Great doco from 1969 — a world away now!

The Commonwealth Film Unit here in Oz has over the years made many documentaries, some awful, many really excellent, all of course propaganda either for home or overseas consumption, sometimes both. I have recently enjoyed a 1969 offering. available through the excellent National Sound and Film Archive.

The NFSA’s mission is to collect, preserve and share Australia’s vibrant and diverse audiovisual culture as embodied by our evolving collection – reflecting who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. 

Audiovisual technologies enable us to capture moments in time: moving image and sounds in their most vivid forms. At over 3 million items, the NFSA collection transforms these records into ‘living memories’ – the many facets of Australia’s peoples, cultures, ideas and beliefs, both over time and across the land.

The collection invites all Australians to connect, no matter their background and life experiences, and find common ground and a shared sense of community. All can access it to celebrate our cultures and learn from our history to build a better future. 

The particular item I saw is After Cook (1969):

Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1969. Directed by Donald Murray. Narrated by John Meillon. A survey of everyday life throughout Australia, emphasising the outdoor and rural element contrasted with modern, urban living and culture. A look at the Australian people, their character, attitudes and way of life. Every three years or so Film Australia made a general film on Australia. At its most basic the film would have a landscape sequence, then a farming sequence, then transport, then cities, then sport and night life. It would probably contain a mining explosion, a ballet class, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and kookaburras. After the first few films, the makers tried to find a new approach – to present its as a quiz show, or a computer report, or a film script conference. After Cook had as its working title ‘Fellow Countrymen’. Helped by the fact that it was made on 16mm with practicable synchronous sound, it is in its final version the warmest and one of the least predictable of all the general ‘Australia’ films.

Here are a few stills I captured:

A steelworker
Political demonstration in Sydney advocating — successfully — lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
Shopping at Paddy’s Market, Sydney
Volunteer firefighters — bushfire in Sutherland Shire. Rather more sophisticated nowadays.
Family at a picnic playing cricket
CWA — Country Women’s Association — meeting
Country school-teacher
Ballet class

And so many more vignettes, so evocative for me — — some great footage of people going about their business in a very different Australia. This is the place I knew when in my first school appointment, Cronulla High, almost a lifetime away! In fact the Class of 1968, who have their own special private group on Facebook — I am a member! — are now like me septuagenarians! Can you believe it?

If you want to see it:

A touch of nostalgia — photos I took in October 2008

These come from the photoblog that I started after my friend Sirdan gave me his old digital camera! They are thus from 13 years ago!

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Central Station, Eddy Avenue — SGHS students heading for the trains. Now there are tram lines here!
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Hay and Pitt Street pedestrian crossing
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Jacaranda, East Redfern
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Ward Park, Surry Hills
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A Surry Hills lane
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Moore Park, Sydney Boys High on a cold spring day
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The English staff room, Sydney Boys High. The desk next to this sink was mine at one time!

Unapologetically wallowing in SBHS nostalgia

26 May 2021 evening: Thanks all for your interest in this post and the previous one! However, rather than try topping either now — or more likely posting a filler, I am taking another short break — maybe two days. Feel free to explore more of the blog in the meanwhile.

Over recent weeks I have posted several items about my classmates of 1959 and lately on Facebook I have been the poor old bastard looking back from 60+ years! And why not? Who knows how many of us, myself included, will be around to see 70 years on!

There was a time I thought this outrageously scary:

Nice song though… But 40 years on is 20 years ago now! Amazing.

Oh yes — and Latin. I have a soft spot for Latin, which I studied at SBHS and later at Sydney University.

Gaudeamus igitur,
Iuvenes dum sumus;
Post iucundam iuventutem,
Post molestam senectutem
Nos habebit humus,
Nos habebit humus.

Ubi sunt, qui ante nos
In mundo fuere?
Vadite ad superos,
Transite ad inferos,
Ubi iam fuere,
Ubi iam fuere.

Vita nostra brevis est,
Brevi finietur;
Venit mors velociter,
Rapit nos atrociter;
Nemini parcetur,
Nemini parcetur.

Google and you will find a translation. “Ubi sunt, qui ante nos/ In mundo fuere?” indeed. As I remarked on Facebook: SIXTY years on for yours truly! 🥰 Ubi sunt quī ante nōs fuērunt? And thank you, Edgar Bembrick (passed away 1960?) — I am glad I studied Latin!” And yes, that is a more classical version of the Latin tag.

