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the Artillery School. Mick had earned his commission the hard way, working his way up from the ranks. He had joined the Friends of North Head, representing the Army, and had proven to be a genuine conservationist. We talked for a few minutes with Mick and his wife, June. They understood the strain we were under.

Mick showed us the way upstairs to the ballroom. There we were confronted with the entire conservative establishment of Manly, arrayed in all their finery.

The master of ceremonies was Alderman Frank Preacher, a frail, bald little man, who looked like some kind of nervous bird in black and white plumage. He took us across the floor to join the official party, which was grouped around Her Worship the Mayor. Joan Thorburn was at her imperious best. She was wearing an elaborate gown which would have done for the Queen Mother. By her side, in a carefully tailored dinner suit and shining elevator shoes, was the Tooth Fairy.

At 9 o'clock the guests of honour, Sir James and Lady Hardy (of yachting fame and winemaking wealth) were escorted into the room to receive the debutantes.

Leading the way was a diminutive flower girl -- one of the Meers children. Thorburn turned to me to extol the beauty of this child. I agreed with her:

"They are delightful when they are at that stage. Did you know that my daughter Lucy is the same age?"

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