Saturday, September 30, 2006

The 'small world' of a marvellous community

Flashback: First, we’ll go way back to spring 1989. The image shows the cover of a tape that a neat little combo put out in Sydney’s inner west. Drummer Ross Welch gave me the tape as part of a promotional package for his band, the Nevva-binta Memphis Mudsteppers. Slow to absorb all the details between writing a ‘hard’ yarn for the front page and getting down the club for the newsrooms’ traditional unloading after edition day deadline pressures, I asked Ross how the band got its name. "Mate, just think about it for a minute," he said. The response comes to mind every time I look for the musical treats that I have locked away on tape and vinyl. In spring 2001, Ross and I crossed paths again, after I followed up a meeting notice from the Classifieds in the Tweed Daily News. Here is a reprint of that column.

PEOPLE with all sorts of interests "beat their drum" through the Classifieds public notices.
So it was no surprise to see the Murwillumbah Musicians Club advertise its Tuesday night AGM (annual general meeting) at the Courthouse Hotel.
But it was a surprise to learn that the meeting elected drummer Ross Welch as president, not because of any doubts about his suitability for the job but rather at his change of address.
A tape of one of Ross’s bands, The Nevva-binta Memphis Mudsteppers, has been in my collection for 12 years since I wrote about it in Sydney’s inner-west in 1989.

AT the time Ross was working hard on getting a music festival going.
He later was the driving force behind jam sessions, workshops and community music at such venues as the Glebe markets.
Apart from organising, he also showed his versatility on music ranging from the Memphis/country blues of the Mudsteppers to jazz with the Swing Masters.
Our yarn on the phone on Wednesday night was the first in at least a decade.
As I write, my tape deck has the Mudsteppers playing Walk Right In, and it seems to reflect the mood of the AGM where Ross walked right in, sat right down and ended up with the top job.
In rare agreement between a guitarist and drummer, acting president Ray Catt was pleased Ross took the post.

RAY said he wanted to step down from the chair after taking a caretaker role during internal upheaval in the club a few months ago.
The vice-president’s role allows Ray to help Ross get in the groove.
Ross is the sort of player who uses a whole range of instruments outside the standard drum kit but is happy to be called drummer rather than percussionist.
He also is the type of bloke who can build on the solid base of fundraising for causes including the PNG tsunami aid appeal and the bushfire brigade, holding monthly jam nights at the Courthouse Hotel and displaying original compositions in special events twice a year.
Ray, like Ross a longterm professional muso, says he is always amazed at the depth of talent in the area.

"JUST so many people live up in the hills playing their music in their sheds," Ray says.
"There are just so many who are pretty good.’’
The "original music" concert, set tentatively for the Courthouse in November, will certainly be an apt project for Ross, who has a track record as a pretty original thinker.
Ross’s first task as president is to consolidate the clubs’ support base.
"I see my role as a facilitator and mediator and our guiding light will be a vision statement or purpose statement," he says.
"People will compose that collectively so it suits the individuals and sectional interest groups.
"Basically what we are going to do is open up the perspective of the club so it takes in all sorts of musical interests, with as much scope as we can give."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Go offline for reel good time

The sky is blue and the sun shines, so let’s take a break from the world of the spooks (reference, last post) and get out in the sparkling environment of Moreton Bay. Image from

THE attention that John Gallon paid to detail during his decades as a carpenter reflects in the way he spends his leisure time aboard his fibreglass boat.
The unnamed 22ft (6.7m) boat has been a labour of love since health problems forced John to retire early.
Three years ago, he had a heart attack.
A "triple bypass" solved that problem but John now suffers shortness of breath that he tracks to two short stints at James Hardie Ltd's Newstead plant in the early 60s.
"The X-rays show spots on my lungs," he says. "It (the disease) was dormant for about 40 years.
"They had me tipping bags of asbestos into a hopper. I only worked there for two weeks in 1961 and about six weeks in 1964."
John later studied carpentry by correspondence while working as a jackaroo on western Queensland and New South Wales cattle properties.
After he returned to civilisation, he set up at Birkdale, where he built an 18ft (5.5m) fibreglass boat in his backyard.
Now aged 63 and of Capalaba, John has a bigger boat for which the stern frame he used all those years ago supplied the pattern.
He loves crabbing and fishing on Moreton Bay and recently advertised in our Classifieds for "a hand".
John received about a half dozen calls but was waiting this week for the right applicant.
"Everyone wants one-day trips on weekends but I prefer weekdays, staying out overnight," he says. "It takes the same amount of work and makes the trip worthwhile.
"I have a chemical toilet and an outdoor shower cubicle."
John usually makes a base on North Stradbroke.

