19. John Keith Ewers (1904-1978), writer
John Ewers was born in Subiaco and attended Perth Modern School during World War I. As a school student he showed promise as a writer. After finishing school he joined the Education Department, and from 1924 to 1947 taught in Wheatbelt towns, and at Nedlands, Spearwood and Perth Boys’ School.
During this period he contributed regular newspaper columns on Australian literature. His works included two books of poetry, five novels, a collection of short stories and a children’s book woven around Aboriginal legends. He wrote historical studies about the Kalgoorlie pipeline, Perth Boys’ School, Bruce Rock and Fremantle. In 1938 he became foundation president of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA) and was an active member until his death. In 1945 he published one of the earliest critical surveys of Australian literature.
In 1947 Ewers left teaching for full-time writing, and became one of the first people in Western Australia to support himself and his family by his writing. He later returned to work part-time as editor of technical correspondence courses. His book on the North-West, With the Sun on My Back, was a major winner in the Commonwealth Jubilee Competition of 1952.
Ewers gave lectures on Australian literature at the University of WA, spoke on radio and in public, as well as writing travel articles for magazines such as Walkabout. He was well-known to school children throughout the State for his English text books. Perhaps more popular were his alter-egos, Diogenes and Inky Wells, during ten years of the ABC’s Argonauts. In his autobiography, Long Enough for a Joke, published posthumously in 1983, J K Ewers gives a vivid account of early life in Subiaco and Wheatbelt towns as well as the development of his writing career which was long supported by his wife Jean, a well-known potter in Western Australia.