A Middle Class Man: An Autobiography

Author: Alistair Knox Unpublished

Chapter 1: I am born
Apart from the sounds and tensions normally associated with childbirth in A.D. 1912, my entry into the world on Easter Monday - 8 April of that year - was without any remarkable incident. The street in which I was destined to live for

Chapter 2. At war and at home
I can recall very little of the events that followed the outbreak of the Great War - Germany, Austria, and Turkey battling Britain, France, Russia, and their allies - except that Edie and her friend Isabel taught me to sing 'It's a Long

Chapter 3: Middle Park
When I turned three the time had come for me to start attending church, which our whole family did, morning and evening, every Sunday. I only went once a week at first. The church we attended had been co-founded by my grandfather,

Chapter 4: The Meeting
The Anzac participation in the Dardanelles campaign continued for seven bitter months. With their usual ponderous strategic attitude, the western Allies' intention to take the land on the sides of the narrow entrance to the Black Sea

Chapter 5: Childhood
It was during 1916 that I first recall the Extraordinary; it was a news sheet born out of due season by a specific war-happening - perhaps the drowning of Lord Kitchener, or some special action on the Western Front. The first

Chapter 6: My father
My father's job did not follow the normal pattern for those days, when most breadwinners' hours were very regular and uneventful. He never seemed to leave for the city until after nine in the morning, when he would saunter down to the

Chapter 7: The big school
The postwar world produced a new sense of freedom which developed into a real fact of life by 1920. The war was over; the men had returned home and were trying to make some sense out of the promises the nation had made to the navy, army

Chapter 8: Scotch College
Middle Park Central School No. 2815 was a Higher Elementary establishment which included the seventh and eighth grades, the first two years of the high-school syllabus. It had an excellent record both scholastically and in sport -

Chapter 9: Tired of school
The new society which evolved after the First World War affected the national lifestyle and precipitated a decline in moral standards. The promises of a new world failed to fructify in many instances because every participating

Chapter 10: The bank
When I left Scotch College in December 1927, Bradman was our national hero. He shared the honor with Phar Lap and with Bert Hinkler, the pioneer airman. The following year saw the Conservative Government lose the election, and its

Chapter 11: Social life during the depression
The Great Depression came on gradually at first, but then burst into its full ferocity and culminated in the Wall Street crash in October of 1929, when millionaires jumped out of their skyscrapers and the whole hitherto prosperous

Chapter 12: Art School
I was transferred from Port Melbourne to the Swanston Street office in 1930, which was an agreeable change. There was a staff of twenty-four under a white-haired bachelor manager who was nearing the conclusion of his service with the

Chapter 13: Bohemian associations
There were one or two places where artists and art potters - art pottery was still in its infancy - would always meet, notably the Primrose Pottery in Little Collins Street. When I first visited there in 1932 it was run by Cynthia Reed,

Chapter 14: Meeting Mernda
The society of the entire world was in flux. Ramsay McDonald had long since been written off as a spent force in Britain, and his successor Stanley Baldwin was busily trying to maintain the status quo, though without the power to

Chapter 15: Marriage
For several reasons, courtships in the 1930s were slower but generally more permanent. The need for security was greater because the welfare programmes of today were not then generally in existence. Marriage was still considered to be

Chapter 16: The Eaglemont house
Mernda again became pregnant a few months later, and it was clear to us that our little cabin by the stream would be too small; we would have to find some new living accommodation. This began the most depressing period of my social

Chapter 17: The war starts
The latest German attack began with massive tank and dive-bomber spearheads, and the result was immediate and fearful. Holland, Belgium, and the Low Countries were conquered, in essence, in a matter of days. Resistance points were

Chapter 18: Discovering Montsalvat
My father-in-law Reggie Clayton died in 1940, and I inherited his 8-horsepower square-nosed Fiat tourer, along with a small petrol ration. It was the first motor vehicle I had ever owned. I had only been outside Victoria once in my life

Chapter 19: The Naval Reserve
My spiritual life had become increasingly nominal and without commitment. Whatever my beliefs were, they did not significantly alter how I lived. I allowed the knowledge of the truth to excuse me for not obeying it. Mernda and I

Chapter 20: Training at the Williamstown Naval Base
The Japanese armies quickly proceeded south, east, and west after the conquest of Malaya and the Philippines moving towards Burma and India lay to the west the Pacific Ocean and its strategic islands to the east, Borneo, Indonesia, New

Chapter 21: The Martindale
After I spent the better part of a year instructing in motor engines and cleaning mess decks - interspersed with a stint of watch-keeping - the great draft arrived. Six Victorian ratings were to be drafted onto HMAS Martindale to head

Chapter 22: Sydney for the refit
We rounded Cape Otway that night, and the following morning we were heading up Port Phillip Bay. When we berthed at Gem Pier men came over from the naval jetty, which we had left behind only a few days earlier, to greet us. We felt we

Chapter 23: Sailing up the east coast
It was determined we should proceed up the coast without delay as our real time did not start until we reached Ladava, the Milne Bay base. We sailed between Fraser Island and the mainland and past Brisbane until we reached Gladstone.

