George Lawrence and Jack Tallon

Jack reflects on the expansion of electrification, problems of power for television, accessibility advances, apprenticeships and mobile communication systems for employees in 1951

George Lawrence and Jack Tallon

Interview with: George Lawrence and Jack Tallon

Date of Interview: 12 August 1999

Interviewer: Dianne Warner

Transcriber: Amanda Neideck

Jack reflects on his apprenticeship an his employment with City Electric Light Company. George also talks about his initial role in City Electric Light Company. Topics covered include the expansion of electrification, problems of power for television, accessibility advances, apprenticeships and mobile communication systems for employees in 1951.

Image: Southern Electric Authority of Queensland showrooms, Currie Street, Nambour, 1962.


George Lawrence and Jack Tallon oral history - part one [MP3 59MB]

George Lawrence and Jack Tallon oral history - part two [MP3 43MB]



DW This afternoon we’ll be interviewing Jack Tallon and George Lawrence who were early members of the City Electric Light Company in Nambour, and it’s the 12th of August 1999. This is Di Warner and we will endeavour to trace the history of the early days of electricity coming to the Sunshine Coast. George would you just like to give me a brief overview about yourself?

Background: George Lawrence

GL I was born in October 1929 in a little place called Winton, home of QANTAS. My father had a motoring business there and we finally moved to Brisbane and I’d gone to school in Brisbane, and I started an apprenticeship with the City Electric Light in February 1948. In 1953 I came up to Nambour because I’d been doing some work in Brisbane, a particular type of work that hadn’t been done at all in the country. I came up here and sort of acted as somebody with a bit of experience on the building of what was first being done, introducing a new high voltage system into the Sunshine Coast.

DW That was the City Electric Light Company?

GL No. By then we’d become S.E.A.Q by then, we’d become the Southern Electric Authority by then, which was really only a name change. It had something to do with..., it was beyond us in worrying about it, and it was something to do with Sales Tax.

DW I see, and the other gentleman in the room Jack Tallon, would you like to give me a little bit of information about yourself Jack.

Background: Jack Tallon

JT Well I was born on the 6th of November, 1924 in Brisbane. My parents were, well my Dad was a railway man and in 1926 he was transferred to Yandina, just north of Nambour. And I went to school in Yandina and high school in Nambour and I started work with a firm in Nambour- William Whalley Pty Ltd.

DW That’s W.h.a.l.l.e.y

JT That is correct. They were universal providers, actually they were, if you couldn’t get anything at Whalley’s it wasn’t available. They had a branch store in fact in Mapleton and they also of course had this electrical department. And I was indentured as an apprentice, and I was with them for about two years and my indentures were transferred to the Moreton Central Sugar Mill, where I completed a five year apprenticeship.

DW In Nambour?

JT in Nambour

DW Yes. How old were you when you went to Whalley’s to work?

JT That would have been in the early 1940s so I would have been sixteen.

DW And you went to Nambour High school or Nambour rural school?

JT I went to actually the Nambour High School, the Nambour High School had only been in existence two years when I went first went to that school.

DW How many pupils would have been there then?

JT Well there probably would have been I suppose a couple of hundred

DW From all over the place

JT Keeping in mind that that virtually covered an area from almost down to Caboolture, north to Cooroy, Pomona, Cooran. Most of those children would have travelled to school, come to school by rail and some of them would have boarded in Nambour at various places. But Nambour in those times was virtually the only high school on the Coast.

Jack: Reflections on apprenticeship

DW Things have certainly changed since then. So what we want to do this afternoon is go onto when you were both started working and your memories of what took place what sort of equipment you used, and any of the things that might have happened at that time that you think people may like to hear. So I’m just going to leave it to you this afternoon, I don’t know too much about electricity, but let’s take it from there. So you’re early memories as an apprentice, was it hard? How many hours a week would you have to work?

JT As I remember at that time we worked a 44 hour week, which included Saturday morning, eight hour days and then over a period of time that was of course reduced to forty hours, with no Saturday week, We thought things were pretty good when that type of activity was available. It gave us more time of course, social time to tend such things as well speaking personally I was always involved in sport. I particularly was involved in the Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club. And that gave me a full weekend time to avail myself down there.

DW And you travelled down there for weekends and things like that?

JT That’s right. At that particular time accommodation was available at the Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club House. There were a lot of people from the area and indeed from Brisbane who travelled up there and arrived there at the club house on a Friday night. Then probably would leave Sunday afternoon.

DW Yes. Your early days, when you were in the Moreton Sugar Mill, when did you actually go to the City Electric Light Company?

Initial employment with City Electric Light Company

JT Well, I was at the mill for approximately three years, the sugar mill was seasonal work. Trades people were employed for the full year but the cane season would have run from about July through to Christmas. And then as I was saying I completed my apprenticeship there. An opportunity presented itself to join the City Electric Light Company. I was offered a job in fact by Mr Alec Forman who was the foreman in the area. Alec in fact commenced the Nambour Depot or he was appointed as foreman when the depot was opened. He in fact moved from Strathpine were he’d done similar trail-blazing work, if I can put it that way. And quite a number of the fellows who were in the depot were in fact people that were transferred from Strathpine.

DW So you at that stage started with the City Electric Light Company, how much of the area would have been electrified?

JT Well actually when the area was, when supply came to the Coast in fact they had a high voltage feeder, built from Brisbane in fact it went through to Gympie, naturally it passed through Nambour.

DW So up the Bruce Highway sort of thing was it?

JT Well roughly not very far from the railway or the Bruce Highway that would be the rough idea. The line as I recall it came from, through Maleny, Kilcoy, Woodford, through Maleny down into Nambour and then up through the Coastal Railway Towns, Eumundi, Cooroy, and ultimately to Gympie.

DW So you as a young man, who would of done the planning to start to electrify the area?

Expansion of electrification: Early Caloundra

JT Well I guess that City Electric Light Company was a private enterprise I suppose you could put it that way. And they had a franchise to supply electricity to a given area and naturally their idea was to expand the lines with the view to getting as many consumers as possible, because after all consumers was money. Pounds, shillings, and pence in those days. And naturally they went through the more populated areas. Some of the areas these days of course are quite dense, then it was much sparser as far as the number of people was concerned.

DW Of course those days the beach areas wouldn’t have had electricity.

JT Well in the main that would be right, but I can recall for instance Maroochydore there was a chap named Evans, Nuggett Evans. He was an old identity in the area and he used to run picture theatres and things like that, but he also supplied power on a limited basis to a few of the houses in the locality.

DW How did he do that?

JT Well he had oh I don’t know the mechanics of it all but he had his own little power station, probably diesel operated generator it might only be available from say 6pm, evening hours, early evening hours. You’d be very restricted with what you could use, you couldn’t for instance have a fully electrified home or anything like that.

DW No-one I guess in those times, most people would have had fuel stove in those early days.

JT That’s right it was mainly lighting and refrigeration.

DW For a while there a lot of people had ice chests?

JT Exactly right, and in Mooloolaba there was a chap named Webb he operated a similar little activity over there. And of course Nambour had a powerhouse which was owned by the Maroochy Shire Council. And I recall there was a guy there named Fitzgerald, Darcy Fitzgerald. Darcy was the council electrician working the powerhouse and of course when the City Electric Light Company took over they ran the power house in Nambour for a limited time until the power was available in Nambour, and in articulation from place and of course Darcy continued and worked for many years with the City Electric Light Company.

Maleny first powered Caloundra region site

DW Places like Maleny, you were saying about how the line came through there. So that would have been one of the first places in Caloundra City region to perhaps get power?

JT That would be correct. As you could understand as the line developed it got to Maleny well there was no reason then for instance why they couldn’t bring the supply was available in Maleny, the line would continue on and then they would pick up for arguments sake Nambour and so then it went through out the back of Cooroy, Black Mountain.

