Dulcie Kelly

Interview with: Dulcimer (Dulcie) Olive Kelly (nee Birrell)
Date of Interview: 7 April, 1987
Interviewer: Amanda Wilson
Transcriber: Felicity Nappa


Dulcie Olive Kelly (nee Birrell) was the daughter of Oliver Birrell, the Caloundra Lighthouse Keeper from 1918-1931. Dulcie lived on isolated Moreton Island until her family moved to Caloundra to begin lighthouse keeper duties.

Image: Jean Mackay, Claire Byrne, Dulcie and Alice Birrell at the Caloundra House tennis courts, ca 1927.

Images and documents about Dulcie Kelly in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.



Dulcie Kelly oral history - part one [MP3 44MB]
Dulcie Kelly oral history - part two [MP3 44MB]
Dulcie Kelly oral history - part three [MP3 22MB]
Dulcie Kelly oral history - part four [MP3 22MB]


Part One

AW: Mrs. Kelly, when did you move to Caloundra?

Just after the Great War.

AW: Around 1918?

Well, it wouldn't be earlier because the War was over.

AW: And why did your family move to Caloundra?

Because we were only temporarily at Cape Moreton Lighthouse, to wait for Mr.Edlundh's retirement.

AW: So, your father, was a lighthouse keeper.

And a signalman and a telegraphist.

AW: You said you had to wait when you came from Moreton, did you live on Moreton Island, before you came to Caloundra?

Family lighthouse connections

Yes, for about eighteen months. We were waiting for Mr. Edlundh to retire. Before that, my Father was in charge of Facing Island Lighthouse, Gladstone.

AW: So, Mr. Edlundh, he was the previous lighthouse keeper.

For many years, the only one.

AW: He was the first lighthouse keeper, in Caloundra?

Yes. I don't know how many years, at least ten.

AW: What was your father's name?


AW: Oliver Birrell?

Yes, from Keppel Bay.

AW: Is that where he was born?

That's where my Grandfather worked as a sea pilot.

AW: So, that sort of work is in the family?

Oh yes, definitely, my Grandfather was a sea pilot from England. He was a dapper type of fellow, he had a lot of children, a lot of sons. I've got a photo of them too.

Moreton Bay schooling in World War One wartime

AW: Can you remember, living on Moreton Island?

Oh yes, but only details of a child.

AW: Can you tell me a little what it was like?

Well, my Father was quite happy there, he was happy anywhere where he could see the sea. My Mother didn't like it, and we didn't unpack everything, because we knew we were going to Caloundra. So we used to live with a lot of things that we'd gathered up at the time, and stored the rest away. We didn't have a comfortable home.

AW: And where did you live?

In the Government house, the one in that picture that you saw; that was our house with "Our House" written on it.

AW: How many houses were there?


AW: And were they all for the Lighthouse Keepers?

Yes, they were for the Lighthouse Keepers.

Down on the bottom where there were other houses, there were children there and the school had about nine or ten pupils. As I wrote in an early article I did for Don Henry, I don't know where they all came from, they had no horses to ride, so they must have been local, down at the bottom.

AW: So did you go to school at Moreton?


AW: So, you remember bits of that?

Well, our teacher was Miss Heeny. And she was a redhead. I do remember her, because she was emotional about her soldier at the War. Every afternoon, we would sing her a love song, which I have in the dear old book, here. The only time I've ever discovered it. It's so old, it's called, "Farewell, Farewell, My Own True Love".

AW: Do you want to sing it for me?

No, not now. The words are: "Farewell, Farewell, my own true love. How can I bear to leave thee. Oh a sad farewell I give thee." Then by the time we got to that, she'd be crying and we would all be crying, because the teacher was upset. We knew what she was crying for, vaguely.

AW: So even as children, you were aware of what war was all about?

I don't think I was really. I can't remember great ships passing by or war signals or anything. Oddly enough, Moreton Island wasn't a great place for that sort of thing; I don't know why, but Caloundra was. The signal station for Caloundra was up on the hill with all the gun emplacements that you've seen there. It seemed, oddly enough, more important, because Caloundra was closer to shipping.

AW: So Caloundra, even in the First World War had signal stations, did it?

Not signal stations, but we seemed to be more aware of it. I believed, that Mr. Edlundh was a bit persecuted, and so was his son Charles.

AW: Why was that?

Because he was an arrogant German and proud of it, and so was his son. He said, "You'll all be waiting on us after this is over", and he was ostracized. And the lady, Mrs Lamb, up on the hill in the finest house, up on the dress circle, she was supposed to signal to ships passing by surreptitiously,

AW: This is in Caloundra?

Yes, and she was ostracized too.

AW: So people in Caloundra believed she was a spy?

Yes, but nothing was ever done about it. Nothing has ever happened. It all sort of was just local gossip.

Life at Moreton Bay

AW: So you just remember all this as a child when you first moved here?

Yes, just aware of it. And as for the first Mass, it was held at Mrs. King's Boarding House. She would give free board to any Parish Priest of any Parish, who would come and perhaps Baptize children or whatever they could do in Mass and what few Catholics would be there. The Beasley's I think. I'm not sure. There must have been a few.

AW: You’re on Moreton Island, so you and your mother were expecting to go to Caloundra. Did you have any other brothers and sisters?

My sister was there, she had to be, she too was young. But she didn't absorb any of it. Although she's dead, she couldn't have told you anything about Moreton Island, she absorbed nothing, she hated it.

AW: Did you like it?


AW: Why?

Because I seemed to absorb it from my Father; he loved the sea. I'm my Father's daughter. Oddly enough I do believe in that. My Mother had Phyllis, that was her child, her body and everything went into that girl. My Father, everything went into me, I have his long arms, his legs, his skin and his thinking.

AW: So your sister's name is Phyllis?

Yes, Phyllis, named after Phyllis Alice, my Mother. But I'm alone now, because they've all gone. It hurts. No, we used to play with the other children, there must have been boys, but I can't remember anything, personal relationships, whatever and I think the big house, we didn't visit much.

AW: What’s the big House?

The Head light?keeper.

AW: Who was the Head light?keeper, can you remember?

I think it was Mr Byrne; he left very quickly after we were here. Mr Byrne, he retired to Brisbane and Clare Byrne is still alive. She's married of course, she's Sir Clarence Byrne's sister. And I don't know her condition now, I feel she could be failing, she's in a home.

So Sir Clarence Byrne's father was the Head lighthouse keeper on Moreton?

Yes, and he'd been in the Navy. As far as I know, Betty Bell's new book, which is just out, mentions Moreton Island's Lighthouse Keepers. It's called "Flying Fish" perhaps," Mermaids Never" or the other way about.

AW: So, when you were on Moreton, were you excited at the prospect of coming to Caloundra?

I think so. I think we were waiting to come to a better school, a better life, and more people. We were very lonely, we must have been. My Father worked at night. I couldn't play cards, I don't think.

AW: Did you have any radio or any entertainment?

There was no radio invented, not for years. And there was no entertainment except cards, or talk. I don't remember talking much at our house. See, at Caloundra we talked a lot and we were more sociable. People came, we were the head people, we had the Lighthouse and the Post Office. We didn't have to just invite them; they just came through the door. But at Moreton, there was nothing. Sundays meant nothing. I can only remember my Father taking me as helper to get coloured sand; it's in the lounge, one bottle. And he used to fill these big containers from the lighthouse, made of beautiful glass and curved. There was a great big fat one we didn't bring from Caloundra, it was too heavy, and I don't know what became of it.

AW: So he did those just for ornaments?

To fill in time really, he was very proud of his coloured sands. They were better than Noosa.

AW: And these were sands from Moreton Island?

Yes. It was our pleasure, his and mine, I suppose, to go looking for more sands; that would be big excitement, "Dad, Dad, here's one we haven't got." I can remember that.

AW: Sounds like it would be very isolated.

Very isolated. The Government Ship, "Matthew Flinders" would come once a month. But it didn't bring us many treasures, not like it did at the end, with meat and corned beef and that sort of thing. It was very limited.

AW: So you didn't have sweets as a child?

No ice-cream, no chocolates, nothing like that. We got away from all that sort of thing. We ate a lot of sausages I recall, sausages and pies.

AW: Would your mother make those?

Well, she had to, you see you couldn't buy them, there was no shop.

AW: What sort of oven would she use?

A stove.

AW: This is in the Government house?

Yes, a wood stove. We had a big pan. I do remember we had a lot of sausages.

AW: How did you get out to Moreton Island?

On the "Matthew Flinders" from Brisbane. We travelled free of course. We were put off there, Betty Bell wrote of a jetty, but she is wrong, there was no jetty. There was nothing. We got off on the lagoon side, walked ashore, two draught horses and a big wide sled, we rode on. That's all we had to ride on, we had to sit down on this sled and make believe. We couldn't put many on the sled because the horses couldn't pull it. They had to pull it up off loose sand, poor things. They were draught horses.

AW: So were the houses very far back in from the sand dunes and the lagoon?

They were on the hill. There could have been one down below; I can't place it in my mind.

AW: How many lighthouses were there on Moreton?

Five. Well, there was Kamparoora, there was the Wodsworth's one. You have to say them to remember now. Kamparoora, was a small skeleton lighthouse, it was wood. It got burnt down eventually, the Wodsworth's. Jessie Wodsworth and her husband, they were the nearest. She went to school, but she was much older, so she couldn't have been at school with me.

AW: So each light had a person who was responsible for it?

No, shift work only. It had to be kept wound up. It was some kind of a light that you had to keep winding it up to go. Two light keepers run it now. It's still important that two run it. Number one and number two. A Mr Ward now runs it. He is a nice man, he loves it. I wrote the poem to the Whale Watch. We were told to watch in the early dawn to see the whales. So we climbed to the Lighthouse, the timeless tower forever standing guard on the bay, and that's where they watched for the whales. First a few came; it's all in the poem, and then some more came.

AW: You used to watch whales as a child?

Yes, the Whale Watch. Twice they go heavy; they need to go, but when they come back, they are light?hearted, they're free. They are like salmon. They gambol, strut, wash and build up a lot of games and go down to resort now and see the people, they go down there, they just stayed around Moreton.

AW: When you say the Whale Watch, even in the old days, say, early 1900's?

It was interesting, that's all. It was something to look at. "Here they come, here's a lot coming". And they'd see the civilisation; they’d pause a while and they go round the wild wall, as I wrote.

AW: The wild wall?

The wild wall of Moreton Cliff. And they'd gambol and go on there and throw their weight about. Then they'd move on and after a while, another school would come, and then it was time, they'd finish for the day. Then perhaps another dawn. We were told to come in the dawn, you see, so they were there. Then they'd go back to their camp down in the little cove down below where they were cooking, and that's the end of the poem. It's time to tell about what they've seen. That went over very well; it was published in the little newsletter, and they had a whale on it. They printed what I wrote, but that was all.

AW: So, as a child you saw lots of whales off Moreton?

Yes, and sharks. We were never allowed to bathe in the sea.

AW: Why not?

Oh no, you wouldn't let children bathe in the ocean because it was very, very wild. We never bathed in the ocean, ever.

AW: So you would swim in the lagoon?

We'd swim in the lagoon. I can remember a lovely one just near the beach, so it must have been that one. We were safe there, nothing could happen to us. It was just a lagoon, so we could swim there, the boys and girls, we had little bathing togs. Then we'd play our games of imagination, pirates ? pirates we were. We gathered ammunition and all that sort of thing. Couple of years later that cove was still exactly the same, no different today. That cove after fifty years or more is still exactly the same as I remembered it.

AW: That must have been lovely.

I was so pleased. I said in the article I wrote, "I was happy. It had not changed our little run?away thing, it was just the same. Driftwood, caves, rocks, oysters and nothing else not a footstep". But now of course, it's a good few years later, it will be a bit, but not much; this is where Moreton Island.

Life in Caloundra 1918

AW: When you first moved to Caloundra, it was around 1918, 1919, your father took over from Mr. Edlundh, running the lighthouse. What were actually your father's chores?

The lighthouse was run by navigational standard, "On" at sunset and "Out" at dawn, so he had to do those things regularly. He had to put the light "on" at the time of sunset and get up in the dawn, even if he went back to bed again. He had to get up at dawn and put it out. There might have been some deviation in winter. Then he'd have to check the rain gauge, which is a rain gauge organised to catch the rain fall and put that in great log books.

AW: So this were all his chores as a government official?

