The 1948 Show

Table of Contents


Both Moya and I were born in 1948. To mark the occasion we decided to do something a bit wild. So we got married. Well we did the important part of marriage, the ritual before our friends and family, not the legal bit.

We also decided to go a bit personal and do a show about our birth year. So off I went researching through every edition of the Sydney Morning Herald of that year. I also did my usual digging through the many books I have, as well as websites, sheet music, YouTube etc.

The result was The 1948 Show, a reference to the brilliant At Last the 1948 Show, a ground-breaking BBC TV comedy from the late ‘60s, which both Moya and I loved. Our show, a combination of history, song and personal anecdotes, was performed on September 7, 2018.

We got married the next day. Only we would be crazy enough to work right up to the day before our wedding.

I was born on September 17, 1948 in Sydney, (Earlwood to be precise), and Moya on July 7, 1948 in London (Twickenham). So throughout the show, we often compared the events of our two countries of birth.


Back in the dark ages, before social media, there were no mobile phones, no personal computers, no iPhone. A tablet was something you took for a hangover, apple was a fruit, and Amazon was a river somewhere in South America. Avocados were not smashed, pork was not pulled, and cookies were American biscuits. Friends were people whose faces you knew, a troll was a small Scandinavian creature, a web was something a spider wove, and twitter was a sound made by birds. Deep in those faraway times, there was a year in which a baby John and a baby Moya came into the world. The year? 1948.

Back seventy years ago we see
The war a fading memory
The greenest leaves on every tree
To cultivate
Us babies boomed into the place
At such a fast and frenzied pace
With optimism on our faces
Couldn’t wait

The music had a little swing
With a country bumpkin kind of thing
A bit of Nat King Cole and Bing
Would resonate
And Jackson Pollock didn’t care
That paint was splashing everywhere
And Judy Garland, Fred Astaire
Well they were great

The 1948 Show
The 1948 Show
The year of ‘48

The ration cards were wearing thin
The modern world was moving in
New era waiting to begin
Don’t hesitate
Bring in the new world, leave the old
But fear a war that’s in the cold
The story waiting to be told
We now relate

The 1948 Show
The 1948 Show
The year of ’48.


The year started with a bang in Sydney with a violent electric storm, and a clang in London, with the bells of St Paul’s tolling for the first time in 20 years.

The Australian Prime Minister was Labor’s Ben Chifley, and in Britain it was Labour’s Clement Atlee, a fairly uncharismatic leader who Winston Churchill referred to as ‘a sheep in sheep’s clothing’.

But Clement had his moments, because under his watch, the National Health Scheme (NHS) was introduced in Britain. In a similar vein, we in Australia were given the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The average Australian salary was £349 per annum, and in Britain £300.

A loaf of bread cost sixpence halfpenny in Earlwood, and fivepence in Twickenham. Wartime rationing was still in place in both countries, and would last two more years in Australia, five more in the UK.

That year, Britain gave the world the Land Rover, and in Australia, we manufactured our very own Holden.

Holdin’ you in my Holden
Life is simply divine
I’ll be holdin’ you my whole life through
Till you’re mine all mine
Oh yeah
Thanks assembly line.

In November ’48, at the GMH plant at Fishermen’s Bend in Melbourne, as a pianist played a waltz by Brahms, silver lamé curtains parted to reveal, spot-lit on a revolving stage, the brand new FX Holden.

Prime Minister Chifley was there, and his first words when he saw it were  ‘She’s a beauty’!

The Holden’s design was a reflection of Australia at that time, in that our allegiances were somewhere between Britain and America, and the Holden had some of the sedateness of the former, and the flashiness of the latter. But the mixture made it unique.

Although car ownership was still an expensive aspiration achieved by few, that was changing as the number of new car registrations had trebled in the previous year. Within a decade, in Britain, as in Australia, the family car would become the powerful symbol of the future. Dad in the driver’s seat, Mum next to him, and kids and dog in the back.

Moya’s first family car was a Standard 8. And ours? A Holden FJ, of course.

Holdin’ you my Holden.

And you’ll be pleased to know that Holdin’ You In My Holden is an actual jingle that I dug out of the National Library’s sheet music collection.


I’m looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before
One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain
Third is the roses that grow in the lane
No need explaining, the one remaining
Is somebody I adore
I’m looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before.

