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March 2005



Sticking to the agenda of the reunion planning soiree at Benelong Cottage proved to be a struggle, what with tales of Asopians past and present constantly springing to the fore. But Rod Hard was kind: “I wish I could program all my planning meetings with such an intense commitment and effective coverage of agenda items,” quoth he.

With nearly 50 people indicating they’ll attend the September 30-October 2 gathering, the Gang of 3 is now in swift pursuit of finalising the program and price structure. The tough part is finding someone to take responsibility for allowing us to hold a barbecue in the ASOPA grounds. The place is officially for lease, but the Property Officer seemed puzzled when contacted to make a booking. Rod says: "After I explained the importance ASOPA had for us, ‘Sunny’ suggested a range of other venues where we may like to have our ‘picnic’ - but I didn't see the connect between ASOPA and Cockatoo Island.” Quite.

The likely program for the reunion:
Friday 30 September [afternoon & evening] – Meet, greet and eat at Cremorne Hotel, alongside the Concierge Apartments.
Saturday 1 October [late morning & lunch] – The Oaks Hotel, Neutral Bay
Saturday 1 October [dinner] – Raymond’s Tai Kwun Garden Restaurant, Neutral Bay
Sunday 2 October [late morning & lunch] – Official reunion luncheon at the Mosman Club
Sunday 2 October [evening] – Hangers on dinner at Mido Restaurant, Neutral Bay (famed for Chappo putting red sauce on his sweet & sour)


When should I arrive and leave? The main events are the Saturday night dinner and the Sunday lunch. That’s when we expect everyone attending the reunion will be on hand. Many people seem to have a Friday to Monday schedule in mind but many others are staying in Sydney longer to see the city while they’re here.

Where should I stay? There’s not a heck of a lot of accommodation in the Mosman-Cremorne-Neutral Bay area and the prices in nearby North Sydney are a bit on the high side. That’s why we’ve made a special arrangement with the Cremorne Concierge Apartments for a special ASOPA Reunion deal.

How do I book accommodation? Anyone attending the reunion can contact the Concierge (quoting ‘ASOPA Reunion’). The discounted rates are $119 for a studio and $139 for a one-bedroom unit, a saving of $40.

Book your accommodation at the Concierge as soon as possible through:
Email - [email protected]
Phone - (02) 8969 6944
Post - Oaks Concierge Apartments, 287 Military Road, Cremorne 2090

What style of place is the Concierge? There are two types of apartments: self-contained studio units and self-contained one-bedroom units, all with kitchens and bathrooms with washing machine/dryer. The Concierge is located right at the heart of Cremorne Junction so transport is not a problem. If you’re on the Internet you can check out the Concierge website at People who receive The Mail by post are receiving a brochure with this issue.

How much will the functions cost? Naturally, we’re trying to keep pricing as low as possible. It’s hoped that by the next issue of The Mail we’ll have a clear idea of costs. For now, though, you should work on a budget of about $120 for the two main functions and the coach tour, not including drinks.

What if the reunion is beyond my means? Limited subsidisation is available for some ‘members’. Contact Keith Jackson at one of the addresses shown at the end of The Mail.


BOB DAVIS [Stirling ACT] - Have recently booked a room at the Cremorne Concierge Apartments for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights with an option to extend either end if desired. So if I can be of any assistance immediately prior or after ‘Great Occasion #2’ please let me know.
By the way vehicle parking is available at the apartments for an additional $12 or so per night. Space must be tight because I was asked what size car I drove.
I do enjoy catching up with the comings and goings of the oft travelled and travelling (and obviously affluent ex-Asopians) who wend their way across the continent and the rest of the world to boot.
Perhaps this re-union might give Dave Argent and I sufficient time to complete the 500 massacre we had embarked upon in Pt Mac did not have sufficient time to complete.) I know ever-optimistic Col Huggins will still think he has some sort of show!
You asked about Brian Smith in a previous epistle - last I heard he was still in Alstonville after his stroke. His mother is/was in Ballina but I would think that Rory O'B would be the best bet as to his current whereabouts and state of health.

BARRY FLANNERY [Nambour QLD] – I’m unlikely to b a starter at the reunion as I’m hoping to be in Cambodia doing some schoolteaching. Until then I’m driving a bus around the Sunshine Coast. Can be quite terrifying at times, let me tell you.

