Snowy scheme and Cuba stories shared

Probus members Tony Page and Iggy Honan spoke at the September meeting of Cleve Probus Club.

Mr Page spoke about the Snowy Mountain Scheme where he worked from January 1964 until December 1990, the last nine years as a contracts officer for the Snowy Mountain Authority in charge of maintenance and sometimes acting as a tour guide on weekends.

It was the largest engineering scheme in Australia, consisting of 16 large dams, seven power stations and a pumping station taking water through 141 kilometres of tunnels.

Mr Page said told the group it provided half the electricity needs for New South Wales and Victoria, then Queensland and Tasmania.

Nowadays all states are connected to the electricity grid of various energy sources.

Mr Page said at a time when Australia needed to "populate or perish", it provided work for migrants of many nationalities.

He said the Snowy Mountain Authority advertised contracts worldwide and Australian, German, French and American companies were successful with Japan supplying much of the heavy machinery.

Many of the workers could not speak English and those with bilingual skills were put in charge.

Camps were built to accommodate the people and English lessons were held.

Mr Page said the headquarters were at Cooma and although it was only 95 miles to Canberra it was a day's drive on the narrow winding dirt road.

After morning tea, the second speaker was Iggy Honan, who, with his wife Margaret, had recently returned from four months travelling overseas.

We are going away with some powerful information, and free travel.

Graeme Christian

Mr Honan spoke and showed pictures from Cuba, one of the countries they visited.

They flew from Miami in Florida to Havana across a very shallow looking sea.

It cost them $US100 each to enter Cuba, an island with a population of 11 million people.

Mr Honan said President Trump's government had restricted American citizens to only entering Cuba once a year, which could be very difficult when there was illness or special family occasions.

He said the island's soil was very poor for agriculture but citrus grew well and sugar was the main crop, some of which was made into rum, and tobacco was grown on the better soils.

He said the average wage was only $US30 per month and it was a cash economy with most of the wealth in tourism.

The Honans pre-booked the first night's accommodation and then stayed in pensions (bed and breakfast-style homes) where they lived with the family and were served breakfast.

Mr Honan said the homes were spacious with high ceilings and carved furniture - wide, colourful doors could be opened at night to allow the cool breeze through.

Shops opened around 10am, some had siesta around noon and remained open until late at night.

He said the streets in the cities were cobblestone and very narrow and the people had a high literacy rate and a great appreciation of art, with wonderful galleries.

Graeme Christian moved a vote of thanks to the speakers and presented them with a small gift of appreciation.

"We are going away with some powerful information and free travel with Iggy's colourful description of his experience," he said.