I, myself, personally, alone, and unaided, have crossed the Snowy River on foot in my downy underpants.
This, so far as I know, has never been done before.
As for me, it will not be done again within living memory.
Asked by an interested bystander why I did this, I told him in my simple, forthright way that I wanted to see what was on the other side.
This seemed pretty weird to him.
Halfway across I became bunkered in the rapids, but the indomitable Lower spirit triumphed, and nature took a dirty slap to the face.
Innumerable turkeys roam around our caravan.
I missed eight with various-sized rocks, and had just drawn a fine sight on the ninth, with every chance of bringing him down, when a man in dirty khaki trousers came and said: “Waddger thinkyer trianterdo?”
It seems that they were his turkeys.
“I was just teaching your turkeys how to duck,” I replied.
I thought that was rather bright, considering. He didn’t.
My artist companion, Wep, is becoming more tiring every hour.
Today he was squinting at a little church built on the top of a bare rock-strewn hill.
He walked me up and down for miles saying, “It looks better from here, don’t you think. Do you think I’d get the light better from over there?”
I said that it would probably look swell from the verandah of Straw Weston’s pub.
He became temperamental about it, and said I had no eye for beauty, no sense of balance and proportion, and no soul.
In the 1930s, Lennie Lower was considered one of Australia’s foremost humorists. His novel, Here’s Luck was first published in 1930 and is considered a classic of Australian humour. It has been reprinted many times since and was illustrated by his good friend and colleague, Wep with the 1955 edition. Wep and Lower were closely associated from the time Wep first started illustrating his column at the Daily Guardian in Sydney and later at The Australian Women’s Weekly when that publication commenced in 1933 cementing their notoriety throughout Australia.
Lower was reknowned for his drinking and in the winter of 1938, Wep and his wife Jess were accompanied by Lower for a week’s sojourn in the Snowy Mountains region around Jindabyne and Cooma. Lower was to write a series of columns for the Daily Telegraph and Wep was under instructions not to give Lower any more money than 2 shillings. Lower went to Cooma with his two shillings and returned rotten drunk with seven and sixpence change. He’d gone into Cooma and told everyone who he was, and that he was there with Wep. No one would let him pay for a drink and actually pressed money on him thus defeating the other instruction to Wep to “sober him up and keep him sober.”
Been quite an exhausting day. Plenty hot and plenty weak. However I pulled my gizzard up & got stuck into the work of drawing some fighter planes. They’re sleek jobs and surprisingly small. You don’t get much idea of their performance when seen on duty flights around this district. Rarely are they flown flat out except in combat. After seeing them on the ground dirty dented & camouflaged you’d think they weren’t worth a plateful of cold tapioca pudding. But the boys like them.
The pilots are all hellishly young. The average age being about 22. The Squadron leader looks youngest of all like a bit of a school kid. They have all had English experience & are a good bright lot. I get along very well with them as they are friendly & informal. The binge last night served well in breaking the ice. Almost all were as full as bulls. Incidently none of the crowd seem to like the journalists much. Being an artist makes everything so much easier. Tell Tommy there is a bit of a hoon up here – name of Pilot Officer Larry Alderson – says he knew him well in N.G. Gloria’s husband Flight Loot Newton isn’t a bad sort of bloke – Looks after me well. [Believed to be John Sefton Newton and Gloria Olga Newton (nee Metchkoff Larsen, m 1943] I still haven’t managed to buy anyone a drink. One is not allowed to – they insist on my being a guest. A big crowd of bomber pilots were also down last night. The film was fast & furious.
There’s some blasted thing I should tell you but for the life of me I can’t remember it. Guess it’ll come later.
Yes! I’ve got it! Do you recollect the air force medical officers at that party of Tilly’s at which Bill Brindle & his wife were present. One of the crowd from up the road turned out to be one of them. He is now a Wing Commander. He was then a Fl. Lieutenant so he’s managed to step up very nicely.
Flash – last night two of the pilots after a sufficient steeping in the fiery juices set off on journey back to tent. One – hopelessly lost curled up on the floor of a brother officers tent. The other made the grade & work about an hour later with the tent in flames around him. Much hilarity whilst domicile was razed to the ground.
