Andy Warhol once said that “art is what you can get away with”. My father wasn’t particularly talented with any form of paint brush, but on Warhol’s definition he certainly was an artist of rare talents.
Lionel Ker Strutton Hogg was born in Longreach Private Hospital on January 12, 1924. Dad was raised as an only child, his younger sister dying as an infant. His first 11 years were spent in Aramac and Dad’s childhood companions were his old black goat, Poley, and his cousins Cliff (better known as Curley) and George (better known as Mutt). Somehow, Dad escaped the indignity of an outback nickname.
Dad’s parents were kind, decent straight-shooters. They instilled values that stayed with Dad for life and were often repeated to his children. Dad’s father used to counsel him never to call anyone a liar - it was arrogant and “asking for a poke on the nose”. When you make a mistake, admit it smartly. Always, always tell the truth. Go out of your way to talk to people, regardless of their station in life. And make your own luck by hard work and grabbing opportunities with both hands. Dad lived all of these values for 84 wonderful years.
Dad always spoke fondly - almost reverently - of his childhood in Aramac. Of lazy days with Curley and Mutt, playing any sport on offer and driving Uncle Ben mad when their cricket ball dented his corrugated iron stables. Of being caned at school more than most, mainly for talking in class - it didn’t seem to stop him talking all of his life. Of playing in the fig trees until after dark. Of swimming naked in Aramac Creek. Of fishing from the railway bridge after pinching bamboo from the local Chinaman’s garden to use as rods.
Sport was always a big part of Dad’s life, even after childhood. He was the Central Queensland Schoolboys tennis champion, played in the cricket firsts and was an A grade swimmer. In his adulthood, he continued playing tennis for many years, as well as a weekly game of A grade squash and a regular round of golf.
Dad’s parents leased White’s Cafe in Aramac in the early 1930s. In 1935 and struck by the Great Depression, his father lost a toss for the goodwill of the cafe and the family moved to Rockhampton - a major town at that time - to give Dad a better chance in life.
In Rockhampton, Dad attended Allenstown State School but continued to practise tennis during school hours and then at Rockhampton Grammar School.
While boarding at secondary school, Dad was seriously ill with peritonitis, spending almost a month in hospital with a tube draining fluid from his stomach. Being the consummate conversationalist, Dad spent most days chatting with another patient, an older lady who loved tennis. After finishing Senior, Dad received job offers as a bank clerk and a primary school teacher, but was attracted by the possibility of a first year cadetship with the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.
Dad was convinced he could talk his way into a position, but his interview with the General Manager was destined for hopeless failure when, right at the end, a young lady who worked there - the general manager’s daughter as things turned out - walked into the room and identified Dad as the man who used to talk to her mother in hospital. Dad had a job five minutes later.
Dad joined the RAAF and his air crew was called into service on August 14, 1942. But he resumed his journalism career in late 1945, returning to the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin. The war had stalled the careers of many young men and Dad was keen to make up for lost time. He accepted a job on the Brisbane Telegraph after impressing the paper with his dispatched coverage of a high profile murder and Coroner’s Court committal.
Some time later in 1952, after working for a variety of newspapers, Dad was invited to join the Herald in Melbourne, then arguably the best and certainly the most respected newspaper in the country. This period was the start of his most cherished memories in journalism, amazing stories that Mum, Ian and I heard countless times over the dinner table. Dad covered floods and fires, gang wars and murder trials and loved police rounds which uncovered not only criminal intrigue but amazing human interest stories. He met the good, the bad and the ugly in society. He faced a loaded gun. Mick Miller, who became Victorian Police Commissioner, turned into a lifelong friend, but it didn’t prevent Dad regularly meeting with wanted underworld figures and legendary criminal defence lawyer Frank Galbally. He gained trust across the board and broke stories from all angles.