Horror Headlines from Daggy Old Newtown
The stories behind the poems in Newtown Voices
In May this year (2017), my verse novel Newtown Voices was published, and launched at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown (Sydney). Set in the late 1970s, it looks at life through four characters in an environment of poverty, crime, bombings, corruption, racism and homophobia – and disco dancing.
While my four characters: Tom, Buzz, Jaroslav and Harry (Harriet) are fictional, their surroundings and the crimes and social issues of the time are not. They are all taken from the headlines and news stories of the time. In these posts I show those headlines and the poems they triggered.
THE MAD BOMBERS!
A screamer headline across the front page of the weekly Newtown Guardian newspaper on February 1, 1978, under a photo of smashed glass windows and debris.
“A new wave of bombing has hit inner Sydney, the latest in the heart of Newtown shopping centre, early on the Australia Day holiday.
“The Newtown blast demolished a jeweller’s store and florist shop, partly wrecked the local Rural Bank branch and 10 other buildings, and flattened three cars. Damage is estimated at more than $100,000.
The article continued: “Police closed King St between Erskineville and Missenden Rds for 10 hours on Monday while Disaster and Rescue Squad men cleared away wreckage and searched for casualties under tons of rubble.
“Cracked second-storey brickwork on one of the shops hung precariously over the footpath for several hours before the owner and South Sydney Council building inspector could be summoned.”
The Sydney Morning Herald ran a follow-up story on January 31, having initially covered it on the morning after the explosion.
“Police were still trying to determine late yesterday the cause of the explosion that destroyed three shops and damaged other buildings, including three on the other side of the street.
“The explosion, which occurred about 12.50 am, ‘was like an earthquake’ one resident said.“Immediately afterwards, a yellow Ford Falcon car was seen speeding from the scene along King Street.”
These news stories gave me the basis for journalist Tom’s poem ‘Scoop!’ Six weeks after the Newtown bombing, on February 13, 1978, Sydney’s Hilton Hotel in George St was rocked by an explosion, and two people killed. The hotel was hosting CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), which both Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, and Indian PM, Morarji Desai were attending.
For dramatic tension, I changed the date of the Newtown bombing, putting it after the Hilton, so Tom can say:
a hummer of a yarn, my bomb blast
coming just three days after the Hilton
in George street copped a bomb,
with all those foreign nobs. They say
that’s down to the Ananda Marga.
Maybe mine is too. I can see the headline:
Mad bombers in Australia!!
You can read more about Newtown Voices, including Tom’s ‘Scoop!’ and where to buy the book at newtownvoices