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Hanging up the hook...

Jeff now paints in 'Sea Change' Somers

Article from Hastings Independent, Mike Ryan reporting.

Geoff Hook (Jeff the cartoonist) is not the latest person to make the sea change. From the Big Smoke, to Somers on sea.

Since 1993, without his having to stir from his high tower over the bay, Jeff's wife Pauline has emailed each week's latest cartoon to the Sunday Herald Sun.

The other day Jeff published his last Sunday cartoon, bringing to a close 37 years in the Herald and Weekly Times stable.

A new door opened for the 72-year-old Somers identity. He has more time now for the paintings in watercolors and oils that could bring him a second celebrity.

More recent arrivals to match the "Sea Change" image left in the public mind by the television series are Ron and Jacqui Austin.

They came six months ago to restore and run the Somers General Store. Already they've hung some Hook watercolors on their walls. Landscapes of Somers that delight locals and lure visitors.

Jacqui Austin said "When we were seeing the country ... we lived in Waverock (WA), in Darwin, in Brisbane ... Ron often talked about a dream place, Somers by the sea.

Photo reproduced with permission of The Herald and Weekly Times. Copyright. Picture: Peter Smith.

"He'd won a Minnow sailing race at Somers when he was six years old."

Somers, the Sea Change seat.

Sigrid Thornton, the actual "Sea Change" actress, has a holiday house in Somers.

Koch to Hook

Hook's paintings are big on seascapes. He was a child living at the foot of Mt Wellington, Hobart when the Derwent was busy with warships, from aircraft carriers down.

At St Virgil's College Hook filled the margins of his schoolbooks with sketches of bombed convoys and aeriel dogfights.

His chum Chris Koch, a press artist at The Mercury newspaper alerted him: "I'm off overseas. Go in and apply before I tell them."

Hook called on the chief of staff. "There's no vacancies - but should one turn up ..."

A week later Hook got a call and was hired. Koch became a writer.

As press artist Hook touched up photographic prints with an airbrush, whited out the power lines through the premier's head, outlined figures better. (The job of cartooning was called `creative artist' and much higher paid).

Fix a problem: the socialite who always jumped into pictures. The chief bade Hook: "She's been in The Merc too often - Paint her out!"

He did the daily maps of Korea War, dotted lines and arrows. And only the occasional cartoon.

So Hook flew to Melbourne, called on the Sun-News Pictorial. And months later got a letter hiring him. "Creative artist!".

The wharfies strike. Hook draws PM Menzies with the famous eyebrows holding a crate of apples as the ship sails without.

The postal strike. Hook draws two sorters among a mountain of mail. One picks out a letter: "Here's my phone bill."

Cartoonists go by short tags, WEP and WEG (Wm E Green). LOW and SPROD. JAK of the Daily Express, Fleet St. Our man's still Geoff Hook. "GRH?" It doesn't work. So Geoff becomes "JEFF".

At the Phoenix Hotel, fount of newspaper knowledge and lubricant of stories, Wm Green advises Geoff to add a hook.

So each daily cartoon has a tiny fishhook hidden. The management never noticed but the readers did. Children snatched the daily at down to vie to find the hook first. Not only children.

Premier Bolte jibed at the teachers on strike: "They can march till they're footsore" Hook's cartoon contained a panel "Cartoonist joins strike" and he omitted the mystery hook.

That morning the switchboard jams at the Flinders St fortress. Everyone's phoning in, demanding: "Where the little hook?"

The line momentarily clears on Hook's desk. Geoff answers it. "I'm a butcher from Brunswick. I can't get any work out of my workers. They're out the back muckin' about with a cartoon, the one who finds the hook first gets the kitty. So where the @#x&!# is the hook?"

The editor summoned Geoff Hook. He hadn't known a hook in the cartoons existed. "Don't leave the ruddy thing out again!" The Herald phone lines are jammed."

Thereafter the night editor cleared each cartoon to ensure the hook was in.

Point Hook?

Geoff Hook cartooned for the Sun, 1964-1991. And for the Sunday Herald Sun, until this month.

A budget squeeze from News Ltd, Sydney, hacked the contributors' payroll.

"It's freed us up," Geoff Hook observed, "The sudden relax - I don't have to keep thinking, `got to get a cartoon up by Friday'."

For decades Geoff and Pauline Hook had a holiday house in Tasman Rd, Somers while they lived in Burwood (reversed to Doowrub in cartoons).

"We splashed our super on this house," said he. Top of the highest hill of Somers over the sea. A curve of millionairish homes.

Ideal nest for Jeff who cartoons left-handed. And signs his lefty canvases `Geoff'.

The high hill has no name. Rod Austin mused, "Let's call it Point Hook."