Ice Du Morgue! 1970
My Father was an NCO for the Royal Australian Air Force and we were based in Butterworth from 1968 – 1971 just a little over 2 years. My dad was a very ambitious and career driven man, and sought to rise through the ranks quickly in whichever industry or service he found himself in. In fact it took my dad many years to realise if indeed he ever did or for that matter has to understand that the reason so many people gave him ‘wooden decorative spoons’ as gifts was NOT because people thought he collected them, but because when rank hopping he cared not the emotions of other people and would stop at nothing to get his way.
That year  he decided to throw a party at the house for all the top knobs, the high powered guys with rank who could ‘place’ him in the ideal future positions in Australia which is where we would be returning come 71.
The amahs leading up to the whole event had been busy organising absolutely everything in the food department, l clearly remember my mother frantically trying to organise everything that they weren’t doing because dad, well dad didn’t involve himself in such things, he was after all ‘the socialite’, everything had to be just right, the right people, the right food, the right drinks, the right servants the lot – that was his role.
He was excellent in barking commands to the minions which also included his own family, very good indeed. So everything had to be just right for the night itself” If you were not just right, well then you were just wrong and that wouldn’t do, not at all. This night had to be beyond perfection, this had to be almost like a military procession!
On the night itself, as the children of the house and therefore the unimportant ones, my Sister was the first to be hurried down the stairs to be with Choy, whilst l was dressed up in my ‘cub uniform’ and had to salute everyone when they came in [in fact if you visit the directory, there is a photo there of me practising that damn salute].
Once everyone was in, l too was hurried down the stairs to join my sister and for hours l heard all the commotions upstairs, the laughter, the ‘what what’s’, the ‘oh l say’s’, and all the other gibberish and jabbering that goes on at these glitzy affairs. Around 7-7.30pm, there was suddenly a call down stairs by my Father from the house “We have run out of ice! We need more bloody ice Choy now!!”
Choy looked startled, they had gone through barrels of ice, enough to fill the house she said, and she was probably right, in the space of an hour l remember hearing a lot more laughter and slurred voices than when the party had first begun, so l figured they were drinking a lot. My dad was quite a big drinker back then, my mum a relatively light drinker, more social, but as an ex Sally Army girl [Salvation Army], it wasn’t really her thing, she did it to please my father.
A friend of my father’s had loaned out Kim who was the amah for next door to assist with the night, and so Choy turned to her and said “Where do we get ice now quickly?”
Kim said she had a cousin in the Kampung and said she would speak to him, because he was bound to know where, and off she ran. Meanwhile my father was growing frantic and was down every few moments becoming more heated with every new approach demanding to know where the ice was, and all Choy could do was say – it was coming.
Truth is, it did arrive and this old jalopy turned up and Kim and two other fellows got out and between them they had an enormous slab of ice. I remember thinking at the time that it looked a little dirty, but perhaps that is how big chunks of ice looked when in giant oblong shapes?
The three of them brought it over to the amah’s quarters and dropped the lump into the washing tub, and then proceeded to break it with hammers, every new bang another section chipped off and Kim and Choy would break it into smaller pieces and fill the ice buckets and up the stairs Sharon and Kim would cart them.
The party apparently had gone on until very late and as it was a Friday night, they could go on for hours and so according to Choy the guests started leaving around 4am, most of them completely and utterly drunk off their faces, falling over themselves, throwing up – you know the usual. I had fallen asleep so l didn’t see any of this, but awoke at my usual time at around 5.
My Father slept in as his way on days off till around midday, but he was awoken by my mother just after and she said his commanding officer was demanding his urgent attendance at the base, there was a problem ‘a really seriously bad, bad problem!”
Well l will give him credit for someone who looked kind of funny bumping into walls, slipping on the floor and falling down the stairs to get into the jeep that was waiting to take him to the base, he did it all in the space of about 10 minutes. I didn’t see dad for most of the day, but at around 2 in the afternoon, two jeeps sped down the road and stopped outside the house. Four MP’s jumped out rushed into the house, grabbed Choy and Sharon, and then another two had gone next door and grabbed Kim, and suddenly they all disappeared back down the road again.
No one was any the wiser for hours and hours, and then finally dad came back with Sharon, Kim and Choy, and dad at my own concession did not look well! He looked ill, really ill, he was a bad colour of green!
You see what had happened is that Kim’s cousin had indeed got ice, and the only place where he knew where he could get it was the local morgue. He had a friend there and so they got ice, they didn’t think twice about using ice from a morgue because they figured it was for keeping bottles cold, not for actually going into the drinks themselves and because that is what happened, all the guests that used the ice from the coolers became seriously ill – luckily no one died!
But dad well he was none too pleased … that is once he recovered from being ill himself! He didn’t make quite the impression he figured he might, but still he made a memory for years to come!