That went on every day of the week, there was no day off. He had to look at the sky and check the clouds and report anything about it. It was closer to the mainland you see; on the mainland you got closer to warn a coming depression, coming in on Low Island, veering south. He would be one of the first to plot the cyclones.

AW: So your father also, part of his job was weather forecasting.

He was everything, yes, everything. Everything about running a lighthouse and they were in log books so he could go back to them and account for himself. That he did it, and he did it. He had very spidery, very decipherable handwriting. And then there was the Post Office opened at nine o'clock.

AW: Did you ever work in the Post Office?

No. He wouldn't let me.

AW: Why not?

I wasn't educated enough. You had to be able to handle change, I still can't. But I could answer the telephone and take telegrams down.

AW: So there was telephones in Caloundra in 1918?

As Jean said, there were only four. That were the Hotels.

AW: Which hotels?

Hotel Francis, (Rookes), Kings Grand Central, Tripcony's, and I think somebody else fairly responsible in the town.

AW: And there were only four telephones?

Yes, for quite a while.

AW: So how were the phones connected? Was it a manual exchange?

An old fashioned exchange with shutters. Down would come a shutter and a ring and by the shutter you would know who it was, because underneath the shutter was number four, King's.

AW: So, King's Guest House phone number was number four. Say I wanted to ring up; I was ringing from Hotel Francis.

Number eight became Mr Rinaldi, and Mr Eaton, I think, was number six. We had a lot of calls to Wamuran, because that's where he came from.

AW: Where’s Wamuran?


AW: So what would you do, if you were working on the phone exchange and you were putting Mr. Eaton's phone call through to Wamuran?

We'd ring Landsborough.

AW: And then what would you do?

Landsborough had a proper exchange for ringing country phones, but we'd get onto them. They could speak to Wamuran alright. And we would speak to Bribie or whatever else was trunk line, Caboolture particularly, and Nambour to get a doctor or something. We could get through.

AW: But what would you do?

You'd just ring up and you'd talk to Mr. Walsh.

AW: Who was Mr. Walsh?

The postmaster at Landsborough.

AW: So he ran the exchange in Landsborough?

He was more important to Landsborough, the source of refreshment room stop for trains, the source of getting transport to Maleny. Those were two places serviced by cars.

AW: So Landsborough was a very important town in the early 1900's.

It was a refreshment stop; it was a stop to go to Maleny and to Caloundra and lower Bribie and all that. The next stop of importance of course was Nambour. But the train was very important, it brought the mail.

AW: Now with the mail, you'd also know all about the mail, because you worked in the Post Office, your father ran the Post Office.

I've got a little mail bag downstairs, a small one for registered letters. It's a little one because you'd only perhaps have two in it. It still had to go through the process; we were given a lot of sealing wax, my Father would light and drip the sealing wax onto the bag where it folded, and then he would get the government stamp, which had Caloundra on it and the date and "prank" hold it there, it branded it.

AW: So, that was the way of sealing Caloundra's mail?

That was the most effective thing that they ever invented. It was more effective than whatever they do today.

AW: Why’s that?

Because you had to forcibly break that seal to get into the mail bag.

AW: And if it was broken?

It had been tampered with, which it never was, never. Can't they use these things again? There's no question that if they would be tampered with, they'd have to break that seal. It was held down; it was that big a splash.

AW: As big as a fifty cent piece?

Oh yes. Because it was raw sealing wax, it had to go on the middle of it. Spread about that much and you'd have to smash it, which you did with your little hammer, and we'd open the mail and we'd have sorting boxes just like they would in the small exchange, like everyone else. And people would come in and while he was on the phone, they'd know. They practically ask him, "There's my letter, there it is, in number K ? Kings” But he wasn't allowed. There was a little trap door and he wouldn't let them through. They had to wait for him; he was very strict. They could go in, in fact, but we weren't that casual.

AW: How much were stamps in those days? Say the early 1920's for example.

Two pence, as I recall. The war time stamps were four pence.

AW: First World War or Second World War?

Second. I've got yards of envelopes from the Second World War; they went up to sixpence and all that, but not for a while.

AW: So, at the Post Office, I always have this picture of the person on the exchange, knowing everybody's business, because they connect all the phone calls and stuff like that.

Caloundra Lighthouse Duties 1920s

They could if they liked to do so, yes. But as far as my Father was concerned, he was a man of integrity, couldn't have been better. He talked about nobody. He never let the side down, he would walk over glass bottles to open the Post Office on the day, and he only had one half day on any holiday off, no matter what, except Christmas Day and Good Friday.

AW: And they are the only two days of the whole year he had off?

Yes, that's right.

AW: He would still have to light the light, wouldn't he?

Well, that went on forever, that's part of the penalty you accumulate. It's like a baby, you've got to. But he could sleep in the front room and the light on the flagstaff made the flagstaff white in the night. If he ever woke up and couldn't see the white flagstaff, he would spring to life; it meant the light was run down or out.

AW: Can you ever remember the light going out when it was really a crucial moment. Would you like to tell me about that?

Well, that was my other favourite story of the past, because he did save the AUSN, the passenger ship BOMBALA, from the fate of a cyclonic death at sea. She couldn't have survived, she was only a small vessel, but she was a freighter and passenger vessel, and she had left because she had to keep the schedule, I suppose, at night, on the last of the cyclone, so it was continually stirred up with spume everywhere. She could not see, she could only do by feel and she left the bay, and she passed Bribie Lighthouses, got them alright and she was heading for the buoy, but she couldn't find it.

AW: Now what's the buoy?

The buoy is the one that guides the ship. You must have seen ships come to Caloundra, down from Brisbane, and there's a buoy there near Bribie. You turn sharply, that's where it turns.

AW: And then they come inland and go west?

No, they go north. They come from the city there and then they turn sharply at the buoy, which is closest to Caloundra, there. It's only less than half a mile away. Then they turn round and if they are going north, they go around at Caloundra Headland, there. There's Moreton Island over there, they don't go that way, not unless they are going to Sydney. But she was going north.

AW: So there's a special channel they have to get in.

Oh yes, it's the North/West Channel, I forget the name of the other one. It's over near Tangalooma. They are using it more now because it's been deepened, I only heard the other night. It was deepening, the channel, and seeing to it more for shipping. I don't know where the big new ship went out, the Island Princess; I don't know which channel she went.

AW: What about the Bombala, they were out there and a cyclone.

Well, my Father woke up, I don't remember how early, but it was after ten o'clock, it was this wild and cyclonic night. We were all in fear it might get worse, but it was getting a wee bit better. And suddenly he woke up in the night and after ten, he saw there was no light. Of course, being taught to do something quickly, he sprang up and looked out and saw the wild sea, the wild water, the scudding clouds and the wind howling; and he suddenly remembered the Bombala; I suppose that was training too. He added up the time, she was near coming. She was at night time, and so she should be coming at any time within the next hour. So he rang on the phone, he woke up the people on the four exchanges. It's all he could do. Unless he went up to the back where there was a house. I can't remember him going except ringing up and saying urgently, "The light is out and there's a ship coming. Will you bring any lantern you've got, bring every lantern you've got or any one you can pageant. Come straight up to the lighthouse now." And they didn't argue, they were just men of action.

AW: They all got out of bed in the middle of the night?

They put on, not plastic raincoats, they put on their mackintoshes and they went out in the rain and the wind and they brought two lanterns each, and we had two, I suppose. There seemed to be six, nine, I think nine lanterns, was all we had. Anyway, they had to get them up the lighthouse. They went up the lighthouse and emptied the lighthouse's face up there, and hung them in a neat row facing the sea, didn't turn them up then. And then he couldn't check on anyone; there was no one to check on, see you couldn't ring up anyone. It was action there; he had to do it himself. So suddenly he saw it coming, he saw the lights rising, above the lights of the headlight, on the boat. And he knew that it would be in a trough of the waves every minute and rise up again. It hadn't sunk. It was ploughing, and he saw it go past Bribie, which were lit, and then would they turn? That was the vexing question. The men were up there. If she couldn't see the lighthouse in the spume and the rain, would she be able to turn or would she go straight forward and crash onto the reef outside Bribie, which was what the Anro Asia did, and stuck there and she would break up in the sea that was running. Anyway, she was lucky. So, it was with bated breath I suppose, they all waited and she turned. It was a wonderful moment for them all.

AW: They’d been successful.

They'd been successful. She'd seen the glimmer of light and she turned sharply and went safely with the waves instead of against them. Well it was with them all the way, really, even harder because they were broadside on her, so she was rolling more. But she passed, so the men came down, it was midnight, and my Mother was making the tea. We were told to get out of the way, we two kids, there were no others, only my sister and I, "Get out of the way, help your Mother." My Mother cut a lot of bread up for toast, and boiled up the kettles, the two kettles we had and made everything ready for when they came down. They had hot tea, they were cold and wet, but there was no point in them undressing, they had to go home. After we had the hot tea and toast and spoke about it there was nothing else to say. They all went home. My father stayed up all night, in case. The next day the sea was calm, as it always is, after it's done its damage, it was calm, it was dirty, but it was calm. So we knew everything. The only other thing he heard that day was the complaint that came from the Captain of the Bombala, about the shocking state of Caloundra's light. Yes, that was a complaint. And of course it went through the right channels and my Father had his report prepared, all ready and verified, so instead, he got a commendation written by the government people in the town, navigation, for his resourcefulness in the line of duty.

AW: So when was that? How old were you?

I would say I would be about six and a half.

AW: So that was only early 1919?

No, it would have been a bit later than that; I would have been a bit bigger. Not much though. Anyway, I suppose anyone could take a stab at ? 1921 perhaps. I wasn't old enough to remember all the details. One of the ones would have been Tom Maloney, Mr. King of the boarding house (King’s Grand Central Boarding House), Frank Rooke of the Mail and the other one would have been one of the people down the road.

AW: They would have helped your father with the lights?

Well, they were responsible people; they could verify what they did. There was no way that he could be charged with neglect. And he could not fix that light in the night; he needed the daylight to fix it. He never at any time shirked duties, so he had a good record.

AW: Did that often happen? The light going out?

Yes it did happen every year or so, not too often, fortunately. Then he could fix it; it had done no damage or given no damage.

WW1 Naval Fleet passes Caloundra

AW: You were telling me before about the end of World War One, when the Naval Fleet passed Caloundra.

That was the other occasion that interested me. I'm using that to explain why I think such a lot of the flag and get so upset arguing with people who say we need a new flag. We might need a new flag after this generation is all gone. Then they can please themselves, but not yet, it is not time yet to change the flag we all grew up under.

AW: Well, what's the significance of the fleet going past Caloundra?

Well, because they were the Mother Land and that was the First World War when we were more patriotic. And the thought of the King sending what was left of the great fleet of England including the Admiral Lord Jellicoe himself, who practically won the war at sea. He was on board the "New Zealand", the leader of the fleet and they were to call at every capital of Australia and New Zealand to thank the Colonies for their support and help in the Great War. And it was a command from the King, which would have been King George.

AW: Well, what did it look like?

Oh, grand. Just like that phone book there, the leader of the fleet, at this day, the 75th Anniversary. A wonderful sight. I think about five to seven ships, all in exact Navy ritual. The biggest one first, the Admiral, one, two, three down to a small destroyer. All in correct line on the dot of time, where they were due. Of course, the school was closed so that we children could come.

AW: It must have been exciting when they turned to go into the channel.

Well, we hadn't been recognised up till then. They waited until they came to the nearest point of Caloundra to answer our signal; they saw the flags. But ritual must make them do whatever they do, so it's got to be ritual. So we didn't hear anything. My Father was a bit aghast; what had he done wrong, maybe he'd spelt the flag wrong or something and I'm milling around in tears.

AW: Why were you in tears?

Sudden patriotism. That was it. Suddenly it was terribly important, the King. That's all I thought about, the King had sent this fleet to say hello to us and we should recognise it. And we had done our part and there was the flagstaff laden with little flags. "Come on Kid, Q,Q, get the name rack." I remember him saying "Q,Q, bank". The flags were in little cubicles and had to be undone. I feel he had done most of it himself but being a bit frantic, he needed help. They wouldn't all go up on the flagpole; it would take some doing with the wind. Anyway they got up and he did it right. "Welcome to Queensland". We were the only one to do that because we were the only one with a light keeper who had flags, apparently. It was our job to do it.

AW: So, did they give you any response?

Yes, definitely. Dr. McLeod, of the "Forceful Tug", said when I asked him, that they would have answered in kind. But my other informant said they would have dipped the flag. So, I don't know which, but they answered.

AW: So you don't actually remember.

