Interview with: John Alec Way
Date of Interview: 8 December 2000
Interviewer: Dianne Warner
John Alec Way talks about life in Caloundra and Moololah in the 1920s and 30s. In particular Dicky Beach in the 1920s and also the 1960s. He was a farmer, a teacher and also worked for Landsborough Shire Council.
Images and documents about John Alec Way in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image credit: Mr John Alec Way and his wife Margaret Edith Way of Mooloolah, 1945.
John Alec Way oral history [MP3 60MB]
DW: What is your full name?
JAW: John Alec Way
DW: Where were you born?
JAW: I was born in Bristol, in England, on the 11 August, 1910.
DW Were you born at home, or in hospital?
JAW: As far as I know, hospital. I don’t remember.
DW: You came to Australia when you were two?
Coming to Australia 1912
JAW: I had my second birthday on the ship, and it reached Sydney about September 1912. We settled at Nambucca, near Nambucca Heads, Taylor’s Arm for about six months… Father had been advised not to try and start out immediately, but to work for someone for a little while to get the hang of things in the new country. That’s what they did for about six months, before moving to Queensland…
DW: How did your parents come to Queensland? How did they travel?
JAW: I don’t know. I think they must have come by car, but I’m not sure of that.
DW: What sort of things did your father do? He was working on a farm at Taylor’s Arm. Would that have been a dairy?
JAW: General farm work, because he settled for a month before moving to outside Woodford. He worked for people by the name of Cruice.
DW: And how would you have spelt ‘Cruice’?
JAW: C-R-U-I-C-E. We were there, while my father kept an eye open for a property he felt would be suitable. He rode over to Bald Knob. That’s in Peachy Street, and I leased a property belonging to Jeff Crofton, of Mooloolah.
DW: Rode by horse?
JAW: Yes, in those days, there were only tracks. He would have ridden up to Maleny.
Mooloolah Primary School Reflections
DW: Where did you attend school?
JAW: I attended Mooloolah for all my primary schooling. Then, after passing the scholarship, I went to Church of England Grammar, in Brisbane.
DW: Did you like school?
JAW: Yes, I did.
DW: And your favourite teacher?
JAW: Don’t know if I had any favourites. We only had the one teacher, initially a Miss Moore.
DW: This was in Mooloolah?
JAW: In Mooloolah Miss Moore, when I started. Then, shortly after that, we had no teacher for awhile. Bit of an interruption in my early days, with no teacher and a flu epidemic. There was quite a break in my Education. Then a Mr Henderson came, and he was teacher for twenty-odd years. About 1920, we did get our first assistant teacher, Miss Each, she was a lovely person. I only found out at the church meeting in 1997 that she was still alive, aged 102. A few weeks later, I went down to see her. She was in a home in New Farm. She remembered me. We talked about things only she and I would have known about. She was very deaf, worse than I am, but her eyesight was wonderful: she was still reading without glasses. Seven or eight weeks later, I saw her funeral notice in the paper.
DW: So, that period of time, she was a lovely teacher?
JAW: Yes, yes.
DW: Why was that? Why was she lovely?
JAW: She was kind and firm, and a lovely nature.
DW: Describe what a day in your life as a young boy would be like.
JAW: We had to do the milking before school, then breakfast and then ride to school and after school do a bit of shopping, and the mail then the milking again.
DW: How many cows did you father have?
JAW: He had very considerably, he liked to deal.
DW: What kind of garden would your mother have had?
JAW: Mother was a very keen gardener, everyone would admire her garden, she had over 100 kinds of roses.
DW: A rose garden would remind her of the old country?
JAW: I’m not sure that she had room for a garden in England.
DW: Did your parents ever describe what it was like coming out to Australia on the boat?
JAW: We came out on a steamer, it took 6 weeks to come out.
DW: Can you recall something about the road system?
JAW: The roads bad in the wet weather, sandy beach was notorious.
DW: What sort of clothing as a young boy would you have worn to school?
JAW: Normal attire. I remember at school, I had some new pants on and they were quite thin, I went to sit on a tree and I got pushed, my pants got caught on a splinter and ripped the seat clean out of my pants, I was so embarrassed, it didn’t take long to spread over the school.
Childhood 1926 – 1935
DW: In that period of time, the Great Depression would have been on. So, your father must have been.
JAW: Yes, for my time, a country boy, I had an above average education.
DW: Your family must have done well in this country.
JAW: We had the dairy, earned a great deal from that. We tried to be daring, dealing in chickens, cattle and pigs. On that account, we were able to help with things and anyone left on farms.
