Margit and Walter

Margit Elbow (whom I had met previously in Tahiti while returning to Australia from Los Angeles) met me at the Airport Bus terminal. I had a brief encounter with a US Customs official at the airport. He told me I was over the quota for the amount of liquor which could be brought in. He said I was half a litre over. I said “Well I will sit here and drink it”. To which I received the usual American reply: “Oh you Australians. Come in. Enjoy your stay.

“Margit met me at the Airport Bus terminal and took me to her lovely home in Granada Hills, Los Angeles, where a surprise awaited me. Margit kept 8 cats inside her house and fed 3 more outside. They were lovely cats and I can understand why Margit loved them. Luckily they took to me and we got on famously. I sensed Margit was a little relieved at my acceptance without question her love of her cats. She had a large cat toilet in one of the bath rooms and there seemed to be no problems at all there. I remember going shopping with Margit and he forking out 60 US$ for cat food and “Treats”.

Margit was Private Secretary to the Export Manager at Universal Studios and she arranged an extensive tour of the studios for me. The tour included the famous scene from the film JAWS where the Shark jumps out of the water, horrifying all of the spectators. Margit also took me to the huge Forest Lawn Cemetery where I stood at the foot of Marilyn Monroe’s grave and saw the huge painting of the Last Supper.

Her friends also had a dinner to meet me. One of her friends (a Los Angeles Barrister) accompanied me on a trip up the river past the big jail, San Quentin. While I was in the Los Angeles and Francisco area they had a street riot in which a lot of business premises were trashed; they had an earthquake and an execution at San Quentin jail. The huge destruction of the earthquake was on display by the devastation of huge concrete girders of the previous roadway. I joked that maybe they should pay me to stay away from the area.

I attended the big Farmers’ market. While visiting Los Angeles I decided to go to see the magnificently paneled hotel just out of San Diego where the US has a huge Naval base. I traveled to San Diego by Amtrax rail – magnificent carriages of a bygone era but a most inefficient railway which consistently ran late and with what were dirty carriages etc. I have always regretted not going to see the late and great Peter Allen – a fellow Australian who lay dying (from AIDS related complications) in a San Diego hospital at the time.

I went down to Tijuana right on the border with Mexico and then returned to LA being met by Margit even though the train was several hours late. Margit’s friend was Walter Classman who lived in the Mission District of San Francisco and she arranged for me to go visit Walter who worked in an executive capacity with the Bank of America. Walter used to go off to work each day leaving me to care for his pet dog. Walter was a great host. He took me over the Golden Gate bridge several times and to the Great Trees forest near San Francisco.

I decided to go to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and stayed overnight at one of the great Gambling Hotels there. I went by bus to the state Capital, Sacramento and then on to Lake Tahoe. I remember going to the top floor of the hotel for breakfast. I have never seen such a spread of every dish imaginable. I knew of the American tradition for fine food and lots of it but this was really over the top. I remember on our way back to San Francisco we stopped at a roadhouse and I ordered a beer and received the usual half warm horrible brew which I objected to to the barman and received the usual comment: “Oh you Australians!”.

I used to go with Walter to his work and loved the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) train. I used to catch “The Muni” tram from the Bay area terminal to the Mission (Upper Middle Class Area). The first couple of times I used to walk up the hill to Walter’s house then I learned to get off the tram at the top of the hill and walk down.

I kept in touch with Margit and Walter after returning to Australia and Walter and a fellow banker visited me in Kiama. I arranged for them to having morning with the then Kiama Mayor Sandra McCarthy and the two Americans had a wonderful time visiting Kiama.

Sadly, Margit died soon after moving to Sequim (Washington State) where Walter had moved and lived and where he had property. He still lives there and we keep in touch. I was struck by the great hospitality extended to me by my American friends and also the great affection Americans had for their “flavor of the month” Australians.

