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TERRITORY LANDFALL

RORY’S LAE LANDING
Ian McLean

AMAZING THAT SOME PEOPLE queried whether Rory O’Brien made it to the Territory

I remember travelling with him in the DC-6B on the first flight up

Rory, into the sauce the night before, was sound asleep as we approached Lae

The hostie (as we called them before political correctness intruded into our lives) tried to get Rory to wake and do up his seat belt

She shook him a few times and he peered at her with bleary eyes as she implored him: “Fasten your belt, sir ... we're going down”

Looking out the window and seeing nothing but water as the plane descended towards a runway projecting into the sea, Rory panicked and started yelling something about “not wanting to die”

Those seated nearby deemed it to be the highlight of the trip

TRAVELLING BLUES
Wendy Booth

I'D NEVER FLOWN UNTIL I boarded the plane at Mascot that night in November 1963 to go to Rabaul for final prac

The trip was fine until we boarded the DC3 in Lae. We sat side saddle on canvas seats with cargo strapped down the middle of the cabin. I got the cabbages

There was absolutely no space to move. The steward stood at the back; he couldn't move either

Halfway to Rabaul, we flew through a dreadful storm and the old DC3 creaked, groaned and buffeted

At this stage, the steward decided we needed afternoon tea, which was passed from hand to hand towards the cockpit

The prospect of food was too much for one local who could not hold onto his insides and did what he had to do

This soon became a duet, as an Asopian joined the entreaties to Herb

From then on, the very thought of getting from one place to another in the Territory filled me with dread and turned my bowels to water days before departure date

WANLIS HOUSE ENCOUNTER
Bill Welbourne/Henry Bodman

ONE NIGHT, AFTER the day’s practice teaching, we were sitting around with Bill Bergen and our wives at the cramped Wanlis House flats in Rabaul

As was our habit, we were loudly comparing notes about ASOPA lecturer and prac supervisor, Norm Donnison

Midway through this critical assessment, someone remarked, “Wouldn't it be funny if he could hear what we were saying?”

Suddenly, out of the night, a familiar voice came booming through the louvred windows, “Good evening all”

Realising there was no way Stormin’ Norman could not have heard the conversation, we taxed our minds about how long he had been there

Then we worked our way back through every comment we had made

It was also at Wanlis House that we heard of John F Kennedy's assassination. The memory is still vivid

Today the place is a shell and totally vandalised with scrub growing around and through the remaining walls. But the memories are still alive and fresh

THE CARETAKER
Col Booth

UPON ARRIVAL in Rabaul, my wife-to-be, Wendy Bignall, and another ASOPA colleague, Helene Thomson, were housed in the Cosmo Hotel as there were no female dongas available

The owner accommodated them in one of the better rooms, known as The Cottage - a galvanised iron shack located on the front lawn. It had most of the attributes of a real room but no toilet

For two athletic young women, that did not prove to be a problem - until both came down with an acute dose of diarrhoea. Real eye of the needle stuff

At night, I had the unenviable task of escorting each as required to the toilets in the main building

Old Len, the owner, finally took pity on me and put a stretcher at The Cottage so I could get a bit of sleep between ‘visits’ or ‘emergencies’, depending upon your point of view

Then, when both went to sleep in the wee small hours, I would walk slowly back to Malaguna Tech in order to teach magic lessons with great motivation and unlimited factual detail the next morning

After a couple of days of this regimen, a TAA pilot took pity on all of us and slipped Helene and Wendy a couple of pills of unknown origin or content, pointing out that pilots had the same problem from time to time

I don't think people in Aus ever experienced a real dose of the trots

GETTING ORIENTATED
Keith Jackson

IT WAS ANOTHER ERA, PNG another place and the highlands still a frontier

In the Chimbu there were two single white women, both nurses, and 80 single white men

It was a rough, drunken, brawling culture

Before I'd been there three months, I'd had three fights, lost each and decided there was no headway in this behaviour. Except in the sense that my head kept getting in the way

I also discovered the therapeutic benefits of sharing a bottle of Old Kedge before breakfast after my haus pig co-tenant, offended that I declined a generous offer to join him in a small social drink at half past six of a Sunday morning, threw me off the back verandah clad only in my underpants

The local church-going public, wandering up the hill to lotu, were bemused by this vision unsplendid of a bawling, half naked white man

I’ve never been known to knock back a drink since