Every month, Probus Perth invites a speaker to address members on his or her particular field of expertise or endeavour. Below are summaries of talks given recently. Summaries of various earlier talks are to be found within the “Archives” section of the website.
SCIENCE, SPORT and ADVENTURE
Margaret Watroba February 2022
Margaret kept us all entranced and in awe of her feats in mountain climbing.
She has attempted so many mountains higher that 8000 metres that I lost count.
She was born in Poland as one of identical twins. Her education was in Krakow and she was always one who wanted to do her best finally graduating as an electrical engineer. (she works for BHP Billiton). Mountains hold a very special place in her heart which began when she was young, enjoying climbing with her sister and father. After marrying and having two daughters, the restrictive government of Poland gave the family the incentive to migrate and with the girls 5 and 7 they arrived in Australia in 1980. There are not too many mountains here and Margaret always had the dream to climb Mt Everest. In 2004 she finally had the chance to visit Nepal. This began the challenge to herself and the taking of risks and her determination to climb, with eventually the adrenalin rush and satisfaction of completing the daunting challenge. She has climbed Mt Lohtse the 4th highest, Dhaulagiri in Nepal the 7th highest, Makulu the 5th highest, Manasly the 8th highest, K2 the second highest, as well as My Kilimanjaro. But the icing on the cake is Mt Everest. (I am sure I have not listed all the mountains she has climbed.)
Margaret has had 4 visits to Everest, two which had to be abandoned and two successful. In 2010 from the S and 2012 from the N she had to retire because of illness. However in 2011 she was successful, climbing from the South and in 2013 achieved the summit again from the North, making her the first Australian women to climb from both sides. There is only a window of a few days, due to weather conditions, when it is possible to climb between the 1st April and end of May. The expedition costs are above $30 000.
She enlightened us to the difficulties of preparing to climb. Firstly the airport at is Lukla is known as the most dangerous in the world. It is where Sir Edmund Hilary’s wife and daughter were killed in a plane crash, After arriving at base camp it takes about three weeks to acclimatise. Firstly the climb is from base camp to camp 1 and then return. Then climbs slowly get longer and higher, but always with a return, building up the red blood cells to cope with the thin air as you ascend. It is so important to do this slowly as altitude sickness must be avoided. Margaret explained the dangers of avalanches, earthquakes, high winds and a very difficult terrain. Ladders have to be roped together to cross ravines – this would not pass the health and safety tests here.
She told of the stress on the body, the hyperventilation, the use of oxygen, the tiredness and the lack of wanting to eat. To do the ascent means starting at 8 pm and it is close to 24 hours before it is possible to rest again. Clothing has to be as warm as possible to counteract the cold up to -40 C and the high winds up to 100 km – but weight has to be as least as possible. Margaret’s outfit weighed 12 kg’s
We enjoyed hearing of her experiences and were in awe of her physical stamina and ability to conquer Everest at the age of 63!!
MEMORIES OF THE FIFTIES IN PERTH
Ron Banks April 2022
He was born after the war. His father had returned from serving in Syria where he had received wounds and carried the shrapnel for the rest of his life. Their home was in Mosman Park which was quite a different suburb from what it is today. Then it had The Rope Works, Sugar Mills, Fertiliser factory and General Motors Assembly plant which made it quite a working class suburb. Ron and his sister attended Cottesloe State School where they joined in the playtime activities of marbles, hop scotch, skipping, climbing bars and the Yo Yo craze which was promoted by Coca Cola. Bikes were ridden to school and after hours were spent unsupervised, riding bikes, swimming, surfing, footie, hockey or basketball for the girls. Inside was no TV but board games of Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly or checkers.
Ron took the audience down memory lane.
Other entertainment was the Saturday afternoon pictures – the Saturday Matinee, inside in the winter and outside in the summer. The Camelot outdoor cinema is still operating.
Ron recalled going to a fund-raising concert for Wendy Nash in the Cottesloe Civic Centre. She was 15 and had been selected for a scholarship to London and went on to become a concert pianist. He also remembered his first encounter with celebrity when Sabrina came to town and was living in a house in Mosman Park. She was performing at His Majesty’s in “Pleasures of Paris” which Ron did not attend! However he and his mates lined up outside the house and were rewarded with the sight of Sabrina and her mother in the back of a black limousine.
Ron says it was a time of peace and harmony and lots of freedom for children.
Most households kept chickens in their back yards and roast chicken was a delicacy – often had for Christmas dinner. Other fare generally followed the English diet of chops, stews, sausages and mince with overcooked vegies. Ron remember the tripe in white sauce that his mother made as a treat for his father, and the crumbed brains for him when he had tonsillitis. Other offal such as liver and kidneys and pigs trotters were often part of the diet for families.
