second World War, the benefits of well-polished boots swung advantage in the minds of Japanese “Pom Pom Girls” (teenage prostitutes) who during the Allied occupation of the country, boys with a shine on their boots were given preferential treatment. The superior Australian boot polish, became a prized black-market item. KIWI shoe polish is sold and marketed in almost 200 countries around the world.

The market for shoe polish was fiercely competitive with many rival brands. Most used fictional figures or historical characters to advertise their products. Cobra Boot Polish was made in Sydney, and advertised in The Sydney Bulletin (1909 -1920). The comic adventures of "Chunder Loo of Akim Foo, " was used in newspaper adverts and drawn by Norman Lindsay (later by his brother Lionel Lindsay). The popular adverts usually had a short poem which dealt with topical issues. As a result, “chunder” became common Australian vernacular.

Much later, the term was forever associated with Barry Humphries’ Australian abroad, character, Barry McKenzie.

Crawford R. (2015) Chunder Goes Forth: Humor, Advertising, and the Australian Nation in the Bulletin during World War I. In: Tholas-Disset C., Ritzenhoff K.A. (eds) Humor, Entertainment, and Popular Culture during World War I. Palgrave Macmillan, New York

Eric Bogle

Eric Bogle was born in 1944 in Peebles, Scotland. His father played bagpipes and worked as a railway Signalman. He grew up in Scotland, started writing poetry when he was eight, and left school until when he was 16. Being left handed he learned to play ukulele restrung before the guitar. Lonnie Donegan, Elvis Presley and Ewan MacColl were early influences and he taught himself to play guitar before forming a skiffle group, called Eric and the Informers.

(Video Courtesy: Paul Griggs Published by Youtube Channel)

(Video Courtesy: jorgeollie Published by Youtube Channel)

(Video Courtesy: Beau Nafyde Published by Youtube Channel)

After leaving school, Eric Bogle worked at various jobs including labourer, clerk and barman. By now he had turned his interests to folk music before emigrating to Australia in 1969. In Canberra, he worked as an accountant and started making his name on the folk circuit before eventually settling in Adelaide, South Australia. In his songs he cleverly combined lyrics about political and humanitarian issues. Nancy was song about leaving his mother in Scotland.

(Video Courtesy: Eric Bogle - Topic Published by Youtube Channel)

He performed not only in Australia but also overseas and his gigs were well attended and often bootlegged. From a child, Bogle was always fascinated and puzzled with war and saw it as a paradox of the worst and best sides of humanity. In 1971, he wrote "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” inspired by a Remembrance Day parade in Canberra. Based on a traditional Australian folk song, the lyrics recount the experience of a member of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the Battle of Gallipoli. Once it caught the public ear, it became a popular anti-war song interpreted by all, as a reaction to the Vietnam War.

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He entered the National Folk Festival song-writing competition, in Brisbane in 1974. Despite Matilda meeting with thunderous applause, he did not win the competition and the song was given third place. The protest which followed only focused more attention on the song and UK folk singer asked if she could sing it at a festival in the south of England. Bogle agreed and the song proved so successful it was recorded by June Tabor in 1976 and became well known in the UK and USA. Over decades the song has been covered by many artists and translated into different languages. Perhaps the best-known version was by The Pogues.

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In 1976, he wrote "No Man's Land" (also known as "The Green Fields of France" or Willie McBride). The song reflected on the grave of a young man (Willie McBride), who died in World War I. Despite much research into who the soldier, Bogle later admitted he choose the name "Willie McBride"; to simply rhyme with "grave side", but also wanted to give the soldier an Irish name as a counter to the anti-Irish sentiment prevalent in Britain at the time.

(Video Courtesy: Grant O'Neil Published by Youtube Channel)

Like ‘And the band played Waltzing Matlida,’ the song took on a new life when British Punk Folk band, The Men They Couldn’t Hang recorded a version in 1984. After John Peel, played the song on his show (BBC Radio 1), it became a No.1 hit in the UK Indie Chart.