DW Yes

JT And then all of these places on the main line which I said before was thirty three thousand volts. These sub stations were built in the various places and there was a transformer installed at the various subs and that would break the voltage down from thirty three thousand to eleven thousand. And then the re-ticulation of the various areas was at eleven thousand with the transformers connected was broken down to two hundred and forty volts per house some of them were four fifteen and two forty volts. And that was the low voltage supplied to the various houses.

DW So we’ll go back earlier then that when this line would have been established. What sort of person would have actually set that up? So what sort of person would have been available to set that up? That would have been hard going in those early days to cut through the bush and start those power lines and

JT Yes that would be so they would have had. Most of the work at that time was, it had a very heavy manual content, all the holes for instance for the poles etc were sunk by hand. The clearing through were timber had to be removed, to clearance for the lines that would of all been done mainly on contract But it would of all been hand like axe work and chainsaws was the in the early days. But there was a lot of hard work.

DW And how would they of got the poles in there? Would they of cut the trees as they went? Or would they of... How would those poles of been…

Supply of power poles

JT Well the poles were also supplied by contract, Iron Bark was a preferred species of timber for poles. And I would suggest that even today there’s still poles erected and in good condition, that have been there for the whole life of the…

DW So how many years would that be?

JT Well it would be something like 1940-1950, 60 years

DW So the Ironbark was one of the ones that was the better timber?

GL Absolutely always recognised as the preferred species with regards to the timber these days of course they have treated poles and they use timbers that would have been frowned upon in…

DW Perhaps through lack of timber these days?

JT I’m sure that’s a major contributing factor in the way things have gone.

DW So you as a young man you were working at that stage did you start with City Electric George or did you come in as S.E.A.Q?

GL No. I was there in City Electric Light days.

DW Ok. So we’re going to talk to George now and was Jack your boss or was he just a little bit older then you when you came in. If you can explain how you first started.

George’s initial role in City Electric Light Company

GL I was asked to come up here from Brisbane to do something that was sort of a different job from what Jack had been doing. And he was the leading hand and I came up as a young trade’s man.

DW And what did you have to do that was different?

GL Well virtually it started off spending many nights helping the builder understand what he had to do from the power authority point of view with regard to erection and installation of earthing in concrete foundations. The erection of steelwork or mounting stretch gear which later I put in the main sub in Nambour. The whole project was to upgrade the entire North Coast system from the thirty-three kV system that Jack’s been talking about to a new hundred and ten thousand-volt system. Which was fairly new, there was one that went to Toowoomba, there was one that went to the Gold Coast and I had worked on that one before I came up to Nambour. The Nambour line from Brisbane had a hundred at ten thousand volts was the third one in existence at that time. And it controlled much, much bigger sub stations, enormous transformers physically and then of course the voltage had to be stepped down from the hundred and ten thousand back to the thirty three thousand that Jack just spoke about. It was then run in different directions and at that stage once that sub was commissioned in Nambour about 1954 at the end of 1954. There were two lines going north one went though Cooroy one went through Kenilworth and they met in Gympie. And there was also the line back through Maleny to Brisbane and back through Glenview, which incidentally teed off a 11 thousand volt line which went into Caloundra and Caloundra had one and only little 11 thousand volt line that went in there and fed all the transporters it just shows how tiny it was and dirt road every where and that sort of thing. Even when I came here in 1953 it was like that and we used to go Caloundra from Nambour for the day.

DW You as workers?

GL Yes. Once the sub station business was finished, which lasted I think I was up here and I lived up here in a hotel for 13 months.

DW Where did you live?

GL The Commercial Hotel in Nambour.

DW And they put you up as far as work

GL I lived there at the power authority’s expense for thirteen months. And I incidentally got involved with a schoolteacher at the same time. But that’s another story.

DW That’s Fran Morris who George is married to now.

GL And that’s another story.

DW And Fran’s maiden name was

GL Venice

DW And she was the school teacher at Nambour

GL She was the high school teacher at Nambour teaching homecraft in those days. And anyhow it went on from there and I sort of went back to doing the ordinary work that everyone else did in Nambour.

DW Which was what?

GL Well not what everyone did. Because it broke up into sort of sub-station work and voltage complaint work.

DW Voltage complaint what does that mean?

GL People ringing up and saying there lights were flickering or their power was bad.

DW And was it bad in those days?

Television presents power problems

GL Oh it wasn’t noticeably bad until television came out was it Jack?

JT It made a difference too, more sophisticated equipment demanded a more even voltage supply

GL The thing was in a country area they could run a line into a farming area and put a transformer and run ordinary 240 volt wire out to all these farms. And once television came in and things that were sensitive to power fluctuation most of those transformers had to be replaced by three to try and give a decent lot of voltage to those people. I did endless research with voltage recorders and getting all the paper work together so the planning section could design new lines.

DW How did you sort that out? How did you find those trouble spots?

GL Well mainly from complaints. People complained you’d go out and install voltage recorders over a period of days and its all going down on a neat chart which gave exact proof of what the voltage was like and of course it was under a specified figure because it was a mandatory variation allowed. I think it’s 3 percent in the town area and 5 percent in the rural area variation was all the allowance is. They had to fix it. So there was an enormous amount of rebuilding, restructuring to get better line voltage going.

DW How many people would have been on staff in those early days?

GL About 50-60 hands

JT Yes I say that would be right

DW In Nambour, and what year was that George has got a photo.

GL This print I’ve got here I think would be 1955

DW So it was a big concern

GL 1955 Yes and 17 of our crew are dead that I know of

DW So that would have been a good team

Eric Ainsbury: Meter reader for Sunshine Coast

GL Oh yes it was. But just as a matter of interest the meter reader in that list was the first person to die after I came to Nambour. But he was the only meter reader on the whole Sunshine Coast.

DW And what was his name?

GL Eric Ainsbury

DW So how did he get out to read the meters?

GL Well he had a vehicle and he just drove around every farm he used to do Maleny he used to do all those places. He did it all from Nambour, one man I don’t know how it did it.

DW So you’re saying that to get to Caloundra was a day’s journey

GL Oh yes sure

DW So what sort of vehicles would you of had?

GL Well you had dodge utility didn’t you and I had?

DW What year was that one Jack?

JT Well actually I can remember the Dodge George is talking about it was first used by Bill Macintosh who was the system engineer here and I thought I was pretty good to require that vehicle. But in very early days I can remember a Ford, a one tonne Fort utility, also had the little Holden when they were introduced.

DW Like an F.J?

JT Yes.

The Braun brothers – pole sinking

JT And they also had the big line trucks they had four ton vehicles, International, Dodge that type of thing. And they also had in the earlier days we had a lifting wagon for the pole erection. That was only for the lifting of the poles. It was a glorified truck with a tripod on it. But all the holes the pole holes were hand sunk as I mentioned. There used to be fellows, two boys the Braun brothers was their name Jimmy in particular.

DW So it’s B.R.A.U.N

JT B.R.A.U.N Jimmy Braun. And they were Braun by nature Braun by name.

DW And they did the poles?

JT They did a lot of the pole hole sinking all on contract.

DW On the Coast here

JT Oh yes. Absolutely I can also remember as George would, George mentioned about when the 100 and ten thousand volt came into Nambour there was quite a bit of underground work also involved to get the feeders out to the poles, the overhead lines. And George I’m sure will remember when the Braun’s did the trenching and that of the underground cables.

GL Yes.

DW So they were big fellows the Braun’s?

JT Not so big

GL Not big physically

JT but absolutely fit men, absolutely

DW How you of would got all your other things would that of come up by train? Like all your different parts were would they of been made? Like you’re... I don’t know the terms...

JT There was always a…

GL (Interrupts) What you refer to as hardware

DW Yes.

JT The City Electric Light had a central store in Brisbane and then they keeping in mind that there were other external areas. And they would drive the trucks which would deliver the materials to the various stores. We had a store in Nambour of course. And all of the materials.

DW So they’d come up by road?