Add on US

After Noel and I left New York we visited Atlanta and Augusta (Georgia). Boral (Australia) owned or had a big interest in the Merri Brickworks in Augusta so we had a ready welcome there. Managing Director was Peter Knox !!! (the third) who had us stay at the estate he was developing and restoring. This was a magnificent old style village similar to Coolangatta estate in Shoalhaven (Australia) lovingly restored by Col Bishop. Peter Knox ( a delightful young man) was a prominent member of the Augusta Golf club and he arranged our visit to the famous home of the US Masters competition The clubhouse was a beautifully restored homestead in the old Deep US South tradition where they still fly the Confederate flag alongside the Stars and Stripes. Peter was a very generous host and he showed us around and I was even allowed to claim a “Hole in one” at the 18th hole. Peter set up a putt and I dutifully putted out for a “hole in one” at the Augusta Masters Golf course (and I even have the score card to prove it.) I still remember the negro worker at the brickworkis who chewed tobacco and spat it out ( a revolting habit) The social divide between white and black is still alive and well in Augusta. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the dinner for Noel and I held by the local what would be called in Australia Chamber of Commerce. The dinner was held on the rooftop garden of the Bank of Georgia building. I remember the very underdone steak I was served and saying to one of our hosts that I could not eat that as it was too raw. He called one of the black waiters in a most humiliating way much to my embarrassment and ordered he return the dish to the kitchen. Peter Knox later visited Australia in company with Brizola the then Governor of Rio De Janeiro when Brizola was running for President of Brazil (unsucessfully). I saw them on Tv but I did not get to say “‘ow yer goin’ mate ” to them. I had an American Airlines 30 day pass which allowed unlimited clockwise travel. From San Francisco I stopped off at O’Hare Airpot Chicago and then went on to Washington for a 2 day visit during which I visited the Capitol Building and the big Smithsoniam Museum and saw the White House in the distance. I also visited the Washington Cathedral- a huge building devoted to all faiths. An interesting featue of this building was the height of the cross which originally was higher than the image of Liberty on the capitol bullding and it had to be lowered as nothing was allowed to be higher than Liberty. I also visited the Abraham Lincoln memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial graves. I also visited Arlington National War Cemetery and stood at the foot of John F. Kennedy’s grave which has an eternal flame burning. Arlington also features a continuous exercise by a squad of servicemen who carry out (in shifts) the precise military ritual 24 hours a day 7 days a week-a most inspiring display. John F Kennedy’s brother Robert was not eligible to be buried in Arlington as he had never served in the US defence forces unlike his brother who was in the US Navy From Washington I flew to Miami on my was to Jamaica to visit my nephew Father Charles Rue who had a Catholic missionary parish there and with whom I had visited South Korea and the Far East during the visit by Pope John Paul 2.

Cats

I had two visits to the United
States – once as Noel Short and I were returning to Australia from Noel receiving his OBE from the Queen. we flew into John F Kennedy Airport in the roughest landing I’ve ever experienced. I thought the Pan Am Boeing aircraft was going to disintegrate as the whole aircraft shook alarmingly as we landed. Then we had the spectacle of the New York taxi drivers honking their horns and jeering at us as we hauled our suitcases from the airport terminal to the New York Sheraton hotel. They evidently thought we should have got a taxi and maybe they were right.

Anyway we successfully booked in to the hotel and I remember there was a bar opposite the (dry) hotel called “Pat’s Bar” which served almost warm, weak beer in what looked like miniature glasses. I told “Pat”that we came from ‘Orsralia’ where they served real beer in schooner glasses. He suggested we buy a jug of beer instead of the usual small glasses which he was obliged legally to serve with the jovial comment “You Australians”!.

Back home, our social writer for the Sunday Telegraph, Ethel Hayden had written to the Director of Tourism for New York whom she knew and he arranged a tour of Manhattan Island by bus and then one by water on a boat for me. A really great experience. I was particularly intrigued by Chinatown New York! The land tour bus operator refused to go into The Bronx, saying the Negro dominated area was too dangerous.

The Tourism Director had a big office overlooking Central Park. He also arranged two Broadway shows (one was Sugar Babies starring Mickey Rooney for which I had a front row seat! I remember having to squeeze into my seat alongside two huge ladies who both had behinds the size of a double-decker bus! He also arranged for me to be a guest at the RCA Music Hall’s anniversary spectacular which featured a special display by “The Rockettes” – a spectacular display by these special dancers.

I visited Times Square where I had one of the worst hamburgers I have ever eaten.

From New York we flew on to New Orleans staying at at the famous Monte Leone Hotel in the French quarter and visiting Bourbon Street and having a famous Pink Gin. We saw the spectacular graves which have been known to rise up as New Orleans is below sea level. Then we flew on to Los Vegas and stayed at The Golden Nugget Casino hotel. I remember the great amusement of the young croupier at one of the tables as I proffered a $1 bet at the roulette table.