(Video Courtesy: Paul A May Published by Youtube Channel)

The song was again covered by many other artists and sometimes with slightly different lyrics. In 2014, The Royal British Legion commissioned Joss Stone and Jeff Beck to record the Official 2014 Poppy Appeal Single Poppy Appeal song. They chose No Man's Land.

(Video Courtesy: JossStoneOfficial Published by Youtube Channel)

Eric Bogle has repeatedly stated that his own favourite recording of the song is by John McDermott.

(Video Courtesy: Lawrence047 Published by Youtube Channel)

In 1983, released "My Youngest Son Came Home Today", an impartial song of a young man killed during fighting in Northern Ireland. Never intended to be anything other than a song it was later adopted by Nationalists and has become associated with Irish Republicanism. When in Billy Bragg covered the song, in 1990, he changed the line "dreams of freedom unfulfilled" to "dreams of glory unfulfilled".

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In 2001, he released "As if he Knows" which continues the theme of the wastage of war and describes the sadness of Australian mounted soldiers in Palestine in 1918 as they are obliged to shoot their horses.

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In 2009, he wrote Bringing Buddy Home, after he witnessed the cargo hold of a plane filled with coffins from Iraq.

(Video Courtesy: SuperMusicremedy Published by Youtube Channel)

In 2017, he released ‘The War Correspondent.’

(Video Courtesy: Eric Bogle - Topic Published by Youtube Channel)

The repertoire of Eric Bogle covers a wide range of subjects and themes, including several comedic songs.

(Video Courtesy: Eric Bogle - Topic Published by Youtube Channel)

However, it is his humanity this singer songwriter will be celebrated for many years to come. In Singing the Spirit, tells the sad but uplifting story a black prisoner’s execution in South Africa.

(Video Courtesy: SuperMusicremedy by Youtube Channel)

Since 1985, Bogle toured the UK (sometimes including appearances in continental Europe), every three years. These tours usually included a supporting cast of Australian-based singers and musicians, most regularly John Munro (1947 – 2018) and Brent Miller (guitar/bass). More recent tours in Australia have included Adelaide-based musicians Emma Woolcock (fiddle) and Pete Titchener (guitar/bass).

(Video Courtesy: Ken Prydderch by Youtube Channel)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Talking Australian: Peter Norman and Cathy Freeman : barefoot protest

The Mexico City Olympics were staged against a surreal and tumultuous 1968. Social change and general unrest at the continuation of the Vietnam War and race riots and student protests formed a tragic backdrop for the assassinations of Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. A planned boycott by black athletes failed but the atmosphere was charged with protest as the Games were televised and broadcast live to the US. The Black athletes were determined to show solidarity and wore no shoes around the Village and when Tommie Smith (Gold) and John Carlos (Bronze) took their place on the winner's podium with Australian, Peter Norman (silver) for the 200m.

Smith and Carlos, closed their eyes, bowed their heads, before raising a black-gloved fist during the playing of the 'Star-Spangled Banner.' The raised fist and glove referred to defiance in the weight of racial servitude and the shoeless stance was a symbol of humanity and statement of poverty. Smith wore a scarf around his neck as mark of 'Black Pride'. The dignified brave barefoot protest was met with outrage from officialdom and Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Olympics. Both athletes kept their socks on. To this day the simple action of two barefoot men has become an iconic milestone in the history of civil rights. Muhammad Ali described it as 'the single most courageous act of the century'.

(Video Courtesy: stellastey Published by Youtube Channel)

After the final, Carlos and Smith told Norman what they were planning. It was Norman who suggested Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his pair in the Olympic Village.

(Video Courtesy: jojojobebe Published by Youtube Channel)

This is the reason for Smith raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left. On the way out to the medal ceremony, Norman saw the Paul Hoffman (US Rowing Team) wear a Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and asked him if he could borrow it. Norman wore the badge on the podium.

Despite the ensuing scandalous, aftermath, the three athletes remained good life long friends.