I don't know what they answered, but dipping the flag was sufficient. They would have answered in kind, he said, but he could have been wrong. Anyway, my Father sat down once that was done. He sat down exhausted and mopped his brow and it was all over. We went back to school.

AW: So all the school children, you had the day off school to go and watch the fleet go past.

Schooling in Caloundra: Early years

There weren't many school children, I can tell you. There would be about ten. And they didn't all show much interest, even Jean can only remember it vaguely; she didn't have interest, patriot. Only me, I'm in tears.

AW: Who’s Jean?

Jean is Jean Mackay, the one I'm speaking of, who knows more than me and she's a year older. But her memory of the local scene is better than mine and also of Maleny and Landsborough and Mapleton where she grew up.

AW: So getting back to Caloundra...

That was an occasion that I remember more than most, because the Admiral was on board and he was the most important Admiral they had ever known, like Churchill. He was on board and he saw our flags, and it was our flag at school, the next day I looked at it with new respect. We had a flag; the chosen boy put it up each day on our little flag pole. But he was told by the teacher, "You must never let it touch the ground, never let it touch the ground. And never let it get dirty, wash your hands". See, it was important, even then, but instant patriotism came when it was personal, I was helping say hello to the Admiral.

AW: Getting back to Caloundra, when you were at school, you were saying there were only about ten children at the school.

Yes, if I can find that picture, which must be in the other room, it was in Verney's house?

AW: It was in Verney's house?

Well, it's got another picture of Verney's house in it and the school and something else I wanted to show you.

AW: Was the school actually held at the same place where it is at the moment?

Exactly. Those big trees outside and later on the second school came beside it, the second one.

AW: Can you remember when that was built?

Not in my time; when I left Mrs. Taylor was teacher. My teachers were: Mrs. Cavandish, she's in the picture, Mrs. Miriam Costello, now Westaway and Mrs. Taylor.

AW: They were teachers?

They were our teachers.

AW: What sort of things did they teach you at school? Do you remember your school lessons?

Simple things, arithmetic. We'd stand up for arithmetic. I hated that, I was never any good at it. And geography, which I liked better.

AW: When you said you stood up; they'd make you stand up?

For arithmetic, yes.

AW: Why’s that?

I don’t know whether we stood up for the ones who weren't very good at it. But I seemed to be standing up all the time. I never did too well on arithmetic, to this day it's a nightmare to add up things, and my phone bill takes me days to sort out. But that was all, and we used to have little gentle things like sewing and hem stitching. That was nice, I used to like that, it was peaceful. And we used to have the word 'teacher' or 'Caloundra' on the blackboard and see how many words you could make out of it. That was interesting, I still like that. See how many words you can make out of one name, like teacher or Caloundra.

AW: Did your teacher use a text book? Or did you work from a text book?

We didn't have many books, we had a reader. A reader of the day and a map and perhaps parsing.

AW: Did you do much on World affairs and Geography?

No, we were not taught World Affairs at all. But I remember, I idly wondered to myself why we needed so many high up people like: a Governor, a Prime Minister, and a Governor General. Why couldn't one do it or rather one less.

AW: You asked yourself those questions when you were a child?


AW: As children, did you question the values of your parents? Do you remember being rebellious at all?

No. We were not rebellious, none of us. Parents were to be respected and obeyed. We could cry and plead, fair enough. But mostly you did that to your mother, interceded like the church. You interceded through your mother. I wasn't the only one. Mr. Sykes was a man like that, and so was Mr. Rooke, and so were a few others. Men of principle, blameless men who also had authority in their own home. My Mother couldn't do anything without Dad's consent. My sister and I could do nothing without having my Father's permission.

AW: So your father was very strict?

Well, "he who must be obeyed". And we weren't the only ones; we were all much the same. The Maltman family were under the jurisdiction of their father. So were the Mackay's and the Clarke's, the Tripcony's. Their fathers were the head of the house. And we didn't need to question, no one ever ran away from home. Anyway we had no money, but even so we would be allotted our school, little bits of money that was necessary. And threepence a week, risen to sixpence later.

AW: That was your pocket money, threepence a week?

Threepence a week.

AW: And what would you buy with your threepence?

We didn't buy anything, we stored it in our money boxes and mind you, people were kind to children. Many a two bob came my way, I earned my little bit of living by filling coloured sands for the public. I had a thriving business under the house. And I filled junket tubes and test tubes with coloured sands and set them on a base. They were most attractive, nine pence.

AW: How old were you when you had your little coloured sand enterprise?

Sevenish and eightish.

AW: So this is 1920?

I would have an example in the Post Office. I was really very cluey. A big and a small one. And the price, "Caloundra Sands", in school‑girl hand, and people would buy them.

Tourism in Caloundra 1920s

AW: So there were lots of tourists in those days?

People with money.

AW: Why would they come to Caloundra?

To get away from it all, as they do now to Lizard Island. They were men under pressure, Archbishops, doctors and clergymen.

AW: And where would they stay?

King's Grand Central, or the Hotel.

AW: Or the Francis?

They were happy at King's Grand Central. They were nearer the beach and it was homely. The Rooke’s were stern.

AW: What do you mean by stern?

Well, they didn't try to interest their guests in good fun or anything; they didn't help them to be entertained. Nothing happened at night, no doubt. Anyway, the bath house, in the very early days was outside, in the woods.

AW: This is at the Hotel Francis?

Yes. But only for the first year or two. There was a natural water spring there which they bailed up into a fantastic shower. People would cross the road and go to that with their bathing things on or under their arm and they'd have a shower, but of course it was cold. So it didn't last long, something was done about it.

AW: How would you, in the old days, get hot water?

Big iron kettles were always kept full. We all had two big kettles and we had a wood stove. And the iron kettle; there were two kettles, one for quick boiling to make tea and light lunches and the big iron kettle to fall back on. It was always kept stoked.

AW: And you'd have a bath.

In a tub, because everybody else did. The tub was upstairs in the winter and downstairs in the summer. It had more uses in the winter. But downstairs was O.K., we'd have a big tub.

AW: So you had a two storey house?

No, one, it's in that photo; the house.

AW: The house was on stumps.

Big enough to have a room underneath, such as a wash house and a tank. The Post Office was in the third bedroom.

Dulcie contracts Polio

AW: So you were telling me that your schooling was interrupted.

By polio, between nine and ten.

AW: So you contracted polio?

I wasn't the only one. There was a rash of it. Nambour had quite a few cases. And I was a good case for it, because I was a poor eater. Full of energy and wild things I wanted to do, but food was not one of them. Food, good food was not one of them, milk, cheese, eggs and honey, none of those. I'd barely touched them. My Mother had to fight to get me to eat a good meal.

AW: So, did you get very sick with polio?

Oh yes. I was threatened with TB; that's how it affects you. So therefore I don't know which the worst was. I couldn't use my left arm and that sort of thing. I just didn't grow, but I picked up once I turned puberty, because I seemed to pick up from then. Mind you, also I was older and my Mother needed to have a long holiday, she was waiting on me hand and foot. My Father sent us to Cairns on ship. I was to have my sixteenth birthday on it, and by this time I had finished wearing the brace.

AW: So you had to wear a brace from when you were about ten years old?

Oh, a horrible brace, it was heavy and ungainly and cruel. But my Mother invented a boxy thing to tie me up in, linen from the lighthouse, beautiful linen it was.

Part Two

AW: So you loved to stand on the balcony?

I loved to stand on the balcony, and be wind swept; I would think of myself; "She was windswept". I was always a journalist in heart, you see, always writing something. She stood there windswept, what I was doing, was just staring out to sea.

AW: You must have had a very good view over the township.

We had a marvellous view, out of this world. And it was a comfortable balcony, you just lent on it, like a ship. It was comfortable and perfectly safe, you just lent on the rail, not like some lighthouses, you didn't lean on any rail on Moreton Island, you just practically got up and went flat, it was tough. But Caloundra lighthouse was like you saw, a rail all around, once you got up, there was a little trapdoor this wide (indicates 250cm), I hated the trapdoor, because underneath it was darkness and spiders. But you'd have to go down it to get down.

AW: Was there a ladder or a staircase inside the lighthouse?

A wooden staircase, straight up and down, you clung to it, it aimed at the trap door. When you came to the top you'd push it open, hoped it would stay open, and not crash on your head, and you'd clamber out into the safety, but it was always a bit tricky. Visitors would squeal with fear when I'd take them up, but I got very disinterested in what they did, I was told to take them up the lighthouse and that I did. Then I'd open the door and they'd go outside and I wouldn't go out with them. I didn't like all these people. But I was the one he'd fasten on, "Take these people up the Lighthouse, I've promised them."

AW: This was your father?

Yes. People would come, "Can I go up the lighthouse? I've promised somebody I'd take a photo?" "Where's that squib, she'll take you up." I was always down the back yard doing something, hiding I think. But I'd have to go, because you obeyed. And that's all I'd do and filled my sand; I would be down there for quite a long time. When I got sick and that, I had to rest, I didn't do it anymore.

AW: So you didn't go to school when you had polio?

Oh, I couldn't. I was useless.

AW: How would you go to the doctor? Would you have to go all the way to Brisbane?

No. I went to Nambour.

AW: Can you remember the name of the doctor in Nambour?

I didn't have to go, doctors came to Caloundra.

AW: There wasn't actually a doctor in Caloundra?

No, there was no doctor. But there was nothing they could do for me, just a question of getting strong and fighting against it, four years I lost. Four years of my life.

AW: So you had four years of having to wear these big braces?

Well that was the worst of it. It was heavy. It was designed badly, Doctor Mein didn't know his trade so much in those days, and he tried and told them to build me up. I was taking cod liver oil. I remember the ghastly cod liver oil they had to buy for me. My Father was always frugal. He decided that I might as well get the real thing, a dugong washed up on the beach.

AW: What did he do?

Well, it was dying. He got the dugong and cut pelts and portions off it and boiled it up in the copper boiler, which stank for ages. A dugong is a very powerful smelling fish; it is one of the most fishy things of all. And then the oil was put into bottles and I was rubbed with it hot. This he read somewhere; it was marvellous. So, "he who must be obeyed", I was rubbed with this, for which they called me, if I ever did make school, "Fisho".

AW: So you smelled fishy.

Admiration for Miriam Westaway

You could smell it a mile off, no matter what I wore. So I wasn't very happy. I prefer to put that in the class, as has been, because I can't see anything very happy about it, except that I worshipped my teacher. That was Mrs. Miriam Westaway; she was not only good looking, but she had personality and she laughed.

AW: Is she one of the Westaway's from the Caloundra Road?

Yes, Westaway Towers is named after her, she's a Councillor, Landsborough Councillor, or was, in her heyday.

AW: She was a councillor? A female councillor?

Yes, the only one, and she had plenty to say. Miriam Westaway, councillor. Her daughter is in charge of the Caloundra Hospital, first nurse, first Sister. Oh, she was a very powerful person.

AW: Who’s that?

Miss Miriam Costello then. I adored her.

AW: Is this the nurse?

No, that's Mrs. Miriam; she's still alive in a home in Buderim.

AW: This is Miss Westaway, your teacher?

No, she was Miss Costello, but she married Bill Westaway.

AW: So, she wasn't one of the Westaway girls?

No, she was a Catholic girl from Brisbane. Her first school.

AW: The children used to ridicule you because of this oil your father...

That's all, they could smell me coming and smell me passing, I wouldn't blame them. I could smell myself.

AW: So this is when you were a teenager?

No. Eleven, twelve, thirteen I was recovering. Fourteen I was out of my brace.

AW: Were you ever allowed to go swimming when you had your brace?

Not much. I spent a lot of time on the verandah in the summer, with a homemade hanging thing. What do you call it, a swing to hang from, to stretch you? Hanging there as long as I could, that would stretch me, you see, dropping my bones down. It was a good idea; the rest of it was on a board with the blanket over it, with no pillow.

AW: And you had to sleep on a board?

Well, I had to have the board on a hard horsehair pillow, and at night, a hard bed. It didn't do me good. They couldn't do what they can do now, they operate. They operate on cases where the spine is affected. They put something in it, they put a plate. Nothing could stop the bend, with me. And time only makes it worse, that's why I had good innings until I was fifty.

AW: Did the children ostracize you at all?

Up to a point, yes. I was different. Anyone who is different, you were different.

AW: And why was that, because it was such a small community?

