THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS OF Baimuru Patrol Post in the days when patrols were done and justice, dispute resolution, sanitary maintenance instruction and all sorts of other advice physically taken to the villages four times a year.
At the patrol post, government services including a branch of the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Post Office were managed by me in addition to daily courts, public works, maintenance of airstrip and station surrounds.
These were provided under my own occasionally wrathful oversight. We spoke Motu to each other on the station, and we considered ourselves a team with a reputation to keep and with a job to be done.
In 1961, the station was moved as an existing established unit from the old, isolated site at Beara, near Koravake Village, some miles away by river, to Baimuru with its existing large sawmill, airstrip capable of landing DC3s, and two trade stores.
Baimuru was a metropolis complete with two electric generators powering the sawmill and both trade stores. As well there were regular plane and coastal-ship arrivals. So exciting, after Beara, hidden away in the swamps. At any rate, it looked like that to us with our thatched bush-timber houses, outboard-powered canoes and kerosene lamps.
Although there was a house already there for me, all the station staff including married men and families had to be accommodated in new housing. An office/courthouse and a gaol and a station store had to be built.
Then a government wharf and shed, an aid post, and a primary school classroom and teacher accommodation.
I engaged a very good Orokolo carpenter named, appropriately, Hama, and our old standby handyman from Beara, Jack Omaro, known as the Irish Koriki, as his assistant.
The job was done with cooperation from all the villages and the sawmill. Sawn timber frames, selo walls and biri thatch. Neat and practical and, somehow, by doing a deal here and there, the 10 or so married men all got an iron roof over their kitchens with a 500 gallon water tank attached.
Same standard for the single barracks and in fact the whole station. The record show we bought quite a lot of kaema (kaukau) from a trader who for some reason gave us nails instead.
The District Commissioner at Kerema, the well known John J Murphy of Tok Pisin Grammar fame sent me, from memory, £200 for Minor New Works and a further derisory sum (considering the circumstances and magnitude of the task) of about £120 on the Buildings Maintenance vote.
Once complete, John J came over to inspect us in our new surroundings and upbraided me for building the office /courthouse on the block indicated on the Town Plan for the Community Centre.
But he was a cheery old fellow and there were no hard feelings after the first few pent-up seconds when Fowke’s ever-large figure probably adopted a threatening if controlled stance.
Being a somewhat idealistic sort of young man in those days (and a magistrate at age 22), I spent five years in the western Gulf at Kikori, Ihu and Baimuru/Beara, going back there in the end as a Co-op Officer to establish a small venture consisting of three village societies and an Association.
This I intended to fill the gap of looked-for cash-cropping and retail services, initiated, but not supported, by government back in the days of Tommy Kabu and the Purari Kampani.
None of the many village co-op societies, the regional Associations or the Port Moresby-based Federation with its insurance and coastal-shipping services and wholesaling-importing trade, have survived.
The movement became dysfunctional after the Co-operative Societies Ordinance (1965) was repealed by the then House of Assembly in 1974.
There is many a story to be told here (see my 1984 novel Time of Rain under the pen-name of John Stafford). The principal character in the first two parts is drawn heavily from the life and times of Tommy Kabu, who founded both Horse Camp and Rabia Camp settlements in Moresby in the heyday of the Kampani. He was a man well before his time, unfortunately.