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Tuesday 16 July 2013

Typewriters and Multiculturalism: Destination Australia - Land of Typing Opportunity

Migrant women learning to be typists at a Melbourne college in 1961.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s, and even on into the early 1970s, Australian Government departments heavily promoted this country as a Land of Opportunity. From the immediate post-World War II period, they were very active in recruiting migrants to boost the nation's population and provide a much needed, greater (mostly urban) workforce. Australia's economic survival relied on this policy's ongoing success.
Typewriting skills, brought to Australia or acquired here, played a significant role in the recruitment drive, as National Archives records show. These images were intended for use, in the main, by overseas publications, in the hope they might encourage more potential migrants to take the plunge and start a whole new life Down Under.
Migrants who had assimilated into the Australian way of life, had changed careers and become successful members of Australian business and cultural society, were the subjects of the publicity campaign. 
Australia also liked to show its willingness to open its doors to foreign students and others, especially young people from Asia and the Pacific, who wanted to come here under scholarships to study typewriting.
The caption for this 1968 photo described Fred'rick ("Rick") Lewis Nathan (seen here with his Olivetti Lettera 32 portable typewriter) as a former British grocer who had become a poet, novelist, painter and radio and theatre actor in Australia. Nathan, born in England on April 14, 1919, wrote such works as Memoirs of a Nonentity, or, The Saga of a Highly Successful Failure (1996). He had been a bell-hop on deep-sea liners and a ring-boy in a circus before enlisting in the British Royal Marines and later migrating to Australia. After working as a salesman and on stage and radio productions, Nathan became a professional writer. He was general manager of the Central Broadcasting Network from 1961 to 1963 and Press Secretary for the Queensland Education Minister from 1967 to 1979.  
This is a 1955 photograph of journalist Emery Barcs  (1905-1990) at his Remington portable typewriter. Barcs was born Imre Bruchsteiner in Budapest. He worked for the newspaper Az Est in Rome but was expelled from Italy in 1938 for criticisms of fascism. He migrated to Australia in 1939 but was detained as an "enemy alien" in 1941. Barcs became naturalised in 1946 and published his memoirs, Backyard of Mars in 1980.
Dutchman Walter Kommer migrated to Australia from West Irian in 1953 and became editor of The Australian national daily newspaper. He did odd jobs, including factory work and driving, before graduating from Sydney University. He is seen here at his editorial desk in Canberra 1965, the year after The Australian started publication. The Australian's journalists continued to use Remington International typewriters after the newspaper moved to Sydney in 1967, and still used them when I joined the staff two years later.
The caption for this image reads, "From a crowded London suburb to a spacious home in the hills - that was the change sought and found by" British Fascist writer, would-be politician, internee and translator, Mrs Olive [Hawks] Katsamangos, when she went to settle in Australia in May, 1964. "Mrs Katsamangos was seeking outdoor life and future opportunities for her sons, Claude, 12, and George, 10, and she says she has found both near Perth, Western Australia." Olive died of heart failure, alone in her Perth flat, in 1992, and her body was not found until some days later.
Bill Wallace, British-born scriptwriter for the Don Lane Show, at a Remington International typewriter in 1969.
An unnamed migrant-turned-Melbourne journalist, seen here with his Royal portable typewriter, won an award for reporting ethnic affairs in 1977.
English-born writer Barbara Ker Wilson (1929 -; wife of English-born composer Peter Richard Tahourdin), a 1964 migrant, at an Olivetti Studio 44 typewriter in Canberra in 1969.
British-born writer Alan Yates, seen here in 1970 at his IMB typewriter, achieved international fame and fortune with his series of Carter Brown potboilers. 
The construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme gave employment to many migrants. Here is Ann Sharry in the typing pool in 1950.
Estonian-born Malle Kumnik was a typical success story. She arrived in Australia in 1950, aged 10, and "could not speak a word of English". By the age of 18 she was a cadet journalist on the Central Western Daily, Orange, New South Wales. She studied shorthand and typing in her spare time.
"A former member of the Maquis [rural guerrilla bands of French Resistance fighters in World War II] Frenchman Claude Simon [not sure that it is the same French writer as the 1985 Nobel Prize winner] has taken up novel and poetry writing in Australia. He has already had one adventure romance accepted for publication although he has only been in Australia a year. His Welsh wife Shelagh also enjoys the tranquil life in Western Australia and finds time to indulge in her favourite past time of oil painting on tiles. Shelagh helps her husband by typing the final draft of his latest novel in prose and poetry in the study of their home on the fringe of King's Park, Perth". The image was taken in 1960.
Here is one migrant who continues to this day to have a considerable impact on the Australian typewriting "industry" - our good friend John Lavery, of Beaudesert in Queensland. The Apex sponsorship program for British migrants under the Assisted Passage Scheme ("Ten-Pound [£] Poms") helped bring Belfast-born John to our shores in 1962. Peter Matheson, of Blayney, NSW, president of the Zone Sydney Apex Clubs, 11 clubs which sponsored flights for a party of British migrants, was at Sydney Airport to welcome the group. Here he is on the right talking to John (left), then aged 24, a "typewriter mechanic from London", and Allan Kay, 19, from Derby. Below, John as he is today (at his Visigraph typewriter):
One typewriter technician who came to this country as a migrant in 1953 but eventually had to leave the industry was Michael van den Brande, of Moe, who went on to work for the State Electricity Commission of Victoria at Hazelwood. He became an iron worker and helped build one of the world's largest electric power stations.

