Do you remember what happened the year you were born? Most of us don't, but Newcastle author Ron Williams can help answer this for those born between 1939 and 1968. Ron has spent the last fourteen years trawling through newspapers and books, researching and compiling thirty books covering Australia's social history for each of the thirty years.
Each -Born in…' year-book looks at the key newsworthy events that happened that year, providing a unique insight into Australian social history as told by the public and media. Ron says that the series was created not only for nostalgic reasons, but to spark conversation. 'The whole series is designed to push your buttons," Ron says, 'to make you remember and wonder at things forgotten. The books might just let nostalgia see the light of day, so that oldies and youngies will talk about the past and re-discover a heritage otherwise forgotten. Hopefully, they will spark discussions between generations, and foster the asking and answering of questions that should not remain unanswered."
Ron's first three books in the series, Born in 1946, Born in 1956 and Born in 1966 (for those big 0 celebrations), are released in bookstores nationally in November, Born in 1965 in December, and he will then release ten a year until all titles are available. The -Born in…' series is an important celebration of the past, covering the biggest social changes Australia has ever seen.
Ron Williams is a retired teacher, mathematician, political scientist, farmer and writer. He has a BA from Sydney, and a Masters in Social Work and a PhD in Political Science from Hawaii. To get the material for the books, Ron worked his way through newspapers, magazines, books, and other sources day by day until he came up with most of the major events and ideas, and trivia, of those years.
Author: Ron Williams
Interview with Ron Williams
Question: What inspired the Born In… series?
Ron Williams: These 30 books cover the social history of Australia during the WWII years and the Baby Boom years. They start at 1939 and end at 1968, and there is one book for each year. Hence there are thirty books.
The books evolved slowly over the years. I started out with a strong historical interest in the period of my youth and early adulthood, and wanted to talk to other people about what I read. But others wanted to follow their own interests, so in the end I started to write down my notes, and they grew into books. My idea was, by then, to leave some record of what I had read, so that my children would get a head start when they grew old enough to experience the inevitable nostalgia. As a result, I have slowly moved from an initial hobby to publication of this series.
Over the period, thousands of events, international and local, stirred the nation. I report on how the population here responded to these. Wars, crimes, strikes came and went. The status of Aborigines, and women, and returned servicemen gradually changed. War-time austerity gave way to self indulgence twenty years later. We had great victories in sport, and we had quickly-forgotten losses. Our politicians tried, and never succeeded, to convince us that they were in touch with the people, floods and droughts were always labelled as the worst in fifty years. It was a great cavalcade of events and ideas, with all the tears and joys that come with them.
Question: What books are first in the Born In… series?
Ron Williams: Most readers start with a book as a gift on their birthday. So it comes anywhere in the range. After that, they decide they want to find out more, and again it depends on what years and events interest them. But the books are all independent, and have good introductions and conclusions so that readers can start anywhere at all in the series, and be confident it is a self-contained book.
As it turns out, I find that these books are perfectly suited for older people, many of whom have a birthday each year, and also for Christmas and anniversaries. So, I have turned them into first rate publications. The first four have just been released into bookstores, (1966, 1956, 1946, and 1965), and I will release the remainder at the rate of one a month.
Question: How did you go about creating these books?
Ron Williams: My source of all this material was mainly the daily papers. To create a particular book, I read the Sydney Morning Herald every day for that year, and picked out the best stories and ideas and trivia that applied to the nation as a whole, and wrote them up. I always cross-checked with the Melbourne Age or Argus, and other papers and sources as necessary. So that I present the picture of the year as it was seen at the time, with no thought for inevitable later revisionism.
Question: What's next, for you?
Ron Williams: At this stage my creative writing has ceased. After 14 years, I have done as much as I want to. I will probably now turn my attention to forming a vast social network of people who want to see the nation get its hands on some very-fast-trains, and who want to ride them before the planned year of 2040.
Interview by Brooke Hunter