This little piece of melodic optimism was an old song from the community singing days of the roaring ‘20s. In 1948, it was updated with a big band flavour, and became a hit all over again. Its cheery lyrics fitted well with our Prime Minister’s New Year message, which gave us every reason to believe that there was plenty to look forward to- unemployment was at 1%, and production had reached new peaks. There was every reason to never overlook a four leaf clover.

But it wasn’t all rosy. Churchill had coined the phrase ‘Iron Curtain’ two years earlier, and by the end of 1948, that curtain, with Stalin as its operator, had claimed pretty well every country in Eastern Europe.

One leaf is sunshine
The second is rain.

That year the US instigated the Marshall Plan, the brainchild of George C. Marshall, General of the US Army, which gave vast amounts of economic aid to Western Europe. The loftier aims of the plan were to do with rebuilding war-torn countries and increasing prosperity, but the motivation at its heart was stopping Communism.

Third is the roses
That grow in the lane.

In response, the Soviets imposed the Berlin Blockade, forcing the Allies to fly in supplies to the Western zones of the German capital, sometimes as often as every four minutes, to keep the population fed.

But, on the bright side, our mums and dads kept pumping out us baby boomers. And this fine line between optimism and fear, in a way, defines the psyche of our generation- economic prosperity on one hand, fear of nuclear annihilation on the other.

I’m looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before.


Meanwhile in America, it was election year, and all the polls predicted that incumbent President Truman would lose. But they were wrong. Fake news! Truman won.

He did face a challenge from the left though, in the form of former Vice President Henry Wallace, who launched a new progressive party. A regular performer at Wallace’s rallies was left wing singer Paul Robeson.

Ol’ man river, dat ol’ man river
He must know something, he don’t say nothin’
Dat ol’ man river, he just keep rollin’ along.

In the recording industry, there was a landmark development, when Columbia Records introduced the long playing record, the LP. 78rpm singles remained popular though, and one of Columbia’s biggest selling records of the year was this, recorded by bandleader Kay Kyser, written by Frank Loesser.

I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China
All to myself alone
To get you and keep you in my arms evermore
Leave all your lovers weeping on a far-away shore
Out on the briny with that moon big and shiny
Melting your heart of stone
Well, I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China
All to myself alone.

The phrase ‘slow boat to China’ comes from the gambling world. It describes the situation of a punter whose losses are large and often- like Moya’s father.

Our fathers were very different people. Mine was a devout Catholic, and I was named after a saint. Moya’s was a devout gambler, and she was named after a racehorse, Gentle Moya. He, along with his father, persuaded the whole street to place a bet on it.

Moya’s grandad had his ashes scattered on Epsom Race Course because he reckoned that, as they had everything else of him, they might as well have his remains too. And Gentle Moya? She came in last.

My father, inveterate traveller that he was, may well have taken a boat to China, but not in 1948, with Communist China about to emerge victorious from a civil war. I asked Moya who her dad would have put his money on? Chiang Kai-shek or Mao Tse Tung? She replied ‘the loser’.

Well, I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China
All to myself alone.


The British Empire once represented 25% of the globe, but, after WWII, a bankrupt Britain found itself overstretched, and the Empire started to diminish. India had already become independent, Communist-led guerilla warfare broke out in Malaya, British troops were moving out of Egypt and Palestine, and it was independence for Ceylon and Burma.

Britain looked to its remaining colonies to reduce labour shortages, in areas such as nursing and the railways, to help it rebuild after the devastation of World War II. So, in 1948, the first big wave of West Indians arrived in Britain aboard an ex-troopship called the Empire Windrush.

London is the place for me
London this lovely city
You can go to France or America
India, Asia or Australia
But London is the place for me

Well believe me I am speaking broadmindedly
I am glad to know my Mother Country
I been travelling to countries years ago
But this is the place I wanted to know
London that’s the place for me.

These immigrants, known as ‘The Windrush Generation’, brought with them the sounds of Jamaican music- like this 1948 song, written and sung by one of the newcomers, a man who called himself Lord Kitchener.

To live in London you’re really comfortable
Because the English people are very much sociable
They take you here and they take you there
And they make you feel like a millionaire
London that’s the place for me

Yes, I cannot complain about the time I have spent
I mean my life in London is really magnificent
I have every comfort and every sport
And my residence is at Hampton Court
So London, that’s the place for me.

In 2018, in the UK, there was some controversy over whether the Windrush generation should be declared non-citizens because they could not produce paperwork that proved they had the right to live in the country. The furore led to the resignation of Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.

Well, all I can say is that, thanks to Jamaican immigration, the world of popular music is richer- where would it be without calypso and reggae?