The best thing about the Golden Nugget Casino for me was the McDonald’s hamburger restaurant around the corner.

Next we flew over the huge and magnificent Hoover Dam which supplies water for Los Angeles and San Francisco, landing at LAX (Los Angeles Airport. staying for a few days at Disneyland Motel visiting Disneyland at Anaheim and meeting Mickey Mouse and friends.

We had to endure the big group of Hari Krishnas going through their noisy routine with their trumpets and tambourines (all very illegal so I was told) It was here that I met what we dubbed as the “Cat Lady” on her way to Australia via Tahiti for a few days holiday.

We had a one day, one night stop at Tahiti and I remember visiting the white sand beach imported from Australia. The Capital, Papeete was none too impressive being very dirty, untidy and smelly. Margit Elbow (the Cat Lady) and I got along famously sitting alongside each other on the Qantas flight. In Sydney I helped Margit through Customs and we parted company but not before she had invited me to visit Los Angeles. She was the private Secretary to the Export Manager for Universal Pictures and Lived in Granada Hills. I took up the invite at a later stage but that’s another story.

Brazil

My love affair with Brazil and Brazilians began with the visit to my house by two delightful young Rotary Group Study Exchange students from Brazil- One a computer software salesman, and the other a real estate and promotions agent. We went to several Rotary functions in Kiama. I was President of Kiama Downs Rotary club at the time.

They invited me to visit them in Brazil and stay at their homes in Assis and Presidente Prudente. I took up the invite during a return visit to Brazil by a Rotary Group Study Exchange from Australia visit to their clubs in Brazil. I was not part of the group but took part in the activities of the group in Brazil. This included barbecues and visits to various venues. That was my first visit to Brazil.

Six more visits would follow- four of them as guests of the Brazilian Tourist Association in Rio. While in Brazil the first time I had written an article on Brazil which was published in the Sunday Telegraph.

The Tourist Association was so impressed that they invited me to Brazil to write several more articles with internal travel by the Brazilian Airline Varig and accommodation courtesy of various hotels such as the Rio Beachfront hotel, The magnificent Tropical Hotel in Manaus (Amazon) and the luxurious Hotel De Catarases in Iguassus right on the falls (both owned and operated by Varig).

Aerolineas Argentinas ( a magnificent airline with its pure leather upholstered seats) which flies into Brazil provided first class air travel to and from Sydney. All in all a magnificent package with a guide/intarpreter (my friend Walmir) who went with me to interview Ronald Biggs in his home in Rio.

BHP officials had invited us to be their guests at lunch in Rio after the General Manager of BHP Port Kembla (Jerry Ellis) had written to them advising them of my visit. (BHP has substantial mining interests in Brazil.) Mr Ellis later became general manager of BHP with headquarters in Melbourne (a delightful man whom I got to know well in Port Kembla along with their Public Affairs Officer, Mike Archer who came to my farewell lunch in Wollongong to wish me well for my visit to Brazil.

After lunch in Rio, Walmir and I visited Sugar Loaf Mountain lookout and the Samba school half way up before meeting Ronald Biggs. I loved the Hotel De Cataratas (Hotel of the Waterfall in Ig) and I made friends with the hotel’s giant beautifully plumed Toucan (Bird) which wandered free in the grounds of the hotel (A magnificent bird native to Brazil). The hotel has a lift in the foyer which takes you to the base (Devil’s Throat) of the waterfalls.

I inspected the giant Itapu hydro electric power station with its 18 giant generators which provides the major part of electricity load for the giant industrial and domestic area of San Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city- and the world’s biggest hydro electric scheme.

I also visited the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Mount Corcovado (The Hunchback overlooking Rio) and noted the statue had its eyes closed (maybe just as well considering some of the things that go on in Brazil.)

I was just remembering I have stood atop Corcovado in Brazil; gone to the Ash line of Mt Fuji in Japan and climbed Ayers Rock in Central Australia. I think I have left the conquest of Everest a little late.

One memory I have of Dr Waldir Modotte (the hospital’s Gynecologist) taking me to the Assis Maternity Hospital (run by Catholic Nuns). Handing me a white coat and saying “Put this on”
and then accompanying Waldir on his rounds with the title of “Doctor Kevin”

What I saw on those rounds does not bear repeating.