JT By road, absolutely by road it used to be almost hilarious I guess to think of that these trucks would have been loaded in Brisbane with gantries, overhead equipment or whatever. And they’d arrive up here with these massive weights in some instances. And we just had nothing within our resource and certainly nothing in the town, you know cranes or overhead equipment or anything like that.

DW There was nothing like that anywhere.

JT We used to unload the trucks up here the hard way.

DW By hand.

JT By pipes or we had to improvise, we didn’t think it was so bad at the time, but when we look back now it’s hilarious, when you think

GL Even when they build the new depot out at National Park Road they had an overhead gantry thing but it only had a chain hoist on it and you pulled the chain to unload a transformer off it, there was no power.

DW And that was in the fifties?

GL I think it might have been a bit later. I forget when we moved into the Nambour depot our own depot at National Park road.

JT When we’re… talking about the depot at when the City Electric Light Company first came to Nambour they continued to operate out of what was the old powerhouse in Nambour.

DW Where was that?

JT Ah, that was quite close to the Sugar Mill in fact down on the end of Mill Street, quite close to the railways they used to be a couple of sawmills as well I recall. They were the Wallis’s who had a pine mill. And then just at the back of the depot there was a hardwood mill there, run by a chap named Bot??

Electricity accessibility advances

DW So places like Maleny as the power came through did everyone take up power immediately? Or just some people? I suppose the dairy industry would have really appreciated that as far as milking.

GL Well that is a definite Jack question.

JT Maleny at that stage of course was one of the major consumers in the Maleny area would have been the butter factory. It was a beautiful dairying area. Witta, Wootha, all of those places Reesville it was a long, slow process to build the lines and to just get things organised progressively. And then I also recall ultimately the extension went out to Witta and Teschs??

DW Talking about the process, the long slow process how long would that of been?

JT Well.

GL I don’t think it ever stopped did it? It just goes on endlessly

JT Probably not at that time

DW But in those times with not many people having access to power I suppose there was a lot of work involved and people took up the cause and wanted to get power and everything.

JT Yes well it was everybody was

DW Or did people resist it?

JT Beg yours?

DW Did people resist access to electricity or were they suspicious about it?

Electrical provision ‘Guarantee’: User Pay

GL There was a system where by everything had to be costed. To put power into a place you had to do an estimate, a cost estimate if it was going over a certain cost that was estimated on. A percentage returns of term of money they put a person on a guarantee.

DW Yes those guarantees were around when I first moved to Queensland in the 1970’s.

GL There around to this day, but if people resisted the guarantee they went without. But a lot of people, probably the majority accepted the guarantee. I guess.

DW Could you just explain a bit about the guarantee George?

GL Do you know about that better then I do?

JT Well only to see this that a guarantee if a consumer was offered supply as George has mentioned, there was a certain outlay to make supply available. And depending on what load the consumer had it was up to him to assess whether.

DW It was worth it

JT Whether he thought it was

DW Like a user pays system I guess

JT Exactly right

DW And that your company didn’t foot the bill as such

JT That’s right

DW Yes

GL There was certain they expected a certain percentage return on their money and if they weren’t going to get it

DW And if it wasn’t viable they

GL You’d get a guarantee offer

DW Yes

Tom Priestly: Northern District Engineer

JT I also think when I think of some of the district engineers etc that were here over the years and I refer to Tom Priestly who would have been the first engineer.

DW Priestly

JT Tom Priestly

DW Yes.

JT Fine guy. And then

DW In Nambour

JT In Nambour and then

DW He was one of the earliest engineers?

JT As my recollection is he would have been the first what they referred to as the Northern District engineer.

DW So those sorts of people would they of been self taught?

JT Or no highly qualified engineers with degrees.

DW Yes In those times

JT Followed by a chap Tarnell, Jim Tarnell. Jim was there for many years and Jim only passed away recently he lived up on Buderim actually. Jim came to Nambour from Gatton. And if you knew those guys as I reckon I did, with regard to striking these guarantees. They were pretty sympathetic to the consumer and I’m sure there was the odd extension they went through that had a few wishy washy figures about it. I don’t say that in the derogatory sense.

DW Would that be like for the battlers?

JT That they were different.

DW That needed the power

JT They were men’s men and I think there were a few consumers that thanked God they were, a great bloke Jim.

DW So they had empathy for the family men.

JT Absolutely, absolutely.

DW So then in that period of time then, that would have been a very productive time. So all those people in I’ve just seen in that photo that George has got they would have been people out there setting up these, the power for people in the district.

JT When you, I’m looking at the photo now these guys there for instance I see a motor mechanic and his assistant they would of had a garage at Nambour and they used to maintain the vehicles.

DW Where was the garage?

GL Right at the depot.

JT The garage, there was a small garage that was right beside the old depot

DW So they’d service the vehicles.

JT They’d service the vehicles.

GL They had a (anak door?) drive up ramp, very modern.

JT And then there's Layer fellows that’s men who go out and survey the lines.

GL And do all the surveys. They used to use motorbikes and sidecars and all sorts of things to get all over the place to do jobs like that

DW So they’d go out and survey with a motorcar, motorbike.

GL Or a car

JT Or a car

DW So what sort of motor bikes would those fellows use?

GL The ones I was familiar with were the Harley Davidson.

DW Yes.

GL I spent many months on one

JT I’ve got a photo

DW What you were taken out in one of those George

GL No I worked on one as an apprentice in Brisbane. Motor bike and sidecar

DW So were you in the sidecar and the boss was on the motorbike.

GL Yes. I was working with a fitter and he rode the bike and I rode the sidecar.

DW Or you sat in the side car

JT They also used have a little Morris Z utility

GL Yes Morris-Z utility

JT For survey work, admittedly once you got off the gravel road or bitumen they stopped.

GL But you could pick them up and lift them out they were so light.

JT There were, I see a couple of guys here that were involved in the stores, at the Nambour they had a store as we mentioned previously at the Nambour depot. I see office staffs that were for the payment of accounts etc. Also they had in earlier days they had a trading division. They used to sell refrigerators the whole bit. I see quite a number there.

Purchase of electrical appliances for the home

DW So in Nambour and you’d set up places like Maleny. So would people come all the way to Nambour to buy such equipment like the fridges and things like that when they actually got the power on or would they buy from their local area?

JT Well, the establishment of the trading department was not around until well and truly after the introduction of power to the place.

GL Oh yes it was in; it must have been 1950 I think it probably started roughly.

JT Perhaps even, perhaps even

GL I came in ’53 and there was a trading section there then with lads in it who were second and third year apprentices. So it had been there say three years at least.

JT They also used to do installation.

Sub-stations installation increase

GL Yes while all that was going on at that lower voltage level the need as the place filled out became great to build more major sub stations. And that was sort of the thing I finished up doing.

DW So you did a lot of forward planning there, did you ever realise that the Coast would become what it, did you ever imagine

GL No. I can quote a personal remark there, I remember many years ago driving through where I’m sitting now. From right through Kawana here we’d been down to Caloundra, and the road went through.

DW Where were you living, we’re sitting in Currimundi.

GL I was living in Nambour then

DW We’re sitting in Currumundi

GL Yes, we’re sitting in Currimundi now in Kawana now and I remember thinking that is all swampy Wallum country. Anyone that builds a house between Currimundi and Mooloolaba has got to be out of their brain and here am I sitting in the middle in retirement living in it with 20 thousand people in the area. It’s just unbelievable that’s why sub stations have got to built, bigger sub stations. Which is what I was supposed to be?

