13. Cruising the Pacific Islands.

Then I took a sabbatical from  Endeavour Foundation Workshop to recharge my engines. It saw Joan and I go on a cruise to the South Pacific Islands of New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji on the passenger liner TSS Fairstar for a well-earned rest for me, and a second honeymoon for both of us. Cruising the Pacific Ocean from island to island on a passenger ocean liner was a most relaxing way to unwind from the sometimes stressful pressures of the mainland for also my daughter Regina, her husband Rodney and their son Luke. The island group of New Caledonia was the first on the itinerary that set the scene for the rest that accumulated to a most delightful, invigorating and educational experience. Although it had a strong French influence, the Melanesian population, the Kanaks, was who we had really gone to have the experience of and we weren’t disappointed. Its capital city of Noumea was our port of call, and it had the visual effect of opening out to the sea on our approach due to the numerous bays that curved its coastline, and the undulation of its metropolis was due to the hills and slopping valleys that it had been integrated into. Although it had all the facilities of a modern city and a steady stream of tourist, there wasn’t that hustle and bustle pace. What was noticeable though were they many other nationalities plus the French who had the monopoly of those facilities and enjoyed the well-off lifestyle, while the Kanaks lived in slum conditions. We weren’t there for the historical or political aspects of why, but it was as usual a sorry story of colonization with the French riding roughshod over them. What we found unusual about that but refreshing, was that although undergoing a segregated and stressful life, they stood out from the rest of the population because of their courteousness, warmth and natural good humour.

They also had a tendency to be rather shy on our approach of contact and had at times to be coaxed so as to pass that reservation, especially the children. They were actually a delight when finding out that we weren’t French, and we found them and their families either along the white-bayed beaches with its aqua waters and swaying palms, inland in their villages and on Île des Pins Island. In their own environment, their traditional case (thatched hut) that consisted of a rectangular living in one and a beehive shaped one for sleeping in, and the Grande Case (Big Hut), which was the widest and tallest with symbolic traditional architecture, that was not only the home of the chief for tribal gatherings and discussions, but also the most enduring visible artifacts of their culture. Other indications were in museums and authentic handcrafted tourist memorabilia that consisted of pottery, sculptures, soapstone carvings and bamboo engravings, with the most important artifact the ceremonial axe that was a symbol of a clan’s strength and power that had been generally used to decapitate enemies during a battle. There was also their traditional staple tucker (Australian = food) of fish that we partook of when stopping at a cosy hideaway beach restaurant when motoring around the island. However, on ordering grilled fish we were delightful surprised when asked by the Kanak proprietor if it would be an inconvenience for us to wait while he went down to the jetty, which lead off the restaurant, to catch the fish. What added to the charm of that was that we weren’t left to our own devices to twiddle our fingers or the usual chitchat and chewing on bread sticks and ordering drinks while waiting as at the chic city restaurants, and charged for it, for we were given a platter of assorted tropical fruit and a jug of iced fruit juice to while away the time. The trevally that almost covered the sizzling platter, which I took a photo of as evidence for our family, was not only filleted and grilled to perfection, but had a magnificent sauce of mangoes, and the fresh concoction salad that had avocado, pineapple, watermelon and soft coconut flesh was served in a coconut half with the sweet juice of it in it.

Their other traditional staple food of yam, taro and sweet potato was sprung as a surprise on us when attending Sunday morning mass. After the service we were invited and introduced to the bougna (a sharing meal) that had all the traditional fare in a combination of delicious chunks of green pawpaw, banana, yam, taro and sweet potato with pieces of chicken, lobster and crab that had been mixed in coconut cream, wrapped in banana leaves, tied tightly with palm fronds and baked on hot coals and stones, and it was a yummy and filling meal. Maybe it was because the multitude of restaurants and snacks (inexpensive cafes) in the city didn’t have that sort of charm and homely friendliness that we found amongst the Kanaks, which they had to compete for the appetites of tourist and locals alike, as also the other establishments. The only other place of business where there was common ground was at the daily market where all of the nationalities had stalls to sell the variety of their wares that was housed in a cluster of blue domed hexagonal buildings. The other buildings that were also of interest was the Catholic Cathédrale St Joseph that acted as a landmark because of it standing on a hill that overlooked the city, and the other was the ugly multi-chimney Doniambo Nickel Smelter north of the city centre where the nickel and cobalt extracted from the mining region was processed. Another bit of unique interest was the Petits Trains that were colourful miniature trains that took us pass most of the main sights at a slow pace, and a walk that we did up to a lookout hill to view the surrounds brought a surprise in the two cannons standing guard there that were leftovers from an Australian artillery unit that was stationed there during World War 2.

If, when coming alongside on a ship in a seaport, and that ship was welcomed by a Ni-Vanuatu military brass band playing on the quay dressed in all their splendor of brass buttons on red tunics with a white pointed scalloped pareu (sarong type skirt), and a multicolored open market on the waterfront faced you when going ashore, you knew that Port Vila on Efate Island, which was the capital of Vanuatu, was going to be a fun experience. We had so much fun with the locals that we found it difficult when it was time to leave, especially again because of the children with their thick black frizzy hair, the cheekiest of smiles and childish laughter that made your heart well up in fondness. The males and females were of that happy disposition too, and they also had a lay-back carefree attitude that well suited the island. It all seemed to stem from their village life, which after receiving their permission as was with most Pacific islands, that when gratefully and respectively strolling around it was seen in their unhurried subsistence farming, gathering, and fishing and hunting. Even their surrounding forests that were a major resource to them was approached in the same manner when seeing them making use of it for building materials, boat building, artifacts and medicines. It was almost like stepping back in time when the aboriginal peoples of the word were becoming civilized in their capacity to sort out who was going to do what to survive. For in the villages we not only saw how it must have been then due to the simplistic life style that still existed but also because we were told by their chief that it had always been that way. While the men did the cash cropping, hunting, fishing, building, the carving of artifacts and discussing village council matters while consuming kava, the woman spent the same amount of time in the family garden, cooking, looking after the children, which always had five to six in the family, tending to the pigs that were the husband’s assets for his social standing and weaving.

What was at first thought of as a sign of modesty when seeing the women in the long neck to ankle loose fitting dresses that they wore, which was reminiscent to me of the mode of dress of my South African ancestors and the African American slave women, proved to be a contradiction when attending a few of their traditional ceremonies. In their participation of the dances that because of depicting ancestors or legendary figure, there was the wearing of elaborate masks or headdresses. The women wore grass skirts or small mats around their hips as did the men, or they would at times either wear nambas (penis wrappers) or mal mal (penis sheaths). The reason though for the women wearing those ‘Mother Hubbard’ dresses at other times, which was of colourful floral patterns decorated with lace and ribbons, was because those ‘mission gowns’ was forced onto their ancestors by missionaries who were faced by sexually exciting naked curvaceous females that must have been distracting to say the least, and the tradition continued. What had also continued was Port Vila as a tourist destination with an inundation of visiting cruise passenger ships that had seen the improvement of living conditions of locals through tourism activities that involved their culture. Melanesian village feast nights, kava bars, handicrafts in Polynesian villages, and mats, bags and hats weaved from pandanus leaves in Pago villages were only part of that.

Traveling to the surrounding islands was a further extended feast of their ancient culture, and on the way there, islanders would be seen paddling in their canoes between them either for visiting or with their wares for trading. Those islands had not only inviting white beaches, although some were black due to the volcanic origins of the island with some still semi active, but they also offered traditional ceremonies where kastom (custom and ancient ancestral legacies rules) dancing was performed in wraparound skirts made of tapa (bark cloth) and their bodies painted in black, yellow and white colours. Also, another where the face was coloured a deep red with black and red stripes inserted on top of that for a huge three-day ceremony of about 2 000 with interpret dancing of their daily life by the females and then the males, which eventuated in the males having sex with any of the female dancers who were willing too. That was followed on the last day by the ceremonial clubbing of about 100 pigs for the feast that followed with massive quantities of lap lap (similar to bougna) and the drinking of kava. Other unusual experiences was meeting their witch doctors, pig hunting or in the presence but at a safe distance from an active volcano that darkened the sky with clouds of ash laden smoke, and at night glowing boulders that shot up and then down into the crater as the earth around us trembled.

