Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tales of English Paul

Peter Granger (pictured right at Mission Beach around the time he visited the Frank's Cafe bus at Kuranda) contacted me through the email address on the side-bar after reading about English Paul on this site. Here is his letter with reminiscences of Paul, which he has kindly agreed to share on this blog.

Peter provides an interesting view from the outside of Frank's Cafe and its workshop. I guess the shop he refers to was the Challis Avenue, Potts Point shop. The workshop would have been the Glenmore Road Paddington one where I was one of the "incomphrensible, prostate, mutified leather workers... residing in various parallel universes."

The story of the origin of Frank's Cafe as a leathershop name is typical English Paul. I suspect that the name "Frank's Cafe" owed something to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" which was popular among this group at that time. Then there was Frank Hammond, junkie dogman (he used to work as a dogman on cranes swinging on loads 12 stories up stoned out of his brain) who became a leather worker at the start and was known as Frank of Frank's Cafe. Paul was very creative in his explanations of this that and the other, and would often make up stories on a whim.

Here is Peter Granger's account:

Paul Adams/Clarke was an extroadinary person in more ways than one. Here it is in 2006, and this is the first I have learnt that Paul and Vyda had died long ago in quite extraordinary circumstances. It is quite a shock, but then again not so totally unexpected.

I was in Sydney about 1966 - having been unwillingly conscripted for the Vietnam conflict - when I first set eyes on his Frank's Cafe in Sydney. It totally blew me away, and is still burnt in my brain as if yesterday. I was delerious over the leatherwork - like nothing I could have dreamt up in my wildest imagination. It sure was a long way removed from the prevailing plastic, spit polish and patent leather of my world. I was convinced THAT 'look, feel and lifestyle ('hippy') was going to completely change the world - and I wanted to be part of it. I couldnt wait to get out of the Army and set up something similar back home in Melbourne. Paul subsequently came down to Melbourne by train, and helped me set up Stuff Leathery in a small shop in Caledonian Lane, Melbourne. We were up and away - and with the later arrival of Ron Collins, Ivor Udris (are you guys still with us?) and later again Andy White, we relocated to the big shop in Swanston St, cnr Little Lonsdale - near the RMIT and museum. It lasted almost a decade, with three shops in Greville St Prahran (pre-bastardisation days) one in Oxford St Paddington, and a wholesale business. By the time I had set up the Oxford St shop 6 years later Frank's Cafe was gone... but I would walk down to where his shop was located and reminisce on that day I first looked in his shop window and was completely transfixed.

"Frank's Cafe" - what a brilliant name for a leather shop. "What was the inspiration?" I asked Paul. "Nothing at all - the previous tenant was Frank and it was a cafe... we just didnt bother changing the name." But as was his way, it was a name more by design than mere accident. He would chuckle when telling the story of trying to register the shop name with the State Business Names Registation Office. The official refused, saying he couldn't allow him to call a leather shop a cafe. I don't think Paul thought "Frank's (or Paul's) Leather Shop" had the same cachet, and of course, he was completely right.

A visit to Frank's Cafe Paddington workshop was quite an experience - subject to the time of day. Not uncommonly there were incomphrensible, prostate, mutified leather workers and hangers on residing in various parallel universes. Communication was not always the most productive experience.

Paul finally decided to move up to Kuranda with the double decker bus/home - another brilliant idea - with the intention of becoming a crocodile hunter/shooter. That sure came out of left field - but nothing seemed beyond the reach of that man - except perhaps merchant banker. I believe he did the croc shooting for some time until it was banned. My late (now deceased) partner and myself visited the bus in 1972. There it was in the middle of an otherwise uninhabited rainforest, wide open, like Thomas the tank engine - waiting to depart for the next station - but where? It looked like it had been plonked there by a helicopter. But sadly, there was no sign of Paul and Vyda. With mobile phones not yet invented, and a rather large back yard to search, we regretfully abandoned the bus.

I never saw Paul again, but have never forgotten him. He was a creative genuius/visionary at the forefront of change. How hippies evolved out of the stultifying conservatism that prevailed at the time is difficult to comprehend, but at the time, people like Paul were not an incremental generational change, they were a totally radical departure. He was the manifestation in one artistic individual of the extreme changes society was about to undergo. He detected those winds of change long before most others, and had the courage, talent, charisma and wit to live by them.

I would love to hear of any other news/stories about Paul.

No one will buy tie-dyed shirts!

