Ghosts in the Scheme at Canberra Theatre Centre – all images by Lorna Sim, 2015
“Oh how beautiful is our home town Cooma. To me most precious.”
Josipa migrated to Cooma from Croatia with her little brother and father in 1960. Her first memories in Australia are of loneliness and homesickness. However when her husband to be walked into her father’s restaurant Josipa was introduced to Cooma’s colourful, multicultural nightlife. She went to the pictures, danced, swam, kissed, learnt English and made friends from all over the world.
Today Cooma feels like home, and what a beautiful home it is.
Listen to Josipa’s beautiful poem called ‘Cooma’ here.
Oh how beautiful is our home town Cooma
To me most precious.
This is where live my beloved ones
My husband, my children, and the grand children
And this is also where my dear friends are.
Cooma is in New South Wales, Australia
Situated in the middle, close to the great snowy mountains
South seas, and the capital city Canberra.
Cooma is spreading in the valley and over the hills far and wide
Looking like a big mother bird watching after her brood.
The people of Cooma came from all over the world
First to work here, together with the ones that were being born here
And then stayed and made a home.
The buildings in Cooma are just like the people
Some old, some new, some tall, some small.
They’re made out of bricks, weatherboards, and vinyl cladding
And the roofs covered in corrugated iron, and brick tiles.
Gardens are full of beautiful flowers
And pretty shrubs and pleasant scents all around
Tall gum trees, poplars, pine, birch and many other trees
Swaying in the wind is all a breathtaking view.
Sometimes I go away for a while
And I miss it so much
But then I come back
My heart start to beat fast
I feel great
I am home.
In May this year, Big hART had a community showing of the music and stories collected from Cooma throughout Project Cosmopolitana. Hundreds of Cooma locals arrived for a night of food, wine, story sharing and performance.
We kicked off the night with a delicious multicultural dinner prepared by ladies in the community. A diversity of foods and beverages from across the globe, introduced to Cooma during the Snowy Mountains scheme, were celebrated before the show. Meanwhile students from the Monaro High School captured rich stories and secrets of people in the community with memories of Cooma and the scheme, in a series of filmed interviews. This was a great opportunity for Cooma’s contemporary youth to engage with the vibrant history of their town, and for Big hART to collect even more local stories to be included in Ghosts in the Scheme.
Concert Cosmopolitana was comprised of scenes from Ghosts in the Scheme, performed by Lex Marinos, Anne Grigg and Bruce Myles, and interweaved with the exuberant music of Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen. The band performed a collection of songs inspired by stories from Cooma’s time as a gateway to the scheme, and Cooma’s contemporary landscape. A few of the songs were written and performed with students of the Monaro High School, and accompanied by a group of dancing local ladies! At the end of the evening, stories were shared over Chinese rice pudding and espresso coffee. Concert Cosmopolitana was a wonderful celebration of past and present Cooma and it’s cosmopolitan community!
“He said to his friend looking through the window, “Look there’s a girl ready for bed, let’s go in!” Wasn’t he naughty?”
Diana Klima met her husband at a ‘Come in bad taste’ dress up party in Cooma in the 60s! Listen to her tell the hilarious story of their meeting here.
I met him just at the dance. I was dancing there with someone and then he came in… Actually he was going out with a girl from Croatia or somewhere and she’d broken it off with him. And he was with his friend, looking through the window. I was in pyjamas because it was ‘Come in bad taste’. Imagine today ‘Come in bad taste’ pyjamas… It wouldn’t be bad taste at all, because it’s just ordinary, isn’t it? It was just ‘Come in bad taste’ it was called and I just wore my pyjamas. They were pretty nice stripy pyjamas. And he said to his friend looking through the window, “Look there’s a girl ready for bed, let’s go in!” Wasn’t he naughty?
He just asked the person I was dancing with, he just said, “Could you introduce me to your friend?” Because he knew the chap anyway. He invited me, he said could he take me home and I said unfortunately, well not unfortunately, but I do have to go home with the person I came with. And he said, “Could we go to the pictures or something?” And I said “Oh yeah…” I couldn’t even remember what he looked like, except that he had a very nice white shirt, I can remember that. So I went to the pictures the next night, and we got sort of friendly.
We had a blast at Concert Cosmopolitana, the community showing of all of the music and stories collected from Cooma throughout Project Cosmopolitana. An evening of food, music by Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen, written and performed with students from the Monaro High School, scenes from Ghosts in the Scheme, dances by ladies in the community, and story sharing!
The most epic construction shots from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
Joo Siew was hesitant to share her secret family recipes with us, as she makes a living from her wonderful cooking at the High Country Motel in Cooma.
She found a childhood favourite recipe in an old cook book from Singapore to share. She cooks this recipe for her children and customers.
“Here in Cooma was lots of nightclubs, and good food, and dancing, and floor shows!”
Josipa moved to Cooma from Croatia in 1960 as a young girl. Her father worked on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Her first few years in Australia were lonely without her family, and she could only speak a few words of English. Life became a lot better when her husband to be walked into her father’s restaurant and Cooma’s nightlife became alive!
Listen to Josipa’s memories of Cooma’s vibrant night scene here!
Once I met my husband, we went dancing all the time. Because here in Cooma was lots of nightclubs, and good food, and dancing, and floor shows. People were coming, especially in the weekend, all of them from the mountains. They would stop in our restaurant. They wouldn’t let me… because it was full up and they didn’t want to go away. They would help me with the dishes, bringing everything, and clean the tables and then come and eat. It was really like that.
Savoy theatre, we went a lot to the pictures. It was very special at the time. At the beginning there was a little short news or something, but then you had to stand up and it was God Save the Queen. That’s how it was. It was very special, everything. You always had an escort. They would wait for you at the door and take your ticket, and then they would take you to your seat, you know, and shine with the torch and whatever else. And downstairs, like it is now, you can always have an ice cream or whatever you want, you know, popcorn… From then on, once I learnt the language, then my life was much happier here. Of course now, I love Croatia and I am happy to go back and see my family, but Australia is my home.
By Margaret Keefe
‘I make this rarely now as we are getting older, but I used to make it all the time for the boys when they were still around. It was a family staple!
I make it about every 6 months now. Its quite simple.’
Serves 6-8 people.