Although the Fiji archipelago had over 300 islands with one third of them inhabited, we were only interested in Viti Levu (Great Fiji), which had as its capital Suva that was the capital of Fiji. We had met islanders of the Pacific on the Australian mainland, and their telling of its beauty explained why they were the beautiful people they were. It wasn’t to do with the splendor of their tropical surroundings and resorts but with their basic carefree lifestyle and friendliness. Where else when visiting any village would you be welcomed with a traditional kava (a mild narcotic infusion prepared from a pepper plant) ceremony. ‘Having a grog’ was not only used for welcoming but also for bonding with visitors, and although the muddy watery concoction looked and tasted like it when drunk from a bilo (half a coconut shell), it first made my lips go numb before intoxication and drowsiness set in. And it didn’t seem like anything was going to assist that prolonged induced state from subduing because of not feeling cheerful and full of life, even though before the drinking of it there was plenty of traditional Bula! (Cheers! or Life!). The Fijians too had a happy disposition, with a polite and courteous manner that saw them first ask your permission before doing anything so as not to offend, and they expected that same courtesy to be bestowed on them when sight-seeing in what they considered their private domain. Because of also being a multicultural society of Fijians, Indians, Chinese and Europeans, it was common to see Christian churches, temples of the Sikhs and Hare Krishna’s, mosques of the Muslims and pagodas of the Hindus and Buddhist in close proximity just as their restaurants and cafes were that catered in their traditional dishes. What we were grateful for though was that we weren’t in the era of Fijian cannibalism because we would have neither known what kind of meat we were consuming or we ourselves might have been on the menu. Getting around in the city was easy because we were able to walk it to all places of interest, and everything outside that perimeter we reached by bus or minibus. The geographical features of the central mountain range that graded to rugged ranges and steep sloping hills towards the lowland coastal hilly areas, with about eight rivers that zigzagged its way down from the mountain to water-service the island surrounds was a pleasure to our eyes when traveling around it. So too were the outlying islands reached by ferry that took us to sight and observe amazing rituals, ancient large religious Fijian bure kalou (temples), archaeological sites of ancient rock paintings and cannibalism temples, caves and pools inhabited by sacred red prawns that were not harmed or eaten due to legend and because of having that colour without having been cooked, and Hindu fire-walking that was incredible seeing how one could feel the heat emitting from the hot coals.

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Joan and I making like Pacific Islanders with the ship in the background at anchor.

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Gina sampling the fruits of the Islanders labour.

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An Island restaurant where we had fish tucker caught straight from outside it,

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Gina checking out a bush toilet that were scattered around the islands.

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And then there were the smiling happy children where ever we went.

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Port Vila’s Welcoming Band with Gina smack-bang amongst them.

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Gina playing an Island bamboo xylophone with a thong…can’t take that girl anywhere.

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Ceremonial Island dancers wearing nambas (penis wrappers).

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Ceremonial Island dancers wearing mal mal (penis sheaths).

12. It Isn’t What You Know, But Who You Know.

Outings organized for the intellectually disabled at the workshop were a natural progression brought about through me frequenting all amusement parks of the Gold Coast with my youngest son and eventually my grandsons. Also, my acquaintance with the owners was a formality to request an open and free invitation for the admission of workers and staff. Management though couldn’t fathom the ease with which I gained access to other entertainment venues too for the workers delightful pleasure. Through my efforts they were also experiencing nightlife at discos, fashion shows and theatre, but then nobody else had ever tried to integrate them into the community in that capacity. Gold Coast Sports Day was another integration innovation of mine through obtaining permission of Principal Brother O’Neil of Saint Aquinas Christian Brothers College who was a friend of mine, so as to stage it at their sports ground with the participation of the senior boys as assistance and for integration.

By then I had completed my second diploma course, which with humbleness received an A + in the overall course, and it gave me an insight into the functioning of the human brain and its capacity to fathom out the simplest and easiest methods for any task, and it also made me come to terms with what was normal. What I also came to terms with was that although I had been employed as a supervisor, that position had escalated to me then been a Cabinet-maker foreman and I approached the Head Office for remuneration for that position. I not only succeeded with that but I was also remunerated for the success in my diploma course. As a child, the way my parents said things were to be done had to be done that way. At school, discipline with corporal punishment to do it their way. As a worker, do as I say, not say as I do, or, if it isn’t broke, and that was normalization. My un-normal intellectually disabled workers, some also with physical disabilities and their chronological age that compared with their personal and physical appearance but belayed the fact that the majority with their mental age would never exceed a sixteen year old even if reaching old age pension age. Others again in their twenties with the mental capacity of a ten year old but who were all gainfully employed as adults and producing products comparable in quality to the normal manufacturing market, and they didn’t have to be brow beaten or have the stick waved at them. It was a simple looking on and then a hand’s on work operation at their individual pace, and at times a method that was compatible to their mental age.

Doing it my way after they were looking on learning didn’t mean that was the method to be ingrained in them, for when they found my way either too complicated or difficult at times, with me at times to set in my ways for their minds to comprehend while working hands on, they tried another way, their way. The end result was always as close as damn it and sometimes their work methods were quicker and easier than mine, which I adopted and adapted to maximize their flexibility. Those so called ‘notnormal’ people because of their intellectually disability were more normal in their thinking, ability and nature than most so called normal people I have known and worked with. They were as thick as two planks, didn’t know their arse from their elbow but still thought the world owed them. Everybody else was the idiots and spastics. They wouldn’t even have a bar of taking the initiative to improve their own quality of life; they wouldn’t break with tradition, reverse the process, add another ingredient or try another way. The ultimate success for my workers was that they were able to push themselves beyond the accepted limitations of their condition and became productive and valued employees. That in turn provided them with the ability to learn how to acquire information for everyday living skills and what to do with it, and in that content became contributing members in the community. They joined and became involved in libraries, debating, TAFE (Technical and Further Education) courses, sporting activities, night clubbing, wining and dining, entered local show competitions, private living, entered the local work force, obtained licenses for automobiles and forklift driving, and some even got married, which I attended, and initiated them into the rest.

There were then forty different ongoing products manufactured in my department with a minimum of five different products a week that could range from a total of 400 to 1 000 completed products. They ranged from the army contract, framed cork notice boards, multiply circular bases for industrial polishers, various sized Australian map ply cut-outs for art depicting Surfers Paradise for the tourist industry, presentation boxes for designer postcards, presentation boxes for heritage bottled wine, assortment of sport trophy stands, children’s coloured play blocks, shaped wooden fence palings, nursery toys, kitchen utensils, ornaments, free standing dividers, designer billy-carts for a tourist attraction and boarding school dormitory beds. Those and more were either brushed glossed painted or spray varnished painted, with me always bearing in mind that my workers were all intellectually disabled.  A spray booth had then become another necessity in the department. Spraying inside the factory was playing havoc with some of the asthmatic conditioned workers and others, so I converted part of a sheltered outside overhang of the workshop into a spray booth shed. But because of the complexity and involvement of spray painting, I did all the initial spray painting. However, because I was bogged down in the booth it caused the quality control, safety precautions and production to suffer immensely in the other areas. While keeping a wary eye on the ones that required constant supervision so that full production wasn’t put on hold, which the rest hated with a vengeance because of wanting to be productive at all times, I selected the ones who by then I knew had the most potential in their learned work ethic. Putting them through the paces of the intricacies of spray painting that took ‘normal’ people months to even grasp, was that quickly achieved as a new skill to add to their list of achievements that saw me out of there in no time flat.

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 Grundy’s Water Slide that was the first on the Gold Coast that my disabled workers enjoyed to their hearts content.

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Seaworld on the Gold Coast where my disabled workers were thrilled for hours on end.

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The monorail at Seaworld in which my disabled workers wanted to ride on all day.

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The pirate ship at Seaworld on which they gleefully reenacted at been pirates.

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Magic Mountain that was a magic day for them.

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Andalusia Park that was my son Greg’s first place of employment as an animal controller and photographer, which gave my disabled workers a free in there also.

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11. Manufacturing ’Black Fellows’ At The Workshop.

The turning point for my handicapped workers and me came when a contract was successfully quoted and gained from the Australian Defence Force for the manufacture of silhouettes for target practice. They consisted of a helmeted full-size head, two full-size heads helmeted with a machine-gun held in between them, and a complete full-size shape of a helmeted soldier, and to maintain that contract the specifications had to be adhered to. The three samples were of 4 mm plywood, wood-stopped flaws, sanded both sides, matt black painted and bundled and strapped in packs of ten. 2 400 x 1 200 x 4 mm sheets of ply was the material used, and to achieve economical mass production methods and a dead line, four sheets at a time had to be cut in one operation. To accomplish that I had to first set up a jig with rods, markers and spacers so that the ply could be gun nailed four at a time together, which had to be done that way because the majority of them couldn’t count, read or write.

The woodworking machinery at that time consisted of a single tabled combination saw cum boring machine, a drill press and a hobby band-saw machine. Because of that, the single table had to be extended length and width wise with a wooden constructed one to accommodate the ply sheets that had to be first ripped to size and then ripped again to standard sizes in length and width. A movable table panel saw for those operations would have been applicable, but we had to do with what we had. Next was to ascertain which of them were capable enough to perform those procedures without constant supervision, and that took time and training. When after trying out about six of my workers, I found one who seemed capable and confident enough. So by jigging up the stationary extended table whereby four workers, one on each corner, could hold the ply against the stoppers and straight edge, and then push it along the table while being guided by that particular worker, it was cut slowly and carefully to the required size with the saw-blade not cutting into the nails because of my predetermination with the first jig. Again time and training was involved, and more so because of the safety factor.

With no overhead router machine to set up a shaped silhouette jig that would have produced an exact copy and a 200 per cent output, I had to revert to basics. With a pattern of the sample, two clout nails, a hammer and a carpenter’s pencil; the teaching of the first operation took half a day of repetitive learning to another six. The pattern was placed in the centre of the cut to size ply with emphasis of it not to overlap the ply, for they had no idea what the centre meant, and the clout nails were tapped one at each end through the pattern into the ply to hold it in place. The exact holding and placing of the carpenters pencil intrigued them. The lead point had to be kept hard up and at an inward angle against the pattern to mark the exact pattern onto the ply, and it was difficult for their minds to comprehend that the outline would be enlarged if the pencil were held at an outward angle. After many attempts by the various workers, one was found for that very critical operation, for the finished article hinged on that precise as damn-it outline, and it was a relief for me when the procedure of removing the pattern from the ply and continuing was accomplished with no supervision.