DW: What about your strangest experience? Anything that ever happened that springs to mind that may have been out of the ordinary.
JAW: That’s a difficult question, too.
DW: We can come back to that.
JAW: One experience made me get a fright. I was out in Central Queensland, out on an outstation. I was there on my own in an old shack, and there was just a bunk. An old-time strip of leather bag stretched between poles. I was sitting, having tea, just after dark.
DW: You were working on the farm?
JAW: No, this was a sheep property out at Yarra in Central Queensland. And while I was sitting out, I heard a rustle, all of a sudden, I saw a large Brown Snake. A Mulga Snake, very very poisonous. It was coming at me. Only a good three or four feet from me and there was nothing, no stick to hit it with.
DW: It was going for you, was it? Attacking you?
JAW: It was coming straight at me, from near the open fire. I still had a hot cup of tea. It was still hot, but not all that hot. I grabbed it, and threw it over the snake. He ran for his life, and I spent a very restless night there.
SS Dicky Reflections 1920s
DW: In your previous memories, you speak of the ‘Dicky’. Can you tell me a little about your earliest memories of the ’Dicky’.
JAW: I can remember about the early 1920’s, we used to go along there, with the Ritchie Boys, and other children. It was quite a landmark in those days. Just a skeleton of course, but quite a landmark. One could take shelter in the cabins underneath, and you could walk about on top, on one side. The southern side, I think. You could walk around on the edge of the deck, but elsewhere, we had a degree of difficulty.
DW: When you say you could take shelter in the cabins. Was there anything left in the cabins?
JAW: No, they were bare. Just full of sand. But, you could shelter from really savage storms. Real closed in, good cover. Only two or three, not all of them, and they would have been on the bow end, on the southern side.
DW: Do you recall what size a cabin would have been on the Dicky wreck?
JAW: I would say 10-12 feet square.
DW: And was there any writing or anything still left on it? Nothing like that?
JAW: No, just a can here or there, or an occasional bit of woodwork. I understand a few years before, when the woodwork was there, the young university crowd where here, and a fire burnt all the woodwork. That’s what I read anyhow.
DW: And, you were saying you were a young boy at the time. You were in Mooloolah. How did you get to the ‘Dicky’?
JAW: We used to come down either on horseback or on a sulky.
DW: With your family?
JAW: Yes. A couple of weeks, we’d stay at a shack belonging to friends in Mooloolah, a fellow by the name of Dennis. They had the little shack midway between where the present Strand is, and where Rinaldi’s Store was, in Minchinton Street.
DW: Those would have been lovely memories, to come down to the seaside?
JAW: Yes, yes. We, my sister and myself and my brother, we would do a bit of fishing and wander around. My younger brother, he was about eight years younger than me.
DW: So, you would have been about sixteen?
JAW: No, no. Under twenty. I would have been between twelve and thirteen.
DW: So, he would have been a little fellow And what about your sister?
JAW: My sister was two-and-a-half years younger than I am.
DW: So, you’d go wandering. You would have come over from Caloundra. So, to walk to Dicky beach, you’d walk the beach way?
JAW: Yes, yes. No real streets. But the Ritchie Boys knew all the shortcuts, and we’d go through the bush.
DW: With Frank. The Ritchie Boys.
JAW: Yes. Perhaps Fridin’s, a family up from Woodford at holiday times.
DW: How did you spell their name?
DW: And, you’d go along the beach. Did you ever see anyone down on the beaches?
JAW: Oh, yes. Holiday people like ourselves.
DW: Down on the beach. What sort of animals would you encounter, going for those walks up the beach? Did you ever see any different.
JAW: I don’t remember. Oh, we used to see various birds. I remember seeing an occasional wallaby, I don’t remember any.
JAW: No, I remember seeing Dingoes, not down here, I’ve seen plenty in other places, but not at Caloundra.
DW: So, the occasional wallaby. What was the bird life like?
JAW: Oh, the bird life was very good. Magpies, jackasses. Quite a big assortment of them. Of course, all the sea birds, gulls and others.
DW: And you’d go fishing. Where did you go fishing?
JAW: Around at Moffat Beach. We usually caught enough for a meal. Trevally, bream.
DW: Fishing was good?
JAW: Yes, we hardly ever went down and come back with nothing.
DW: Some people say that people used to walk around to the ‘Dicky’ and have a picnic, things like that. When I interviewed Wally Warner, he said the young men used to take their sweethearts for a walk around.
JAW: That could easily be. You’d find people walking along, and some would be having picnics. I don’t ever remember having a picnic there in those days. In later years, yes. Not in those days, but other people, certainly.
