Canowindra’s population was like a United Nations
A Greek ran the fruit shop; an Italian had the Garden of Roses cafe and milk bar (he also sold condoms); A Jewish couple had the Newsagency and Strand Theatre; the Maloufs (Lebanese ) had a grocery and fabrics shop; Chinese had the Laundry and a Fruit and Vegetable Garden on the river flats near the town; we had a “Pommie” plumber; An Irish Parish Priest; An Irish Matron at the hospital and an Indian doctor,
Everyone got on well with one another and with their Aussie neighbours and they used to join in town functions. (Doug Malouf was Best Man at my wedding). I remember once Ron Worboys (local Austin and Volkswagen dealer) referred to the “Poms” Cricket team and his being chided by his mother who said: “Ho Ron, not the Poms. The Hinglishmen”!
An Aboriginal electrician linesman (John Kennedy) used to go to the Bush dances with us. Johno used to go to the bush dances at Billimari and at Murga etc with us. Black as the Ace of spades, Johno was great company and very good looking. We used to tell him not to go wandering around outside the dance hall in the dark as we would not be able to find him, He used to take our well-meant good humour with a bit of a laugh.
I have received several testimonials during my career but none more glowing than that from John Hartigan Chief Executive Officer of News Limited on the occasion of my 80th birthday!
Here it is:
1. NEWS LIMITED,
“Long before Rampaging Roy Slaven and HG Nelson tried to make fun of the South Coast News on ABC Radio on a Saturday afternoon, there was Kevin Whalan reporting the news from the South Coast as it really was. While a noted specialist on all things South Coast – at the Illawarra Mercury and Kiama Independent – Kevin also graced the fourth estate further west with stints on the Cowra Guardian and Canowindra Star. It was all good training for his golden age on the Daily Mirror, then the Telegraph Mirror after we merged the two papers, and finally the Daily Telegraph.
Kevin was a journalist for 49 years , 23 of those at News Limited. As a reporter, Kevin saw the full spectrum of life’s drama. comedy and humanity . He earned and enjoyed great friendship with both colleagues and those in the community he served. He valued loyalty and it was reciprocated. He was made a Life Member of the journalists union – the old AJA – in 1990. Today, Kevin is surrounded by family and friends, some media and even a couple of pollies. He’s obviously still got the pulling power of a pro.
Happy birthday mate, As Rupert Murdoch would say, 80 is a pretty good start!
With best wishes and regards,
John Hartigan. Chairman and Chief Executive, News Limited,.2 Holt Street, Sydney.
The testimonial was accompanied by a note:
NEWS LIMITED John Hartigan, Chairman and Chief Executive,16 May, 2009.
Can I offer you my congratulations on turning 80 years of age .
You’re still but a youngster. I wish I could be with you for the big party but unfortunately can’t make the drive down the coast. Our many years of working together I remember with great fondness .Make sure you have a ball and all the best for the future. Best wishes, John Hartigan.
2. Before my taking up the appointment as Editor of the Kiama Independent I edited the Narromine New for an old acquaintance, Cliff Whitelocke, (Whom I never met) while he went on a well-earned holiday. He wrote me a delightful letter on his return:
Dear Mr Whalan:
Thanks you for everything. I am glad you had an enjoyable stay. A cheque for expenses is enclosed. You appear to have made a favourable impression on the people who met you and you made excellent use of the Kliesehograph (a photo engraver for the printing press), I noticed with interest your experimentation with some of the sans-serif type we had been saving for The Second Coming and will probably revert to placid 36 point bodenia and the like while we do some research I hope you have a pleasant time at Kiama Mrs Weston and John are people we have grown to admire and I hope you will give them our warm regards, Thanks again for all you did, it was appreciated . Yours sincerely Cliff,
3. From John Hatton. Member for the seat of South Coast at the time:
It was quite a shock to learn from the President of Shoalhaven Shire, Cr R Wilson, of the dismissal of Kevin Whalan, Of course I do not know the circumstances and so I cannot comment except to relate my views of Mr Whalan. As one who has been in public life for 12 years, often in the forefront where the flak is thickest, I have met many journalists. There would be none more polite and sincere than Kevin Whalan. Never at any time have I had cause to complain. He has always gone to great lengths to check the accuracy of his stories and in my view is a much needed constructive force in the building of a better community. I hope most sincerely that the powers that be will reconsider this dismissal.
