Eric Meacock's Story
General Assembly Montreal September 1981.
On September 22nd at 3PM, enroute to Montréal Canada, my 747 departed Perth International Airport for Singapore, the departure was delayed half an hour due to a technical problem with the plane which had to taxi out to the take-off point twice. After an uneventful flight, a few free drinks and watching the movie, we arrived in Singapore on time and transferred to The Holiday Inn, rebooked my USA flight and had a coffee in the restaurant before retiring for the night. Next morning was spent sight seeing around the hotel and nearby new shopping centre before transferring to the Changi Airport once again for flight to USA via Taiwan and Hawaii. The approach into Hawaii during daylight was fantastic with the islands clearly visible under a clear blue sky. Having freshened up in the ablutions block at the airport and cleared through US Immigration reboarded the plane and continued on to Los Angeles, arriving in the dark with the great spread of lights and a pacing (trotting) track clearly visible as the plane came into land. On time into LA International Airport which was a labyrinth of temporary structures through which we all walked to the assembly room, which was in fact a huge white balloon consisting of parachute silk like material over steel framework and called ‘The White Balloon’. Met by the courier who was to take me to the Downtown Holiday Inn, after he had collected his other passenger we eventually arrived at the hotel in time for me to enjoy a 3 hour sleep before being up again for breakfast and back to the airport for a day long flight with Air Canada to Toronto and Montréal. The morning was described on the radio as a "Clear air day" however the 'smog' was quite noticeable even at 7am and the traffic on the freeways was heavy. The clouds and smog packed up over LA, once the plane had broken through them, looked like dirty cotton wool, however once over the mountains the sky cleared and the desert and canyons were interesting to look down on as were the great lakes and farms around them. Toronto presented an interesting sight however our approach into Montréal was not so smooth, it was near dark and raining, the landing was bouncy and the pilot got a laugh from the passengers when he said in french "Caught it on the second bounce, welcome to Montréal".
After booking into the Sheraton Mont Royale hotel1, I met up with Ken and Joni Strom for dinner and spent the remainder of the evening catching up briefly with other ISP members who were arriving at intervals. The Strom’s, Alan Burton and I soldiered on, with the aid of some duty free, until fairly late before enjoying a good nights sleep.
Ken was thrilled with the Emu Egg I had for him as a gift from the West Australian ISP Members , he planned to keep it with the other artifacts he was given when he visited us in Western Australia in 1980.
After breakfast next morning I assisted in the setting up of the General Assembly venue and visited ISP Office, meeting the staff and helping to prepare papers for delegates etc. I also had to prepare a report from the region and another letter of nomination for the Board of Governors, the originals forwarded from Western Australia had been misplaced and I hadn't thought to bring copies with me.
My assignments included chairing the sub committee on changes to constitutional by-laws, Alan Burton Liaison Officer Great Britain and Michael Liyanage Liaison Officer Sri Lanka were on this committee and ISP President Ken Strom sat in on the discussions on the proposed changes which, with an addition I suggested to clarify the Dean of the Board, were recommended to the Assembly.
The Opening Reception that evening was very good, I met up with all the Australian and New Zealand delegates and many others from various countries and regions. Suite 2030 was used as a hospitality room for informal gatherings after functions and about 11.30pm, the Strom's, Alan Burton, Fred Smith, a Canadian Postmaster, and I had a sandwich at ‘Big Bens’ before calling it a night.
On Saturday September 26th the Official Opening Luncheon was held in the Grand Reception room, this was an impressive assembly, the Mayor of Montréal bade the ISP executive, delegates and members welcome and the Regional Director Canada Post was the guest speaker and provided all present with a First Day Cover.
The opening session of the General Assembly later in the afternoon was televised and President Ken Strom interviewed, both were replayed on the 6PM news and some of Australian delegation featured in the TV shots.
Ric Crameri from Perth WA and Dotti Lundry from Boston USA mounted an American style election campaign, ‘Vote MEACOCK ONE’ in relation to the ballot for positions on the Board of Governors, with notices in English and French stuck up in all the elevators and on doors throughout the hotel, handing out ‘how to vote slips’ etc., and intend putting on fancy hats on Sunday. Just a lot of fun really and they are enjoying a good laugh, sometimes as my expense, it got people talking about the coming vote for positions, if nothing else.