Some time later Waldir visited me in Kiama and did some study at Wollongong Hospital and then on to Australia’s leading In-vitro Fertilisation Clinic in Melbourne courtesy of Melbourne Appexians m
whom I had contacted. He was delighted with his reception in Australia.

One big surprise disappointment on my first visit to Ässis in Brazil was the refusal of the Sao Paulo state government to staff the ultra modern and spacious hospital donated by Rotary to the city. The hospital eventually opened and I flatter myself in believing I had something to do with this as I gave the Governor of Sao Paulo an earful when he was visiting Assis for something or other. I told him in no uncertain terms, it was a disgrace!

He said other cities had a greater priority for staffing. The hospital eventually opened to the great delight of all especially the medicos in the city as the hospital attracted a lot of business to the city. Waldir had a lot of friends in the medical profession. They even gave me a very big party for my birthday held at the magnificent home of the very wealthy heart surgeon (he even did heart transplants!)

Waldir’s brother-in-law lived in the custom built city of Maringa and he arranged for me to stay there for a wile. The b-in-law was also named Waldir. His father-in-law was the very wealthy Ennio Pinnza who had made a fortune developing Maringa where he had his office. I visited him there and he invited me to stay at his horse-stud property with its magnificent homestead. It had several guest rooms and even had its own airfield which was the scene of the death of Ennio’s wife in an aircraft accident as they were trying to land.

I remember the glass panels at the homestead had emblazoned on them with big letters “EP” hand blasted into the glass. His horses were magnificent. Waldir (2) was his horse attendant. Waldir was also very much into show ponies and was a judge at various horse shows. The local newspaper did an interview of me along with a big photo. I also stayed with another doctor and his family in a town north of Assis.

Smart Alec

Alec Field and I worked together for several years and we got on well together. I accepted Alec as someone who would sell his grandmother for a good story. Alec worked for the Telegraph from Nowra and I worked for the Mercury from Kiama. The difference was that I had the bully boy John Richardson breathing down my neck and monitoring my every move I made. Alec and I used to travel to Ulladulla for Shoalhaven Shire Council meetings,held there on some occasions. We used to travel together in his Mini Minor, enjoy the lunch at Mollymook Golf Club or some other prestigious venue (as guests of the Council).

Alec did not endear himself to people by his ruthless tactics. I remember the Police complaining about his use of the Police Press Pass they issued to us. Alec used to show the pass holding his hand over the “Press” part of the document displaying only the “Police” part. The Police changed the pass when they heard what he was doing. Alec once went to Nowra Police Station with a bag full of Christmas presents (supplied by News Limited) for the Police and Detectives. They responded by throwing the gifts down the front steps onto the footpath.

The HMAS Albatross authorities banned Alec from the station following a news story he wrote (complete with picture of himself inside the breach) of lax security At Australia’s biggest Naval air base’s perimeter fence. It was alleged Alec had cut a hole in the security fence and had then accused the Navy of lax security at the base which house a lot of expensive equipment. They posted a big picture of Alec at the front entrance to the base with the message: “This person is not allowed on this base under any circumstances”.

On another occasion Alec had organised a photo shoot of the newly elected shire president. Bob Wilson was pretty naive. Alec was to take a photo of the young Shire president dressed in the Mayoral robes. his feet up on the Mayoral desk and smoking a big cigar. I objected to the extent that they backed off. The family of Kim Barry the murdered woman of Graeme Gene Potter fame had objected to the authorities about Alec’s behavior. Evidently he had got his foot in the door of the family home at Barrack Heights and had refused to leave.

Alec, his wife and brother, and me, and my wife, were attending the Journalist’s ball in the Union Building at Wollongong University. Guests were Gough Whitlam and wife Margaret. We were all seated at our table when John Richardson started to come over to our table. Knowing the animosity that existed between Richardson and myself, after i was sacked, his new editor who was nearby, dissuaded Richardson from coming over. Cullen was like a little poodle dog desperately dancing around while I imagined grabbing Richardson by the seat of the pants and spinning him across the dance floor to in front of the official party. Luckily nothing more came of the incident.