DW doing

GL Doing more than anything else really. And we built sub stations in, for instance when I first came to Nambour there was a little substation up on the corner of Image Flat Road and Mapleton Road called Sub five. And that was the one that sort of boosted everything and it went to Gympie and so forth well there was the Maleny sub-station was very old it was number 14. Well I was sort of the leading hand and built one in Beerwah which was Sub 19, 21 in Caloundra. They built a new depot in Caloundra at the same time, 22 which was the switching Station

JT station

GL Midge at Meridan Plains. Sub 37 at Alex Headlands which was a big one on the corner of Sugar Road and Wises Road, opposite Sunco motors. Now that makes me feel old, because that sub-station has been totally re-built 3 times since we built the original one. And in capacity it’s gone up its output is something like 20 or 30 times the capacity it was when we first built it.

DW Which was about in the late1950’s?

GL No later than that later that sub was built in the sixties wasn’t it, Alex Sub.

DW And when, how long would one of those you were talking about places like there was one out at Meridan Plains.

GL Meridan Plains

DW How long would that take to build?

GL Oh that was only a switching station, it probably took three weeks. But you know a substation like the Coolum sub-station, and Jack’s son was the leading hand, Bruce was the leading hand on that job, in my gang and that sub well it took months to build to such an extent we made a home for the boys. We had an old second hand fridge there in the place so they could keep their lunches and that sort of thing. We did that in several stations. Some of those.

DW Would they of stayed there whilst they worked?

GL No, no but I mean they’re there all day and in stinking hot weather it was nice to able to keep your lunch in the fridge, have some cold water to drink. So we did that in a lot of the subs. But we also I suppose I was a bit younger than, we referred to Alec foreman before but I was a bit younger and being in sub-stations I sort of got the feeling we ought to be mechanising ourselves a bit. We started hiring cranes and we had a new district engineer when old Jim Carnell retired and a new, Alvin Donaldson who also came down. I remember Jack and I each fronted up and suggested we might get some new equipment hither and there. I remember a ditch winch in particular Jack wrote a letter and I probably initialled it to say it included me too. We wanted a ditch winch for digging earth trenches. Mr Donaldson said back then don’t be silly sort of rent want you want hire what you want you don’t have to maintain the machine, you don’t have to worry

DW So he was probably a good leader because

Early machine and equipment hire for industry

GL And I said to him you know when I stop asking for things we need. He said when I tell you and he never ever said no. Except for that ditch winch he said just hire it, so we hired cranes if we had to lift a transformer we didn’t winch it up, we hired it.

DW Where do you hire those sorts of things?

GL Local crane hire

JT There used to be a chap named Grennan, John Grennan

GL John and Ray Grennan ran Maroochy Crane Hire

JT Kelly Green

GL Kelly Green gave him a lot of competion

DW What about around the Caloundra area?

GL Well John Grennan would look after us anywhere. The classic casing point the transformer at the Nambour Hospital had to be changed and you can imagine what interfering with power at the big hospital was. And the old method was to put up a little chain block on a gantry across the top of a transformer station that was held up by two poles. You’d put up a little chain block and you’d pull up a heavy chain block. And then you’d well lower the transformer down the hand chain and chain block unhook it and load it onto a truck and back another truck in with the new one. Haul it all the way up again and then dismantle all your chain blocks and we (I actually did suggest this, it was the first time it had been done) I suggested that Alec Foreman that maybe he could use the crane because I‘d been using the crane and well he said ok we’ll give it a go and it changed the transformer in half an hour instead of about ¾ of a day. From that moment on everybody used the cranes.

DW So automatic, like a mechanical

GL Heather chair?

JT An example.

GL What was his name Hide?

JT Stan Hide

GL Stan Hide had a local crane. It was a very simple crane but it could lift transformers and those blokes would give you priority. Because it was bread and butter to them and it was something that was going to escalate, and we just did it more and more didn’t we.

JT That’s right.

GL You didn’t, it was so quick if you had a breakdown you could use a crane, lift the transformer up and take the other one away and it’s finished. And the blokes could get on with hooking it all up instead of wasting time by winching it all up, lowering it that sort of thing. You could do this anywhere.

Increased use of machinery in industry

DW So it was a rapid change in your methods.

GL Well slowly we mechanised and used mechanism more and more in machinery, more and more.

DW But they were open, this company seemed to be open to suggestion from the younger blokes.

GL Oh yes well I think the change in engineering, Because Jim was an old and conservative guy and a great guy. I wouldn’t criticise him at all. But he was an old conservative method man, Alan Donaldson came in and was receptive to any suggestions, wasn’t he Jack?

JT Hmm.

GL Always most receptive and we all got on very well with him and he just gave us a head and we suggested a few things like that we all did it and it worked. And we saved an awful lot of time.

JT Of course in the very, very early days talking about crane hire there just were no any cranes to hire in the very early days

GL They weren’t there at all

JT And with the development of the place entrepreneurial characters came in Stan Hide for instance. As I recall came from Victoria and opened a new business and he obviously had a feel for the place, could see potential and when we look around now its no wonder they saw that there were great opportunities. And it was people like the supply authority that used their equipment that.

DW So I guess as the power came through to these places that you would see people changing over from ice-boxes and all the different things used without power and all of a sudden people had power. Was there a change in just the way people were as, did it become?

GL I… Jack will have to answer that because he was the one who started off doing inspection work where I was the one doing internal work and he’d know infinitely more about that than I would

JT Yes

GL And also something we haven’t thought about at all is our communications system and Jack was into that before me to. But our communication system was by far the best on the Coast of anybody and Jack certainly knows all about it too.

DW Alright we’ll talk about that. Alright Jack would you like to tell us a bit about that

JT Yes well just getting back to just for one second getting back to the development of the use of domestic appliances we had the old ice-boxes and what have you and I well recall the refrigeration of course was the thing

DW The main thing

Electrical demand trends

JT Lighting and refrigeration especially were the things that people were looking for and I well recall there used to be a brand Silent Night Refrigerators.

DW My mother had a Charles Hope.

JT Charles Hope yes Charles Hope. They were an absorption type of refrigerator and they were very very popular and the stovettes the electric stovettes, the small, could almost be the forerunner I guess to the microwave. But rapid heat was a one, and aluminium framed things of course. In earlier days we must remember it was just after the war type of thing and there were new firms starting up and all this sort of thing and I guess these were cases in point. But the Crown stoves there were all sorts of models up right and bench mounted and all that sort of thing. And but things were fairly basic when you look back now, when you look

DW But they would have been very modern for those times?

JT Or for the time they were the you beaut thing of the day.

DW So we’ll talk

JT Hot water too was the thing that

DW People wanted

JT People in particular wanted

DW Well how that work did was it just like a hot water system that we use today.

JT It got away from the old wood stove with the water containers on the end of them and that sort of thing and then (Yosemite...?) was a brand that I remember particularly. Hot water system 30 gallons, 14 gallon hot water systems were the thing of the day dairy boiler they were very popular in the Maleny area.

DW What were they?

JT They were just little, I think they were about 20 gallon capacity but they were thermostatically controlled the hot water and it just meant that it the dairy had hot water for sterilisation and all that sort of thing.

DW So that would have been, you know you were saying before about Maleny Butter Factory. To put power on there would have been a great thing for an industry like that that would help keep all of their products chilled.

JT Absolutely and the cold rooms and all those sort of things

DW How would they of done that beforehand

JT Probably with diesel driven compressors and that type of thing. Of course there was a lot of the dairies and what have you all had there little diesel’s. They then replaced the diesel with the electric motor which was a great convenience admittedly. It’s. When you think back people were, there was a little bit of suspicion about this power because they’d all, for a long time they’d retained the diesel!

GL Keeps the belts ready

JT Just have it ready in case there was a power black out all that sort of thing but slowly people changed.

Side B

Wider region takes up electricity installation

DW So their confidence

JT Obviously they became more confident with the power something that they were apprehensive about when it arrived, and when it arrived they were suspicious of it.

DW So people when they built houses it would be just like your electrician now would go in and wire them up.

JT Absolutely

DW And you fellows would go in who would check all those sorts of things just to make sure they were right. Would that be your job too?

