28 January, 2006

Back for old times sake - John Wakeford, England

Taken from an article in The Fiji Times, 27 January 2006 by Lusiana Speight. John Wakeford, an Englishman, lived in Fiji in the late 1950s. Back on a visit to Suva he speaks with fondness and an occassional laugh about hilarious incidents that happened to him here. He remembers the Suva of 1957 just like it was yesterday, recalling places he lived around the capital city back then. John was posted to Fiji as a radio engineer with Cable and Wireless. "We used to run the radio telegraph at the office back then and each Friday there were calls from overseas banks on the stock markets, the information for which had to be related to the Fiji Times Office in time for Saturday's paper. And between 4.30-5.30 pm, we would receive the world news through our cables and then forward this once again to The Fiji Times." John, who is now retired, lives with his wife and two children in England. "When we first arrived, my friends and I were staying in the Oceania Hotel above Albert Park, but I don't believe it is there anymore. After that, three of us [out of eight] moved into a house on Waimanu Road and then finally moved to Desvoux Road." John recalled the property land lady at the time was a Miss Free. "We were living in the flat upstairs and Miss Free was running a typing school on the bottom floor, which for us, a group of 20 year old bachelors, was something interesting indeed." Since his return last Sunday, John was taken the time to walk around Suva to see the wonders of 49 years of development since he was here. He said he loved to walk along Victoria Parade and is intrigued by the changes the city has undergone. "There has been definitely a lot of architectural developments but there are some things that are still the same throughout the years like the Garrick Hotel. The sea used to come up to where the Westpac Bank is now. And there were no traffic lights so that we had a lot of the famous police officers in their white and black uniforms standing on junctions, directing traffic." John said that instead of trafficators, the buses of the 50s used mechanical hands to indicate to other drivers when the driver intended turning. "Although it may seem funny now, it worked well back then. People took it as something part of the traffic system." On social life, John was a member of the Royal Suva Yacht Club and is greatly impressed to see the club is still as it was. "I loved going there for a couple of drinks with my friends." Like a local, John used to drink yaqona here and now has a special place in his house for the famed tanoa (yaqona bowl) that he took back with him in 1960. To unwind and make the most of their free time in Suva, the bachelors usually headed to the Phoenix Theatre for a movie. "I was here when the Phoenix opened for business. It was the place to be at the time. Everyone wanted to meet at Phoenix and just hang out." On his days off, the Englishman and his friends loved to drive around Viti Levu, taking in the sights and sounds of our beautiful nation. "We loved to spend time at the Korolevu Beach Hotel." "Something that has never changed since I left is my favourite Fijian food, kokoda, which I absolutely love. I had some at [a friend's] home and it was just wonderful." His wife agreed adding that she loved the beach at Deuba where she and her husband spent time swimming. Today they return to England. They say they are not sure when they will be back but said that they had nothing but great memories.

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