KEITH BAIN [London UK] - Apologies for being out of touch for so long but nothing much has happened here and I always was an anti-social bastard. I'm afraid I shan't be at the next reunion. Our trips to Australia are currently organized around invitations Barbara receives to run courses or speak at conferences and they don't coincide with ASOPA reunions.

We shall be in Australia next in June/July - mainly in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast but Barbara is also running a course in Sydney and so we shall be there from Tuesday 5th July to Friday 8th July. If you and Ingrid are around then it would be pleasant to see you both.

It will be our first experience of Australian winter for 25 years. Winter here is currently being fairly cold, with more London snow than we have had for many years. It is one of the nice things about being retired that one can sit and watch the snow fall knowing that there is no compulsion to venture out.


DAVE KESBY [Berowra Heights NSW] -That’s the headline we want for The Mail. We got to be in a Youth Hostel because we planned this tight-arsed trip to New York without spending too much money. We left Sydney on New Year’s Eve and went to Dubai to see our son Pete who works for Emirates Airlines and who shouted us the standby version of the trip to New York and back. Left to our own devices in Dubai for a couple of days while Pete was working in the air (trolley-dollying) we signed up with the Dubai (not dubious) Tour Bus Company and went from one shopping center to another – or souk (as they call it) and bought gold and dubious Rolex watches with dubious retail counsellors leading us up dark alleys and into strange shops. That was good (for Elissa).

When Pete returned we headed off for the famous Desert Safari to watch the sunset – miracles of miracles we met a good looking camel and found an oasis in the desert where you could have as many beers as you liked! That was good (for Dave). Can’t do that in Dubai – you can get a hookah (correct spelling) but not a beer in sight of anyone dressed in full white robes or flowing black.

We arrived in New York for my 61st Birthday and not having anywhere to stay we rang the Youth Hostel on Amsterdam and bunked down with a lot of young looking people with loads on their back. We hooked up with a walking tour with 70-year old Ed from the Bronx (that made us feel better) and looked all round Harlem. Next we found some more salubrious quarters on 34th Street and started terrorising people on subways and buses. The Guggenheim was a dud (sorry – OK, Elissa liked it). We saw all the sights from the Empire State to Liberty Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and lots of museums. We had a good look around Ground Zero. The New Yorkers found it hard to say September 11. ‘That day’ was their expression. We found them really friendly people and helpful on subways. After a few days we got the hang of ‘uptown’, ‘downtown’ ‘midtown’, ‘westside’ ‘eastside’ and central. It is so nice of them to number their streets as well.

Had a nice side trip to Boston. Up on the $100 Amtrak and back on the $20 bus through driving snow – Boston was covered in it. Boston is a classy place. We had a private room in the Youth Hostel – our own 14” TV, basin and a bunk each – what luxury was that with free breakfast thrown in (a bagel of course)!

Because we were on standby, it took us three nights to get out of New York. The plane left around midnight so when we got rejected, we had to get the subway back into town – middle of the night stuff –not as scary as you might think. Because we missed the plane we had one of our highlights – going to Sunday morning service at the Riverside Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Day. It was fantastic. Great singing from a huge choir, and one black singer doing an unaccompanied solo Mahalia Jackson style. ”Walk with Jesus”. It was awe-inspiring. She introduced the Pastor who gave an extraordinary sermon with his memories of Martin Luther’s speeches from that very spot he was standing, with much cheering from the huge congregation…and me and Elissa.

Back in Dubai, we r&r’d and got back to Sydney with only one flight reject this time…home and hosed after a great holiday with the US dollar on our side…so we are not in too bad a shape.
So it’s back on the horse and back in the cab – that famous 727 which appeared on page two of the Sydney Morning Herald in the same shot as Rodney Adler walking to Court. Hope you all noticed it.


JUSTINE FINTER [Mapleton QLD] - Many happy returns for your sixtieth. Sorry for the late greetings. I often get reminded by Bill about PNG time! So glad to hear of your rate of recovery.

Not much to tell except that we have decided to list our property for sale yet again. Bill is finding maintaining it a bit strenuous at the age of seventy-two. I really hate the idea of relocating but one has to face reality. There has been some interest but nothing serious. Our neighbour would like to extend his farm and is making an offer to buy a portion of the land but we'd like to keep it as one parcel.

