“That is $1,735 dollars just in gate fees,’ Hedley said softly, as another vehicle approached the gate, and Hedley passed over an information brochure and informed them that cold water is available at the operations shed, on the taxiway near the north end of runway two,” to the visitors, as they paid their fee and drove on.
Jumping into my vehicle I drove north and after counting twenty more vehicles, I stepped out and waved down the next vehicle behind it. “I am sorry sir, we have to have a cut off time, as we are approaching closing time, and it takes at least 90 minutes to have a good look around the museum, I suggest that you return to Marble Bar and enjoy their hospitality, and return in the morning,” I said to the driver.
“I see, that is a shame, as we have not made any accommodation arrangements, we were just passing through, having come from Newman on the Marble Bar Road,” the driver responded. “I am sorry sir, if you try the Holiday Park or the hotel, they may be able to accommodate you overnight,” I said.
As the vehicle up front had now moved forward, I climbed into my vehicle and reversing a little, I turned so as to be parked across the whole road, to block any more traffic from passing, and eventually the vehicle behind got the message and turned around, and with the last vehicle now heading away.
I followed it up to the first junction, where I was told a sign sitting on the ground behind the big sign, can be hung over the top, announcing that the museum is closed and reopens again at 8 am.
Back at the main gate, I closed and locked the gate behind me, before stepping into the hut. “How did we do today?” I asked as Hedley and Joyce were finishing counting the money. “373 vehicles, but the money tallies to “$1,880, so we must have missed a three vehicles,” Joyce announced.
“Wow! that is huge. No doubt that will be the busiest day, since it is the first one, but a good turn out considering the small amount of publicity that we did,” I commented. After locking up the hut, the Parkinson’s climbed into the Hawkei and we drove to the operations shed, where Dad, Mum and Rhodes were just about to climb into Dad’s vehicle.
“How did we go with numbers?” Dad asked as we pulled up beside his vehicle, “376 vehicles and all but a few, had 4 or more people in each vehicle,” Hedley replied. “So over 1,500 people then?” Dad asked, “Yes, that sounds about right,” Hedley replied.
“We sold over 600 bottles of water,” Rhodes said smiling, “Well done bro, what percentage do we get in profits from those sales?” I asked, “About 75 cents per bottle,” Dad replied, “Well that is better than no profit at all, I guess,” I replied.
A few minutes later we arrived back at the complex, and we all relaxed for a while, after such a busy day, and we decided to have a barbeque dinner, with the men cooking the meat, while the ladies prepared the salads.
After a wonderful meal, we all gathered in the main lounge to watch the nightly news. “Good evening, first up tonight, we report on the successful launch of the Corunna Airbase Museum just south of Marble Bar today, with our Pilbara News team from Port Hedland, paying a visit the new tourist attraction,” the news reader announced, and we all fell silent.
“Thankyou Tina, I am here at the Corunna Airbase Museum, which once was a secret base during World War two, where up to 300 men were stationed, along with six - B24 Liberator aircraft like this one behind me were based. As you can see the sheds around me, are replicas of the ones that were originally built here, on the exact same concrete slabs, built in the late 1930’s.
Apart from the Liberator aircraft, sitting on the taxiway between the two very long runways, and the numerous sheds, there are a number of gun pits, some of them having replica guns in place, and although a little out of the time frame, the airbase museum also has a 1959 Thuxton Jackaroo Biplane, located under one of the nettings that cover the Aircraft pits where there Liberator planes were housed during the war.
To top off the experience of this very unique museum, we were caught totally surprise, by this,” the reporter said as a playback of the sound effects was made, which showed all of the visitors hitting the dirt. “As you can see, it sounded so real, that we really thought we were under attack. Speaking to the Marble bar Tourism Centre earlier, they stated they welcomed the new attraction to the region, with this first opening weekend, bringing an influx of accommodation bookings, and enquiries about other attractions in the region. Back to you in the studio,” the reporter said.
“Well, that has brought us a lot of good free publicity. I wonder if we will be as busy tomorrow?” Dad commented, as we all helped out to clean up from dinner, while the younger siblings prepared for bed, and Rhodes and Mary soon followed them, after an exhausting day.
I stayed up until about 9 pm, before saying goodnight and returning to my cabin, where I showered and headed straight to bed. I was starting to drift off to sleep, when I sat up in bed, remembering about all the vehicle that had lined up outside the gate overnight, and getting dressed I went in search of Dad.
“So you think we will have a repeat of last night with people camping overnight in their vehicles at the front gate?” I asked, when I found Hedley and Dad chatting in the lounge, “Yes, we were just discussing it and decided that it wasn’t worth worrying about it, as it will probably only last for the weekend, until it starts to quieten down a bit,” Dad replied.
“Oh, ok, good night then,” I responded before heading back to my cabin and bed and it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep. I woke at 6 am, and lay in bed for a few minutes listening to the morning calls of the birds in the garden, before getting up and getting dressed for a new day.
