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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Back to the Stone Age

page 18

Back to the Stone Age

It's all over now and we can look back cheerfully to 1923, when we lived in a Stone Age. Early in January of that year the truth leaked out—there was corn, but not a scrap of paper, in Egypt. Every available thing that could be converted into pulp had long since gone to the mills; and now there was no more paper; nor could a single sheet be manufactured—all synthetic stunts were played out.

I was in hospital at the time, and things happened while I was not interested in mundane affairs. But one morning I awoke to find that there were no blankets or sheets on the bed. I looked around for my clobber; that also had disappeared—there was only a pair of shorts in the locker. But you all know how it was: sandals and shorts for everybody below the rank of W.O., and they were not much better off, with their six-inch shoulder sashes.

As soon as we got "the oil" about the paper famine, we began to collect boxes, packing cases, and stray bits of timber—anything that one could write on. Doors, table-tops, and flat pieces of wood, wherever found on buildings, were pinched wholesale. When this source failed, galvanised-iron roofs began to disappear. We were quick at adapting ourselves to the new conditions, and became expert wood engravers and iron-scratchers. The wooden letters had one great advantage, they floated; and most of the fleets we launched reached port in Australia or Maoriland. The Postal authorities displayed much ingenuity in dealing with our mail for overseas; but the censors had a very rough time.

When wood was as scarce as a chivalrous Hun, a remarkable scene was prestnted at our hospital orderly room (it was pretty well the same at all others). The whole office staff was ranged in the shade of the wall; each clerk had a slab of stone in front of him, and in his hands held a chisel and mason's mallet. They were all working
The Business Manager

The Business Manager

away like ants in a sugar bin, tap-tap-tapping, and chip by chip bringing the hospital records up to date. A clerical job at that time was not a "cushy" one. In each ward there was a mattress office; it was the duty of the M.O. to engrave in stone the medical history of each patient, and the mattresses prevented ricochets. The hardships we had to put up with during those days are well nigh incredible. One patient was sensible enough to go "magnune". Every day at about 3 p.m., the sun shone in through the empty window casement, sending down its broad beam of light close beside his bed; and every day, with the arrival of the sunbeam, this patient would seize his mallet and chisel and try to chip a letter to his home folk on the ray of light. A Medical Board did the rest.

Postal orderlies had a very busy time, and would have put to the blush many a stone-mason. One of the Chaplains, in order that his sermons should not cease, took red tiles from the roof of a house; and another Padre, not to be outdone, commandeered an acre of pavement and delivered sermons in stones.

Now we come to the most memorable enterprise of the Age. For months the "Kia
The Editor Explains

The Editor Explains

Ora Coo-ee" had been printed on donkey,-horse,- and camel-skin; but the supplies of these materials became exhausted and the management was faced with a tremendous problem. The Editor aged visibly, and the Business Secretary became a shadow. But the problem was finally solved; and it was my privilege to learn how it was done.

I had a fortnight's sick leave and went to Cairo, in March of 1923. My first thought, naturally, after a visit to the Pay Office, was to call on the "K.O.C." I entered the office, and was amazed when I realised the difficulties under which the magazine was being produced. The Secretary was seated behind a pile of flat stones—copies of the Official Magazine. He wore a pair of shorts and an identity disc. The Editor led the way to the Litho. Department, a big yard at the rear of H. Q. And there stood the Great Pyramid, which had been "cleftied" somehow, and shifted bodily to this spot. A portion of one side had already been used, but it was estimated that Cheops' tomb would yield sufficient "leaves" for six issues of the magazine. A special staff was employed in the work of cutting and dressing the slabs of stone, while other men were "printing", that is, chiselling words out of prepared slices.

"When Cheops is finished, what will you do?" I put the question delicately.

The Editor smiled, and waved his hand towards Giza.

"There are others left", he said, "and as a last resource, we'll chop up the Sphinx!"

It never came to that, thank heaven! But the Great Pyramid has gone for ever —we all possess bits of it in our bound volumes of the "Kia Ora Coo-ee."