THE Times' Garage Sales notices are hot as Redlanders execute their spring clean-ups.
The countdown to the pre-Christmas peak is now on in earnest. Victoria Point was the Redlands' 2005 garage sale capital for the most sales during its December blitz, but it may struggle to keep the title if the spring notices are any guide.
Just before this week's deadline, 2004 champion, Alexandra Hills, appeared to be a bullnose in front of Birkdale and Victoria Point. The 2005 runner-up, Cleveland, had a mysterious drop to the tail of the leaderboard.
(This column appreared in the Redland Times, Cleveland, Queensland, Australia)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

From 1984 to 2006 and issues of control

Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), better known by the pen name George Orwell. Pic and details from wikipedia.
WRITERS who are brave enough to parade their thoughts on the public stage know that what is unsaid is often just as important as the facts and opinions that they find, construct and often embrace.

Imagine George Orwell, for instance, now sitting at the big typewriter and watching how the literary world has delved so deeply into what made the writer tick that the things he did not say are more important than others he articulated so well.
A tome in the local library about a hero of so many millions of readers soon felt my thumb and forefinger. It offered a comprehensive analysis of Orwell, promising to make advances after other attempts.
The analyst unleashed brilliant power and academic discipline on gathering evidence of this and that, here and there. But this time my library loan quickly went back through the scanner, relieving me of the burden of having it anywhere in my gaze.

NOTHING can give a reader more satisfaction than snapping shut a book for whatever reason. The explosion of air between the pages may be a great reward in triumph at sharing a point of view as much as any disagreement with the contents.
This time, the spouse-waking wham sprang from something between sadness and disgust. There was anger too.
Why can’t the world be left to judge Orwell on the words he wrote rather those he didn’t?
Undoubtedly, it’s the same for many great artists and writers. Someone will always try to make a living from shuffling through the little details looking for things to comment on. Like a forensic pathologist picking through the innards of a corpse.
The sharp scalpel on Orwell was tantamount to a big brotherish payback that must rate among the greatest ironies of history.

A VOICE that is threatening simply by its dullness and dispassionate fa├žade echoes through time:
You can’t keep any secrets from us now, George. We will know everything about your life. All your sufferings, all your failings. And we will parade your guts for everyone to have a peek, so they will know what makes you tick. If we can’t do it while you are alive, George, we will do it after you die. We won’t allow the world to enjoy your brilliance for its own sake. We can’t fault your writing, George, but we will carve you up and hang up the pieces. This is your reward for allowing us into your life.

NINETEEN-Eighty-Four came to mind because of a phone call from a man who featured in Classie Corner some years ago, simply because he had placed a classified ad in his local paper.
I called him after dinner one weeknight in autumn as I toiled that year to write as many as nine 400-word columns a week on top of a fulltime job on a daily paper.
The demanding regimen required me to dig deeply into my professional fortitude because journalism demands the same attention to every detail, whether for the front page or as a sandwich between the public notices and the personal column.
The "average" user of classified advertising is just as important to me as John Howard would be, if I were to stumble across the notice for his garage sale notice at the Lodge, as is expected at this stage on his retirement rather than on electoral defeat.

