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Peter Winston Brown had one of the highest IQ’s of the third form intake at St Andrew’s College in 1955; unfortunately he was not ready to learn. Excelling in sport, he lacked application, academically; culminating in failure to meet the standard, much to his parent’s disappointment. Farm training was decided upon and representative rugby became the main interest whilst a 24 year old schoolteacher sneaked in and stole his virginity. Next he became a junior executive for a milk supply company, managed a ski field before driving a bulldozer on the Benmore Hydro Scheme to gain funds for his overseas trip.
Australia first stop and the advertisement in the Courier-Mail caught his eye, Plantation Manager, Papua New Guinea. Just out of Rabaul lay Burns Philp’s Kulon Plantation and he was overseeing 170 labourers. Transferring to Kavieng as a relieving manager he met Cecilia, a very beautiful, mixed race Chinese; she was educated in Sydney and the resident pre-school teacher. Romance blossomed and upon seeking approval from Burns Philp to marry, the reply stated, ‘In the event of your marriage to Miss Cecilia Kwan you will automatically cease to be an employee of the Company’. He immediately sought legal advice and when the District Commissioner heard of this racial slur, he was summoned to District Office. With fatherly advice the DC undertook to remedy Peter’s problem. Consequently, he received a fifty-pound cheque for his work as relieving manager and a further fifty-pound cheque as a wedding present.
They returned to New Zealand and Peter worked as a building company administrator and then they purchased a seven-day a week fruit and vegetable business and became proud parents of a daughter and son, the business enabled Peter to pursue his ambition of learning to fly. After successfully passing the commercial exams he returned to night school and gained that School Certificate that had eluded him earlier.
Returning to New Guinea he instructed then progressed into third level airlines and became a senior pilot. A colleague, knowing his business background, suggested they form their own airline utilising the Australian Government Aircraft Factory’s Nomad aircraft. With wife Cecilia able to take out Papua New Guinea citizenship they formed the first one hundred percent PNG owned airline. This created jealousy and rage amongst the existing operators and every trick in the book was tried to bring about the Company’s downfall. In three years they expanded from one aircraft to five until Pete was assaulted at 4.00 am on the 23rd July 1979 at his home in Mount Hagen.
Given away for dead or at the very best a vegetable, he survived the eight-minutes of cardiac arrest followed by lung collapse and was then medivaced to Royal Brisbane Hospital. Miracles certainly occurred but not without cost, short-term memory was a major problem. A frustrating twelve months saw them sell out of the airline, have his pilots licence renewed, subject to, ‘no passengers for six months’, then purchase six out-station trade stores and a Cessna 185 to supply goods and bring back coffee. The business further developed into a multi million Kina import business along with the wholesale spin-off and to cap it all off they were granted the lease of the Ramu Sugar Supermarket and Bottle Shop. Unfortunately, the marriage deteriorated, whether due to his frustrating recovery, their business success, over indulgence with alcohol or whatever. They were both too proud to take the steps needed to resurrect from their separated status. The children were off at Rangi and St Andrew’s in New Zealand and Pete decided that he should join them. The children agreed that living with Dad was far superior to dormitory life and he realised that he had made one of the best decisions of his life. Whilst solo-parenting two teenage children was not easy, they developed their relationship into something very special. During this time Pete developed property in the buoyant eighties and a disastrous second marriage ended with the October crash of eighty-seven.
Comparatively penniless he worked as office manager for a civil engineering company in Auckland and then back to New Guinea to manage a Boral Company on a three year contract. Another marriage slipped by with circumstances providing the catalyst for dissolution. As a franchise holder for Australian Medical Gases in Far North Queensland, he found the commission structure was only sufficient if working ten by seven. Taxi driving appeared to be the only occupation available to a fifty six-year-old and in spite of the hours and difficulties in dealing with the public; he stuck it out for three years. During this lonely time sitting on the taxi ranks in the early morning hours he decided that his life had been interesting enough to write a couple of books but never realized what a formidable task he had set himself. After having written half of the first one, he attended courses run by Queensland Writers Centre and Arts Nexus, then enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree and passed four subjects. Then being asked by his professor; ‘considering your age, what are you here for?’ His reply prompted; ‘your writing is excellent, you don’t need a degree - get on with it.’
Another marriage followed and Barbara and Pete are comfortably content in Atherton, Far North Queensland. During this five years Pete has taken up woodcarving under the tutorship of a Baptist pastor, whilst resisting pressure to renounce his agnosticism he has become a successful carver. With the downturn in tourism, carving sales have been slow. Pete has now taken up his professor's advice and is, 'getting on with it'.