INTERVIEW: Hal Alexander, Dancer; Trade Union Leader
DATE: mid 1990’s
NOTES: Hal Alexander learned Buck and Wing dancing from Professor Alcorn in the twenties, and it turned into tap dancing and started his career in show business. Son Bobby and Hal became a song and dance act in the thirties, earning a very bare living after the talkies came in. There were only two theatres, J.C.Williamson and the Tivoli in Melbourne and a few one night stands, smoke nights etc. He remembered doing benefits in Port Melbourne to assist the Unemployed Workers Movement. Tom Hills remembered this too. There was a comparative boom during the war because there was no shipping for overseas shows, but pay was still low, specially the ballet and chorus.The actors’ union was not functioning as the secretary was in the pay of J.C. Williamson and it was common to have a show collapse without paying the workers and cast. He recalls such an occasion during the depression at Cobar, and walking from Adelaide to Melbourne, with at least 200 others.
Hal was keen to get and effective union going and in 1939 organised a militant group which won all positions. Hal became secretary. Early campaigns were an award for radio announcers, and a rise in pay for chorus and ballet. Great stories about show business in Australia.
(See also W.Lowenstein, Weevils in the Flour)
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Martie Lowenstein, is the holder of the Lowenstein Family Collection, a complete set of over 1200 interviews recorded by Wendy Lowenstein, author and pioneer Australian oral labour historian specialising in Australian working life. Permission to use the interviews for research and education is obtained by contacting this website. The Lowenstein family holds all rights to this collection of interviews recorded between 1967 and 2002.