Backward Glance – It’s Christmas time again
  • Thursday 19 December 2019

It’s Christmas time once again and with this comes excitement, joy and stress. The shops are crowded, roads are busy and children are excited.

Many early pioneers had long memories of Christmas in England and revelled in the idea of being able to have a picnic Christmas Day lunch on the bank of the river or on a shady spot on the beach front. 

The Nambour Chronicle in 1937 reported on Christmas Eve, “a steady stream of traffic arrived all day and throughout the night.”

Point Cartwright was as popular as ever for Christmas picnic parties with the ferries being busy all day, plying people from Mooloolaba and all the surrounding resorts.

In the camp grounds, many delightful family Christmas parties were held with campers decorating their canvas homes with palms and Christmas bells, which were found in abundance along the river, and many campers sported the traditional Christmas tree.

In 1910 it was not an easy journey for Christmas holiday makers from Nambour to the Salvation Army camping ground at Cotton Tree. A cane train ran daily from the sugar mill to Petrie Creek, where a flotilla of motor boats were ready to convey the passengers and luggage down to Maroochydore. But alas! The rain played havoc with this arrangement in 1910 – a bridge had been washed away and the train could not run, the boats went adrift and in others the engines went on strike. 

Alternative plans had to be enacted with waggonettes and buggies taking the place of the train and strange boats being pressed into services so the route was kept open.

The Salvation Army established this idyllic area at Cotton Tree as a well-known resort location and the first reported camp site was in 1896, when more than 200 people stayed on the reserve. In 1910, despite the wet Christmas it is expected that 2000 men, women and children were under canvas.

Amongst the campers was a troop of Boy Scouts who were camped about 100 yards from the banks of the river. It was raining hard and when they retired early to digest their Christmas dinner, the downpour became heavier and heavier but they slept through it like cherubs.

Sometime in the small hours of the morning, their leader, Mr Bignold awoke to find there was three inches of water running through his bed and promptly began to investigate. He found his charges blissfully asleep probably dreaming of a country where cake and soft drinks were free and lessons abolished. He gave the scout alarm and some 35 or 36 sleepy lads awoke in wonderment to find the water running over them.

Using a hurricane lamp, Mr Bignold struck out in the torrential rain for better shelter and in Indian file the boys splashed after him to reach Mr T O’Connor’s residence where they were welcomed with a fire and a meal of sausages.

Celebrations took a different turn at Coolum during Christmas week in 1929. There was a week of dances and concerts. One of the most successful concerts was organised by Mrs P Pinkerton and it was reported that it was one of the most enjoyable ever held in Coolum. Warren’s Dance Hall was packed to capacity and many people were unable to gain admission. The feature of the diverse program was a mannequin parade in which seventeen youths dressed in feminine finery, rouge and powder to win the attention of the judges to win the prize for their artistic beauty.

The rules provided that the resemblance could be of a woman up to 80 years of age but it was notable that each candidate preferred to appear no more than the age of 21. Mr E Gambling was judged the most attractive for his artistic impression of a tennis girl. 

Other entertainment included mouthorgan and whistling competitions which were highly appreciated by the audience. Miss D Monkland of Coolum was the most proficient in the mouthorgan while a visitor from Brisbane whistled to the greatest approval of the judges.

Those who were unfortunate to be in the Nambour Hospital at Christmas time in 1950, were entertained by carols and a visit by Father Christmas who made his joyous entry with gifts for the children. The obstetric ward was attractively decorated by the fashioning of a stork and a baby in a cradle. Carol singing and the exchange of Season’s Greetings added to the happiness of the occasion.

Now to the most important decisions of Christmas – what to wear and what to cook.

In 1938 an article in the Nambour Chronicle counselled that Christmas is a gay season and it deserves gay clothes. The problem for many women was that they have to be in the kitchen until a few minutes before guests arrive and from time to time during the celebration progress.

The problem was simplified that year by a new garment which has been growing in popularity – the housecoat! You could pay a few shillings for one in any colour, material or any pattern. They enable the busy maidless woman to greet her guests confident that she looks as neat and smart as they do even though she had been slaving in the kitchen all that time. You can dress early, put it on and completely cover your frock, then go ahead and inspect the sizzling turkey without fear that your expensive satin frock will be splashed.

The Nambour Chronicle in December 1938 wrote “one of the advantages of catering for the family for Christmas is that one does know what to have for dinner – no need to brood on the matter as it was almost bound to be turkey, goose or sirloin of beef”. The article went on to give hints on how the goose is to be stuffed with sage and onion forcemeat, with the liver and giblets put aside to make a potted meat or paste.

The article continued, advising that the gravy is one of the important features of a Christmas dinner and is improved when you stew a little of the liver and mash it and using it for thickening. Furthermore the bread sauce needs to be intelligently made.

Wherever you may be or whatever you are doing on Christmas, stay safe, be happy and don your housecoat. Merry Christmas.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the photos.