On September 25, 2000, Day ten of the XXVII Olympiad, the Australian athlete Cathy Freeman captured the hearts of the biggest crowd ever to attend an athletics event when, after winning gold in the 400m performed her lap of honour, barefoot. She carried with her both Aboriginal and Australian flags to thunderous applause. Cathy walked barefoot to the edge of the stands where she tossed the two-sided flag into the adoring crowd.

Previously the Aboriginal athlete had been criticised by officials at 1994 Commonwealth Games, when she took her victory lap, carrying both the Aboriginal and Australian flags. The theme of the Sydney Olympics was Reconciliation and Cathy became an indelible Australian hero.

(Video Courtesy: ABC News (Australia) Published by Youtube Channel)

More information
Webster A, & Norman M (2018) The Peter Norma Story Pan MacMillan Australia

Monday, July 16, 2018

Talking Australian: Shoes of Indigenous Australians

Indigenous Australians seldom needed shoes or sandals to protect their feet. The soles of the feet became hardened by going without with the toes flexible and capable of acting like fingers. In some parts of Australia such as the central part and Northern territories some tribes wore a form of sandal made from cord or bark to protect their feet. Among the Aranda people (Northern Territories) men who wore interlingua or urtathurta were revenge killers. These shoes made from emus feathers and were tied with fur or human hair. The shoes were the same pointed shape at the toes and heels and it was said no one could tell the directions in which the footprints came from. The shoes worn by the Kurdaitcha had magical properties and many Aboriginals believed the shoes left no tracks at all. This is just as well since the belief was the mere sight of the tracks was enough to cause death to the culprit. The emus shoes were used for several purposes. They were supposed to have been worn by fugitives to obliterate their tracks. Their principal purpose was to assist in acts of sorcery and revenge.

The Kurdaitcha man was the tribal executioner killing those who offended against the unwritten tribal laws. The shoes or slippers were matted together with human blood. Before wearing them the Kurdaitcha man's little toes were dislocated and protruded from holes the upper of the shoes. These were thought to be eyes enabling them to be seen in the dark. When the Kurdaitcha man was not himself a sorcerer he was accompanied by the worker of black magic. When on the trial he carried churinga to make him invisible. As he approached his victim he performed the usual procedures of bone pointing or injecting of magical crystals and healing of the wound so that the afflicted man might go about for several days before succumbing to the magic operation.

Batterberry M &A 1977 Mirror mirror: a social history of fashion NY: Holt Rinehart & Winston
Reed AW 1969 An illustrated encyclopaedia of aborginal life NSW: AH &AW Reed.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Kalgoorlie: Shoes and sex workers

The Australian frontier years have left a legacy and prostitution was not illegal in many States. In WA for example it was conducted under the virtual supervision of the police force. (Frances, 1994). Kalgoorlie sex workers were restricted from shopping in the city centre after midday nor could they use local restaurants and hotels. This embargo was extended to swimming pools, cinemas and the racecourse (Cohen, 1994). The history of this bazaar behaviour was based on the growth of the urban middle class which accompanied the industrial expansion of the nineteenth century. A class of leisured wives and daughters sought to use urban space in new ways, most notably by shopping and promenading in the central business districts. (Frances, 1994). The need to restrict these spaces to respectable women came not through legislation of prostitutes but by a policy of containment. In Australia, Colonial legislation reflected the behaviour of other societies and legislated changes to clean up the streets. This was not anti prostitution per se because the need for prostitutes was socially accepted but instead it made it safe for respectable women. The attack on street culture which followed may be seen as part of a broader middle class assault on working class behaviour generally aimed at reforming those aspects of life with the demands of an ordered, industrial society (Daniels, 1984). This may have contributed to the rise of brothels to contain prostitution as well as the continuation of delineation of clothing including footwear such as thongs and high heeled shoes. Ironically sumptuary control continues with many private owners of public spaces such as pubs and shopping areas restricting access of patrons based on their feet. People of a low socio-economic type would go without shoes or wear thongs (sandals) according to stereotypes and hence are unworthy of entry. Heeled sandals also have come in for embargo, based not on health and safety, but to prevent cross dressers and sex workers from plying their trade on unsuspecting patrons.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Talking Australian: Rodney Ansell and the legacy of larrikinism

Australian, Rodney Ansell died in 1999. To many his name means very little but the 44-year-old bushman was the inspiration for Paul Hogan's famous character, Mick Dundee. Tragically the Territorian met his maker in much and the same way as he lived his life, i.e. on the edge and he was killed during a shoot-out with Darwin police. Like Ned Kelly, the larrikin was part of Australian folklore but where did the term Larrikin, originate from.