Hon Hatton. M.L.A. South Coast.
From Shoalhaven City Council:
Mr K. Whalan. News Limited, Room 309.A.M.P. Building, 166 Keira Sreet, Wollongong.N.S.W. 2500: 16 December. 1980,
4. Dear Kevin:
Your Letter of the 6th November addressed to the mayor and aldermen advising that you would no longer be reporting council meetings was distributed to Senior staff and aldermen at a meeting of council held on 8th December. 1980. I thank you for your complimentary remarks and wish to convey council’s appreciation to you for your fair and accurate reporting of Council meetings, The co-operation that has been enjoyed by council and yourself in the reporting of matters before council will be fondly remembered and I wish you and your wife Frances best wishes not only for Christmas and the New Year but for a continuing prosperous future.
Yous faithfully W.G Lamond, Town Clerk.
I also received a card signed by many members of the Canowindra Chamber of Commerce on my leaving Canowindra; One from the staff of the Cowra Guardian and one from the journalistic staff of the Illawarra Mercury.
Canowindra was well endowed with pubs and clubs. The town had four pubs and three clubs and also two wine and spirit merchants (mine being Canowindra Wine and Spirits, plus Finns – maybe Western Stores as well) also licenses for the show races and trots so no wonder there were a lot of resident pisspots around the town.
The hotels were;
The Hotel Canowindra with its delightful Spanish style architecture (built and operated by Bob Duncan and family (prominent was Carmen Duncan and Paula Duncan who went on to be a well known TV actors for some years so I’m told).
The Royal Hotel operated for some years by the O’Briens who had two very attractive daughters (would-be suitors were discouraged by Mother O’Brien who could fell a Roman warrior with one stare).
The Victoria Hotel (operated by Harry (“Dusty”) Rhodes with its spacious bar area.
and the Junction Hotel – operated for many years by Reg Garforth. The Junction served beautiful draught beer as was evidenced by the great crowd of drinkers who breasted the bar every afternoon. If someone ordered a lemon squash the very arrogant Reg would tell them if they wanted a squash.
“Go down to the bloody Cafe!”
Canowindra had four banks: Commonwealth (Federal Government owned); Rural (State Government owned); ANZ; Commercial of Sydney and Bank of NSW.
It had three general merchandise stores: Finns; The Western Stores and McDonaghs; two menswear stores ( Eric Best’s and later Gil and Hordern Mulligans) and Frank Pitt’s; Nick Malouf’s (smaller mainly grocery); a shoe store (Roley Frost) and a Canowindra Jewellers shop (Les Weston and later Hazel McNaught’s); two electrical retailers (Les Sutton’s and Harold Townsend’s). T.J. Finn built the mansion-like two storey residence “Tralee” in Short Street in the days when his store, T, J. Finns prospered ,
On late shopping nights one could hardly move in the main street.
Bad debts eventually ruined T.J. Finn’s store had a huge red neon sign on its roof with its big neon arrow sign pointing to the store. The Belubula River flood once rose so high as to flood the cellar at the store and townspeople had to be enlisted to move stock to a higher level. Canowindra had two doctors, (Dr Gribben and Dr Priestley). I remember Doc Priestley coming to our house to treat a large boil Dad had on his whatever. Dad was required to disrobe and as he did so the good doctor exclaimed: “What a pair of beauties!”
