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Tales of "Q"

by Joe Tidey


Mike Wood has written that "Adastra was always a magnet - and a haven - for characters". In the fifties, it was suggested that on occasion Adastra may also have been a repository for the wayward sons of directors' friends. One such suspect, newly graduated from an apprenticeship with one of the larger passenger airlines, soon displayed a great ability to shock and amuse. Perhaps it would be discreet to refer to him as "Q" - as it seems that no-one ever employed by Adastra has had either a surname or first name with that initial letter.

I have recollections of two of Q's more startling performances - one aviation-related, the other purely social. The hangar incident involved an outsider, a visitor to Adastra. I can't recall the context exactly, but it was obvious that the visitor was unfamiliar with our ways, and appeared surprised that people were smoking around aircraft. It happened to be Q to whom he remarked on this, and Q was delighted at the opportunity to air his expert knowledge of the physical properties of petrol. 'Twas highly inflammable only when vaporized, he confidently asserted, and in its cool, liquid form was very tame stuff. To demonstrate the validity of his theory, Q indicated a makeshift bowl (the bottom of a cut-down oil drum) containing avgas sitting on the floor nearby, and saying "Watch this", flicked his glowing butt into the bowl! Of course, the bowl went Whoosh! and flames leapt roof-wards. The fire was quickly smothered by other hangar staff, and there was no fuss made about it. What was remarkable about the incident, was that Q had been struck speechless (for several seconds at least) - an almost unheard of condition!

The after-hours conversation-stopper occurred in the bar of an outback Queensland pub. The crew, together with the usual crowd of locals, were gathered there after teatime anaesthetising themselves with countless rounds of chilled Fourex and casually swapping yarns, when Q suddenly announced that his dad was big in the Masons, and that he (Dad) had also arranged for Q to be a member. We thought this a rather strange topic to introduce, as Masons, back in the fifties, were still noted for their reticence about disclosing anything to do with lodge activities or membership to outsiders. Anyhow, Q babbled on for a while, then quietly disappeared - somewhat to our relief - while we got another round in. Next thing, Q reappears framed in the bar doorway, shouting "Ta raah!", and spreading both arms out to the side, displaying for all to see - his Masonic apron! A stunned silence preceded a wild and wooly debate on the significance of this performance as Q was collared and led away to be put to bed.

Great entertainment, Q. My acquaintance with him was brief, but I've never forgotten him, and even now wonder where he moved on to, after Adastra.

Joe Tidey
24 July 2005


If you wish to contribute your experiences, please contact Ron