Scottish-born soccer player turned sports writer Frank Miller (1929-2012) migrated to Perth in 1947. He is seen here at his Imperial Model 50 typewriter in [West Australian] Newspaper House, writing his weekly soccer column in 1961:
"A migrant couple from German have just [in 1960] opened a £25,000 shoe factory in Osborne Park, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia's picturesque capital. They are Harry and Regina Majteles. They did not speak a word of English when they arrived in Australia nine years ago, so Mrs Majteles went to a technical college where she studied English, typewriting and bookkeeping. Mr Majteles gave up his job in a shoe factory three years ago and started making shoes in his own back-yard workshop. Now he employs 22 man and woman and his business is still expanding."
"Miss Khanitha Rattaseri from Bangkok learns to use [an Imperial]  typewriter [1964]":
"Kuching [Malaysian] journalist edits Australian magazine [1967]":
"[Migrant] Jan Weston is the top shorthand typist in Australia [1972]":
"Mrs Pat O'Neill, once a £10 a week Dunoon typist, has been trained to operate an £1500 ledger machine which earns her £16 a week in an engineering factory near Adelaide, South Australia. Mrs O'Neil, who has a husband, two children, and her mother with her in Australia, says that Australian companies encourage their employees to try for better jobs [1964]":
"Former Dutch girl Elsje Mallee, from the Hague, loves to dance. She lives in the Latrobe Valley, Eastern Victoria, and every Saturday night is to be found at either the local community hall or at a dance in the nearby town in Morwell. A typist, she works for the Victorian State Electricity Commission at the Latrobe Valley Electricity Supply project, where local brown coal deposits, the largest in the world, are converted into the electrical power. She is also a keen tennis player and swimmer. Her maternal grandparents live in the Hague [1965]". Seen here with an Olivetti typewriter:
"Attractive Scots girl, Mrs Catherine McMeeken, from Glasgow, has found much happiness since she migrated to Australia in 1963. She was a shorthand typist when she settled in Morwell, but today she is the private secretary to the general manager of one of Australia's biggest electricity supply projects. Mrs McMeeken, who was Miss Catherine Dykes, married the Australian-born son of Scottish parents early in 1965. She still has many relatives living near Glasgow [1965]". Seen here with a Hermes Ambassador typewriter:
"During Tasmanian Immigration Week, June 5-12, 1960, a survey disclosed that post-war migrants made up about 10 per cent of the men and women who keep Hobart 'ticking' and plan and build for the future. Typist at the Town Hall offices is Dutch migrant Mrs Alida Gartz, from Utrecht. She has been in Australia for nearly four years. Her husband is a hotel chef in Hobart and their son, Rainer, 15, is a third-year student at Hobart High School". Seen here with a Remington typewriter:
"Mrs Beddall, typist in a Brisbane furniture factory, lives at Inala, a post-war sattelite township, about 10 miles from Brisbane [1957]":
"Dutch migrant and beauty contest finalist ... A 17- year-old Arnhem girl who was placed third out of 314 girls in a Sun Girl beach beauty contest is now a full-time model in Australia. She resigned her job as a typist after winning the contest in Brisbane, a city of 600,000 people and capital of the State of Queensland. She is 5 feet 7 1/2 inches Louisa van Deurzen, who came to Australia in July 1955 with her mother, Ada, and her stepfather, Frederick van der Syde, and family from Arnhem." [1962]:

"Miss Marion Briffa, Maltese soprano, sings in Migrants Make Music. Miss Briffa, 20, a typist, came to Australia in 1950. She won the Brisbane Telegraph's Lovely Migrant quest in 1955 and was a Miss Australia candidate in 1956":
"Ursula Goldkamp sets forth by train to have her first glimpse of Australia. Ursula, a 35-year-old copy typist from Osnabrueck, lower Saxony, helped with English classes aboard the liner on the outward voyage. She perfected her English during several years as an office worker for the British forces in Germany" [1958]:
"Mathilda Sassoon, of Singapore, is studying dancing in Sydney. Her objective is to become a ballet teacher. Mathilda works during the day as a shorthand typist in Sydney and studies dancing three nights a week" [1962]:
"Several hundred friends of Indians in Melbourne attended the Indian Independence Day celebration organised by the India League. A Melbourne typist, Miss Lydia Iachowich, formerly from the Ukraine, who in her spare time studies Indian and oriental dances, performed a gypsy dance" [1957]:
Nauru typist [1962]:
Australian typists, typing schools and pools:
1972. Hermes Ambassador typewriter.
This last photo, taken in 1918, shows an example of services provided by the Repatriation Commission after World War I. It involves the rehabilitation of demobilised soldiers  and dependents.


Steve Snow said...

Another great piece of history well done. Some cringe-worthy competition names back in the day, "migrants make music", wow!

TonysVision said...

I spent an enjoyable time reading this interesting post, during which a wave of typewriter music built up, reaching a crescendo through the last few images.

John said...

I am totally gob-smacked! I did not know that that photo existed nor can I remember the actual ceremony, although Apex were the motivating force behind of that flight. It was the first flight of migrants to Australia and it was a Boeing 707 that took us from Heathrow on a cold grey drizzly day. The journey took 36 hours! I recall seven stops in all. I did not know what jet lag was then but I slept all the next day. That was a Sunday and the next day I went around every typewriter business in Sydney and could not get a job. But happily Olivetti contacted me about two months later and that began my adventure into the typewriter world in Australia...

Scott K said...

Well, you did indeed show John! By the way, I left a copy of that photo in a typewriter I delivered today.

Had I have known you were researching this, I would have tried to source some photos of my Grandfather, a Scottish born migrant that was a repair man for over 40 years.