The next operation was the most difficult skill for them to grasp. To operate a jigsaw is simple, but to cut along straight lines and then into curved and inverted angles was another ball game if never done before. First the functions, mechanisms and safety factors had to be explained, followed by the teaching of the process for a successful product. By gathering all of them around me while doing the process myself for a whole day, and having a different worker assist in operating the jigsaw, I soon found that because they weren’t skilled and accustomed as I was in holding the ply down with one hand while operating the jigsaw with the other, they couldn’t cut along the lines. Operation G-cramp became my next innovation. By securing the top and bottom ends of the ply to overlap the workbench with the G-cramps, they were able to hold and control the jigsaw with both hands and cut accurately along the straight lines until they reached the curved and inverted angles. That was at first a problem because the jigsaw blades were snapping off with their forced pushing around the curves. Again it had to be demonstrated. The method taught of widening the cut to accommodate and allow the blade to travel freely around the curves overcame that. The inverted angle cutting was another story, for although it was straight lines it was also short, obtuse or acute ones, and the method had to be retaught of removing the jigsaw and approaching the angles with a new cut side on, and to divert the cutting blade from different angles for the inverted angles. It took me one week before having four intellectually disabled workers, two of them with downs syndrome, deft at that task with occasional supervision. Next came the operations of prising the four cut outs loose, removing the nails, wood stopping the nail holes and other flaws, sanding back the dried wood stopping and the sanding smooth all around the cut out edges. Splinters and Band-Aids were the call of the day, but because of pre-training in that task it became the easiest operation.

Two coats of acrylic water based, matt black paint was the specified application required on the cut outs for the silhouette effect. But imagine training six women of various intellectual disabilities from other departments whose work skills comprised of component sorting and packaging, and leaflet folding, to manhandle a roller paint brush efficiently and effectively for a quality finished paint job. There were spills, drops, runs, streaks, patches and globs. On one side only paint cut-outs, head or body painted only cut outs, wet finished painted cut outs stuck together because it was stacked flat together instead of individually placed in drying racks, one sided single coated painted silhouettes, plus the work benches and its surrounds, and the workers and their aprons were all soon looking like silhouettes. With constant quality control on my part and a good sense of humour on both sides, we succeeded eventually to satisfy the army inspectors of a quality product that was an ongoing contract for thousands of those ‘black fellows’ as we called them.

Through that we also obtained a further army contract to manufacture long range, bulls-eye target frames for heavy artillery, and although that too was a slow learning process for them, for me it was a pleasure teaching them the fundamentals of my skills. The pre-assembly of rough sawn timber that was square framed shaped and affixed at the top of two rough sawn pine posts, which the extended lengths was for the placing into the ground, was as per specifications tautly covered with stapled on hessian to secure a bulls-eye on. Although it took four workers to manoeuvre it around and to carry it, we were all grateful that there was no painting involved. That too became an ongoing contract for hundreds of target frames because of product quality and schedule fulfillment that snowballed into further government contracts in the areas of hospital, electricity and postal. Also, ongoing contracts from City Councils, manufacture’s subcontractors, contracted manufactured products and in house salable products that became most of my department’s workload. The acquisition eventually of a free moving panel saw, radial arm saw, industrial band-saw, overhead router, spindle moulder, wide belt sander, drum sander and dust extractors although a necessity became a burden. Because there were only two qualified tradesman in the factory, which my department had then become, of which I was one and the other was the supervisor that worked only in the hardwood section where the stakes and pegs were machined and painted, I was once again back to the whole manufacturing process. Designs, prototypes, cutting lists, setting boards, samples, machine and assemble set-ups, maintenance, safety and quality control, dispatch and the teaching and training of streams of workers who were filtered through my woodworking department so that they could comprehend, learn, retain and execute all work disciplines.

Now it wasn’t all work and no play, because functions, public entertainment and outings, open employment, community living and marriage became my agenda for them, with some of it done openly and others discreetly because of bureaucracy. Functions given at the workshop consisted of quarterly theme dances that were scripted with the paraphernalia that went with it all done by me. Rock ‘n roll, Halloween, Tropical Paradise, Beach Party, Pajama Party, Spring Festival, Winter Carnival and other appreciated nights was what they enjoyed and looked forward to. My artistic skills that had been dormant were then resurrected for their delight and admiration, and it always gave me a buzz. At those dancers I unashamedly danced with all the disabled female workers, which was much to their delight, on the other hand, the other supervisors only danced with those who looked normal and danced the same way. Some of them had absolutely no rhythm and would do the most outlandish gyrations and steps out of time to the music. To me that added flavour and excitement to the night for them, for otherwise the majority of them would be just vegetating in their hostels, which to me was a constraint. Christmas lunches and annual end of year breaking up parties was another one of their joys, for by quietly organizing the musically inclined, the movers and shakers, the poetic and would be singers, they would appear and give impromptu performances to the amazed and enthusiastic management, staff, parents who cared and the rest of the workers. Public entertainment arranged and choreographed by the supervisors and performed by the workers brought back memories and skills of my youthful stage performances. With the combined talents of a very artistic and skilled seamstress supervisor who whipped up costumes, our plays and concerts that combined all of our accomplishments were then directed by us and performed by the workers, except for one addition. One that still stands out in every body’s memory, which they remind me about when on meeting, was on doing the ballet Swan Lake with an all-male cast and with me as the black swan. It was hilarious because we all wore tights and tutu’s, had the full makeup, the dancers were of staggered heights and had huge blown up green balloon busts. We also had the music and scenery, and at the finale they bust their balloon breast one at a time as I laid flat on the stage as if dead, but jerked whenever a balloon busted, which brought the house down.

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The Black Swan Ballet with Moi as the Black Swan and my all-male ballet dancers in their tutus.

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The Black Swan doing a port de bras…the arms thingy that swans do, with my dancing ballerinas joining in.

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A cameo shot of The Black Swan in full flight.

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Captain Harry, (Ginger) a workshop supervisor and (Gilligan) a workshop disabled employee on one of the cruises on Surfers Paradise Broadwater.

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Because my workers requested of me to have a Winter Christmas theme lunch, this is part of what I made with cut out ply for the mountains, snowmen family, polar bear fishing and penguins. Then I sprayed it white and painted the features on them. The area used was my assemble shop and back of that was my timber machine shop.

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This was part of a Winter Carnival Theme Dance organized by me with  the Yeti, pine trees, snow and mountains my creations.

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This is where my artistic drawing skills came to the fore again to amuse the disabled workers.

10. ‘Over the hill’ but still climbing mountains.

Then I turned 50 and was given a monster surprise party bash.  My sneaky brother-in-law Arthur had phoned to ask me out for a drink at my favourite water-hole on my birthday, and of course one led to another, which kept us there for quite some time. Unbeknown to me, my wife Joan, my daughter Gina and my sister Rita, as a co-conspirator, had been partying our home up with food-stuff and decorations. It was the biggest surprise of my life when all the unexpected people there came out of hiding to shout, ‘Surprise, Surprise’, and to top it all; they were in fancy dress customs. They really had pulled out all stops to make it a memorable occasion because there was so many surprises with great presents, a fantastic birthday cake with sparklers, which I couldn’t blow out, a funny birthday poem by my sister and the party that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Now here is a stupid, vain thing that I had done two days before my birthday because my hair had been turning completely white and I had thought that it would make me look younger if I did a bit of home dying. My condescending attitude thought that it would be a breeze to re-put tinges of black in my hair by dying it myself. Wrong! It turned out a disaster for it looked like I was wearing a black skull-cap as seen in the photos.

Seeing how I was really jacked-off with the cut-throat manufacturing business, I began putting out feelers for something more lay-back and simple. My next employment position was precisely that, for I was employed by Endeavour Foundation to instruct, teach and instil my woodworking knowledge and skills to lay-back and simple intellectually handicapped employees in a woodworking section at a workshop. At my interview I was told once more of the many applicants that were still to be interviewed over a period of days, but the very next day I received a phone call to advise me that my application had been successful.  What seemed to have clinched it for me was not only my woodworking expertise but also my son Neil. He was one of my three sons that had worked with me at Fairline Furniture in Melbourne, and in the interview when they inquired if I had had any experience with young adults who might have had any disability, he was my answer. He had in South Africa attended a Special School for slow learners due to attracting meningitis when very young. My explanation of how he had been nurtured with no special favours shown from all the family under my instructions, and that with normal integration it had benefited his whole life completely to the extent that he was always employed, had a car, lived on his own and was inundated with girlfriends, which now has eventuated into him as the father of three of my grandsons, which must have made them sit up and take notice.