“Mum and Joyce were both already in the kitchen preparing breakfast for everyone, but there was no sign of the men. “Your father and Hedley have gone to do a water check, they will be back before the gates open at 8 am,” Mum informed me, as I sat down.
“I wonder how busy we will be today,” I commented, as I watched the ladies at work in the kitchen, “Fairly busy I think, we had a call from the ABC Radio at 5am, wanting to do an on air interview about the museum, and reluctantly he agreed to do a pre-recorded interview, as he wanted to get away to do the water run,” Mum stated.
“Shame I missed it, maybe they will play some of it later,” I commented, “They are during the Country hour programme at lunch time,” Mum replied, as she placed a cup of tea and toast in front of me. “Thanks Mum, you’re a gem,” I said smiling, and Mum chuckled before giving me a kiss on the head.
“Your most welcome dear boy,” she said to me, and I tucked into my breakfast, with Mary and Rhodes appearing less than fifteen minutes later. “Good morning Jexon,” Dad said as he walked in, and I smiled, “Can I have your autograph, now that you are a famous person on the radio?” I asked and Mum roared with laughter.
“Cheeky sod, eat your breakfast,” Dad responded as he sat down at the table, and Mum placed a cup of tea in front of him. As I was finishing my breakfast, Dad cleared his throat. “Jex, I need you to be close to the operations shed for most of today, as I am making a trip into town in your plane.
Firstly to pay my bills to the businesses that sold us all of that water, and then I’m going to Hedland to collect some more bottled water, plus a few supplies. I should be back not long after lunch, if all goes to plan,” Dad announced.
“Sure Dad, not a problem. Unless, you want me to do those things for you?” I responded, and Dad smiled, “No, there is a few things that I need to do in Hedland, so you will have to monitor everything here, and I will be bringing back some more change, as we are running a little short on smaller coins and notes, and banking what we had collected yesterday,” Dad replied.
This time, I asked Hedley and Joyce to man the operations shed with water sales, while Rhodes and I would be based at the front gate, as I wanted to see how things go with letting in visitors, and I decided to take my laptop computer with me, so it is easier to keep tab on numbers of vehicles entering.
As expected there was already a line of vehicles waiting to enter when we arrived at the gate in the Hawkei at 7.20 am, and once we had settled into the hut, and set up the computer, it was almost time to open the gates, and I had given Rhodes the task of entering information into the computer, with a database that I had set up, after dinner last night.
It was about 9.50 am when I noticed Rhodes stop what he was doing and listen carefully, “There, did you hear that?” he said to me, and it took me a few moments to realise what it was, and I dashed out of the hut and around to the Hawkei.
“Eccleston to Kendrik, do you copy me, over,” I heard from the HF radio inside the Hawkei, and I quickly grabbed the mic to respond. “Corunna Airbase to Captain Eccleston, receiving you over,” I said wondering where he was calling from.
“G’day Jexon, we thought we might drop in to say hello, over,” Captain Eccleston said, “Drop in sir?” I asked then it occurred to me and I looked up, “Now would be a good time to set off your sound effects Jexon,” the Captain said as I watched parachutes begin to open up in the sky.
“Copy that, I just need to get closer to the base, as aI am at the front gate at the moment,” I responded, as I told my brother to hold the fort and that I would be back soon, before jumping into the Hawkei and racing towards the car park, and I turned on the sound effects just before reaching the car park.
“Nothing to be alarmed Ladies and Gentlemen, what you heard just now was sound recordings of actual events that took place with the bombing of Darwin and Broome during World War 2. Now if you look skyward, you will see a group of parachutes approaching the ground, some of Australia’s best soldiers coming to say hello, so lets give them a warm welcome,” I said over the PA system of the Hawkei, and the visitors all looked up, and began clapping.
Mum arrived shortly after in the family vehicle, as I unlocked the barrier gate to let her through, “Can you go and help Rhodes at the gate please Mum, while I speak to our visitors,” I asked Mum, and she waved as she passed me, and headed for the front gate, while I crossed the creek, stopped to close the barrier gate, before heading to the taxiway, stopping about half way, as the parachutists started to land in the middle of the airfield.
I stood by the Hawkei as a total of 12 men landed on the ground, and soon the sound of an aircraft caught my attention and circled the airfield before approaching Runway One East, and as it was landing I worked out that it was GAF Nomad turboprop aircraft, as it came to a stop at the end of the runway.
Two men came running towards me, and I recognised one to be Captain Eccleston, and I snapped to attention, “At ease soldier, take us to the plane,” the Captain said to me, and we climbed into the Hawkei and drove towards the aircraft, which had now shut off its engines.
“Nice to see you again Captain. Any reason for your sudden arrival?” I asked as we neared the aircraft that had just landed, “We have some training to do, I convinced my CO to allow us to do it in and around Corunna. By the way, I like your special sound effects, not sure about it’s effects on the visitors thou,” Captain Eccleston said smiling and I chuckled.