The Gemini Coffee Lounge

by John Lambie



Trevor Housley standing by the counter and coffee machine of Carnarvon’s Gemini Coffee Lounge.

Photo via Trevor Housley.


Pete Petersen from St. Paul, Minnesota was a Univac Engineer on-site to support the 1218 processor. He had come to Carnarvon directly from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where I believe the U.S. Military had established an ICBM base. He was enjoying a tax free status (and hoping to maintain that) and was lying low, hoping the Australian Government were not aware of his presence in CRO.

Pete was your stereotypical Yank, with a strong nasal twang, and smoked a pipe and / or cigars (Old Dutch Masters). He was tall and sporty and got involved in the town basketball scene.

A likeable guy and, very soon after arriving in CRO, established a popular coffee spot near the Univac 1218 – with an electric coffee percolator, tins of Maxwell House ground coffee that was imported – and a toaster for crumpets (which were heavily coated with real maple syrup).

Pete was generous and invited anyone to join and partake. It became a very popular spot. For those of us still used to drinking coffee made from coffee and chicory syrup from a Robur bottle, the aroma and taste of real brewed coffee was intoxicating.

After the installation work was completed, there was a lull for months before the first mission was supported. With coffee and time for a natter, one subject discussed was the social infrastructure that Carnarvon lacked; a night club or lounge was discussed. The ideas were bandied about for some time and before long a partnership of Pete Petersen, John Nugent, Trevor Housley, and me was formed. We each contributed one thousand Pounds, and then searched for suitable premises to establish the Gemini Coffee Lounge.

A compromise location was located above Fitz’s deli in Robinson Street.

Pete’s vision was a classy place, and my brother Millar Lambie, a carpenter/builder came to Carnarvon to fit out the upstairs premises and create the vision. Millar did a superb job and the finished Gemini Coffee was a magic place.



Plans for the coffee shop!

Photo: Trevor Housley.


A parquetry dance floor was laid, a raised area with low tables and cushions constructed, a general cafe area, kitchen and counter constructed.


No power tools.

Photo: Trevor Housley.


Hand tools.

Photo: Trevor Housley.


Constructing the kitchen area. Millar (back view and shirtless), Trevor (fixing top board)
Me looking at camera, John Nugent.

Photo: Trevor Housley.


Pete Petersen, John Nugent, Millar Lambie (builder and foreman), Me (leaning over and unpacking of the coffee machine. Trevor Housley (on the floor in front of the machine).

Photo: Trevor Housley.


Lyn Nugent and my girlfriend Karin sewed up curtain drapes and cushions.

John Nugent and I went Perth and visited “Hotel and Cafe Supplies” and purchased a two handle La Cimbali espresso coffee machine (the first north of the 26th parallel, so we were told), classy up-market crockery and cutlery. We also established an account with “Sara and Cook” for coffee, sugar, and other supplies.

Pete donated his Sony reel to reel tape player and a large selection of fabulous music tapes.

Some great dance parties were held there. (Great mood music and lighting).

The new Coffee Lounge was very popular with the town’s people.

Soon a couple of problems emerged. One concerned the milk supply which came frozen and homogenised in pyramid shaped tetra packs. It would not froth up very well.

The other concerned the amount of garbage created. The town council offered no bin service, and being on the first floor it meant taking the garbage out by the same entrance as the patrons.

Pete came up with a solution and made a chute by spiralling some leftover carpet and duct tape. I got a linesman friend to oxy-cut a 44 gallon drum in half and weld on some handles. It worked well but soon Henry Clafton, the ANZ bank manager, who lived above the bank next door, complained about the noise, so we padded the bin. We established a roster to take turns to collect the bin at midnight and take it to the town tip, near Violet Creek (quite a pretty snogging spot when the tide was in). Pete had a small MGA sportscar and it could not accommodate the bin, so I did a double shift.

As far as employment, everyone wanted to work at the Gemini, as it was a fun place. At the end of the financial year I did the tax stamps, and remember issuing 50 certificates. Almost every schoolteacher, nurse, and back-packers did some waiting at the coffee lounge.

As the missions became frequent, and we all got very busy, it interfered with our duty rosters so we then employed a manager, Mrs Olive Dick.
We continued trading for a further 12 months, until Pete negotiated with Wilson Tuckey to buy the coffee machine and the furniture.


Trevor at a table enjoying a cuppa.

Photo: Trevor Housley.


So ended the coffee lounge era, and a very good introduction to business and how you need to have a thorough business plan. Not much of our original investment came back, but it was worth it for the experience and the fun had.

Pete Petersen became engaged to Beatrix (Bea) Hardman, Lewis Wainwright’s secretary. There was a Carnarvon society wedding at the Buffs Hall. I provided my MG Magnette as the wedding car, and I think Hamish Lindsay was the official photographer.


The Petersens’ wedding in Carnarvon.

Photo: Hamish Lindsay.

Soon after Mr and Mrs Petersen departed Carnarvon for the States.


L to R: Beatrix Petersen (nee Hardman), Lyn Nugent, Pete Petersen. John Nugent (back of head). Taken at the Lambies’ new home in Karrinyup, circa 1967.

Photo: John Lambie.