I just spent a delightful hour looking through a copy of The Bulletin dated 4 July 1978. More than any book or film can, it gave me a snapshot of the world three years before I was born. I find the familiarity and unfamiliarity of the bearded, big haired strangely coloured photographs and articles and advertisements fascinating.
Cassettes are a running theme. Siemens offers a free cassette explaining the benefits of their PABX telephone system – ‘Get your secretary to mail the coupon now’. Send off for the Len Evans Home Wine Tasting Pack and you receive a FREE How-To Wine Guide Cassette. At a sales conference Zig Ziglar (whose signed book I weeded from a library once) proclaims that if you don’t feed your mind with a cassette player, you’re losing $25 000 a year. (I think of The Assassination of Richard Nixon, set in the same decade, the main character obsessively listening to positive thinking cassettes.)
At the same conference, an aging Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking spoke. He’s dead now, of course. ‘There’s no problems in cemeteries,’ he told the conference. ‘Problems are a sign of life.’
There are ads for Asbestos Cement Pipelines at Port Waratah – ‘helping keep coal dust firmly in its place’. Dunhill on the inside cover – ‘Internationally acknowledged to be the finest cigarette in the world’. Craven Mild on the back cover, a golfer swinging – ‘mild as can be… yet they satisfy’.
There’s an article on the demise of the Democratic Labor Party, a strange footnote to the Cold War years, their existence finally sputtering out with Nixon’s detente with the Soviets and the rise of an exciting new party, the Democrats. I say a footnote, and yet they kept Labor out of power for a couple of decades, terrified as they were of the Communist menace. And now no Democrats either.
An article about Alan Bond selling his share in the Yanchep Sun City project to Japanese investors. I didn’t even know this story from my own city, of Bond (that ubiquitous presence in the news bulletins of my childhood in the late eighties) buying up hectares of land and creating the Yanchep suburb sixty kilometres north of Perth. Back then, WA feared being taken over by the Japanese (if not the Communists); both fears have passed away now, only to be replaced.
The gossip page is instructive, the names now a little faded – the release of ‘aging film star’ Joan Collins’ embarrassingly naked memories; a revisiting of Frank Sinatra’s visit to Australia a few years’ previously when he got on the wrong side of union boss Bob Hawke; actor Hayley Mills’ divorce (was she in Parent Trap or something? I think my mum used to talk about her) and also that of Sylvester Stallone, the one celebrity on the page who has kept his place. In another thirty years?
And then there’s an interview by distinguished British novelist V.S. Pritchett of his colleague Graham Greene, both of them reflecting on life in their seventies. I get so sad about people getting old and dying. Greene was just publishing his twentieth novel, one of his best to my eyes, The Human Factor. He published at least one more novel before dying thirteen years later in 1991. Pritchett was to live on another nineteen years, to the glorious age of ninety-seven, well into the period of my own consciousness. But I was an ignorant sixteen year old. I don’t remember him dying. He didn’t publish any books in those nearly two decades, though.
And as of this year, of course, The Bulletin, that given fact of Australian media, is no longer published.