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Friday, 24 February 2017

The Press as Public Enemy No 1? Tell that to the Ghost of Ernie Pyle

I have no idea what Ian Farmer is up to these days. He would be 18 or 19 by now. But at age 12, in November 2010, he could have taught a future President of the United States more about the real value of the Fourth Estate, as a force devoted to the public's right to know the truth, and to freedom of expression, than Donald Trump will ever know. Without the Press, Trump might not be speaking a language that passes for English today.
Trump was born almost 14 months to the day after war correspondent Ernie Pyle died on Iejima in Okinawa. But he cannot be forgiven for not grasping what Pyle and war correspondents like him did in the service of the free world. Ian Farmer was a Denver School of the Arts student when his one-boy performance of Pyle won the US Marine Corps History Award. Farmer's interest began when he saw Saving Private Ryan in 2008, and he started seeking out other movies and books about the war. Then he came across a 1945 copy of Here Is Your War, a collection of Pyle’s articles about the Allied campaign in North Africa, Italy, Sicily and France. Farmer was especially taken with “The Death of Captain Waskow”. Farmer created a solo performance centred on that essay and did so well at the Colorado History Day competition he was chosen to compete in the national contest in Bethesda, Maryland. There, judges from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation found his presentation so moving they awarded Farmer the Marine Corps History prize. He received the award in a ceremony in Arlington, Virginia.
Above, members of the 77th Infantry Division erect a memorial to Pyle at Okinawa on the spot where Pyle was killed by machine gun fire in April 1945. Below, Pyle, at his makeshift desk in Europe.
Australian Alan Wood , considered one of the gutsiest war correspondents ever, types his despatch on September 18, 1944, at Arnhem in Holland. Wood was parachuted in behind enemy lines with the 1st British Airborne Division. He's lying in a ditch astride the Utrechtseweg near Oosterbeek.
TIME correspondent Bill Walton at his typewriter during the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944Walton parachuted into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne Division.
A correspondent covers the Desert War in North Africa in 1942.
Above, Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald Tribune and the News Chronicle on the Korean front lines, July 1950. Below, Higgins writing her copy in slightly safer surrounds.
Correspondents report from the front lines in the Korean War, 1950.
 War correspondents on the Korean Press train.
When the all-out Allied air bombardment of Cherbourg opened on D-Day, Lee Carson Reeves of the International News Service flew over the beleaguered port with the bombers. She was the first Allied war correspondent to enter Paris after its liberation. Attached to the 4th Army, she rode in on a Jeep, and reported on the Parisian Hepcats and civilians who had resisted occupation. She later joined the 1st Army with fellow war correspondent Iris Carpenter and crossed the Seigfried Line at Aachen. Carpenter and Carson reported on the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed the first GIs meeting Russian troops. On April 15, 1945, assigned to the task force which liberated the Castle, Carson entered Colditz and took the only photo of the "cock" glider, built by inmates and hidden in an attic. A week later Carson was present at the liberation of the Erla work camp at Leipzig, where she was horrified at the suffering of the inmates.
In the music room of Goebbels' house, Allied war correspondents write their stories.
Russ Monro was the Canadian Press's lead war correspondent in Europe in World War II. He covered a Canadian raid in Spitsbergen, the 1942 raid on Dieppe, the Allied landings in Sicily, the Italian campaign, D-Day and the campaign in North-western Europe. His memoirs of the campaigns, published as From Gauntlet to Overlord, won the Governor General's Award for English-language non-fiction in 1945. Monro later covered the Korean War.
CBS News journalist Quentin Reynolds spews out the copy on Anzac Day 1944. Reynolds was associate editor at Collier's Weekly from 1933-45 and published 25 books, including The Wounded Don't Cry. But after World War II he was accused of being "yellow" and an "absentee war correspondent" by right-wing Hearst columnist Westbrook Pegler. Reynolds won $175,001 in damages. But in 1953 he was found guilty of publishing fake news. At least back then the liars got found out.
Helen Hiett Waller was the "most bombed US woman" - and that might go for men too. She was a war correspondent for NBC. She covered the attack on Gibraltar, the collapse of France and was under fire in Holland. She also covered the war in Italy, Germany and Austria, as well as the Ethiopian and Spanish wars, being the first outsider to broadcast from the latterIn 1937 she lived in a girls' labour camp in Germany, studying Nazi indoctrination methods. She published No Matter Where in 1944.
Above, Floyd Gibbons, who lost an eye in World War I, types his story at the Denver Post, and below in a hotel room in Washington DC. Covering the Battle of Belleau Wood in France, Gibbons was hit by German gunfire while attempting to rescue an American soldier. He was given France's greatest honour, the Croix de Guerre with Palm, for his valour on the field of battle.
A Vietnam War correspondent carries his Olympia De Luxe Traveller portable in Saigon on April 29, 1975, as Communist troops circle the city.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A Curious Time