Yes, London is the place for me.


Far away places with strange sounding names
Far away over the sea
Those far away places with the strange sounding names
Are calling, calling me.

In 1948, as this Bing Crosby song zoomed up the charts, far away places like Australia were dream destinations for many displaced persons from war-ravaged Europe. Despite hearing stories of poisonous snakes and spiders, man-eating sharks, ants destroying homes, and mosquitoes stinging people to death, 70,000 of them reached our shores that year, 50,000 of whom were from the mother country, some at the bargain price of £10.

I went down, down to the Strand
Went down to the Strand I did
‘We’ll send you down
To Aussie Land
For a mere ten quid’
And it was said with aplomb
Now I’m a ten pound Pom.

But many came from Central Europe. From countries like Poland:

Do vizenia do zo ba chaynia

From Yugoslavia, with officials checking for Communist supporters of the Tito government

Sto me me milo, milo i drago
Vo stuga grada mamo dukijan da imam

And from Italy

Mamma mia dammi cento lire che in Australia voglio andar.

In one newspaper report, the Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, announced that converted army hut accommodation would be made available for 6,000 migrants. Each would be charged £2/12/6 a week for board and lodging, part of a plan to accelerate production of building materials and house fittings, in order to meet the needs of the housing program.

Far away places with strange sounding names
Are calling, calling me.


Speaking of housing- in 1948, a nice little brick bungalow in St Kilda would set you back £3,500, while a semi-detached two up/two down in Greater London would cost £1,651.

But there was a housing shortage in both countries – each for a different reason.

For Londoners it was the wartime bombing, and Moya clearly remembers playing on bomb sites as a kid with never a thought as to what they represented.

Sydney’s chronic housing shortage was because of a lack of labour and materials. We were lucky because my grandfather was a builder, and he built our house in 1948, so I went straight from hospital to the family home in the then outer suburb of Earlwood, seven miles from the centre of Sydney.

I was delighted to find a song about the post-war housing shortage in the National Library’s sheet music collection, which I’ve adapted a little.

Our Prime Minister Chifley
We trust he’ll get the letter that we sent
We just asked him if we
Will ever find a house to rent

Because there isn’t any room for us in town
The landlord’s always turning us down
To help to keep Australia free we did our share
We can’t get a house and no one seems to care
There isn’t any room for us in town
So we’ll have to take the old bush track
And tramp, tramp, tramp to the back blocks
And build ourselves a wattle bark shack.


If you move the numbers of 1948 around you get 1984. And that’s exactly what writer, George Orwell, did to create the setting of his landmark dystopian novel of that name. 1984 wasn’t published till the following year, but Orwell finished writing in November 1948.

Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St Clement’s
You owe me five farthings
Say the bells of St Martin’s
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich
Say the bells ofShoreditch.

I re-read the book recently and I was pleased to be reminded that it actually has songs in it- like this nursery rhyme, that harks back to a mostly-forgotten time.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney
I do not know
Says the great bell of Bow.

In another part of the book, the Washerwoman sings beneath the window where the main characters, Winston and Julia, are conducting their secret love affair.

They say that time heals all things
They say you can always forget
But the smiles an’ the tears across the years
They twist my ‘eart-strings yet.

This is an extract from another part of the book.

And then another quite different voice, a thin, cultivated voice which Winston had the impression of having heard before, struck in;
You are the dead
And by the way, while we are on the subject
Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

At the Chestnut Tree Café, a gathering place for out-of-favour Party members, a song played.

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.

1984 has been an extraordinarily influential book; so much of its language now being part of our language, with terms like Big Brother, Thought Police and Newspeak.

To support the claim that this book was prophetic, an adviser to President Trump, Kellyanne Conway, gave us a perfect example of modern day Newspeak when she justified dodgy reports of the numbers at the Presidential inauguration in 2017. She referred to these as ‘alternative facts’.

To quote Orwell

Regardless of the facts, Big Brother is omnipotent…the Party is infallible.

Straight after Conway’s statement was made, 1984 hit the best-seller list all over again.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.


Another significant book, Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist tome, The Second Sex, was written in 1948, as was The Kinsey Report, which suggested that 50% of American husbands were unfaithful to their wives.

Why can’t you behave?
Oh, why can’t you behave?
After all the things you told me
And the promises that you gave
Oh, why can’t you behave?

There’s a farm I know near my old home town
Where we two can go and try settling down
There I’ll care for you for ever
‘Cause you’re all in the world I crave
But why can’t you behave?

