A unique friendship developed during the 1950s between the local newspaper editors in Bega, New South Wales, Australia, and Littleton, Colorado. That friendship led to the first sister-city relationship between Australia and the United States. I was pleased to visit Bega for celebrations of the 50th anniversary of this special friendship, one that goes far beyond a sign at the gates of each city.
In the early 1950s an Australian man named 'Curly' Annabel, editor of the Bega District News, saw a U.S. State Department documentary, "Small Town Editor," about the role of small town newspapers in America. "Small Town Editor" was based on the Littleton Independent, and its editor Houstoun 'Hous' Waring.
The film was translated into 20 languages and screened in over 80 countries around the world to encourage an independent rural press as an alternative to government-controlled media.
Curly was so impressed by the similarities between Bega and Littleton, and the roles of their respective newspapers, that he began a correspondence with Hous. The two struck a friendship and visited each others' cities.
In 1961, building on President Eisenhower's promotion of sister-city relationships, the two editors seized the opportunity, and established the very first official U.S.-Australia sister-city relationship, between Bega and Littleton.
Since then, many delegations have traveled between Bega and Littleton, with official visits every five years, and many informal visits in between, all enthusiastically paid for by the individual citizens themselves. The vibe in this sister-city relationship was terrific, more like an extended family than anything formal -- and easily the most vibrant such relationship I've ever seen.
People from Bega and Littleton now have been involved with one another across generations, and there is no end in sight. Here's to the next 50 years.