Flu Epidemic 1919
DW: You were talking there. Let’s just go back a little bit, so I don’t forget. What was the flu epidemic like? Can you tell me a bit about that?
JAW: Well. The schools in this area were closed for some weeks.
DW: What year was that, now?
JAW: I’m guessing, but immediately after the First World War… About 1919…
DW: And what, the schools closed? Did people come down with the terrible flu in this area?
JAW: I don’t remember any. Any catching the flu in this area. It could have been, but I don’t remember. It was more in the Cities than the State.
DW: When you went to the beach, did you swim at the beach?
JAW: I couldn’t swim in those days, I wanted to go in the water. But, I was.
JAW: I wasn’t a swimmer. We used to go in you know, for days, perhaps a couple of times.
DW: And who’d look after you?
JAW: My mother would be on the beach. We wouldn’t go out too far. You’d be careful in that respect, didn’t get in any currents or anything. None of us ever got into any trouble.
Early Caloundra reflections
DW: And Dicky Beach. Was it similar to how it is today?
JAW: Shelley Beach is completely different. In those days, Shelley Beach was just a beach of pure shell-grit. Tom Maloney used to use a buck-board and harvest it, and take it to Brisbane on his boat. Now, it’s all sand again. In those days it was absolutely pure shell-grit.
DW: Do you think that industry might have taken away all the shells? Do you think that’s how that would have happened.
JAW: Possibly. I don’t understand how it hasn’t replaced, when it was there originally.
DW: And wildflowers, can you recall wildflowers?
JAW: The wildflowers were magnificent, in the spring and summer, beyond Currimundi. I remember going with family and friends one day, and collecting bunches and bunches of Christmas Bells along Currimundi and all other flowers. All so magnificent.
DW: What sort of flowers were amongst them?
JAW: All sorts… I didn’t remember the names… There was a great variety…
DW: Many, many flowers… Did many people pick the flowers?
JAW: No, not a great many. I was only there once or twice and we were the only ones. It was fairly isolated in those days.
DW: Any houses around Dicky Beach then, when you were a young boy?
JAW: Not many, not at Dicky Beach, no…
DW: And it would have been a dirt track?
JAW: Oh, yes, dirt tracks through the bush.
DW: Would people ride along there on horses?
JAW: They could have. I never saw any. Mostly walking.
Contact with local Indigenous peoples
DW: You mentioned also, that you recall Aboriginal families in this area… can you tell me a bit about those memories?
JAW: Well. I only had contact with them a little bit, on holiday, and this was at Anderson’s place.
DW: Where was that, Alec?
JAW: Just behind Shelley Beach. She had quite a property there, and four or five houses that she’d rent to holiday people. And when we were there, on this occasion, we were the only ones for multiple seasons, were in an adjoining house. And McEvoy went to bring her baby brother over for a yarn, on occasion, apart from that… I understood that her father worked on the council, that could be one too. I don’t really know anything about that one.
DW: The local people would have treated them well?
JAW: Oh, yes. We just treated them as one of ourselves. Well, we did, how other people did, I don’t know. As far as I know, they were just treated like a normal neighbour.
DW: Living in Mooloolah, did you have any Aboriginal families living around you there?
JAW: No. I’ve had next to nothing to do with any Aboriginals. Most I had to do with them was when I went down to Toorbul, was an old aboriginal lady by the name of Mrs Shakespeare, in Caboolture. I used to talk with her, and she used to intrigue me with her beautiful language of English. I used to be absolutely enthralled by her English. When she was not able to cope, she was sent down to Sandgate, and in those days, my people lived at Hamilton. And every few weekends, we’d go down there, and if I had a few minutes to spare, I’d go to see her. I went in to see her half-a-dozen times, I suppose. I used to take her all sorts of flora, when I used to visit her. We were coming home one Sunday, and I said “I’ll go in and see if Mrs Shakespeare’s still alive.” I went in and asked them there, “Is Mrs Shakespeare still here?” And they told me, “She died on Friday.” So, I missed her by a few hours, and later I saw her funeral. She was the only Aboriginal I had any contact with.
DW: Did you ever know whether she’d been there long-term, or had she been a person that.
JAW: No, no. As far as I understood, she initially came from Thuringowah , in far South-West Queensland. Apart from that, I don’t know anything of her history.
DW: The McEvoy's, they had a home where?
JAW: They rented a house from Mrs Anderson.
DW: How many kids would have been in that house?
JAW: Oh, there had to have been half-a-dozen. I don’t know how many, but they were fairly numerous.
DW: What period of time was that?
