Moss­man born and bred

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

Moss­man born and bred, John Anich has been a vi­tal part of the Moss­man com­mu­nity for decades and his pas­sion for the place con­tin­ues in his re­tire­ment, as


Open­ing his first phar­macy in the mid 1960s, John Anich has played an in­te­gral part in the lives of many res­i­dents of the Dou­glas Shire for many years, and those who have met him know he is very se­ri­ous about many lo­cal is­sues.

It ap­pears how­ever, that when John was younger, he had a trick­ster side to him that be­lies the com­pas­sion­ate and re­spon­si­ble char­ac­ter many have grown to ad­mire.

Born in 1933 to Croa­t­ian im­mi­grant par­ents, Tony and Ema Anich, John spent his early days at­tend­ing school at the small Cas­sowary Pri­mary School where he and his mates played dread­ful tricks on the teacher, Miss Cooper.

“Once we hid Miss Cooper’s cane and we all ended up hav­ing to sweep the school un­til the cane was pro­duced,” John laughed, “al­though the cul­prit was never named.”

Some long­stand­ing lo­cal fam­i­lies were in­volved with the school at that time and John re­mem­bers mates from the Vico, Fasano, Grepo, Gavranich, Sci­acca, Berzin­ski, Bunn, Maugery and Rossi fam­i­lies.

“We had a cul­vert near the school and when it rained a lot, the wa­ter would flood over the road and we would all be sent home,” he said.

“So one day we or­gan­ised some sheets of iron to block the cul­vert and as soon as there was a lit­tle rain, the road started to flood, and we all got to go home early.”

Miss Cooper, a very young woman at the time, took it all in her stride, and John still keeps in con­tact with her.

As there was no high school in the area at the time, John went to the board­ing school, St Au­gus­tine’s, in Cairns where John’s pen­chant for tricks con­tin­ued.

“I used to sneak out at night, climb the mango trees out the front of the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice, gather up the man­goes into a bucket, and lower it down to a fel­low stu­dent.

“There was a row of these trees and as I chose to climb the one clos­est to the pin­ci­pal’s of­fice, it was the only one he never checked when he heard noises and saw all the man­goes in our room.

“It wasn’t un­til he was leav­ing Cairns that we told him how we got the man­goes and he was amused by it.”

John en­joyed board­ing school be­cause he “didn’t have to get up early to do farm work and then walk three miles to school”.

He very suc­cess­fully com­pleted his Se­nior Cer­tifi­cate and be­came ap­pren­ticed to a chemist in Cairns, as was the train­ing process in those days.

“I worked there for 12 months and never got paid,” he said, “and I didn’t learn much as I was sent out on de­liv­er­ies all the time – I was even sent to the lo­cal brothel!”

By 1954, John was called up for Na­tional Ser­vice which then com­prised sev­eral months’ train­ing. At his in­ter­view in Bris­bane, he was not ac­cepted due to a foot prob­lem.

“I didn’t want to re­turn to the chemist in Cairns so I got a job with Shell Co test­ing avi­a­tion fuel.”

Af­ter two years in Bris­bane, John re­turned to Moss­man. He and his brother Tony bought a farm at Fin­lay­vale where they cleared more land, pro­vid­ing 170 hectares for cane.

“I learned how to clear land with dy­na­mite and peo­ple would come to watch to show,” John laughed.

Life in Moss­man was very dif­fer­ent then, with dances held at least weekly, a cin­ema and lots of sports clubs and the­atri­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties. John per­formed in sev­eral, singing in Bri­gadoon and West Side Story. John loves danc­ing so it wasn’t long be­fore he was part­ner­ing An­nette Power to the Catholic Debu­tante Ball.

“An­nette was teach­ing at the new Moss­man High School and she tells me the fact I wasn’t a big drinker ap­pealed to her – plus I liked to dance,” he said.

By the late ’50s, the Univer­sity of Queens­land started a Phar­macy course and, af­ter mar­ry­ing An­nette in 1961, John com­pleted the course and they re­turned to Moss­man.

In March 1965 John and An­nette opened their chemist shop in Moss­man which turned out to be a re­sound­ing suc­cess.

John was keen to pro­vide ex­cel­lent ser­vice to the com­mu­nity and made him­self avail­able to dis­pense medicine 24 hours a day.

“Peo­ple would call me af­ter hours and I al­ways put my­self in their shoes and re­sponded to their re­quest,” he said, “even when a woman rang me one Satur­day af­ter­noon af­ter the shop was closed say­ing she had the wrong colour lip­stick and she had to at­tend a wed­ding!”

John and An­nette jug­gled run­ning a shop, pro­vid­ing pre­scrip­tion ser­vices to Port Dou­glas and af­ter hour ser­vices while rais­ing five chil­dren – Peter, Michael, Stephen, Marie Louise and Ge­of­frey.

A bout of a se­ri­ous ill­ness, Guil­lian-Barre Syn­drome, put John out of ac­tion for many months in the late ’80s and when he re­turned to full-time work 12 months later, he would of­ten be found serv­ing in the shop mi­nus his shoes and in just socks as he had painful tin­gling in his feet, a con­di­tion which still af­fects him to­day.

John was de­voted to his cus­tomers and his com­mu­nity. He has been a long term mem­ber of the Moss­man Ro­tary Club and has been in­volved in many fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for var­i­ous clubs and as­so­ci­a­tions around the town.

“It is a shame that many young peo­ple left the area when the fu­ture of the sugar mill was un­der a cloud,” he said, “and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Ro­tary are still suf­fer­ing from lack of mem­bers.”

John bought his brother’s half of the farm and still owns it, leas­ing it out to ten­ants. John and but sold the shop in 1997 how­ever John con­tin­ued work­ing there un­til his ul­ti­mate re­tire­ment in 2010.

He loves spend­ing time main­tain­ing the farm and en­joys the chance to im­prove the land and the river.

“I seem to be busy all the time with the farm, Ro­tary, mak­ing jams and talk­ing to peo­ple when I go to col­lect the mail,” he said. “One thing I would love to see come to fruition is the Moss­man Botanic Gar­dens,” he said, be­ing in­volved in the com­mit­tee.

“Moss­man is a nice place to live and a great place to re­tire.”

John’s de­vo­tion to the com­mu­nity was recog­nised in 1995 when he was named the Dou­glas Shire Cit­i­zen of the Year and the Medal of the Or­der of Aus­tralia (OAM) in 2003.

John Anich with an­other batch of his renowned jam. Inset above: John and An­nette on their 25th wed­ding an­niver­sary in 1986. Above right: Cas­sowary school in 1944

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