EB Odds & Ends

A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historic Research

January 1997, No. 16



Paris (of the Antipodes) in the Twenties



They had to let Squizzy go.

A Melbourne judge ruled in October of 1919 that there was insufficient proof to hold pickpocket and holdup man Joseph Leslie Theodore "Squizzy" Taylor, a. k. a. The Turk. The court moved on to other matters. The law had plenty on its mind. So did Australia.

In the aftermath of the Great War, the capitals of Europe were struggling to reconstruct their shattered societies. London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome ­p; all were marshalling kings' men and horses to put back together the broken shards of civilization.

Many of their colonial capitals faced the same challenges, even those imperial outposts south of the Equator. Australia had suffered some of the most devastating losses. 330,000 troops had gone off to fight this war which wouldn't end all wars. 60,000 remained in Europe's battlefield graveyards forever. Of the remaining troops, 152,000 returned smashed, blinded, crippled, maimed. They would go a-waltzing, Matilda, no more.

Even those who returned relatively whole would find their society forever changed. These changes were under way at every crossroad, every waterhole and every sheep station on the continent, as well as in the towns and cities, as the third decade of the twentieth century opened. Melbourne was one such city.

This capital city lying between Victoria's Dandenong Mountains and Port Phillip Bay, in the continent's southernmost state, was less than a hundred years old as the new decade began. The settlement had been founded in 1835, by immigrants from Tasmania, across the Bass Strait. Born in isolation, as were most cities in this vast continent, Melbourne became part of the outside world when the first troopship retrieved its hawser and sailed away.

Now 270,000 survivors faced another battle; to survive once again. They found a country facing war debts estimated at £364,000,000. Those who had not gone off to fight had been doing Melbourne's work. Now the returning veterans wanted those positions back. A maritime strike further reduced the work available. On March 14, 1920, 500 jobless veterans held a protest march. The government told them there we unfilled jobs, especially in the lumber industry. Another 10,000 former soldiers planned on walking in the city's St. Patrick's Day parade on the 20th; even though the police were worried about demonstrations the men were allowed to march. The following year the government responded to the problem by cutting the standard work week from 48 hours to 44. Many of the unemployed became soldier settlers and began leaving the cities to farm the interior frontier. Government projects such as a new power station at Yallourn, and even the building of a city in 1924 for a new capital at Canberra, complete with electricity, sewage and water facilities, provided more jobs.

Even as unemployment began to drop wartime prices continued rising. Women were in the forefront of protest. The Housewives Association was formed and launched a three-month boycott on gloves in 1920. By 1923 they were getting down to more basic needs, protesting 40% price hikes for gas. They were also pressing for ­p; and sometimes receiving ­p; equality. The country got its first female MP in 1921, when Edith Dircksey Cowan became the first woman member of an Australian parliament, taking her seat in Western Australia's ruling body. The following year Women doctors were protesting their exclusion from the casualty wards of Melbourne Hospital. In 1923 the parliament in Victoria itself permitted women to stand for election.

Life for women, and their families, was beginning to ease as the early years of the decade passed. Electric power and appliances, air mail, radio ­p; all were making life a bit easier. City transportation began improving as the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board began turning out new trolley cars. The cars would carry much of the city's work force out to the many new suburbs, where they would increasingly begin living in an import from the States ­p; the California bungalow. For a £600 war service loan a veteran could now afford a low maintenance brick house, suited for a lifestyle focused on the outdoors.

The residents of Melbourne began settling down to enjoy some of the fruits of peacetime. On September 11, 1922, tabloid journalism debuted, as a new morning newspaper, The Sun News Pictorial, took the shipping company advertisements off the front page and replaced them with ­p; are you ready for this? ­p; news. The next year saw the introduction of several new foods. The Hoadley Chocolate Company came out with its new Violet Crumble bar. And Fred Walker introduced the vegetable extract Vegemite, a home-grown rival of the British tea spread Marmite ­p; which has been described as 'dried mud with a touch of salt.' The Melbourne version was apparently not much of an improvement, as declining sales prompted a name change to Parwill.

The Sun News-Pictorial had much to report in the middle years of the decade. Squizzy Taylor, for one thing. In the spring of 1924 he was often found in court; twice in one day on May 15th. Charged in April with being idle and disorderly, he now found himself facing more serious charges ­p; harboring an escaped murderer and shortly afterwards with negligent driving in an accident which left one woman dead. Squizzy was getting to be about as popular as a dab of Vegemite gone bad.

Marvelous Melbourne's print media also reported lighter fare. The opening of Essendon Airport. Dame Nellie Melba's farewell performance at Her Majesty's Theatre. Actress Louise Lovely directing and starring in the first all-Australian film Jeweled Nights. Expatriate pianist composer Percy Grainger and then Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, stopping by to perform while on tour. Wireless transmission to the UK. The first skywriting exhibition. Theater chains converted for "talkies".

The twenties may not have actually roared in Melbourne, but they certainly weren't dull. In 1922 Colin Campbell Ross, proclaiming his innocence right up to the gallows' steps, paid for the murder of twelve-year-old Alma Tirtschke, found strangled in an alley. In 1923 the Yarra River overflowed its banks, submerging city streets, driving hundreds from their homes, and drowning two people. And weeks later Victoria state police walked off the job, leaving these same streets vulnerable again, especially after Derby Day, giving roving packs of drunken looters the opportunity to sweep through the city, doing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

And there were minor discontents. The radio, a boon to the thousands of Australians scattered across the empty spaces of the continent, also raised fears that parents were abandoning their responsibilities, leaving mechanical voices to tell progeny their nightly bedtime stories. Kangaroos and prickly pears were becoming pests to outlying farmers. Voter turnout in Federal elections were so low that voting had to be made mandatory. Automobile traffic flow began clotting during peak hours and the complete lack of driving standards led to the founding of the Australian Automobile Association.