I remember Richardson visiting Shoalhaven council on a ‘meet the councilor’s tour which I had arranged. On the way home with Richardson driving having had quite a few drinks we called in at Coolangatta Village to meet some more councilors. My wife and I had attended the opening of Col Bishop’s renovated and restored Coolangatta Village earlier that year. I remember Tom Lewis the NSW Premier there to officially open the project. Tom was in a horse drawn sulky arriving a the site. The young pony pulling the sulky became very sexually excited. He had the biggest you know what I’ve ever seen much to the amusement of onlookers. Tom was all smiles. I don’t think he was aware of the horse’s display.

After our visit to Shoalhaven on our way home to Kiama Richardson ran the car up the concrete median strip in Manning Street Kiama. He wanted to call the Police to help get the car back on the road. Luckily David Lonsdale the Mercury Editor who was accompanying us talked him out of this idea and we got the car mobile ourselves before continuing on to my house at Pheasant Point. While they were there several of our children came home from school and met Richardson. Richardson had three children of his own with the same or similar names to ours. At least one was severely handicapped.

From that day on Richardson’s attitude to me changed. He was positively nasty. I suspect he was envious of my family as they were all lovely kids and very intelligent.

On another occasion Shoalhaven Council was given a “Fertilitÿ Idol” by some visiting VIP.

Shire President Harry Sawkins had it “doctored” as it had a big front piece and it was in danger of falling forward all the time and it was an embarrassment sitting in the president’s room.

Later John Hatton a former shire president and then Member for the South Coast wrote a letter to the Mercury asking that the decision to sack me be revoked as I was well respected at Shoalhaven Council wrote a delightful letter when I resigned from The Mercury.

Mister President

I was president of the Canowindra Services and Citizens Club (try saying that after a few schooners) for almost 10 years.  During my term the club prospered and grew. I originally was the treasurer before being elected president. The club had very modest beginnings with Gordon Rue the first president and Arthur
Sargent secretary manager. Arthur used to go to the Royal Hotel and fill a small keg with draught beer which was then dispensed to patrons at the club.

The club had a very small poker machine.(one).

You had to purchase tokens at the bar and these were then inserted into the machine. Arthur was Secretary Manager of the club under these difficult conditions The club eventually acquired a Silver Jubilee 20 cent machine when poker machine were legalised. It made thousands of dollars for the club. Eventually Arthur became addicted and the committee decided he had to go. He used to have all night parties with his mates after the club had closed. One conscientious committeeman took it upon himself to “raid” these after hours parties. We had a very conscientious committee.

I remember several nights on duty after the club was broken into and the strong room damaged. Committeemen were rostered on an all-night vigil to guard the club while repairs were made. One committeeman was rostered on each night to clear the poker machines. weigh the proceeds and sign off. Arthur’s successor as Secretary Manager was Ken Callinan – a former Colonel in the Army. Not a very warm and engaging person. Luckily we had a good backup staff in Jack Simpson, “Red” Hetterick and Robert Grant with Albert {“Treaky”) Trindall as the cleaner. During my term the club instigated a very generous superannuation scheme which helped us to attract and retain good staff and as a means of sharing the club’s prosperity with those who made the club so popular. They were all very good for public relations.

I will never forget the look of consternation on Jack Simpson’s face when I used to say when the club was packed to the rafters: I think we will send one around. President’s shout”. I always insisted on paying for my own drinks during these episodes. Why the club was so successful was because we kept a tight rein on the poker machine revenue. Each trading night a committeeman would clear the machines and then weigh the money. This was surprisingly accurate with the actual count by the bank next day.

I even invented a “Poker machine Auditor”, This gadget when attached to the machine would count the number of times the handle was pulled and also count the number of coins that went into the “cop box”.I eventually sold it to a Maniladra businessman for a tidy sum. During my term we built and opened the renovated club and the magnificent Canowindra community centre comprising a large auditorium, Nangar meeting room, shire library and RSL room. (all air conditioned and later the hall and meeting room also) all the envy of much larger towns.

It was all built courtesy of a loan by the Boree Shire Council, (our local government body ) and paid off by the club with the council having title to the project. I remember who owned it created quite a debate with me saying it did not matter who owned it as long as we had exclusive use of it to which the council agreed.  Our local councilors Athol Brown and Charlie |McCarron lent their great support. I used to travel to Boree Shire meetings with Athol and Charlie so I had their “ëar” on this and other matters to the extent they used to call me the 13th councillor (Boree had 12 Councillors).

