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June 23, 2021
Culture Featured Life

‘Video Cassettes, the BMX bandits, and fresh bread over the back fence…’ Growing up in the small town of Kavieng

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EMTV’s Head of News and Current Affairs, Neville Choi, takes a walk down memory lane and describes what growing up in Kavieng Town in the 80s was like.

It wasn’t too long ago, when telling people you grew up in a small town, was embarrassing. City folk didn’t take to well to kids who came from small towns.

Today, there’s a ‘big town’ name for people from small towns. Some say you’re ‘ples-type’ or in short, ‘plesi’.

But more and more, in a 21st century Port Moresby, coming from a small town, is, for the most part, tolerated. Despite the 100-plus music tracks, the skinny jeans; coming from a small town, means you knew who your neighbours were; everybody knew who you were, where your parents came from, and you felt an unspoken level of respect accorded to you, when you were referred to as, ‘em pikinini bilong…”.

There were other things, which at the time, may not have meant much, but now, have a great influence about the way I look at the world.

Kavieng town in the 80’s may not have had cinemas; but we had Yip’s Video Shop. A small shop run by Gavin Yip, or as everyone called him, ‘Uncle Gavin’. Yip’s Video Shop was a video tape rental shop.

Before CDs and DVDs, the latest movies came out on Video Cassettes. And being the first to rent out the latest movies, meant you had the best story to tell at school the following Monday. (That’s if Uncle Gavin or his boys did not already duplicate the movie on several other tapes).

Music came in cassette volumes, ranging from mixed compilations of the Billboard Top 20; or collections of the latest reggae hits from Alpha Blondie; Peter Tosh, and Lucky Dube.

In Kavieng, having rasta, and listening to reggae music, had to be accompanied by tie-dyed pants and shirts in the traditional reggae colours of yellow, green, and red.

But there were other things that set Kavieng town apart; while at the same time, ensured it didn’t lose touch with the rest of a Papua New Guinea in the throngs of modernity.

Sales on BMX bikes sky-rocketed following the string of extreme BMX bike-riding movies of RAD, and the BMX bandits. And while this later led to an underground of stolen and re-chopped BMX bikes, it also gave us means to hang out with our friends.

One favourite night pastime was getting on our bikes, armed with small torches for regulation lights, and using the whole of Kavieng town, for a game of hide and seek.

Then, as the clocked ticked past midnight, everyone in town knew it was time for fresh-baked bread out of the Tsang Tsang bakery.

Nope. The bakery did not open its doors at night. It was an open secret that the bakers would take cash over the back fence, to exchange with steaming hot, unsliced white bread.

It was the best meal to have with a cup of tea or coffee, while watching the latest Bruce Lee movie from Yip’s Video.

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