GL Crew do it

JT At that particular time initially I was an installation inspector and then when I became foreman there were other inspectors on the staff. And they would erect the meters and do a comprehensive check of the installation to see if it was alright

DW There would have been quite a lot of people changing over to power. Would there be electricians in those times?

JT At that time

DW Were there qualified people?

JT At that time there would have been a qualified electrician who would have had a contracting business for instance I recall in Maleny area there was a chap named Sallaway, Jack Sallaway and just as a little diversion.

DW He had a transport business too, did you know the Sallaway’s?

JT Well his family did the Sallaway family. Jack was an electrician and I mentioned earlier when I worked at Whalley’s for a short period of time Jack Sallaway in fact worked at Whalley’s while I was an apprentice there. So I worked with Jack as I said for a limited time but later on he established his electrical business in Maleny. He was heavily involved in the articulation and wiring of a lot of the premises in Maleny dairy, domestic whatever.

Everyday electrical expenses

DW So what would have been the average power bill in those early days for someone who was who came along and had a family.

GL About half the one that the Lawrence’s had

DW Your power bill?

GL Yes about half ours would have been an average one

DW That you get now?

GL No my wife we always had a remarkably high one and one of the jokes that was always thrown against power authority workers that of course we got a discount from our employer And I said if I get a discount I think they add it on they don’t take it off. Because we also seemed to have a high bill because Fran with her background as a teacher in homecraft she did enormous amount of cooking and that sort of stuff and our oven always seemed to be on so we did have a high bill.

DW So she would enjoy the cooking and so she’d always have a nice stove.

GL Oh yes

DW Were your first home when you married George?

GL We lived in a flat in Maud Street where Fran had big burns on her arms from the silver rapid heat stovette.

DW Maud Street Nambour? From a what, stovette?

GL From a rapid heat stovette burned her arms and we had a kerosine fridge in that flat. And we started building a house in Isabelle Avenue.

DW Isabelle Avenue Nambour.

GL Yes number 39. When it was a shell with no ceiling and no internal linings and a one month old baby we moved into it got out of the rotten flat.

DW And that was what year?

GL 1956

DW Yes, so you moved into your own home and Fran wanted all the mod cons.

GL Well she had a washing machine, a fridge, and a stove all brand new.

DW And you brought those through Nambour.

GL Yea, got them through the firm

DW And would you of got a small discount with those sort of things.

GL No.

DW No. So what would a fridge of cost?

GL Well a fridge was 144 pounds

DW That was a lot of money

GL The funny thing was it was a fridgeadaire we traded it in many years later for $288.

DW So you got what you paid for it.

GL Exactly Yes. I don’t know, the stove was about 96 pounds and the washing machine was 80 pounds. But with a baby and other kids cause we had four. They seemed to be the thing that made life so much easier.

DW Yes

GL So we never ever regretted buying them.

DW So in actual fact when Fran started teaching she probably would of taught young people on fuel stoves for some stage of the game, or would that of been

GL No. I don’t think so she only started in, she came to Nambour about 18 months before I did.

DW Oh I see. So they would have had

GL She was straight out of training college

DW Yes they had power

GL They were electrified alright but they had old very old sewing machines there that were always breaking down to teach girls to sew on and all that sort of stuff. The equipment was pretty old. But the system has changed enormously now for instance they don’t apparently teach cake icing or that sort of stuff at all anymore in the schools today. The Syllabus has changed considerably.

DW Now you were talking about the communication system.

GL Yes well I came from the city into the country. Which was you know I was the new boy from the big smoke.

DW But you’d been born in Winton.

Communication systems

GL Yes I know but I’d left Winton as a three year old and I had no experience of communication systems at all in the city because I was just an apprentice and then a young mechanic in a big department. All in sub-stations in the last year of my apprenticeship and it was a bit of a new thing for me. We had a. the main transmitter station was on the corner of Image Flat road and Mapleton Road with a great high wooden pole with the aerial on it.

JT 90 feet.

GL It was a beautiful stick of timber and

DW 90 foot tall pole

GL Yes it was a beauty and a little fibro shed at the bottom of it had a great big battery bank that would run the whole system if the power was off and then there was a Moffat virtue petrol engine with a big water tank for a radiator and a generator to recharge the batteries which was a regular thing. It used to get I think I had to discharge and recharge the batteries every week because you’re just totally lost if you haven’t got communication. But in the very early days I didn’t have a radio in the vehicle I was using after I finished that big sub job and you had to call the post offices to see if there were messages for you and that was the method of communication. But.

DW So they would ring a post office and leave a message for you say at Landsborough or Eumundi.

GL Like if you went to Eumundi, you might be up in Eumundi you’d call the Eumundi post office before you left Eumundi to come back. In case there was anything else. But once every vehicle had two way radios which got more and more reliable as time went on of course we had a marvellous communication system. It was so good that I can remember at one stage the police used to come to our house in Nambour. I think it was later I might have been the supervisor myself by then. But they used to come up to our place every afternoon to confer with the policeman in Kenilworth because they had their stuff blown away they didn’t have any communication at all in Kenilworth.

DW What blown away?

GL Oh bad weather and floods and things they couldn’t get out at Kenilworth so they communicated via the power authority two way radios in my house. And they spent a lot of time up there.

DW So you actually had the two way radio in your place?

GL I had it Jack and I had it in our homes

JT Yes we had a radio in the home

GL in our cars

DW So they would be in case of emergency they could get you straight away, you didn’t have phone.

GL The alarm

JT Yes we had a phone

GL Oh yes sure. The alarm system in the sub station came straight through to the house too. This was a ton of fun at three in the morning when something happened.

DW You’d have to go out.

GLStraight away

Weather impacts on power provision

DW So can you tell me about those difficult days I suppose when weather affected things and the roads were still pretty bad, it was still pretty new on the Coast

GL When I was very new in the place I can remember, I wasn’t familiar with the district or anything because I was still working on the big sub-station on National Park Road. And I don’t know whether it was a cyclone or what it was. Was it 1954 or 55

DW 1954 there was a bad

GL there was a big flood

DW Yes big cyclone

GL and there was at Kenilworth 33 KV feeder that went from Nambour to Kenilworth and then to Gympie they were 65 foot poles you couldn’t see them in places

DW Because it was. The water was.

GL They were so deep so far under water you couldn’t see.

JT The old Mary river

GL The Mary River flooded and I happened to have a future daughter’s sister- in- law and brother-in-law who was the Kybong teacher when she was very pregnant and they walked out of that house the back stairs were about 15 feet of water came up the back of the house they got out the front through three feet of water and when the water

DW It came up so quickly

GL Yes and when the water went down nine foot up the walls was the mud mark in the house they were very lucky to get out of that alive actually because this happened in the middle of the night little kids in the house and that was on just a back wall of Kybong creek.

DW And that was just very big heavy rains

GL Yes flood rains

JT And also the wind factor of course is probably the worst enemy the overhead powerlines

DW That’s what they’re saying now

JT flying debris, trees

GL The worst one was the ’63 New Year Cyclone

JT New Year

GL wasn’t it we

DW 1963

GL It took eleven days, eleven days before everyone got out of that one

DW On the Sunshine Coast

GL We had a crew came in from Ipswich, Woodford the Woodford mob got bogged and they sank and they just stayed there they couldn’t get their vehicle out

JT And we had a crew from Gympie

GL Crews from everywhere it was the cyclone went right over the top of Nambour, it was a ripper. I can remember in that I don’t think I saw my children awake for about eight days

DW Why was that?

GL Well I wasn’t you’d get home and you’d go at six in the morning get home at seven or eight at night.

DW Sleep a few hours and go again

GL Yes.

DW and that would have just knocked down all the power lines

GL wind damage lines down hundreds of them

JT A little bit of troubled here and there but it all added up to a what were certainly major blackouts but it was still suprising you would think that you’d never get the power back on again that would be

DW IT would just go on and on and on

JT and then it would when you look back on it the potential for danger and outage was well it was immeasurable really wasn’t it

DW How did you with the power blowing over and everything like that with the lines how did you stop accidents happening did you turn it off at the.