Sunday 27th was a busy day with two business sessions at the assembly, which included the attendance of financial and legal advisers. I presented the report of the By-laws sub committee and recommended the revised set of by-laws with the addition of a clarification of Dean of the Board, which after discussion, was accepted by the G.A.
After Doug Blackie declared Ken Strom re-elected as President for a further term he gave notice of an election by secret ballot for three positions to the Board of Governors and named five candidates, a surprise to the Australians attending the assembly was the nomination of Don Pike, who although not present was given good support, from Secretary General G Meunier, for his efforts in organising the Melbourne Victoria meeting and myself from Asia/Australasian region. The other nominations were America’s Region Nicole Morel, and Europe Region Francis Maillard Switzerland and Jean-Pierre Steffes of Luxembourg, both good, strong candidates standing against each other. After the ballot I learnt that Morel appeared on every ballot, I appeared on nearly every ballot and the two candidates from Europe were split fairly evenly, despite J P Steffes failure to use both his languages, when making his address in support of his nomination as he was advised to do and which may have lost him the election. There was great excitement after the announcement by Doug Blackie of the election result with much congratulations and felicitations. The emotional greeting which most impressed me was that of retiring Governor from Japan, Haruki Takeda, who embraced me kissed my cheek, intimating I was his replacement on the Board. This was the second time he had said this, the first time being after the announcements of nominations before the elections. My autograph on the election ‘campaign notices’ was much sought after. After the closure of the Assembly a quite hour and a half, over a couple of quiet drinks with Joni and Ken, revealed that he had planned on my coming on to the board since his return from Perth and his hopes for the future.
My room, 3121, was the venue for the early evening ‘Victory’ celebration (2&3)pre official banquet, present were Joni and Ken(4), all the Australian and New Zealand delegates, Alan Burton, our American Campaign Director, Dotty Landry and her husband John, Arlene Sand, Ellie Ring and 1 or 2 others who had joined in the fun of the so called campaign. After Ken, Joni and I spoke with Sylvia on the telephone the party began in earnest with Ric Crameri (3), who had taken up the challenge ( he said) of Publicity man for me wearing a boater hat with my name on it and Koala Bears in prominent display, passing out Australia Post boxes of matches and biros, there was much laughter, long speeches and photography taking place. Ken Strom remarked "I think we didn’t just get a Governor from Australia but a package deal".
The official banquet which followed was a huge success and while my own photographs may not have been too good, Ken and I seemed to be the focal point of many cameras all evening as Ken subtly started to indicate to the members the close confidant relationship we enjoyed.
Beautiful mantle clocks from Switzerland were presented to the two retiring Governors and to Douglas Blackie for his long service to the society as a founding member and secretary. The presentation of a framed picture showing two sloops carrying the Australia Post Logo and involved in the 150th Anniversary ocean race between Plymouth England and Perth West Australia to the Society was made by me on behalf of Australia Post Western Australia and was followed by presentations of philatelic items etc by other delegates.
The evening was brought to a close with a diaporama which depicted members and brought back memories of all ISP meetings held during the previous five years.
Our first Board meeting at Society Head Office took place on 28th followed by lunch at which Francis and I learnt for the first time of the financial arrangements for Governors and our duties and commitment as members of the Board.
In the afternoon we joined the other conference delegates for a tour around the City of Montréal and dinner followed by a visit to the mechanised Gateway Postal Facility of Greater Montréal, one of the largest industrial complexes in Canada, housing the letter processing plant and the bulk mail facility, as well as the central administrative and service area. Guided by the Director and members of his staff, the visiting Postmasters took time to observe every operation, and noted the sophisticated equipment and exceptional cleanliness and neatness of this large processing plant.
