Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tony Mikus Bio as written July 2013

The Short Story of a short Tony Mikus, by Tony Mikus
Ancient History 1940’s & 50’s
I was born of Lithuanian parents in Bamberg, Germany in the Provence of Bavaria in a Displaced Persons Camp in April 1946. I was baptised Antanas Eimutis Mikutavičius. My older brother was born in 1943 in Lithuania. My younger sister was also born in Bamberg in 1948, which was then in the American Sector of post-war Germany.
Sometime early in 1949 we went by train to Venice, Italy to immigrate to the USA. As a result of a rumour throughout the transit camp, many prospective immigrants including my parents refused transportation to America. My parents then took up the option to migrate to Australia instead. We arrived Sydney in November 1949, where I spent my first 8 weeks at the quarantine station on North Head in Sydney due to a bout of Scarlet Fever while steaming across the Indian Ocean. Early 1950 we ended up in a Migrant Camp in Greta NSW, and fairly soon after, we were relocated to the Bathurst Migrant Camp in NSW.
After my father served the then compulsory two years of Commonwealth assigned work on the Caltex Oil Refinery at Kurnell (Southern Sydney) we moved to rental accommodations in Sefton (Western Sydney) in early 1952, then soon moved to Croydon (Inner-West Sydney), then Punchbowl and finally to Bankstown (both South-Western Sydney) in 1954 where the family lived until the late 1970’s. I started primary school at Croydon (Catholic), followed by Punchbowl (Public), Bankstown (Catholic) and then Burwood (Catholic). I began High School in 1959 at this same school that went as far as The Intermediate (Burwood Christian Brothers). I matriculated from Lewisham Christian Brothers; both schools are in the Inner-West of Sydney. Reflecting the Catholic Church trend, Burwood closed its doors at the end of 2010. Lewisham now has no teaching Brothers.
Growing Up in the 50’s & 60’s
In 1956, we became naturalized Australians. I became known as Tony (legally I have stayed as Antanas) but I have always been known as Tony. Mikutavicius became Mikus by taking the first 3 letters and last 2 and chopping out the middle 7. Thus saving me a lifetime of spelling m-i-k-u-t-a-v-i-c-i-u-s, and explaining that the ‘c’ should have a little tick on the top (č) telling everyone that it should be pronounced as ‘ch’ in mi-k-u-t-a-v-i-ch-i-u-s. This is obvious to about 4 -5 million Lithuanians worldwide but not so intuitive to anyone else.
Notable achievements at school were being School Captain for the last one-and-a -half years at Burwood as well as Dux in year 3 (Intermediate), above average swimmer, a handy Rugby League player and  getting a Teacher’s College Scholarship to Sydney University after matriculation in 1963. Somewhere between the end of year 2 at Burwood and the beginning of year 4 at Lewisham I discovered girls, cigarettes, beer and SP betting (and actually in that order as I recall it). At Lewisham I was considered quite a rebel, but still rated Vice-Captain by student popular pressure and was close to the top academically.  I bombed a bit bellow expectations in the final exams as I was getting bored, but still got the scholarship. We didn’t learn anything in Year 5 other than become experts in doing previous years Leaving Certificate papers. Except in Physics, but that is another story.
I was talked into doing Arts at Sydney Uni in 1964, switched to part-time Science in 1965, and was floundering with indecision until I was accepted into ASOPA (Australian School of Pacific Administration) in 1966. A point of interest here was that I received 2 telegrams on the same day: the first at about 9:15am from the Commonwealth regarding ASOPA, the second from the Army (also the Commonwealth) at about 3:45pm being called up for Vietnam. Luckily the 6 hours difference saved me with a deferment based on the timing. I was later deferred again at the end of 1967 when we were just days from going to TPNG. I was called up again at the end of 1970. When I returned to Australia from TPNG I again avoided the formal call-up, and would rather not disclose, in writing, how that situation eventuated.
After the 2 years at ASOPA I ended up in Bugandi High School in Lae for Prac Teaching in November 1967, spent several weeks in Goroka for in-service training in January 1968, then posted to Kerowagi High. But I ended up at Mt Hagen High School for the early part of 1968, as there was no housing for me at Kerowagi. At Kerowagi in 1968 I taught my core of Science and Maths as well as everything else that Bob Cochrane threw at me. 1969 & 70 I was Maths & Science Head Teacher and Sports Master. Peter Cornelius and Wayne Rudall were with me at Mt Hagen and Wayne later showed up at Kerowagi in 1969. I had intermittent contact with Peter Cornelius and Bob Cochrane over the years. I ran into Keith Parker once or twice in the 70’s and Paul Steinmuller once also in the 70’s. Beyond that I have always had fond memories of the years at ASOPA and TPNG
The 70’s
The 70’s were a mix of studies that I didn’t really enjoy and jobs of no particular consequence once I got the hang of things. I typically start something, get to understand it and then get bored with it. In 1971 I was accepted into Dentistry at the Uni of NSW but about a week into classes I was also offered Pharmacy at Sydney Uni and switched. During 1972 and 1973 I realised I didn’t want to count pills for the rest of my life and converted my degree to Chemistry. In 1974 I was working part time at British Petroleum while completing my requirements for Industrial Chemistry.
In July/August of 1978 I went on a tour of the US and Canada as the manager of the Australian-Lithuanian Volley Ball team where I re-met my future wife in Chicago. I had known her and her family since 1953. She had been a close friend with my sister but she and her parents re-emigrated to the USA in 1964.
On return to Sydney I took a job with Fairfax Newspapers (in 1978) working on the implementation of a very early mainframe computer system and then went on to a subsidiary of Ansett Airlines involved with the integration of systems with TNT, then part of the same corporate group. The niche skill I developed rather by accident during this time was the ability to facilitate meaningful conversations between the software engineer-nerds and the system buyers (read management) and user groups. So I was a German-born Lithuanian translating the English language for Americans, Canadians and Australians.
Marriage, Family & the USA 1980-82
Towards the end of 1980, my future wife (Gen or Jen) took up my invitation to re-visit Sydney. We were married in Lidcombe (Western Sydney) on February 28th 1981. Our Daughter Jacinta was born December 22nd of the same year. Those challenged to make arithmetical calculations at this point will probably be disappointed. But who really cares?

