Whenever I come across a used autograph book, diary or journal going cheap, I usually buy it. This Collins Architects and Builders Diary of 1961 appears to have belonged to a delivery van driver, whose run took in the NSW towns of Auburn, Blacktown, Blackheath, Blaxland, Camellia, Concord, Chullora, Faulconbridge, Homebush, Katoomba, Mascot, Medlow Bath, Penrith, Pyrmont, Revesby, Rosehill, Rozelle, St Marys, Sidcombe, Springwood, Sydney, Villawood, and Woodford. On some days he’d drive delivery van FYT 084 and on others FYM 479.
About a week after sending me his first letter, Ray Johnson sent me a postcard of the Grand Canyon trimmed in the shape of a grand piano.
In 1993, while working on my book Mail Art: The Do-It-Yourself Letterbox From Workshop To Gatepost, I wrote to legendary U.S. artist Ray Johnson, the ‘father’ of mail art, seeking his views about homemade letterboxes. This is his reply, written in watercolour paint:
Dominic Winter Book Auctions, Lot 271: Doyle (Sir Arthur Conan, 1859-1930). Trimmings from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s moustache preserved by his second wife Lady Jean Conan Doyle, c. 1930, the small cluster of hairs centrally window-mounted beneath a facsimile of the handwritten envelope (‘My beloved moustache hairs’) from which the hairs were taken, printed caption beneath and b & w photo. portrait of pipe-smoking Doyle and Sherlock Holmes on either side, together with a similar display of three pieces of silver card confetti (horse shoe, heart and shoe) from the second wedding of Conan Doyle to Jean Blyth Leckie on the 18th September 1907, neatly window mounted with b & w portraits of both parties, a facsimile of the handwritten envelope from which the confetti came and a printed caption beneath, both framed and glazed, approx. 30 x 50 cm (2) £100-150
Selection of 1960s neck ties from my collection.
There are lots of great Karal Ann Marling stories. All of them true. One of my favourites happened when Karal Ann was Chairman of the Art History Department, which at the time was housed in an old science building, so nearly every room had a sink. Mary, the department’s beloved slide librarian, had complained about a foul smell in one of the rooms. Karal Ann suspected it was due to a certain male member of staff urinating in that room’s sink after a late-night class. At a staff meeting she confronted the poor chap and threatened to ‘cut off his pecker’. Miraculously the offending smell vanished soon afterwards. [Photograph: Robert Tinytwig.]
After leaving University in the early 1980s, I worked for a short time as a storeman and packer at David Wang’s warehouse in Melbourne. David Wang imported cane ware from China. The warehouse had an international workforce. Roger Yap, a Filipino in his early 30s, was the foreman. Nevertheless, he loved toilet humour (as many of us who worked there also did) and playing practical jokes. For example, out of the blue, he would rush up to Tony Amhad, a Lebanese worker, and fart on him. Then, in a fit of laughter, he would loudly declare that Tony had ‘felt the pressure’. Despite how this may sound, Roger wasn’t putting Tony down (in fact, they were the best of mates). His antics simply helped to ease the boredom of filling countless orders for, say, kitsch cane chickens. Bizarre! Con Berkan, a wiry little Dutchman in his 60s, would single-handedly drag big heavy boxes across the warehouse floor. Because of this, we used to call him ‘the human ant’. However, Con didn’t have Roger’s sense of humour – in fact, quite the opposite. One day Roger was searching for something (probably a cane chicken) in the bottom of a box, and making a terrible mess. Straw was flying everywhere. This greatly amused him, and he began saying in his heavy Filipino accent, ‘I’m a messy cunt, I’m a messy cunt,’ over and over. Con and I were watching this from the sidelines. But Con wasn’t amused by Roger’s antics. He turned to me and said in his heavy Dutch accent in a disgusted tone, ‘If he’s a Mexican, then I’m a Turk.’