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Sunday 20 April 2014

Raiders of the Lost Press Gallery

Queensland Typospherians Scott Kernaghan and Steve Snow broke their road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne by calling into Canberra today. Apart from the Australian Typewriter Museum, they wanted to see some other sights, so we headed off to Old Parliament House. (Australia's first permanent Parliament House wasn't opened until 1988; the "temporary" Parliament House used from 1927 is now a tourist attraction and is referred to as "Old Parliament House"). Steve had the idea to use and photograph typewriters in some interesting Canberra spots.
The day didn't dawn too brightly, but it got a whole lot better once the fog lifted.
Steve, left, and Scott get down to some serious typing in the plush leather Federal Opposition seats in what was for 60 years the House of Representatives.
 The view from the Press Gallery.
The first time I came to Canberra needing to wire copy overseas, in 1979, I was guided by a fellow New Zealander, the late Michael Foster, on how to do it. Late at night, one had to climb up a vertical ladder on one wall of the locked Parliament House, walk across a roof in complete darkness, then crawl through this window to gain access to a telegraph operator. It was the only way back then!
 Working conditions for political journalists are replicated above and below.
This Underwood four portable typewriter belonged to William Farmer Whyte (1877-1958), Bombala-born journalist and author, who joined the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra in 1927. There, for the rest of his life, he conducted the Federal News Service, supplying political articles and his Canberra Times column ('Over the Speaker's Chair') to country newspapers throughout Australia. In 1937-39 he edited a monthly magazine, Australian National Review, about which he corresponded with Corona 3-user Miles Franklin. In 1952 Whyte edited the Australian Parliamentary Handbook and in 1955 published an extensive, though not definitive, biography of the prime minister whom he had known for much of his own career, Corona 3-wielding Billy Hughes. Farmer Whyte worked to within a few days of his death, just short of his 81st birthday.
 A radio network news room.
This Adler Contessa portable typewriter belonged to New Zealand-born Miringa Gay Davidson (1939-2004) of The Canberra Times, the first female chief political correspondent for a major newspaper in Australia and the first woman president of the Australian Commonwealth Parliamentary Press Gallery. The "blokey" culture of the Canberra Press Gallery never caused Gay Davidson to pause. Indeed, at one point, she sought and obtained permission to use a male toilet, near her office in the Press Gallery, because the nearest women’s toilet, at that stage, was “too far away”. She explained, as she pressed her case, that there would be “no embarrassment” as most of the men in there would be “facing the wall.”  She was a former daughter-in-law of Mount Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary.
This Remington Quiet-Riter portable typewriter belonged to Alan Douglas Joseph Reid (1914-1987), nicknamed 'The Red Fox', who worked in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery from 1937 to 1985. He is noted for his role in the Australian Labor Party split of 1955 and his coinage of the term "36 faceless men" to describe the members of the Australian Labor Party's Federal Conference. Reid was born in Liverpool, England, and grew up in poverty. At the age of 11, his father, a New Zealand-born sea captain, had an accident that ended his career, and emigrated with Reid to Australia; they lived in the Sydney suburb of Paddington.
Reid retired due to illness in 1985 and died from lung and stomach cancer, related to his smoking habit, in 1987, at the age of 72.
Some of the portable typewriters donated to the Press Gallery exhibition by former political journalists. In this lot is a Waverley (Consul), a Silver-Seiko, Nakajima Tippa, Gabrieles and Contessas.
 Scott proudly proclaims where Australia's Prime Ministers once stood.
 Scott and Steve leave Old Parliament House, heading for the Aboriginal Embassy across the road.
As envisaged more than 100 years ago by Marion Mahony Griffin, the wife of Canberra designer, Chicago's Walter Burley Griffin, this is the present day view from the forecourt of the "new" Parliament House, looking down at the back of Old Parliament House and up Anzac Parade to the Australian War Memorial, at the foot of Mount Ainslie. Between Old Parliament House and Anzac Parade, out of sight here, is the man-made Lake Burley Griffin.

Steve types merrily away in front of the "new" Parliament House.
 Scott's Olympia portable typewriter sits waiting to be swung into action.


Richard P said...

Very interesting.

I can't believe the method of sending telegrams in 1979!

Those seats in the old parliament building look very, very comfortable.

Bill M said...

Thanks for the fine tour. I really like that old news office. Sending a telegram in 79 sounds like part cat burglar and part news reporter.

Wish my Contessa looked that nice. Mine has a case in several pieces.

Thanks for sharing the tour.