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THE POWER OF REUNION

Susan (Lega) Denheld says Vintage has “filled my days and nights with memories of times long since buried – but not forgotten. You have been writing magnificently of days and deeds that tug at my mind and return me to the past. I’ve been endeavouring to write a short bio of my last 40 years and it really has terrified me, especially when I read what so many of my fellow Asopians achieved.”

Bill Welbourne says he believes ASOPA gave most of us a springboard for career and life challenges. “Now the reunion process is an invaluable opportunity to find out how each of us has run with that relay baton.” Expressed like a true athlete.

Mike Wilson, who due to a stuff-up had not got Vintage since issue 3, was deluged after asking for back issues. “I could never have imagined the volume of material that would be forthcoming. My five year old Toshiba lap top had a brain haemorrhage and will now be replaced, the printer ran out of ink and I have asked for a new box of paper to be ordered. I must say reading through them brought back many shelved memories. They are great reading and thank you for your amazing efforts. Just one thing, what do you do in your spare time?”

Dave Kesby writes that he and Elissa still love getting Vintage every Friday. “Elissa downloads it and prints it out for me - and when I wake up it is there for me to read on the fabulous Lindfield rank. Some of these other people have much better memories than me - I think I must have drunk too much bloody South Pacific and rough red plonk over the years”.

David Westover writes the “reunion exercise has a momentum that unveils the obvious bonds formed at ASOPA”. He and Lorraine (Bell) are travelling New Zealand but will be in Sydney early June with hope for a catch-up session

Bill Bergen says his weekly e-mail Vintage frequently adds up to more than 3,000 pages, suggesting a profound emotional incongruence between his PC and mine.

Col ‘Masta’ Booth and Henry Bodman catch me in a classic Machiavellian pincer movement and I end up preparing 70 name tags in what turns into an exercise in creative visualisation. “Hmm, I wonder if X’s face has grown out to meet his ears yet?” “Jeez, he’ll look funny if he’s lost his hair.” “Wonder if her dress sense has improved.” One thing's for sure, people will be glad for my name tag. At a school reunion ten years ago I got the award as the person who'd changed the most. Nobody commented it was for the better....

Marie Burns compliments the team for “rounding us all up” and expresses regret at not making the reunion although, she says, this is “somewhat lessened by the pleasure of revisiting those ASOPA and PNG years. Who could ever forget beanpole Keithy J in his formal presentation about sex!” Well, I forget for starters. Whatever I had to offer certainly wasn't based on first hand experience. And I also confess that said beanpole figure is now more like a beanbag.

Dave Argent reckons I have appalling handwriting and is going to extreme lengths to prove it. Now, convinced his Vintage is arriving “very late”, he has taken to annoying the Post Office with serial inquiries about “illegibly addressed mail they may be holding”.

Some years ago Marie Burns read a chapter by a Molly (Lishmund) Kreidl in a book, Dazzling Prospects, but never made the connection until now. “Molly despaired at the possibility of ever making it to inspector level because of the impracticality of women being posted to small schools around the State – and this the only way up the ladder in Queensland. Go Girl!”

Four decades may seem a long time, says Bill Welbourne, “but the shared memories reduce the warp back to those vigorous, youthful years and eases the sensitivity of growing old (painful to some). When my memorable ASOPA/PNG stint ended in December 1975, our son, Tony, was in Springwood High’s inaugural year. He informs me he’s attending the 25-year reunion two weeks before our big gig. He must be ancient.”

Jeff Chapman was helped by the Submariners' Association to track down Rory O'Brien, now running Numulnumul Station in the Northern Territory. Jeff’s man in the torpedo tube sent an SOS through an extensive bubblehead network to find Rory’s brother, Dan, a submariner many years ago. Dan was found in North Queensland and Jeff was soon on to Rory. When he left PNG (not long after he arrived), Rory joined Dan in running a grazing property in Queensland. Ten years ago he got his own spread at Numulnumul, 500 km south of Darwin on the Roper Highway. Rory’s not Lord Vestey, but he's making his way.

Angela Brown at the National Library writes: “The two books (on ASOPA) arrived safely. They’re fascinating reading - I had to stop myself sitting here reading right through The ASOPA Files as I could see myself getting no work done for the rest of the day. These books contain unique historical material about Australians in PNG. They are especially important.“ So our stories and memories find a permanent home.