It’s 20 years today since I arrived in Canberra. That’s by far the longest I’ve ever spent in one place. I left Greymouth when I was 19 and for the next 30 years roamed about the place: Auckland for a few years, Nelson, Sydney for a memorable spell, London, Cork, Dublin until it got too hot, Madrid, Bridgetown, Fremantle for two longish spells, Brisbane (my favourite city), Hervey Bay, Townsville. I can’t say coming to Canberra was by chance, but it wasn’t by design either. Just one of those things. Like a life sentence, but without the opportunity for escape (or parole).
Canberra’s not such a bad place. When I started at The Canberra Times in 1997 it was one of the better newspapers I’d worked on. In the next 15 years it turned into one of the worst: it was a big boy’s toy that little boys started to play with. Inevitably, they broke it. But I made a few good friends there.
Canberra has some great institutions: The War Memorial, the National Library, the National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, Old Parliament House. And yet comfortably the worst National Museum of any country anywhere. Te Papa puts it to shame.
When I came to Canberra, my rugby playing soon ground to a halt. I found no trace of the true spirit of the game here. I started collecting cats and typewriters, helped look out for two wonderful young sons, wrote columns and sports and music history and met some truly interesting women. There’s certainly been some fun times. Typewriter collecting opened up a beautiful new world I'd never dreamt existed, full of fantastic people, many of whom I've actually got to know in person.
I celebrated my 50th alone, my 60th in good company and hope, if I can survive just one more year, to spend my 70th with the most gorgeous grand-daughter imaginable. Seeing Ely Messenger grow up is something for which it’s definitely worth hanging about. But in the past eight years, I’ve lost a brother, a sister-in-law, two brothers-in-law and countless good friends, and have developed a deep sense of my own mortality. This is no country for old men like me.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Free Air Typewriter*

*All one has to do is post a video of air typing online and a free air typewriter will be on its way. See image of typewriter above. No shipping cost involved (the package is small and light). Failing that, air typewriters will be made available for sale on eBay.

K
angaroos invented air guitar more than five million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch. It’s so passé for them now they play air guitar in their sleep. For humans, kangaroo-aping air guitar competitions started in Sweden in the 1980s, leading to world championships with the ideology that “wars would end and all the bad things would go away if everyone just played air guitar”. The same applies to air typewriter.

A
ir typewriter was introduced sometime between March 25 and May 22, 1963, at the Paramount Studios at 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, when Jerry Lewis was playing the part of Norman Phiffier in the movie Who’s Minding the Store?

Without a single thought for Jerry Lewis or air guitar, Richard Amery, Terry Cooksley and I left our typewriters behind yesterday and adjourned to The Mawson Club for a lunch break. The typewriter talk fest went on unabated, of course, and the next thing I realised Richard and I were demonstrating typing stories with our air typewriters. Terry captured it with an iPhone.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

To Dora, on Valentine's Day

DORA
Written by Sydney typewriter technician
Warren Ingrey

I had a typewriter to repair
which I bought the other day
An Olivetti Dora
From down Barcelona way

Now this little typewriter
Well, it was quite a wreck
With years of gathered dust and grime
She was showing much neglect

I stripped down all the outer plates
Platen feed rollers as well
And placed her in my wash-out tray
And scrubbed like bloody hell

And then I hung her out to dry
And left her in the sun
She looked just a new one
When the drying was all done

I put her back together
And made her look her best
And Dora, she was well behaved
She passed the typing test

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Peggy Hull, Pioneer War Correspondent

