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20 October 2016

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Yes Garry, the same dedicated Medical Assistant, Bert Carra, put me through a Medical Assistant Certificate.

As as we employed over 150 workers on the plantation we were not allowed to send our staff to the Aitape Health Centre.

We had a small clinic at each of Tadji, Tepier & St Anna. As there was no Health Centre in the Nuku area, Bert would accompany the Patrol Officer & treat villagers on the way.

When the patrol came back, there would be many bad cases carried. Also I would see walking through Tadji Plantation, a long line of villagers who would take the opportunity to come to the coast to sell their tobacco leaves & purchase salt.

When I got there in 1954, at St Anna Plantation just near the present Catholic Mission office, there was a heap of large beer bottles left over from the war. It was about 50 metres long and 3 metres high by 3 metres.The bottles were a treasure for the Nuku people to fill with salt & take back home. Of course the bottles could also be broken to use for shaving.The massive heap didn't last long!

We would buy the tobacco as it was good quality. We would put it in a 44 gallon drum & press it down with a timber jack between the floor beams of our house.This way it would last up to 6 months.

By the Territory of PNG workers' law, we had to provide stick tobacco or tobacco leaves every week with newspaper for rolling it. The crazy rules made by bureaucrats in Canberra!

The blankets we had to provide were wool & a Labour Inspector would check the weight of them.

I seem to remember a Bert Carra in the health system in Hagen. Probably the same person mentioned in this blog?

Bill, your amazing kanda bridge had everyone stunned & was great for me as I could go from our house at Tadji Plantation to St Anna Plantation on my small BSA motorbike every day.

Then when you commenced to build the permanent bridge & after you had driven the 18 inch wide RSJs (girders) way down to bedrock we all watched as your workers from Ali & Tomleo Island built the formwork all around & poured 50 ton of concrete.

We knew this massive block would be there for a hundred years. Until one morning I was going across the kanda bridge on my motor bike after a big storm & thought I was seeing things as the block was gone!

Even though there were many huge RSJs driven deep, the concrete block was undermined with the raging current & the weight of the block just bent the RSJs. Mad but true.

So as you know it was many years before we got a bridge.

In those days we would never know exactly when MV Meklon (from CPL Rabaul) would be coming to pick up our copra but one morning somehow we heard that MV Meklon was at Aitape loading area.

We lived at Tadji & it was imperative to get to the loading area as it required about 150 workers to do the loading on our large 45ft canoes.

Unfortunately the wonderful kanda bridge had been washed away a few weeks before when a branch of a tree being washed down stream caught the bridge.

And this day the Raihu was raging we couldn't go across on the canoe ferry so had to go across hand over hand on the few strands of kanda that were left.

The Captain was Laurie Thomas (The Screaming Skull) &, if we had failed to organise the unloading, he would have made sure MV Meklon would never come to Aitape again.

Interesting read, Bill. Thank you. Looking forward to the next chapter.

Thank you so much for that, Bill. It has now gone viral on Facebook. I'm sure you wouldn't mind. Have a few Sepiks who love history... and that really sets the scene.

Have a few doppy ones up in the west these days. Been upsetting a few. Sad but the west still has a long way to go. Some great people up there too but they don't seem to be in charge.

Best wishes long yu.

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