JAW: That would have been about 1929, or ’30. When Mr Mckellar, who did years as a surveyor. He surveyed the road from Landsborough to Caloundra, and the present day road. They had a house next door, and I became friendly with them. I got a letter from one of their daughters only last week. I’ve been in contact with them for a long time.
DW: And where would that daughter be?
JAW: She lives at Brookfield.
DW: Do you recall bad weather, or major cyclones through these parts?
JAW: Yes, I can’t remember years, but when we lived up at Mooloolah, we had a very severe cyclone, this would have been the forties.
DW: Yes, because a bad one came through in the fifties.
JAW: Somewhere. I’m trying to remember. In the end of the forties, and we had forty inches in one night, I remember. And a bit of flooding, but we didn’t suffer any material damage.
DW: What about the coast?
JAW: The beaches, they would have taken a bit of a hiding. I remember, when I used to work at the council, there was a bad cyclone, and we got some protests, over the phone. Children playing in the water, right up to the parking area at Kings Beach. That was more or less it for us…
Working for Landsborough Shire Council 1972
DW: How long did you work for Landsborough Shire Council?
JAW: When I retired from the farm, in 1975, and had about a month’s break, and then I lodged with the council and that was 1975… My wife died in 197-… no, 1972, it came over… I worked for the council in 1972, or was it 1978… My wife died in 1975, and I was a few weeks short of my sixtieth birthday for retiring, and my daughters and I thought it would be a good idea if I continued my work with the council, to stop me from grieving… I applied for an extension, and they gave me an extension, and two more afterwards… So, they must have been happy with my work…
DW: So, you would have retired well into your sixties…
JAW: I was about sixty-eight when I gave up the council, and then I went out and did a few jobs a couple of times a week… And the job was still open…
DW: And, what did you do with the council? What was your job?
JAW: Well… [laughs] I had all sorts of jobs… One time, I was a grave-digger [laughs] In general, I had several foremen, including Trenton diver, who died a few weeks back… There was Jim Cooch, and Ray Rogers… For the last several years, I worked on the parks and gardens section…
DW: And you were a grave-digger, were you?
JAW:: Just for one day… Down at Beerwah… One of the grave-diggers was sick, and they gave me the job…
DW: Who was the gravedigger there…?
JAW: Mr… Weit (?)… I can’t think of his Christian name…
DW: So, you recall that one bad cyclone…
JAW: oh, there were others, too… But, I can’t remember… I can’t recall all those years ago…
DW: Do you recall the very bad one that came in here in the fifties? A lot of damage done to Caloundra at that time…
JAW: Yeah, the beaches…
DW: What about droughts?
JAW: Oh, yes… We had some droughts…The worst, a bad one, was in 1919, right near the end of the First World War. 1918, or ’19… I was still a little boy, and Father Christmas didn’t call up… It blew up all the way to the banden (?) shed… It rained and rained and rained… The cattle were weakened many times… I can remember that one…
DW: Your farm, was where?
JAW: At the top end of the Darren Creek Road…
The Depression Years: Teaching career 1935
DW: Can you tell me about the depression years?
JAW: Well, they were very hard for that many people. I was one of the fortunate one, when I finished schooling, I was offered a teaching job a Church of England Grammar in 1935
DW: What were you teaching?
JAW: Teaching the junior class at school. In about 1934, I got bronchitis, palsy and pneumonia, and I was in hospital for several weeks. After that, I went through a bad patch, I couldn’t memorise anything, I resigned from teaching and headed back to the farm, eventually I got my good horse broken and I’ve ridden it ever since.
DW: So, it was because of all those illnesses that you weren’t well at all… So, do you remember people in these parts suffering in the depression, in Mooloolah and places like that?
JAW: A lot of people lost their farms, and depended on relief work.
War Years 1939
DW: What about the war years?
JAW: War years… I went out to central Queensland for a holiday, just short of World War II, and I was out there from 1939. In 1943, and I came back down to enlist and by that time, they’d tightened up, and anyone in the pastoral industry was not readily accepted and instead of going back to central Queensland, I went up to the old farm and started from there.
DW: The old farm your father had run? And that was in Brandenburg Road, too?
JAW: Same farm, same property…
DW: Oh, I see… Do you recall the troops through these parts, at that time?
JAW: Well, when I was out in central Queensland, I knew very little about what was happening in the war… I only had one bloke in reach, and he didn’t have a wireless… So, you didn’t get a great deal of information. A great deal passed, that I knew nothing whatsoever about. When peace was signed, I was back here. The papers were writing all about the war, so I knew about it in the last few months…
The Queen Visits 1919
DW: Did you recall any famous people coming through this area at all?
