Walking from Melbourne to London, with ukelele in hand

In 1930, two young women (Gladys Turvey and Madge Salter) walked from Melbourne to Sydney hoping to find a free passage back to London. They had only 3 shillings and 11 pence, and a ukulele. Some adventure, said the Register Post of Adelaide on 18 December. They got to Sydney OK, but I haven’t yet learned if they got their free trip back home to London.

Gladys and Madge

 The Barrier Miner (16 December) said that the women hitch-hiked most of the way, doing day work on farms for a meal and a bed. The Register said they arrived in Sydney with 3/11 and uke, the Barrier said that they left Melbourne with 3/11 and a uke. So, if both papers are telling the truth, the women must have done sufficient work for their needs.

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Published in: on October 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ukelele Unwitting Aid to Crime

The New Zealand Evening Post of 18 May 1921 report on a romantic outing the went badly wrong for Melbourne Jeweller, D. Morrison.

He said he had been ‘the victim of a cunningly devised plot in which a young woman had acted as a decoy.’ The woman came into his shop some nights ago, bought a pair of earrings and told the interested jeweller that she just loved motoring. Morrison said that he had a car, and the lady let him know, coyly, that she was not unwilling to take an evening drive with him.

Morrison met the lady and they motored to Hampton Beach, where they sat for an hour near the water’s edge. The lady had said she was found of music, and Morrison had brought his ukelele. As they sat romantically on the beach, he played to her.

The jeweller thinks that the lady encouraged him to play so that they could be located. Morrison was suddenly attacked by two men, who had followed in a car and crept up behind him. He was hit on the head and he pretended insensibility. He was trussed up, and the men went through his pockets. The lady stood calmly by. Presently they found his keys.

One of the men and the woman drove off, leaving the other man to guard Morrison. The two returned about two hours later and picked up the third, leaving Morrison on the beach. Morrison managed to free himself and alerted the police. He and the law went immediately to his shop where they found the glass door broken in, but the steel inner door dented but in tact.  I suspect that this was the end of this jeweller’s willingness to believe the overly eager friendliness of young women.

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Have ukulele will travel… (a hitch-hiker’s guide)

The Argus (10 January 1939) caught up with Ms Betty Manning, a nurse from Auckland, who had spent the last year and a half hitch-hiking from Sydney to Cairns and back down to Melbourne. Her working ‘holiday’ included stints as a cotton-picker, waiter, kitchen staff, rodeo rider and musician — why a musician — she played ukulele. In fact, all she carried into Melbourne were two changes of clothing and her ukulele. She was heading next to Perth (a long walk that would have been), with plans to work there until she earned the fare to South Africa. Hope she got there safe.

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 6:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Harry Bridges and the ukulele — a worker’s story

Harry Bridges was born in Australia, but became a prominent union official in the USA. The Herald Journal (21 July 1937) has a tale to tell from his youth…

In a sleazy back-street novelty shop in Melbourne, Australia, there was a skinny little clerk, a solemn chap, with little to say to anybody, slouched over the counter reading sea tales when there were no customers. They sold ukeleles, among other odds and ends. The lad had to learn to tune them. He picked up a few chords, got interested and began whamming away in the back room. His had been a rather meagre life. Music stirred and agitated him. He longed for wider horizons.

One day the youth packed his sea stories, a pair of dungarees and his ukelele in a duffle bag and went to sea. He rode ketches between Melbourne and Australia [sic]. It was hard, dirty work, but he found time to sit on the forward hatch and bring up the Southern Cross with his ukelele improvisations.

A hurricane in the middle of the night set the ketch on her beam ends. The lad jerked loose his pajama string and tied the ukelele around his neck with it. Naked, he dived overboard and fought the boiling sea for hours. Time and again he was sinking, but the uke provided buoyancy to help him keep afloat.

At daybreak, Harry Bridges, dressed only in a pajama string and uke, was thrust ashore by a last sullen push of the storm. It seemed quaint that a wet, naked little man with a ukelele, even in this elemental Wagnerian setting, should get a nod from Destiny. But he did. He clothed himself, first with fresh dungarees, and then with power. At 36, he stirs left wing labor ferment, and angry and bedeveliped ship owners will tell you that’s nothing trivial.

One never knows what a ukelele might do for a person.

Published in: on March 20, 2010 at 8:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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