I found the next day, on starting, that the handicapped workers skills consisted of collating and packaging commodities, so drawing on all my expertise in programme planning and teaching techniques to introduce, induce, and motivate a reaction to non-existent skills in woodwork, my knowledgeable skills were put to the test. Frustration and perseverance was what both the workers and I encountered at first. What contributed to alleviate further difficulties though was when I acquired further knowledge in the form of two, four semester diploma courses on the handicapped. It gave me a theoretical background in hereditary aspects of genetic and biological variables, and psychological programs and techniques. The former related to genetic constitution in the areas of DNA, chromosomes, genes and recessive genes. And one was Down’s syndrome that was a condition caused by a chromosomal abnormality in the presence of an extra chromosome that in humans produced mental retardation.

The biological variables covered the science of living organisms in anatomy or body structure. Physiology: the functions of living organisms and their parts. Cytology: biological cells and their functions. Ecology: the relationship between an organism and the environment in which it lives. Biochemistry: the structure and reactions of proteins such as enzymes, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and lipids. Biophysics: the physical properties of living organisms and their constituents. Embryology: the study of an unborn offspring in the first eight weeks from conception. The studied latter related to the systematic and diverse areas of study and application in the roles of instinct, heredity, environment and culture. The processes also of consciousness in the areas of sensation, perception, learning and memory, which is the basis of motivation and emotion, and the function of thought, intelligence and language in the continuous evolving level of suspended consciousness with the mind as the one overall governing factor.

From not knowing which end of a nail was hammered into wood to eventually manipulating all electric and pneumatic hand-tools, all precision woodworking machines, assemble, sandpaper and to spray-paint all products for local, state and government contracts was an outstanding achievement for persons with minimum motor skills, education or work skill levels, and their workmanship was on par with competitive products. The workers at that workshop ranged from the age of sixteen to fifty-five, and their intellectual disability varied from mild to border line. There were those with chromosomal disorders, manic depression, spina bifida, schizophrenia, brain damage, dyslexia and autism, and behaviour problems. They were all together in that one environment that consisted then of sewing, gardening, packaging and the woodworking section. One manager and five supervisors coaxed, cajoled, encouraged and at times pleaded with workers to keep products and production at a reasonable accepted level while trying to accomplish the skilled work that was required and done by staff.

The sewing section were producing stuffed toys, tablecloths, napkins, cushions, aprons and various other fabric articles, and in down time the girls were taught to hand sew and crochet. The gardening section propagated and potted various plants and scrubs, which were sold at fairs, kept the grounds well-trimmed and had the task twice weekly of setting up tables and chairs at South Port Community Hall for bingo games run by Endeavour Foundation to implement funds. Because of able-bodied workers required for that type of work, most of the semiskilled workers in the factory were delegated for that task and the repacking afters, which left production almost none existent during those times in certain departments. The packaging section produced a variety of packaged articles that consisted of drinking straws, household water taps, posters, plastic ice-cream teaspoons, skipping ropes and various other components that were either poly-bagged, shrink wrapped or blister packed. That department also processed the sorting and collating of mail, pamphlets and magazines. The woodworking section produced garden stacks, survey pegs and markers, and toys, with the painting also done there. I was employed to work in both the packaging and woodworking sections, and at first that adult looking but childlike thinking workers confused me. The challenge though to instil some of my skills and knowledge for their benefit that I had done over the years to so called normal tradesman, apprentices and process workers, became a main factor. Like all children their confidence had to be gained, and to get respect you had to give respect, and I also found like with all children if you brought yourself down to their level, you became slowly accepted. If you showed heartfelt kindness, empathy and were genuinely pleasant and cheerful towards them, you received it back twofold. My workload was slightly eased as they eagerly showed their gratitude by trying to anticipate my every want. Tools, materials, and equipment were fetched and handed to me when required. Carrying, fetching, packing and cleaning up by myself seemed to be considered not on, and they would vie amongst themselves for those little acts of kindness.

Then we changed managers at Endeavour Foundation Workshop, and because he was uninitiated in workshop procedure and the handicapped workers, he had to rely on our expertise to assist him. Because of the changeover, production orders slumped. That though gave me the opportunity in down time to teach different basic woodworking skills to the workers. It was a laugh a minute experience because all of them had never used a hammer and nails, a screw and screwdriver or sanded a bit of timber. To see what their capabilities in those areas were by handing them timber off cuts, an assortment of nails and a hammer, and telling them to hammer the nails into the wood really brought home how much they had to learn. Some placed nails with flat heads on its head onto the timber with the point facing upwards, and proceeded to grasp the hammer with both hands and then hammer the nail point. Others who used longer nails grasped the hammer by the head and not the handle to tap the nails ever so gentle, which kept on falling over. I thought they were screwing with me when handing them predrilled wood off cuts and an assortment of screws and various screwdrivers with heads to suit the screw heads. Some got that right the first time through sheer luck, but found it difficult to turn the screw in because of using both hands on the handle while the screw kept on falling over. Others used the handle as a hammer and knocked the screws into the holes; however, they had learned from the nailing exercise that the points went into the timber so that no screws went in inverted, and that other objects could be used for hammering. A good and observant question was also asked of why holes couldn’t be drilled for nails too. They found sanding timber the most difficult, for their hands were not accustomed to the constant friction of sanding timber back and forth. Some caused hollows by sanding in one spot only, and others used the piece of timber and sanded the sandpaper, and they all wore Band-Aids that day.

After many repetitive learning programmes and hands on assemble work, some became skilful in those tasks. There were others though at the generic age of fifty who still had the learning capacity of a child of twelve and the retention of an eight year old. Others again at the same age or fifteen years younger may have had the learning capacity of an sixteen year old and the retention a few years below that, and again there was those that had a short memory span, so that every task had to be shown and taught continuously, on the other hand you had the border liners who were only slow learners and they excelled. The use of drill guns, nail guns, staplers and jigsaws were the hand tools that I next concentrated on as a skill to teach them. That involved a one on one bases teaching with task analysis. Every function of the tool had to be explained, and so too had the safety precautions to be considered and taught, every operation of a task had to be shown, explained and taught, and the task broken up into an understandable and workable model that would suit the worker. At first I found that very frustrating because of considering myself an expert on work ethic with diplomas, certificates and references accumulated over the years to attest to it. Time and motion study, technical and practical production based methods were my forte. Whatever I had drawn designed were formulated to specifications on cutting lists and drawing boards to prototype stage. Patterns, jigs and systems were implemented for coordinating labour to achieve efficient production planned targets, and my procedures were adhered to by the workers or else.  There couldn’t be an or else with those workers, for what I had and saw was what I had to contend with. To ascertain their capabilities and what skills were possessed to implement systems, procedures and appropriate training to improve knowledge and learning to reach realistic goals, and to maximize their flexibility stared me in the face.

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Harold, no peeking!

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Bloody woman is always surprising me…love you Joan!

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My daughter Gina the co-conspirator.

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Party time for the birthday boy.

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Joan and her BF as a garbage bag.

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Joan and our sexy lady friends.

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Blokes shouldn’t sit with their legs open and Joan and her BF shouldn’t encourage it.

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Oh shit! Now all the blokes want to get into the act…and I’m loving it.

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Oh God! Who are these decadent people.

9. ‘The Three Stooges’ Make A Comeback.

We hadn’t forgotten our love of family partying because of living in Surfers Paradise where it was like party time every day, so  because it been Christmas time, we organized one for New Year’s Eve at our home. By this time too, my sister Rita and her family had also moved from Melbourne to Surfers, as too Joan’s niece Gladys and her family and of course all of our family had come home to roost. We made it a fancy dress one with a Surfers Paradise motif so as to keep it in that flavour, and it was a blast. Unbeknown to us also was that our backyard neighbours had also organized one for themselves, so it ended up with all of them joining us that really shook up the neighbourhood with a Happy New Year into the wee hours.

I upped myself at my next place of employment through my application for a Production Manager’s position that saw me back into furniture manufacturing. When commencing at Don Juan Waterbeds, which was owned by the partnership of two blokes with the one called Don and the other Juan,  that was about all they produced, but they were good at it though with a few local and interstate owned businesses, and they had a day and night shift going. At my interview they were trying to impress the importance of reconstructing their business because it had become stagnant, that their expenditure was beginning to exceeded their returns and that they didn’t have the time to expedite a solution. After perusing my credentials and advising me that as they had other applicants to interview over the following days and that they would get in touch, they phoned me that same afternoon to meet with them the following day to discuss my salary and my modus operandi. It seemed that Reg my former employer in Melbourne had sung my praises to high heaven when they phoned him. Because of what seemed to me a real hodgepodge business after walking around in the factory proper, I requested my new employers not to make mention to anyone of them about hiring me yet because I wanted to suss out the place at my own discretion. My early nights and mornings observations outside the perimeter of the factory sussed out (searched out) the employers comings and goings. It was then a simple procedure in finding out the name of the workers who were starting late and those who were leaving early by discretely checking their clock cards during the day. The night-shift workers drifted in at their leisure due to their friends clocking in early for them, and they took it in turns. They also took it in turns to find a quite spot to kip (sleep) on the job when I began to wander around to see what else they got up too. The day-shift must have been made aware by the night-shift of somebody checking them out for they were falling over each other to impress me how productive they were. Old habits die hard, and my quiet and unexpected wanderings throughout the factory caught them at most times unawares because I was keeping my own timetable for a week by coming and going whenever I pleased.

