Eric Meacock's Story
Recollections of my years on the Board of Governors.
Budget Meeting Philadelphia USA February 1983.
Departed Perth on Trans Australia Airlines 12-20pm 4th February 1983 transferring to Qantas Flight 3 (City of Bunbury) in Sydney and leaving for San Fransisco at 9.40pm. A good flight right through to SFO, plane only two thirds full so multiple seats to stretch out on all the way, arriving early but Ken there to meet me. Spent and enjoyable day with Joni and Ken, re-organising my ticket to Philadelphia for Sunday 6th to fly United Airlines arriving at 4pm, and doing some sightseeing and shopping at the main San Mateo shopping centre. We had long discussions on a number of factors relating to ISP and the re-organisation of the Board. Ken mentioned E D Spencer being keen to carry out the lecture programme in British Columbia Canada, his big promotion to Postmaster Long Beach, and a good prospect for future ISP Board member. 6th up early, Joni dropped us off at SFO in time for our 8am flight. A good flight across USA, once clear of the cloud there was plenty of snow on the ground to look at from the plane. Arrived at Philadelphia in a snow storm at 4pm which continued throughout the night leaving 4 - 5 inches of snow and below freezing temperatures Monday 7th. Ken and I, the first of the group to arrive at the Penn Centre Inn, retired at 9pm after dinner before the others arrived. During our flight and the evening we had opportunity to continue our discussions on ISP and some of its problems, which neither of us really have the answer. Met up with the others over breakfast and settled into the Board meeting in a nice room on the 9th floor overlooking the outdoor swimming pool and sun deck area, all of which was under a layer of snow. The first day of our meeting went well with the formalities over and presentations to Ken from the Board members, the hotel kitchen had no electricity so it was necessary to go out for all our meals.
After dinner we all went for a walk , in the fine but bitterly cold night, past the City Hall, which has out the front a modern sculpture of a giant spring clothes peg, and back to the hotel down another street. We enjoyed the fresh air but the chill factor was very high and I felt the cold through all the clothes and coats I had on. 8th after more snow overnight radio announcing the closure of schools in the area, and forecast a little sunshine in the afternoon today but worsening conditions and a blizzard anticipated tomorrow. Nicole wasn't receptive, initially, to my request that the afternoon board meeting be postponed until evening to allow Francis to do his shopping and me to join Ken in seeing some of the historic sights of Philadelphia before the weather closed in. She stated we should finish the boards work and then use the remaining time to do what we wanted. We pointed out the weather forecast and were eventually successful in obtaining a long lunch break from 12-15pm to 3-30pm. Ken and I immediately left the hotel and visited Ben Franklins Statue in front of the Masonic Temple, the Liberty Bell, then the Franklin Court and Post Office before walking through the snow to Independence Hall where we took the very interesting tour before returning to the hotel down Chestnut Street for a late lunch. The Board meeting continued until 9pm with a break for dinner when Ken joined us. Later Ken and I watched a movie and he spoke of his plan to visit art museums during the next day while the board meeting continued. 9th the Board continued with its budget discussions etc including appointment of E D Spencer to the vacant Governors position. I offered to change my return flight so as to visit with Spence and fill him in on Board responsibilities etc., however, Nicole wasn't keen to allow me to do that, she wants to keep tight control on the transfer of information and instruction and will arrange for Spence to visit Montreal later, eventually it was agreed that I should visit Long Beach on my way home and discuss some aspects only. Nicole planned the meetings well but is very determined in her ideas, as is apparent, typically french, we jump about quite a lot, I am frequently not sure what is going on but check Gaston from time to time - my french is still pretty inadequate but I recognise words- because of the activity of society members in Europe Francis is far more involved than I am in trips and other activity. In pushing her economy drive a reduction in Governors allowances has been introduced but as Francis was quick to point out Nicole retained her allowances, although she did not ask for an increase as President, she lost nothing. It was agreed that the position of Dean of Governors would remain vacant until the Perth AGA, where it is expected to change the criteria to include where equality on the Board exists then the Governor with the longest Society membership will be the dean. I am not aware who this will appoint between Francis and I, however, I am convinced it would be better for the Society to have a non french thinking member on the executive committee....time will tell. The Perth meeting looks like being a good success on first indications, let us hope the good beginning does result in a great meeting in September. Ken, Gaston and I had pre dinner drinks in my room then we all went to Arthur's Steakhouse in Walnut Street for dinner. Francis bought a bottle of dessert wine to celebrate the birth of his grand-daughter.