On the 29th we had a 7am departure to Ottawa by bus, on a lovely sunny day but with a cold wind. The maple leaves in glorious colour were a sight to see most of the way. On arrival in the nations capital we first visited the establishment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police attending a presentation of their famous Musical Ride , a spectacular event. I found Ottawa City buildings [6&7] most impressive and the Parliament House terrific, all rock and wood surfaces had been or were being carved to record the History of the Canadian People etc. Fred King (MP) and ISP Member took us over both chambers, Red and Green like the Australian Parliament, and then into a very impressive library where the wood carving has to be seen to be believed. He provided us with a grand lunch in the Parliament Restaurant with many small gifts (ashtray, pen, flag) plus brochures etc. Next we visited a very well appointed National Postal Museum where the Post Master General welcomed us before the conducted tour of the exhibits and philatelic office. A few days later the Post Office Department ceased to exist and became a Crown Corporation. The long bus ride back to Montréal meant arriving after 11pm, where after a couple of drinks with friends and lots of laughter encouraged by Joe Hillier from California putting on a turn with his simulated double talk interview, indian arm wrestling etc., ended a good but long day.
The 8am departure for Quebec on 30th was the start of a most pleasant and colourful drive along the St. Lawrence river passing many small villages. We saw thousands of the huts used in winter on the ice over the frozen river to catch small fish which are thrown out onto the ice to freeze for storage. Villages of these huts are moved out onto the river as soon as the winter freeze sets in. We stopped for a traditional French Canadian lunch at Ile d’Orléans, one of the oldest houses in Canada, which had been home to the same family since it was built over 300 years ago, overlooking the river and bridge with the usual colourful leaves on the surrounding trees. The host and staff all dressed in period costume served us with a mixture of white whiskey and wine, very potent and called ‘Caribou’ which got all of us into a happy frame of mind. Each of the ethnic groups on the tour then gave an item of entertainment some singing folk songs others recitations etc. The group from downunder sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’, the diverse performances were enjoyed by all and showed the richness of character and strong fraternal ties that exist among Postmasters worldwide.
A very happy group continued on to Quebec City, to look at the ramparts, narrow streets and the old town, having first looked at Montmorency Falls and touring the Basilica of Beaupré, before ending up at the fine old Chatteau were we sheltered from the cold wind buying gifts and having a drink. It was to cold to venture out and no drivers were available for the horse drawn open carriages used for sight seeing. The return to Montréal in our bus in the evening marked the end of the official activities of the 2nd General Assembly.
October 1st saw members dispersing with emotional farewells to old and new friends, some 52 of the delegates embarking on a six day tour to Morrisburg, Toronto, Niagara Falls and New York. The tour left at 8am and the long interesting bus ride to Toronto was broken by a 3½ hour stop at Morrisburg, an old world Canadian village where old houses, school, barns and shops have been re-erected and preserved in their original state and a replica Fort erected. People in the the village carry on the ancient crafts etc in period costume for the entertainment and enlightment of visitors. The following day was spent in sightseeing and shopping in Toronto. It was interesting to note the influence and endowments to the city of the Massey family who originated the Massey Ferguson Farm Equipment Company whose products are well known in rural Australia. Like Perth back in the 40’s Toronto still had street cars and trolley buses, however the unusual sight was the large number of small black/gray squirrels running about in the city gardens.
October 3rd the bus group arrived at Niagara Falls[11-12-13), after a short run of about 100 miles, to view the magnificent falls in daylight from the panoramic tower returning again in the evening for dinner and a coloured lights view of the falls and the ‘Dancing Water Fountains’. The roar of the water over the falls was something else and the mist rises continually, more than 37.5 million gallons of water rush over the falls every minute, the height of the falls varies from 176 feet in summer to 185 feet in winter.
October 4th after crossing the bridge into USA and the usual customs and immigration formalities it was a rather long and tiring bus ride before finally arriving at Manhattan Island New York at 7pm. Our hotel was an old one immediately opposite the entrance to Madison Square Garden, my room on the 20th floor overlooked the entrance, the street sounds, of sirens and hooters, all night long had to be heard to be believed.