They employed seventy production workers for the day and night shift that was slackly supervised by an Administration Manager, a Factory Manager and a foreman. The Administration Manager was actually more the purchasing officer and gofer for the owners, so he was seldom seen in the vicinity of the factory proper. The Factory Manager either paced the factory floor as king of his domain barking out orders or sat in his office reading the newspaper and going over the racing form. The foreman buzzed around like a blue arse fly (disorganized and frantic movements) touching on everything but never settling down because he was run off his feet trying to do everything. Taking also guarded notes of stock in hand when prowling around worked that lot out on how the night shift to cover up their unproductive shift they would remove completed stock to replenish orders. Dispatch was doubling up on some of its outgoing orders by doctoring the invoices. The storeroom was left at the discretion of the workers who reigned supreme. The day-shift though was a bit more productive, however, they again required a time and motion study with workstations reorganized so that their work movements could go from a to b instead of from a to z. They would also think nothing of breaking off work to have a chat for yonks (a long time) about mundane things, and smokos (tea breaks) and lunch times were the longest I had ever seen.

The owners called a meeting of staff and workers to introduce me on a Friday morning because the nigh-tshift workers received their wages then, and for me to say my piece. It was short and to the point. My telling them that I was the Production Manager and in charge of all the production and dispatch, and that they would receive a fair go because I was a fair person even though I was dark of complexion, which brought a laugh, but that there were changes to be made for the firm to stay solvent, which caused them to shift around uneasily and look at each other. When continuing that there would be a day-shift only with the night-shift incorporated into daytime employment, they all stood like stunned mullets (a fish, and someone who looks shocked like that). Even the owners, for when they were told before time that there were going to be harsh changes, their response was not to tell them but to surprise them with results that would get the business viable again. Their bewilderment still showed when getting back to the office, and on telling them that there would be retrenchments they still didn’t want to know why or who. When summoning the Factory Manager to their office and my telling him that he should reorganize the workstations to accommodate the night-shift for the Monday morning, he became all flustered with question of why and how. When pointing out to him that if both shifts were producing at their ultimate level, all that had been done was the combining of the two and I expected the same output, we could all see by his expression that he didn’t know his arse from his elbow. When handing him an occupational list of the night-shift workers with a bit of assistance to get him motivated, my telling him that if he found that there were excess workers, space wise at workstations, to utilize them as assistance to fetch and carry during the transition so as to move production along at a steady pace, he couldn’t thank me enough. Then I stood back to observe the rest of the preparation that was expected of him as a Factory Manager. With no forward planning, he was flitting around like a blue arse fly too, and not accomplishing anything effective in his futile attempts as he harangued the workers to reorganize their departments. The foreman though through his own initiative had begun immediately creating space by moving components on pallets to one area of the factory and reading unused workbenches.

The Monday morning saw everybody arriving on time and each one clocking on for themselves, which was a step in the right direction. It was chaotic though when the Factory Manager barked out indecisive instructions to the confused workers. That’s when I stepped in to restore order. With him looking on I took the night-shift workers one by one to their appropriate workstations, explained what was expected of them during the transition and that they would soon be operating on an alternative worker roster that had been compiled by me. The factory was humming then and my next calculated schedule was the dispatch section. They had already packed the trucks with daily delivery orders, which I was waiting for, and at my request for the delivery consignment and invoices, the person in charge had the audacity to tell me that he had been doing it for years without any complaints and that everything was in order. Ignoring him and going meticulously through every order and checking that the articles related, while he and the drivers went to the office to report that I was holding up deliveries, I found discrepancies with four orders and had it removed off the trucks. Coming back with the Administration Manager who was a born again Christian and thought that everybody was in his category of being good, but not knowing yet what he was good at, he demanded to know why the four orders had been removed. My adamant answer was that I would be doing snap inspections at all times and any orders that didn’t come near to correspond would be removed. There wasn’t any reason for accusations because they had gotten the message and knew the score.

The first to go was the Factory Manager followed by the dispatcher and those workers who left on their own accord due to finding themselves incapacitated by the new work regime, which were the night-shift workers who had slacked off.  With my work-stations time and motion study completed, the arrangement and setting out of the factory took on a different aspect. It wasn’t the hodgepodge of before but a smooth oiled running production line where workers didn’t have any excuse to stray away from their work areas. From then on I was called ‘the silver fox’ behind my back because of my shock of silver hair and silent approach, but it was used as a sign of respect for they were receiving a fair go (treated fairly), and production output had doubled. By setting myself up in the vacated Factory Managers office with a female office worker to compile, correlate and dispense production orders to different departments from my forward planning production sheets, and with the foreman then just having to buzz around and look like a busy bee throughout the factory, I found the time to set up an in-house manufacturing department for water bladder mattresses. The owners because they were completely solvent then were investing their returns for expansion of the business, and one of the owner’s had made a trip to America to wheel and deal for machinery and two American workers with the expertise to manufacture the waterbed bladders. Opposite the factory was a row of vacant, single small business factories, with one of them rented by the firm as a storeroom. My renovations converted it into a water bladder department, and with the two Americans installed on a permanent basis, the firm was not only manufacturing for themselves but also for the open market. They were also opening their own retail shops and expanding their franchises further afield, and the variety of produced units also increased. That’s when the increase in my salary was renegotiated with an added bonus of traveling expenses and car fuel.

What they also had in mind was to manufacture and add bedroom units as a complete ensemble to the waterbeds as bedroom suites. That though didn’t bother me, but what did was when finding out that there was not one tradesman in either wood-machining or cabinet making to undertake those measures, and I had to advertise for those qualified for the positions. With the purchasing and installation of the water bladder machinery and extra wood working machinery for the manufacturing of the bedroom units and upholstered waterbed frames, I also had to employ a fitter and turner cum electrician for keeping the complicated machinery operational. With all the increased production and products, the factory space couldn’t accommodate the capacity of products manufactured, and the increasing dilemma caused an increase of flooring across the buildings rafters to transfer the cabinet assemble section and to extend the storeroom and the upholstery section in that area. The factory then consisted of seven fully productive sections in the area of wood machining, assemble, cabinet making, burning and sandblasting, spray painting, upholstery and the water bladder division. The Production Manager and the one foreman were then both flitting around like two blowflies, and that caused me not to be able to keep my pulse on the overall operation. Consulting with the owners and telling them what was required for the situation not to deteriorate further was a working foreman in all the main sections and a permanent store-man was agreed upon. It wasn’t an ulterior motive; it was only a convenient way of also in having my son Harold, the spray painter, who worked in that section to be promoted as one of the foremen. What wasn’t convenient though was when the proprietors asked me to have stacked rows of solid, cut to size Huon pine used for the waterbeds shifted from the close proximity to and in the factory backyard to the far back of it. When explaining the inconvenience and time wasting of that exercise, the surprising explanation was that a complete new factory was to be built there for the water bladder and wood machining section.

They were really riding high and so was I, in the sky, for with the franchise outlets crying foul to damaged goods arriving or too late for fulfilling orders, part of my duties became to fly interstate and pacify the franchisees with dinner and drinks. Expense account, hired airport car, accommodation and attending the Royal Easter Shows in Sydney where the firm had a furniture display at the furniture stand was all laid on. They were also laying it on for themselves and going a bit overboard. One of the cabinetmakers had the expertise of shop fitting and boat building, and when the owners, one who had bought a house up in the hills and the other a restaurant and a hull of a twenty foot cabin cruiser boat that was housed in the then vacant single factory across from the factory, which a casual shipwright was building up in his spare time, they requested if he could be taken off the workbench and do work on their newly acquired projects. The built in cabinets and fittings of the house was constructed with only the best and expensive materials, and so was the restaurant and boat. The new factory was one of modern design, it though was only a shell with no innards for it seemed finances was again at a minim due to extravagant spending by the owners. When requested by them to attend a meeting there was also a financier in attendance, who was unbeknown to me, who it seemed they had dealings with in further financing the factory completion. From me the financier wanted to know my opinion of why the company’s profitable financial turnaround had deteriorated because he had been told that it was due to my production expertise that had pulled them out of their predicament in the first place. He also went on to say that he was told that I spoke my mind and said it like it was, and because drastic measures had to be taken again, what measures could I see that should be taken to get them back on track.

Sitting back and looking at the ‘Three Stooges’, as I privately compared the two owners and the Administration Manager too, for when everything was smelling of roses they use to go around with big grins and rubbing of hands, and had meetings behind closed doors with laughing and going on that never saw my involvement. Not that it bothered me, but I was receiving information from them second hand after they had made the decisions, and it would always be too late to get them to retract or cancel it. As in all businesses there has to be constructive criticism in management to iron out defects, and I had quit a few run-ins with those three. The Administration Manager, who had been with the owners from the conception of the business, had employed a few of his slack friends at that time, and again unbeknown to me they were the ones that had been retrenched. As management, one of the considerations was that any worker retrenched was to be seen as a combined decision, not him, for when his mates who were fired approached him; he would lay the blame wholly on me. At first I let it ride, until it came to a head on one occasion when balled up in the factory and verbally abused by just one such worker. Standing there and just letting him get it out of his system with the rest of the workers looking on wasn’t very pleasant, what I had in mind though for afters wasn’t pleasant too. The three of them were again behind closed doors when bursting in and leaving the door wide open. My outraged, angry sounding very loud thought out barrage was that he was a piker (someone who backs down from an arrangement), and if he hadn’t sat on his brains in the first instance the firm wouldn’t have been in dire straits, and that although he had seen the light as a Christian he was still in the dark ages where production and management was concerned, and that if they were only seeing me as one of the workers who they didn’t have to consult about anything when everything was smelling of roses, then I was out of there. When storming out and walking through the main office there were nods of good on you and a silent clap by an office worker, and the factory workers just grinned with silent approval. When requested to come to the office, I sent a message back to the effect that although not frequented they knew were my office was. Only the one owner had the balls to face me with apologies and question my flare up. When explaining the backstabbing, he assured me that there would be a severe reprimand, and added that a personal apology from the Administration Manager would be forthcoming.

