Today we are shining the spotlight on Maurice Pearl Evans (1895-1981) known as “Nugget” who was among the earliest residents and business owners in Cotton Tree.
One of 10 children, Maurice and his family came to the Maroochy River area in 1909 and built a home at Bli Bli.
Maurice’s father operated a Maroochy River boat business carrying passengers, goods and mail. This was later carried on by Maurice’s brother Percy.
Maurice married Maude Elizabeth Perren in 1920 and took over his family’s Maroochy River farm. In 1922, Maurice and Maude moved to Cotton Tree where they opened a general store in a small timber building near the corner of King Street.
In 1923, they bought a nearby building at the corner of King Street and Cotton Tree Parade and relocated their business to the new corner site. They extended the premises to include Jazzland - a popular dance and picture hall - and began screening silent movies which they bought for a shilling (10 cents) each. These proved to be a great attraction, drawing large crowds to the Wednesday and Saturday night sessions and Saturday matinees.
The Evans’s sold the lease to their business in 1928 and on August 15, 1932 the building was destroyed by a sudden fire. In the following year, the shop and theatre were rebuilt and Maurice and Maude took over the running of the business.
In December 1936, Maurice opened a new 900-seat theatre, named the “Beach Theatre” in King Street. He operated it for a short time before leasing it to C Gilbert. Mr Gilbert, the owner of the “Beach Talkies”, pioneered the motion picture business at Maroochydore.
In 1939, the Odean Theatre Company took over the theatre management and in 1948, Maurice finally sold out to Mr Comino.
Throughout this period, Jazzland continued to be a popular venue and during the 1950s it was used for a variety of entertainment. Dancing at Jazzland was advertised for every Saturday night with “a bus service from Nambour”.
Holiday dances were held on Friday and Saturday and to midnight Sunday on long weekends. Jazzland Orchestra and Johnny Evans’ Rhythm Rockers Orchestra proved a great drawcard.
Fundraising dances for local clubs and societies were also held in the hall along with dance competitions and displays including flower shows and church mannequin parades.
In 1962, the dance hall – one of Cotton Tree’s best known buildings - was totally destroyed by an early morning fire. In the same year, the Beach Theatre, renamed Danceland, was renovated to provide dancing space for more than 1200 people.
In addition to his store, dance hall and picture theatre, Maurice Evans also began a general carrying business, initially using a horse and cart and then two Thornicroft trucks which operated between Nambour and Brisbane during the 1930s and 1940s. During this period Maurice also ran a daily bus service using a converted truck to transport passengers from Cotton Tree via Diddillibah and Rosemount Road to Nambour.
Maurice Evans also left his mark in the local community as a member of a number of local groups and organisations. He was one of the founding members of the Maroochydore Beach Bowls Club (formed in 1938) and in 1979 the bowls club named its No.1 green the ‘Nugget Evans’ Green in his honour.