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Taim bilong masta i spak: 3 stories about drinking

Young Jackson_thumbKEITH JACKSON

THE EARLY 1960S WAS ANOTHER ERA, Papua New Guinea (‘the Territory’) another place and the Highlands still a frontier.

In the Chimbu (as we called it then) there were two single white women, both nurses, and 80 single white men. There existed a rough, drunken, brawling culture.

I was just 18 and, before I'd been in Kundiawa three months as a callow novice schoolteacher, I'd had three fights, lost each and decided there was no headway in this behaviour. Except in the sense that my head kept getting in the way.

I also discovered the therapeutic benefits of sharing a bottle of Old Kedge before breakfast. Briefly, here’s how I made the discovery.

My Hauspig (single men’s quarters) co-tenant, offended that I declined a generous offer to join him in a small social drink at half past six of a Sunday morning, threw me off the back verandah clad only in my underpants.

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

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


Kundiawa, 1964. I began publishing a stencilled newspaper (circulation 50), the Kundiawa News, which, in a roundabout way, was to later lead me to Port Moresby, Yokomo, the ABC and journalism.

The KN was what you'd call scurrilous. It published gossip, opinion and fact in a pretty undifferentiated way.

Each fortnight's issue was dumped on the respective bars of the Chimbu Club and Kundiawa Hotel and avidly fallen upon by the punters.

As they absorbed the scuttlebutt and malice, a little niggling would start, then a bit of verbal blueing and occasionally a fully-fledged brawl.

Attempting a hard-hitting style of prose, I inadvertently called the expat Public Works grader driver a “dissolute reprobate”.

Later, he caught up with me in the front (white only) bar of the pub and asked what ‘reprobate’ meant.

By the look on his face I could tell that he didn't imagine it was a compliment.

I volunteered its definition as a ‘mild term of reproach’, whereupon he grabbed my shoulders and began to shake me.

Given that there was a fair bit of him and not much of me in those days, it was like a Rottweiler wrestling a wet handkerchief.

At this point, my mate Bladwell entered the fray, accosting the man and saying mildly, “Hey, leave him alone”.

My assailant, wanting real sport, king hit Bladders, knocking him to the floor.

Now Bladders was a pretty popular guy around Chimbu back then, so a bunch of other fellas joined in.

Before you could say, “I'm outta here and off up the Club”, all 20 guys in the bar had decided this was the night to settle old and new scores and were hoeing into each other.

The barmaids screamed, the lights went out, tables rolled over, glasses broke.

Afterwards, the publican, Dick Kelaart, threatened to ban everyone for life except he would have gone broke.

I took Bladders to the haus sik and we watched the late Tim Murrell finish a Caesarean section in the pitpit operating room before he stitched up my hero.

It was a terrific brawl.

Those implicated boasted of their involvement for months afterwards and those who missed out were disappointed and felt cheated.

I was quietly pleased that something I'd written could have such a spectacular impact on the local community.


A kiap named Max Orken and I started the Central Highlands Cricket Competition, which brought together teams from Kundiawa, Kerowagi, Chuave and Minj.

Our home ground was Kundiawa airstrip that projected from the surrounding valleys like a table top.

We’d rip out stumps, leave the coir matting to its own devices and hare off the pitch whenever planes landed.

We grew tired of MAF Pastor Doug McGraw’s habit of arriving like a bat out of hell and landing across the runway.

Having bested the all-PNG Minj 2 team one Sunday, I invited the players to the Chimbu Club for a beer.

Keith with Mekeo hairdoTheir captain was taken aback and - looking hard at this deeply tanned youngster with curly Mekeo-like hair - protested, "Nogat, Kit, dispela haus itambu long ol kanaka" (‘No, Keith, we natives aren’t allowed in such places’).

In the sixties the Chimbu Club was one of very few in the then Territory to have a multiracial charter and I was able to reassure him all was OK.

The Minj team was delighted and the captain bought me a rum. I would've preferred beer but a drink’s a drink.

When I went to return the shout he jumped up and bought again.

When it happened the third time, the one-sidedness began to embarrass me.

Eventually I stirred myself to ask, “Olsem wonem yu baim buka meri long mi na no laikim mi baiim yu?” (‘Why won’t you let me return the shout?’)

“Aaah,” he said slowly, staring at my hair, “Mi gat sori tru long ol yupela hapkas” (‘Oh, I feel really sorry for you mixed race people’).


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Michael Dom

I like these stories very much. Thanks for sharing Keith.

Harry Topham

Good yarn Keith, brings back some good memories of my short tenure in the Simbu and that old favourite drinking hole, the Kundiawa club.

My initiation into that club was when temporarily posted to the Chimbu late 1968 one late afternoon I wandered down to that club for a bit of conviviality.

During that evening I met the ADC from Kerowagi who must have liked the cut of my jib and always on the lookout for extra staff then spoke to the DC and without any consultation arranged for my immediate transfer to Kerowagi.

As the midnight closing hour approached I was thus then shanghaied and found myself in a very inebriated condition en route to Kerowagi.

One of the most memorable memories was spending ANZAC day at that same club in 1969 where good fortune struck and on company with another Simbu veteran, Lyle Hansen I had a substantial win on the Crown and Anchor table.

As anyone who knew Lyle would know, Lyle was a dyed-in-the-wool gambler who always had the winning streak and had a favourite party trick of placing his hand over the centre of a dart board and inviting patrons with the enticement of perhaps wining $5 for every dart that found its mark between his splayed fingers and $5 to him for those that missed the mark.

He was perhaps very lucky that he did not run into a sadistic type who bore him a grudge as most punters in their hesitation always missed their mark.

Murray Bladwell

Regarding "drinking story No2"

Jackie Chan couldn't have scripted and directed such a shambolic bar-room fight scene in any of his movies. It was a classic in all senses of the word.

Keith 'Jacko' Jackson forgets to mention that the gentleman 'reprobate' in question was a former representative Rugby League front-row forward and that the stiches later administered by our Dr friend Tim Murrell, were without the use of local anaesthetic.

After 49 years I still bear a scar under my eyebrow to remind me of the day I staunchly defending good journalism or was that - a good jounalist!

Needless to say I am happy to report that my long time mate Jacko has modified his biting use of of the English language - apparently!

Geoff Hancock

My first impression of the Chimbu was indeed my last impression. I was posted there as District Clerk in 1971 by Bill Weisse who i believe wanted me out of harm's way in Moresby.

I had my Torana shipped to Lae to be transported to Kundiawa. I spent my first night at the "Chimbu Lodge", the next day doing the milk run to Kerowagi, Gumine and Chuave as I recall, and my final night at my permanent accommodation with the local didiman.

That was enough of the Highlands for me so i called up Bill and told him to get my car on the first available boat back to Moresby as I was heading back to the coast.

At least i got to see some nice scenery but that was not what i was interested in at the time.

Chalapi Pomat

Gutpela liklik stori. Pasin no senis liklik. Olsen yet. Drink like whiteman, spak olsen kanaka.

Tasol mi no save long ol yupela hapkas. Ating ol lain bilong statim pait nating. Tenkyu KJ.

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