Why Can’t You Behave? comes from Cole Porter’s hit musical of 1948, Kiss Me Kate, which actually had a song in it that mentions The Kinsey Report.

According to the Kinsey Report
Every average man you know
Much prefers his lovey-dovey to court
When the temperature is low
But when the thermometer goes ‘way up
And the weather is sizzling hot
Mister Pants for romance is not
Because it’s too darn hot
It’s too darn hot
It’s too, too, darn hot.

We don’t know if Kinsey’s statistics applied in Australia, but, for the advertising industry at least, wives here may have been too busy cleaning and washing to notice -as this newspaper ad illustrates.

The Hoover vacuum cleaner- it loosens the most deeply embedded dirt, reaches and cleans every nook and cranny. Just 29 pounds 8 shillings.

Then there’s the washing.

Every woman hates washday, until she uses a wonderful new 1948 Miracle clothes washer. Does the wash in half the time and no rubbing required. Say goodbye to those rubber gloves, girls. No more laundry bills with your new wringer and washer- in one handsome unit.

It was the year of the Sunbeam Mixmaster, and the first ever Australian Women’s Weekly Cookery Book, which contained such stunning recipes as Curried Rabbit in Grapefruit Cases- a mouth-watering meal that would make the temperature in the kitchen too darn hot, even if hubby was a good boy.

‘Cause when the thermometer goes ‘way up
And the weather is sizzling hot
Mister Pants for romance is not
Because it’s too, too darn hot
It’s too darn hot
Too darn hot.


In my research adventure for this show, I googled ‘English weather report July 1948’, the month of Moya’s birth. It seems that Londoners were facing a heatwave. It was too darn hot, hitting 93 degrees in Twickenham- except there was a sudden cold spell on July 7. So she was born when it was cold outside.

(I really can’t stay) But baby it’s cold outside
(Got to go ‘way) But baby it’s cold outside
(This evening has been) Been hoping you’d drop in
(So very nice) I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice
(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful please don’t hurry
(My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar
(So really I’d better scurry) Beautiful please don’t worry
(Well maybe just half a drink) Put some records on while I pour

(The neighbours might think) Baby it’s bad out there
(Say what’s in this drink) No cabs to be had out there
(I wish I knew how) Your eyes are like starlight now
(To break this spell) I’ll take your hat your hair looks swell
(I ought to say no no no) Mind if I move in closer
(At least I’m going to say that I tried) What’s the sense of hurting my pride?
(I really can’t stay) Baby don’t hold out
But Baby it’s cold outside.

The writer of this song was Frank Loesser, who also wrote Slow Boat to China, and the songs for Guys and Dolls.

Baby It’s Cold Outside began as a duet that he and his wife sang at Hollywood celebrity parties. No doubt, someone influential was at one of those parties, because, in 1948 MGM snapped up the rights for an upcoming movie, and the rest is history.

Moya was always told she was a blue baby. Now she knows why.

Blue Baby it’s cold outside
Blue Baby it’s cold outside.


Despite the blip on the landscape on July 7, the heatwave continued, and played havoc with the 1948 Olympics. Britain was the only country prepared to host the first Olympics since Berlin 1936. Germany and Japan were not invited.

And now to another part of the world- South Africa.

Sombamba, u partieti
Si sombamba, partieti tina.

This is a song written in more recent times by Valanga Khosa, a black South African musician, now living in Melbourne. It translates as

Let’s take apartheid and throw it into the sea.

With only Whites being allowed to vote, and a massive gerrymander, the National Party won government that year, by promising to bring in Apartheid, an Afrikaans word that means ‘apartness’ – another way of saying ‘government-sanctioned segregation’.

Sombamba, u partieti
Si zombamba, partieti tina.

The same year, Cry My Beloved Country was published, which helped tell the world what was happening in South Africa.

Still, it took from ’48 to ‘91 before Apartheid was finally overthrown.


C’est si bon
De partir n’importe où
Bras dessus, bras dessous
En chantant des chansons.

1948 was a good year for French songs. At the world’s first international jazz festival in Nice, C’est Si Bon was premiered by French singer/actress, Suzy Delair, who is still alive, aged 101.

C’est si bon
De se dire des mots doux
De petits riens du tout
Mais qui en disent long
En voyant notre mine ravie
Les passants dans la rue nous envie

C’est si bon
De guetter dans ses yeu
Un espoir merveilleux
Qui donne le frisson

C’est si bon
Ces petites sensations
Ça vaut mieux qu’un million
Tellement, tellement si bon.

