In its glory days, Lae was a beautiful city to live in. Well planned, with a functioning city council and adequate funding, it rivaled Port Moresby as an ideal destination to visit.
Each suburb had amenities and services in close proximity. For instance, the Bumayong, Igam, Unitech population didn’t have to go to Top Town. East Taraka was a main center for people in that part of the City. East Taraka had a cinema, a shopping center, private doctor’s clinic and a post office.
There was a BMX bicycle track along the stretch between Unitech and Igam where kids hung out.
Eriku had its own cinema that played the latest movies every day and night. On Saturdays, the best movies were played from midday onwards. Of course, there were strict rules for PG-rated and MA-rated movies and the cinema attendants made sure unaccompanied minors were removed at the end of a G-rated picture.
Top Town also had a cinema. It was a favorite because they sold popcorn as well and it was directly opposite a line of shops that sold some of the best toys in the country imported directly from Australia. Of course in those days, the kina was worth about the equivalent of the Australian Dollar.
The suburban roads were sealed and well maintained. Rubbish was collected every week. The Second Seven cemetery was well kept. The grass kept short and the graves tended by the council.
Next to the cemetery, the Telikom College was one of the primary training institutions of Papua New Guinea. It was where all the technical experts in telecommunications were trained and sent out to keep essential infrastructure running. It was serious business and outside of Australia and New Zealand, Papua New Guinea was a leader in the Pacific in terms of telecommunications development and training.
Lae was called the Garden City, it was a child’s playground with well kept hedges, flower gardens and neat footpaths wherever you walked. The Botanical garden was unfenced. Children could wander in unaccompanied and enjoy the ponds filled with fish or learn the names of trees on the metal plates attached to the stems of trees. The whole garden was a botanical wonderland of knowledge.
Lae had two international schools and one International High School.
It now seems difficult to imagine, but a bottle of Coke was 20 toea and a pie, 50 toea. Ten kina was a small fortune and if you had K20, you were a tycoon. Bus fare was 10 toea for school kids. We preferred to walk home and save money for the cinema on Saturday.
That was Lae City. People cared about where they lived and how they lived.