The origins of the word larrikin remain unclear but many etymologists believe it came from a mispronunciation of "larking", as in ‘larking around ‘. It was first used in Australia in 1870, and referred to a group of wild, adolescents, from inner urban areas of Melbourne. It took another ten years before the term larrikin was officially used in police records. Defined as anti-authoritarian, the larrikins were compared to the London "Loafers"; New York "Hoodlums” and San Francisco "Corner Boys".

A characteristic of the youth culture was their dress. Described by the press in 1870 as "youths with a hang dog look and careless in attire" they were the great grandfather of juvenile delinquents. Contrary to their contemporary put down the original larrikin dressed in quite spectacular style. They would appear in the street wearing long frock coats made from dark or black material. The jackets were tailored with tight waists and velvet collars. Quite Spanish in style, the long fingertip jacket was similar in cut to Edwardian drapes, later adopted in the 1950s by the UK Teddy boys. Trousers were either bell bottomed or cut very tightly. The larrikin wore either a slouch or small round (like a bowler) hat which had to be black. To complete the outfit, they wore high heeled boots with extremely pointed toes. Loud silk ties and jaunty waistcoats would complement their sumptuous attire.

Larrikins were usually accompanied by young female companions called Cafe Belles. The girls were gaudily dressed to attract attention and in public displayed much irreverence by being loud (unlady-like) and smoking (usually associated with prostitutes). Larrikins were idle lads who often became involved in petty street crime much in the same way today's street kids can drift into crime by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is no historic evidence larrikins were anything other than "naerdae wells" or “jack the lads". Whereas their North American counterparts i.e. Hoodlums and Bowery Boys (Soaplocks) eventually became the crime families we now recognise today as the Cosa Nostra (or Mafia).

The terms Bodgies and widgies were used to describe the youths of the fifties in Australia. Bodgies were the boys and the girls were known as Widgies. Again the origins of the terms remain unclear but the behaviour and clothing styles bare remarkable similarities to Larrikins and cafe belles albeit they were parted by almost a century.

If anyone epitomised the modern Australian larrikin, it would be former Prime Minister Bob Hawke (1983 - 1991). He governed Australia through a period of more social, cultural and economic change than in the whole previous century. He was Labor's longest and the nation's third-longest serving PM. Unlike many politicians today, he was loved by the Australian people during his term. The son of a Congregationalist minister and nephew of a West Australian premier, the complex Hawke was a mass of contradictions. A Rhodes Scholar who held briefly the world record in 1953 for the fastest consumed yard of ale when he was at Oxford University. Bob Hake might have had a blue-collar accent and middle-class lifestyle, but he became a powerful advocate for workers as head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The larrikin side of the Hawke personality is now a popular favourite at events, where the octogenarian acquiesces to the urgings of an adoring public by sculling a beer.

Contemporary Australian Larrikinism was caught brilliantly on camera in the work of Australian comedian and actor Paul Hogan. None more so, as Mick Dundee in the Crocodile Dundee film franchise.

(Video Courtesy: csnake91 Youtube Channel)

Bellanta M (2012) Larrikins: A History St Lucia, University of Queensland Press
Manning A.E. (1958) The Bodgie: A Study in Abnormal Psychology A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington.

Reviewed 30/05/2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Talking Australian : Australia's #1 trainer

From their inception in the late 30s, Dunlop sport shoes represented the thinking sportsperson’s footwear and had no equal for two decades between the 50s to the 70s. They became synonymous with Australian sport and a household name during the nation's sporting 'Golden Era'. Post war, Dunlop sport shoes were associated with many of the sporting legends of the time including: Adrian Quist, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Tony Roche, John Newcombe, Evonne Goolagong, Margaret Court, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and more lately Mark Philippoussis.