And a 1948 film gave us a song written and sung by one of the most iconic singers of the era – the Little Sparrow herself, Edith Piaf- La Vie En Rose.

Des yeux qui font baisser les miens
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche
Voilà le portrait sans retouches
De l’homme auquel j’appartiens

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose
Il me dit des mots d’amour
Des mots de tous les jours
Et ça me fait quelque chose
Il est entré dans mon cœur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause
C’est lui pour moi, moi pour lui dans la vie
Il me l’a dit, l’a juré pour la vie

Et dès que je l’aperçois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon cœur qui bat.

Her professional team of songwriters discouraged her from performing a self-penned chanson in her concerts, but she ignored them, and it became her signature tune.

Et dès que je l’aperçois
Alors je sens en moi  – la vie en rose.


There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.

In 1947, when Nat King Cole was handed a crumpled manuscript of a song called Nature Boy, he knew he wanted to record it, but couldn’t find the song’s author.

It was soon discovered that it was written by a man from Los Angeles who called himself eden ahbez (without the capitals). He was a pianist who played regularly in a raw food restaurant, a hippie before hippies were invented, and lived like the boy in his song in the open air, under the first ‘L’ of the famous HOLLYWOOD sign.

With ahbez found and permission given, Cole recorded Nature Boy in August 1947. Capitol Records, however, finding the lyrics a bit weird, weren’t keen to release the track.

Then on January 1, 1948, musicians in the USA went on strike, demanding that record companies pay royalties to their union to help support members who could not find work. So Capitol had no choice but to look at recordings that were sitting there unreleased, like Nature Boy.

It topped the hit parades and helped bring Nat King Cole to the attention of music fans as a singer rather than the piano-playing leader of a trio.

When Frank Sinatra recorded Nature Boy that year, the musicians’ strike was in full swing, so he was forced to do a version accompanied by a choir alone, no musicians. The song has gone on to be an all-time classic.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.


And now a message from our sponsors:

Don’t let your hands say housework. Use Softasilk hand beauty cream. Busy hands need gentle care so use smooth fragrant Soft As Silk after every household task. Don’t let your hands say housework. Keep them lovely and loveable for him with Softasilk.

This ad comes straight out of one of the first radio broadcasts of the monumentally successful quiz show, Pick A Box. It ended up on TV, but began as a radio show in 1948, hosted by a brash Texan vaudevillian by the name of Bob Dyer.

Howdy customers howdy, and another Colgate Palmolive get-together with prizes and fun galore for everybody.

In 1948, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting criticised radio announcers like Bob, saying they reflected low standards in good manners, speech, tact, delicacy, and refinement.

You have won a lovely prize. Are you married? Oh dear do you want to get married? Don’t look at me! Want to get married? You’ve got to get married now because you’ve won something that’ll be lovely in the kitchen, an Australian made pressure cooker, equal to the world’s finest.

But at least we had his lovely wife Dolly.

Well Bob, our next contestant is Miss Lorraine Berman, all the way from Strathfield in Sydney, Bob. She’s won over £500 worth of lovely Colgate Palmolive prizes, so here she is Bob, Miss Lorraine Berman.

In 1948 the centre of family entertainment was the wireless. So the Liberal Party used it to present what appeared to be a regular 15 minute radio serial, featuring a fictitious character called John Henry Austral. Actually, from this little excerpt, you can tell it was pretty overt propaganda.

We present John Henry Austral in The Enemy Within. So that’s what it’s come to in this land of ours- your land and mine. A decent Trade Unionist dare not speak his mind through fear of victimisation, for fear of expulsion from his Union, for fear of being shut off from his means of livelihood, for fear of the Communist Fifth Column.

The Liberal Party paid to have countless episodes aired twice a week on 80 commercial radio stations. It’s believed to have contributed to Menzies’ victory at the election the following year, with a strong fear campaign aimed at those Reds under your beds.

They’ll appear everywhere
In your ear, in your hair
In the ground, in the air
It is said

In the cool, in the heat
In the school, on the street
Wherever you retreat
Until you’re dead

In your fridge, in a pie
On the bridge, in the sky
Everywhere you fix your eye
Or turn your head

They will lurk every day
At your work and your play
From June until May
Beneath your bed

Reds under your beds
Reds under your beds.

Ben Chifley’s unsuccessful attempts in 1948 to nationalize the banks, and control rents and prices, were seen as socialism writ large. For John Henry Austral, it was proof that there were indeed

Reds under your beds
Reds under your beds.


