A precious piece of Gerringong history has been returned to the area.
When Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, onboard the Southern Cross, departed from Seven Mile Beach in the early hours of January 11, 1933, on board was a small batch of philatelic mail.
Officially, 10 covers were carried, each with proving postmarks, while unofficially some of the crew and passengers also carried a few private covers, all of which were hand-annotated but not postmarked.
One of those covers, postmarked Gerringong and including the signatures of all three crew members and two passengers has been presented to the Gerringong and District Historical Society.
The legendary Smithy and his crew of co-pilot Captain PG Taylor and wireless operator John SW Stannage, were joined on the flight by the secretary of the New Plymouth and New Zealand Aero Clubs Mr SE Nielson and journalist James Percival on the trip.
As part of the society's Christmas function last Saturday, November 28, life member John Graham, a serious collector of Australian stamps, through his philatelic contacts, was able to obtain one of the covers, and presented it to the society.
The item is a cover, postmarked at Gerringong on January 10, 1933, and was carried aboard the Southern Cross by Kingsford-Smith, on the next day's flight to New Zealand.
John has been aware of the existence of these covers for many years and has so far determined the location of five of the10 official covers.
Of those five, two were postmarked at Sydney on January 9, and three were postmarked at Gerringong on January 10.
Only two of the Gerringong covers were signed by all three crew and two passengers, and it is one of these which has been donated to the Gerringong Museum.
The covers are rarely on the market.
Fortunately, one of John's philatelic contacts was asked to appraise a Sydney collection as part of a deceased estate, and finding the cover in the collection, let John know of its availability. John made sure of securing the cover, with the intention of ultimately donating it to the Gerringong Museum.
With the completion of the new museum, that time has now come.
John felt it was time for the cover to return to the town where it was postmarked almost 88 years ago, so that the museum now has an article which was actually carried on the flight.
At the time South Coast Register journalist Rob Crawford was lucky enough to speak to a number of locals who witnessed the historic flight, the first commercial flight to New Zealand, which took 14 hours and 10 minutes to make the journey.
John grew up at "Coral Dale" on Crooked River Road.
On completing high school at Kiama, he moved to Sydney to attend university.
John spent his working life firstly in Melbourne, and then in Sydney, before retiring to Queensland in 2005.
Although not being a regular attendee at GDHS meetings, John has been a member since 1983, and has been conferred with life membership of the society.
He was first recruited by then president Ken Miller because he had easy access to the Mitchell Library, and was able to satisfy many of Ken's research queries.
In 1994, following the GDHS Pioneer Families exhibition, John computerised the local pioneer register for the society.
He has also compiled numerous booklets for the society on various aspects of Gerringong history, and these are still available through the museum.
He is currently engaged in compiling a history of Gerroa.
Read more: Local History
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