In the days before hard courts the Dunlop Volley was perfect for grass court competition. Devised by Adrian Quist, these were an excellent example of matching sport with shoe design. By the eighties however the fad for fashion trainers, with airbags and springs, heavily endorsed by sporting personalities, saw a meteoric rise in multinationals such as Nike, adidas and Reebok. Sneakerisation with designer sports shoes took hold and has remained there ever since.

Despite this, the old Australian icon has kept going by its loyal band of fans to become an evergreen and far outselling any of its trendy rivals. Cream rises to the top and in the 21st century, the humble Dunlop Volley. has had a complete turnaround as retro fashion enjoys resurgence among the youth market. Their popularity is due in no short measure due to the needs of sk8’s, and thrashers who require tough, lightweight footwear with excellent grip and protection. And that is precisely the quality mark of the Dunlop Volley and KT26. The post grunge and nouveaux punk generation of urban dwellers well suits the Dunlop.

In the 70s, rather than follow the fashion fads of their rivals, Dunlop invested in technology making models like KT26 (1976) which were tough, hard wearing, excellent quality and good value. They were without doubt not only the best running shoes of their time but crossed over into other outdoor leisure activities such as trekking as well as teenage fashion. Not high fashion, but a rite of passage kind of fashion, i.e. the first pair of trainers kids are bought as they enter early teenage years .

The cantilever soles made of black rubber were guaranteed to leave marks on any school gymnasium. A fabulous source of frustration to authority and the “Kilroy was here attitude” appealed to the adolescent. Shoes with literally indestructible soles, and uppers that attracted teenagers meant these were good valued purchases for parents too. Now the same properties, minus bells and whistles are needed for extreme sport and this has introduced them to a new legion of fans. Ironically the new surfies rejected the hi tech outlets preferred by the major sports shoe retailers in preference for niche surfie shops or discount outlets. Now of course there is a major industry supported by global consumers.

Despite Australians buying more designer trainers than any other western country sale have shown negligible growth over the last four years. Dunlop has a significant market share in dollar terms and in volume terms the brand is the clear market leader. Dunlop Volley is the top-selling athletic shoe (sold over 24 million pairs since 1939), and the number-two brand is Dunlop, KT26. But if you have not laid eyes on Dunlop’s since your youth, don’t be surprised to find the green-and-gold has been replaced with a red-and-black design. But, be assured the new Volley shoes are made to the same design used in the 1950s, although they now incorporate out of these world materials (synthetic polymers).

DVs are popular with the roof tillers and recommended by many walking clubs in the Blue Mountains, in Australia. Canyon walking presents many challenges to the foot and DVs appear to match 4 wheel drive footwear types. The soles give excellent traction provided the pattern on the sole lasts. New shoes are recommended. The edges of DVs grip well on slopes if used correctly, and cause less damage underfoot compared to heavier boots. DVs, to the uninitiated. are lightweight canvas topped sports shoes, comparatively cheap as these things go, retailing under 30 dollars. The soles have been improved over the years and give sure grip but DVs do wear quickly. So be prepared to buy two pairs a year. This compares favourably with brand leader equivalents sometimes 4 or 5 times more costly.

The Dunlop KT-26s is an up-market version of the tennis shoe. Stronger then DVs, the upper is made from leather with reinforced heel cups which provides much needed padding, and stronger carbon rubber soles give better cushioning with a tread traction superior on dry surfaces but not so good on very wet rocks and logs. KT-26s are ideal for general walking with the cheaper DVs more indicated in the conditions of canyon walking. As with all sports shoes these are rarely available in half sizes and it is very important to have shoes that fit and feel comfortable. Try the paper template trick. Draw an outline of your foot weightbearing on a piece paper then cut it out and slip into the shoe. If the paper crumples, the shoe is too small.