We were waltzing that night in Kentucky
Beneath the beautiful harvest moon
And I was the boy that was lucky
But it all ended too soon
As I sit here alone in the moonlight
I see your smiling face
And I long once more for your embrace
In that beautiful Kentucky waltz.

The Kentucky Waltz was written and performed by the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. It was heard on the radio by a group of touring old-time musicians called The Golden West Cowboys, while they were on the way to Memphis, Tennessee. They thought that if Kentucky got a waltz named after it, then why not Tennessee?

The Cowboys had a signature tune that happened to be a waltz, so they wrote some words on the back of a matchbox, released it as a record in 1948, and it and it became an instant country-and-western hit.

I was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee Waltz
When an old friend I happened to see
I introduced her to my loved one
And while they were dancing
My friend stole my sweetheart from me.

Tennessee Waltz has become a country classic and, for some reason, it’s been a favourite in Japan where it was, for many years, the best-selling song of all time.

I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
Now I know just how much I have lost
Yes, I lost my little darling the night they were playing
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz.


1948- Property resumptions are beginning for the first stage of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs railway line.
1979- the Eastern Suburbs Railway line is opened.

1948- Opposition leader Robert Menzies wants a reduction in company tax rates.
2018- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants a reduction in company tax rates.

1948- Argentina won’t recognise British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
1982- Britain goes to war with Argentina and secures sovereignty.

1948- The Treaty of Brussels establishes a European Union consisting of five Western nations, including Great Britain.
2016- Great Britain votes for Brexit.

1948- a line is drawn at the 38th parallel to create North Korea.
1994- President Jimmy Carter meets with a North Korean leader.
2009- President Bill Clinton meets with a North Korean leader.
2018- President Donald Trump meets with a North Korean leader.
And after all that, nothing changes.

1948- The Jewish state of Israel is proclaimed. The Arab-Israeli conflict heightens.
2018- the US relocates its embassy to Jerusalem. The Arab-Israeli conflict continues.

Yavo’ shalom aleinu
Od yavo’ shalom aleinu
Yavo’ shalom aleinu
Ve al kulam.

This is a song that was a big hit in Israel in recent years for a group called Sheva, made up of Arab and Jewish musicians. The song uses the words for peace in both Arabic and Hebrew- ‘shalom’ and ‘salaam’.

Salaam (Shalom)
Aleinu ve al kol ha olam
Salaam, Shalom.

70 years on, and the two sides are still no closer to resolution- no ‘saalam’ and no ‘shalom’.

Salaam (Shalom)
Aleinu ve al kol ha olam
Salaam, Shalom


The movement of migrants across the Mexican border to the USA has been a contentious issue for years, and still is thanks to Mr Trump and his wall.

But the issue made news way back in 1948 when a DC-3 aircraft crashed at Los Gatos Creek in California, killing all aboard- four crew, and 28 migrant farm workers who were being deported back to Mexico.

American folksinger/songwriter Woody Guthrie heard about the crash on the radio, and he was struck by the fact that the American crew were named, whereas the Mexicans were just referred to as ‘deportees’. So Woody wrote a poem in which he gave them names and stories. The poem was later set to music by an American school teacher, Martin Hoffman.

The crops are all in, the peaches are rotting
The oranges are piled in their creosote dumps
They’re flying you back to the Mexico border
To pay all your money to wade back again

Some of us are illegal, and others not wanted
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on
Six hundred miles to the Mexico border
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers and thieves

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita
Adios mi amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportees

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos canyon
Like a fireball of lightning, it shook all our hills
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says they are just deportees

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except ‘deportees’?

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita
Adios mi amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane
And all they will call you will be deportees.


In 1947, the world of fashion was turned upside down by a young French designer, Christian Dior. Counteracting the boxy shapes and bare legs of wartime rationing, Dior used metres and metres of fabric to create what was known as the New Look.

The next year, the New Look was taken outside Europe for the first time, when 50 Dior originals were paraded before shoppers at David Jones in Sydney. This is how the parade was promoted.

The Dior girl is tall, with sloping shoulders, high bust, tiny waist and curved hips. Boned, busty bodices, whittled waspy waists, gentle shoulders, exaggerated hips, flaring out, creating a curvaceous form. Exclusive to David Jones- the New Look from Christian Dior. Proceeds from the parades will be devoted to Food for Britain.

Back then, while models were hardly size six waifs, they weren’t exactly chunky.

