Sunday, August 02, 2015

CHAPTER THIRTEEN….… MUSIC TO MY EARS...PURRRFECT....OR...TO ALL THE CATS I'VE LOVED BEFORE...AND STILL...

Maroochydore...Circa 1985

Judy, Daina and baby sister Kaycee...Circa 1986...cat unknown...
Me on the deck surrounding the resort pool....and Orchid Beach


Précis:
Before continuing further with my story, whenever I think about the resort at Cape Richards, along with my wonderful memories of my halcyon days spent on the island, I’m also angered and saddened to my core. These days the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island no longer exists. 

Through bad management/ownership the resort closed down in 2010.  Like an abandoned child or pet it was left, unprotected against the elements; the forces of Nature; and, unfortunately, unprotected from the hands of worthless human beings.   The main building and cabins were helpless victims.  Not only was it destroyed by Category 5 Cyclone Yasi who’d packed no mercy, but had packed a powerful, destructive punch when she visited north Queensland on 3rd February,  2011, brain-dead, waste-of-space  vandals had also paid visits to Cape Richards with one sole purpose in mind…to vandalise the property.  Vandals willfully wrecked everything in their path. Why anyone would take the time to cross the sea in their fishing boats with the intention of vandalising the property uppermost in their minds is beyond my comprehension!  I hear the sharks are pretty hungry up that way in the waters between Cardwell and Cape Richards…I hope the vandals need a swim to cool off…..I selflessly offer to drive the boat to drop them off into the waters off from Cape Richards....

Reflecting upon those few weeks in early 1986 leading up to the scheduled re-opening of the resort on 8th March, I’m in awe.  I don’t know how we managed to get everything or almost everything completed before the due date…before our first paying guests set foot on the island; but, somehow, some way, we did achieve most of what we’d set out to  before the first guests arrived by seaplane and by sea brought across from Cardwell on the “Reef Venture”.

The new jetty was completed and standing in fine form. The expansive deck surrounding the pool with the sturdy wooden tables securely set into the timber decking were waiting to be sat at with a tropical cocktail in hand!

We even managed to fit in Bronnie’s 21st birthday party which fell a week or so before opening day.  The party was also held before the deck was completed.  It’s a wonder we didn’t lose a couple of staff members through the unfinished decking…perhaps we did, and didn’t notice!  Our celebrations went long into the night - anything could’ve happened! 

The “Brothers in Arms” world tour by Dire Straits was in progress at the time and the band was due to perform at the Townsville Showgrounds on 2nd April.  I knew Bronwyn was a huge fan, so I organised two tickets for her; it would be her first ever live concert; and I knew she'd want someone to accompany her. Being on the island was her first time away from home.  In lots of ways she was still a shy lass. It was up to her who she'd choose from her workmates to join her at the concert.  She'd enjoy the concert far better with a mate by her side to enjoy it with her. 

Bronnie was over the moon when she received the tickets. They were only a part of a number of special gifts she received.  The best gift of all, I think, was her party.  It was surprise. She didn’t have a clue what was in store for her on her birthday.   

Everyone got on board with me and we kept it secret from her.  Mean me even got everyone to pretend they’d forgotten it was her birthday.  She came down for breakfast the morning of her big day, and we all just greeted her as usual…no fuss, no bother was made. We hardly interrupted the conversations we were having when she arrived at the table...purposely we made little notice of her appearance.

As breakfast progressed we could see her face grow longer and longer!  Finally, I gave a hidden signal and we burst into laughter and song…singing her “Happy Birthday”!   

Bronnie then felt like killing us all!!  There was no pleasing the girl!!  

She was still unaware a surprise party was ready and waiting to burst forth from the wings!.   

During breakfast I apologised to her saying with everything that was going on trying to get the resort ready for opening, I’d not had time to organise a gift for her. Things were so hectic etc., etc.  She took it in her stead…or, at least, pretended to do so.  She was very gracious about my lack of caring skills. 

When Bronnie appeared back down at the restaurant area at the end of the day, after she’d showered and had changed her clothing in readiness for a pre-dinner drink or two (casual clothing...it was the midst of summer and we were on a tropical island - "casual" was the name and dress of the day)…the “same old-same old” routine as the day before and the day before that etc., she got the shock of her life!  Her eyes grew wider and wider. It matched the smile that spread across her face. She couldn’t believe the number of gifts given to her…her favourite gift…the Dire Straits tickets.  

She still at that stage of the proceedings had no idea a party was in store.  When she finally woke up to what was going on, she had the time of her life...a night and celebration to remember.

My late brother Graham’s 44th birthday fell on 28th February.  Again, I swore the rest of the crew to secrecy at the promised risk of walking the plank if they divulged to him what I had planned.  Graham hated being made a fuss of, and more particularly amongst people he’d only met. Parties weren’t his “scene”; and more importantly, definitely not surprise parties!  I doubt he’d ever had a surprise party until 28th February, 1986!   