You're doing a great job with The Mail. I do enjoy reading about all the "spring chickens" of our ASOPA group. Keep up the good work. I should be back in time from PNG for the reunion. Will confirm as the date draws near.


JIM TONER [Darwin NT] – I feel obliged to send you an electronic pat on the back for your efforts in assembling and distributing The Mail to your wantoks from ASOPA. It entails work and an incursion on time but I feel certain that the far-flung 62-63s really appreciate your maintenance of the links forged when you were all student chalkies and recently joyously renewed at Port Macquarie.

I also am prompted to write because I am envious. I was a 1952-54 apprentice pedagogue and when 150 of us marched out of the College gates to do our worst amongst the children of England and Wales we had no reunion for 44 years. But what a show that was. Once you got over the shock of seeing this assembly of hairless Headmasters and desiccated Deputies you soon realised the same likely lads were alive and well within those worn-out exteriors. E.g., I don't know what Henry Bodman looks like these days but feel sure that his inner man is still a late-night creeper climber (vide The Mail 79 for an account of the assault on Helene Thomson's boudoir).

Since 1998 my mob has reunited biennially but in 2004 we were down to 10% of original strength. Well, half a century. The surviving septuagenarians now intend to meet annually but I feel they have missed out by not having a Mail-man to keep them all in touch month by month. Again, good work mate. [Jim Toner, PNG 1957-73]


JOHN LEAH [Melbourne VIC] – Just stumbled on your site! Brilliant! I'm an ASOPA graduate on the chalkie side of things who first taught (briefly) at Sogeri then Kwikila High School, followed by Kila Kila High School, thence to 9PA Port Moresby, at the time an ABC outpost - a total of about eight years.

Loved every minute of it! ASOPA trained me to expect culture shock on arrival in PNG and taught me how to deal with it - the only culture shock I experienced was on return to Australia to find an alien culture into which I fitted most uncomfortably! A common experience I'm sure.

Your name is well known to me! You produced programs for the ABC Education Department, didn't you? Brian Halesworth was the Director of Education at the time - a fabulous guy. I followed in your footsteps, under Brian's leadership, and saw your name on many of the programs I reviewed before adding my own titles to the program collection. There was a voice used in many of those programs that I'm pretty sure was yours, as well.

You perhaps remember Brian's secretary, a vivacious lassie named Robyn Clark? Well, she remembered you fondly, as did Doug Fyfe, that wonderful Scotsman who annually broadcast his brilliant Robbie Burns poetry reading tribute! Wonder if anyone ever commercially exploited those recordings? They were the best Burns renditions I have ever, ever heard! I bet they are still just sitting there in the 9PA library!

It was Doug who warned Robyn, when we took a fancy to each other, that I was the wrong man for her! He was probably right! But we are still together after 33 years. Robyn always mentions your name whenever we reminisce.

We saw Brian Halesworth a few times in our later Brisbane years. He married a delightful French girl and was as intellectual and charming as ever. Lost contact with him, but it would be great to see him again.

I was so excited to see your ASOPA site - and then to see a familiar name was a real bonus. My state of excitement increased as I scanned the news to see many names of people I knew, including Hal Holman who I recall driving around Port Moresby in a van decorated with a floral mural. In those days, I was living in an ABC house in Kivivi Avenue, Boroko, and Hal turned up to quite a few of my parties. Ah! Party days!

We are in Melbourne these days, but still with a hankering for those fabulous days of Mairi Mahutu, Sevese Morea, Daniel O'Connell, Jonbili Tokome and Elijah Titus. Of all the periods in my life, I think those PNG days - thanks to ASOPA - were just the best I ever experienced!

You can contact John on his email address at [email protected]


GEOFF HEARD [Melbourne VIC] - I would have had no one to blame but myself if my return to Rabaul after nearly three decades had turned to ashes on day two. Overcome by a sense of nostalgia, perhaps, or disarmed by obvious friendliness everywhere I carelessly left my hire car open while I wandered into the market. An hour later, I returned, laden with the fresh fruit for which the area is famous.

The betel nut chewing trio lounging under a nearby tree flashed me a collective crimson grin and remarked: “Gutpela kai-kai, laka?” (Good food, eh?) Nearly everybody here speaks English, but Tok Pisin is often used for banter.

