Sgt Max Hickman
2/33rd Battn AIF
10th May 44
Dear Mother & Dad
Your welcome letter of the 4th arrived this morning and made very interesting reading. It was good to hear that mother’s rheumatism is on the mend because it’s a cow of a complaint.
Bill Wedd has certainly made history. I expected him to poll well but never anticipated him tossing Tommy Murdoch whose seat I suppose was considered the safest in Tasmania. He certainly must have captured the public imagination to outclass a team like that in a conservative electorate like Buckingham. One would have thought if anyone could toss Murdoch it would be the Labour candidate backed by the organisation of that party. I had a letter from Marie too today giving some interesting sidelights including the debate at the Town Hall between McKenna and Bill. I guess that must have been the final factor in making up a lots of people’s minds. Marie said Murdoch took it very badly and expressed the hope at the declaration of the poll that a man so young would know how to behave himself. She said the other two Harvey and Hickey shook hands and congratulated Bill but not so Murdoch. That’ll do him more harm than anything else in the public mind – they like a man to be able to take it.
The account of the cause of Reg Wise’s death was pretty tough. It’s a poor commentary on the medical services that a qualified practitioner should make such a blue in diagnosing a case. I knew they’d been treating him for ulcers and thought when the end came so sudden that it might have been cancer but to be taken off at his age by a simple thing like appendicitis is very hard. How is Daph taking it, mother? I don’t suppose she’ll keep the home going but probably store her furniture and go to live with Daisy. I must write her tomorrow if I get time.
I can imagine the surprise mother got when she ran into Mrs Phillips. I suppose she’d be able to keep up appearances on her coupon issue as she probably doesn’t come to town as often as she used and her clothes would last much longer. I thought Max would have been home before now – the fractured leg must have kept him back – unless he’s got a power of pull dad it’ll need more than a fracture to get him out of the army – that is if he’s in an AIF show. The popular version of the letters among the old hands is ‘Arseholed In Forever’. Incidentally, Jim showed me a letter from Snow saying in effect that they could manpower him out providing his classification was not less than A, so apparently they don’t want B class men out there.
I don’t know exactly what Tiger Bowers had at Campbell Town – assistant to the Q or something like that. A good bludge anyway – good living conditions and plenty of beer and if he has any family would be better off than working.
Things are very slack here at present and there’s a liberal amount of day leave available. I went to Brisbane with Bruce Lloyd yesterday, mainly to pay a call on Mrs Tait. You know the lady I mentioned in the other letters – Johnny McGrow’s sister – although she’d been very sick after Johnny was killed she seemed quite well again now and was able to talk without embarrassment. We put in a couple of pleasant hours there. Brisbane isn’t much of a place these days, unless you have friends here. The pubs only open twice a day – 12.30 till 1pm and a quarter past five till six and you’ve no idea of the wild rush there is to get near a counter. If I had to do that to get a drink I’d give it up altogether. The only light spots in the town are the hostels run voluntarily by the women – they certainly do a good job and take the game more seriously than men – that is those outside of the services.
Well, Mother & dad I guess that’s about all the news for the present so for now will say cheerio. Give my love to May, Anne & Carline and best wishes to the boys.
Legislative Council election (Buckingham)
As Dad says, Bill Wedd (Machinery merchant, Moonah) certainly made history. He beat the endorsed Labor candidate, James Hickey (an orchardist of Barossa Rd, Glenorchy) and also Tom Murdoch (‘merchant’ of Montpelier Rd Hobart) who was both the sitting member for Buckingham and the President of the Legislative Council. A collection of Wedd’s campaign speeches, entitled ‘It’s the least I can do’ is available to read in the Hobart Reading Room (Not available for loan).
McKenna refers to Labor Senator Nicholas McKenna who had been elected in August 1943 and was strongly in favour of the extended powers sought by Canberra. These related to the post war period and in particular to the employment of returned servicemen and women – see this extract from an article by Attorney General HV Evatt (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/26002673/1867986) – The employment problem in wartime cannot be effectively tackled without vesting in the national Parliament full power to deal with the terms and conditions of employment, and generally with the relation of the employers and employees. Will the position somehow be different when the war is over?…. A power with respect to ‘employment’ would include…power to determine the terms and conditions of employment. Engagement and dismissal, wages and hours, industrial relations and industrial disputes could thus fall within the scope of the power.
I can see why Wedd as an employer might not have found this prospect inviting. I can find (via Trove) no report of the Town Hall ‘debate’ mentioned in this letter.
Getting a drink in a Brisbane pub
Dad wasn’t joking about the limited opening hours – see this article https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/42040256 from the Courier-Mail, entitled How Brisbane Drinks Beer. They even had special police whose job it was to keep the footpaths outside pubs clear for pedestrians, as the opening time approached.
Although taken from an article about a specific incident in 1942, this quote from Wikipedia highlights the difference between the products available to and affordable for American and Australian servicemen.
The Americans had PXs offering merchandise, food, alcohol, cigarettes, hams, turkeys, ice cream, chocolates, and nylon stockings at low prices, all items that were either forbidden, heavily rationed, or highly priced to Australians. Australian servicemen were not allowed into these establishments, while Australian canteens on the other hand provided meals, soft drinks, tea, and sandwiches but not alcohol, cigarettes, and other luxuries. Hotels were only allowed to serve alcohol twice a day for one hour at a time of their choosing, leading to large numbers of Australian servicemen on the streets rushing from one hotel to the next and then drinking as quickly as possible before it closed. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Brisbane)
Refreshments provided by women – the only light spots in town