Oh well, perhaps a dozen at the most. If there was anyone else to ask to dance, for instance, as I grew up, they'd ask them. The kinder ones would ask me, but the ones that were out to attract or to enjoy them would ask Alderdice or Jean or Doris Clarke, or someone like that. If anyone was asked to compete in games where you had to run for your life, I would be sure to fall over. They didn't ask me, it used to hurt, because I was a kid. And those things would hurt, so I grew inverted. More inverted than I should have been. Looking back on it, it was my only chance to come out again, was to feel more like myself, be a bit more like a pretty girl, I did have the face at least.

AW: So in Caloundra, when you were a young girl of sixteen, what would you do for entertainment?

Well, being the hub of things, the people would come to us. They'd come up at night, Tom Maloney was a great one for visiting at night and he brought Dick Cotton, who was one of the Westaway's men, and they two would come up and play cards with us. Not my Father, he was so anti‑social that he would stay in his office, reading, preparing for tomorrow. We'd take his cup of tea into him. But if the men felt like it, he would welcome them into his office; never would he come out of that office. Don't ask me why, that was his way.

AW: What about dances?

Well, they were held in Maltman's Hall.

AW: Whereabouts was Maltman's Hall, do you know what street?

Just about fifty yards down from King Street and I think Mackay Street, whatever is off King Street and the school, just near the school. The hall was there on the highest part of his ground, right on the street, an attractive hall he built. As Jean said, come to think of it, he was a very progressive man. He was just a bullock driver and uneducated. But he had good hands and could foresee things that others didn't see. He was the first one to open a little shop on the beach.

AW: Which beach is that?

Bob Maltman’s Kings Beach Store 1923

Kings Beach. He opened one with no windows, but shutters. When he was open for business, he'd open the shutters.

AW: What sort of things would he sell in his little shop on the beach?

He sold everything necessary for being at the beach. We didn't have sun burn cream in those days, we probably had Vaseline and vinegar and things like that, whatever he considered necessary. And he would have chocolates and lollies, boiled lollies, and soft drinks. You know, to this day I remember those soft drinks. He couldn't have ice-cream, he had no ice. But as I said, he was a brain, he'd think of something he could sell, whatever everyone asked for; if he didn't have it, he'd get it next time. He was a good fellow. His wife didn't help. I don't think anyone helped him because it was his weekend work.

AW: So, he gave up bullocking?

Well, he gave the bullock driving over to his son, Ned, who hadn't got his father's gumption, but he was practical enough to drive a bullock team. She mentions it as his “Ned Maltman's bullock team", that would have been after his father stopped being a bullock driver and turned himself.

AW: What’s Mr. Maltman's first name?


AW: When did Bob Maltman start up his little shop at Kings Beach?

When I was about eleven, I'd say.

AW: So that's about 1923?

Things happened about 1923 or 1924. They built Caloundra House soon after that. That was up and coming by then. And his little shop on the beach was well patronised because we took to the beach more on afternoons after church, as I said, there would be church in the morning and that was quite colourful. Somebody used to worry about Caloundra being destitute of religion for the children's sake. The Catholic Church wouldn't come into it, too high and mighty. The English Church and the Presbyterian weren't interested, there was only one that had the nous, the go‑ahead to come and give us religion.

AW: Who was that?

Methodist. And they came, three parishes on Sunday, not every Sunday, they couldn't do it. Probably once in every three or four weeks or it might have been once a fortnight, in Maltman's Hall. Before that they held a service in the school. The little school.

Class distinction in early Caloundra

AW: And would all the families go?

No. They were very unreligious, most of them. Only we, middle class ones, the ones around the hill went. I don't know why, the snobs never came.

AW: Why not?

I don't know, I mean the snobs were the ones on the high hill.

AW: Who were the snobs?

Mrs. Beasley, the Lewis', Mrs. Lamb, the Green's and the McGill's, don’t ask me how they all lived. They all lived very well apparently.

AW: Did they have any children that went there?

Yes, they had four daughters who lived that lonely man less life; pathetic daughters. Violet Beasley who never married until she was quite old; lovely little woman. Mrs. Lewis' girls, Joy and Glory, those poor girls had nothing. Mrs McGill's daughter, Jean McGill, she never married. See, they had no men.

AW: There was men in the town, but no eligible bachelors.

No eligible bachelors. There were only two.

AW: Who were they?

The Hon A.M. Campbell, but he was old. He lived in a little house up near the police station, Hotel Rooke place up that way. He lived a quiet life, but he was an eligible bachelor.

AW: So there were no young boys?

Only the Richie's and Clarke's, and they were very young, they hadn't yet built up to manhood. And they married one another.

AW: So there was definite class distinction?

The Clarke's, Tripconys and Richie's, practically married one another in desperation. Mrs. Rinaldi was a Tripcony and Clarry married one of the local girls I think.

AW: Who was Clarry?

Clarry was the one that was in Vance Palmer's book, the good looking one.

AW: What was Carry’s surname though?

Clarke. He had four brothers, and they all survived, but one got killed in the war, I think, Second World War. One got drowned, Jack, who is buried at the cemetery at Caloundra, a nice fellow, and Jim, might have been the one you heard of. I don't know what became of Jim; he married a local girl. The Godwin's married into it too. Young Doris Clarke married George Godwin. Evelyn Godwin married Cochrane whoever he was. She figured in the reunion, she got the cake. Three years ago, they had a Caloundra Reunion, I can show you those photos, we are all in it, including your Ray Tinley, standing in it with his beard. We had a lovely reunion, good fun, but we all wore our jacket names with our original names and they couldn't believe who was who. None of us could believe it.

AW: How was that, going back and seeing somebody that you haven't seen since you were a child?

Shock! Shock! And suddenly remembering that you must look the same to them. No kidding. Little Dudley Cannon, the Cannon's, the oldest ones I could remember, where we got milk from in the bush. Little Dudley Cannon, that little man over there, with a rather oldish face, you know I just couldn't believe it. And Ray Tilney, not Ray Tilney, big goofy Ray, you know sort of all angles with nothing to him, suddenly a presence. The Richie boys, both grandfathers. But none of the other ones, they have died off early I'm afraid. Young Verney, he was an optician in town, he was lovely, but he died. His brother's still alive though, or his nephew, and is a Vet at down at Redcliffe. You see, they haven't all moved away.

AW: So Caloundra has a lot of the old families still there?

Yes, still hanging around the local scene. Like Stan Tutt and that, he's interested in Landsborough. Something he does in Landsborough, for the museum. As far as I know, he runs a museum in Landsborough. The Westaway's have moved to Redcliffe. They haven't left the north coast. Dudley Cannon lives at Mooloolaba. The Sykes have spun out Gympie way, they are still up there. In fact, Trevor Sykes was going up to see his old brother, Edward. And his father, who was so strict and tough said, "I never saw your father smile", he said to me at the reunion. And I said, "I never saw yours". Same thing, they didn't. He came up to me because he saw I was a Birrell. He said, "Where did you used to go on that pony of yours?" I said, "Aah, if it was once a week, I was going to my music lesson".

AW: You had music lessons?

Off Mrs King, as I said, she was the most well‑known name in Caloundra.

AW: So, this is Mrs. King of King's Grand Central?

Miriam King, she taught music and she could play well herself, and she'd play for the local picture show sometimes, or she eventually played for the dances and her offsiders were me, whom she taught. And Jean, who knew how to play a bit, and Gertie Alderdice, who was quite a good pianist.

AW: So you would occasionally play music at the picture theatre?

No, I didn't play for the pictures, because you had to play pieces with running horses and at that, she was good. She'd play the horses, she'd play something, I couldn't have done that. But I became very adept at playing waltzes and she could play the hard music, and Gertie Alderdice could play it, but Jean and I were a bit tough to get on with, but we managed.

AW: So did you ever play piano at any of the local dances?

Yes, that was where we did play. There was no other music. Should someone have a violin or a piano accordion, they were welcome to come and join us. But mostly it was just piano and nobody minded.

AW: And who would turn up?

Oh, visitors. "There's a dance on tonight. There would be things on", the late Mr. Renaldo would say, "Coming to the dance tonight?" He loved to dance, so he would dig up people; he'd bring them from anywhere he found. He'd bring up visitors too, and they'd have a ball, dancing around the place. There would be supper.

AW: Did you get all dressed up?

Yes. My word. We would have our dresses for the dances. Remember how they were made by a McWhirters and pinned together.

AW: No, what's that?

Well, you ordered by catalogue. And your measurements, you put your measurements in, and your material and two colours, in case. And it came back in the post all pinned up into the shape you asked for.

AW: What, so you wouldn't actually get a finished garment from a mail order?

Some of it was tacked.

AW: Really? I always understood that mail order, you just send off and you get the finished dress back.

Oh no, it wouldn't have worked you see, you had to be able to alter it. So some seams were tacked, like the collar, you know tacked. But mostly the hem would have to be elastic too, no it was pinned.

AW: And would you use a treadle machine?

My Mother used to sew them up, she had a treadle machine. It was her trade, a dressmaker in the years when she was young.

AW: That would have been handy for you then?

Oh, she made all my clothes. She made what she could of my things. She mended the sheets and all that. She made my Father's coats, that coat he had on that we made of crash from the lighthouse.

AW: What’s crash?

Purchasing clothes in Caloundra

A strong corduroy thing, suitable for a coat. She'd reinforce the collar with something, don't ask me what, something tough. And it was a nearer collar. That saved him wearing a tie, because he hated ties. She would make two or three of these coats, a best one, a second best and one in the wash. He was always tidy as a postmaster, always in one of these coats without a tie, but you see, nobody noted it was buttoned from here to there. Poor thing would make those coats for him. His trousers he'd have to buy somewhere. We had this man who would come round, a haberdashery man. Did I mention that one? The man that would come round, the trader, with a van, he sold everything from needles to.....

AW: So this is later, much later in the twenties.

No, it wasn't much later. It was early.

AW: How old would you have been?

Under fifteen, I suppose. It must have been before that again.

AW: So that's about 1926?

The dates will elude me. I wouldn't have been walking around much for those four years. It was either before or after I was ten, so it could have been before. He would come round and sell his dresses, and we'd buy them; everybody would buy off him. It was such a wonderful thing to have some clothes, some we'd buy. Even father would let his hair down and buy something too. Buy socks and things, and maybe buy his trousers.

AW: So there was no clothing store in Caloundra?

None whatever.

AW: What about Tytherleigh’s?

Yes, but they were in Landsborough.

AW: So when did Tytherleigh’s move to Caloundra?

Oh years later, after we left.

AW: So you left in 1931, so it was after that?

It might have just started.

AW: So there were really no clothing stores?

None. We managed to get things through the post and our mail order catalogues and by going occasionally to Landsborough, which had a sort of shop there and occasionally to Nambour, but that's all and Brisbane of course. Some of us would get to Brisbane, we were the lucky ones, and we’d go twice a year.

Transport to Brisbane

AW: And how would you get to Brisbane?

At first we'd go in the Koopa and in boats.

AW: And alight at Redcliffe?

No, we went to Brisbane.

AW: Directly to Brisbane?

No, we went to Brisbane, from Caloundra to Bribie on the Koopa.

AW: Alright, the Koopa was a small boat just between Caloundra and Bribie?

No, the Koopa was a big boat.

AW: How would you get to Bribie Island from Caloundra?

In either Tripconys boat or Tom Maloney's boat.

AW: How much was it to go over?

Oh it was very cheap. I used to give Clarry two shillings, I remember it one time. Mostly we went in Clarry's because it was more comfortable. It was the Grace or something like that, or the 'Grace‑Doreen'.

AW: This is Clarry Clarke, is it?

WW1 soldiers return to Caloundra

Yes. The Tripconys first. I think Mr. Tripconys would have done it. He was a very active man, he ran the first store. And he lived on the flat and he had a big house, and it was to his house and property on the flat, where we had the big coming home party for our three soldiers, all day.

AW: This is World War One?


AW: Can you remember that?

Yes in a way. I would be pretty young then, but I remember that we were all there and it was very important. There were great big kettles boiling and councillors from Landsborough and Nambour came and were welcomed officially home. Member of Parliament came.

AW: And who were the three soldiers who came home. Do you remember their names?

Yes. Douglas Tripconys, they were all late in the war, they didn't go early in the war; they were too young. Vivian Rooke, Mr. Rooke's second son and Edan King, Mr. King's second son. Will King was the first, he was a hard worker, they couldn't have spared him. But Edan went; he was rather flashy and good looking. And they all came home unscathed, minor ailments perhaps, but all came home in one piece with their uniforms, thin, a bit war torn, but otherwise just glad to be home. And you'd think they'd won the war of course. Honour upon honour was bestowed on them.

