Two weeks ago would have been the 102nd birthday of our late friend Ronald (Ron) Hamilton Bates. We got to know him during the sixties when he gave speech lessons to our daughter Gaby while she was in the Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, Little Bay. after contracting poliomyelitis.
Ron became a dear friend of our family and stayed many a weekend with us. We even got to know his mother and his sister Jean, a well-known piano player, in Sydney.
Why I’m writing about him. Well, today I looked at some photos from 1986 when he and his sister came to the airport in Sydney to see us off for one off our trips to Germany.
He gave us a self-made bon-voyage card and six post-card-sized drawings. I think they are all worth showing to the world.
The next drawing shows a minimalistic landscape. It shows how with a few strokes he was able to create a landscape in which the observer finds a lot to interpret.
The next drawing shows a jumble of items and I have the feeling he wanted to show the creation and life on Earth, culminating in the Dollar. It is not very optimistic but then, he was not very optimistic about mankind. But he understood people well and had a good attitude towards them.
If people were the pinnacle of creation he shows us on his next drawing that he had his doubts. There is a pair of lovers, but they are outweighed by others arguing.
In the next picture, we see an elderly woman contemplating the world. She is not in the centre but at periphery looking at a white canvas, so to speak. She tries to understand but can’t see head or tail.
In the next picture, I think, Ron gives us his own interpretation what he thought of the Dollar: he waves it ‘Good Bye’. I don’t think the person in the drawing wants to grab the Dollar, even so it is hovering like a Fata Morgana in the distance.
The last drawing is similar to the first one. It shows the cottage again, but this time surrounded by some trees. Perhaps he meant it for us to come back to, after our trip.
Ron became a good friend over the years. Growing up after WW 1 and during the great Depression he missed out on a good education, as so many of his generation did. We had many discussions on a wide range of subjects with him. Australia needed people like him but could not care less. Australia was the real loser.
The next generation of intellectuals left Australia in droves for the home country, Mother England. During the Menzies years, Australia became a white canvas for people to stare at or seek other outlets for their imagination.