GL No it turned itself off because for instance I got sent down to the Coast here

DW Caloundra

GL Yes I got sent down actually to Mooloolaba and

DW and how would you come through

GL Well I had two –way, I got down here alright could I think the wind blew me down here

DW Well you’d have to you’d come down through Buderim

GL No I the bridge was here and I came over and you could you could see the wires banging together all the way these high tension mains outside here were banging together and I was on the corner of Point Cartwright Drive and the Nicklin Way and there was a switch there and we were going to put the power back on it had been off and it was just a waste of time the wires were still banging together they were all dead but they were still banging together. I think we left them off for about seventeen hours until the cyclone. Collapsed

DW The wind was so great

GL Yes there was no point in burning them down so we just left it off and really you should I’ve got a feeling they’d when you have a power line out for a very long time like that in very savage weather and it’s been dead you really need to have a look at it before you put it all back again you just don’t have the manpower to do it. SO you’d turn it on and if there was anything wrong it would immediately trip it out again anyway.

JT I always remember on one particular occasion it was out Parson Road

DW That’s Nambour

JT Oh Eudlo flats actually under Buderim and there was a consumer up there Lynguard, Syd Lynguard had a poultry farm and we identified trouble at a certain spot and we proceeded with repair to that line and if all the lines were re-elected then we can re-energise the line and immediately dropped out again obviously another fault in the line and in fact within half a mile there was another tree over the same line. And there was perhaps it was a little presumptuous at the time but when you’ve found what obviously a fault you tend to think is

DW That’s it

JT That’s it and that only reinforces what George has just said that you shouldn’t presume anything with regard to you’re going to get that supply back. Because that’s a casing point we had two faults coinciding.

DW Areas like Caloundra when the power went through there that would of do you think that brought more people to the area

GL Well it was certainly an attraction for people to come there I think there are things you look for with regard to your own comfort

DW Yes

GL Electricity is certainly one of them sewerage, water supply I think if you’ve got that in an area it certainly.

DW So those days between the Caloundra region would of got power how many people would they of been servicing in those early times

GL In Caloundra, when were the transformers in Caloundra Jack for heavens sake there would have been more then four or five would there in the whole place.

JT Probably not

DW And what would that mean, how many people

GL probably a couple of thousand at the very most

JT at the most

GL Funny thing about it the difference between city mentality and country mentality they had a thing called a meter query. When the meter reader did the meter readings if you had a meter they didn’t have any consumption on it. or from Brisbane some would write out a meter query on it and sent it out to the depot and of couse if anything needed to be done about it you needed to be an electrician you couldn’t send a clerk to do it. So you’d get a pile of these things and you might have thirty of them given to you and in Caloundra specifically it happened to me on several occasions. Come down to Caloundra with a great pile of these pink meter queries and every one of them would query no consumption of the hot meter reader. You could do the whole lot from the seat of the vehicle you didn’t need to get out of the truck because the tanks were all empty. They didn’t have any

DW SO they turned off because there was a drought

GL Not in holiday system no water in the tanks, you turn your hot water system off of course it doesn’t use power see someone in the city wouldn’t appreciate the fact that Caloundra didn’t have a hot water supply they all lived off tanks and it wasn’t a holiday period. If it was a holiday period they would have had to buy a load of water and they would have had water, it happened repeatedly that sort of thing. The difference between the city mentality and I think I was countrified by then I think

Mobile communication systems for employees: 1951

JT We’re talking about communication before it was around about 1951 when the mobile radios were installed in all the trucks and we had a base station at Nambour. Up until that time it was to do with what we call a switching sheet to isolate a certain area of supply. It would all have to be done by phone or whatever and the phones at that time were not all that we never had that much problem I guess the phones weren’t all that reliable in those particular time. And around about 1951 when they introduced the mobile radios into the vehicles it meant you had virtually person to person contact right on the spot. There was a guy that I remember named Price, Keith Price he was

GL He was an engineer

JT an engineer from Brisbane he was very instrumental in the installation of the mobile systems and they were certainly a god send and even at that time you wondered how you operated prior to that.

DW Yes. Without being able to consult someone you had to do it own your own and go back and then talk about it when you met up with that person.

GL I was talking before about how cooperative Alan Donaldson was as a district new district engineer. I got a whiff that there was a beeper station being put up at Dulong up at Maleny at Bald Knob. And I went to see him about this, see I was a supervisor

DW a beeper station what was that

GL A pocket beeper you know a pocket beeper a pager and

DW when was this George?

GL I’m not too sure now but I’ll work that out, the thing was that we were always on call you were sort of permanently on call. I got onto Alan and I said do you mean to introduce a pager station here, a bell pager. Is there any real reason why the people that do all the after hours calls like us couldn’t have a pager so that were not tied to the phone all the time at least we can go out where we can be contacted. He said you’d better find out what they’re worth. So I made a few enquires they cost $250 bucks each. He said well you’d better order some so we did and that how we got pagers we were about the first people in the district to

DW And that was such a modern thing

GL Yes. Little

DW And did that change your lifestyle

GL It made us a bit freer

JT bit more flexibility with

GL See we had radio in our vehicles, and we had radios in our homes, phones in our homes beeper on belt. Big brother sat on your shoulder all your life. And it was the way your worked, that was under S.E.A. days once you became S.E.A.Q totally government administered Quanco? The new powers that be thought supervisors should be working rosters and they should be accounting for their time they should be getting paid overtime none of which we ever did really if we wanted a day off we took it. But we didn’t get any overtime really I’d work all night for days maybe you just chalked that up to experience and never ever questioned did we I don’t think any of us queried it But they changed the system and they wanted it organised you were supposed to book a timesheet still never did and I’m damn sure Jack didn’t’ either the clerk used to just do it for us he had a standard set of numbers for administration and that sort of thing and it just and supervision it you just booked you mileage and your time for that. But overtime was something we did without even thinking of claiming in the early days

DW Before the service and make sure

GL You take today everyone got a mobile phone and not only that the troops that go out and do all the breakdown repairs and things in the middle of the night they’ve all got these communication comforts and things that we sort of iniated for ourselves at a slightly more senior level so you know communication has certainly made a world of difference and today I only know of this second hand they seem to have a terminal receiver in their vehicles. And their work can arrive overnight and when they get in their vehicle at home in the morning it’s all layed out where they’ve got to go and what they’ve got to do.

Industry associated danger and risk

DW What’s the most dangerous situation you ever found yourself in your work?

GL I could tell you one but I’m glad workplace health and safety don’t exist I went up to Eumundi to a Dairy to … went up there very early one morning and when I got there he had a little transformer of his own on this dairy and in the very early days we didn’t have switches on the fuses that feed the transformer they just had the fuses in those days were a glass tube full of carbon tetra chloride with a little fuse catridge and spring on it. Because if it blew the carbon head of course would extinguish the flame now these fuses fitted into two clips on insulators and the insulators as an apprentice I would make these things in workshops in Brisbane. The porcelain insulator was set, pinned and mounted, was set into the insulator sometimes with a sulphuric type compound that had been melted into it sometimes with lead. And over a period of time in the weather they used to swell and they used to split the insulator and of course if it got wet it would leak and it would bow the fuse and if you’ve got a live one there and this one’s split and you’ve got one in the truck to change it. That’s alive and you’re changing the pin there about that far from a live eleven thousand volts I’ve done that once in my life and that was the most dangerous thing I ever did on my own. I was very pleased to get that done because I would have had to come back to town and organise some switching it would of been two hours before he got his dairy going, so I took the risk did it myself. You would never do it now,

DW No.

GL never even think about it. And if you asked anyone to do that today they’d say you’re a raving lunatic.

JT You wouldn’t ask anyone

GL You wouldn’t be game to ask but you know we did things like that because we had no choice if you went out on your own you never knew what you were going to strike. If you knew you were in real trouble you’d always take someone with you.