AW: Caloundra’s heroes.

Caloundra's heroes, there were only three of them. They were the only ones who went, and as far as I know, they all came home. It was a happy occasion. A member of the parliament personally thanked them and hung something on them. Food passed by all day, and games, billy tea and it was a fine day. I can remember the occasion vaguely. There were lots of flags, lots of goings‑on and Mr. Tripcony was host.

AW: Can you remember, was Sir Leslie Wilson living in Caloundra in those days?

No, I think he came after my time, but he was well known and loved. He had the lovely home at Dicky Beach or Moffat Head, which was there for many years.

AW: That was there while you still lived in Caloundra?

No, I don't think so, no. Abel Smith was there, no. Mr. Leslie Wilson came before the Second World War. We were in Brisbane by then, a long time. I don't remember when he came but he was very popular wherever he went. He had a son called Peter Wilson, who was very much the other end of Caloundra; he used to go to either hotel. He didn't stay at any places like boarding houses; after all he was a Governor.

AW: He had Currimundi House built, didn't he?

He had it built to his own design. It was lovely; everyone loved to look at it.

Sourcing essential living needs in early Caloundra

AW: Going back to when you were still living at Caloundra, you didn't have a drapery? Did you have a butcher?


AW: What would you do for your meat?

Well, Mr. Eaton came. Mr. Eaton gets mentioned many times, you know, even in the photos, he's in the photos. Yes, he existed, but not until the last three years.

AW: So that would have been around 1928?

Somewhere in the late twenties, Mr. Eaton came, a butcher.

AW: So what would Caloundra residents do?

He might have come in four years before we left, but no more. We had an order form. My Father would ring up in the morning, three times a week and order from the butcher there, who must have been a pretty patient man.

AW: Where? Landsborough?

In Landsborough, we had a big sack, like a mail‑bag. I think we used our mail‑bags. And there might have been two. I think we had a breathing thing, like a sugar bag, yes, sugar bag, which would bear our name on it, actually, others would be too, with our name Birrell, Post Office. And our order would go along the lines, so many pounds of sirloin roast, we loved sirloin roast that was Sunday dinner. The minister might be coming. We had to have a sirloin roast to live on, but mostly it became a beef stew. Then, we had a lot of sausages, two pound of beef sausages, didn't have pork. Then we would have mince or something we could turn into mince, I suppose we had mince then, and some steak, rump steak.

AW: So, every meal had meat in it?

Fish was our own effort. Our Father would go, he had big fishing lines. He may have had a rod, but he didn't use it. He went down to the rocks to fish off the rocks at Kings Beach, and he was very lucky; there was also plenty of fish in those days. He'd catch big snapper and squire, sometimes flathead. Or he had the boat; he'd go and catch flathead, bream and whiting. That's how we had a row boat.

AW: What about your vegetables, where would you get those from?

We'd grow those,

AW: Grow all your own vegetables? What about butter and cheese and milk?

Butter had to come, but we'd make our own butter too. We had a cow. We'd save the milk in shallow basins. I don't know what became of the basins. So, they'd get more cream, and the cream was good cream; it was a good cow. And we'd skim off that cream two or three times, and we'd make butter, but it wasn't much butter.

AW: So that was one of your jobs, was it?

Oh, I suppose my sister and I were young enough to attend to that; I was let off a lot of times.

AW: What would the other residents of Caloundra do?

The same thing.

AW: What about the snobs?

They were really handicapped greatly because they lived in an isolated area. They may have been helped by the hotel, Mr. Rooke would have to provision his hotel, and they lived on his street, more or less. And he was a good man; he may have helped them get their butter and that, because we didn't.

AW: So most people would have made their own butter?

Yes, it takes a while to make butter; we couldn't make much. You know five meals a day, remember, and butter scones and visitors and all. We'd go through a lot of butter. We must have got at least two pound a week from Landsborough, which we would keep in wet bags.

AW: Where would that butter come from?


AW: And was it wrapped up in a wrapper as we do today?

Yes, it was square in a wrapper, it hasn't changed.

AW: So it was a one pound pack?

One pound pack, no more. It would come from Caboolture Butter Factory and we would put it in our safe, which we had to buy. You couldn't really make a good safe, you had to buy one and over it would be a wet sack that you kept pouring water over. It was under the house in the draught, from the sea. We never had any trouble, nothing went bad.

AW: Nothing ever melted?

Oh yes, the butter nearly melted, but it didn't melt. You could always put butter on the table in a dish decently, even in the hot weather.

AW: What about entertaining? Were there any occasions when you.

The party goers, the party goers had to have the one thing, a piano.

AW: Did you have a piano at your house?

Sleath’s Music House

Early in the piece, my sister wanted to learn music. Mr. Sleath was a friend of ours, Mr. Sleath of Sleath's Music Store. Remember important people used to come, Sleath's Music House. The first man to specialise in music, Mr. Howard Sleath.

AW: This is in Caloundra? He had a shop?

No, he had a tent. But he was known, he was a sociable man and he was a gifted violinist. Sometimes he would play for us.

AW: How old were you when he first started coming to Caloundra?

Oh, they were coming before we got there, the Sleath's, they had a tent.

AW: This is early 1900's?

He was an old man, but he had sons. Howard Sleath became a celebrated violinist. He lived at Mooloolaba and he died there not long ago.

AW: This is one of his sons?

His sons, an old man. He used to make violins.

AW: And he'd set up a tent?

But he still had to come for his mail and he had the gift of music in him and he'd hear my sister playing on the piano. We had the piano and she was always at it. She learned from Audrey King, once again, another King, the other family of King. She was a good pianist, my sister she learned all the basics, 'Ronde au' and 'Rustle of Spring', all those old little things that kids used to play, including some things from My Fine Day, but moving up the ladder ‑ she was good.

AW: So, Mr. Sleath would come up and he would hear her playing Humoresque and he couldn't stand it, she hadn't got much ear for how to play it. He would say, "That child, may I go in and speak to her?" Father would say, "Yes of course." He'd go and say, "Mr dear", or something like that, "you are not playing that correctly". And she would scowl at him and he would show her, he would pretend he had his violin or his hands. You know, “La la la. Life Happiness". And he'd lift his voice up to that pitch and she'd do it again dully. "No," he would say, "no, lift, lift". He would be at her, he couldn't stand it, you see, until he got her right.

AW: So he started giving her lessons, did he?

No, he wouldn't do that because she was being taught. No, he just gave her a few clues from his expertise, which he had inside him. He was a terrific violinist, like his son, who made violins.

AW: So when you said he had a tent, did he live in the tent all the time or he only travelled to Caloundra occasionally?

He opened his shop later. His first wife and he were poor, and he lived in a tent, but it was a comfortable tent.

AW: Whereabouts did they live?

Down near where the old beach was, halfway between Kings Beach and Bulcock Beach, halfway a little knoll that was sheltered. He could go down to the creek and get fresh water. There was a fresh water spring there; he'd get his water from that. Very comfortable little tent, I can remember it. Sometimes, we'd take down a thing for him that he'd left behind or we'd walk. He always gave us a soft drink, nice man, lovely man. And she was nice too, but she died and he married again; a bit more up the ladder. He had a shop, and on Sleath's Street, everything is called after him down in Redland Bay. Sleath's Street, he had a lovely home.

AW: He moved down to Redland Bay, did he?

Yes, he moved down in his retirement and his sons took over the Sleath's business, Howard and another one. Howard lived the longest and opened a violin making/repairing shop at Mooloolaba or Maroochydore, one of the two, where he lived and died in old age.

AW: You were telling me about entertainment, what did you do for entertainment?

Well, very little really except cards and the odd party which was in summer time, not winter? We were too cold to go out in winter, walking at night. The parties would be summertime when we could play outside, outside if it was a fine night. We couldn't go outside at Mrs Tilney's because her yard wasn't suitable. Mrs Tilney had a great big room which we could have games in, and the piano. Mrs Mackay had a tight little house and a big organ. But oddly enough, she had the funniest little house, but we had the happiest parties there. And our parties were pretty good too.

AW: What about alcohol, did you have alcohol at parties?

No, no alcohol.

AW: Well, the Hotel Francis.

There used to be rumours of Mr. Anderson. The ones lived near the Hotel; they were the only ones with access to a bit of liquor. If they had it in him, they secretly had a little toddy or two. They didn't brazen it forth.

AW: In those days alcohol was very low key?

Very low key, but Mr. Willie King had access to it and he didn't really know that he was really an alcoholic as time passed on. He used to be able to go to Landsborough Hotel and get into the store because he was a mailman. And he would come home laden with drink, you see. Much to Mrs. King's upset, but being a loyal wife she never made a thing of it. Mr. King himself, Mr. senior King had it in him too and he would do the same, much to Mrs. King's despair. They had that problem that they kept to themselves. Mr. King, Mrs. Rooke, a beautiful looking woman who had the problem herself, was always like a duchess but when she was indisposed she would have influenza or something, not come out. But these were all semi hidden, because it was rather disgraceful to be drunk.

AW: So it wasn't accepted by society?

No not to be drunk. My father of course, was a teetotaller, but he never condemned; he just shrugged his shoulders at that sort of thing, it didn't concern him.

AW: I 'd like to know a little bit more about the social distinction .

When we had parties, we asked the ones that we knew would be enjoying themselves with the visitors we had in our homes that were there, some reason for the party. There would be somebody, my brother would be home from Brisbane or my sister.

AW: What was your brother's name.

He was Charles Birrell, Charlie Birrell, and he was a wit. He had friends in the theatrical world, all this caused parties.

AW: So you would have interesting people visit your home?

Yes, interesting people would come and the Campbell's who taught music, loved to come, because it would get them out of their lonely little house, with no music, and they loved to sing for us. Their singing was a delight; they were champion singers and they taught us good music, but the rest of the party depended on games. And the games were all sorts of things, some of them came back to me and some didn't. But with Mr. Moreton's games, they only had a small room, we couldn't go outside and play and, somehow, we used to have the funniest games there. Poor pussy. Poor pussy would be: whoever was pussy would have to kneel in front of a lady. If you were a girl, you knelt down in front of a man, and you must make them laugh, it was as simple as that. You made them laugh by your antics, by your crawling and your smoothing of their knees.

AW: You'd be all dressed up with your silk stockings, wouldn't you?

Oh, the parties were not so important to dress up for. I couldn't have been in my time that I was incognito. I wouldn't go around with my brace on my back, but I seemed to be around.

AW: So this must have been in the early twenties?

Yes, it would have been in the early twenties.

AW: I read somewhere the other day about Moonlight Cruises.

Oh, that was me saying that too, because this was one of the things that came on a wee bit later, when Tom Maloney had these trips and the lifesavers had started coming up, somewhere in the early 1920's, the Metropolitan Lifesavers. We had men in our midst.

AW: And you weren't used to that?

We were trying to entertain them, all of us.

Coupling in Caloundra: Moonlight cruises

AW: So Caloundra was really a population of young women?

Well, they didn't have sons, the elite, they didn't have any sons, they had daughters. Even the Hotel keeper later had two daughters.

AW: So a young man would come into Caloundra and there would be a handful of young women dying to meet him.

Oh yes, and one did come too, and was he beautiful. Jean and I won him. We played tennis, you see. Ian Campbell, he was in one of the banks, he was so good looking, he was like David Niven only a little bit more severe looking than whimsical, but he was lovely. So handsome and beautifully turned out with his creams and his nice hands and his gentle way, I've got lots of photos with him in it. There's one where he is holding my hand on a rock, dressed up as always and we were in long dresses. I must have recovered by then, I must have been about 15 or 16, because we took a great deal of notice and they loved being with us, the two men, he and his friend. They went everywhere with us, the whole fortnight they were there.

AW: And all the other women were envious?

Envious, yes. We'd won the round. Jean had the other one and I had the good looking one because he thought I was so pretty.

AW: You were going to tell me about Tom Maloney's Moonlight Cruises.

Well, when we went up through the Passage, that would be half a crown for Tom Maloney's moonlight trip, it would have to be at moonlight. The Baldwin boys would come from Mooloolah. Jean's friends, the Verney boy and the lifesavers and the Clarke’s if anyone cared to come. Somehow we would have quite a rash of young fellows and there were enough girls even if you knew you were going. But they were great, because you'd get there on the boat to the old lighthouses, of which the first one was only a hop, step and jump from the water.

AW: This is at Bribie?

Yes, this is the big one. The other one was too far to go. We didn't go over there; it was a bit lonely. We stayed at the first lighthouse, we had a place to boil the billy there and a big stump to put our food on. Our picnic was really toast and cakes, rainbow cakes and pikelets.