American war correspondent Peggy Hull (Henrietta Eleanor Goodnough-Hull-Kinley-Deuell, 1889-1967) at her Corona 3 portable typewriter for a Newspaper Enterprise Association publicity shot taken in New York in 1925.
There is a crater on Venus named for Peggy Hull. It seems only fitting. As a pioneering female journalist, Hull was simply out of this world. In 1918 she became the US War Department's first accredited female war correspondent and she went on to become the first woman to serve on four battlefronts. The 5ft-tall brown-eyed girl reporter from Kansas described her facial appearance in passport applications as featuring a "retroussé" (turned up) nose. In almost 58 years of first-rate reporting, sending stories from Siberia to Shanghai and many flashpoints in between, Peggy Hull proved that she possessed one of the most brilliant noses for news of any newspaperperson, of either sex, in the entire 20th Century.
Peggy Hull was aware from the very start of her amazing career as a war correspondent, in 1916, that she was smashing through the glass ceiling for female journalists. "Yes," she wrote in the El Paso Herald in late August 1916, "it's a regular Richard Harding Davis assignment. But with the Russian girls of '16 fighting in the army alongside their brothers and fathers and with women voters braving the Ghetto of Chicago, a girl these days has as much right to attempt the daring as has a man." At that time she was planning to fly into Mexico to confront Revolution leader and head of state José Venustiano Carranza Garza. (Davis, who had died four months earlier, aged 51, was an American journalist and writer known for being the first American war correspondent to cover the Spanish-American War, the Second Boer War and the First World War.)
At the time, it was newsworthy that Hull wore a wristwatch. "The element of time is so essential in our work," she told a fellow reporter in Texas, "that difference of a few minutes might mean a 'beat' [scoop] ... Pockets are de trop [unneeded] these days, you know." The El Paso reporter added that Hull believed in suffrage but was not a suffragette. Flowers and pink ribbons "and things" still had their appeal to her, Hull told him.
Peggy was born Henrietta Eleanor Goodnough on a farm near Bennington, Kansas, on December 30, 1889, and grew up in Marysville. She had nothing to do with her father, Edwy Goodnough of Salina (1862-1947), from an early age, and was raised by her mother Minnie Eliza Finn (1866-1929) and Minnie's second husband, Henry William Hoerath (1868-1941). The Hoeraths were married in Marysville in 1896, when Peggy was six.
Minnie Hoerath in 1922
In 1906 Peggy began her newspaper career 75 miles south of Marysville, as a 16-year-old typesetter for the Junction City Sentinel, having been turned down by editor Arthur Downey Colby as superfluous to needs as a reporter. However, after only two weeks at the case, Colby moved her to the editorial department. She had shown Colby her worth when a fire broke out in town and no one else was available to cover the story. In late 1909 Peggy moved to the Denver Republican, where she quickly established a wide reputation for her feature writing and in particular her human interest stories from the juvenile court of social reformer Judge Benjamin Barr Lindsey (1869-1943). It was while in Denver that Peggy met social and political reporter, the recently-widowed Indian-born lush George Charles Hull (1878-1953), a former soldier almost 12 years her senior. Peggy moved further back east to become society editor for the Salina Union in 1910, and on October 27 that year she married Hull in Christ Cathedral, Salina. The Hulls returned to Denver, then moved to Hawaii, where George worked as a reporter for the Honolulu Star and city editor of the Evening Bulletin and Peggy was a feature writer and women's page editor for the Pacific Commercial Advertiser and a reporter for the Bulletin. Four years into the marriage, on the day in 1914 when her tipsy husband tried to climb a flagpole naked, Peggy left him. They were divorced in 1916, by which time Peggy had moved to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she wrote advertising copy. In her subsequent passport applications, Peggy said George Hull's whereabouts were unknown to her, and she believed he was dead (possibly wishful thinking). But she kept his surname for her byline throughout the rest of her illustrious career. George Hull was very much still alive - indeed, he outlived all of Peggy's three husbands - and had gone to California, where from 1918-32 he became a noted film scriptwriter. 
In March 1916, the Ohio National Guard was mobilised and sent to El Paso, Texas, to join General John Pershing's expedition in Mexico to capture Francisco "Pancho" Villa. Peggy Hull requested permission to travel with the Guard, but was turned down. She moved to Texas, where she worked first for the El Paso Herald, then the El Paso Morning Times. She was allowed to accompany the troops on a gruelling two-week training march from El Paso to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Villa was not captured, but the expedition helped prepare American troops for entry into World War I. 
With the United States entering into World War I in April 1917, Peggy Hull paid her own way to France with a promise from the El Paso Times to use her articles. She came down with an attack of appendicitis, but gained assistance from the Paris office of The Chicago Daily Tribune and reached Valdahon in the fast east of France. There she shared barracks with women working for the YMCA canteen and wrote articles for US consumption. In late December she was in Chicago, "booted and spurred" according to the Tribune, giving Christmas shoppers an "eyeful". Hull's mother Minnie had taken ill, and Peggy had returned to care for her. (Minnie recovered to travel to Japan, China and Hong Kong while visiting her daughter in 1922, but died in 1929)
Peggy remained restless, however, and in August 1918 set her journalistic sights on the American military expedition to Siberia to guard the Trans-Siberian Railroad, which was delivering supplies to the White Army. With the help of General Peyton C. March, chief of staff of the army, whom she knew from both her El Paso and Valdahon days, Peggy was accredited to cover the expedition. This time, she gained much more substantial backing for her venture, from editor-in-chief Samuel Thomas Hughes (1866-1948) of the Cleveland-based Newspaper Enterprise Association:
Hull boarded a Russian steamer and landed in Vladivostok in November to begin a nine-month, 1000-mile inspection tour of the Siberian Railroad. She reported on the suffering of the masses of refugees trying to escape both the Red and White armies. As well, she was also able to provide American readers with graphic details of the execution of the Russian Imperial Romanov family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei), an event which had occurred in Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918. Hull left Siberia in July 1919 and returned to the US.
In late December 1919 she received an offer of work in Shanghai from the short-lived Gazette's Trinidadian-born editor C.H. Lee.
On a stopover in Singapore, Hull met sea captain, Isle of Man-born John Taylor Kinley (left, 1888-), who would became her second husband. They married in Hong Kong on February 22, 1922, separated in 1925 and, after a campaign by Hull to change the law with regard to her citizen status, were divorced in Shanghai in 1932. In the meantime, in November 1930, Hull was supported by the managing editor of the New York Daily NewsHarvey Vail Deuell (right, 1890-1939), who was to become her third husband, when she applied to regain her American citizenship, lost under the Expatriation Act of 1907 when she'd become a British subject by marrying Kinley. At midnight on January 28, 1932, while Hull was back in Shanghai securing her divorce, Japanese aircraft bombed the Chinese city in the first major carrier action in East Asia. Peggy Hull was in exactly the right spot at the right time to report it, and had a story in the Chicago Tribune the very next day!
Hull and Deuell wed in 1933, but this third marriage was also to be brief. Deuell, a $64,000-a-year leading executive in the US newspaper industry, died from a heart attack while driving his car past the Teaneck Country Club in New Jersey, on his way to work, on October 29, 1939. Deuell was just 48. World War II had been declared less than seven weeks earlier and Hull had become a founding member of the Overseas Press Club. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Peggy Hull once again looked to gain accreditation as a war correspondent. In November 1943, through the North American Newspaper Alliance and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Hull, going on 54, received permission from Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson Jr, a commander general in the Central Pacific, to cover the war in his area. She reported from Hawaii, Guam, Tarawa in Kiripati and Saipan in the Northern Marianas until August 1945 and was awarded a Navy CommendationA GI wrote her in 1944, "You will never realise what those yarns of yours ... did to this gang ... You made them know they weren't forgotten." In 1953 Hull retired to Carmel Valley, California, where she died of breast cancer, aged 77, on June 19, 1967.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Lady with the Brightwriter Typewriter