May be off to see “In which we serve” tonight – that is – if I don’t get sucked into the alcoholic vortex which is apparently about tom swirl any tick of the clock.
I’m still not 100%.
It doesn’t look as if I’ll be down by the 24th. You will probably forgive me but it would be best for me not to dash down without properly doing the place over. I’d love to be there. However have a good dinner. Get that or the other casserole or what ever you like – go to £20. With love from your devoted, Willie.
Thursday [5 Aug 1943]
Bad show I didn’t mail the above pages this morning. I went up to the strip with a crowd of pilots at 6.30am and arrived by at 4pm. Consequently missed the bus, I mean the mail.
This blarsted country is full of things wot bite. Between the heat & the wogs I’m as knobbly as a mills bomb.
All day the fighter lads lounge about inside their dispersal hut (near the ‘drome) in attitudes crooked but horizontal.
There they remain, with but slight variation waiting for the call to arms. One morning early at least 4 of them were asleep when an alert came over. Like trains through a station they were off & in the air. Fortunately the aircraft responsible for the alarm was identified as friendly.
The weather seems to be getting hotter. Myself more enervated. Sweat rolls off me – thirsty ants swim up my cascading body & quaff the salty juices. Beaut-O!
There’s been quite a lot of feeling that it’s near time the yellow men come over. They sunk a ship a few days ago & have been fairly active. A couple of months have passed since they did anything and the fighter lads are anxious to have a crack at them to relieve the boredom.
Hope Harold Coy has been behaving. [Harold and Bassie Coy ran the Hotel Hunters Hill, a favoured drinking spot of Wep and Jess.] Also the damned old Ponty. You poor darling I dare say Jane has been giving you the real works. Is Tommy up north indefinitely?
Hope Dossie’s little girl doesn’t have 6 tits – it’ll be awful hard to find a beau with 6 hands.
Some bear bandit or other has got down on my bottle whilst Iwas away. That’s the sort of thing that leads to lynching in this h’yar country. You can as King from me – Where is the Ethics Committee of the A.J.A? What are they doing about it all? When are they going to send a missionary up here?
That there smudge is sweat.
Which reminds me you mentioned Turkish Baths. Haven’t you had any? Why don’t you go away somewhere for a couple of weeks? It’s getting right hot, mu chickadee. I’m afraid this climate would suit you down to the ground. I can’t see how one could stay very flat what with all this here perspiring going on.
Don’t get too morbid, honey. It won’t be long before I’m home. How’s the houses for sale? Why don’t you go around and have a look at a few just to get an idea of value, etc. I can’t think of anything for the flairs.
When its winter
Way down yonder
It’s a pint’er
Beer I ponder
And a bit er bread
An’ butter an’ a sponge
Which reminds me how’s frige behaving?
Lots of love from yours meltingly,
[On top of 1st page is a note written by another person]
Hello Jess you beautiful thing I love you despite all absences(?).
A hurried line to tell you I’ve arrived at the fighter strip. Tuesday being beer issue night was willing. I will write you details tonight as I’m just scribbling this to make sure you get a letter a day (to keep admirers away). Am feeling queer. – What again! – They’re a fine bunch of kids down here.
Will write you at length this evening. So be content with reciprocated love & hugs & kisses
I may as well carry on with the news concluded by the letter I posted you by today’s mail. As I’m going down the road tomorrow I won’t be writing. This letter will serve that day’s purpose as it won’t get away from here until then. This week I am staying with a fighter squadron under the command of Caldwell – shall probably meet Flutter eye Gloria’s husband – I believe he is with the same bunch.
Thanks for thinking about my lack of amenities. I’m running somewhat short – only 24 large packets left.
I hope Tommy got as much out of his drawing as he hoped for. Selina is dopey alright. Are you still getting plenty of steak over there?
The thing has started off again – Gawd help us! Tap-tap-tap-BLOODY TAP! This will be damn short – I get into such a helluva bate (?). It’s worse than being in a machine gun nest with all guns firing and hailstones beating on my tin hat. I’m not deaf enough to take it – Tap – tap – taP – tAP – TAP TAPTAP! – and so on.