AW: By full moon?

By full moon, the older people would love to go because there is a chance to chat and to bring a picnic basket, but fathers didn't go. Mr. Rinaldi, Mr. Mackay and my dad, wouldn't be seen dead, none of them. None of the people from the top of the hill either, so it was just a little clique that went.

AW: So would you all sing songs?

Yes, we'd sing to the mouth organ and sing any song we could think of. Tom Maloney had a pleasant singing voice and so did one of the Baldwin's; they could lead the singing. And Audrey could sing and Mrs. King couldn't sing, but anyway she didn't go. She had small children.

AW: So was that the "Waterhen" you used to go on?

No, that was the "La Rita".

AW: Right, that's one of Mr. Maloney's boats.

Yes, that was Tom Maloney's favourite boat, the 'La Rita', it couldn't go outside. It was only a shell of a boat. It had a flat poop deck that we would all sit on and ladies down below with their baskets would sit down below. We'd sit up on deck. If you had a date of any kind you couldn't do any harm, but they would give you a few kisses on the deck. That's about all. And the games would be a chance, because they would play "Kiss me Charlie" and of course, that was a great one because it was up to you. It was twice around the lighthouse, if you could catch her. And of course, if she wanted to be caught she could easily fall over something. And she's caught.

AW: Did you ever fall over?

Oh, I was always last. Nobody wanted me, I was too young anyway. They wanted somebody a bit older than me. Jean was popular and so was one of the Maleny girls and I think the Clarke girl, can't think of too many girls that went. No, there weren't that many that could fit on the boat. Then our own parties would go on, but they didn't go any later than midnight at the latest. They would always include visitors. So therefore, we were making ourselves agreeable for the visitor’s sake. We nearly all included visitors except on a rare occasion, like when it would be somebody's birthday. We didn't have any weddings, no weddings.

AW: You don't remember any weddings in Caloundra?

No. They went elsewhere to get married. Later on when we left, they must have got married there later on. There was a church built and eventually the Church of England came and the Catholic Church got built. But many years later, before they even attempted to do it, they left us in the lurch, the lot of them. It was only the poor old Methodists. Our last Minister to my knowledge was the most interesting of all Rev. John, I think, or Peter Kingsford Smith, cousin of the Kingsford Smith man. The services were held by the church minister coming two or three parishes in a day, riding a horse.

AW: Did religions play a big role in your lives in those days?

Oh yes. We enjoyed going to church and I got to know all the hymns Isobel Mackay taught us Sunday School, and she was wonderful. Everyone loved Sunday School. She died young unfortunately, Jean's sister. A redheaded nurse and she started the first Sunday School and the first little plays. It's a shame she had to go.

AW: So you had a play group in Caloundra? A theatre group?

Only if she got it up. Mr. Eaton was a bit inclined that way too. Mr. Eaton got up when I was a maid; I had to serve afternoon tea on the stage. So that was the only one I clearly remember, because I was definitely in it, instead of being on the sideline. I was a maid, I had to come in and say something. The other one was leading an organ and Mr. Alexander, he gave us an organ, he gave the school/church an organ and Isobel used to play that. Then they bought one for themselves that was two organs. So our religion was quite thorough. I can tell people out of the Bible now much more than they can tell me. So we must have learned it. There is one passage in the Bible that I clearly remember that often comes to me that when a person boasts is when the Minister must have told us quite forcibly ‑ "Do not boast of what you will do, you are not in charge of your life, you only think you are".

Part Three

AW: These are the Laxton family, they were poor.

They were very poor. Their clothes were made out of anything they could grab.

AW: What did Mr. Laxton do?

He was a kind of fisherman's help. She had quite a lot of children, at least four; they went to school. Their clothes were made sometimes from the flour bags, the name boiled out.

AW: Is this when you were still at school?

Yes. People used to help them a bit. They were sorry for them.

AW: Dulcie, I'd like to get back to early Caloundra, when you first moved there as a child and talk to you about the transport up the Passage. Now being a lighthouse keeper's daughter you would have known a lot about Pumicestone Passage and the lighthouses on Bribie.

Well, we had no other choice; we couldn't go easily any other way, because few people took on the long journey to Brisbane in the car. It was tedious; it was dangerous and too long. It was happier and more pleasant to go on whatever boat from Caloundra you happened to get onto, such as Tripconys or Maloney's. To go on the Koopa, you'd have a civilised ride to Brisbane and land at the Custom House.

AW: How long would it take for you to go down?

All day. You'd leave at nine o'clock in the morning and you'd have lunch at Bribie.

AW: Whereabouts on Bribie? Oh, you would go across on a small boat.

No, we went to Bribie on a big boat from Caloundra, the Karibri or the Grace. And we'd leave him there, or he'd go home to Caloundra; he might have gone straight away to catch the tide. But we'd have some fish or something, must have been something to eat there because we ate, little shop to eat. Then we'd go on the Koopa about three o'clock and in about two or three hours we were home at the Custom House, and we'd have a nice journey.

Brisbane Visits

AW: And where would you stay when you came down to Brisbane?

Boarding Houses. We weren't hotel people. A succession of boarding houses, homely places that took casual boarders like us, a little family in one room. Cheap accommodation, kind people.

AW: So you'd just come down to Brisbane and do some shopping?

And we'd do shopping; we'd get excited about going to go out every night to the pictures and visiting people. All the ones that we'd entertained, that we could possibly visit, and we visited whether they liked it or not. We rang them up and they seemed reasonably pleased to see us. One of them was a dentist, Norden, down the road here; the Nordens would play tennis. And we became very good friends and when I came to Brisbane I looked up the Nordens and she said, "You must join our tennis club". So I joined the Norden's tennis club and came over to East Brisbane every Thursday.

AW: From where?

From Ashgrove. In two buses, I'd go to Norden's tennis club and won those pretty little things in tennis tournaments.

AW: Did you ever play tennis in Caloundra?

Oh yes, all the time.

AW: Whereabouts were their tennis courts?

We played at Allan Water's court mainly, because it was more interesting.

AW: What sort of court was it?

Ant bed. That was a good court, a very good court. Gar Moon himself had played there. Gar Moon was a celebrated champion of the day.

AW: A tennis player.

A tennis player, yes. Like the big shots of today. Interesting fellow, dark. He had no one good enough to play with, but he brought his tennis down to our level.

AW: So he would holiday at Caloundra.

Yes. Glad to have a game.

AW: So you'd play at where?

Always at Allan‑Waters court. But later on, in the last two years, the opening of that as was seen in Jean's photo, where it said, Mr. Tytherleigh, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Allan King; the opening of the new public tennis court.

AW: Whereabouts was that?

Down at Kings, in front.

AW: Kings Grand Central.

Yes, just where the Perle Hotel is.

AW: Did Kings Grand Central Boarding House own that tennis court or was it public?

It was on public land; it was just outside their grounds. Just where the ambulance is now, exactly.

AW: Was that an ant bed court?

It was a decent court, yes, it was a public court. You paid to play on it, but it was nothing. Sometimes we felt we ought to patronise that one more because it was further away than we liked. We liked going to Allan‑Waters at afternoon tea and everything, boarders. But it was right to patronise the public court too. So we went and played there and I'd ride my pony there.

AW: Would you get all dressed up in your whites?

Oh yes, we got dressed in white and had stockings on, never bare legs, ever.

AW: Why not?

We didn’t have bare legs.

AW: Why not?

We didn't have low necks either. We dressed in dresses that covered us. We didn’t have bare legs, not when we went out; only at home.

AW: Why was that? You were regarded as unladylike?

Yes, it wasn't lady‑like to go out among people with bare legs. And then even the Miss Lewis' and Miss Beasley, coming for their mail, would have stockings on. And hats, big hats, all of us. The Westaways particularly had enormous hats; wonder you didn't see them in that.

AW: What the hats, they were for practical reasons of keeping the sun off.

They were for practical reasons because ladies didn't have coarse brown skin. Ladies had fine white skin like the English, if you could do it.

AW: So, if you had a sun‑tan you were regarded as being...

too brown.

AW: And what, lower class?

No, not lower class. She'll be sorry, she'll be all frizzled up before she's forty, and we were. Well, not me, but the others. The hatless ones were all shrivelled up at forty, nothing to look at, none of them. You see they were right. Given time, your skin will deteriorate with sunburn. My sister had a beautiful skin till she died.

AW: And she always wore a hat?

And even in bowls, she wore a hat and had protective cream from the doctor, in the finish. She was very careful of her skin. I'm not so careful of course; I do nothing to perfection, nothing. So if I was out, I was out and that was the end of it. So, I'm a bit more wrinkled and a bit more shrivelled up than she was.

AW: Getting back to being a lady, what was a lady like?

Doing the correct thing that we were supposed to do, not swear, not take a drink until we didn't know what we were doing, and not to play up to the boys and touch them. Nowadays, girls touch boys all the time, they touch them any bit they can reach. Watched a girl the other night. The man was playing his violin, she was at the edge of his elbow, the edge of his tunic, and she had to touch him somewhere. She was definitely gone on him. She had to show him.

AW: So in the old days a lady..?

Didn’t touch her man. Not publicly, never.

AW: So how would you let a young man know that you were interested?

By your eyes. And your little shut‑down smiles. I saw one do it beautifully, flutter. She didn't marry him, but she showed him she liked him well enough.

AW: How?

By demureness. And just being there smiling sweetly and casting her eyes down, saying gentle little things. I always remember that, it was something like 'I'm glad that you told me' little nice gentle things. At least those were the lady‑like ones; I don't know what the others did.

AW: So who taught you these lady‑like things?

Oh, your aunts and your elders. You know, by hearing them talking, 'She was no lady.'

AW: Who’s this?

That's what they'd talk about some of them. 'She was no lady'. We had one small time prostitute there, whom we were never allowed to get in touch with.

AW: In Caloundra?


AW: And her clientele, who would go to see her?

The more outgoing of the community. She'd come up for the mail, in silk. She was rather nice, poor little beggar.

AW: And where did she live?

She seemed to live alone.

AW: But did she have a house?

Yes, she had a house. For all intents and purposes, she was holidaying. But the word got around. There were two or three of the older ones that used to come visiting, like the Clarkes and that. They were seen going near her place, but no one found out anything deeply about her and of course, I suppose starved out, and she left. She was quite nice.

AW: When you say starved out?

She wouldn't have had many contacts, they would be too afraid of being known. But she was definitely known to take money.

AW: Were the women of the town of Caloundra at the time, did they ostracize her?

Yes. More or less. The ladies didn't speak to her.

AW: How did your mother treat her?

She just never came in contact with the poor thing. She'd come up for her mail, father didn't have to even smile, so that was no different to him.

AW: When was this? Was this before you had polio?

Oh no, we were still there. It would be after I took up to living again and I was about fourteen.

AW: So that's about 1926?

Yes, the mid-twenties when things were changing. And we even had a lady like that. And another lady came, a widow from Brisbane, she was a hard case, Mrs Illidge, her daughter was at the reunion. And she said, "Come on now, where are all your bachelors? I'm a widow. I don't lie about being a widow, where are all your bachelors?" And they all laughed, because she was outgoing, and they said, "There's the Honourable Campbell." "How old is he? Too old, too old, what about anyone else?" "Mr. Illidge." "What's he got?" "A house, Mr. Illidge had a house; his wife had been dead for two years" "Oh, that sounds a bit better, anyone else?" They couldn't think of anyone. Tom Maloney, oh you'll never get him, he's a will o' the wisp. She was too old too. So she fastened latches on Mr. Illidge. And she played the ukulele to him. She sang a little tune; he became besotted in no time and married her.

AW: So she moved to Caloundra with the sole purpose of finding a husband?

Yes, and got one.

AW: That must have been something unusual in those days because Caloundra was so small.

Yes, well she went away to get married; they went away. They didn't get married in Caloundra that I know of. But he brought her home to a big house and she did it up and she gave afternoon teas and she was quite a sociable woman and everyone liked her.

AW: It sounds like the whole day seemed to evolve around lunch and afternoon tea.

Not supper so much, we didn't revolve around supper because they would come to see us at night and play cards. But the trouble of going home in the dark, and it often was raining, deterred most people from going out at night unless we were going to a party. The party would get us to go; we would all go if we were asked.

The Prince of Wales visits

AW: Do you remember when the Prince of Wales visited the Sunshine Coast?