Thursday 10th. Up early we left Hotel at 7.15am to catch a train to visit the Franklin Mint for tour, lunch and a meeting. We walked to the station (10 minutes) again a bitterly cold, after a light breakfast and took the suburban train to the nearest point on the railway to Franklin Mint transferring to a commuter bus to reach the mint, the place and their products are impressive but expensive. A delightful lunch with FM Vice President Frank Fitzpatrick and FM General Manager Brian. Frank did well although he tended to speak only with Ken and we didnt get any good news re our programmes for the near future at least. Frank drove us back to town in his Cadilac limo (genuine leather upholstery) taking us through the Italian market, very crowded and colourful. Lovely dinner tonight at the Greenery Cafe, I bought the cognac for all to go with the coffee. Woken up at 12.45am by two guys banging on doors demanding room and bed checks...when they came back at 1.15am and started same game on my door and again on other rooms around mine, I rang the manager and he sent someone to take care of the matter. 11th heavy snow storm started with a forecast of up to 18 inches of snow. The board meeting completed its business during the morning breaking for lunch at 12-40pm. It was still snowing heavily, Ken, Francis and I going for a walk to take some pictures we used some of the extensive underground shopping areas to get to various areas of the city. The blizzard has become a record for the amount of snow dropped on Philadelphia by one storm, with over 22 inches of snow roads are all blocked with stranded cars, buses and trains are barely moving - the airports have been closed all day. Fortunately I have a choice of numerous trains to Washington tomorrow and the storm is expected to clear by morning. Ken and I had a final scotch together while watching the 11pm news, we will have breakfast together in the morning and will meet again in Montreal Monday/Tuesday.
Saturday 12th I walked, with my cases to, 30th street station in the snow and ice covered walkway, but with the day fine and clear, vehicles were not moving much on the streets. Amtrak was 20 minutes late but a very comfortable trip, plenty of snow on the ground along the way, Washington DC was not in any better condition than Philadelphia snow and ice and abandoned cars everywhere, but with clear blue skies and sunshine. Just four main roads open to vehicle traffic, shared a taxi to the Executive House Hotel, fortunately on one of the cleared roads, and was able to walk down 15th street to the White House and take some pictures. I then met a dark tour guide with a vehicle and he gave me a great tour first to Washington Monument where he sent me by lift to the observation area, 500 feet up, great view of Washington under snow took pictures of White House and city, then we drove past all the Government buildings to the Capitol and Capitol Hill, through the Smithsonian Institute which was closed today, visited the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials then out to Arlington cemetery - all pretty much under snow but I did see the perpetual flame of President Kennedy burning through the snow.
13th Fine cold morning visited the Aviation and Space Museum saw the Wright Bros. plane and Lindbergs 'Spirit of St.Louis' and all the American astronauts capsuls on display plus many other early planes and satelites, moon landing machines, WW1 and WW11 planes, mock up of sections of the aircraft carrier 'Enterprise' and a scale model 'History of Balloon flying' etc., including a picture and art gallelry all to do with flying and a solarium where the story of space exploration is told and shown - all very interesting. I spent 4 hours but could have spent days in this museum. A brisk walk through the snow covered mall to the Museum of Natural History, a very interesting section of the Smithsonian Institute which includes mamals, stuffed animals of every nation - evolution of man- American Indian arts and crafts - a most intensive gem stone display including some famous diamonds ( The Hope Diamond), saphires, emeralds etc. Getting tired about 5pm but walked through the still snow covered streets past the White House and Cockeran Gallelry, where a rock concert was in progress, back to the hotel and then to Maddison Hotel nearby for a very nice fish dinner. Returning to watch the conclusion of the TV mini-series "Winds of War" staring Robert Minchum- I had seen a couple of previous episodes in Philadelphia. Prepared for an early (5.15am) rise in the morning to fly to Montreal. 14th Forecast for Washington fine at first but sleet and snow later- many streets still impassable due to snow and snowed in cars even major roads and streets have only one cleared lane- a good run by taxi to the airport and boarded my Delta airlines Boston - Montreal flight. By contrast very little snow on the streets of Montreal( they are well organised to deal with blizzard conditions) and after arriving at Queen Elizabeth Hotel I walked 3 blocks to the office for lunch with Ken and Gaston. I booked into a very nice little guesthouse 'Argant Tourist Lodge', my room on the 3rd floor with TV and private facilities, not far from the metro station which leads staight into Victoria Square where the ISP office is located. Enjoyed a very nice dinner with Ken and Gaston.
