A month ago I went to practice my videoing interview skills on one of my good friends from Licuala writing group, Pam Galeano and planned to ask about her cyclone Yasi experience for the Aftermath project.
We did talk about Yasi, but I also came away with a love story that began at a Catholic Youth Function, with a mock wedding and a pair of crazy slippers left in a car.
Pam Galeano, qualified as a teacher in the 1960s and was posted to Tully, but her big dream was to go and live in the city, somewhere like Brisbane and be surrounded by art and culture.
She was lonely in Tully and found it hard settling into the place and finding people she could relate to, and she had creative teaching methods which some locals did not appreciate but which today would probably be seen as the norm. Pam’s life changed when she met Joe Galeano at that fateful mock wedding at Catholic Youth club.
She had been persuaded to attend the meeting because she would have a chance to act in the wedding and this sounded entertaining. Her destiny to live in Tully however was sealed when after that meeting she began to go out with Joe. He gave her a lift home and she left a pair of slippers in his car and of course they had to speak to each other after that. She couldn’t stop talking about Joe to her best friend and she knew then that she would have to get used to living in the country and being a farmer’s wife.
Pam went on to spend many years in the dramatic society of Tully and act in many plays. She had a brief break from teaching when she was first married and had two children, but went back to it later and taught for many years at Lower Tully school. She has told me a few times how the second job helped enormously when farming was tough and has enabled them to hang on to their farm.
Pam’s description of Cyclone Yasi made me nervous because she explained that Joe was adamant he had to stay and ensure the house would not lose the roof and he had sat on the tractor in the shed so he could check all the windows at half time. She kept in touch with him by mobile phone and tells me that it is impossible to talk Joe out of anything once his mind is set on it.
Pam and Joe have been through many cyclones. They remember Winnifred vividly because they had their two children, a son and daughter, still living at home. Both Pam and Joe explained how in the early days there were no warnings for cyclones on radio and television like there are today. People, especially long term locals, used to just sense cyclones coming in their bones and they’d keep the kids home from school when the ‘wind picked up.’
Pam shared some insights about where the locals of Hull Heads and Lower Tully are at, and how long she thinks it will take people to recover. She observes that Yasi is by far the worst cyclone anyone here has ever experienced.
I don’t know Joe as well as Pam and it was interesting to sit down and have a yarn with him – probably more realistic practice for interviewing new people.
Joe said Yasi has almost put him off farming altogether as it was such a horrible cyclone. He spoke about how farming is becoming a less attractive profession today – it is seen as just too hard a lifestyle. Joe muses:
Where will the farmers of tomorrow come from?
Joe is saddened by the loss of the family farm concept. When he and Pam came to Lower Tully there were several farmers – neighbours alongside each other – and now most have long left and sold out to ‘super farms’ run like big businesses.
He shared the dreams he had as a little boy and about the difficulty in achieving them because he was always destined to be a farmer, by circumstance and background.
I was happy to listen to Pam and Joe’s story and am sure you will find it interesting as told in their own words. She is an inspiring lady who has taken that loneliness she had when first here to welcome people who are new and ‘different’, like myself, to the district. Joe is a bush man at heart and will never lose his love for the land, and plans even in retirement to have a plot he can farm, with a creek he can fish and potter around on.
Pam says Joe always gets a special look in his eye when the planting season begins despite his protests that he would have liked to be a pilot or a mechanic. He has a green thumb just like his Dad.
Pam is alive whenever she is talking about her next children’s book. Since retiring she has written several beautiful books for children, all which have become much loved stories. A local child explained that one of Pam’s books was their most treasured lost possession in Cyclone Yasi and of course Pam being so kindhearted made sure she got a free signed copy to replace it.
When I have finished making this video I will share it with you through the aftermath project. I am planning to take some pictures of Pam and Joe together and will put a few of their wonderful family pictures into the video. I love hearing people’s stories and it puts everything into perspective to remember those early days of people going through cyclones. So thanks Pam and Joe for allowing me to share your story.
First published ABC Open, October 2011.
Comments from the ABC Open blog when it was posted.