To ensure that after 40 years I would be recognisable, I was attired in my flamboyant yellow garb. I needn't have been worried. Sue and her husband had no trouble spotting a retired gentleman clothed in yellow. Then the stories flowed. It was a wonderful experience.
Sue is a teacher and her husband has been appointed headmaster of Byron Bay Public School – an hour’s drive from their residence on 150 acres with 50 Hereford cows and a Brahman bull.
Both Hurrell boys (if I can use that word - Lloyd now 92 and Frank not far behind) and their wives live in retirement villages. Lloyd has written a book on his time in PNG [Hurrell's way: an autobiography] - pre-war, war and after.
Sue and her husband have been regular visitors to PNG. They have climbed Mt Wilhelm and walked- the Kokoda Track. There are schools on the track with no pupils because there are no teachers (due to the government not paying salaries). Some schools have been sponsored by Rotary and books and materials remain in their crates in empty classrooms. Of course the local population is anxious for the kids to have an education. It’s considered to be of paramount importance just as it was 40 odd years ago.
Sue said they never felt any danger when in Port Moresby - they even went out at night. But Lae was another case entirely, verging on anarchy. They visited the Tami Islands off Dregerhafen on a dive boat and had a wonderful time diving, swimming and in total harmony with the locals. I recall the long canoes arriving at Dregerhafen with the Tami carvings - they moored right in front of my Bulolo style house.
Sue has also worked in Boggabilla – in NSW just over the Queensland border from Goondiwindi. I spent my primary school years not far from there – in Boomi and Moree - and I can tell you Boggabilla is the pits of the earth.
And so to this day. Today 40 years ago I was on my way to Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. I never got there. My diary tells me I celebrated New Year in Tokyo at the Imperial Hotel Ballroom. There is no entry for what I did on 1 January 1969, so I can only assume far too much saki - which I no longer drink - was consumed.
Happy new year!