Nothing in the car had been touched. Australia has sent 300 police to Papua New Guinea to assist in re-establishing law and order. Save them for Port Moresby, I thought to myself, and a couple of suburbs I know in Melbourne: they are not needed here.

I first saw Rabaul in 1963, assigned by AAP-Reuter to be their first and last full-time correspondent there. The road to Rabaul in those days began with a midnight flight from Brisbane to Port Moresby in a four-engined DC6B and ended 12 hours later in a DC3 – a 20-year old refurbished relic from World War 2 – as the old crate roared low over a ridge and suddenly, dramatically, there was Rabaul.

I cried aloud at the sheer beauty: the giant, breached caldera like a great saucer, the neatly laid-out town snuggled on the shores of the superb harbour, the looming volcanoes around the rim, the riot of growth and colour and the sparkling sea dotted with scores of craft, from international cargo ships to island tramps, yachts and canoes.

That dramatic arrival to tropical comeliness came to an abrupt end a few minutes after 6 am on 16 September 1994, when the Tavurvur and Vulcan vents guarding the harbour mouth to the south-east of the town did a long-awaited reprise of the 1937 eruption.

Thankfully there were no casualties, but this significantly larger eruption killed the town. Rebuilding, as occurred in 1937, was not an option as the craters continued to belch sterile, acidic, irritating ash over a prolonged period burying the town a metre to two metres deep. The solution was to clear the building wreckage and then let nature take its slow, regenerating course.

The port and associated light industrial areas and a limited residential area in the southern part of the old town remained while the commercial centre and most residents moved to Kokopo, now dubbed Rabaul, 30 kilometres to the east. The airport is now situated at Tokua, 15 kilometres further east.

The new Rabaul at Kokopo reflects the hasty resettlement of the town after the eruption, but work is proceeding to redevelop the old Rabaul in the volcano’s crater.

The eruption put Rabaul’s hotels out of business, but a dozen beachfront resorts sprang into being between the new airport and the new Rabaul. By the time the old Hamamas and Travelodge re-opened after achieving miracles of ash clearing and refurbishment, there was a shift in focus for tourists towards the beach, the reefs and a relaxed, tropical island lifestyle.

The top of the line resort today is the newest: the Kokopo Beach Hotel development in the centre of the new Rabaul and owned by old-time Rabaul residents, Simon and Evelyn Foo.

Individual bungalows and a spacious open air bar and lounge are strung along the top of the bluff overlooking St George’s Channel. Stone steps lead down to the beach where the hotel’s game fishing boat rocks gently at anchor.
The Foos and their competitors share their expertise and knowledge through the East New Britain Tourist Bureau, the provincial tourism industry body. They are promoting the relaxed island lifestyle, the fresh food of Rabaul, the culture, arts and crafts of the province, the volcanoes (today’s activity is confined to a plume of sulfurous vapour), the World War 2 history of the area, the unrivalled wreck and reef diving, all kinds of sea fishing including game fishing, mountain and bush trekking and caving.

There are cultural activities going on throughout the year, but the peak has to be the combined Warwagira and National Mask Festivals held together annually in July (July 7-16 for 2005) which are attracting increasing interest from participants from all over Papua New Guinea wishing to strut their traditional mask art and “singsings”, and from visitors who enjoy two weekends and a week between of some of the very best traditional and contemporary performance, art and craft.

The experiences are outstanding: diving off Submarine Base is like marine bungy jumping, the trekking is quite different from the experience in Australia, but the caving is still in the exploratory stage. If the sailfish and marlin aren’t biting off Rabaul, then they are sure to be active just around the corner at Cape Gazelle and you can climb the volcanoes again with a local guide.

One highlight of every visit to Rabaul ought to be a round of golf or just a drink or two at the venerable Ralum Club - a slightly ramshackle timber and iron-roofed building with dark, polished floors and a big open lounge area. Fans circle lazily. At closing time they lock the bar, not the building.

Geoffrey Heard is now a Melbourne business writer. Amongst other journalistic pursuits, he launched Radio Bougainville in the late sixties. I took over the station in 1970.

[Source: Rising from the ashes – the town of Rabaul is on the move: literally by Geoffrey Heard, Sunday Age Travel Liftout, 20 February 2005]