‘Gus’ Smales: An Old Journo Mate Sadly Missed by Richard Smales
I worked with Gus Smales on and off in Port Moresby and Rabaul right through the 1960s and early 1970s.
I was more of a sports writer than a politics scribe but even so Gus and I used to catch up semi-regularly in the old Moresby watering holes: the ‘top’ and the ‘bottom’ pubs in the city’s CBD. Along with other regulars we’d discuss how the new-ish pollies were faring just up the hill in the House of Assembly, whether Paga or DCA or the Kone Tigers would win that Friday night in the Papuan Rugby League competition, and who’d separated or divorced or ‘gone finish’ from the expat. community in and around the Moresby suburbs that particular month. There was never a shortage of gossip, and hard news for that matter, to mull over and chat about.
But my most enduring memory relates back to the Pacific Games of 1975 held in the then US Trust Territory of Micronesia. On Guam, to be exact. Full-time Post-Courier writer Tarcissius Bobola and I flew to Guam on a sumptuous, for the period, American regional airliner.We got there and set up in the capital Agana in a reasonably OK hotel—not as flash as the harbourside establishments frequented by hordes of Japanese newly-weds—and worked out how we were going to report on the ’75 Games. There were 14 sports, so Tarcissius opted for his seven and I took the remaining seven.But how were we going to file daily reports back to Moresby or the next day’s Post-Courier?
And that’s where Gus Smales came in. He’d directed us to purchase US credit cards, I think they were American Express, and then told us to ring him direct back in Moresby charging the calls on the new cards. Back in Moresby Gus would sit by his typewriter, headphones on, and laboriously type up the sports stories as we read them out, line by line and sentence by sentence. It was a pretty laborious task but Monsieur Smales never faltered over the 10 or 12 days of competition. There was a set early evening time for this task each day so if there were night matches in basketball or softball or night boxing bouts, one of us would have to make a beeline for the sports event being contested. The other would be on the phone to Gus.
Now I have a sneaking suspicion that 42 years down the track that this telephoning gig might have been a tad illegal. I think we were supposed to send telexes or use whatever the smart technology of the day was. But Gus had worked it out with the managing editor of the Post-Courier that the phone-ins would cut costs and reduce errors as the reporter on the other end of the line could be queried if some portion of a story didn’t quite make sense. So away we went on our telephoning routines, routines that also included detailed reports about the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Governor of Guam rambled on and on about his territory’s ‘liquid sunshine’ at the opening ceremony and everyone stood drenched as the tropical downpours unleashed on the out-in-the-open athletes and officials. Those reports mustn’t have met with critical acclaim back in Moresby because I recall returning to PNG and reading heavily sub-edited and slashed stories about the two ceremonies. Gus Smales had taken everything down, as he did on every occasion, only to have the sub-editors take the slasher to the content.
So, it was with some sadness I read the PNGAA e-mail notifying all of us of Gus’ passing. Unfortunately, because of family commitments in Melbourne we weren’t able to make it to Mount Martha for the funeral service but our thoughts will always be with the extended Smales family. Vale Gus: our old journo compatriot.
Note: I wrote for the South Pacific Post/PNG Post Courier and broadcast live boxing and rugby league on the ABC/NBC for many years. Those years formed the beginnings of my lifelong journalist career. RJ