Oh, I don’t want her, you can have her
She’s too fat for me
She’s too fat for me
She’s too fat for me
I don’t want her, you can have her
Please do that for me
She’s too fat, she’s too fat
She’s too fat for me.

Too Fat Polka, a 1948 hit for The Andrews Sisters.

I get dizzy, I get numbo
When I’m dancing
With my Jum-Jum-Jumbo
I don’t want her, you can have her
She’s too fat for me
She’s too fat
She’s too fat
She’s too fat for me.

David Jones’ arch-rival department store, Farmers, just up the road, was offering ways to control those curves.

Come to Farmers’ fourth floor for a comfort-assuring corset that moulds you even as it surgically corrects faults The long brassiere gently curves from bosom to hipline, with never a break to mar that wand-smooth silhouette. Scientifically designed, the clever lacing lifts and firmly strengthens tummy muscles, keeping everything in place while giving you the greatest freedom in movement.

She’s too fat
She’s too fat
She’s too fat for me.


That was civilisation as we knew it in 1948. Many years earlier, the leader of Indian independence from British rule, Mahatma Gandhi, was asked

Mr Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilisation?

His reply?

I think it would be a very good idea.

Sadly, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, one year after the partition that created the new state of Pakistan. He was shot by a fanatical Hindu nationalist who accused him of appeasing Muslims.

Meanwhile, the art world was revolutionised by American artist Jackson Pollock, whose No. 5, 1948 was created on the ground. It was created by dripping paint, which earned him the nickname ‘Jack the Dripper’.

In Australian theatre, Sumner Locke-Eliot’s latest play, Rusty Bugles, was about the frustrations of soldiers who were sent to Darwin in World War II. And guess what? It had swearing in it. The Censorship Board was not happy because ‘fond mothers may not care to see their soldier boys drawn as the author has drawn them’.

So, the playwright was forced to tame down his language so much that one letter to the editor said that the play now sounded like it was set in a Girl Guide camp rather than an Army camp.

It was the year when the film of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock was banned by one of our politicians, who never actually saw the film, but he’d read the book and declared it extremely sordid and depressing.

Not as depressing as the fact that the Oscar for the best original song from a movie went to this song from the movie The Paleface, starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell.

East is East and West is West
And the wrong one I have chose
Let’s go where I keep on wearin’
Those frill s and flowers and buttons and bows
Those rings and thing and buttons and bows

Don’t bury me in this prairie
Take me where the cement grows
Let’s move down to some big town
Where they love a gal by the cut o’ her clothes
And I’ll stand out, in buttons and bows.

No one could understand why this song won when there was such stiff competition at the Oscars that year from songs like the Woody Woodpecker Song.

Ooh ooh ooh eh eh
Ooh ooh ooh eh eh
It’s the Woody Woodpecker song.

Buttons and Bows was in the charts for 24 weeks, reaching number one on September 17, 1948, the very day I entered the world. What a welcome!

You’ll love me in buckskin
Or skirts that I’ve homespun
But you’ll love me, longer, stronger
Where my friends don’t tote a gun

Gimme eastern trimmin’ where women are women
In high silk hose and peek-a-boo clothes
And French perfume that rocks the room
And I’m all yours in buttons and bows
Buttons and bows, buttons and bows.

OTHER 48ers

We share our birth year with a whole host of singers, musicians and songwriters who went on to create some of the great music of our time, and to influence us enormously- like James Vernon Taylor, born in Boston on March 12, 1948.

Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone
Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can’t remember who to send it to

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely days when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again.

Glenn Lewis Frey of The Eagles, born in Phoenix Arizona, November 6, 1948.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it here.

Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, born UK Midlands, August 20, 1948.

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

Born Steven Demetre Georgiou, in London, July 21, 1948- the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not

How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go.

And last, but not least, Olivia Newton John, born Cambridge UK, on September 25, 1948.

Guess mine is not the first heart broken
My eyes are not the first to cry
I’m not the first to know there’s
Just no getting over you

You know I’m just a fool who’s willing
To sit around and wait for you
But baby can’t you see there’s nothing else for me to do
I’m hopelessly devoted to you

But now there’s nowhere to hide
Since you pushed my love aside
I’m outta my head – hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you.


What better way to end than with a goodbye song that was one of the big sellers of the year?

Now is the hour when we must say goodbye
Soon you’ll be sailing far across the sea
While you’re away, oh please remember me
When you return, you’ll find me waiting here.