The three of them at the beginning when production was up and running would wander through the factory and stop at workstations to stand, watch, criticize a workers mode of work and try to change it. The workers knew what my standing on that sort of interference was because at our monthly workers discussions where do and don’ts always reached a satisfactory compromise, and that one was a no-no. When approaching the three of them about their unhelpful behaviour they were quite taken aback because they were management. On pointing out that they were stuffing up my production procedures and undermining my authority it kept them far away from the workers. Also, when the owners were splurging their new-found wealth I took it upon myself to have a quite word to them about watching their cash flow, which didn’t go down to well because they were sorting out their own accounting and it was also costing them for the upkeep of the two Americans who had free reign. All that had occurred from the time of my employment there I reiterated to the financier who sat and shook his head in disbelief. He admonished them and told them that it wasn’t a club for the boys anymore, which with the inclusion of the Sales Manager it had become, and that if they had treated me with more respect, taken me more into their confidence and listened to my advice as he discerned hadn’t occurred, they wouldn’t have found themselves back in that predicament again. He also indicated that I hadn’t been hard enough with all three of them, and shut them up quick smart when they told me it was time to retrench more workers. He then pointed out the comparison of workers they had employed for the nil returns to the amount employed then for what had been achieved, and told them that they had their say which wasn’t very encouraging, but that he was sure that I would have a better solution.

If they hadn’t been so thoughtless and greedy to expand that rapidly a financier wouldn’t have been required, for the companies name and products itself was a requisite. I didn’t also have to then introduce a time and motion bonus system that was time consuming and involved heaps of paper work and calculations. That was the solution offered to the financier.  The end result was that some workers would increase their productivity by up to 30 per cent and incur a supplementary monetary bonus rate in addition to their wages. Of course the ‘Three Stooges’ didn’t have a clue what my suggestion entailed, and made inept comments that the firm couldn’t afford to pay extra money to the workers or that extra products were required. The financier though had seen the wisdom of an incentive bonus, and after jotting some figures down he told them to listen and learn. It was simply arithmetic, for if there were forty workers with an extra output of 30 per cent per week it would automatically reduce the required workers by twelve. With an average wage of $180 per worker, less the companies insurance and administration cost for them, plus the bonus rate for the remaining workers, they would be saving thousands of dollars. My other suggestion was to pull out and close their retail shops that were known not to be a cash flow success, and to have one of our qualified trade persons trained in the water bladder section so as to eventually take it over. The financier before leaving came around to my office and assured me that he would be keeping personally in touch with me.

The Administration Manager had employed an assistant to aid him with his bookwork, and when advising the owners that it would be impossible for me to perform both production and the time and motion study efficiently, the assistant was transferred to aid me. When explaining to the workers the intended concept of the operation with times that would be taken of worked components at normal working pace, and that any worked components produced over an allotted time established for one and every component would be converted to a monetary value, and paid as a benefit over and above their normal wage. And also explaining that my assistant would be timing them with a stopwatch instead of me, with my reason given that they might want to impress me by working above a normal pace, but because they would be aware that it was only what his entire role consisted of they would work normally. Also, that I wanted no extra mucking about bunged (put) on to increase times taken, they were quite pleased to be able to receive an extra increment at last for when rushed jobs were at a premium. What they didn’t realize though was what the consequences would be. It was obvious that the workers most efficient would be excelling at the bonus system and producing more products, and would be doing those that were inefficient out of products to produce, and because the departments operated on a set weekly products production schedule there was going to be those really inefficient standing around doing nothing. They were the first ones to go and production was still on schedule with only twenty-eight production employers from the original seventy.

When the financier phoned and I advised him about what had transpired he was elated. He became annoyed though when telling him that the owners were still hanging onto their non-profitable retail shops and trying to flog them off as franchises, and where also trying to improve the company’s image with what I thought was wasted television and radio commercials, and a waste of money. Not wanting to put them down completely because they were relying on his finance, my information that they had installed one of the tradesman in the water bladder section and had requested me to put up a competitive bonus earned section board, so as to encourage the section with the highest weekly bonus earned in receiving an extra bonus, he became more tolerant. Delivery trucks came back over the follow weeks though with removed carpets, shop fittings and bedroom suites from some of their retail shops locally and interstate. The three of them were also treating me with more respect, management meetings found me becoming more involved in decision-making, and Joan and I were invited for socializing. The new factory was then fitted out with the best of mod cons and fittings, and extra new water bladder machinery with an additional new innovation from America of waterbed bafflers for stabilization. The wood machine section of the old factory never had a sawdust extraction system but that one did, which was a necessity because it was in close proximity to the water bladder section, but it was also expensive. The ‘Three Stooges’ were smiling again, so it seemed that everything was rosy again and the workers were also happy and earning a substantial wage.

With that year a bumper one, my suggestion to the owners of giving office staff and workers a breaking up end of the year luncheon party in appreciation for their efforts was well received, and I organized a hot lunch through caterers who served it up and a good time was had by all. It was a good time for Joan and me too, for with a substantial bank account we purchased property at Paradise Point, which is on The Broadwater and the tail end of Surfers Paradise, and then had a house built on the knolled property that overlooked Coombabah Creek; Aboriginal  meaning place of turtles, and Coomera River; meaning wattle tree, that was considered then the arse end of Surfers because of the distance to travel, which was only about thirty minutes by car, and due to that we didn’t have many visitors. We enjoyed the peace and tranquility though, especially as ours was the first house in that newly established area, and the family and friends called our home ‘The little house on the prairie.’ When in North America while in the merchant navy, prairie dogs would be seen from the ship when traveling up rivers through treeless areas of grassland. They were of the rodent type with a bark like a dog and had a peculiar mannerism of emerging out of their borrows to look around from left to right. I had become aware of that quite new mannerism from the ‘Three Stooges’ when they emerged from their office on sudden frequent walks throughout the factory. Very observant and long enough in the game, it became obvious that there was something they didn’t know and were trying to find out, but didn’t want to involve me. Keeping my eyes and ears attuned as the animals of Africa, it saw an earlier than usual complete stocktaking ordered, and the ceasing of the bonus system rang the alarm bells. It soon became very obvious that because of their advertising promotion on television and radio they had expected an inundation of orders, but due to having gone to an extreme extra expense of building up stocks of water bladders, bafflers, bed linen, bedroom suites and Huon pine by the truck load, the financier because of not receiving his promised returns had pulled out. They had really stuffed up that time and a Receiver Accountant was appointed. The downhill spiral went from retrenchments, shops closed, franchises lost, factory sale of excess goods and the owners on a weekly wage. They hung onto me almost to the end thinking that maybe I could pull one more rabbit out of the hat, but it was time for me to go.

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Pretty basic reference from the Administration Manager who just loved to see me go.

 

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Now this reference was from the Financial Controller after Don Juan Waterbeds was placed in the hands of a Receiver and Manager, and he really knew the score.

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Our son Chris toffed up and the life of the party as usual.

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Jose Gonsalves and Joan shaking their booty with me sporting my Surfers Paradise tropical shirt.

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Chris chatting up the back-yard over the fence neighbours with Joan, Greg in a blond wig and the rest of the gang encouraging him.

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Joan with some of our back-yard neighbours partying on.

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Hey! Hey! The gangs all here dancing up a storm with Joan, Chris, Gina, Debbie, Jose jnr and Toni.

8. Surfing the Net in Surfers Paradise.

 

My family and I before the word became fashionably had a saying that has stuck to us like glue and we adhere to it, that pun was intended. In the Dutch language ‘fok’ means breeding, but when used in Afrikaans as fuck as in sexual intercourse and is also pronounced the same Dutch way, we always say, ‘Don’t fok with the Lorenzo’s’ if someone tries to put one over us and we turn the tables on them. It again was also true and came in handy for the third time while at the firm, with the first time occurring with the Production Manager. Seeing that Reg had his son installed as Production Manager, and the upholstery foreman had his daughter working casually there, when a vacancy occurred for a spray painter I offered it to my son Harold jnr who was working as a spray-painter at Holden Motors. When another vacancy opened up for a machinist, my other son Chris who worked as a litho-printing machinist filled that position. Both wanted a change to what they were doing, and as I believed and had done, applied allied work is conducive. They both worked out fine, as I knew they would because of working with me in South Africa, and management was pleased with their work ethic. Then my other son Neil who was seeing how well they were doing also wanted in. Not wanting to upset the apple cart I advised him that he would have to work his way up from a machinist laborer, and he too fitted in well.