Chapter 24: Martindale Trading Company (No Liability)
Most Australians regarded New Guinea as the centre of our theatre of war in 1943. Some months earlier, Milne Bay had been under intense threat from Japanese invasion. The extreme southwestern Nipponese advance had been halted on the

Chapter 25: Daily life
There were times when we received signals that took us into uninhabited places where there were only primitive charts, causing us to report some islands several miles out of position. Minor dots on the charts designating the Group

Chapter 26: After the Martindale
Milne Bay. Japanese invasion barges destroyed by fighter aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force during the Japanese landing in 1942 I returned to Milne Bay by air and was drafted onto the Amohinie, a craft over twenty-five

Chapter 27: The trip home
At the end of the month, I felt I was enjoying my last day at sea. The signal would almost certainly be waiting for us on our return to base. The best feature of the Stingray was the fact that her radio facilities never functioned once

Chapter 28: Discharged
The Germans finally surrendered in May 1945; but there was still no idea of how long it would take for Japan to capitulate, although our victory now seemed inevitable. As soon as the atomic bombs were dropped, first on Hiroshima and then

Chapter 29: The first house
The New Art movement - at whose birth I had been present thirteen years earlier - was, however, in healthy condition, even if its members were beset with financial difficulties. Arthur Boyd, John Perceval, Sidney Nolan, David Boyd, Neil

Chapter 30: Open Country - the Boyds
At the end of the year I sat for the final-year exams as well as Year 2, and passed them very easily. I felt these were all the academic qualifications I had time for as opportunities to design increased, particularly because we were

Chapter 31: Postwar society
Stonygrad was situated on the stoniest part of the stony district. It was virtually stone from the surface down. The tree growth consisted of native red and yellow box and stringback eucalypts that won a grudging acceptance from the

Chapter 32: The first mud brick house
The Great Hall at Montsalvat I was never a Jorgensenite in the real sense. Jorgie described what such a commitment would mean with great clarity. 'There's a great big world out there', he would say, 'but if you come into my little

Chapter 33: Early mud brick houses
We were actually creating building history without really understanding what we were doing. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a similar movement was also beginning to emerge. Eltham and Albuquerque were combining to make earth-building a

Chapter 34: Giving up the bank
My great chance to escape the tedium of the bank occurred as I neared my twenty-years-long service leave. This concession was still restricted to only a few firms and institutions. A good steady job, a house, a wife, and children were

Chapter 35: Christian reflections
The moment I was willing to let Christ deal with me, instead of me telling Him what I would do for Him, was the instant I realised I had been born from above: not of natural descent, nor of human decision, nor of a husband's will - but

Chapter 36: Not an architect
When I received Christ into my life, I saw it as the capstone of the archway bridging between man and the Creator, and that the natural environment was made for Him rather than He for it. Robert Menzies with the Queen and Prince

Chapter 37: La Ronde Restaurant
Margot and I had more than one temporary domicile in Eltham, including an old cable tram on Gordon Ford's property, before we moved into the Fabbros' cottage set in their vegetable farm on about twenty hectares of land on the southwest

Chapter 38: Eltham Films
When Margot's confinement was imminent, she went to stay with the Hattams in Canterbury. Hal Hattam was a skillful gynaecologist who also became a fine artist. He and his wife Kate and their children lived close to John Perceval, whose

Chapter 39: The youth group
Throughout this period I separated from the general social scene and became more deeply committed to my faith. Most of my friends thought I had left my senses, especially when I became a councillor in the 1959 Graham Crusade and was been

Chapter 40: Hard times
The year 1961 also saw the first postwar recession in Australia. Fifteen years of euphoria vanished 'like a watch in the night when it is gone'. My building operations were brought to a low ebb, but I remained just solvent through a

Chapter 41: Sale of the York Street properties
The following year saw the pre-Christmas optimism diminish as our work dwindled to nothing. The expected profits whittled away, and it became obvious that the test that had encouraged me had said nothing about taking the problems away -

Chapter 42: Mount Pleasant Road
Only a few weeks prior to the house sale, I had taken Margot on a trip around Eltham looking for suitable land on which we could build if and when the right time arrived. It was mostly a gesture on my part to keep up some sort of

Chapter 43: Landscape architecture
Ellis Stones Gordon and Gwen Ford Edna Walling Photo: Daphne Pearson. Gordon Ford in 1946 making mud bricks for Alistair Knox (far left). Apart from the work of Ellis Stones and Edna Walling, there was practically no original

Chapter 44: Templestowe, town planning protests
I spent time every day supervising up to six jobs in locations scattered mainly throughout the outer suburban and the northeastern bush fringe of Melbourne. The long days were well filled from 6 a.m. until I fell into bed at night. The

Chapter 45: Council election
Moratorium protesters outside Parliament House in Spring Street in March 1971. Picture: Herald Sun The Vietnam War and its ramifications became a major issue in the 1972 Federal Election. The Conservative cause, euphemistically

Chapter 46: The early 1970s
My twelve years of intensive Christian youth work also terminated during that year when our church appointed a new young minister who, it was hoped, would be able to give our unorthodox methods a more professional character. Youth

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