In this piece, which Daily Post will publish in a series over the next few weekend issues of the paper, well known personality Allan Palmer, sits down with 96 Buzz FM’s Kizzy Kalsakau and recounts some historical times in the life of this nation he was privileged to be part of.
Toyota takes over as Asco Motors raves up engine
Kizzy Kalsakau (KK): Allan Palmer, you were born in Vanuatu, living in Vanuatu, Vanuatu is your home?
AP: Yes, definitely, definitely, my home.
KK: Give us a bit of a history about yourself. The name Allan Palmer is familiar to everyone in Vanuatu before and after Independence in Vanuatu because the name reminds us of Asco Motors. But before Asco Motors we used to have another name?
AP: Yes, I worked for the company 24 years. Prior to Independence the company I worked for was used to be called New Hebrides Motors. Then from Independence onward it was called Vanuatu Motors and later on because the group amalgamated with Fiji, it became what it is today, Asco Motors. So, New Hebrides Motors, Vanuatu Motors and then Asco Motors.
KK: It was one of the main vehicle dealers in the New Hebrides.
AP: Before us there were other cars, there was the famous Land Rover, there was Peugeot, there was Nissan, but in the mid-Seventies onward it (Toytota) became the number one vehicle in New Hebrides and then Vanuatu.
Yumi Go Raon Long Toyota by Makura Tokolau
KK: That’s why they composed a special song because you were the agent of Toyota?
AP: That song we sent it around the world by Makura Tokolau Stringband I think, it became very famous with that song, ‘Yumi Go Round Long Toyota’. I sent it to Japan and then it went to many places in the world, that song.
KK: Why did you sent it to other countries?
AP: Because it Toyota was proud about a song about Toyota yumi go round. Hahaha. Although I was a sales, I was also Marketing and Sales Manager. I wore three hats and I even did stamp on them and a land Toyota Land Cruiser and the stamp was sold by thousands. Vanuatu created the stamps and collection is around the world.
KK: Now, the first time you heard that song by Makura Tokolau. What was your feeling , was it something that made you proud as the representative of Toyota in Vanuatu?
AP: It was not planned with us, but the first ever string band competition was won by Makura Tokolau with Yumi go raon long Toyota. Yes, working for Toyota at that time I was proud.
KK: When we talk about Toyota, the company has been assisting Vanuatu and the government of Vanuatu from the start with fleets of vehicles, why was that? Was it because you were the only company that were selling cars in Vanuatu?
AP: It was due to our sales and marketing force Kizzy, but Toyota was managed by Burns Philp at the time and Burns Philp was known throughout the Pacific as a Engly empire – very powerful. When independence came other countries came, Australia came and when the Vanuatu Mobile Force needed to replenish its vehicles, we were called on. One day we imported 98 vehicles just after independence. But what happened with the celebration from the first day onward my managers and directors all agreed that we would supply vehicles to the government to be used during the celebration which was very successful, and afterward we would sell it exempt of duty. And it worked very well.
The smiles – keep them that way
KK: What were the sorts of changes over those time that have impressed you the most?
AP: Everywhere around the world people change. But I would like to see the mentality of manples - the people of Vanuatu, to retain their hospitality and their lovely smile. I can never forget that. It’s so nice to be able to walk the streets and to be able to say hello to everybody. I’m so proud that visitors around the island and they tell me: ‘Do you know these people, they are waving at you.’ It is just their custom and that is what they do here. So, that is lovely, something I hope it will not end, being able to say good morning, hello, waving at people in cars going around Efate, that’s lovely.
KK: That’s something that touches me too, you know, visitors see that and I bring the story back to their countries and tell others about and it’s really good.
AP: So much so, because in other countries, you cannot go into a train and smile at somebody, they’ll think you’re crazy, you know. You cannot even say good morning to a little boy or little girl or they’ll think something’s wrong with us. I say that because I had the experience in Europe. I went with a few old people, we were together and one Italian person was smiling to a little girl and the person beside me, a friend, and he was a captain of the army, said ‘don’t do that to that girl, they’ll think….’ The world’s crazy, you can’t even smile to anybody these days. Here it’s something common. It’s wonderful.
To be continued in the next weekend issue…