At the firm we had a Pommy bastard as a shop steward who worked in the upholstery section, but he had been unsuccessfully in trying to get one of his family employed in his section. He wasn’t only a whinger but also a ratbag (a trouble maker) over every minor work discrepancy, and because of that the upholstery foreman wouldn’t give him the time of the day, let alone have another of his family work there. His jealousy of my family working there was all that I could put it down to, for he started making waves about them not having qualifications and because they were my sons they were receiving easier work. When approached by the upholstery foreman about those allegations, which proved to me what a weak arsehole the Pommy and he was, I gathered my sons’ qualification papers together and waited for the opportune moment. It wasn’t long in coming, for my approach was direct to the union-rep when he came around. Producing the papers and explaining that half my workers hadn’t qualification papers due to that most of the work was a process operation, which didn’t require a qualification, and that all my workers were on a basic wage with the rest made up with their bonus earnings, his answer to that was that he was aware of it and that it didn’t go against any union regulations. Requesting him to explaining all of that to the Pommy and to the upholstery foreman, who knew of it but was also trying to be a smart arse, resulted in upsetting him because of me not coming direct to him, which I told him it was none of his bloody business in the first place, and the Pommy handed in his resignation soon after.

With my mother and father settled in Australia, and with my father at loose ends, a young sixty-seven and not eligible for an Australian old age pension because we had sponsored him and my mother, he was looking around for a spare time job to fill in time. My approach to management that it was about time we employed a store-man seeing that requisitions were not issued and the workers just helped themselves to what-ever they required, and that stocks were disappearing, stopped that immediately when my father was employed as a store-man at my suggestion. It didn’t end there, for when Joan was at a loose end and we were inundated with work, she worked as a casual seamstress in the sewing section. What they say about a family that works together stays together worked both ways for us, but also, all good things usually come to an end. Our daughter Regina had by then moved on from Sydney and was living and working in Surfers Paradise to which she instigated our wanting to see the top end of Australia. She was singing the praises of Surfers Paradise so much that when inviting the family to spend the Christmas holidays with her we jumped at the opportunity. The rest of the family, some of them adolescents and the others adults with girlfriends and still living at home, bussed it up to Queensland on a package deal with Joan and me. The pleasant journey, jovial companions, our holiday booking in the heart of Surfers Paradise on Cavill Mall, family Chrissie (Christmas) lunch, explosive New Year beach party, wall to wall flesh, particularly some of the women who only wore the bottom half of their cossie (swimming costume) and flaunted their white pointers (breast), water based lifestyle, combination of live entertainment with eateries and bars on or off the Broadwater, relax and laze places for viewing the beauty of the Gold Coast and the Hinterland, was a memorable and unique experience.

We dragged ourselves back to Melbourne. But that same week after my singing its praises to my sister Rita and brother-in-law, Arthur, the two of us planned up to Surfers to ascertain if there was more than just the glitter and glamor, and to suss (search out) if there were any viable businesses going that were appropriate to our expertise, and we found a few. When we returned home I put mine it up for sale for there were two reasons for that decision. The first was that I had been receiving treatment for arthritis that I attracted due to Melbourne’s extreme cold winters, with physiotherapy first at a hospital and then by a private physiotherapist. Part of my spinal column was becoming calcified because the treatment wasn’t improving the condition and the medication prescribed was only for temporary relief. My doctor who recommended a warmer climate couldn’t have been wiser, because while up in Surfers I didn’t suffer much of the arthritic pains, and we had falling in love with the place. Reg was very upset but also understanding. The difficult problem he envisaged was the designing. Foremen are a dime a dozen, and he knew that someone with my expertise wasn’t there for the asking. My health came first, and even my children who had branched out on their own weren’t taken into consideration. I explored the possibility that an advertisement with the qualifications required might attract the right applicant. There were many who didn’t foot the bill except for one. He was a new immigrant with a family, a draughtsman with designing skills and was familiar with bonus systems, and my son Chris, who was by then the leading hand but not with his expertise, showed him the ropes and steer him in the right direction. My farewell at the firm was a teary one with me included. I though had pulled up roots before and traveled half across the world, and we were only moving interstate. I had our furniture moved to Queensland and put into storage, bought a Volvo and drove up to the Gold Coast with my wife and youngest son Gregory.

My first venture was a takeaway shop in an industrial area. It started off as a five day, nine to five, food businesses, but in a year it became a monstrous seven day, six to six, exhausting no-time-out-for-ourselves business, and that was definitely not what we had come to the Gold Coast for. We sold it, and after that tiring experience for both Joan and me, we just kicked back and enjoyed the paradisaical Surfers Paradise. The rest of our children were slowly filtering up from Melbourne to Surfers because they missed the family togetherness, and we all moved into a five-bedroom home with all the mod-comes, a swimming pool and on the water canal. With all the night clubbing, house parties, beach parties, surfing, boating and fishing or just by soaking up the sun, we became typical Gold Coasters. Not wanting to get back immediately into the cutthroat business of manufacturing, my inclination was to get back into my grass roots of cabinet making and work again with hand tools. When applying for such a position, the manager of Transpack thought I was best suited for dispatching. Although still receiving tradesman’s wages my position was one of collating component parts off cutting lists that were correlated to on site built-in cabinets for high-rise buildings on the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. My arthritis problems had by then reduced its severity due to the fantastic warm weather, and I felt as strong as an ox when lifting and packing heavy components such as doors and panels of built-in wardrobes. After a while though I felt myself robbed when watching other cabinetmakers constructing and assembling custom-built furniture, and it was time to move on.

By then all of the treatment and medication taken for my aches and pains had ceased, for the arthritis had disappeared and my calcified spinal column was no more. With the aid of the health giving sun and the assistance of my self-healing method of mind over matter, it had become non-existent. I had tried without success in Melbourne to adopt my strength of mind procedure to rid myself of that debilitating ailment; I though hadn’t taken into consideration the hopelessness of competing against the bone marrow coldness of Melbourne’s winters. Over the years I had no call for doctors or medication of any sort except for that instant. By just using a simple method of concentrating on any physical pain whether it was a headache, from a bruised bump, muscle cramping, stomach-aches or any mind indicated ailment it would diminish in its severity and then go away naturally. My mum had trouble with that in my youth, for like all mum’s she was always ready with painkillers, liniment, ointment and medicine, and would chide me for my pigheadedness when not accepting her thoughtful help. What also helped to assist the arrest of my arthritic condition was when coming across a gentleman in Surfers Paradise who practiced self-healing through meditation, and he on hearing of my aberrations as a child and its ongoing aspects, advised the supplement of his meditation methods to mine.

I couldn’t go back to my favourite serene places on Table Mountain, the pleasantly relaxing localities to unwind in at Liesbeeck River or my favourite at sea when sitting forehead on the anchor hatch with nothing but the horizon bisecting the clear blue sky and glass smooth ocean that the ship was running with, and the only sound was the wash of it against the bow. The tranquility found to implement his method of quite deep concentrated thought was just before daybreak as the peeping and then creeping convex flame-colored sun arose on the horizon in between an early morning cloudless blue sky which reflected on the undulating waves that completed its course and lapped my feet on Surfers Paradise Beach.

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At Hawaiian Village Motel, Cavill Mall, Surfers Paradise with Joan, Chris my bof-head son and his girlfriend Kerry.

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Joan trying to play put-put in Surfers Paradise.

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Joan on Surfers Paradise Beach contemplating to get her bathing suit wet or not.

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My bathing beauty did it!

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Wassup! Hey it’s the Spunk Hunk.

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On the corner of Cavill Mall, Surfers Paradise then.

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On the corner of Cavill Mall, Surfers Paradise now.

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Ah! Tranquility!

 

 

 

7. On A Mission Of No Return.

 

As would have been noticed, I have translated the Aboriginal named places to English in my blogs because I like the way Australia from the word go should a respect to the different Aboriginal peoples by keeping their named places as such. There are about 500 different Aboriginal peoples in Australia, each with their own language and territory and usually made up of a large number of separate clans. Archaeologists believe that the Aboriginals first came to the Australian continent around 45,000 years ago. Aboriginals themselves, however, trace their creation back to the Dreamtime, an era long past when the earth was first formed. One Aboriginal man explained it thus: ‘By Dreaming we mean the belief that long ago these creatures started human society, they made all natural things and put them in a special place. These Dreaming creatures were connected to special places and special roads or tracks or paths. In many places the great creatures changed themselves into sites where their spirits stayed. Aboriginals have a special connection with everything that is natural. Aboriginals see themselves as part of nature … All things on earth we see as part human. It is true that people who belong to a particular area are really part of that area and if that area is destroyed they are also destroyed.’