Well, he didn't come to Caloundra, as I've said. We had to go to Landsborough, where Mrs. Ruby Rooke trained us on how to behave in front of the Prince, should he look down at us. And hand him carefully, into his left hand because his right hand was sick and tired of holding anything. He did everything with his left hand; he was resting his right hand.

AW: Why’s that?

Because he was worn out with handshakes.

AW: Shaking?

His right hand was quite sprained and we were told to make anything go to his left hand and not embarrass him, which we did. He looked down and smiled and said, "Thank you very much, they are beautiful".

AW: Now, who's we?

Well, my sister and I, Phyllis and I, with a great big bunch of perfect blossoms of baronia.

AW: Where did you get the baronia from?

From the plains, a special trip to the plains to get fresh and thick baronia for the Prince. Where the airport is. They were the plains they wrecked, to build the airport. And the baronia went forever. One of my older photos, I've got these two big bunches of baronia and there were visitors who had a car. And they all would get in and they took a photo to send back, because they couldn't take baronia, except by pressing some. And in this dear old photo, I remember them quite well, for a long time. Jean and I, we took afternoon tea and we sat on the edge of the car, and they had these big bunches of Boronia all of them.

AW: And did you get all dressed up?

It was winter time by the look of our clothes. We didn't go out so much in winter, but these were visitors at Caloundra House. And they wanted the baronia. So we gave the Prince Baronia when he came, because it was the most colourful of flowers. What he did to them heaven knows, but they were our wild flowers.

AW: So he came in August, 1920?

Well, I was still pretty young, under seven.

AW: And he stopped?

He had a whistle stop at Landsborough, where he was welcomed officially by the council people. Anyone high up or the member of the district, done the usual things he had to do, shake hands, be shown something, given this small present and away he went, another whistle stop.

AW: So did you actually talk to him?

Oh yes, he looked down on us and said those few words that he had to. "Thank you very much. What wild flowers are they?" Perhaps, he might have said, because we were told to say: They are wild Boronia, Sir". I don't think we made a very wonderful fist of it, but we tried. And no one took our photo, that I kept, pity. I had no record of that, but they laughed and said: "You won't wash your hands, he shook hands with you".

AW: So, you have shaken hands with the Prince of Wales.

That's what we thought about afterwards. We did shake hands with him. But it was all thanks to Mrs Rooke, who I always was very fond of, because she took an interest in lives like that. And when I'd go to Caloundra and stay, which I did once or twice, on my own. She saw that I had my meal nice and hot and we'd have the scones that she'd make for me, kiss me goodbye. And I visited her every time I went to Caloundra after that, and I remember saying to her, "You know everything, why don't you write it down so that people can know what you know. None of us will ever know about the old hotel and life." And she says, "Why should I?" I said, "Well, because no one will ever know” She said, "Well, let them find out for themselves," she cried and laughed.

AW: This is Mrs. Rooke?


Caloundra Wildflowers

AW: You were telling me about the wild flowers near where the present Caloundra airport is.

Christmas bells were different from the wild flowers. The wild Boronia grew on the plains, where the airport is. They didn't grow so lush anywhere else, but there. They grew lush there, and the Bachelors Buttons and the wild may and the curly foxtails, the curly bushes. Mainly, bachelor buttons, wild may, some yellow flowers and the Boronia.

AW: I understand a lot of tourists used to go to Caloundra solely to see the wild flowers. Do you remember if there were many travellers?

I saw once a car in town, and he opened the bonnet and it was full of thieved wild flowers and thieved Boronia and Christmas bells. All done up in parcels and packets to sell. He was selling them; he had a market for the Christmas bells. He shouldn't have, they were never allowed to be sold indiscriminately.

AW: But it wouldn't be unusual for residents to go and pick a bunch.

Oh, well they would be residents, they couldn't pick that many. But this man had a car boot full. I remember thinking at the time, he's a cheat, he was only pretending to be a tourist, and he’s selling them. Shouldn't have done that, he'd stripped them. Eventually, they got less and less. Even before the airport came they'd gone.

AW: And when did the airport come?

Not long ago. About ten years.

AW: So when do you think that the wildflowers started to diminish?

Kathleen McArthur, she knows all about it. She strived desperately to protect them. She's painted them all for Christmas cards and pictures around Caloundra and bought them. And she knows the life and death of the wildflowers.

AW: For example, in the time you were in Caloundra...?

They were going, they were even going then.

AW: Why?

Because people were picking them too much and building houses near them. Trampling over them, going places. Wildflowers or oysters, anything like that, know when man comes. And man destroys everything gradually, sometimes hollis bollis, but when man comes and builds, makes roads ‑ the wildflowers go. And the oysters go.

AW: Talking about the oysters. Do you remember Mr. Clark's Moreton Bay Oyster Company?

He would have had it, yes. They would have had oysters. The rocks around Kings Beach had lots of oysters, and Shelly Beach, not Moffat Head so much. Oddly enough they had cowries, but they didn't seem to have that many oysters. The oysters were around Kings Beach, they are still there in small quantities. There are people who can find the odd rock oyster there; they are well worth eating at low tide.

AW: They are still there now?

They are still there, but very small and not many. People have had a pick at them with a stone or something that breaks them. But within the last twenty years they've gone, but before that they could have got their quota in oysters, even then. But the Christmas Bells went a long time ago, ever since they built that road to Mooloolah. That road to Mooloolah from Caloundra, the bridge. They were safe till then, they had Moffat Beach and they had the Lake, up the top there, Lake Currimundi. That was protected by no bridge, so they grew in that plain there, but now it's a public place, with a bridge and men, they've all gone.

AW: As children did you go walking wholly or solely to see the wild life.

No, we'd have to have transport, it was three miles. We didn't walk that far. We had horses or cars, one of them. No, I don't know when ‑ she would know, she said she knew where Christmas bells still grew in grottos and plains between Meridan and Palmwoods. But I doubt if they would be there now, she wouldn’t know. They've gone. And they are not a big wildflower on Moreton, they are not big there at all, they never have been. But Moreton has the one thing that we never had, the Wedding Bush, the Bridal Bush. And we've never had that.

AW: At Caloundra?

No, it's a sandy island thing mainly. I was surprised when they told me it does grow on other places. To me it was only Moreton, doesn't even grow on Stradbroke. But Allister Milser, he runs the paper, he’s president. He's found out that it does grow on other islands, but I didn't know that. It's most prolific on Moreton.

Caloundra Depression Years

AW: We are into the twenties now in Caloundra. The depression, how did it hit Caloundra? Say in the late twenties.

News was coming from Brisbane that jobs were getting shorter and shorter, my brother eventually got out of work. That's how it hit us. He was writing to say the irons in the fire. He had a trade, which others didn't have. He was a fitter and turner, but it didn't do him any good. The work got shorter and shorter about 1930 when we were leaving.

AW: What was your brother's name?

He was Charles. He was named after the Welsh Minister we had in the family. Charles Birrell. The name was spelled Welsh in those days. You see, it was a Welsh name.

AW: Birrell is?

And the Reverend Charles Birrell, my brother was named after. So he was out of work and he really suffered. Contrary to these days when the Government pays them a living, pittance. He got nothing that was either of use to him. He had to have handouts from somewhere to survive.

AW: What about the people in Caloundra itself, were they hard taken?

They must have been, but as you had your fish and food, they didn't depend on outside work so much.

AW: Did you have many travelling people, homeless people, going through Caloundra?


AW: Why do you think that was?

Because there was nothing much there to do, you see. Boarding houses had their families. Stores had their wives and sons. Fisher folk had their big families. There were no more Government jobs only just like cutting the wood. The bakery had his wife. There was no employment there. The boarding house might have had the odd waitress.

AW: But I would have thought it would have been a good place to go when there's no employment, just to survive, because there always the sea food.

Yes. They survived there, the leading example was the lifesaver, the good looking lifesaver, Captain Ivan and Les Soden who married the beautiful beauty; Walsh, from Landsborough's daughter, Maureen, Miss Brisbane. Two of the best looking sorts you could ever see. But they were stricken with the depression and they got a tent, or a little cottage they built out of nothing and they brought up their one beautiful child there because it was cheap. That wasn't because he wasn't an educated man, or her, but they could get no work. So they lived there, the poor things, very cheaply. Might have done something for their living, she might have done some work for a clerk or something. Wasting their talents because they were broke.

AW: What about economics at the time. Can you remember any news coming through in the newspapers?

Well, we got the paper every day in the finish I think. After all we must have moved to getting a paper. We didn't get anything any more than three times a week, before. But after all we had about thirty odd subscribers or more by that time.

AW: When you say subscribers, what do you mean?

Families. We had a butcher and a baker and a church and cars.

Part Four

Change begins in Caloundra 1930s

AW: In the late twenties, Caloundra started changing, how?

Well, because more people opened up a living there and started to live there. The old homes changed hands. The Bulcocks old home changed and went to a doctor. The Cilentos left, with their family that became another place. Mrs. Lamb left and the Green solicitors moved in. The baker changed and the Alderdices came. The Hotel changed two or three times. Allan‑Waters was going fine. Mr. Rinaldi had competition, I think even an ambulance popped up.

AW: This is in the late twenties, or 1930?

I think we had a policeman, who was obliged to come from Landsborough anytime he was wanted. We even had a doctor coming now and again.

AW: But you didn't have a resident doctor?

We had a hospital, came later.

AW: When was that?

It was up on top of the hill.

AW: No, when?

Gee, when was it indeed?

AW: Was that before you left Caloundra?

No after. The hospital came much later. The matron and the doctor had a racial war. One or the other didn't want black babies.

AW: In the hospital?

Yes. I have an idea it was the matron. They were at bitter tongues over it, writing letters and all about it. Eventually, the hospital folded up altogether. They couldn't agree to differ. So the hospital folded up.

AW: So, this is in the early forties.

Yes. It was going well until they fought over the babies. There were a lot of aboriginals moved into Caloundra then, up at Golden Beach. Cheap living up there shacks. And they had to have babies and she wouldn't have them. That was a bit unfair, but I suppose that was that. The doctor was probably from Maleny. Maleny comes into Caloundra great deal more, law and police and hospitals and doctors all come from Maleny.

AW: They had to come all that way? So if there was an accident, how would you let the doctor in Maleny know that you needed some help?

Well, you would be taken somehow to Landsborough, or Maleny Hospital.

AW: And what, you'd ring up?

Oh yes. They'd be helped; after all there was a taxi service of sorts, a paid service, if you were that sick. I don't remember how I got with my broken arm and all. My mother was often sick, but we'd just go to Brisbane. But the policeman would come every now and again; my father had to call on a policeman. And he would come, he had to come.

AW: What would your father need to call a policeman for?

An accident on the bay, a drowning. Identifications, bodies. We had two or three and a suicide off Moffat Head. The drowning was Carseldine’s and Matt from Sandgate. There's a cross on Bribie, halfway up where the drowning of young people on Bribie; one taking the other. That is denoted by a cross with the names on it, of the young men who died. And the suicide was best forgotten, evidently. He was staying, I think at the hotel, over Moffat Head.

Rapkins take over the Caloundra lighthouse

AW: Who was the person who took over the lighthouse after your father left.

Mr. Rapkins; he had a family of a couple of daughters and a wife.

AW: Who was Mr. Powell?

He was in between, awaiting I think. No, the Rapkins took over from us. Mr Powell was there too, but he didn't last long. But then I've lost track of when the post office was moved from our house to a small post office, down where it is now, in the backyard there. This big post office was built with a lot of bally‑hoo. The best part of fifty years ago now.

AW: And you remember that?

Except that I didn't see it built, but the little post office, Rapkins was still in it. Don't know when Mr. Powell got into the act. He had a pretty daughter called Beryl. But he wasn't long a post master, not long at all.

AW: Was the mail affected. In 1927, there was a big railway strike, do you remember that?

There was a big disaster at Traveston. The worst railway disaster they'd ever had

AW: What happened?

Trains crashed into one another and killed a lot of people at Traveston. But if there was a big rail strike, and we never got any mail, we'd just have to put up with it, wouldn’t we? There was nothing we could do about it.

AW: Would the mail have come up by boat, up the Passage?

No, I don't think so.

AW: It would always go by the mail train?

The franchise of the railway man who had to deliver the mail to the mail man, you know the carrier in Caloundra, which was each in turn, Mr. King. Mr. Mackay and Frank Rooke. And Allan‑Waters, Ken Allan‑Waters had it too.

AW: So they had the contract to deliver the mail to the post office?

Ken Allan‑Waters came into the picture much later. He wasn't an identity, although colourful figure. He wasn't ever a real identity, he was a soldier alright. The first World War too, but no one got the truth out of him.