Mum quickly ushered me out of the room. I used to visit “Glastonbury”, the beautiful and spacious home of the Delaneys who owned the farmhouse near the town. Their very attractive young niece was staying with them over the Easter holidays. She decided to produce a play with an Easter theme and I was cast in the role of Pontius Pilate. There I was at the Dress Rehearsal with a Roman Toga draped over my near naked frame. The only problem was I got an erection. This resulted in the producer telling me I was not suited for the role. So ended My Brilliant Career as an actor.
Camowindra, was a rugby league mad town. Besides the matches in Group 11 (Forbes, Partkes, Condobolin). Canowindra used to play for the Jack Hore Gold Cup – a trophy donated by the Canowindra community in memory of a prominent late footballer. I used to tend the fire under,the boiler for the hot water that the team (coached by prominent imported Sydney footballer Joe Jorgenson as captain and player coach) needed after football training.
We had one keen supporter who was knee-high to a grasshopper. He could not see the play, He used to watch from behind the crowd on the hill at The Oval and would run up and down shouting: “What”s ‘appenin ? What’s appenin ?.”
We had three brothers as members of the first grade side (one a prominent goal kicker). I remember one incident on a rainy day. The referee had just awarded a penalty against Canowindra for about the third time when the mother of the three boys ran onto the ground and started hitting the referee over the head with her umbrella until restrained by her three sons.
I used to go to meetings of Group 11 and was elected Senior Vice President to “Sauso” Dwyer (a Parkes Butcher) as President and Jack Hartcher from Forbes who was Secretary.
More to come.
Finns, Rues and Grants:
I grew up in Canowindra – a town dominated by the Rue, Grant and Finn families.
The Grants and Rues had extensive land holdings around the area – left to them by their forebears but most of them finished up with nothing due
to heavy boozing, bad money – wise or just plain laziness.
The Finns had the Canowindra general store, T.J Finn Proprietary Limited
There were exceptions of course.
Some finished up as Catholic clergymen:
Fathers Leo and Noel Grant (Parish Priests); Fathers Tom Finn and Father Allan Finn (brothers and Christian Brothers) ; Brothers at St Stanislaus College, Bathurst) ; Columban Father Charles (Rue (My sister Iris’s son. who was married to Claude Rue) (Sydney) and Father Noel Tobin (a distant cousin) who prospered in Western Australia (Geraldton diocese) after he obtained the bulk fuel supply license for the area.
One example of the Grant business sense: Ted Grant (father of Robert) the very popular barman at my Services & Citizens Club, bought the Royal Hotel at Canowindra. He went broke and I remember towards the end of his term he used to advise drinkers that he could supply the beer if they brought their own glasses! Another Rue reminiscenced that when he signed cheques at the pub the given name was o.k. but the Rue part finished up on the bar.
Other colorful characters were the Gallagher “Blooden” Boys: Neil, Frank and Jack with sister Mary.
Neil was the Patriarch of the family and it did very well with Neil’s dealing in sheep and cattle from their small lucerne and mixed farm on the Woodstock road.
Neil used to say when asked how he was travelling: would say:
“I’m o.k. but Mudders got the blooden wind really bad !”
He would never swear but would say “blooden” instead.
Frank, the good looking one, had a great love of the poker machines at the club and he used his share of proceeds from the farm for this pastime. Neil did not approve of his sister’s choice of a boy-friend.
“A hundred dollars to anyone who splits them up”, he would say.
They always had the latest model car, Then there was the ageing Lin who when asked how he was used to reply:
“Stiff in every place but the right place!”
I used to go to Boree Shire Council meetings with Cr Charlie McCarron and Cr Athol Brown (our representatives on the Council) I was President of the Services Club and it was through this liaison that got Canowindra the magnificent Community Centre meeting room, etc, with the club agreeing to repay the loan which Council raised to fund the building.
I often had the title of the 13th Councillor , Cr Charlie McCarron used to visit many centres in his role as Chairman of the State Electricity Authority. He used to tell us about A,C, Moon or ( “A.C,” as he was affectionately known,) the Mayor of Parkes. “A,C,” and his wife used to enjoy a drink or three at the Mayoral receptions, etc.
