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PCEC experience San Fran earthquake

“Sister of My Heart” won the hearts of the Book Club ladies

In Memory of Ronald Murray Amero

Crowds egg on competitors at Croc Farm

PCEC experience San Fran earthquake

Yet another busy programme was presented at the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC) meeting on Sunday April 27 at Henry J. Bean’s.
This week’s MC Richard Silverberg asked Sig Sigworth to introduce the first of the morning’s speakers. Sig welcomed back Dr Kim Johansen who, during his previous working life, was the chief of the San Francisco Ambulance Service. His management skills were particularly tested during the Loma Prieta Earthquake which struck the San Francisco Bay Area on October 17, 1989 and his experience of this disaster was the topic of his talk.

Dr Kim Johansen, chief of the San Francisco Ambulance Service at the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake, shares his experiences of the tragedy with PCEC members.
The earthquake occurred at 5.04 pm, lasted for 15 seconds and reached 6.9 to 7.1 on the Richter scale. This resulted in 22 major fires, 1400 building collapses, power black outs for 1 to 4 days and a lack of available water in fire hydrants.
Further problems were that natural gas lines were ruptured and the phone system rapidly became overloaded. It was confirmed that over the emergency period the highest recorded number of phone calls were placed. The cell phone systems were operable but severely overloaded. It was necessary to close all seven Bay Area bridges for 24 hours for inspections to take place. A number of heroic but often gruesome rescue incidents were described in detail.
Dr Kim commented that a certain amount of luck had helped the situation. For example, a televised World Series baseball game had reduced the normal level of freeway traffic. Also ambulance staffing levels were at their peak as shift change time was underway when the earthquake occurred.

PCEC Chairman Richard Smith introduces Lieutenant Commander Bernie Billingsley of the US Navy. In Thailand with the Cobra Gold exercises, they will also be performing charitable works for Thai children, via their schools.
Hundreds of after shocks occurred which often placed the rescue workers in danger but after 30 days conditions of normality had been restored.
Lessons learnt were that is necessary to repeatedly train for such events. An efficient command and control structure was put into place but improvements could have been made. Essential emergency systems need at least two backups. Outside assistance cannot be relied upon and may not be available. The telephone system proved to be robust and remained available despite often long delays before a dial tone was heard. Cell phone systems were often overloaded due to unnecessary calls being made. Critical incident stress debriefing proved to be essential. The benefits of the creation of working bonds during the earthquake were maintained.
Notwithstanding, there were a total of 67 deaths and $6.5 billion in damages making the earthquake the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the US.
PCEC Chairman Richard Smith then introduced Lieutenant Commander Bernie Billingsley of the US Navy. Bernie is participating in the forthcoming Cobra Gold multilateral exercise, now in its 8th year, scheduled for May 8 - 22. Bernie thanked Richard for providing a conduit into the local community in order that the practical help which the Navy was offering could be directed most effectively. Seven sites had been identified for assistance; these were primarily schools which were located on the outskirts of Pattaya. It is hoped that the PCEC will be invited to visit a navy ship over the Cobra Gold period.
Richard reported that PC Magazine had just published a large number of computer fixes and a high proportion of these would be included in the club’s website (see later).
PCEC Board Member Stuart Saunders announced the itinerary for the one day trip to Silverdale Vineyard and Nong Nooch Village, taking place on May 14.
The regular Open Forum saw the return of the full strength team of both Sig Sigworth and Bob L’Etoile. As always it provided an opportunity for questions about living in Thailand with an emphasis on Pattaya to be asked. The Open Forum again proved to be the usual lively and entertaining session. For more information regarding, not only PCEC Sunday meetings but also the varied mid week activities, please see the Community Happenings section of Pattaya Mail or, for more details, visit the Club’s website at pattayacityexpatsclub.com.


“Sister of My Heart” won the hearts of the Book Club ladies

Debbie (seated second left) bids farewell to her official title.

Sue K
The Book Club meeting for the month of April was held at Judy Hoppe’s house. Before the ladies were able to dig into chocolate cakes and baked pasta and all the goodies carefully prepared by Judy, a book review was in order. “Sister of My Heart” by Chitra Banerjee was on the chopping board this time.

Liz Shepherd, Kathleen Petras and Diane Doell with scholarship money for children.