Women were generally kept busy in the home and few went out for paid employment. Girls were not expected to achieve academic greatness and boys were expected to get apprenticeships.
He reminded us that when TV came in 1960, many lined up outside shop windows to watch programs such as Gunsmoke, 77 Sunset Strip and Cookie. Televisions were too expensive for the worker but they did give the first contact with American culture.
Ron had won a teachers’ bursary, but was not enthusiastic about being a teacher. He always wanted to be a journalist. At 16 he applied for a cadetship with the West Australian but was not successful. He then applied to Dunlop as a trainee executive but one week in the job convinced him it was not for him. Having passed the Leaving he decided to take up the Teaching Scholarship and following his degree he taught for 7 years, but being a journalist was still calling him. So as a mature age student he went to WAIT and qualified. He was then fortunate to have a job on the West for many years reporting on the Art Scene.
He then called on the audience to give any memories of theirs and this brought up Drive in Theatres, registering bikes and the bike number plate, cutting off chooks heads with an axe and seeing the headless body run for a bit, going to Sunday School, There were many more memories that could have been discussed but the time had run out!
Thank you Ron for the Nostalgia
Bugs and Habitat in the Garden
Faye Acaro May 2022
Faye’s enthusiasm for Nature and her dedication to the habitat in all gardens was inspiring and very entertaining.
She won the 2007 Gardener of the Year presented by Josh Byne of the ABC Gardening Australia and has kept up her love by not only working in her own garden, but also giving advice and encouragement to all by talks and her broadcast on Curtin Radio each Saturday morning.
She lives on 4 acres in Jandacot in banskia bushland where she says she is forever fighting the soil. She has produced ‘rooms’ of different types of gardens and is now very keen on fungi and slime moulds. So far she has identified 682 species on her property. She is an avid photographer and has many many photos as well as videos of the amazing creatures that can be found by carefully watching. Her advice is to look and then look more closely. The more you look the more you see.
She urged the audience to spend time in Nature and just ‘listen’. She described many wonderful things she had observed by just sitting quietly and listening and watching.
She described how she saw birds flapping their wings only to discover they were disturbing insects to swoop on, ant lions building conical traps in the sand to catch ants, ladybirds eating aphids, wasps pollinating flowers, the magic of spider webs etc.
She stressed how what we may regard as pests, are very important in the integration of the habitat.
She suggested that all gardens need some flowers, some prickly bushes and a bird bath.
She is enthusiastic to spread the word or how important the integration of all species in the environment is to keep a healthy planet.
Thank you Faye for a very enlightening talk.
Let’s not be Serious
Cyril Ayris June 2022
Cyril’s career was as a reporter on the ‘West Australian’ newspaper. He recounted many anecdotes from his years as a cadet reporter through to being the Police Reporter.
As a cadet he told of the ‘scoop’ the West Australian had with regard to the atomic bomb test that was rumoured to occur in Australia. But where and when? Only the Prime Minister Bob Menzies knew and he had been sworn to secrecy. All reporters and newspapers were anxious to be the first to discover and report on the event. The editor Jim McCartney had a hunch it would be in WA as one of the country contacts reported an influx of strangers in the north west of WA. Jim deduced that the place would be the Montebello Islands. He sent a full scale expedition to the beach opposite the Islands. No mean feat in those days, with gravel roads north of Carnarvon and a 50 km path that had to be made from the road to the beach. Doug Burton the photographer flew up with the renowned pilot Jimmy Woods to Mardi Station. All were rewarded on the 3rd October 1952 when a mushroom cloud appeared. The film was rushed by truck to Mardi Station, Jimmy Woods flew as fast as he could to Perth with Doug Burton and the film. Once in Perth the security confiscated the film – or so they thought – but the cunning two had a dummy in the case and the real film was in Jimmy Woods pocket. The film was published before the test was announced in the British Parliament. A real scoop for the West Australian.
Cyril recounted another amazing episode when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 1954 made their first visit to Perth. The paper had to be printed before the ship docked, so an elaborate plan was made. Permission gained for a low fly over the Gothic and the reporter got his photo. Then a low flight over the press boat and the film dropped and recovered from the water. The boat sped to the Barrack St jetty where Cyril was waiting in his shorts and running shoes. A sprint up to St George’s Terrace where a string with a bulldog clip was dangling from the Newspaper office – success – the photo made the news.