To his great credit the late Arthur Kinsella (my successor as President) negotiated the return of title to the building to the club. I don’t know how he did it but he did.

I remember we had sought approval for the building to contain the wording:

“Ä Community project with the names of  Boree Shire Council L.M. Stapleton, president; Canowindra councillors R.A. Brown and C.Mcarron;  Canowindra RSL, R.T. Scoble President; and the
Canowindra Services and Citizens Club, K.W. Whalan President.”

Shire president Max Stapleton insisted that the plaque contain only the name of Boree Shire Council, with the result that no names appeared on the plaque and the idea was abandoned for a plaque commemorating the building of the project. The centre was officially opened by the NSW Governor Sir Eric Woodward  and Lady Woodward who were guests at a Vice Regal ball which was a great success.  I remember the very good looking Aide-de-Camp accompanied the Royal Couple home and then came back to the Ball. I remember asking Lady Woodward to dance and Sir Eric asking my wife to dance in return.

Sir Eric said : “I haven’t danced  for years.”

Lady Woodward was a very good dancer  and after a spirited dance which we greatly enjoyed we stopped to talk to one of the town’s socialites who promptly blew a cloud of her smoke from a long cigarette holder over Lady Woodward.  I could have killed the woman on the spot. She was not supposed to be smoking in the hall in the first place.

Lady Woodward commented on my knees knocking as I was making my speech at the opening of the hall

“I have never seen that before,” she said.

Sir Eric and Lady Woodward took a great liking to the fact that we had twin boys. We took them down to the train to farewell Sir Eric and Lady Woodward who were delighted to see them. Andrew promptly went to sleep.

Five deaths

I have experienced five deaths.  The first was my mother.  It was a very cold winter’s night in early August (about 2 a.m) when my mother with whom I had lived after my father had died about five years before called out “Kevin! Kevin!.” Evidently having a heart attack.

I called the ambulance (with whom I’d had a close relationship because of the newspaper).  and Allan Maker and I loaded mum into the ambulance.  I remember the little thin cotton blanket which must have  been cold  comfort for Mum on such a night.   Anyway I followed the ambulance to the hospital and Matron Pilkington was none too pleased at being called out in the middle of the night to unlock the drugs cabinet.  I will never forget the huge syringe filled with a pain killing drug (probably morphine).

Anyway she plunged this giant needle into mum’s chest and we took her to a bed ln  the female ward. Not long after mum called out and I said ” I’m here mum”.

Her last words were “Ï love Kevin”.

I  realised she  had gone as the resuscitator which had been helping her to breath stopped  working emitting a continuous hissing sound.

I kissed her on the cheek and said “Bye Bye Mum “.

Then there was this chilling experience: I turned and almost said  “What are you doing here ?”.

I felt Dad’s presence there. I will always believe he had come for Mum.

I related details of this experience to my sister Marie while we were having lunch at a restaurant in Kingcumber where she lived  during a visit there with my grandson Grant.

Her response was “You’re a liar. They didn’t have resuscitators in those days.”  Grant will probably remember the incident. Marie’s son Michael later apologised at her funeral  for the outburst.

The second near death experience was when my wife’s mother Linda (In Portuguese beautiful) Brassil was near death.  Mrs Brassil  (my mother -in- law) and I got on very well and we liked each other  a lot. I loved her.  She was a wonderful person who had raised three boys and five girls -in the latter years on her own after her husband, Joe, died. She loved our twin boys.

I remember her saying as I was leaving the Randwick Hospice to go home to Canowindra  (I had to get the paper out the next day) she said: ‘Oh I wish I could go over the Great Divide tonight”

I kissed her on the cheek in what was to be our last goodbye and said “For you:The best is yet to come”. She smiled and that was the last time I saw her.

Her wish was granted as she died that night.

I remember her jokingly saying about babies “Easy to put in; hard to get out!” .