Full of bravado seeing I’d pulled off Bronwyn’s surprise party with aplomb and much underhanded sneakiness,I decided to try my proficient skills at subterfuge once more.  The whole day went by without anyone recognizing it was Graham’s birthday, other than me.  And with the status quo being what it was, he was content.

Surreptitiously, a couple of days before Graham’s birthday I made a huge, well-laced-with-rum boiled fruit cake. I hid it away in the restaurant kitchen’s pantry, out of sight of prying eyes, and away from nasal sensitivity. 

When doing a liquor order, I’d ordered in an extra 1125ml bottle of Bundaberg Rum. Graham enjoyed having a rum or two (never with cola), particularly in winter; and always Bundaberg Rum.  What true Queenslander doesn’t?  At times he enjoyed a rum chaser to accompany a cold beer.   

Along with the fruit cake, the surprise party and special party fare, the bottle of rum was also my birthday gift to Graham.

And what a party it was!  Graham had no escape.   However, as it turned out, after the first 30 minutes, give or take, he lost the desire to do so.   

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my brother kicking up his heels and doing his rendition of the Can Can with Bronwyn.  I will never forget that sight.  It was my turn to be surprised; I’d never seen my brother act with such joyous abandon ever before that very special moment.  Everyone had so much fun that evening, my late brother Graham included – he most of all. 

Graham idolized Bronnie, and vice versa.  He treated her like a daughter, and he was very protective of her. She was only a couple of years older than Natalie, his own daughter.  A few months later Natalie came to work for me at the resort, too.

Sadly Graham and Bronwyn have passed away - Graham at 56 years of age; and Bronwyn, three years ago at the age of 47….far too young, the both of them.  Bronwyn left behind a husband and three children.

By the stage the two birthdays had come around, the chef who had been cooking at the resort under the previous management and his wife had returned to the fold. Steve, the chef, renewed his familiar relationship with up the island's pots and pans; and Kim, his wife, stepped back into her previous role as waitress. Penny, who’d also worked as a waitress before Randall’s and my arrival, along with her boyfriend, Bruce returned to their previous posts. Bruce was the resort’s barman.   

Penny was later christened “Touché Turtle” by a staff member; and Bruce “Dum Dum” (named after the Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters). Penny was about two feet tall (an exaggeration, of course…put it down to poetic license) and had a certain air about her that put her co-workers off, including me.  Bruce followed her around like a lap dog, hence his renaming…more about that later.

As well as overseeing and assisting on the maintenance side of things, Randall, because of his past experiences in managing bars in New York and for a short time upon his arrival back home in Australia, would also work the bar when necessary, over and above the ordering and restocking of the bar. 

Ted, my brother Graham and Burnie were the resort’s maintenance crew.  Ron and Peter had returned to Noosa, but Dutchman, Rin, the plumber stayed on for a little while longer.  For a time he, too, was part of the maintenance men.   

And they were joined by Maurice. It’s difficult to put a name on what Maurice did…”Havoc” perhaps would’ve been a fitting title…more about that later, too!

“Old” Graham (the second “Graham” on the island) who had also been part of the team who had worked for the previous management returned to his role as breakfast cook. He worked split shifts; mornings and evenings; having a break each day from around 10.30 am until 3.30 pm.  “Old” Graham, as he was affectionately called, prepared the desserts and acted as chief kitchen-hand/dishwasher, as well.

Daina, the 17 year old daughter of “Slip” and Judy, both of whom I mentioned in Chapter 10 of this saga, joined the island workforce, working alongside Bronnie in keeping the cabins spick and span. They both attended to the laundry work, too.   

It was Daina’s first job out of school.  She’d spent a year as an exchange student in Japan. She also celebrated a birthday on the island…her 18th.  I threw a Toga Party for her. It was a fun night.   Daina is now store manager of K-Mart in Innisfail a town in North Queensland; north of Hinchinbrook…south of Cairns. She's married with two teenage daughters.  Daina and I are still friends to this day; and similar applies to some others who worked with me at the resort back then.

One morning while everyone was going about their duties the phone in my office rang (it was the only phone on the island; and, of course, in 1986 there were no mobile/cell phones).   

The phone ringing wasn’t an unusual event, but the message I received down the line from the other end was.   

A stranger told me Randall and I had won a car.  Actually, that we’d won the right to choose one from a choice of three! The choice was between a Nissan Patrol, a Mazda 323, and one other, the make and model of which now has escaped my memory. Being the disbelieving person that I am, I let known my disbelief to the audacious stranger calling me.  I was given a telephone number and asked to ring the number back; I did so.

My phone call was answered by someone from the Endeavour Foundation’s Nambour office.  