And on Edgar Bembrick? I referred to this post:

I studied Catullus in 1959 under the tuition of Edgar Bembrick in his last year teaching. I have posted about Latin and Bembrick before:

I had studied Latin at school, mainly under the legendary Edgar Bembrick – his last class in fact. He died in 1960. See also my post 1957 or MCMLVII. So Latin as my fourth subject, just for one year, looked an easy choice. Except it turned out there was so much of it! Not just Cicero, but Livy and Horace – the Epistles, with Mr Duhigg, whose Cambridge accent charmed me.

Out of curiosity I have just done a quick search, finding that Edgar Bembrick was born in 1890, appointed to Canterbury Intermediate High in 1922, retired in July 1960. He was at Sydney Boys High long before I started as a student in 1955 — he’s in a 1943 staff photo. He was ill for some of late 1959 — cancer, I think.

Here he is, second from the left, in 1951 at SBHS:


And here am I when I first encountered him — though a Mr Maddox actually taught first year Latin, while second year was W E T Porter, a SBHS ex-pupil from 1904! Bembrick arrived in my world in third year, 1957 and we had him until his final illness in 1959.

So those 60 years on — here you are. I noted again: Even makes this ex-staff and ex-Class of 1959 pensioner a touch teary.

And way back 60+ years — though this is a publicity shot and we rather hated those hats!

Many years later:

In Surry Hills, around 2007


Responding to comments made by Marcellous, here is another video from that Class of 2019. I had posted it on Facebook. Do note the white ribbons, signifying the White Ribbon Campaign, a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.

And in reply to Tikno, in 2017 this got a lot of publicity:

And something else to show another side of the school, from Mothers Day 2021:

Radio Daze…

Old bastards like me instantly know these faces — all three of them!

Top (he’d like that!) is Jack Davey (1907-1959) and below are Bob Dyer (1909-1984) with Pick-a-Box contestant extraordinaire Barry Jones (1932-), who later went on to become one of the most respected Australian politicians ever and a serious writer/historian.

Giants of radio in the 1950s, Davey and Dyer went on the TV after 1956, Dyer much more successfully. Davey by then was a sick man. I thought of them after reading a Facebook post by Warren Fahey: “Happy birthday BOB DYER. ‘Pick a Box’ Bob Dyer was born this day in 1909. He was great radio and as a kid I waited breathlessly for the quiz answers and, of course, a crack at ‘the secret sound’. I also liked Bob’s hillbilly singing and banjo uke playing….”

As for 10-12 years-old me in Vermont Street Sutherland, I was glued to Radio 2BL every afternoon from 5pm…

More odd posts from March 2008

Imperial Views, Colonial Subjects: Victorian Periodicals and the Empire

Posted on  by Neil

See Images from an Exhibition Sterling Memorial LibraryYale University August – October 1999.

Not all these come from that exhibition. I grew up reading old bound copies of the Boys Own Paper and Chums. This post is inspired by Good luck, Davo.


The Illuminated Magazine (vol. II) January 1844


Allan M. Taylor. “The Chums: An Australian Sketch,” The Boy’s Own Paper (vol. XI, no. 419) January 22, 1887.

Stanley Wood 001

Stanley Wood was a prolific illustrator of British newsmagazines during the Great War. His style appears to have a lot in common with later pulp fiction novel covers and comic book covers. It is quite hectic and full of dramatically moving people with exagerrated facial expressions.”


Worse than *stranger danger*! Shirtless for Empire in the Boys Own Paper.

More nostalgia

Posted on  by Neil

I used to read this regularly, well into early adulthood. Did you?


From 1960.

Yet more nostalgia

Posted on  by Neil

Thanks to Collecting Books and Magazines Australia I found the very volume, or one of them, that I read practically from cover to cover at Aunt Beth’s place in Sans Souci some time around 1954.


The next item for nostalgia may seem rather odd:


Aside from their being a familiar sight at SBHS during the 50s, it was perfectly normal for Year 9s (Third Years) at Cronulla High to bring them into class and rest them by their desks during English lessons in 1966, my first year of teaching…

Different times, eh!

Towns I’ve stayed in 1 — My father’s birthplace: Shellharbour NSW

Posted on  by Neil

Also where my father and mother married, and a place I spent much time in up to the early 1980s.


That 1906 map — five years before my father’s birth — links to a full size copy on the Internet.