1936 • Flint and steel

So Paul, privileged but restless with his privilege, a Melbourne boy till now, … learns of certain beaches up the coast, some of which you can’t get to except by boat. …The older three Paul stands with, finishing their beer and argument, fall silent. They’ve not decided if they’re letting this recruit into their scheme or not. They watch him, allowing Paul to run on with his hot ideas, such a fierce young man—in rims of tortoise-shell and an educated voice, not on first impression your most likely beachcomber …  [RED, page 40]

36 launch straighter

[Photograph by Paul Moline, c. 1945]

The Flint and Steel “commune” was not unusual during the Depression years of the 1930s. Rupert Lockwood recalls that the homeless in the Illawarra shanty towns (overpopulated after the BHP boom at Port Kembla) “carried scrap timber and iron from closed mines down the mountainside to Era, Gary [Garie], Burning Palms, Bulga and other beaches north of Port Kembla, there to tough out the hard times by fishing, rabbiting, mushrooming and collecting enough dole for basics.” (Rupert Lockwood, War on the Waterfront, Hale and Iremonger, 1987, p. 130)

He must learn everything they know but they won’t willingly reveal, not quite, not yet, not till he’s passed a line that’s hard to draw across the sea. He’s not pretending to be someone else. Nothing’s more sincere than Paul’s imitative sternness in their presence. He’s contented here, more fitted in his skin, more ready to be one-of-us with them, matching his need to theirs and—who can say?—live with them secretly for years, nothing being more welcome than their slow unfurling of respect. [RED, pages 45–6]