"J. received an S.o.S call from P.O.W. comrades who had settled down in Australia. Australian artists invited him at the same time, to come to South Australia and offered to pay his fare. Trusting the Anarcho-Spartacists in Western Germany were able to get on by themselves, he made first for Sydney from where he had received the call. They were Jugoslavs and few in numbers. Jugoslav fascists and Tito-communists had strong groups in feud with each other. The anarcho-spartacists found themselves dangerously attacks from two armed sides, the police turning a blind eye on the bloodshed.
J. arranged for them to move to a distant country place, where two young Australian were digging for opals and in charge of a vast stretch of uncultivated land, provided by the government free. Here they could arm themselves and train, until they had a team together. He then went to Adelaide where the artists had a group.
John Olday, Artist and Cartoonist in Australia, 1957.
Photo coutesy of Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs
He had taken a job as attendant at the National Art Gallery of S.A., next door to the University; inspired students to form an art group. The Head of the University prohibited the Arts group exhibiting, which mobilised the progressive lecturers to encourage the students to defy him, which in turn attracted public attention and resulted in a record breaking number of visitors.
With the enthusiastic support of students and a rebel Professor (van Abbe, President of the Australian Branch of United Nations, Head of the University's German Language Department) and the Adult Education, the President of which was a veteran of the British Working Man's Club movement started by Kropotkin, J. started giving lectures and broadcasting interviews, attacking Art racketeers, Art snobs, censorship, state education, state sponsorship of the arts, exploitation of the artist by means of taxation, and organised the artists in boycott against the commercialised Galleries. The 'Rainbow Group' exhibited works of Arts not acceptable to Galleries, on account of their 'indecent', 'blasphemic' or radical political character. J. himself refused to sell at all, but offered his works as a gift to National Galleries on his terms (never to be sold nor to be lent to State officials, but to be kept assessable to anybody at any time.) (All State Galleries accepted, bar Sydney and Melbourne). He declined to take part in State sponsored Art competitions, and had the satisfaction to hear that the S.A. Government, impressed by the friendly backing the press gave to the protest movement of rebel artists, introduced concessions in the taxation of art materials. After aiding Greek New Australians to produce a play, displeasing to the orthodox authoritarian Rulers of the Community; writing and producing incidental music to a play of Irish (The Wake) and next scoring a success with his one-man cabaret 'Roses and Gallows' he left Adelaide, as the Press put it 'in a blaze of glory.'
With one of his Adelaide exhibitions on the horror of nuclear war, visited by Japanese sailors, he established his first links with Japan. Through members of the Chinese community, and the aid he had given to Malaysian Students, a new network was beginning to shape to Asia. Radio A.B.C. recitals, a prolonged stay in the wine producing district of the Barossa Valley, won him the support of many German-speaking Australians, whose forbears had been Anarchists and Socialists who had to flee from the persecution under Bismark 'Socialist law.'
In Melbourne he had his first L.P. disk 'Roses and Gallows' released. He joint the Melbourne University Repertoir Company. His ballads and the stage production caused a scandal that, in turn produced protests of stage hands and actors, when the director took the show off. J. opened his own studio in an old stable, which, although boycotted by press and put out of bounds by reactionary University bosses, - became Melbourne's hot bed for radicals. J. translated Schweizers' manifesto on radioactive damage caused by atom tests outfall, which was withheld from the Australian public; and also published a manifesto on the corruption of science within the framework of research, controlled by the mititars [military?], which was published in the press, circulated in Asia. It was warmly welcomed by Australian atom expert Prof. Oliphant and others. Former Japanese minister Iwasaki, setting up the reestablished Japanese Consulates in Australia, engaged J. as teacher for his children in token for his respect.
Conducting exhibitions, lecturers, studio recordings, working at a hospital to make a living, acting as guest actor for the German theatre, broadcasting in between, he also joint the editorial staff of the German language paper 'Anker'.
Meanwhile his association with members of the German community brought about the discovery of a secret feme [?] set-up by Nazis, having found shelter in the folds of German families. His carefully conducted investigations got him not fare, but showed him, that he did upset a wasp nest. Within a few days his studio was set on fire, at night, from which he escaped by hairs breath, unharmed. The police asked, did he have any enemies. He answered truthfully: non he could lay his hands on.'