In the two days of touring New York memorable were visits to Opera House, Lincoln Centre, 5th Avenue – Rockerfellow Centre, Broadway, Times Square, Macy & Co. store, Empire State Building, Soho, Bowery and China Town. The helicopter ride over Manhattan, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn and the United Nations Building was memorable and great fun as was the ‘Happy Hour’, $1.00 a bottle of beer with free appetisers, at the nearby hotel. The final evening in New York we enjoyed dinner at the Rockerfellow Centre and watched open air ice skating before a late TV movie.
October 6th was a pleasant days drive back to Montréal through the Adirondak Park and Mountains, which were a blaze of autumn colour for miles on end.
The next few days were spent visiting the Maritime Region flying to Halifax and staying with Alan Roulston and Bill McEwen of the ISP and visiting many historic and scenic spots also meeting Canadian Postmasters. Highlights of this visit was the historic church ‘Grand Pre’, a visit to a masonic lodge and tour of Masonic Home for the Aged, trip along the west side of Bras D’Or (Arm of Gold) lakes to Beddeck and visit to Alexander Graham Bell Museum returning home through the mountains and seeing a lone Scots bag-piper playing on top of a hill in full highland kit. Return by plane from Sidney Nova Scotia to Montréal for three nights with a visit to the surrounding french countryside and historic Old Montréal with its great old buildings and many restaurants. Visiting ISP Office to collect papers, forms etc and discussing financial arrangements and Australian membership, concluded my initial visit to Canada. Early the next morning I flew to San Fransisco via Chicago where a three hour delay in take-off had the passengers in an uproar, many having missed international flight connections etc. The problem was that after boarding and taxiing a long way to the take off point a warning light came on and the plane had to return to the terminal. Half an hour later it was fixed and after topping up with fuel we again proceeded to the take-off point at which time a woman passenger became hysterical and after attempts to calm her down failed the plane again return to the terminal to off load her, having again topped up with fuel we eventually departed and arrived at San Franscisco two hours behind schedule. Joni and Ken Strom met me and I spent the next five days with them sightseeing and discussing Ken’s hopes for the future of ISP. Pacifica is 20 miles from San Francisco by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) the train which Joni used every work day.
October 15th in the afternoon Ken took me in his Cesna 172 (N7162G) for a flight along the beach from Pacifica to fly over San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatras Island and the Central City a wonderful experience and the weather being perfect for flying, that evening, having collected Joni we flew to an aerodrome some 60 miles north across San Francisco Bay for dinner returning after dark where in the clear night air the lights of the city were visible for 60-70 miles in every direction, a real thrill. A work day October 16th I visited the Pacifica Post Office and was provided with an in depth appraisal and comparison of the sorting system and postal operations. I also accompanied Ken to his outstation post office where his supervisor was presented with a 25 year service pin. After morning coffee and at lunch Ken and I discussed ISP future activities and strategy with plans for a meeting in Australia/New Zealand to be organised. In the afternoon we visited San Francisco's Chinatown, Fishermans Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge then enjoying a Mexican dinner at El Sombrero restaurant before a great evening at Club Fugazi to see ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’ "A kaleidoscopic musical happening that never lets go" in which the girls very large hats were a feature.
The final days sightseeing included a visit to San Francisco's Legion Museum to see paintings and other artifacts. It was a fine sunny morning when we went into the museum but on coming out we could not help but notice the heavy thick fog rolling in from the ocean (see photo below of Legion arch & fog), the golfers on the nearby golf course were in trouble too, so we returned to Pacifica seeing some of the housing styles of San Francisco on the way. Monday October 19th was departure for home day and after packing, watching TV, including an advertisement featuring Australia Post delivering a parcel of quality plasticware into the outback, which did nothing for Australia Post’s image. We recorded some folk music and Ken prepared his special ‘Chinese dinner’ before going to the SFO airport and saying ‘Goodbye’.The flight to Hong Kong was excellent, I had three spare seats all the way which allowed me to stretch out, and after shopping and a full day sightseeing including a bus tour of Victoria Peak, Tiger Balm Garden, Sea Palace Restaurant ( with seating for 1,000 people), Sampan Fishing Village and Repulse Bay it was back in the air for an uneventful flight home to a warm family welcome.
Eric Meacock Asia/Australasia Region