This post is from Cass Cumerford's Beatnik Casbah Blog. Cass is not totally correct on Frank's Cafe being the first shop in Sydney selling hippy leather gear and so on - although he's right in a way, in that Frank's Cafe morphed from the one that was - the Peg & Awl

Around 1965

In 1965(?), the first place where "hippy"-made clothes and artefacts were made and sold was "Frank's Cafe" or "the Sandal Shop": it was a part-time dwelling place for creative entrepreneurial beatniks. Never having been there I can't describe it, although I was once invited to join. Graham Holt, John Sandie and I were in the kitchen of 98 Hargreave Street one afternoon, about to be guinea pigs in an experiment to test of the strength of Lesley-Mindless' newest chemical discovery, Scopolamine. The mind-blowing stuff had not yet taken effect when Graham told us,

"How cool it this, man! We made forty-five quid this week now I have use of the Sandal Shop equipment to make old car tyre-sandals. Who'd have ever thought normal people would ever buy stuff from us weirdos? Wow, what a cool scene."

The white walls of the room were beginning to look as if they were melting, and the white paint had taken on a more colourful hue. I yelled out to Mindless in the next room,

"Hey Lesley, I think it's working."

Lesley called back to me,

"OK, tell me if things start disappearing."

Sandie lit a cigarette that seemed to melt and then re-arrange back to its original shape. He said,

"Jeeze, she sure knows a lot about drugs. Makes you feel real safe - like you're in a proper laboratory experiment place man," Graham and I enthusiastically agreed as Sandie went on,

"You know I'm going to make plenty bread soon with my secret invention of making psychedelic patterns on shirts. Don't youse go shooting your mouth off about the way it's done. All it costs is the dough it takes to buy a dozen white T-shirts from Chinatown plus six bucks worth of dye powder and a two bob packet of rubber bands!"

I smiled at Sandie's dreamy vision. He actually thought that people would want to purchase his creations for real money? What child-like naivety. I clued him in,

"Look man, no square's ever going to pay bread for some weirdo coloured Tie-Dyed Shirts. The only people you might sell some to will be other hippies, and they never spend bread on clothes. Wake up man!"

And that was how I stayed poor and a year later John Sandie became the Tie Dyed shirt trade's first rich beat-hippy.

I can't remember why the hell I wasn't on the dole in those days. I guess it was because I was too busy hustling around to front up to the employment office. I got just enough food from soup kitchens or the Royal George Hotel to keep body and soul together, and whenever I'd be invited to one of the many "push" pads it was consider OK to raid the communal 'fridge. Life became an endless round of "dropping in" to visit people's pads. And you never knew what was around the corner - a big three-day party, a bit of casual work at the railway depot, hitchhiking down to Melbourne with a well-healed pal or conning ten bucks out of some square tourist. There were ways to get by.

Early some mornings, Dutch Andy would steal a bottle of milk from outside shops. Later on, when he got more taste he took only Buttermilk. We'd raid communal 'fridges in the kitchens of rooming houses if we were starving hungry, but I only did it once and hated the idea. If you were real hungry, that's what soup kitchens were for. Many of my "Love Generation" pals acted like complete psychopaths at times, even me.

We had an us-versus-them mentality, and justified a lot of behaviour that I now consider "not cricket".

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Frank's Cafe was a leather co-operative with shops in Challis Avenue, Kings Cross, and at the Kings Cross Market; later at Liverpool Street near Oxford Street, and at The Argyle Arts Centre at The Rocks. Frank's Cafe grew out of The Royal George and a leather shop started by two Americans, called The Peg & Awl, which was on Oxford Street in the old Mandala theatre block. Various freak-outs caused the owners to go MIA and out of the aftermath Frank's Cafe arose, with hippy leather workers who had supplied the Peg & Awl, led by English Paul, migrating the business. There was a workshop in Woolloomoolo for a while. The first Frank's Cafe premises (though I don't think it was called "Frank's Cafe" yet) opened in a part of the laundrette opposite the Peg & Awl on the West Street Corner of Oxford Street. Then the workshop shifted to Glenmore Road and the Challis Avenue, Kings Cross, shop was opened.

I suspect that the name "Frank's Cafe" owed something to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" which was popular among this group at that time. Then there was Frank Hammond, junkie dogman (he used to work stoned out of his brain as a dogman on cranes swinging on loads twelve stories up) who became a leather worker at the start and was known as "Frank of Frank's Cafe."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Maxwell's Silver Hammer

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's Silver Hammer