ANZAC CLUB CINDERELLA, NEW YORK & ACTOR NOLA LUXFORD (1895-1994)
This item is regarded as a cinderella, a stamp-like creature with no postal validity. Such items are not infrequently applied to the front, but more often to the reverse of a posted envelope mostly for its decorative appeal. There is not a skerrick of postal history interest in a mint copy such as this, but the fact I have never seen a copy before, and that there is a real Social Philately appeal, is the reason why I felt I had to relate the story behind the cinderella.
The three male members of the armed forces dominate the picture, and the text from top to bottom reads as follows: ANZAC CLUB, (overlying the stars of the Southern Cross, and a map of Australia & New Zealand); AUSTRALIA, AMERICA, NEW ZEALAND; 106 West 56th Street, New York, 19, N.Y., U.S.A.; and, ANZAC CLUB, NEW YORK (Figure 1).
The Australian War Museum describes the Anzac Club New York as an American hospitality centre for Australian and New Zealand forces. The founder and President of the club was Miss Nola Luxford. Miss Luxford originated the concept of the Anzac Garden which is in the heart of the city. The centre pool is symbolic of the Pacific Ocean and is painted blue. On either side of the pool are garden plots symbolic of New Zealand and Australian flora. The Dedication Ceremony was in 1943 and the Principal Speakers were Dr Herbert Vere Evatt from Australia and Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt. There is an illusion that the garden is on the ground, whereas in reality it is some twenty stories high on the roof of the Rockefeller Centre, New York (Figure 2).
There is a photo of Miss Nola Luxford standing in the ANZAC club in 1945 beside an open fire talking to a group of the servicemen from both countries. You will note that her uniform is adorned with three stripes of a sargeant (Figure 3).
Nola Luxford went from having an unremarkable career as an actress of the 1920s and 1930s to becoming a pioneer in the field of radio journalism. A native of New Zealand, she launched her film career at Hollywood’s Universal Studios in the 1920's. She appeared in a variety of films, ranging from Girl Shy (1924) and Ben Hur (1926) to King of the Herd (1927) and Kind Lady (1935). She began her radio career in 1932 when she convinced Los Angeles station KFI to let her broadcast sports news reports about the Olympic Games held in Los Angeles from 30 July until 14 August 1932.
She loved the work and in 1936 she joined NBC’s Four Star News in New York. She was the first and only female radio announcer of her time and her success opened doors for other women to become broadcasters. During WWII, she spent much of her time on short wave radio sending special messages from soldiers to friends and family in New Zealand. She also founded the ANZAC club (acronym for Australia-New Zealand Army Corps), a place where service men from ‘Down Under’ could be entertained while stationed in New York.
Her efforts earned her the nickname of Miss Anzac of the USA. In 1947 she received the Order of the British Empire from King George VI and the U.S. Award of Merit from President Truman. In the 1950s she worked as fashion director at the New York Pierre Hotel and later in life, published several children’s books in New Zealand. In 1989, at the age of 94, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the Queen’s Service Order upon her. She died in 1994, in her 99th year.
Only one of the two Principal Speakers at the Dedication Ceremony of the Anzac Club in 1943 needs to be introduced to Australians of later vintage, and he was Herbert (Bert)Vere Evatt. He is fully written up in the Australian Dictionary of Biography and what follows is just a minute thumbnail description of my boyhood favourite politician:
Born: 30 April 1894, East Maitland, N.S.W. Died: 2 November 1965, Forrest, Canberra, A.C.T.
Occupations: Barrister, Biographer, Chief Justice, High Court Judge, Historian, Labour Politician, Member of the Lower House and Opposition Leader of the Australian Parliament.