Together with Robin Ramsay, disowned son of the millionaire owner of Kiwi shoe polish factory, who had made in the 2nd World War a fortune on arms manufacturing, he staged in Sydney a mime show (The Immortal Clown) intention being to attract New Australians from different countries. His Jugoslav friends joined him. Together they found out that the nationalists had secret terrorist training centers, with x-nazis as instructors. That there existed a group of Australians, also linked to x-nazis, specialising in torture-practices. Another group of Bulgarian x collaborators of Hitler All gathered informations pointed at some mysterious sources abroad, presumably an agency, in fascist Spain, with potent connections to pro-fascist South American countries. German Nazi literature in English translation, German Nazi music disks, swastika flags, S.S. Daggers and uniforms, all this offered food for thought, but no conclusive evidence to act upon.
The anarchist movement consisted of one oldtimer who at demonstrations 'kept the flag flying' a bunch of students publishing new' indigestible intellectual esoterics and two old Spanish Anarchists sulking in self-imposed isolation.
About this time, J. got wind about a group of German tourists, on their way to Canberra and expected to arrive in Sydney shortly. He recognised the man, posing as harmless leader of the tourists, as identical with the president of the Nazi steel bosses union and bringing along with him - incognito - a representative of the German Reichsbank, a Bonn Public Relations officer and some other indistinguishable persons. Putting pieces of incidental information together, he found they had visited a steel factory built by Krupp in Red China. From his Japanese friends he learned confidentially that Australia wanted steel for a new fleet. The Japanese had made an offer undercutting the price of Krupp steel.
When J. as reporter, interviewing tourist No 1, and asked how he had liked the steel factory in China, and addressing him by his real name, asked him how on earth he had managed to rise to his present position after the Russians had robbed him of all of his former riches - Herr B1. flew into a teutonic rage, gave all the wrong answers; Bonn man and Reich's bankman kame to his rescue and were provoked by J.'s shots at themselves, to offer damaging revelations, before J. was kicked out of the hotel. When he brought his report to the owner and editor of the 'Anker' it came to light that he himself, a former Nazi, captured by the Russians and like other high ranking captives turned collaborator, had already been blackmailed, by a phone call, not to publish a word, if he didn't want his paper suppressed, or worst. The editor was in tears, J. fumed.
A few weeks later the Australian press informed the citizens that the Germans would create a magnificent steel industry on Australian soil, which would benefit Australian workers.
J. had his own back by bringing into the open a minute report on a secret meeting, held by B1. and the steel experts at a hotel in Sydney. B. and his Nazi friends never forgave him, as he was to find out some time later.
He was living on board a 90 ton house boat (seven rooms, bath, power generator). She was anchored with 8 chains, the steel links of which were as thick as wrists. Periodically stormy seasons bring typhoons. On one occasion a tornado caused great damage, lifting yachts clean out of the water breaking their moorings. The house boat was jerked up too but held down safely by the chains, which goes to show how strong they were. Imagine the surprise when one fine calm day the boat went adrift to everbody's amazement. It so happened that the Navy was manoeuvring nearby and came to the rescue. Their underwater divers inspected the anchor chains and reported that the links had been obviously tampered with and the marks bore no resemblance to marks of shark teeth. J.'s protection from then on was Wolf a German shepherd, whose coat reminded of brownshirts but whose teeth gleamed sharper than those of sharks.
Lectures and recitals on board were regularly attended by navy men, artists fishermen, waterboard workers, actors, new Australians, indochinese and germane. Occasionally by surprise visits of the police, on account of complaints and denunciations; but they were too impressed by names and remarks in the guest book and press photos showing J. in friendly conversation with V.I.P.s and they took no action.
The boat at Fishers Bay being to far away and difficult to get to, J's son rented a house in Sydney with rooms they converted into exhibition and meeting space. The basement was turned into a comfortable theatre with 80 seats. After a promising start, the City Council refused a licence and a new suitable place was found at the harbour, soon known as "Cafe" la Boheme and "Genius Corner," a Cabaret. The Cafe charged excessive prices for society groups and tourists - if they were at all admitted - this money paid the bills for underprivileged students and artists. Sailors from East and West countries were regular guests.
Dope pushers tried to get a foothold but were repelled. The guarding place of Wolf the shepherd dog was taken by J.'s friends New Australians and sailors. After one year, just when things were on the upswing, J. and his son when asked by two last guests for shelter in the early morning hours and J. consented, they found themselves suddenly attacked. J.'s son was knifed, J. himself stunned and half blinded under vicious blows at his eyes. He nevertheless almost strangled his attacker and then went for the other. Both managed to make their getaway.
Caught later by police, J. and son were warned that they would have to hold themselves in readiness to appear at the trial as witness. They decided not to aid the prosecution, sold the cafe in a hurry and left Australia "
Part 1 : John Olday in Europe