"COMING BACK"
_________________
Bill Bossert
 

 

 

 

In March 1979, Bill Bossert returned to Gordonvale,  Queensland Australia.

 

The old water tower.

The smokestack on the sugar mill --

they're just the same...

Nothing else in sight is.

New buildings -- shiny cars have changed the look old Gordonvale had.

I should be able to find the old places -- the blazing tropic sun has emptied the noontime streets of people

So nothing should distract.

And still ---

White, pink, green, yolky yellow, red, blue

The stiff Victorian grey-browned buildings are gone --- completely

The funhouse paint jobs hide them all

"Gents" it says and "Ladies" on the old air raid shelter.

This crypt of wartime fears now sensibly recycled.

Ah! there's the Aussie monument, isn't it?

The same soldier --- eternally studying the butt of his rifle (thinking of Lost comrades or Looking for dirt?)

I think he's doing both --- I do.

He's not the same of course...all things change, he can't escape ---

something's wrong.

HE'S CREAM COLOURED.

I shake my head as the memories form and reform.

I'm glad to be back, alive in the bright town. Can't find the old buildings?

Who cares?

I'm grateful to be here among

old friends and new friends

today in Gordonvale.

 

This article was originally published in the 1979 reprint of The Return To Corregidor by Harold Templeman

 

 

 

 

COMING BACK

 

... or 37 Years is a long time between drinks
in North Queensland.

 

Arthur Hesp, president of the Mulgrave Shire Historical Society and his welcoming committee, stood at the edge of Cairns Airport looking for a bearded Yank. He spotted a brown beard approaching and waved a greeting. Brown beard smiled, waved back, and rushed forward...straight past the committee and fell into the arms of waiting friends. Oh dear: Wrong beard. Arthur didn't have time to be embarrassed; he searched the crowd for another beard. Here comes a white beard...could that be the old paratrooper? Arthur could be forgiven for not looking for a white beard. After all, he was remembering what we all looked like in ‘42, when he was a 10-year old kid.

The rumor in Gordonvale was that a group of bronzed paratroopers in uni­form would be marching in with bands playing, everyone cheering the Yanks as they broke ranks to grab the women, throw candy to the kids, and rush to the pubs for drinks and fights.

The rumor was just a rumor.

Instead, they got me...looking like a sly old Santa Claus, acting like a mad professor who's lost his Traveller's Checks and most of his marbles. Out of the 3,000 paratroopers: one nut. Covering their disappointment, they bravely launched "Project Welcome Back 503rd". Hertz offered a free car, the press pressed forward for a story and pictures and off we zipped on a round of sightseeing, smoke's, teas and visits to the Sugar Mill, the old camp area, jump fields, The Great Barrier Reef, Tablelands and tiny towns with the won­derful names: Milla Milla, Tinaroo, Kuranda, Aloomba, Babinda, Malanda, Mareeba and Gordonvale. The sugar mill chimney, the water tower, the post office, the Gordonvale Hotel, the Commercial Hotel, the churches...the old bottling plant and the Anzac memorial are recognizable, but everything else has changed. The place looks so spotless and prosperous. Sugar cane, 16 feet high, fill the old regiment area and jump fields; nothing remains of the old camp.

In '42, our camp was on ground too poor to grow cane, but since WW II the U.S. Agricultural Station in Hawaii has developed a super strain of sugar cane that prospers now where our pyramidal tents and duckboards once stood. In town, all the streets are paved; all the cars look new and there's some-thing called Squash Center...in Gordonvale. The Old West-frontier town is gone or hidden behind bright paint: yellow, green, cream, white, electric blue--a rainbow of cheerful shops. The old packing sheds are gone from the town square--their foundation is now a tennis court.

The well-off cane farmers now sport Hawaiian shirts as they wheel around town in their Datsuns. "Push bikes" have nearly disappeared. Teenagers roar off on motorcycles to escape the boredom of small town life—Where have you ever heard a complaint like that?

I remember the Australians of North Queensland as rugged, independent people. Poor by our standards and worried about the fate of their beautiful country. They've changed in one respect--they are no longer poor.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

         

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