I’ll write you tomorrow some time – or else wait till the bastards go to bed. Up’em!
[3 Aug 1943]
Next morning – Much quieter – I am by far the earliest bird up here, all of which doesn’t help catch the non existent worms, but it’s plumb peaceful like. Inside, spines are slowly being zipped into action, razors being flapped, and kidneys drained in preparation for a general exodus down the road in the wake of the Governor-General who has begun his tour of inspection.
Yesterday he reviewed the N.W. navy such as it was. We got out onto the flagship & under panicky directions of some naval lieut. allowed ourselves to be hid behind pipes, vents, doors, etc so that the G.G.’s august vision would not be defiled by the sight of the lowly non-combatant press correspondents. It was wretched farce – the boys have wiped the navy or so they say. Seems more like to me the navy doesn’t care about the press. The review of passing ships was catastrophic. Some of the old tubs couldn’t make any speed against the out-running tide, with the unhappy consequent cancellation of part of the programme.
The tide, by the way, has a rise & fall of 20 ft and as the approaches to the land here are very shallow the water when it gets a move on races like one thing. In the harbour I believe it does about 5-6 knots and in the creeks about 10. I’ve seen it coming in on the creeks – it moves alright. The harbour is a big one with an average width & foreshores much like Botany Bay. Because of its lack of depth the water is quite green. Here and there the side of a sunken ship rises up. Somewhere else the masts & funnel of another stick forlornly & ridiculously out to provide parking stations for the few sea birds to be seen in these parts.
Will have to leave now – have had breakfast the all are ready for the trip.
Mail came in & I have just got another of your letters – you beaut. Haven’t read it yet – lots of love honey – look after yourself for Willie.
Sorry I growled about there being no letters from you. Very little mail arrived for anyone last week. Must have been some hitch. Happily I received two this morning and was thereby much delighted.
You seem pretty lonely poor darling – it is obviously sickening to have to either stay home alone or still see the same faces & the same chatter. It’s lonely here as a rule when I’m not working. That is why I like to get out each week to some camp down the road and settle in to steady effort. There is a great deal round about here I want to get on to, moreover the general atmosphere of this mess is slow. At the moment all the correspondents are spine bashing. Apparently there is bugger all for them to find in the way of news with the exception of raids. Now that would be exciting if I didn’t catch a bomb. And the food up here is bloody awful. Margarine, dried eggs, macaroni pudding, stewed tea & leathered meat. That wouldn’t be so bad if the cook thought of something besides going on leave. Believe you me, I’ve been criminally spoilt.
On the beach again yesterday. Water really wonderful – the sunshine and Freds bountiful. I’m losing the lolly pink – changing chameleon like into tiger stripes owing to a little semi spine bashing of my own the other day. Curled up in a deck chair & came to with pink bands across my belly skin where the creases between folds of fat had been retained it lily white line. Got sunburnt on the flat yesterday – result – pink & brown now instead of original barber’s pole style. Nerves not much better – worry a bit about the job as I don’t know how I can remember all the different colour & tones of the scenes I have ideas of portraying. Most of the stuff I want to get down is of the rapid impression type –Much too quick even to get the drawing let alone tone, etc. The only painting I do is to note down appropriate backgrounds & incidentals to the job. Have written these blue lines while waiting for a haircut in a military camp.
He’s a hell of a little barber about as short & thick as a fart. An ex-ladies’ hairdresser from Farmers, or, some say Borrowmans – anyway he cuts a pretty hair. The charge is 1/- of which he gets 6d & his unit comforts fund 6d. You sit on a sawn off log in a parlour of the most delicate hessian. Whilst outside in the ante-room grim faced & spare witted troops purse lips and pen handle heads in the agonising concentration of writing the dear ones at home. I draw. Somebody asks how to spell Americans. I oblige.
Have returned to Happy Messy. This mail is due to go off in 10 minutes. So lots of love dear & keep on writing even if it kills you. Won’t be very long before I see you again. Thanks for the lipstick – tasted good. Love