By MALUM NALU
With just over a month to go before the world-famous Goroka Show, the town is stinking with piles of uncollected rubbish everywhere.
This is feasted upon by pigs in full view of everyone.
This is a far cry from the Goroka I knew, grew up in, and came to love – the Goroka I’d like to remember.
I found some classic old photos of Goroka, posted online by former Goroka resident Brian Wilson – from 1972 - at http://www.ski-epic.com/ , which stirred up so much nostalgia.
Goroka, like the rest of PNG, had its glory days in the pre-independence era, after which everything crumbled when the Australians left.
The town’s children of today, visitors from overseas and around the country, must know that Goroka was once one of the prettiest towns in Papua New Guinea.
|Entrance to Goroka market in 1972. See how clean it is|
The first thing that struck me about Goroka was the beautiful flowers, shrubs, roaring streams, and, needless to say, cleanliness.
|Downtown Goroka. Note the cleanliness of the streets|
The family of my mum, dad, elder sister, elder brother, my younger sister and me disembarked from an Air Niugini F27 Fokker Friendship one cold January morning in 1975.
|West Goroka. Hardly any litter|
Back in 1975, mum, dad and my elder siblings were no newcomers to Goroka and the then Eastern Highlands District.
|West Goroka on a Saturday afternoon in 1972. Note the spotlessly-clean streets|
My father Mathias was a school inspector and an ex-Dregerhafen and Sogeri schoolmate of one Michael Somare while my Moasing mother was a missionary-trained nurse.
It was here that my elder sister Alison and my elder brother David were born.
|Goroka Steamships - nicknamed Steamies - which was both a grocery store and a department store|
In those pre-independence and immediate post-independence days, colonialism was still in the air, hence, there being so many expatriates.
Goroka was a neat, well-planned colonial town, which – like Lae and Kainantu – was built around the airport.
|Burns Philp shopping centre and Goroka Pharmacy|
Throwing frisbees and flying kites in the park, riding bikes, chasing muna (those seasonal beetles eaten by the locals), buying sweets, comic and books at West Goroka and lying in the Rotary Park and dreaming on those endless summer afternoons in December were among our great passions.
|Traditionally-dressed Goroka women in 1972 outside the main market|
I have no qualms that I learned more English and the nuances of grammar from those comic books than from school.
|Goroka Post Office|
Through the late Norm Salter – the great fight promoter – Goroka was able to host its share of professional and amateur bouts as well as wrestling matches featuring men, women and even midgets from overseas.
|Jumbo, the elephant, in Goroka, 1972|
The YC was also the centre stage for basketball in those days with national championships being held there in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
|Halftime during an aussie rules match at the National Park, with the iconic Sports Club in the background|
Of course, nothing in Goroka would be complete without the annual show, a colorful extravaganza of singsings, agricultural produce and those wonderful show bags we loved so much.
|Goroka market 1972|
Radio then was king – there being no such thing as EMTV or video – and it was a joy to listen to the Sunday night dramas, Grade 10 quizzes and the live coverage of rugby league and other sports on the National Broadcasting Commission’s medium wave transmission.
|Asariyufa village, next to Goroka Market. These days, pigs wander freely, unlike before|
Of course, in 1975, independence was in the air.
Young men who championed the cause, like Michael Somare, were treated with disdain by the lapuns and old colonials, who argued that independence would be a catastrophe.
|Typical Goroka government house in 1972|
At school the teacher, a beautiful Hula, Central province woman called Mrs Manoka, would ask us, one by one, to give our individual oratories about this thing called ‘Independence’.
|Goroka Base Hospital 1971|
Shiny 10 and 20 toes coins were all the rage among us kids.
The venerable Australian dollars and cents, which had become part of our lives, continued to be legal tender until after independence.
|Saturday afternoon at West Goroka - full of out of town people from surrounding villages|
It was a cause to celebrate with fortunes being made overnight, especially in the Highlands.
At the West Goroka shopping centre just down the road from where we lived, it was a common sight to see villagers in as tanget (leaf coverings, which were worn widely in those days instead of clothes) with huge wads of cash going on an orgy of spending, buying big cow legs, beer and stereos for the inevitable parties that followed.
|Turner and Davey (TDE) electrical shop in West Goroka|
These all added to the big party that was 1975.
September 15, 1975, was the last day for PNG to come under colonial rule.
|Swimming pool at Minogere Lodge|
In fact, I spent four years there from 1998 to 2002, finding myself back on my childhood stomping grounds.
It was like arriving at a place I’d never left!
Memories of another day, those oh-so-happy childhood days, came rushing back.
|Basketball game at Goroka Teachers College (now University of Goroka)|
Goroka still hasn’t lost its basic shape of 1975, 1976 and 1977 and still has that colonial feel about it.
Goroka, to me, is home.
After all, my siblings and I were born, raised and educated here.
In later years, my late wife and I spent four wonderful years in Goroka, and it was there that my two elder sons were born.
I dream of a golden future for this pleasantly-agreeable town with its perennial spring climate, majestic sentinel-like mountains and bouquet of perfumed flowers.
Let’s not turn Goroka into a pigsty!