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Lower, Leonard Waldemere (Lennie) (1903–1947)

Lennie Lower's death on July 10 ended the career of the greatest of all Australian humorists. Lennie Lower was born at Dubbo, NSW. He would have been 44 this September.

His father died when Lennie was seven; his mother remarried, and his step-father, Mr. C K. Oades, gave him all the care and attention which he might have expected from his father.

He was brought to Sydney early, and educated at the State School, Barcom Avenue, Darlinghurst.

But he had always been a restless boy; and soon after he left school he joined the Navy. It was there that he grew impatient with Navy methods and gave the exact range to a gun crew, which resulted in severe damage to a valuable target — such, at least, is the story, a very characteristic story.

He also began writing in the Navy, eventually securing his first newspaper job, on the Labor Daily.

It was while he was on the Labor Daily that he wrote his book, "Here's Luck." It is one of the funniest books ever written and is still a best-seller in Australia.

From the Labor Daily Lennie Lower came to Smith's Weekly, writing also a daily column in the Daily Guardian.

With the resurgence of the Daily Telegraph and the establishment of the Women's Weekly, he joined Consolidated Press, and for a long time he was writing seven funny articles a week for the front page of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, and a full-page article for the Women's Weekly. 

About seven years ago Lennie Lower rejoined Smith's Weekly on a long-term service contract, and was with this paper until his death.

During World War II he endeavored to enlist, and was at first knocked back, but while he continued to write for Smith's Weekly, he also went to work in a factory producing munitions. He went on writing for Smith's Weekly after he managed to get into the Army; his funny articles were found to be a great morale-builder for the troops throughout the war.

In the Army he soon cracked-up under training, and, in Army Hospital, when the whole ward was at attention during a medical inspection, Lennie Lower, lying back on his pillows, waved gaily to the Doctor-Colonel, saying:
"Hiya, Toots!"

Great secret of Lennie Lower's humor is that he was always himself; he never let anyone or anything get in the way of his natural genius. Editors could tell him what to write about; he would go away and come back with something entirely different. They could cut it down, rewrite it and do what they liked with it; that was all right with Mr. Lower. Only thing they couldn't do was write it. He had them there.

And he had the natural genius. Most newspaper humorists call themselves synthetic humorists; they make things up from ingredients, much as a cook bakes a cake. Lennie Lower's humor was the real thing; it grew as naturally as fruit, and right out of life. Lennie Lower's daily column in The Telegraph was so close to the public mind that it often surprised them by telling them something they had only just begun to think.

As Lennie Lower himself, so his novel, "Here's Luck," speaks for the people. Written as a mad and highly individualist extravaganza, it was soon seen to be much closer to the life and language of the people who back horses and get drunk and enjoy themselves at parties in Sydney and suburbs than many much more seriously conceived works; a book with a scene in it, the steak-and-eggs scene between Gudgeon and son, which recalls the glories of Falstaff; a book where people suddenly shine with wonderful mental insight in a few muttered words as a taxi moves away; a book which showed Sydney people to themselves as they had never seen themselves before.

But with writers like Lennie Lower you can't be sure; it is probable that we see ourselves in their writings because their writings have made us that way.

Lennie's wife and his mother (Mrs. Oades) were at his bedside when he died. His sisters, Edna (Mrs. D. Henman) and Phyllis (Mrs. C. Parkes), had arrived from Wollongong — too late to bid him au revoir. He had entered hospital on Monday July 7, for a throat operation, which was performed on Wednesday. He displayed remarkable fortitude and cheerfulness and joked with his mother and Mrs. Lower to within a couple of hours of his death, from a haemorrhage.

Be seein' yer, Lennie!

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Citation details

'Lower, Leonard Waldemere (Lennie) (1903–1947)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/lower-leonard-waldemere-lennie-7251/text35576, accessed 22 July 2019.

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