Weekend escapades at Moreton Bay
Saint Helena, an island across the bay from Wynnum, had been a self-sufficient penal settlement that had been closed down. Boat trips were organised from time to time and my parents took me there at least once. Memories of the stone causeway, a small tram type trolley on tracks, and the Superintendent’s building, which housed bottles of fingers and other objects in methylated spirits, remain in my mind.
The prison cells were not maintained, and the pastures had been let go along with other historic structures. Many artefacts had been taken over the years as mementos. The area had been leased out for grazing but is now a national park, with controlled access to maintain its historic importance.
My parents had a car and it was used for Sunday outings. I remember afternoons at the Wynnum wading pool and one particular time when I nearly drowned at the pool floodgate. There were trips to Cleveland, Oyster point, Victoria point and Wellington point. Dad liked fishing and I remember him getting out on the old Cleveland Jetty, which was almost at collapse stage, managing with his artificial leg, the hazards of broken deck planks.
Wellington Point was a favourite spot, where you could walk out to King Island at low tide. Several times my parents took me there, leaving in the morning, we spent midday on the Island, and returned when the tide went down in the afternoon. We carried our fishing gear and picnic basket and I took for granted that my father could manage on one leg.
Thinking of these early years I find it difficult to remember just how we spent our time. However, the area was ideal for young children and there were always playmates around. My friends lived nearby, Bill Howson lived at the back of our house, Ralf Woodforth near the golf course, and Norman Mcaulay in the next street. We all attended the same school and enjoyed playing in the bush on the vacant allotments which gave us good hiding spots and play areas where we cut down trees and built bush shelters which, of course, was a worry to our parents .
The Corner House was located at the fiveways junction of Preston Road, Wondall Road, Worthing Street and West Avenue. It seemed to be the dividing point between the developed area and the rural area behind it and it was just over one kilometre to the railway station. With these vacant allotments you could walk or cycle a direct route to the railway station by using bush tracks which cut diagonally through the allotments. Where these bush tracks had bends, it was not unusual for branches to be placed across the track to upset unsuspecting cyclists.
I can vividly remember the time my aunt Nell was staying with us. Nell was my father’s twin sister and would come to stay when things were not going well for her in Sydney. She had a very fine complexion, but suffered from acute arthritis in both hands and unfortunately, did not get along with my mother. I must have been playing up or playing in the bush against my mother’s wishes, when, all of a sudden, an apparition came out of the bushes yelling at us; I think Bill was with me. I rushed home crying out, “quick, shut the doors, shut the windows, Old Black Joe is going to get me”. I was a very subdued child for some time until I gleaned the facts that Nell had dressed in an old pair of baggy trousers and scruffy shirt and with an old hat over her blond hair, and blackened face and hands, she fitted the bill of Old Black Joe perfectly.
Schooldays set a pattern, a time-table, for our lives. I don’t remember if my father was working at the time, but we would go to my grandparents cane farm at South Isis, near Childers, every Christmas and we would stay for the full school holidays. Most times we went by train but I recall Dad driving up there at least once. The Bruce Highway had many gravel stretches in the two hundred and forty miles to the Isis; there were particularly bad stretches at Cooroy and twelve miles of corrugation between Maryborough and Childers, and everything shook no matter at what speed you were driving.
The train trip was another experience; steam trains with carriages had four to five seats facing each other and an aisle along one side for access to the carriage at each end and access also to the toilets and wash basins each end. Each alcove had a wall bracket for a bottle of water and there were wall racks, as well, for luggage. Each dividing panel usually displayed mounted photographs, such as Lake Barrine on the Tablelands or Tully Falls or islands on the Great Barrier Reef etc. We never booked a sleeping compartment as money was scarce and I found it more comfortable to sleep on a rug on the floor than trying to sleep propped up. Later, in the war years, the luggage racks were used by the troops as bunks.
Since there was no connection across the Brisbane River the train departed from Roma Street station and, once it left Brisbane, there were railway refreshment rooms at Caboolture, Nambour, Gympie, Maryborough and Goodwood. These were renowned for the Q.G.R. mugs for tea and the corned beef sandwiches and meat pies. There was always a rush for service as time was limited to the scheduled stop. The cups or mugs were thick and almost non-destructible, the sandwiches and pies would satisfy a working man. I can still hear the plaintive cry coming through the train window from the fettler gangs working on the line “papeeeeer, papeeeer” as they called out for papers or magazines as the train went by. Much later I heard this ditty to the melody of ‘Humoresque’ which brings back further memories:
“Please refrain to pull the chain while the train is at the station, While the train is moving, so can you. We encourage constipation while the train is at the station, While the train is moving, you move too.”
Most times we were met at Goodwood Junction by my grandfather in his Model T Ford tourer and driven to South Isis. Other times we would transfer to the Cordalba line and be met at Horton or Childers station.