Charlie used to say it was possible to see three full moons on the one night in Parkes.
Charlie became known as “Electric Charlie” as he was responsible for the extensive Rural electrification programme which took Grid electricity to farms.
More to Come!
Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.
I was married on January 14, 1961 at Holy Family Church, Maroubra, by the Catholic parish Priest Farther Carr (a long-time friend of the Brassil family) to Frances Bridget Carlin Brassil, with my long time friend John Keyte as best man and another long time friend Doug Malouf as groomsman. I was divorced on the application of my wife with a Negree Nisi dated May 4, 1984.
I well remember an incident on the day of my marriage. My sister Marie arrived at the church with three large packets of confetti which she duly proceeded to empty over the happy couple. Unbeknownst to us, Frances had previously discussed the use of confetti with Fr Carr and agreed it would not be used at the wedding. She then proceeded to tell my sister what she thought of her for bringing confetti and fouling up the steps of the church, The New South Wales Premier, the then Member of Parliament for the NSW seat of Maroubra, Bob Heffron, and his wife (long-time friends of the Brassil family through their mutual interest in the Labor Party). attended the Wedding and Reception held at Bronte house Bondi.
Scallywags of mine “hot wired” my car at the reception and delayed our leaving for the Honeymoon at the leading Kings Cross hotel and then at a seaside Motel and finally at Peppers Hotel at The Entrance, There was no kissey, kissey, cuddle cuddley, huggie, huggie in my marriage as indeed there was none either in my parent’s who barely tolerated each other. I greatly admire couples (like my daughter and her husband who can and do express their love and affection for each other I still have difficulty expressing or receiving affection)
My dad used to sleep in the closed-in part of the side verandah and come in when it was cold or whatever. He had exclusive use of the bathroom on Saturday mornings. He used to shave, bathe and put on his best clothes and then go to the pub where he would have a beer or three with his mates. I remember once he came home and got up from sitting by the fire. He fell and broke one of the Carvers (chairs) which formed part of Mum’s prized Beard Watson dining room suite. I remember we all used to sit around the open fire on cold nights. Some nights someone “would let one go” and everyone would look at the other accusingly.
We used to have an open hearth fire and then joy! oh joy! we got a grate fireplace which made the fire hotter and the removal of ash easier. I can remember the smoke haze which hung over the town of Canowindra from the burning log fires on a cold night. We had five wonderful children: Andrew James; David Michael (twins); Jane Frances; Mark Dominic and Susan Bridget all born at Soldiers Memorial Hospital, Canowindra under the care of Matron Pilkinton and Doctor John (“Lofty”) Knight. The Canowindra gossipers. scandal mongers and mischief makers had a field day during the first few months of our marriage. Frances was quite large early in her first pregnancy! We used to go to Mass and take The Sacrament, but we had the last laugh as the twins were born exactly 10 months after our marriage.
I well remember Matron Pilkinson telephoning me at the Services and Citizens club (of which I was president at the time) telling me of the birth of son Mark. As we talked they were playing the Last Post in the background (It was Armistice Day):
“I hope it’s not significant”, she quipped.
The twins received five-star treatment at the hospital, I believe the mark is still on the ceiling of the private ward at the hospital from us opening the champagne celebrating the birth of the twins. One of the twins came home, but the other, Andrew, had to stay in hospital as he was underweight. However with the expert and devoted care of Matron and the nursing staff at the hospital he pulled through, He looked like a skinned rabbit!
Frances used to express breast milk and I would take it to the hospital with the cry at the front door of “Milko!”. The twins came home to the residence above the wine shop Blatchford St. I remember tucking the twins under my arms and climbing the steep stairway. The twins used to play in the nearby Railway Park. We had four of the children; Andrew James; David Michael; Jane Frances and Mark Dominic while at the Wine Shop residence. The last one (Susan Bridget) came home to our spacious new residence – The White House – in Charlotte Street.