MY caller on September 22, 2006, had not seen my published report all those years ago. He had forgotten about my interview and his permission for publication. He tracked me down to ask how I had obtained the details.
"A few days ago an insurance company called me to advise that it was investigating my affairs because they found my name on an obscure website called Classie Corner," he said.
"I have had a look and everything is absolutely correct; it is about my life and it is all true.
"It could have come only from me but I honestly have no memory of talking to you.
"I wanted to find you to make sure you are a real person.
"The insurance company has made an appointment to come and see me.
"It doesn’t worry me because I have done nothing wrong and I have nothing to fear.
"They seem to think I could still be doing what the article said I was doing at the time but I’m not and it’s easy to prove that to them."

THE introduction to the post of the original column on this website clearly stated that it had come from my archives in a certain year.
Although I was pleased at the confirmation of my accuracy when working under pressure in the past, a nasty little barb was waiting on my return to the blog intro, which included a slight hiccup that did not affect the meaning of the text. But all that’s just detail.
A MENTION of your name on an obscure website in the conglomeration of avenues in this vast network is enough excuse for an official investigation into your affairs.
Many eyes must watch as fingers that itch for control punch your name into the search engines. It is as scary as anything Orwell dished up and probably with enough foreboding to turn many off the internet, or even against talking to journalists who call for whatever reason.
We can only hope that the balance comes through the freedom of expression and enrichment to our cultural lives and knowledge.
The exposure may be frightening so again I must thank the many hundreds who have shared with me their thoughts and dreams during my travels on the highways and byways of the marvellous community of classified advertising.
Decent people have trusted me with facts about their lives and I have always had in mind the code of ethics from the fraternity of journalists in the AJA.
Critics of the profession often reach for the baseball bat over the principle of journalists policing journalists but the code is embodied in the rules. Breaches are subject to disciplinary action.

FEAR of discipline, however, is not the reason journalists overwhelmingly stick to the code. Rather, they respect the principles of fairness and the public’s right to know.
Those principles now motivate me to reaffirm my mission to record things that would not be recorded.
I do this, not for the sake of feeding details in front of prying eyes but because it is my art and science to inform and entertain.
Like the subject of my column from the past, we must react with humour toward the risk of someone prospecting our soil and sifting for soft and sticky nuggets:
"I have done nothing wrong and I have nothing to fear."

THE prospectors may squeeze their grubby little fists on their prizes and bask in the perfume of their finds but sometimes it may be difficult for the innocent to prove their case and walk free from the spreading stench.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kids hide in the backseat of 'uncool' car

The recent car stories stirred up the hit meter on the website. Classie Corner's archives include heaps of car stories. Here's another, this time from the Tweed Daily News in July 2001.

THE holiday is over but the sweet sound of a purring motor is still in my ears so for the next few weeks Classie Corner will look under the bonnet of a few deals in the motor market.
BLONDE jokes may have had their day but the mention of a Volvo still raises a smile or two.
"People can be a bit funny about it; they’ll just laugh; it’s strange," says Banora Point’s Christine Cross, who simply loves her 1982 Volvo.
"And my daughter doesn’t like it. She hides in the back seat when I take her to school."
The Cross family’s white Volvo replaces a yellow one of the same model they owned for about a year and recently sold through the Checkout Classifieds.
They received about 15 calls a week after advertising the car for $2990. The calls kept coming even though the car sold in the first week.
Christine is hooked on Volvos, of which she says: "They are the safest car in the world.
"They are so heavy and solid, not those little tincan ones. It’s really heavy metal.
"And they are very smooth on the road.
"But the four-cylinder motor doesn’t cost much to run."
Christine also says the common misconception that Volvo parts are hard to get dates from the pre-generic parts era.
"Parts are not a problem nowadays,’’ she says.
Forget any sneers, it certainly sounds like the Volvo is worth a few smiles.
Give Christine and her family a wave for me when you see them glide along Stonehaven Way.