DW And people in those times when they did lose power was their attitude okay, they just grateful to have it back on I suppose the dairy farmers would be sweating on it

GL If you went to a place like Granny Parker’s orchards at Palmwoods you’d come back with a caseload of mixed oranges and stuff.

JT Or Syd Lynguard with his eggs

GL Yes.

DW With his what

JT with his eggs

DW Where was that?

JT That was the guy out parson’s road on Minchintion at the up on Mond’s? Up on Buderim

GL They’ve got the big poultry business there on the highway at Forest Glen.

DW So you could always get a few eggs

GL Yes

DW that’s called quotaisim?? Now

GL Never happens now

DW no.

GL doesn’t happen at all

DW No you not allowed to

GL they don’t give you anything anymore

DW You’ve got to declare everything you say it can be seen as corruption and would have been you most dangerous experience working in the power industry Jack?

JT I can’t really recall anything that I thought was dangerous, I think people’s perception of power is that it is a dangerous occupation but I think it’s like a lot of other things if you’re familiar with what you’re doing really the danger is at a minimum.

GL We haven’t lost too many friends hey


Fatality and injury of employees

DW Did you lose anyone in your industry? As Young people

GL Not through a work orientated accident I mean….

JT The only one which I can recall

GL Lou Johnston

JT There was a chap in Nambour who fell off, it’s always doubtful when someone falls from a pole as to precisely what might have happened. But Lou Johnston was a fellow that fell from a pole and he was completely disabled after that. There was also another chap in Noosa in the very early days I think his name was Board, Monty Board? Buller. One Saturday morning he fell from a pole on Currie Street. Again I’m not sure of the circumstances of what happened but Monty was killed immediately in that particular instance.

GL There was also another chap in, from the Cooroy Depot

JT Lorrie Woodwood,

GL Lorrie Woodwood he operated in near break?? Just North of Chaplin’s hill down eleven thousand-volt air break

DW Where’s that?

GL Eumundi, the hill in Eumundi there’s a dairy there an air break in their yard virtually in their yard right at the end. Off the road

DW What’s an air break?

GL The switch a high voltage switch three blades with a handle there onto the ground

JT and he was that was in the cyclone season and

GL he wasn’t on call was he

JT no he actually was…. (Confusion)

GL it was before I came.

JT if I remember rightly we were

GL before I came.

JT we were at Glenview

GL I knew him in Brisbane

JT and we were asked to go to Eumundi to attend to this problem as I remember it Lorrie was coming back from a job at Kenilworth and he was close to this site and he volunteered asked if he could be of assistance and he went in and operated this airbrake and

GL and what happened did this flash over

JT well

GL did he disitegrate he didn’t have gloves on

JT No remember they had at that particular time the operating handles were three-quarter mortified? And then probably as a result of that they introduced the wooden inserts in the handles some form of insulation to minimise

GL he was killed he was lousy

JT He was killed in opening the airbrake

GL we always wore gloves special gloves for regular testing and apparently he didn’t have gloves on when he did that because he was only helping out

DW And things like the weather they played a large part in the lack of when supply when things went down you were saying about that cyclone in the fifties was there any other experiences like that going into Caloundra you know you said it took a day what explain to me what the roads were like when you left Nambour to go anyway but particularly down that way.

JT well really it wasn’t that bad the in like the highway part of

Improvements in employee transportation and access to power sites

GL The road into Caloundra was all right just that it was the only way

JT Yes.

DW The only way to get

GL there was only one road to Maroochydore, only one road to Coolum only one road to Caloundra and nothing tying them together


GL and if you went down Bli Bli road in Nambour, and you went down Petrie Creek road in Nambour they didn’t meet at the bottom there was a creek

JT they were just a series of lateral roads

DW yes

JT to these various spots which were virtually in isolation from

DW little towers

GL we built three bridges tied them/it altogether and when they got the power over on the North shore this

DW North Shore meaning

GL North shore over you know where Twin Waters is now that way there were cane farms over there this bloke decides got to go down and do inspections on all these and guess who he picked to go with him? So we got down the end of near the water and the sugar mill pump on sugar mill railway line so we loaded ladder and meters, and tools and pumped their way across the bridge and down to the cane farms

DW What like a little

GL Yes a railway pumper on the railway line manually pumps.

DW there little pulleys

GL That’s how we got in to put the tower onto some of these farms

DW Like a little trolley

GL I was with him

DW You boys had to do that yourself get it on and off

GL yes

DW and off you went

GL That’s a long time ago

DW and then going into Caloundra just the one road the road wasn’t too bad,

GL the road was all right

DW places like Golden Beach what would have been

JT initially power was into Caloundra put there was no power at I think stores they had a store there

DW at Golden Beach

JT at Golden beach and that was about the extent of the power into Golden Beach

GL a few fibro houses down one side of the road

JT a couple of hundred yards

GL and that’s all nothing there just old fibro homes

JT and then ultimately of course the line was extended up to military jetty and falls creek up in those areas

DW and this area of course there was nothing in these parts

GL nothing at all

DW When they did come into these parts did you have evidence like when they were paving their way through the Wallum country of the military being through here and using these area for artillery practice

GL I don’t think it was a problem up this end was it down there it is

JT round Battery Hill

GL Battery Hill Caloundra yes sure

GL But I don’t think they dig up a lot of stuff here at this end

DW And how would they of got into these areas being marshy they would have had like the trucks would of come in but would you of had to had four wheel drive type.

GL they brought enormous equipment in here bulldozers and all sorts of stuff. Alfred Grant opened

DW yes I realise that but as far as bringing the power through these areas

GL I don’t even know who did it does come from Nambour or Caloundra

JT probably Caloundra

GL because there was no tie Caloundra came this way and Maroochy came this way and they met eventually

DW yes with the road

GL see it was my gang that built the sub-station at Big W here in fact Bruce

DW who was that who was in your gang George?

GL at the time that was done Bruce Tallon, and

JT Gooding


GL yes Gooding was there and I had a sundry of apprentices I seemed to have I looked after all the apprentices keep the interviews??

DW so they would have had a lot of apprenticeship a lot of apprentices

GL Yes we had I think I was looking after seventeen of them but that technically I was see I did the interviews with an employment officer from Brisbane for Gympie, the whole Sunshine Coast and Gympie. And I did that for many years and I must admit I got very wrapped in it I enjoyed it enormously being involved with apprentices and I had reason to. I couldn’t help my own boys, my own boys infinitely brighter then me they’ve both got honours degrees or a couple have/n’t and they didn’t need my help or guidance and I found that working with the apprentices and doing the interviews and things for the lads?? got very involved in that in their well being and years and years after I retired I still get phone calls from some of them they‘re blokes that have done very well too and I really enjoyed that I had a lot of pleasure in doing that

DW in the training of these young kids

GL Yes well you weren’t training them so much because they learned from the people they worked with

DW They worked with, like their guide

GL I was their fairy godmother I suppose jokingly what I used to call them?? If they were in trouble or had a problem they’d ring you up and come and see you

JT They had a pretty good system though over the years didn’t they

GL Yes

JT was he good friends with the training school in Brisbane

GL I was actually going to apply for that job

DW so they used to go down there and go and how often would they go down to the training school

GL with their own school

DW Yes so they would go down for certain days of the week or

GL No they’d go there six weeks at a time

JT six weeks at a time

DW so

GL it cost an awful lot of money to train an apprentice the tool allowance for an apprentice was $660 fifteen years ago

DW was that per year or

GL no total they were given a tool list but they could pick out anything they wanted from that tool list and they could keep selecting each year and it amounted to about $660 worth of good tools they could keep and they couldn’t get rubbish either it was a selected list of useful tools

DW so they were good to the people

GL they didn’t have any choice it was part of the apprenticeship then

DW so it was a part of the act at that time

GL Well see the thing is that’s why small blokes don’t put apprentices on anymore they can’t afford it because you got to pay them while they’re away doing their block of training. See when I was an apprentice I went to college in Brisbane at night and I was going three nights a week because I was doing a diploma as well which I was no good at I finished up giving that up

JT when I did my apprenticeship it was like home schooling??…

DW was it and where did you do that Jack

JT well if the department of education had a branch in Brisbane and all the papers were sent out

DW And did you have anyone to help you like or did you have to?