The Endeavour Foundation is an independent not-for-profit organisation that supports people with a disability from more than 230 locations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.  The Foundation was founded in 1951 by a group of parents who joined together to provide an education for their children with a disability. 

We had, in fact, won a car! 

Having become competent in the art of concealment, I decided to have a bit of fun. 

For the rest of the morning, exhibiting an admirable amount of self-control worthy of a gold medal, I kept the news to myself.  As was our habit to do, the staff, Randall and I gathered together for lunch...around the same long table we sat at for breakfast and dinner... at the appointed time. 

Waiting for the right moment, I nonchalantly broke my surprising news…just as Randall was about to insert a food-laden fork into his mouth! My timing was perfect...I couldn't have done better if I'd rehearsed it!

Ahhh….I will never forget that moment!  The expression on his face was priceless – and memorable!  

At first, the others around the table stared at me in disbelief, but they quickly realised from the look I gave them in return I was telling the truth. 

In stunned silence, scoffing at me between his silences, Randall still believed I was playing a joke on him. 

I escorted him into the office, placed the phone receiver in his hand and I dialed the number for him.  He finally believed me!

Early in December, 1985, while shopping at Maroochydore'smain shopping centre, Randall bought a ticket in the Endeavour Foundation’s then current Art Union, which offered the choice of three vehicles as its first prize. 

Maroochydore is a Sunshine Coast beach area.  We were still living at Sunshine Beach, preparing ourselves for our relocation to Hinchinbrook Island.

Before leaving Sunshine Beach we’d sold our second car, the MG-Magnette, knowing we’d not need two cars when living on an island.  And now, we’d won a brand, spanking new car for the price of one ticket – a couple of dollars…or rather, Randall had won a car, if one needs to be pedantic. 

For the moment – a breathing moment or more, the decision of what to do about the car was placed in the “too hard basket”.  

In the meantime, all our energy and brain power had to be wholly committed to the work that needed doing before the re-opening date of the resort.  The car was safe. No time limit had been put upon us to make a decision about the vehicle, but time was on the move. It wasn’t going to stop for us, or anyone else, even if we’d been fortunate enough to win the lottery. 

The 8th of March was rapidly marching towards us.  Tick-tock…tick-tock….

33 comments:

  1. As I read along in this chapter I was thinking you must have a tremendous memory, I have always thought I had a good one but now I am beginning to wonder. Everyone should have at least one surprise birthday party and so lucky you have the memories of these two to share. But which car did you choose, amazing to have won it.

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    1. Hey there, Linda...yes, I do have a very good memory. And you'll just have to wait for the next chapter to find out about the car! Patience, dear girl...patience! lol

      Thanks for popping in. :)

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  2. What wonderful memories. Memories to hug to yourself on the dark days. As I have no doubt that Graham and Bronnie did.

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    1. Hi EC...Bronnie looked towards Graham as a father figure, I guess. Her being away from her family...a loving family...for the first time gave her some form of parental-style comfort and security, I guess. They got on well.

      My brother was a fairly complex person...and he was pretty particular about who he liked and disliked. He was a straight-shooter...a very "black and white" person.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  3. The A-side of the Brothers in Arms album was awesome to me while the B-side was lacking at the time. It might be different for me now, though.

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    1. Hi Jerry...I preferred Sisters in Legs better.

      Thanks for popping in. :)

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  4. You know, you have had a lot of life packed into your life.

    I agree with you about the vandals being fed to the sharks. Why can't things like that be arranged?

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  5. And I meant to say that your memories of Graham and Bronwyn remind me of this quote..."Recall a happy memory as often as you like, you can never wear it out."

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    1. That is a wonderful quote, Kay...I've never seen it before...I must remember it.

      I have had some interesting, fun times...things have quietened down considerably these days...or I have! :)

      Regarding vandals...I will never understand their thinking; if, of course, they are capable of thought.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. So sorry to hear about the wasteful destruction of the resort, after all those years of you putting so much of yourself into renovating and running it.

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  7. G'Day River...I didn't spend many years on the island as you will discover as my story continues...but the time I spent there was very special...and to have witnessed through the years since my time there what occurred to the resort...the destruction at the hands of humans and nature...it is heartbreaking.

    Thanks for coming by. :)

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  8. I love the photo of Splendid Isolation. And I feel for your pain in seeing the resort damaged by idiots. It is really sad when somewhere special gets spoiled. You are at least keeping the memories alive with your posts.

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    1. G'day Jenny...yes...the resort as it was during the wonderful time I was lucky enough to have lived there and had the right to take care of it will always be as it was then...as long as I'm alive to write about it. :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. What a wonderful party! You have such great memory for detail. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

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    1. I think my mind is a sponge, Lynn! lol

      SpongeBob SquarePants has nothing on me...but I hope he leaves his square pants on!

