Life in the late 1930s and early 1940s was tough. With wartime privations and lack of electronic amusements, kids had to find their own fun. For Johnson Dean, growing up in Evandale, it began with the nearby Esk River for swimming and canoeing, and he found like-minded friends with whom to share his first adventures. They went on to try their heavy homemade canoes on other, wild rivers.
In his book, Shooting the Franklin, Early Canoeing on Tasmania’s Wild Rivers, published in 2002, Johnson Dean vividly recalls those adventures. Bob Brown, who wrote the forward, calls them “exciting, charming and, at times, harrowing”. They start with Huck Finn-style trials on the South Esk river in the mid-1940s.