AW: About what?

Whether he had a pension, he always seemed to have pocket money, he said he had a good pension, I don't know. He told so many lies. But he managed to get two lovely cars, an Oldsmobile and a Hudson. Whether his sisters gave him the money.

AW: This is Allan‑Waters?

Yes, they never married, the two sisters, and they were devoted to their brother. They made money out of the guest house and so did the old mum, Mrs. Senior Allan‑Waters.

AW: Which guest house is this?

Caloundra House. They were a dynasty like the grandma, and sons and daughters‑in‑law, but they didn't go back as far as Kings by any means. Kings were the ones that created the first and the Rooks Hotel. We did have the Archbishop, Leveque, I remember him coming for his mail. My Father said the place was closed for an hour, it was his dinner hour, and he had no intention of letting the Bishop even sit in the place. The door was shut. It was very wrong of him to do it; he left him to sit outside under the public phone box.

AW: There was a public phone box?


AW: How much was it for a call?


AW: What year was this?

Oh it went for quite a while; we didn't change our prices too easily. Tuppence, it wasn't until the war that it was four pence.

AW: Second World War?



Well, if there's any very old stamps you'll find they were tuppenny ones.

AW: And that would give you a local phone call, tuppence?

Yes. Mr. Rinaldi used to protest and say that they'd come into his shop and want to use his phone. And why shouldn't he have to do a little bit extra when one penny more for the use of his phone. He was quite right of course. But my tough old dad saw no reason why he should be a favourite and not the others, so he said no it wasn't ethical. He used to always be mad about that.

AW: So what, your father organised for a public phone?

Yes, but it was a long way, a mile between phones. So our phone would be tuppence. But poor Mr. Rinaldi would have to charge tuppence for the use of the phone and we know the private phone can use another few cents or depending, ten cents for using a phone, towards your rent. Well, he wouldn't come in on it you see. That was a bit mean. Just as it was for the Bishop, the man of the cloth, at least he could have gone in and opened the post office and given him his mail, but, you see, he was a hard old thing. He didn't see why he should play favourites. So I don't doubt that he was rather disliked by people up to a point. After all, he was unsociable, he didn't smile.

AW: He sounds like his family made up for his lack of sociability.

No, he didn't, he wasn't sociable to us either. He never talked to us as children or read us a tale, or told us a story. It was always: "Get your mother" or "Tell your mother", or "I'm busy", or "Go and play". Occasionally he had to plait our hair, because mother would be sick. He'd plait it and tie it with string from the office. I was called Squib. It was always me he counted on, because I was the most obedient. And I'd be counted on to take these people up the lighthouse, or show them your coloured sands; they want to know how you do it.

AW: Was the lighthouse keeper's job a very important job?

The Caloundra Lighthouse as a landmark

Yes, it couldn't go past our lighthouse without recognising its light. It couldn't turn without it.

AW: Well, of course Caloundra's always used the old lighthouse as its symbol, like in the old days, you'd see on all the tourist brochures, you'd see the lighthouse. So it was a landmark.

It was a landmark, but it was also significant, but not nearly as significant as Moreton Island, Cape Moreton. That was a long way away, twenty two miles. And we had to behave as the offset, to offset Bribie Lighthouses, which were important. There's a reef out there. They'd have to come down there and come to the buoy as I've said, turn sharply. There's Bribie, turn sharply and go in a straight line to Bays Rock.

AW: So they had to line three lights up, is that correct?

Line the three lights up in nautical fashion and use that channel. Well, the Anro Asia failed because the Captain was drunk, well not the captain, but the Pilot was drunk. Anyway he forgot his duties, he allowed the ship to go forward instead of turning there to go to Brisbane. She went forward and as one of the maids told me at the Hotel Perle, they said, "Good God, she's not turning". The big lump of a freighter, big beautiful ship it was. She kept going, she headed for Bribie and crashed into the shallows of Bribie, and she stuck there as the tide was going out. She lost contact with the tide and she had to stick there. Didn't worry particularly much except the tide wasn't heavy enough to come in, it was low tides. She couldn't move next day. They'd planned everything, they'd moved the cargo back and they'd moved it forward. They did everything but move it altogether, because of money. Eventually big helicopters from the Army came and lifted the cargo out and then she floated on the next high tide a week later. Cost a fortune. But she struck the soft weather.

AW: So that is just an example of how important the lighthouses on those islands are.

That night that my father was able to hang the lanterns in the lighthouse to save the Bombala, and their passengers.

AW: Well, Dulcie, I would like to ask you now, what do you think is different these days. How do you think your generation is different?

Well, I go back two generations of course. After all that was a long time ago. We did notice that when my brother got married, and living was much the same as it was then. My sister got married correctly, did all the right things, had a honeymoon, a sensible, nice man, never swore, didn't drink. So things hadn't changed. That was 1930.

AW: Before the Second World War?

Before the Second World War when would she have been married? I was twenty three or four. Must have been married middle thirties, before the war.

AW: 1935?

Changes in social practices post WWII

Yes, before the war. Things changed after the war. The Americans came, licence to drink, licence to flirt, licence to move out of your country, to consider going forever, running after the fellows. Morals slipped, definitely came down. Bosoms were in and the long curly hair to your shoulders. Bosoms were out in our day. My sister being rather buxom had a piece of calico, which she would fasten around herself with safety pins, to flatten it. Never once did they hope to show themselves. But afterwards the girls really flaunted themselves, really.

AW: After the War?

Bosoms were in.

AW: Well, why do you think it all changed after the war? Because you were all brought up with the same moral values?

Well, we couldn't have been after the war. It was more fragmented. People got flats, moved out of their homes. Got married younger, flirted more openly.

AW: So, you think the family unit broke down?

It started to break up after the fifties. The fifties and the sixties were good years. Prices didn't change much. You could always tell by holidays at Coolangatta beach houses, St. Leonards. Two pounds ten, for years and years. Then they were five pounds, then decimal currency came in and suddenly although there were plenty of jobs around and plenty of food and plenty of good times, they hadn't yet moved into going away on holidays together,

AW: You were saying to me before, you were taught what was lady like.

That died out too. People started not to answer thank you letters and swear. Generally behaving in rather unladylike fashions. Stay up later at night and come home later. Had boyfriends that publicly courted you at night. And no shame. See I went to no end of trouble not to show everyone else that I would have a man coming to the house in the night. That died slowly, definitely did.

AW: So you still did it, but you were very secretive about it.

Oh yes, but you didn't do it as much, you couldn't, you never had time or chance. Most people had someone else in the house, and if they flatted, they flatted; there was no touch of lesbianism anywhere. None at all. You flatted with a girlfriend, right, that was it. When that cropped up, I wouldn't know. It wasn't in my time.

AW: So sexual promiscuity..?

That hadn't happened until the sixties at least.

AW: What about sex education, when you were a child in the early 1900's, say 1920.

Hit and miss.

AW: You had no education?

No. Hit and miss.

AW: Well how would you find out about the facts of life?

The odd book or pictures. Movies.

AW: So you had sex education?

Not at school or even in home. My mother would give us a book to read, all delicately written. My father ignored the whole thing. What boys learned I have no idea? It was all a bit too hush, hush to even bring the subject up.

AW: Did you talk to boys about it?

No. No. If other girls did, we, my little lot, never did. In fact I think I was twenty‑one before I learned about petting parties and what it might be up to. You got your odd kisses of course and dances and holding hands.

AW: It just wasn't done in those days?

Well, it might have been in the city. Remember, I lived in the back water. I was 19 or 20, following my sister round like a sheep because I didn't know what else to do. She was more worldly, she had to be, she was in the Bank, and they had their little jokes.

AW: There was a Bank in Caloundra?

No, she was in the Commonwealth Bank in Brisbane; she was boarding. She only came home for holidays and brought that girl with her called, Clare. They were known as the two pair. I was not the sister, she was, as far as they were concerned, the boys. They had trouble identifying me as the sister, and not Clare. They dressed the same. They almost looked the same. But I wasn't jealous, not of Clare anyway.

AW: But you were slightly jealous of your sister?

Well I had to be, because I never had a fellow whom she didn't take off me without meaning to. He'd take one look at her and I'd be an also‑ran.

Reflections on marriage expectations

AW: So it sounds like your whole purpose in life was really just to find somebody to love and to get married?

No. Not to get married. No, I didn't want to get married.

AW: Why not?

Because that would mean having children.

AW: And why didn't you want to have children?

Because I was trained not to think about it.

AW: Was that because of your polio?


AW: So were you scared of having children?

Yes, very.

AW: So you were in a bit of a dilemma?

Well, it didn't do much for my life as a married woman; I can say that for it. But when I was free in the age group, I seem to react alright, but only for a short time, I got tired of all that.

AW: How old were you when you got married?


AW: That’s very late.

Yes, I didn't want to get married. I had this other fellow at the war, I was supposed to be engaged to him, but underneath in my heart I knew I wasn't going to marry him; I knew I would have to break it off. Except that I didn't fancy growing old under the jurisdiction of my older sister and brother.

AW: So you didn't get married until 1946?

Yes. In St. Andrews Church, over there at Kangaroo Point, with instruction from the local scene, lovely nuns. Lovely wedding, lovely nuns to look after me had a very easy life, except for the drinking problem he had.

Reflections: War impacts male ‘spirit’ and morale

AW: You were saying to me before, that you think the second World War, the soldiers that came back from the war, that you feel the war somehow damaged their spirit.

Well, it changed most of them. You got the soldier, not the man. You know if you ever see this Platoon, I don't think if I will see it, I don't think if I want to. Platoon is a picture of the year. It was a soldier who started off with ideas, and good nature, but he and his friend are completely brutalised, cut off a head with the best of them, brutalised in their thinking and actions, raping women. Even in the villages, they'd conquered the brutalisation of the man.

AW: So do you think that's what the Australian soldiers learnt in the Second World War?

They learned to kill and they learned how to knock their wives about more, and knock everyone else about. They must have done; there’s such a lot of cruelty about.

Aw So is that where our moral decline has started from?

Well, they would really knock God, wouldn't they? Can't be any God when he kills this lovely man, this Minister, the 'Saints of our Time' was one man said, "Kill me, my life is half over, this man has a wife and children." It became the man of the unknown Saint. When the Pope went to England and chose the Saints that they were going to honour in the Cathedral, he chose the Saint of no name, who died so that another could live, because he was younger. "Kill me, don't kill this young man with a wife and children," and that was the unknown Saint. I thought that was rather beautiful, I liked that, I cried away.

AW: So do you think Australia would have been different today if there hadn't been any war?

Might have been the King, the Cathedral man himself, what's his name again. Martin Luther King and I think a black woman chose a noted black man, anyway it was very interesting.

AW: Is there anything else that you can remember of the history of the Landsborough Shire or Caloundra that we haven't covered?

Well, there's nothing there except a good hall. They had better dances than we did the Maleny people. And they'd have big dances.

AW: At Landsborough?

Once in a while we were allowed to go to Landsborough, where there would always be a good dance with supper and lots of people and a good hall.

AW: Which hall was that?

The Lambert Hall, still there.

AW: The same hall at Landsborough today?

Yes. Mr. Walsh was the Postmaster and there were refreshment rooms. It was a great place.

AW: So what were you going to say about the Westaways?

They used to go to those dances at Mooloolah. Four daughters and another cousin. They didn't come to our dances much; they would go to Landsborough and to Palmwoods and to Mooloolah.

AW: Those areas would have been closer to the Westaways.

Well, that's right, that's their cemetery, that's where the Westaways are, almost all of them. Well, Eileen that I speak to, her husband is buried there, and where Kate, my best friend, of the Westaways, Kate, she's buried there. That's their grave place. Not Caloundra, there's no Westaways buried in Caloundra.

AW: So the Westaways just had a holiday house at Caloundra?

The holiday house. Their home was Meridan Plains. And that's why none of them is on the pension; they've all got property left. Eileen herself has got enough money to not get the pension.

AW: Whereabouts is Meridan Plains?

Just beyond the racetrack.

AW: On the left hand side, going towards Landsborough?

No, both sides, it’s all Meridan Plains. The Westaway's homes Percy Westaway, Mrs. Lil Westaway, John Westaway and all their cattle property.

AW: So did they run cattle?

They ran cattle and horses. They were rich. Their daughters went to private schools and only appeared at Caloundra in enormous hats to shelter their gracious complexions. Yes, they were colourful people; you'd do well to talk to Eileen really.

End of Interview