My work as a photography based artist has involved exploring visual mnemonic devices as a means of recalling emotions associated with an image through time and space. For example the view from a mountain top that stimulates the feeling of arrival felt at the time of being there.
While cleaning out my auntie’s house, when she had been institutionalised due to her advancing dementia, the irony of finding her memories in the form of a matchbook collection had a profound affect on my own mental state. The matchbooks were scattered throughout her house in drawers and other places. Over a number of weeks we revisited to complete the clean-out making the house ready to sell. The collection gathered into quite an historic document. I found myself reliving Narelle and Bills journeys and times through the limited knowledge of their past. I was drawn back to a giddy nightclub life, the late night underworld of musicians and performers. I felt the passion for exotic places like Hawaii and Asia in a time when air travel was nowhere as common place a it is today. I wondered of the life of working as an entertainer on ocean cruses, casinos of Las Vegas. How avant-garde it was to be at the 1970 Expo in Osaka, Japan.
The matchbooks painted a picture of times and travels often associated with Bill’s work, playing modern jazz piano innightclubs, cruse ships and resorts/casinos.
Or back in the day return to Sydney with news that they had visited the United Nations.
My fathers sister Narelle was my god mother. They were the 2 youngest of a family of 4 siblings. My name was taken from their father, my grandfather. His name was Harry Kenneth Ford but he was called Ken or Kenneth. He passed away in the 1950s. I’m guessing this match book is the oldest in the collection and maybe even the catalyst to inspire collecting match books in the first place.
My first memory of a match book was my father showing me the unusual item when I was about 8 or 9 years old, around 1958/9. It was one that Narelle had given him on return from travels. Possibly Hawaii or Las Vegas where Narelle and her husband Bill visited often. Bill Palmer was a modern jazz piano player and their trips were often associated with Bill’s work.
Narelle and Bill for a short time had an act in Sydney where they both performed. Maybe it was at Chequers in Sydney that operated between the early 50’s to early 70’s.
They certainly enjoyed the Trini Lopez residency in 1964 at Chequers which moved to Pitt and Goulburn Sts in1958
How trendy it would have been to see Reg Livermore perform at the Bijou Balmain in 1976. (Just up the road from my first share house as a teenager 6 years earlier.)