MY wife hunted around for weeks for a new car before we went on holiday and eventually came up with a great EA Falcon from a dealer who gave a good deal on the trade. When she bought the car home I opened everything up to check for rust and noticed the boot struts had worn out but the lid still stayed up. I went to the front of the car and bounced on it to test the shockies and the boot slammed shut. White-faced wife nearly keeled over. Our six-year-old daughter had withdrawn her head from the boot just a few seconds earlier. Fair dinkum, the lid is so heavy and sharp it would have cut her in two. I publish this story as a warning to all vendors to take car of little details. I can understand how the blokes attached to the car yard could miss something like that. Imagine how you’d feel if you sold a car with that simple fault and wiped out someone’s child. We are just so lucky.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Don't talk about religion, politics or history

A drunk in a local club and this humble scribe almost came to blows over the gripping question of whether a journalist is also an historian.
The row started when the history-loving drunk addressed me, "You’re a journalist, so you are an historian, aren’t you?"
I said I couldn’t answer his question because others, the readers, would have to judge my contribution to history before I received such a title.
Journalists certainly recorded history and used facts from history all the time, but no, I wasn’t automatically an historian.
One would think this was a fairly neutral response but somehow it squeezed his bile duct.
He then addressed the group around the bar table, one by one.
"What do you reckon? A journo is an historian, or not?"
The drinkers sensed trouble brewing and fobbed him off. But he kept on the case.
"I reckon a journo who is not an historian is a pretty shithouse journo," the drunk said, a few times.
I took a deep breath and said, "You work in stainless steel but I don’t tell you how to run your job."
This enraged him further and he moved toward me, angrily, "How dare you pretend to tell me how to conduct myself? How dare you…"
Things like this happen in the twilight world of drunken camaraderie. My career in journalism means I have been there a few more times than most but I am now too old to get into this sort of blue, even though age doesn’t really matter when the wildcard comes up.
The history lover skulled his drink and, mumbling profanities, went to get another, undoubtedly to return refreshed for a round of another type.
I took the opportunity to say to the group, "I have had a hard week and I knew someone would rub me up the wrong way here tonight. I should not have come and I will now go home."
A couple of the drinkers said, "Don’t go." But I said it was best for everyone.
This confrontation came to mind as I wrote the following post for the Redland Times, Cleveland, Queensland, Australia.

Picture of Capalaba of decades past, courtesy of the Redland Shire Council website

THE word, "Redland", will draw many eyes when the Census figures come out.
The influx of residents has created hunger for an authoritative head count.
Whatever figure is official, Don Cazneau will compare it with the 6000 he says the shire had when he and wife Regina "stumbled across Capalaba" in 1959.
The couple from Sydney stopped at the BP garage.
"Old Jack Gannon was sitting out the front, whittling," Don says.
"He wanted to sell the garage for 300 quid. We had a cup of tea and I said, 'Would you take 100 quid a year?'
"I ended up paying 990 quid. I still have the deed.
"I remember standard BP petrol selling for three shillings a gallon. That's eight or nine cents a litre." Don says he and Regina sold the service station later in the 60s.
Now aged 76, Don loves talking about the Redlands " characters" of that era.
"Two brothers would spend all morning cutting down a cedar with an axe and bring the logs to Jack's sawmill behind the garage," Don says.
"They'd say, 'You'd better cut these up before the Forestry finds out'. Jack would pay them 10 quid, then they'd go to the Capalaba Hotel.
"In the next few hours there would be a dozen or 20 fights.
"It was a hick town. Only one in every 10 people wore shoes. There was no town plan. You could build where and when you liked.
"Many people put in posts, a few sheets of iron on top and hessian around the sides, and painted it white.
"One family lived in a tree house on Sawmill Road, which doesn't exist any more."
Don has always liked the name, Capalaba, which featured in the business names of a wrecking yard and towing service he set up, but the couple now lives at Alexandra Hills.
When a Victoria Point man advertised for a model train buff to help set up a track for his grandson, Don was one of three volunteers.
We started talking about trains but moved on to the days when the Council Chambers were in an old house, Cleveland had only one bitumen road and Don's towing service had the phone number 17.
All was less than half a century ago.
THANKS for joining me in the community of classified advertising.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

