The man who scammed Lismore - and got away with it

THE town was abuzz with anticipation as its officials, business owners and residents scrambled to prepare for the arrival of 300 American soldiers and nurses.

Lismore was to be their place of leave. A rest centre for the American forces from the fighting areas. They were due to arrive on Wednesday morning, August 18, 1943.

There were six people in the small office off Molesworth Street that had been hurriedly assigned as a temporary headquarters for the overseas visitors.

They included the "organiser" and a Northern Star reporter who had been asked to attend.

The organiser was a small American man, full of himself and puffed up with his own importance.

He spoke with the air and tone of authority and everybody deferred to him. The women hung on his words - words which assured them that overnight Lismore would be transformed into a leave area for well-dressed American soldiers.

True to his craft, the reporter was after a "good yarn" and piping hot news was about to break in this plain, unpretentious office, with its businesslike typewriter flanked by a pile of paper and envelopes.

He had many questions to ask.

The news was too good to miss and by hook or by crook he must get the facts. But it was no easy matter in an atmosphere of breathless excitement.

The organiser announced the American visitors were coming "right away" without delay.

The reporter rapped out question after question only to find that he was speaking to thin air - no one was paying any attention to him.

The Lismore Girls' Patriotic League put together a welcome dance under the heading Sensational Dance Announcement.

Lismore hotel owners had quickly convened a meeting. Money was shovelled out for new bedding and appliances to meet the sudden demand on accommodation.

One hotel provided for 120 breakfasts, including 40lbs sausages, 20lbs of butter and 35 loaves of bread.

The "organiser" had an answer for everything and no one doubted the man for a moment.

While he did not speak in the accents of Harvard or West Point, he nevertheless capably unfolded a scheme which on the face of it looked genuine and feasible enough.

But Wednesday morning arrived and the soldiers didn't.

The "organiser" had fled in the early hours of the morning and Lismore was left red faced to pick up the bill.

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