Then there was the time I was visiting an old friend Doug Newton in Canowindra hospital. Doug was our Canowindra Star accountant who did all our tax returns etc. As I left to go he gripped my arm in a vice-like grip and said “Please don’t go”

I said: “I must”  as I reluctantly  broke his grip. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. He died that night

When I was in Canowindra I used to visit one of the Rue Girls now in her 90s  blind and deaf.  In her heyday Jessie Rue was an avid follower of politics reading everything she could and listening via her radio to Parliament and the news etc. I was very saddened  to see her deprived of these things. Old age can be very cruel. The Rue “Girls”  (Mary Jess and Mag) used to take Mum and I to Sunday Mass in Canowindra for many years. They were very loyal friends. I was sorry to hear of her death.

I was at home one evening when I took an unexpected call from an old friend Terry Brown then living with his daughter at The Entrance.  Terry used to be the Secretary Manager of the club (Canowindra Services and Citizens) of which I was president for almost 10 years. Terry and I got on very well and we liked each other.  He kept in touch after leaving to take up the Secretary Manager of a much larger club, Hornsby RSL.  Our club had prospered during his term and we were very sorry to see him go. Anyway after discussing the news he said he had rung to tell me I was the whitest man he had ever met.  He died several days later from emphysema.

Kevin Almighty

I taught Christian Scripture at various  Schools (Kiama High, Jamberoo, Minnamurra  and Kiama Public)  for about five years   and then mentoring with the government sponsored Planet Youth program which I enjoyed  immensely. The kids were great – interested, respectful , inquisitive and attentive.

I had to cope with questions like

“Who made God ?” and

“How do GAYS have sex?” and

“Is it alright to masturbate. ?”.

I managed to avoid these questions. as being outside my brief.

On two occasions the group I had been teaching applauded – a most  uplifting experiences for me and hardly the reaction of there – under – protest conscripts as non believers would have  us believe

There was only one serious incident and that was when a senior student shouted at the scripture teacher giving the visual. “I’m gonna kill him”. I don’t know what brought this outburst on.  I confronted the offending student and told him (several) times to sit down which thank God he eventually did.  I genuinely felt for my own safety during this incident.  I eventually convinced the head scripture teacher not to call the police or report the incident to the  school Principal.The only other ïncident”was at Warrawong High during a mentoring session.  One of the volunteers (already an unmarried mother) was having a “Pass” session with one of the senior students until I objected to such behavior as being unacceptable.

At Kiama High  (the main place for our teaching) about 150 pupils would gather in the assembly hall for a visual  and talk before breaking into groups of about 15 with one of the 10 or so  volunteer teachers  Some of the teachers had trouble.  The kids could spot  a hypocrite right away and they  usually gave them a  hard  time.

We had Anglican. Uniting Catholic and Jehovah’s Witness and occasionally Baha’i volunteers. Kiama High used to put on quite a nice morning tea for visiting catechists.

Rome

My entry into, and departure from, Rome were equally interesting.  I had just arrived at Da Vinci Airport Rome from London on my way to the Holiday Inn Vatican City. A young Irish pair offered to pay half the taxi fare for the 15 mile  ride to Vatican City  and I agreed.  But when we got to our destination the pair hopped out quickly and  vanished into the depths of the hotel leaving me to pay the full fare for the taxi. So much for trust.

The next morning (Sunday) I went to Vatican City expecting to see great crowds of worshippers, But no. What greeted me  were great  hordes of tourists dressed in every conceivable way taking photos ,and generally behaving in what I thought was a thoroughly disrespectful way  There was no Masses being celebrated at the High Altar. (I found out later there was a mass in a side chapel),  I asked a delightful young Swiss guard where you could go on a tour of St Peters, The Sistine Chapel and other attractions of The Vatican.

He took me to a side office near the entrance to the Cathedral. There sat an enormous middle-aged cleric with a huge red sash around his enormous girth.  I showed him my letter from Cardinal Freeman of Australia; a letter from my Bishop and a letter from the Editor of the Catholic Weekly.  “Everrry think is clossed” said the mountain.

Evidently all the Vatican’s attractions were closed on Sundays.  So ended my long-awaited visit to the Vatican.  But I dud see the High Altar (someone was kind enough to take a photo of me in front of the Great Canopy which straddles the altar and throne and also The Pieta . I was most impressed with St Peters.

Everywhere you looked was a masterpiece of beauty.

My exit from Rome was interesting.  I left the Holiday Inn Vatican by and open top bus and on the way to the Train Station I had a close-up view of the Coliseum as the bus passed nearby.