JAW: Yes… I remember, the first aeroplane came flying from Bundaberg… Not from Bundaberg, maybe, somewhere north. Might have been Rockhampton, to Brisbane, and we were at school. We were all lined up outside to see it go past, and we saw it… In the early twenties, I would think… I remember seeing Bert Hinkler… I was in Brisbane at the time, at [Church of England], and we were allowed to go and see him… The crowds were very, very thick… I remember seeing the Queen, when she came to Brisbane…
DW: Queen Elizabeth?
JAW: With the Prince of Wales, in 1919… They came through by train, and stopping at Landsborough. We didn’t go to see them, but I remember them coming through, and going to Caloundra after the train from Brisbane…
DW: So, the locals would have come down to see them… When you said you remembered the Queen, which queen?
JAW: The Queen on TV now…
DW: Queen Elizabeth?
JAW: No, no, The Queen Mother. When she was the Duchess of York… In 1927, she came out open the Houses of Parliament… As the Duchess of York, and she was Queen later on…
Mooloolah Farm Life 1926: Selling Produce
DW: What sort of food would you have grown on your farm? I mean, not only did you have dairy, did you have any crops?
JAW: On occasion, we used to have beans and peas… and send them to market…
DW: Take them to the train?
JAW: Just on a limited scale… Yes, on the train to Brisbane… We’d send them to Brisbane by train. But, by Brandenburg road and transport… On a limited scale, about twelve cases, occasionally, tomatoes. But, by the by, when we were on the farm with a family, we had a lot of bananas, seven or eight lots of bananas by that stage…
JAW: Some, we’d sell on Brandenburg Road, and some on the Mooloolah road… And some up towards Bli Bli, near Peregian Beach…
DW: And they would have been transported to Brisbane?
JAW: Oh, they sent some to Sydney and Melbourne… Them, they would have been in the banana business… A nightmare, really… You’d send a dozen cases.
DW: Where would the cases have been made?
JAW: There was a casemill in Diamond Valley.
DW: Did your father build your home?
JAW: Yes. We went to Mooloolah first, then we rented a home on Brandenberg Road with an option to buy.
DW: Can you recall the Beerburrum Hospital?
JAW: Yes, I can remember that… We used to hold functions to raise money to help.
DW: And who would attend these functions?
JAW: The general public.
DW: What would you do health wise before the Hospital was built?
JAW: Normally go to Nambour. My mother got sick in 1919 and had to go to Brisbane.
DW: How would you get there?
DW: Can you recall the train coming through at night and people sitting on the station singing.
JAW: A lot of people would go down, I experienced that quite a few times.
DW: The station master used to be a musician and his daughter, can you recall that?
JAW: Yes Jack Radpar, he was there for many years.
DW: How often did the trains come through Mooloolah?
JAW: There was a train in the morning about 11am. In the evening there was 99 at a quarter to eight. Then two from Gympie, one at 10 o’clock and later at 9 o’clock.
DW: Thinking of those times, do you think it is easier now for people or were the good old days the best times?
JAW: I prefer the good old days, today seems so commercialised, I don’t like it.
DW: So you think those times were better because they were slower?
DW: Did you ever go back to England?
JAW: No I didn’t my people went back… Some went back.
DW: Did your parents pine for the old country?
JAW: My mother never wanted to return, it was because of my health and her health that we came to Australia.
Later Life: The move from Mooloolah to Dicky Beach: late 1960s
DW: What made you decide to come to the coast?
JAW: Mr Henzell had 33 blocks in Dicky Beach, and he came to me one day and said he had sold them and I said I would have liked one, so he told me he would see what he could do and came back a few days later and told me he had three so I bought them, 3 16-perch blocks. In the end of the 60’s I built a holiday house.
DW: What else was around here when you moved here?
JAW: Next to nothing, it was all bush, there was not much at all.
DW: Did you fish in Tooway creek?
JAW: No, you would swim and canoe.
DW: Can you recall any guesthouses here?
JAW: I remember some, Overlands, near the post office.
DW: Can you recall Frank Nicklin?
JAW: Oh yes, I remember him, he was here for many years.
DW: You married and had your family?
JAW: I married in 1944, and I lived at Mooloolah till 1951.
DW: The conditions for other children what were they like?
JAW: There all were pretty good.
DW: Did you go to the concerts?
DW: Can you recall the peace bridge, Mr Henderson would take the children out on ANZAC day? JAW: I remember the opening of the bridge but I don’t recall the children going there.
DW: How did the people get across before the bridge?
JAW: There was a wooden bridge.
DW: It has been a pleasure speaking with you today Alec.