December 19, 1967: Harold Holt is presumed dead. He was born in Stanmore, New South Wales, Australia in 1908, the older of two children. Their parents divorced when Harold was ten and their father, a teacher, moved the family several times between 1913 and 1919 so the Holt brothers attended three different schools. They were enrolled at Wesley College in Melbourne in 1921. When Harold’s mother died in 1924, he did not attend her funeral. His parents’ divorce and his mother’s early death left the youngster with deep feelings of loneliness. He was driven to seek approval through personal achievement. He received a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1930 and was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1932.
Holt became interested in politics and joined the Prahran branch of the United Australia Party (UAP) in 1933. He ran in three in elections – 1934, March 1935, and August 1935. He lost the first two, but was finally elected to the seat of Fawkner and became one of Australia’s youngest ever MPs at the age of 27. He spent the rest of his life involved in politics, working up to 16 hours a day. He maintained his interest in sports and the sea, and women if rumors are to be believed. His former girlfriend left Australia, married in England, had three children, left her husband and came back to Australia and married Holt. He is said to be the father of her younger two children, a set of twins. The two remained married until his death, but he continued to have many extramarital affairs.
Holt became Prime Minister and was sworn in on Australia Day, January 26, 1966. His term was barely two years in duration but they were extremely tumultuous years. This time was the height of the Cold War era and there were touchy foreign policy issues. The power struggle between the Soviets and the US demanded reconfiguration of global political and commercial and military agreements. Australia’s relationship with Britain altered during the time as the mother country closed foreign bases and retreated from the Middle East. Indonesia was also undergoing changes which were felt in Australia.
Holt is most noted for his death. On Sunday, December 17, 1967 he and some friends along with two bodyguards drove from Melbourne to see the British yachtsman Alec Rose sail through Port Philip Heads during his attempt at a solo circumnavigation of the globe. Around noon, the group was at the beach and Holt wanted to go for swim. The area was known for its treacherous rip tides and Holt’s friends attempted to dissuade him. He was a noted strong swimmer in his younger days but his health was no longer what it once had been. He went into the water and soon disappeared from view. An alarm went up and the area was searched. On this date, he was declared presumed dead. He was 59 years old.
Australians were unique due to our corals, our apples, our gum trees and our kangaroos. – Harold Edward Holt
The marshalling of those resources in order to obtain the maximum war effort for Australia, and a maximum degree of help and cooperation for Great Britain and the sister Dominions, is the primary objective of the new Department. – Harold Edward Holt
Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia. – Charles M. Schulz
Australians have a free spirit and an ability to think outside the box, and that is why I like Australia so much. – Brian Schmidt
Also on this day: Monumental – In 1960, the San Jacinto Monument was declared a National History Landmark.
Believe – In 1918, Ripley began his carton series.
Tiny Tim – In 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol.
What’s Up, Doc? – In 1956, Dr. John Bodkin Adams was arrested.