Although there were at least two white women driving vehicles in the Wahgi and buying at the roadside - a novelty as temporary participants in the fast-growing industry.
But as the volume of coffee grew and new areas away from the main highway came into being, so the embryo factories began putting local men on the road as coffee buyers.
In one case I am closely familiar with, the first were ex-PIR non-commissioned officers and soldiers. One of them, the late Jack Amos of Busu Coffee Ltd, was anointed as PNG Businessman of the Year back in the eighties.
Other pioneers like Fero Yasona of Kainantu, Huk Awute of Goroka, Jerry Kapka of Chuave and Max Kumbamong of Mt Hagen all learnt fast in the early years and today own and manage large and successful licenced processing businesses and, in three cases, exporting operations.
All these businesses, together with the two largest exporters, engage in advisory and extension activities at no cost, aiming to retain a core of reliable, quality-conscious growers.
The legion of local buyers quickly increased, and then contractors with their own vehicles and later with their own finance, began to be involved.
It was at this time that the reserved, closed-to-expats legislation began to be talked about, and was subsequently enacted: the Coffee Industry Act of 1991, which placed the industry firmly under the control of the growers and away from the political sphere. (A situation that was subverted in 2003 without reference to the growers.)
Today the industry is subject to an element of control by the Minister for Agriculture. The Act contains provisions regulating trade, quality and export operations, one stipulating that the buying of coffee is to be exclusively in the hands of citizens with involvement in coffee growing.
The same provision still applies to coffee factories and exporters, where citizen ownership and control is established by a proviso that at least 51% of shares must be held by citizen coffee-growers.
Despite this, in the early years of the operation under the CIC Act, there were occasions where expats, mostly one-man, nonconformist missions, continued to buy and, in some cases, run small trade-stores.
These practices were closed down in the Highlands many years ago. Processing factories, all 51% owned and controlled by citizens, may employ an expat as factory manager, provided he is experienced and needed.
As such he is permitted to check on coffee being bought or delivered at the door. He does not engage in trade himself.
There are still one or two non-citizens remaining in this managerial occupation but ownership and oversight of factory operations is the prerogative of local owner-shareholders. I am waiting to see the first Asian coffee-buyer on the road in the Highlands. I predict a short and nasty day's trade if one is silly enough to try.
It is difficult enough for PNG to forge a nation-state from the hundreds of discrete tribes which each its complement of disputatious and occasionally combative clans and sub-clans.
Totally divisive, controversial illegal activities which have the appearance of having subversive official sanction on the part of authorities are a thorn in the side of all ordinary Papua New Guineans.
The mass of the people feel a civic deprivation and wounded pride because of the situation.
Great efforts must be made in this era of large royalty-receipts to begin sensible, business-like programs to set up opportunities for the well-educated but commercially-naïve to start and develop a whole range of small- and mid-level business and service industries which an increasingly-large and vocal population must have.
Illegal interlopers must be identified, prosecuted, and allowed to pack up and leave, expeditiously and without harm. It is a mistaken application of acquired worldliness and informed views of international relations to say or to suggest otherwise.
There has been trouble, and there will be more, over this point unless those who are tasked to control and apply the laws of the land begin to do so.
And so to the future - just where is the Development Bank these days?
Here is a case where, if programs are designed and peer-reviewed by Papua New Guineans in their own land and environment, an aid-funded, large business-development project could conceivably be created and put into operation.
A high level of local input into design would be likely to proof the scheme against the failure of so many foreign- organisation-conceived programs.
In my own experience the major aid-providers are always willing to look at something which is logical and rational, because success in their funding inputs is what they desire.
Of course their own convoluted management regimes are difficult to deal with, but with some real authority and some evidence of will and energy, this may also be overcome.
I know. I’ve been there, mate. Let’s begin.
I’ll join a committee of review, design and presentation, free of any charge except a clean bed, bathing facilities and three meals a day, and I mean it!