Now Is the Hour has a history that precedes 1948, beginning as The Swiss Cradle Song, an instrumental piano piece which sold 130,000 copies of sheet music in Australia and New Zealand.

The Maori people took that piano tune, made a few musical adjustments, gave it some Maori lyrics, and used it as a song to farewell soldiers as they headed off to fight in the First World War.

Pō atarau e moea iho nei
E haere ana koe ki pāmamao
Haere rā ka hoki mai anō
Ki i te tau e tangi atu nei.

Many years later, when English singer Gracie Fields was touring New Zealand, she heard the song sung by her driver, took it back to England, English lyrics were written, she recorded it, and it became a worldwide hit in 1948.

Now is the hour when we must say goodbye
Soon you’ll be sailing far across the sea
While you’re away, oh please remember me
When you return, you’ll find me waiting here.


While we were rehearsing The 1948 Show, I told my sister, Claire, who’s a pianist, about the content of the show, and when I mentioned Kiss Me Kate, she alerted me to another song from the show, So In Love. She reckoned it would suit Moya’s voice.

I’d heard Ella Fitzgerald’s version many years earlier, but had forgotten how it went. Claire sat down at the piano and played it, and as it flooded back into my musical memory, I agreed with her.

Strange dear, but true dear
When I’m close to you, dear
The stars fill the sky
So in love with you am I
Even without you
My arms fold about you
You know darling why
So in love with you am I

In love with the night mysterious
The night when you first were there
In love with my joy delirious
When I knew that you could care

So taunt me, and hurt me
Deceive me, desert me
I’m yours, till I die
So in love
So in love
So in love with you, my love, am I.


Songs, YouTubes, Credits
The 1948 Show song written by John Shortis
Holdin’ You In My Holden written by Don Bennett
(I’m Looking Over) A Four Leaf Clover- 1948 version written by Mort Dixon and Harry M. Woods
Ol’ Man River written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II
On A Slow Boat To China written by Frank Loesser
London Is the Place For Me written by Lord Kitchener (Aldwin Roberts)
Far Away Places written by Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer
Ten Pound Pom written by John Shortis
Do Vizenia, traditional Polish
Sto Me E Milo, traditional Macedonian
Mamma Mia Dammi Cento Lire, traditional Italian
We Can’t Get a House written by Matilda G Leak
Oranges and Lemons, traditional English
They Say That Time Heals All Things, traditional
Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree, traditional English
Why Can’t You Behave? written by Cole Porter
Too Darn Hot written by Cole Porter
Baby It’s Cold Outside written by Frank Loesser
Sombamba written by Valanga Khoza
C’est Si Bon  written by Henri Betti with the lyrics by André Hornez
La Vie En Rose written by Edith Piaf, Louiguy, Marguerite Monnot
Nature Boy written by eden ahbez
Excerpts from Pick a Box and Ask Me Another– Australian Radio Quiz Shows (CD), National Film and Sound Archives
Excerpts from John Henry Austral from Liberal Party of Australia
Reds Under Your Beds by John Shortis
Kentucky Waltz written by Bill Monroe
Tennessee Waltz written by Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King
Salaam Shalom written by Mosh Ben-Ari
Deportees words by Woody Guthrie, music by Martin Hoffman
Too Fat Polka written by Ross MacLean and Arthur Richardson
Buttons and Bows written by Jay Livingston and lyrics by Ray Evans
The Woody Woodpecker Song written by George F Tibbles and Ramey Idriss
Fire and Rain written by James Taylor
Hotel California written by Glenn Frey, Don Felder  and Don Henle,
Stairway to Heaven written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page
Father and Son written by Cat Stevens
Hopelessly Devoted To You  written by John Farrar
Now Is the Hour written by Clement Scott
Po Atarau written by Clement Scott and Maewa Kaihau
Swiss Cradle Song (sheet music) written by Clement Scott
So In Love written by Cole Porter.

Books and newspapers
1948 by David Pietrusza
Australian Chart Book 1940-1969, compiled by David Kent
Car Wars by Graeme Davison
1984 by George Orwell
SMH 30 April 2018 Amber Rudd resigns as Britain’s Home Secretary after migration scandal.

Post-War House, Culture Victoria
Liberal Party ads from the 1940s by Jennifer Rayner (ANU- The Conversation)
The-Great-Australian Plays-speaking-orstyrlian-in-Rusty-Bugles by Julian Meyrick
The Kinsey report by Martin Gumpert.

Performed Sept 7 2018
Essay written August 2020