The story centers on the lives of two Indian girls, Anju and Sudha. The girls use their own voices to narrate the story of their lives. In alternating chapters the reader closely follows the lives of Sudha and Anju through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Although some of the characters immigrate to the United States, most of the story is set in India. Indian traditions and culture are part of the rich environment portrayed in the novel and the descriptions of Calcutta are especially vivid. With strong character development, and not a few plot twists, Sister of My Heart is a story about family, friendship, and the bond between sisters.
The critique was very interesting, with different and mixed viewpoints from the members. Sue K was able to shed some light on cultural questions that arose from the readers regarding beliefs and traditions that have been carried on for thousands of years, and even up to the present modern days, including arranged marriages, dowries, and Sati.
Besides happy reading, the Book Club members each donate 100 baht each time they attend a meeting. This money is collected monthly and then used to provide scholarships for children. Members feel reading is an extremely important thing to learn and this learning is best done in a school environment. Therefore, the Book Club sponsored 5 children last year with scholarships for school. This was done through the Mercy Center. These children would not be able to attend school without these donations. This year the Book Club has decided to continue sponsoring these same five children while adding three more for a total of 8 scholarships.
On the same day, Debbie Cavanaugh bid an official goodbye to the Book Club as the president after ending her two-year term, but will still carry the Torch of Duties until a new president is installed. Members warmly thanked her for her tireless dedication to the club.
The next meeting is at Debbie’s house on May 27. For information about direction, email: [email protected] com, and, for an active participation in reviewing the book, be sure to read “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen before you go.


In Memory of Ronald Murray Amero

Born December 9, 1957 in Ajax, Ontario

Ron Amero was bigger than life itself; strong as an ox, with a spirit and mindset to match. He was the consummate tough guy with hands as big as a grizzly’s. In fact, he wore a ring on his finger that many could wear on their big toe. Some called him ‘One Punch Amero’ due not only to the size of his hands, but also his brute strength and lightning reflexes. Just from his ‘playful’ punches in the arm, one knew you did not want to be on the receiving end of one of his powerhouses.