JT Not really

DW no

JT you were dependent on

GL the bloke on the other end of the mail

JT yes you were at liberty to communicate with the you could always get the papers marked and that sort of thing and you were free to ask questions but it really it’s a pretty ordinary system when you think about it

GL laughs

DW did you have

JT it’s really doing things the hard way

GL Remember Peter Mcain, Peter McCain used to say I’d say to Pete McCain you haven’t be putting your papers in you’re being threatened with a fine Pete what in the hell are you doing why haven’t you done. “Oh I’ve posted it” and his mother came down to see me and Mrs McCain is dead now Henry’s wife’s died since she said to me “Oh Mr Lawrence will you give him the revs I can’t get through to him” I said I do it all the time she said “well keep it up” and I heard him go outside that bastard George Lawrence has just abused the daylights out of me. But now there's a bloke that messed around with motorcars he’s finally scraped through somehow or other he has since committed suicide unfortunately if someone if you were prepared to do a bit of work and do your papers you’d get through

JT hard way of .

GL you’d have nothing to drive you nothing to drive you and that

JT never sure if

DW that you’re getting it right, what would have been your first wage?

Early Apprentice wages

JT my first wage was 14 shillings I think

GL mine was 20.

JT and as I remember it if you got more then if you got an 80

DW fourteen shillings is equal to a $1.40

JT right and we got a bonus pay

JT if you did your apprentice correspondence course and got more then 80% I think was the figure you got a percentage increase which gave me 14.9 ah 14 shilling and 9 pence

DW so the p pence were your bonus

JT my second year was 23 and ten pence

DW Which was 20 ah $2.30 nearly $2.40 a week

JT the third year was 38 and ten pence and then at that particular time war years was on and in your fifth year you got a journey mans wage and I think a journey man’s wage was something like around about 4 pounds

DW so that means you travelled with your job a journey mans wage

GL no a journey man is a tradesman

JT journey man

GL was a trade’s man

JT so that was a real bonus there was 21 and

GL 21 when I started

JT I lived at home for most of my apprenticeship as I mentioned earlier my dad was in the railway and he ultimately was transferred to uelm?/ and I moved well actually I had to I had no choice I moved out and I boarded at Nambour for many years.

DW So he was at Yandina what was he capacity there on the railways

JT My dad was an engine driver

DW I see

JT Steam engine

DW So where would he drive from Yandina to where?

JT Well they did runs from Yandina to Brisbane, Yandina to Gympie

DW So it was where the changing’s area was

GL And it was also a change over station, and they also goods trains they used to run a banker service they used to call it. They used to push the trains up the range from Eumundi to Cooroy ……? Pretty steep grade up the range there and

DW So they’d need more then one engine to get it up there

JT That’s right and

JT that was part of

DW his job

GL real old steam railway man wasn’t he and he really was

JT Yes

Schooling in Yandina: Jack Tallon

DW And how children would of gone to school when you where in Yandina State School.

JT At the Yandina School oh I suppose there would have been a round about the hundred I would say

DW So that was quite a large school for those times

JT Well by country standards yes

GL It covered all the classes I suppose didn’t it

JT Yes, actually at Yandina School as I remember it there were four teachers, which obviously meant that some of the grades were. Multi

DW Together, yes it’s certainly changed a lot since then could you imagine what society would of, as far as solar power what do you think about those things these days

JT Well they’ve certainly got their application but just how far solar power we’re starting to get into the real technological area now

GL economics, solar hot water is a winner but once you start looking at it’s, like this solar house up at Coolum and that sort of thing the economics of it really require a enormous lot of thought, it’s terribly expensive to set up solar systems.

JT Of course you see the little solar powers George with the

GL They’re everywhere now

JT isolated signalling systems for instance on

DW On the highway

JT they certainly have their applications

GL Well, we’ve got cousins on Fran’s side who are, they are all radio telephones with solar power they’ve even got aerials all over the place. It’s all solar powered radio phones in the bush all those power, phone lines you used to see hanging on the trees and things, lying on the ground there are all dis-used.

Reflection: Underground power

DW And what do you think George about the way that people are saying that we should get all our power underground what do you think about that?

GL They’ve got no idea of the economics of the situation, as part of my job I was the supervisor responsible for the Brisbane people when they were up here putting it underground and then we had the contractors. While once I left sub-stations I was in charge of operations, high voltage operation systems and that also I inherited the job of keeping an eye on all the sub contractors who were doing underground work, laying cables and things. And the cost was astronomical cost an underground cable probably cost 10- 15 times as much as much to install as an overhead wire. And they’re they for a long time with one reservation… Every plan to put anything in the ground is submitted to the Council. The Council have got the plans of every cable that is put in. But they don’t tell their workforce in the field who will go and dig it up and not know it’s there. Because they haven’t been told.

DW So lack of communication

GL Lack of communication. Overseas they have firms that specialise in nothing else but knowing where everything is in the ground. For instance if you were in London and you wanted to do something you’d go to the consulting/ant firm and say look we want to do such and such, such and such, such and such. And they’d say well you can’t do this and you can’t do that. And this is there and that’s there. There’s phones communications and they can tell you where everything is under the ground. You’re not going to dig it up and blow it up.

(Talking about the cat – not relevant)

GL I don’t think it’s a viable proposition see an underground estate looks good and that sort of thing. See a classic casing point was when they the first underground estate that was done was at the back of Boardwater avenue in Maroochydore. Now we put in all the underground lanes, the Brisbane crew put in conjudes from the pillars to the houses and things like that. There was cross street ones, because you rang the main cable down one side of the road, then you’d do a cross-over that would feed say four houses and then you’d go another four houses down and cross-over and feed four houses with two pillars. Each pillar feeding two houses because you put them on fence alignments and corners. Telecom had come along a week later a dug a trench right down the footpath two feet away from ours and had cut every road crossing and that sort of thing. That’s where underground has a weakness, human weakness. But other than that it doesn’t give any trouble at all really.

DW No so that needs to be addressed before it

GL It’s lack of communication between the different utilities.

JT We need a liason

GL But the cost is astronomical see there's talk about why don’t they underground this 33 11k v that runs right down the Nicklin Way to Currimundi. Well it might cost $50 million to do that. I don’t think people have got any conception of what the cost of underground stuff is. It’s astronomical isn’t Jack.

JT Yes

GL It’s not an economical proposition it’s got to be very very heavily subsidised by governments to, for it to eventuate.

JT Well and that …. (Tape cuts out ) the price of electricity

GL Well I think they reckon putting an underground in a residential estate you might notice they don’t build residential estates much anymore with underground they’ve nearly all got poles in it. It’s too expensive and it loads up the cost of the allotment. Looks good.

DW Yes well it’s certainly been an interesting afternoon and we’ve covered lots of … (tapes cuts out) Is there anything you’d like to add that you can think of.

GL Yes I’m wonderfully glad to be right out of it in retirement

DW And when did you retire Jack?

JT I retired on the, I’m not very good at dates but I can tell you with confidence that I retired on the 16th of November, 1984.

DW And how many years had you been working in the

JT (tape cuts out) Oh

GL You bet me by two months, Jack

DW And George

GL 39 years and 5 months

DW And when did you retire?

GL The 31st of July, 1987.

DW Yes so you’ve both got those dates etched firmly in your minds boys.

GL My word, the best thing that ever happened to us

DW Well thanks very much for sharing your memoirs this afternoon and,

GL pleasure

End of Interview

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