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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
“Sister of My Heart” won the hearts of the Book Club ladies
Debbie (seated second left) bids
farewell to her official title.
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.
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
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.
- 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
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
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
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
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
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.