15th after an excellent nights sleep took the metro to the office arriving just after 10am to catch up with a lot of detail I needed to bring back to WA and resorted out the TAA brochure - the original has been lost or mislaid by Gaston despite his excellent filing system (not the first of my documentation to go astray incidentally) I will have it all typed and set up ready for TAA to print when I get back home. Collected expenses and advance to cover deposits for the Perth meeting. Said goodbye to Ken who I will meet again in SFO on Saturday afternoon. Re arranged my flights with Air Canada to allow me to go direct to Los Angeles on Thursday to meet Spence, who is fitting me into his busy schedule and I will meet some Southern Californian Postmasters as well as visit Disneyland. 16th Arrived at the office 9am cleared up the final work and went out shopping for a few final items and returned to the 'Argoat' packed my cases, then walked back into town to the Sheriton Mt Royal, walked around the foyer ( venue of 1981 meeting) and visited the 'Pavilion de Atlantique' and its snug little bar still presided over by the same character of a bartender, had a couple of drinks and an enjoyable fish dinner eventually returning to the guesthouse on the metro. 17th 5.15am wake up to get to the airport by 6.30am to book in and clear US customs and immigration (took all of 5 minutes) then sat around until 8am for the plane to leave. Good flight with a short stop in Toronto arrived in Los Angeles about 20 minutes early and met Spence. We drove back to his big modern Post Office and Mechanised sectional centre. Sat in on his first Safety meeting after seeing over his office. Went with Spence to a retirement function for one of his councillors and then on to a NAPUS (Los Angeles County Postmasters Association) dinner meeting where I received a warm welcome and addressed the 50 odd Postmasters and their partners. All the PM's particularly the Lady Postmasters were interested to question me about the Australian Postal system and why we, at that time, had now lady postmasters in our system. (All were aware of our disastrous bushfires and asked many questions about it----which is noteworthy considering the present year 2000 situation in Western USA with bushfires)
A comfortable night at the Long Beach Hilton room overlooked the swimming pool and the bay - just opposite sat the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose building while out in the bay were many attractive little islands looking like resorts but are in fact oil wells decked out to look that way. All over the Long Beach area one can see oil pumps working and new wells being drilled. Took bus to Disneyland Hotel in the morning and spent the day in that great theme park taking the various rides etc. Sat in the wine cellar in the evening tasting Californian wines with cheese, bread and grapes then visited another restaurant area for dinner before turning in to sleep in the biggest kingsize bed I have ever slept in (my room had two of them). 19th up early to book out and travel to LAX for United Airline flight at noon. Joni and Ken met me at SFO 1pm and after dropping off my cases we headed off in Ken's truck for Valley Springs CA. we stopped for late lunch at a nice wayside cafe arriving at their country residence just before dark. 20th we flew in Ken's Cesna to Columbia for lunch at one of the small old world saloons, flying back to Valley Springs over much of the country side around the Strom home and circling around some of the lakes in the area. I thought the area was similar in contour to Southern Cross and Norseman in WA but with much more water and therefore much greener.21st Washingtons Birthday Holiday we drove to Jackson Calvaras County CA driving through mountainous roads with many historic sites designated all relating to the early gold mining days. We enjoyed a very nice lunch and visited many of the stores before returing through San Andreaus turning off before we went too far towards Sonora. 22nd a foggy/hazy day but airport clear and we were able to fly back to lunch at Half Moon Bay airport, collect the car and drive to Pacifica. I had a 9pm departure on Qantas Flight 4, plenty of room to stretch out to Hawaii but plane full from there to Sydney, all day wait for TAA evening flight home to WA.
Eric Meacock Asia/Australasia Region