Chapter One: Humble Beginnings.
When the North Star first arrived in Broome, it was May 1987 and humble beginnings for a company that has since grown into an undisputed icon of the Australian tourism industry.
Humble beginnings borne out of a desire for fun and adventure.
Sure, the bills had to be paid – but other less exacting pursuits were often allocated higher priority.
Craig Howson and his early cohorts were definitely not looking to sell ice creams and Broome was still very-much a frontier town.
The cattle industry was ‘king’ and, you didn’t have to ask the guy at the bar if he was a pearl diver – he would tell you!
Everybody was searching for something and many found exactly what they were looking for; in dusty streets lined with tin houses and communal mango trees.
Newly made friends would often leave but it was also common to encounter those who happily explained “We only came here for a swim and we’ve bin ‘ere ever since.”
There were those who were from an era before and for many Broome was a traditional home. But for the rest of us it was all brand new!
The dry was just as nice but maybe the wet was better. When lightning struck you could see from one end of the street to the other and only the thunder was louder than the rain – the storms came mostly at night and with them went the power………..“May as well grab another beer John!”
Even though it wasn’t air-conditioned – the front bar of the ‘Conti’ was the place to go after work and the ‘Pearlers’ was an eye-opener on Friday and Saturday nights!
The Cave Bar was something different again and a ‘hair of the dog’ could always be found at the Satay Hut.
It was a long day when the rodeo came to town and even the crowd ended-up rolling in the dust when the announcer heralded Derby cowboy “Waynnnne Cunnnnard”. Trouble was, Wayne was in just about every event so we all looked like we had been riding bulls by the time we got home!
The two-up was the biggest winner on Cup Day and Shinju always raged well into the night!
Old Broome was still the best address in town even though it sometimes smelt like roast beef!
Seaview was where the “Brumours” began and the flag pole out the front signalled if a cyclone was heading our way!
The morning paper didn’t arrive until the afternoon and sometimes not at all.
If there was a big rain you couldn’t drive into or out of town and that’s when the newspaper wasn’t the only paper that was hard to find!
It was too expensive to jump on a plane so most didn’t see their families from one year to the next and ‘orphan parties’ became important to us all!
Dampier Creek was a treasure trove of muds crabs (which it remarkably still is to this very day) and the mighty Fitzroy was just an hour and a half “up the track!” Just a bit further away was a mandatory beer at the ‘Spinny’ and mystical Windjana was barely a national park.
We always felt remote and there was an ‘edge’ to almost everything we did. Even going to the beach required careful consideration of tide and any number of creature waiting to spoil your day!
And for a time it seemed like Broome might forever be about not much more; but then along came Lord McAlpine and all the while the North Star was slowly making her way further up the coast.
Peter Trembath, July 2016