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24 June 2014

Guy Thornton emailed from Spain:

It's a bit like a horror movie, where the protaganist suddenly remembers some deep seated memory that he's obviously tried very hard to suppress. And then the word "Panguna" and suddenly the shrieks and screams erupt. Panguna.

Actually, for this pom the missing 5 years started in 1966 when my dad got a contract for a year as a chopper pilot with Crowley Aviation in Lae. We travelled a lot as a family. I'd just dropped out of high school in UK and as an 18 year old, New Guinea sounded interesting. In those days you could get a job in Lae in less than 5 minutes and I spent 3 years with Comworks earning very good money doing stuff like driving/flying around TPNG counting Govt inventory - chairs, filing cabinets, cutlery, etc. I seem to remember taking a six-month sabbatical in Buenos Aires. Then in 1970 I was sitting on a plane going back to Lae when the chap next to me offered me a job at Panguna. They were electrical contractors, ODG-FMIC, sub-contracted to Bechtel. So I lived at Panguna for nearly a year and then as we'd finished wiring up the ball mills, rod mills, concentrator, etc the contract wound down and we worked at Arawa for a short while on a sort of pipe and conveyor belt that brought the copper down from Panguna. The money was very good but I earned more than my pay playing cards. We used to take a company bus down to Kieta at weekends and visit the new hotel at Arawa, which was owned by the uncle of my then girlfriend (whom I knew from Lae).

The night before I was due to catch the Electra out to Sydney at the end of my time, I lost my entire year's pay & winnings on one hand of cards only 10 minutes after the game started. I went back to my room which I shared with a mate who was also a sly grogger. He asked what was I doing back, wasn't I going to play cards. I said I'd lost all my money. He was so concerned, he took his big bag of grog takings, several thousand dollars, and said go and lose this as well or else I'll come back and find you swinging from the ceiling. So I did and within a couple of hours I got my money back and even a little bit more, and the next day I left for Sydney as planned. And immediately on to pastures new..

For what it's worth, I live with my wife of 35 years (Rhodesian) on a smallholding in Extremadura, Spain.

Memories, yikes!

Kind regards, Guy