I've used this image before, three years ago, with others - of Twiggy, Pearl Bailey and Duke Ellington* - from the 1969 Henry Wolf series advertising the Olivetti "Brightwriter", the Studio 45 semi-portable typewriter. It was only yesterday, however, that I came to realise New York high society columnist Suzy Knickerbocker was in real life El Paso-born Aileen Mehle (1918-2016). She was approaching 51 when this Wolf photo was taken. Mehle was actually born Aileen Elder, but throughout most of her life used the surname of her first husband, Cincinnati-born Roger William Mehle (1915-1996), later a US Navy rear admiral. They married in June 1939, when she was 21, and were divorced in 1946. My awareness of her true identity came through finding the Wolf typewriter image in a lengthy feature on Mehle by Bob Colacello in the latest edition of Vanity Fair, "How Suzy Ruled Society Gossip for Five Decades".
Aileen Mehle working at her Park Avenue home
with assistant, Cathy MacLean, in New York in 1966.
Starting at the Miami Daily News and finishing at Women’s Wear Daily in 2005, Mehle was active in journalism for more than 50 years. At the height of her career, her daily column ran in some 90 newspapers across the US and Canada and reached an estimated 30 million readers, according to a 1973 profile in Vogue. Life magazine said she was “easily the brightest and most widely read society columnist in the country”.
As a Texas teenager
Mehle attended Austin High School and while still a teenager moved with her family to California. She went to Long Beach Junior College and Santa Barbara State College (now the University of California, Santa Barbara). At the Hearst-owned New York Mirror, Mehle adopted the pseudonym Suzy from the daughter of her second husband, Mark Kenneth Frank Jr.
In 1963 Hearst closed the Mirror and installed Mehle at the Journal-American, where she added Knickerbocker to her byline. Three years later, the Journal-American was combined with the New York Herald Tribune and the World-Telegram & Sun to form the World Journal Tribune, which lasted until May 1967. At that point the only Big Apple newspapers left were the three still publishing today: The New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post. Aileen landed at the News, then the largest in circulation of the three, where she would remain for the next 17 years, until 1985. Mehle then jumped from the News to the New York Post. In 1991, at age 73, she made the final move of her career, to Fairchild Publications, and in 2005 gave up her column for good. Mehle died, aged 98, last November 11. 
*Twiggy is Lesley Lawson (née Hornby).