Cyril kept us very amused with many stories relating to events during his days as a police reporter. But he also had serious moments telling of the time he went to Borneo to find the lost Penan tribe – the last of those living in the old way in the jungle. They grew sago and shot wild boar with blow pipes. However most tribes had lost their livelihood because the Japanese had done clear felling and it was rumoured there was only one tribe left. Cyril flew to Kuching, then spent 3 days on a long boat going up river to a primitive village. As luck would have it he found a schoolteacher who had an idea where the tribe was and was able to speak their language. Another day up river and Cyril was able to get his story. He was appalled to see logs piled 8-10 deep for 300 km and discover that all this timber was just waste! With the soil being exposed it was very quickly becoming denuded and washed away – the sea was red. What a tragedy!
He concluded his talk with how he flew through the sound barrier on an RAAF Mirage Fighter based in Pearce. The pilot was Wing Commander Bracknell and as it was his last flight he took the plane through many manoeuvres – so exciting and terrifying that once on the ground Cyril lost his breakfast!
Cyril is a wonderful raconteur and very interested in local history and brought along some of the books he has written. These included, Fremantle Prison, The Tunnels at the Prison, CY O’Connor and Chameleon.
What an interesting career Cyril has had and we enjoyed his talk very much.
Hamish McGlashan July 2022
When the scheduled guest speaker was forced to cancel at the last minute, club member Dr Hamish McGlashan generously stepped in and provided us with a fascinating and entertaining glimpse of his early years as a young doctor in Africa.
As a newly qualified doctor in 1963 Hamish was drawn by advertisements for doctors in Uganda and Tanganyika (Tanzania today) and, after a brief interview, found himself on a ship heading for Dar es Salaam, which he described as ‘the most beautiful port in the world.” He was sent up country to a small hospital, completely inexperienced and unprepared for all the work he would have to do. Luckily he was under the supervision of the dour but skilful Chief Medical Officer who, as Hamish said, “Taught me everything I know.” After 6 months Hamish was transferred to an area the size of Wales, where he became the only doctor, responsible for the health and treatment of the entire population. It was here that he was faced by his first post mortem, especially horrific as the body had already been buried for 3 weeks and had to be exhumed. A major highlight of Hamish’s time here was his management of a smallpox epidemic which he succeeded in wiping out with an aggressive vaccination programme. This was especially significant because it proved to be the world’s last smallpox epidemic.
Hamish returned to the UK to undergo 4 years’ specialist training before returning to Africa. This time to Kenya for two and a half years, and then to settle in WA.
Hamish concluded by talking about his time exploring in the Kimberley, his interest in Aboriginal art and his recent trip to Europe.
It was a fascinating account of Hamish’s early life as a doctor when opportunity took him to places and situations he had not foreseen but which gave him professional skills and many happy memories. His concluding diagnosis? “ Coincidences change lives.”
ART WITH A PURPOSE
David Hounsome August 2022
David kept us all very engaged with the different forms of art and the different reasons for the message art conveys.
He spoke of Banksy and how his art is like a mirror – letting us see what is happening. This is obvious and didactic.
However, recent art is mysterious and transgressive and breaks all the accepted rules of art. For example he told of the exhibit of an empty gallery where the lights just turned on and off. This exhibit won the Ultimo Turner Prize in 2001. The half apple and half pear that were joined with a brass screw that had to be renewed constantly as the apple and pear browned.One of Manzoni’s cans of supposedly his faeces called Artists Shit had been bought for 97,000 British Pounds.
To many in the audience these and other examples given by David did not illustrate what they thought of as art.
David explained that when the Box Brownie camera became available in the early 1900’s this took away a lot of the reason for artists to do portraits and landscapes as the images could be taken on film. So artists then concentrated on emotional responses. Marcel Duchamp in 1913 exhibited a Bicycle Wheel and in 1917 showed a urinal that he labelled “Fountain.”
The monochromes (single colour paintings) then followed with Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square which prompted many artists to follow painting in monochrome.
Other art was really propaganda and David illustrated this with a wonderful painting of Mao, not as he presently was but as a young man inspiring others. 900 million of these posters were produced all to promote Mao. Others portrayed the role of blacks, while women’s rights were the causes for others.
So many wonderful paintings were shown by David as he explained the symbolism used and the messages that were being portrayed. His last image was that of the huge sculpture Angel of the North by Antony Gormley located in Gateshead and said to represent the loss of heavy industries in the North East of England.
Members agreed they had learnt a lot and had been provoked to feel and either understand or disagree with some depictions of art.
Thank you David – we really appreciated your knowledge and the wide range of art you presented to us.