While 9/11 is still a hot topic, here’s more detail on Anne Bain’s New York experience, following up my 9/8 post. Anne writes:

I arrived back in Australia on September 8, 2001, after visiting my daughter, Erin. At that stage it was my fourth visit to New York and because I am not good with heights, I had not ventured up the twin towers to catch what would have been a fabulous view of the "Big Apple".
Little did I realise on that last visit that I would never have the chance again.
On the morning of Sept 11, I was tucked up in bed. Still recovering from the flight, I had gone to bed earlier than usual.
When the towers went down they took with them the majority of New York’s telephone capabilities and Erin could not get through to us until 4.30am our time.
Her first words were "I am okay"; mine, "What is wrong?"
She said, "New York is being attacked, being bombed, just turn on the TV".
Believe me, these are not words a mother wants to hear from a daughter living thousands of kilometres away from home.
I think like every other person who saw the events on TV, I just sat there looking at something that was so surreal, just like watching a movie.
I went back to visit Erin again in January 02, 03 and twice in 04, the last time for her graduation from Queens College (picture by Faisal Zafar, courtesy of ) in June.
Before we landed, the crew, all New Yorkers, sang "New York, New York". Talk about a tingle down your spine. It was the start of summer and people were everywhere.
In Manhattan, all the rubble from the twin towers had been removed and there was a definite feeling of rejuvenation.
New York is a wonderful city. It has a true heart and soul, and by June 2004 it was certainly getting back to its best – Broadway, Central Park, Madam Liberty, the Yankees!
I hope to go back soon and everyone should put New York on their list of, "100 places I must see".
Anne’s travel agency, Jetset Cleveland, refers inquiries to two web addresses, and

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cultural currents run deep in 'the Classies'

OVER the many years since the two words "Classie Corner" first found their way into print, one question has "got up my nose" more than any other.
"Why the hell would a journalist want to write about classified advertising?"
The quick answer is, "The marvellous community has some great stories that can help us understand our world and ride some of its cultural currents, and I can record things that would not otherwise be recorded." The long answer is in the hundreds of columns I have written, thanks to the people who have shared with me their hopes and dreams.
Today’s post comes from the Grafton Daily Examiner in 2001. It’s a scan of the original proof because of the gap in my digital archives (as detailed in earlier posts).
This story is special to me because it shows perhaps better than anything else the fascinating stories behind the few words in a free classified.
This was a phone call about a $10 item. Was it worthwhile? You be the judge.
I must put the record straight on two things. The correct title is "Australian Seashores". I also have learned from Keith Davey’s interesting site ( that the author, Professor WJ Dakin, was known by his second name, John, not his first, William.
Read the image file by clicking on it, then use the "expand" button which should pop up.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jazz city keeps its beat

START spreading the news. That’s what the song says, so the Classie Corner commemoration of 9/11 starts a little early. I am trying to escape the world's continuing grief from terrorism by listening to the original screen soundtrack from New York, New York including Ralph Burns’ knockout arrangement of You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me. My aim is to play 'You Brought ...' on guitar properly within the next three days. Burns' version of the song really seems to say 'New York jazz'. Music and the world’s greatest jazz city was on my mind when I wrote the following column for my local paper, the Redland Times, a bright and modern paper that suits the front doorstep of its region. Australia’s newest economic star, south-east Queensland, may be a long way from New York (artwork courtesy of but even here, on the tranquil shores of shimmering Moreton Bay, we’re getting into a definitely metro mood.