On the plus side of the ledger ­p; sports. Horse racing fans turned out for the annual Melbourne Cup classic every November, first cheering on Poitrel, then Sister Olive, King Ingoda, Bitalli, Blackwood, Windbag (the first Cup race broadcast over the radio), Spearfelt, Trivalve, Statesman and Nightmarch. In 1923 cricket batsman William Ponsford finished the season with the highest score in a first-class match, making 429 runs against Tasmania. Four years later he scored 437, in a match against Queensland. Geelong Football Club administrator Charles Brownlow died in 1924; in his honor the Brownlow Medal was instituted, to honor the best player in the league's home and away series. Edward (Cargie) Greeves won the first medal.

And so the decade and the society proceeded. The former had opened with physical and psychic wounds from war's trenches still on view in every section of the city. Perhaps the bad times had now passed, along with the decade. Of course, there was some talk of economic problems for the Americans. But at least the Hun was tamed. Melbourne looked forward to the thirties.

Most of Melbourne, anyway.

On October 27, 1927, police arrived at a house in the Carlton section of the city to find gangster John "Snowy" Cutmore lying dead, shot through the heart. As he died he pumped a bullet into his assailant's lung. A short time later that day Squizzy Taylor, delivered by a cabbie, died in the casualty ward of St. Vincent's Hospital.


Notes: For a moving portrayal of the feelings that may have been going through the minds of returning Australia veterans, listen to Eric Bogle's powerful The Band Played Waltzing Matilda
(Not the Worst of Eric Bogle)

EB CHRONOLOGY

A search of Eagles Byte chronologies for "media" turns up the following events for 1920
and 1921.

1920

March
Rochester, New York, publisher Clement G. Lanni merges two weekly Italian-language newspapers, La Tribuna and Il Popolo Italiano, into La Stampa Unita.

Nov 2
The first scheduled radio broadcast (of presidential election results) is made by Westinghouse Electric station KDKA in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Warren G. Harding is elected the 29th President on his 55th birthday.

Nov 25
Texas A&M radio station 5XB (WTAW) broadcasts the first collegiate football game.

Literature
E. W. Morse's biography of U. S. editor-critic Hamilton Wright Mabie is published.

Magazines
The mystery magazine Black Mask is founded by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan.

1921

January
East Pittsburgh station KDKA transmits the first church service to be broadcast by radio, from the Calvary Episcopal Church.

Feb 14
New York City magazine editors Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson are charged with obscenity when they publish excerpts from James Joyce's Ulysses.

Mar 4
Warren G. Harding is inaugurated. His inaugural address is the first to be broadcast over the radio.

Apr 11
The first sporting event broadcast ­p; a boxing match.

Jul 1
Jack Dempsey knocks out Georges Carpentier, in the fourth round, at Boyle's 30 Acres in Jersey City, New Jersey, retains his heavyweight championship. The first prize fight with a one million dollar gate. The match is broadcast.

Aug 3
The publishing firms of Collier and Harper announce a merger.

Aug 25
Pittsburgh radio station KDKA is the first to broadcast a baseball game, between the Pirates and the Phillies.

Sep 6
The New York World begins a series of exposes on the Ku Klux Klan.

Sep 7
Heywood Broun publishes his first column for the New York World.

Oct 5
The newly-formed Newark, New Jersey radio station WJZ (later WABC) broadcasts the first play-by-play World Series description. The New York Giants defeat the New York Yankees, five games to three - the first Subway Series.

Oct 25
Former gambler and lawman William Barclay "Bat" Masterson, sports editor for New York City's Morning Telegraph, dies at the age of 76.

Nov 21
Iowa State College found s the first educational radio station, WOI.

Canada
The Dalhousie Review begins publication.

Journalism
Henry R. Luce becomes a reporter for the Chicago Daily News.

Radio
Station KYW is formed to broadcast the Chicago Opera season. It operates from the roof of the Commonwealth Edison building.




PEARL OF AN URL

When you research a subject on the World Wide Web, the most useful tool is a search engine dedicated to your subject. And for Australia, the best jumping off spot is the Web Wombat page.

http://www.webwombat.com.au/

As well as providing a search tool for all things Down Under, the site also contains links to Australian and other international newspapers and periodicals.


TRIVIA

LAST MONTH

You were asked to name London's highly mobile detective unit founded after World War I. There were no correct answers. Although it was not airborne, it was speedy, so it was known as The Flying Squad.

THIS MONTH


Radio pioneer Lee de Forest was a fan of the illustrated Youth's Companion. Name the Boston publishing house that created the magazine.



EB SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

(more detailed versions available)

Most of the research for the lead article came from:


For further information:

* * *


I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends.
If you'd like further information and/or fees, feel free to e-mail me.

David Minor

dminor@popmail.eznet.net
david_minor@mlsonline.com
eaglesbyte@aol.com
Copyright 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte

London, England, 1920s Theater

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