      Grab yourself a pot of coffee, Lynn...there's more to come! Thanks for popping in. :)

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  10. You don't have an email address listed here; email me and I'll explain the dentist situation.

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    1. The email has landed! :)

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    1. Hi Pat...it was a time in my life I will never forget. Thanks for popping in. :)

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  12. I've never won anything that cool. What did you do next? Inquiring minds want to know!

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    1. RK...you are impatient...further chapters are to come...I can't write the story and post it all at once...it'd be far too long anyone to read in one sitting! lol

      Thanks for coming in...hang in there...more is to come! :)

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  13. Being a nosy s.o.b., I had already visited this news page Lee:-
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-02/hinchinbrooks-tourism-dreams-still-in-tatters/5427174

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    1. Yes, Yorky...I've seen that site and the video...it broke my heart when I saw it...I cried...I'm not too proud to admit that I cried.

      One of my chefs from the resort...we're still good mates...also visited the island early last year or in late 2013...the destroyed resort...he couldn't believe what he saw. He, too, was very upset and disturbed by what he saw before him.

      A friend of his, together with a few other fellows were considering purchasing the resort (remains thereof) to rebuild...but after further close inspections etc., they made the decision not to go forward with the purchase...it would've cost far too much. The last we heard was that a Chinese mob were showing interest, but I've heard no further. I must ask David again...but he visited me just prior to Christmas 2014..to take me to lunch, and he'd heard nothing further at that time. David and his wife live in Townsville, approx 170ks south of the island.

      The development....Port Hinchinbrook...is/was on the mainland, south of Cardwell. The developer, the late Keith Williams fought hard with the conservationists back in the 1990s to get the project off the ground. In previous posts I've written about him...and about Margaret Thorsborne. I met Margaret shortly after I moved to the island. She and her late husband came over to meet me and to learn what my ideas and intentions were re the island/resort. It was and still is very dear to her heart. Margaret is now in her 90s...she's a real little powerhouse...and a lovely woman. We met up again a few other times throughout the years. I've written about her previously, too. As I have done Keith Williams...he used to stay at a motel I was involved in at the time he was trying to get the construction of Port Hinchinbrook underway. He was a strong character...quite an impressive man...and I got on well with him, too. Margaret was his nemesis. They were around the same age; and secretly, they admired each other...each other's spirit and determination.

      Keith Williams' son was in charge of the resort when it went under.

      I didn't intend this response of mine to be so lengthy...but, strange as it may seem...this is the short version! :)

      Thanks for coming by. :)


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    2. Thanks for the extra insights Lee.

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    3. You're welcome, Yorky. :)

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  14. Oh sooo many memories. Sometimes it's overwhelming you really have to write and share. :)

    Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. G'day Lux...I enjoy writing them down...I enjoy writing...full stop. Sometimes it looks like I don't know when to come to a full stop!!

      Thanks for popping in. :)

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  15. Sounds as if you all had such fun...on the island..have never been there just seen from afar..

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    1. Hi whiteangel...the island is magnificent. An awesome beast of beauty!

      There maybe no resort left these days, but there are some wonderful areas to visit, with the permission of National Parks. Worth a visit. Zoe Bay and Zoe Falls is one of the areas worth visiting.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  16. The cats were not mentioned here you cruel woman!

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    1. Hahahahaha! At that stage I only had one cat, Mr. Ad-Man and that was my dearly beloved Ruska; but as I write this response to your indignant response...I have two cats trying to take over not only me, but my keyboard, as well!

      Thanks for popping in. As always 'tis a pleasure to see you! :)

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  17. I do so wish that I had your memory Lee. I know of the Island and resort from my time in New Zealand but I'm darned if I can recall exactly how or why I know and who told me. I have a feeling that friends may have stayed there. I shall have to do some asking around. Anyway it's good to read a bit of its more intimate history even if its end is such a sad one.

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    1. Hey there, Graham. I made quite a few Kiwi friends during my time managing the island and being its sales and marketing manager as well. I always linked up with the New Zealanders when we attended the same trade shows/seminars etc. And I spent a week in Christchurch in late 1986 attending the TANZ Convention. The New Zealanders were always a fun mob to hang about with...they loved to party! lol A guy called Jerry/Gerry who flew a seaplane and other light aircraft out of Queenstown down to Invercargill and all places in between (a tourism operation) became a good mate. He and his wife along with one of their neighbours paid a visit to the island in November 1986 - they stayed for a week. Good people they were.

      The a couple of the local police/CIB in Christchurch did me a favour and handed out all my promotional brochures because I'd run out of time to do so and had to return to the island...too partying! They kept in touch a couple of times after I'd return to Aus. lol

      Thanks for coming by...sorry I've only just now discovered your comment! :)

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