Sunday, June 11, 2006

Anyone Remember This?

I grew up in Balranald. It's a country town near the NSW/Victorian border that nobody has ever heard of. When I tell people that I come from Balranald, I usually end up telling them it's near Swan Hill (a country city smaller than most city suburbs) and Hay. Hay is a tiny country town which everybody seems to have heard of, probably because it's on the Hay plains. And yes, they are certainly plain.*

Balranald - the town - consisted of a couple of houses, a hundred-year-old boat ramp on the Murrumbidgee that had decayed into a few planks of wood that nobody had ever bothered fixing or junking, and near our house, a woolshed that no-one had cared to tear up, or do much with. Every month or so a guy named Bob Heddle would pull up in a truck, go into the shed, raise a bit of dust, and leave.
My brothers and I got friendly with Bob. For some reason, we gave him the name 'Wooly Williams', and would run out around his truck shouting that name out. Bob was something of an artist as well as a truck driver; he entered paintings into the local art competitions, and drew cartoons. Once he gave several of these cartoons to us, which we thought was pretty neat.

It might have been when Wooly Williams came around once that we were first introduced to the joys of Joliffe's Outback. It's hard to find much information about these comics - they're that obscure - but I seem to remember that, after having been introduced to Joliffe's Outback, we saw them everywhere. Eric Joliffe, the artist, must have been either senile or dead by the time we were introduced to the comics; the stories seemed to mostly be about the type of Australia that Henry Lawson or Banjo Patterson idealised in their bush ballads. They featured a stock set of characters, including Saltbush Bill, his wife, and various other farm hands and animals. The comics also contained pencil portraits done by Joliffe of various characters he'd met in the countryside; you could tell he was a good artist and draughtsman. Here's a Joliffe's Outback item on eBay at the moment - I sure as hell can't find a date, but you can tell it's pretty old.

So - anyone else remember this?

*If you ever want to get to Hay, just drive down the Hume Highway until you see nothing in particular, and keep on driving. You'll pass Hay at some point, but that's no reason to stop.

(Cross-posted here.)


Mark said...

I really liked this post, Tim. If I ever get to Australia, this is the Australia I want to get to know. Not the usual touristy shit. San Francisco has an Opera House, I don't need to see Sydney's. But we don't have an Outback.

Ben.H said...

My grandma decided the pace of life in Dubbo was too hectic and so moved 100km east to Cassilis, pop. 110 (according to the sign - I think this figure was inflated). To visit her from Adelaide required a 16-hour drive, including several hours following signs pointing to Balranald, before turning off 2km out of town. So I've never seen Balranald. Nor do I feel I've missed much.

Anyway, what I meant to say was that my grandma, and everyone else we encountered in rural NSW, kept a stack of Jolliffe's Outbacks around their houses. They seemed so ubiquitous, it always seemed odd to me too that they didn't penetrate the suburban consciousness in the way that, say, "Australia All Over" has. Not even an atrocious, tax-writeoff "Saltbush Bill" movie!

In fact, when sorting through my boxes of papers last year I found that I own at least one issue of Jolliffe's Outback. I'm guessing it's an 80s printing, don't know how old the contents might be, but it's certainly more entertaining and more competently put together than "Australia All Over."

Eric Jolliffe: born England 1907, moved to Australia 1911, died 2001. Two 'L's in Jolliffe, by the way.

Hah! A crossposted blog comment! Is this legal?

TimT said...

Ben - crossposted comments? No, they're not legal. And if they are, they shouldn't be.

TimT said...

Mark, there's always Arizona, isn't there? Not sure if that qualifies as outback, but there's apparently a lot of it just out there ...

Ben, yeah, I think what happened with the Joliffe's Outback magazines was, a publisher picked up the originals, and decided to go into reprints. Probably the same publisher who did Footrot Flats - now there was a damned good comic! As Dilbert is to office workers, so was Footrot Flats to farmers; I grew up in town, but still, I could appreciate it.

Ben.H said...

Yeah, Footrot Flats was choice! Murray Ball was a genius, if only for creating a comic that was accepted as wholesome, mainstream, family fun when its humour was built more or less entirely on shit, sex, and rotting carcases. Usually with at least two of the above combined.

Mark said...

"Mark, there's always Arizona, isn't there?"

No dingos to eat your baby, man!

Bruce said...

Growing up in Mildura I have only one memory of Balranald, and that is taking the Mildura to Melbourne bus after The Vinelander was discontinued. Except of Fridays this bus went from Mildura to Melbourne via Balranald!

Let's add more than 2 hours to an 8 hour journey that should really only take about 7. FFS!!

TimT said...

Footrot Flats was awesome, The Dog (I don't think he was ever called anything else) was such a great character.

Guess not, Mark - but what about the coyotes? Or the peyote?

Bruce - might have been a delay to you sophisticated Milduraites: a voyage of freedom to us Balranaldites! (That sentence breaks so many laws of grammar, btw ...)

Ben.H said...

Never, EVER, attempt to call the Dog by his name! Aunt Dolly named him as a pup, and he spent the rest of his life trying to supress all knowledge of it.

mour2c said...

growing up in Peechelba East, I can think of 3 publications that greatly influenced me, Footrot flats ( can only find 3 at the moment) Jolliffe's outback, ( where the bloody hell are they all now) and Asterix ( bought the first 12 just recently) Does anybody know if you can still get any copies of Jolliffe's????

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