When we arrived in 1972 in Australia, it saw the reformist Whitlam’s Labour Government replaced the assimilation policy with one of self-determination, and also established the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to meet the special needs of Aborigines. Between 1976 and 1983 the Northern Territory Land Rights Legislation returned large areas of land to Aboriginal communities. The Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act gave Aborigines in South Australia rights to large areas of their traditional land. Eddie Mabo, who was a Torres Strait Islander, commenced a legal action against ‘terra nullus’, and Aboriginal Land Rights Legislation in New South Wales enabled them to make claims for crown land. The Whites in South Africa during that period were holding onto grim death everything the apartheid legislation laws had privileged them with, and more so the land. European settlement of Australia commenced in 1788. Prior to this, Indigenous Australians inhabited the continent and had unwritten laws, as documented in the case of the Yirrkala Aboriginal community. However, the Indigenous Australians did not have any form of political organization that Europeans could understand as being analogous to their own institutions, and the British could not find recognized leaders with the authority to sign treaties, so treaties were not signed (in contrast to British colonial practices in many areas of North America, Africa, New Zealand, etc.). The first test of ‘terra nullius’ in Australia occurred with the decision that the native inhabitants were only subject to English law where the incident concerned both natives and settlers, with  the rationale  that Aboriginal tribal groups already operated under their own legal systems. In 1835 Governor Bourke implemented the doctrine of terra nullius by proclaiming that Indigenous Australians could not sell or assign land, nor could an individual person or group acquire it, other than through distribution by the Crown. By the time of Mabo in 1992, terra nullius was the only explanation for the British settlement of Australia. Historians, more interested in politics than archives, misled the legal profession into believing that a phrase no one had heard of a few years before was the very basis of our statehood. There is some controversy as to the meaning of the term. For example, it is asserted that, rather than implying mere emptiness, terra nullius can be interpreted as an absence of civilized society. The English common law of the time allowed for the legal settlement of “uninhabited or barbarous country”. In 1996, The High Court re-visited the subject of native title, and the 4-3 majority in that stated that native title and pastoral leases could co-exist over the same area and that native peoples could use land for hunting and performing sacred ceremonies even without exercising rights of ownership. However, in the event of any conflict between the rights and interests of pastoralists and native title, it would be the former that would prevail. And so it is too with Aboriginals with pastoral and mining rights on their land.

With that bit of history out of the way, it seemed though that there weren’t any laws governing industrial espionage in Australia into which I walked with my eyes closed in the furniture department that I ran. The Melbourne Furniture Show held once a year at the Melbourne Exhibition Hall was where all newly designed furniture was displayed to attract sales. With new innovative designs produced by our firm throughout the year and copies been made by our competitors as soon as it was made available to the open market, at my third year as foreman I was introduced to the womanly wiles of the tactics used as a means to an end to achieve that outcome. I had redesigned our furniture display unit and was busy assembling it at the back of the workshop when called to the reception desk about a journalist there who wanted to do a write up about the forthcoming show. All my incoming phone calls was screened and appointments were first vetoed by reception, that one intrigued me though for I couldn’t fathom why me. She was continental in appearance, beautiful, curvaceous, with legs that seemed to go on forever up her pleated skirt, which both are my weakness in women, and her smile and voice was sugar sweet. Her story was that she was doing a spread for a furniture magazine, and our firm was one of a few that were the leaders in contemporary designs that would fit into their forthcoming magazine concerning the show.

Full of my own importance and pride, her questions alluring to any new designs made me tell her that they were only at prototype stage and that I was redesigning the stand unit. Asking if she could take a quick look I obliged. She was taken aback though when seeing that the prototypes were only in its embryo stage of the pine framework and not in its entirety of upholstered lounge suites. Her further request of taking photographs of the finished lounge suites when completed for a splash on the front cover before the show received my answer that the proprietor had to approve that. She then suggest that when we had the brochures of the suites printed, which we did a month before the show for distribution there, if I could let her have them then as she might be inundated with work and maybe not have the time to take photographs of the completed lounge suites. On telling her that I might be able to arrange it, she squeezed my arm while drawing her body up against mine. It was after she had left that the receptionist mentioned that the journalist had work before also as a receptionist for one of our furniture competitors. However, when someone in the factory also commented that she still worked there but had been promoted to sales, it clicked with me then that they were out to copy our furniture for the open market before it was shown at the show, and to corner the sales. Not mentioning it to anyone, not even to Reg, because of not wanting anyone to know that I had been almost duped and wanting to teach her a lesson that she would never forget, I came up with plan that would also embarrass her. I had in my possession a lounge suite catalogue brought over from South Africa from the last furniture firm worked for. The designs were only suitable for that countries deco and would never sell on the Australian market. Again I used my amateur skills as a forger and counterfeiter by doctoring the catalogue with the firm’s logo onto the pictures, and it looked authentic.

I was going to play that one to the hilt, especially when she phoned a week before time to confirm my arrangement with her. My innocent sounding request to meet with her so as to fill in the rest of the details was met with an instant reply of having dinner at her place for it was private and she needed the company. What she didn’t know was that I had made extensive inquires about her and had found out that she was married, that her husband was away on a business trip interstate and that she did work for our competition. Her husband never came up in the conversation, which I didn’t also mention; however, although I was lying through my teeth about the false market research done concerning our newest range for the show, she was all ears and buying it. Eager for the brochures that I had also told her would be in a covered book form, which was the way the false one was, she was then plying me with drinks while ever so nice to me. What seemed to shatter her though was on telling her that it might not be a good idea to have our exclusive furniture in the magazine, because she had tried convincingly to assure me that it only would come out on the show-day. That had all been part of my prepared thought out plan to lead her up to what I really wanted to succeed with. By not continuing that line of conversation but rather showing an interest in a collection of music displayed caused her perplexity, and she became disconcerted. Carrying it a bit further by putting on music and asking her to dance, brought her a puzzled expression, but my request was accepted. The tables had turned then and she didn’t know where it was leading to, especially when removing my tie and jacket and kicking off my shoes. The music was soft and slow, and that was the way she was played, for I had begun to switch off the room lights one by one when dancing around the room with her. She had begun to slowly get the message that I was again falsely implanting, for she was hesitant at first, perhaps for the reason that she was married and hadn’t told me or was weighing up the consequences if it was worth it. It must have been really worthwhile for her work position as she interacted by also kicking off her shoes and moulding her body to mine. She had begun trembling though when slowly unbuttoning her blouse and removing it, and then doing the same with my shirt, and when slipping down the skirt, her fingernails dug into my back. Not knowing if the turn of events was causing her consternation or if it was sensually conducive, the removing of my daks (trousers) proved the latter. Her clinging to me then like a limpet would have been just as difficult to prise loose.

That wasn’t my intention, for she was only simmering and my purpose was for her to broil, and with her husband away for two weeks, time was on my side. We were as close as two peas in a pod, because while still swaying to the music she had interlocked her legs around mine while my hands supported her, but wanting to get closer she had begun to tug at my jocks (underwear). Not wanting any of that either, even though I was getting up a head of steam, my aim was to divert at every occasion when seeing her ready to succumb, because in that way she wouldn’t know if she was coming or going. My telling her that there would be plenty of other times to do what she had in mind, really threw her, and with the excuse of having a heavy workload the next day, I left. Her phone call the next day was one of apologetic embarrassment to the way she had reacted because of not ever having done anything like that before, especially as she was a married woman. She also went on about picking up the brochures as soon as they were ready because her husband was returning in a few days. Knowing positively it was lies about the husband, my obtrusive reply was that it was immaterial to me if she received the brochures or not, and as nobody else at the firm knew of our arrangement it would be unthinkable to come around to the factory. After telling her I was married too and also my first time indiscretion, and with problems at home I had almost thrown caution to the wind, and that her unexpected response had been good for my ego, caused the phone to go very quiet for some time. Her tone was more subdued then when asking when the brochures would be available, and my reply that the printers had advised that very morning its readiness within two days, made her voice go sugar sweet and drip with honey when inviting me to bring it around when ready.

So much for the husband, and knowing she was then in between a rock and a hard place, my arrival with the doctored brochures got her all excited. The lounge suites designs although pleasing to the eye because of its presentation was of the over-stuffed variety, which the Afrikaners thought was the bees knees (best), but in Australia loose cushions was the absolute go. Of course my fabricated market research and the brochures did the trick. The next trick was to put my plan into its final operation, and when asking to continue our dance of the last time, her switching off the lights confirmed what she had in mind. She must have been really pumped up about getting her hot hands on those brochures for it was also all over me, and she had not only wrapped her broiling body around me but her torso gyrations really pumped up the tempo. Getting her into the bedroom was a breeze; however, as she lay there spreadeagled on the bed ready for me to fulfil her torrid desires, what I did instead was to excuse myself to first go to the toilet, and then I dressed and shot through (leave unexpectedly). Her repeated phone calls the next day was of why and if we could meet up again. My replies was that seeing her laying there willing to give herself because of the brochures made her seem like a prostitute and that wasn’t my thing, and that it would be the same if we met up again, but that I hoped the brochures would be a means to an end for her, and then I hung up. Needless to say their mass production of the lounge suites went down like a lead balloon (crashed), and when trying to resurrect them at the furniture show it received the same reception. She was at the show with her boss, and on seeing the completely different designs to the ones they had received, the penny must have dropped for I was receiving icy stares, and if looks could have killed I would have dropped dead on the spot.

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Gina climbing the ladder of success in modeling.

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Gina modeling in a shot of bathing wear.

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Party time at the Lorenzo’s again with Moi, Joan & José Gonsalves.

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Party time again with Gina’s boyfriend George & Joan looking good with her new hair style.

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Eddie Mabo with his legal team.

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Australian Aboriginals celebrating in dance.

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Australian Aboriginals celebrating with didgeridoo music.