The hills of Araluen were alive with the sound of Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road yesterday as Peter Crossing gave the pub jukebox one last solid workout before he and his wonderful wife Deborah set off from Canberra to Adelaide. The Crossings moved here 14 years ago, initially planning to stay for just a few years before returning to South Australia. Things turned out rather differently, and in the time the Crossings were in Canberra they made many new friends, people who will cherish memories of this charming, champion couple for the rest of their lives. Peter taught chemistry at Radford College, continued his fervent love affair with cricket, presented jazz and blues from “Down in the Basement” on ArtSound with an undeniable passion, wrote brilliantly pithy letters to the Canberra Times and became an committed contributor to the work of the Australian Society for Sports History. Beyond her own day job, Deb was a dedicated Les Mills disciple as a Body Balance instructor and took on a leading role with the Australian Republican Movement. They both deeply enriched and enhanced the lives of Canberrans.
Perhaps one of the nicest things about the Crossings was the way in which they took an active and quite genuine interest in the interests of others. In my case, I was touched that when they travelled anywhere - whether it be to Vietnam, the United States or just visits back to Adelaide - they took the time and trouble to find old typewriters and photograph them for me. These notably included Ngo Ba Thanh's battered Voss portable at the Hanoi Women's Museum and the Sholes & Glidden at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
The very least I could do, as a way of saying thanks, was to present both the Crossings with 60th birthday typewriters, painted in “club” colours and suitably decorated. In Peter’s case, the paper plate had the lyrics of Copperhead Road, Peter’s favourite song. But the crowning glory was their determination that I should celebrate my 2014 QWERTY Award among friends at the Crossing home in Curtin. I was unable to get to Morgantown, West Virginia, where the actual presentation took place at Herman Price’s Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum, but the Crossings ensured the achievement was properly recognised the next best way. They put on a night to be remembered.
I first met Peter soon after he arrived here. Back then my “One Hits Wonders” series was still running in the Panorama section of the Canberra Times and some Saturdays I included a quiz (with CDs as prizes). One poser I thought my legion of readers would find especially difficult to answer was: “Which single artist won a record six consecutive Record of the Year Granny Awards as a session musician for such diverse songs and acts as A Taste of Honey (Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, 1966), Strangers in the Night (Frank Sinatra, 1967), Up, Up and Away and Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The 5th Dimension, 1968 and 1970) and Mrs Robinson and Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel, 1969 and 1971)?” To my utter astonishment, I received a correct answer (Hal Blaine) within hours of the newspaper being published – from one Peter Crossing. “I have to get to know this guy,” I said to myself. And I did get to know him. Much to my lasting delight and benefit. Positive feedback and encouragement provide the lifeblood for columnists, and over the ensuing years Peter and Deborah selflessly supplied those things in spades.
House sold, furniture moved, and many memorable farewells held, the Crossings left Canberra today. They will be very sorely missed.