At the Railway station I fronted up at the ticket window and told the attendant I wanted a single one way ticket to Paris. The attendant said the train was booked out and the only accommodation was a VIP club car.  I agreed to pay extra for the club car and was shown to a rather luxurious car at the very rear of the train. The car had an attendant who presented me with a cup of tea on arrival.

I remember looking out the window as the train left Rome.

I remember seeing the various stations we passed through including the town of Pisa (of Leaning Tower fame)- the last town before going under the railway tunnel of the  Alps. Upon arrival in Paris I had to catch the Metro Underground Railway to the American Express office. I was directed through this maze by a delightful young black man. My only regret was I did not have any change to give him a worthwhile tip. At the Grand Hotel I had a snack and met a Canadian couple who were going to Rome and needed some Lira.

I had ‘ma pocketful’ of the near worthless Lira.

So I said “You want some Lira? Well here, you can have this”, as I emptied my pockets.

I was due to fly to London later in the day as the American Express people suggested I take an open top bus tour of  Paris. We saw The Moulin Rouge nightclub in the distance as we went along the Arc De Triomphe, Joan of Arc statue and other attractions of this great city.  We saw the Notre Dame cathedral which is near the River Seine.  Before arriving at The Eiffel Tower where we stopped for a break.  It was a very hot day and I remember fronting up at the restaurant bar and ordering a large, cold, beer.

The arrogant young bar attendant took a large glass from the rack and squirted a mixture of froth and bubble into the glass from the beer gun. He plonked it down in front of me and said “There..”

I said to the great amusement of an elderly couple nearby:

“Do you know what Stick It means” because that is what you can do with it.”.

I eventually returned to the Grand Hotel and got the bus to the Charles De Gaulle airport for the return flight to London.

God

I am often asked why I believe in God.  I believe because it’s just plain logical  I remember on one occasion  we had all gathered at the Wollongong RSL Club to farewell one of the legal profession. I was talking to Magistrate Keith Dale and I said to him I did not want to stay out too late as I had to be up early the next day (Sunday) to go to Mass.

“You don’t believe in all that rubbish do you ?”. said Keith with great conviction.

I cannot remember what I replied. I would have replied that I did not believe in ALL  the baggage the Church has gathered  over the years. but the main principles remain true. Atheists would have us believe that this beautiful earth, universe and even mankind itself resulted from  a combination of gases and random events that all just fell together over millions (try billions) of years.

Its all too ideal and perfect a home for mankind for me to believe that.  It’s not even logical to believe there was no plan, no architect, no engineer, no scientist, no agriculturalist, no astronomer.

Its like saying that your beautiful new car sitting in the garage just appeared overnight in a puff of smoke.  If anybody said that they would be laughed out of the neighborhood  Its much more logical to assume that a higher power created and   engineered it all as a home for mankind.  A little closer to that inferno we call the sun and we would all fry. A little further away and we would all freeze. This massive rock hurtling through space at astronomical speed. tilts a little for summer and tilts the other way for winter. It is protected from massive radiation, collisions and extremes.

It truly is a masterpiece of engineering. Scientists are hoping to find life on other planets. My tip is they will find nothing to come even close  such is the beauty of the earth and mankind. Then we have mankind.  Able to love,hate, laugh, cry, smile, smirk and even frown. Most if not all of mankind’s problems arise from his  God-given  freewill. Man’s mini-humanity to man rivals anything God has done. Why did God allow his Son to be mocked, humiliated, spat on, and finally, crucified as a criminal by a motley mob of thugs ?

Only God could have endured such horrors against His beloved son .knowing full well  He had the power to zap them  You and I could not have done that without cracking.  HE had the power but chose not to use it because He could see the greater good the Crucifixion would eventually  produce.

In my church (Catholic) I often hear the saying: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”.

But don’t take my word for it.  Try it for yourself..  It certainly worked for me.

I have a rather interesting theory: When you die the soul leaves the body and enters the spirit world. Jesus once said “before Abraham was I am”  This statement  poses the question that God exists only in the present tense – no past. no future. God always was and always will be.

This means that when you enter the spirit world you are united with everyone who ever existed or who will exist. Hence the saying that God’s world had no beginning and has no end. God is everywhere  – just like gravity. hence the great belief of Arthur (What’s His Name) who wrote the word  “ETERNITY” all over the place in Sydney.

Anecdotes, Yarns, Old News and New Memories

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