In July 1982 we went on a trip to Chicago to visit Gen’s mum and other relatives and friends of hers to show off baby Jacinta. We originally planned a 4-week trip that was extended to 3 months, and then actually ended up being a stay of over 19 years (Yes, years). Our first son Vince was born in February 1984, followed by Viktor in June 1988. All three kids are dual citizens as Gen was a US citizen and I remained an Australian.
Jacinta took up the flute at the age of 6, and that has been her passion and career ever since. We bought her a flute the day after she stated, “I just like the sound of it” in response to me teasing her that she was trying to copy an older new friend. She mixes both performance and teaching music and is completely freelance in both spheres. She performs regularly with the Sydney Metropolitan and Penrith Orchestras, has played at the Opera House and some of her students have been high achievers with The Voice and similar venues.
Vince indicated his life’s passion even earlier, when at the age of 4 he grabbed the steering wheel of my car in the middle of Chicago. We just barely missed an oncoming brewery truck. Later he explained that he needed to feel how the steering wheel worked. Soon after we discovered him at birthday function facility giving coins to other kids to go on rides while he lay on the floor to observe the mechanisms. I taught him to drive a manual RX-7 by the age of 9. He is now a mechanic, gear-head, and a racing and rally car driver.
Our youngest Viktor is a bit like his Dad, Jack-of-all-trades, master of several, passion for none, but driven to know more about everything that interests him.
He can play a trumpet, do stage sound and lighting, co-ordinate productions, build personalised PC platforms, troubleshoot technology, particularly mobile phones and all their cousins, cook, and much more. But as yet he hasn’t translated his capabilities into an “acceptable” career path. Looks like he will have a multi-career life. Now in 2013, he has decided to pursue an earlier interest in all things Japanese. I only encourage him to finish “something” so he has an economic fall-back capability. He’s done well in Tech-support and Mobile sales but dislikes both. He sounds a bit familiar to me.
Wife 1946 – 2013 (Met in 1953, married in 1981)
My wife Gen graduated High School from Santa Sabina Catholic College in Strathfield (Western Sydney) in 1962. Her family history is very similar to mine; Lithuanian parents, born in Buxtehude, Germany in a Displaced Persons camp, emigrated on Australia in 1949. Our families got to know each other in 1953/54 while getting established in Bankstown. In 1963/64 she studied Fine Arts at East Sydney Technical College and graduated with a degree in Fashion Design at the Art Institute in Chicago. During the 1970’s she established a career in Fashion Retail in Chicago as well as picking up several Fashion Industry awards. Her main skill was to make clothes that really fit for special occasions in a true craftsman-like manner. She kept this up through to her last days making performance outfits for our daughter and some of her friends. In the early 90’s, she made a substantial contribution towards our mortgage by running a silk-screen business out of the basement. This was discontinued after she developed Breast Cancer in 1995. The cancer re-surfaced as bone cancer in her spine. Successful radiation treatment put that into remission until 2006 when it started popping up in various skeletal locations. In late 2012 it showed up in her brain leading to her death 26th March 2013 at age 67. On February 28th 2013 we had celebrated our 32nd Wedding Anniversary but had known each other for nearly 60 years.  And I miss her every day, and sometimes all day.
After we moved to the Blue Mountains in 2009, she widened her Beading hobby that she began in 2003, to also incorporate hand made jewellery using wiring techniques and opal in its base rock. During these years we made several visits to Lightning Ridge where we both found it to be very intriguing. 