Ron - in the Wind

But behind that gruff exterior was a heart of gold. Ron was a people person and made folks feel good as soon as they met him. In fact, in the early 80’s when the ex-pat community was small and maybe a little xenophobic, Ron was the one that stood out and made you feel welcomed. He was also famous for being totally unabashed, and telling it like it was. There were no illusions with Ron; what you saw was what you got.
And through it all, he had a poignant term of endearment when he called you ‘Pal’. It was a word we used as kids to connote one’s best friend. But he used it for all of us and the way he said it always made you smile.
I first met Ron in 1982 when he opened the Saloon Bar with Jerry Hot Dog featuring the local guitar king, Lam Morrison. Ron had worked the oil fields, but loved Thailand so much that he decided to stay here full time. However, there were few bars back then that did well and after a spell money became tight.
Among other things, he started arm wrestling for money and was unbeatable. Then one day a young Dane came to town with a gunslinger reputation. When Ron heard about the guy, it was late at night and he told Bjarne to go wake him up and bring him on down to the bar.
The bet was much higher than the usual stakes and we knew Ron could not afford to lose. But then Ron always won, so we did not worry, at least not too much. After an epic battle the Dane eventually persevered. We were all shocked and crestfallen. But without missing a beat, Ron said, “left-handed, double or nothing”. The Dane hesitated, but relented. In the blink of an eye it was all over as Ron slammed his hand down on the bar and his legend continued. This was our Ron, when the going got tough, he got a lot more determined and a hell of a lot tougher.
He was legendary, not only when arm wrestling, but also on the mechanical bull at the Saloon, or atop an elephant on the streets of Pattaya for the annual Mekong Walks, or doing splits on some barroom floor, or holding court at Cafe Kronborg, or when riding many a Harley up from Singapore back in the days when bandits controlled some of the routes. By the way, he was the second guy to own a Harley in Pattaya, behind Carl Jordan, which was a ’77 Sportster.
The Harley House on Soi 12 was famous too, as a residence for Harley-owning oil field workers. It was like an exclusive club and one felt privileged to be allowed inside. I remember Ron taking me in there when I was a mere BMW motorcycle owner and I was absolutely amazed at the treasure trove of Harleys stored in what seemed like every other room.
Ron also introduced us to Ray’s Place in Ban Chang, back in the 80’s when it used to feel like it was way out in the boonies. We used to ride there every 4th of July too. It was in the same city where Ron got his entire back tattooed by a blindfolded monk, who used sharpened bamboo sticks to apply protective Buddhist figures in a pointillistic design.
He left Pattaya in ’86 to return to North America where Roger Lambert got him work as a ‘carnie’, setting up and running games at fairs and carnivals. He had many an adventure while there, including wrestling a bear in a challenge somewhere near Conroe, Texas for $500. He should have won, as he had the bear down a couple of times, but the unscrupulous trainers of the beast cheated him out of his money. However, it did not matter much, as after that his reputation there soon became legendary too.
Ron also had some of his usual wild times, one of which was when he had to let go of the handlebars of his Kawasaki 1000 at 120 MPH, when it went into a high speed wobble while racing Dave Winkler in his 240-Z Datsun outside of New Orleans. He let the bike down on its right side and slid with it until it started doing somersaults, as did he. He eventually came to a stop, stood up, dusted himself off and walked away from the accident. When Winkler finally caught up with him and asked what the hell happened, Ron said ‘just a minor tumble’ as he opened the car door and got inside. Winkler asked him about the bike, and Ron said, ‘Screw it, I don’t need it anymore’, and he left it there by the side of the road never to be seen again.
After a few years on the road with the carnivals, Ron borrowed money to get back to Edmonton, where he went to work on the rigs again in Canada. He was there until 1990, when Rod Caldwell, his old friend, got him a job with Rodney Nicolas and Smedvig Asia in the Gulf of Thailand. Ron was absolutely delighted to be back in Thailand again, and this time for the long haul.
Ron not only loved Thailand, but also the Thai people. He had many close friends in the local community, including Dee and the gang at Café Ole, and Tui and Gaow from Jammer in Bangkok and their crowd. He also became tight with Ad, Lek and the rest of the members of the Carabao band and used to ride to their concerts on a regular basis all over the country. In fact, two years ago he even toured with the band in the US.
Ron stayed with Smedvig up until the cancer reared its ugly head over four years ago. Smedvig, by the way, was magnanimous in taking care of all his medical bills throughout his ordeal and also keeping him on salary up to the present. This was a tremendous relief for Ron, who could then turn his focus fully to fighting the scourge.
Typical of his resolve, he always believed, up until a few months before the end that he would indeed beat it. It was a heroic battle indeed but in the end that menacing disease took one of our strongest; one of our very best.
Ron had turned 50 just last December. He was also a founding member of the Jesters Motorcycle Club in 1996. He passed away on May 2, 2008. He is survived by his mother, Stella, his brother, Kevin, his wife, Gai, his son, Mic, and a multitude of friends here and all over the world. He touched the lives of so many of us in his most inimitable way.
You will be missed, Pal, but we knew we had to finally let you go. Catch you down the road apiece.
Ron’s funeral will be at Wat Chaiyamongkol in South Pattaya (across from the South Pattaya market) at 2 p.m. of Friday, May 9.


Crowds egg on competitors at Croc Farm

Ban Bung man wins crocodile egg-eating contest

Ariyawat Nuamsawat
A man from Ban Bung won Pattaya Crocodile Farm’s annual crocodile egg-eating contest on May 1, being the first amongst 40 competitors to eat 10 boiled eggs.

It’s not easy to eat crocodile eggs quickly.

The event, organized by Chonburi Culture Council in cooperation with the Million Year Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm, has become a regular Labor Day favorite, attracting crowds of tourists.
Peera Jungpiwat, chief judge of Pattaya Provincial Court, Chonburi Senator Surachai Chaitrakulthong, Chonburi Culture Council president Suan Panomwattanakul, and Yodthong Sriwaralak, advisor to the mayor of Nongprue Municipality jointly opened the 6th Crocodile Egg Eating Contest.
Forty people took part in the contest, which the rules state the winner is the first to eat 10 boiled eggs. There is no time limit, and good manners are insisted upon.
The winner was Udom Butngam, a 42-year-old factory worker from Ban Bung District, who received 10,000 baht in prize money. Runner up was Somchai Butngam, 36, who received 5,000 baht, and in third place was Nopanan Pansaengthong, 40, who received 3,000 baht.