A BRAZILIAN visitor to the southern bay islands recently gave a backhand compliment to one of his nation’s heroes, the late bossa nova guitar master Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim.
Jobim was the composer who introduced the world to latin jazz, with The Girl from Ipanema as possibly his biggest hit.
Jobim may be a talking point with any Brazilian guest at a neighbourhood barbecue but the visitor gave a sneer.
"Nowadays we call that style ‘airport music’," he said.
That’s probably why so many people like it. Forgetting the latin link, other tunes that fly me across the Pacific are George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Charlie Parker’s Scrapple from the Apple.
Both make me look for deals on New York travel.
Jetset Cleveland managing director Anne Bain has eight Big Apple stamps on her passport, compared with my "nil".
She had a good excuse for visiting New York after her daughter, Erin, received a sport scholarship for water polo at Queens College.
However, Middle Eastern modal lilts may be appropriate on the Brisbane Airport speakers tonight, when Mum farewells Erin on a new assignment.
"Erin graduated with a degree in media studies and is now a sports media/public relations consultant," Anne said.
"She is heading to Qatar to work on the Asian Games." The Qatari capital, Doha, will host the 15th Asian Games in December.
Anne is accustomed to evening drives back to her Gold Coast home. She has commuted to Cleveland since she and husband Greg bought Cleveland Travel in 2004.
The business, which joined the Jetset Travelworld Group (JTG) 10 months ago, has been recruiting a new consultant, its third, through our Classifieds.
By Wednesday, Anne had received five applications, all from women, with the deadline at close of business today (Friday).
Anne said further expansion, with another new position for a trainee, was likely within a year.
She was speaking from Sydney during JTG’s national cruising conference.
About to join an inspection party aboard a liner, Anne said cruising was the major growth sector in the travel industry but Jetset Cleveland’s business was still mainly air and land packages.
Its specialty destinations include the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
THANKS for joining me in the marvellous community of classified advertising. More stories on

Monday, September 04, 2006

Still on the road

From the Classie Corner archives (picture courtesy
COUNTRY people’s love for their cars is a hot topic after Classie Corner’s tale last week on a Jericho man with the EK Holden.
This week we’re still on Holdens but those whose hearts lie with other makes should wait before reporting me to the Press Council for unfairness and bias.
"FORD" is "a swear word" at Juanita and Adam Howells' Biloela home.
The couple, who married last October, love Holdens seemingly as much as they love each other.
With the love of Holdens comes a dislike for their market rival. But Juanita giggles when she says the "swear word" bit.
She giggles again when I tell her I’ve owned two EHs and an HD since a new EH was my family’s pride and joy, but have just bought a Ford.
The Howells have just sold a stunning EH Holden through a Checkout Classifieds "run it until you sell it" package.
An old EH fan like me shivers when Juanita talks about the fully restored interior and front buckets seats on the car they had for almost four years.
Adam and Juanita’s brother, Michael, worked for hours on the motor.
The buyer has the bonus of a yellaterra head and roller rockers. Then there are the mags and the tyres, which Juanita says were special because "you can’t get them anymore".
The couple knew a fair bit of history of the chariot. Juanita says another Biloela local, Glen Hobson, had already done most of the restoration before Adam and Michael went to work.
But as much as the Howells loved the EH, which is almost four decades old, it pales beside the couple’s new SS Holden Commodore VX.
The new car has "everything" – V8 motor, six-speed manual gearbox, 5.7litre motor.
The Commodore and EH must have looked great side by side at their home before they decided to sell the veteran.
Adam needed a ute for work at the Moura mine, about an hour’s drive.
He does 12 and a half hour shifts so Juanita gets the Commodore to herself most of the daytime.
Juanita says the "run it to you sell it" campaign started slowly after the EH went on the market for $9500.
However, the calls started coming when they dropped the price, and they then averaged about five a week.
Juanita says that although Biloela is just a 90-minute drive from Rockhampton many potential buyers baulked at making the trip.
"We did get a lot of calls, mainly people from Yeppoon, Rockhampton and Gladstone,’’ she says.
"One fellow from Gladstone came out when we advertised it for $7000 and said $5000.
"We said no way."
The couple dropped the advertised price further and eventually clinched a sale for $5000 anyway.
Juanita, 22, will long remember the lovely blue car that was old even when she was a baby.
But she has to admit the Commodore’s better.
THANKS for joining me to meet the great people in our marvellous community of classified advertising.
This column first appeared in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in August 2001.