Chicago & other possibilities 1982 -2001
Chicago in the early 1980’s was a tough business and job environment, so initially we tried an Australiana Import business (Sheepskin garments, Opals, stuffed Koalas and the like.) We were only moderately successful, so with grandmother looking after the 2 kids, we both started working casual at The International Academy of Merchandising and Design as Administrators. We later both went on to lecturing there as well. I started a degree in Computer Science in 1986. I figured that computers would be a never-ending challenge without becoming boring. I was wrong but it did keep me going for the better part of 20 years. I completed a 4-year degree in 2 years and 8 months while also working full time as the Evening School Manager at the Academy. I finished my degree early June 1988, Viktor was born June 30th, graduation was early July and I was contracted to Ameritech (The $60 Billion Regional Telephone Company) by the end of July 1988. I stayed with them until 1996 (8 years) being the longest I ever did the one thing.  I became a bit of a Techie wiz with expertise in integrating new and old technologies both at the hardware and software levels. For the next 5 years I became an independent consultant travelling all over the US, some Europe (UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Malta) and Saudi Arabia. We very nearly ended up in both Denmark & Malta as a family but decided that the kids continue in the very excellent school system they were in Lemont, Illinois. I was also offered a fulltime position in Saudi Arabia but declined on cultural grounds (no beer allowed). I did imbibe some scotch via Dutch friends while there, but that is another story.
We had moved from Chicago in 1990 to Lemont Illinois that is about 50 miles (85 K) southwest of Chicago. Between 1982 and late 2001 I managed to visit 40 of USA’s 50 states either through work or several of our family’s long road trips. The USA is a very grand and scenic country. Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon (for example) cannot be adequately photographed; they need to be experienced.
At the end of 1999 the family visited Sydney for 4 weeks and this trip laid the seeds for our eventual return to Australia. At this time I was working in Saudi Arabia and returning to Chicago for a month after each 3-month work stint. On each home visit I found that the economy and job (gig) opportunities were getting worse. And Gen had become medically uninsurable. The second mortgage was very painful. I finished up in Saudi mid-April 2000 and soon picked up a contract in Seattle but only making half of what I had been making in Saudi. We eventually decided in early 2001 to move back to Sydney.

Back to Oz 2001
Gen, Jacinta and Vik travelled to Sydney in August 2001. Vince & I stayed in Chicago to finalize our affairs. I was still working on a short-term contract. I was scheduled to fly to Dallas on business on the morning of September 11 and was verifying my flight details on the computer with the TV on the news in the next room when the madness in New York and Washington happened. In my opinion the US has not got over this. The people understand that the formal retaliation of invading Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t work, feel that an “appropriate” response should be made, but collectively have no consensus on what it should have been. Vince and I eventually made it to Sydney in early October 2001, but drove the Chicago to Los Angeles segment.
Naively I thought that with my experience in computers and telecommunications I would just walk into a job. Not in Australia. With savings ebbing away I re-established my Teaching qualifications, adding my degrees and ended up with a Maths Head Teachers job at Sydney Secondary College (Glebe High School) as a relief to a guy going on a sabbatical to New York. 2004 – 2007 I got a job heading up an IT department in a US/International reinsurance company through a friend in St Louis, then did some short term contracts as a Technical Project Manager in the Pharmaceutical Industry around Sydney.
By the end of 2009 we were empty nesters, Gen’s health was deteriorating, and feeling stupefied by corporate Australia, became semi-retired and moved to Hazelbrook in the Blue Mountains. Semi-retired means doing some relief teaching in the Blue Mountains and Penrith areas until early 2011 when I had to take care of Gen fulltime. Jacinta lives in Chatswood, Vince in Blacktown and Vik in Haberfield. All are single, but Vik is into a long-term relationship with a petite blonde Katee. I now live in a reclusive small house with tall trees and a garden setting in Woodford, still in the Blue Mountains.  Not hiding, just being peaceful and contemplating my navel. Often I walk the two minutes to the National Park and hike. Still doing some trend research and analysis for several friends back in the US. These days I enjoy a Port as much as I used enjoy a beer but not too much of either.

Cheers all

Tony Mikus, Mid-2013

PS Planning to go Grey-Nomad in the spring of 2014 for a long time

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