JOHN Anich has seen a lot of changes in his seventy-seven years living in Mossman - some good, some bad
Most of all, the former pharmacist, sugar cane farmer and talented tennis player laments the loss of the “free and easy” lifestyle of a bygone era.
In those days, he says, Mossman was a simple small town.
Everybody was a neighbour or friend, and despite minimal technology, managed to keep in touch and look out for each other.
Back then, social networking was of the face-to-face variety - meeting in the street, beach parties, community dances and going to the picture theatre.
“These days everyone is too busy watching TV,” Mr Anich said.
In fact, it was the loss of community interaction which he rated as “one of Mossman’s biggest downfalls”.
“As a child, life was so free and easy. We used to play out on the streets and walk up mountains, play cricket on the road and walk to school every day,” he recalled.
“Once we became adults, everybody knew each other. We went to parties on the beach where someone would play the guitar and someone else would play the accordion.
“Virtually every weekend the town’s different associations such as the junior farmers, churches and football club, would have a dance.”
These events were always alcohol-free until eventually clubs introduced “grog” to make money, after which nightclubs in Cairns became the weekend hotspot for young people.
“Times are always changing which is good but we just need to keep up with it. That is why I enjoyed working at the pharmacy because I was able to keep in touch with everyone,” he said.
Anich’s Mossman Pharmacy opened its doors in 1965 and remains the local pharmacy, although the business was sold in 1997. During that time, Mr Anich had witnessed three natural disasters - two floods and a cyclone.
“The 1969 flood was the worst I have seen come through town. The water broke through the Home Hardware store and locals were walking in water as high as their chests,” he said.
“These poor old ladies were stuck inside shops all sitting up on tables, we had to rescue them.”
News was not available instantly and around-the-clock as it is now, and with no internet or mobile phones, local residents were less informed about where to go or what to do during an emergency. They simply waited in hope and relied on each other to get by.
Mr Anich said he supported population growth but at a sustainable level and not at the expense of the district’s agricultural heartland.
“All of the Mossman hills should have houses just to a certain level, but no higher, so people can come to live and we can keep expanding but leave agricultural land alone,” he said.
“We have all that nice land around town, behind town and at Wonga Beach that’s going into housing developments and in time we won’t have anywhere to grow sugar cane, vegetables or cattle. That is what I would like to keep.”
Mr Anich said the Mossman Gorge Gateway project was another example of a sound concept being poorly implemented.
Instead of utilising the existing cane tramline which linked the town and gorge, visitors would be taken in and out by bus which offered “no benefit to the rest of the town”.
“It is a great idea but it is similar to when Woolworths was built, it split the town,” he said.
Another initiative Mr Anich would love to see was the establishment of a network of walking tracks for local residents and tourists. He even considered doing it as a private venture.
Mental health and maternity services must be made available to residents who should not be forced to travel out of the community to access essential health care, he said.
But despite the changes and challenges, Mr Anich believes Mossman remains a very tight-knit community.
“If there is a problem, the community is right there,” he said. “They are there to help straight away with anything.”