Three of the children are university graduates, one is a long time Public Servant and one is with me as my carer.
A number of anecdotes I picked up:
(1) A favorite joke of the late Paul Stocker: A small boy was gorging himself on chocolates in a small shop when his mother and he were in at the time. His mother told him if he kept that up he would get a BIG, BIG fat tummy. Just then into the shop came a heavily pregnant woman. Our littelie sidled up to her and said: ‘We know what you’ve been doing don’t we ?”,
(2) And returning to Manchester…. on the Irish Air Line Aerolingus …..
A voice in a thick Irish brogue came over the intercom and said: This is your captain speakin”. We are currently travellin’ at thirty thousand feet AND IT’S NO USE GOIN’ ANY HIGHER !|”.
(3) The most disgusting thing I ever saw was when my sister Iris and I were taking over the lease of the Rose Marie Cafe in Canowindra. We were taking note of the stock to be exchanged. Someone had left a large piece of corned silverside meat out of the fridge and it had been fly blown, The former owner took a large knife and cut away the flyblown piece and put the rest back in the fridge,
(4) The most hurtful thing: My former wife telephoned me at my home and said: ” Kevin when you die there will be no loving father of or anything like that!. We won’t bury you !” To which I replied: “Well if you wait long enough somone will. Anyway my mail is that you won’t be around when I carkit.”
(5)”The most amusing: was when the Japanese Air hostess came on the intercom as we were leaving Tokyo airport and said: “We hope you all have a present fright!”,
My years in Apex:
I was a foundation member of Canowindra Apex and its second president (Bill Crawford was the first). Then me as District Governor District 1, Zone 9.
I remember we took two planes to charter the Bourke club which had been sponsored by the Apex Club of Coolangatta (Gold Coast) who used to travel overland to all the sponsor’s meetings with the new club, (They were the nearest Apex club to Bourke.) Pilots for our two planes were Ian Brown in one and Ken McDonald in the other. (Both had pilot’s licenses obtained from Canowindra Aero club (I think) under the direction of Noel Barnes – a former RAAF pilot in World War 2. Bourke Apexians were delighted with our attendance.
I remember one incident in Apex when we ran a Walk-a-thon to raise funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind or as we use to say Blinds For Guide Dogs: My club (Services and Citizens of which I was President) had agreed to sponsor me in the Walk-a-thon for $10 per mile thinking that I would only last only one mile. But I walked the whole 20 mile (10 mile out to Billimari turnoff ) and 10 mile back which ended up costing the club $200.
On the walk we had a delightful young man from the Blind Society Headquarters and his guide dog I also remember our partaking in the Blayney club’s billycart derbys with Les Wilkinson as our mechanic in charge of our entries. We also ran a Dental Health Week urging people to use less sugar in their diet. It was during this campaign we found out that the Colgate company was a big user of sugar in their toothpastes.
Canowindra Dramatic Society: I was an active member of the Canowindra Dramatic Society. Great supporters were Tom and Nancy Lynch. We used to have play rehearsals in their office premises in Mill Street. I produced and directed the hugely successful play ”Arsenic and Old Lace” which starred the greatly talented Una Wythes and Dawn Smith as the two old-maid Spinsters who used to poison their visitors with Elderberry wine. Ken Wyburn played the part of the eccentric doctor. I remember he once gave me gave me an anxiety attack when he fell down the stairs at the old Strand Theater stage toward the end of one night’s performance of Arsenic and Old Lace. As I was trying to work out how we could finish the play without him, true Briton that he was, he struggled up the stairs to finish his role.
Tom Lynch was a bit of a “bushie”who spoke like an old stockman.
He was in one play which called for the lies;
” Ï can’t do that! He will have me incarcerated!”,
Tommy came out with the never to be forgotten phase:
” I can’t do that! He will have me carstrated”.
More to come!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.