John Griffin

John talks about his life in Yandina

John Griffin

Interview with: John Griffin

Date of Interview: 10 April 1985

Interviewer: Amanda Wilson

Transcriber: Colwyn Boulton

John Cathcart Griffin was born to William Griffin and Jane Cathcart on 1st August 1915 at Yandina. John married Doreen Lenore Jaques in the Methodist Church, Nambour in 1957. John's parents had the railway gatehouse on the south side of Yandina. John gained his mechanical knowledge in his army service in Alice Springs and after the war continued as a mechanic in his civilian life in Nambour.

Image: John Griffin.


John Griffin oral history - part one [MP3 29MB]

John Griffin oral history - part two [MP3 29MB]



AW: When did your father come to Yandina, John?

JG: Round about 1912.

AW: What did he do when he first moved to Yandina?

JG: He worked on the railway as a linksman.

AW: A linksman. Do you want to talk about what his job involved?

JG: Well he would have a trolley of his own and he would pull the trolley from one end of the section to the other end of the section to see that the rails and sleepers and dogs, pitch plates and all were in order. And that might take him an hour, an hour and a half in the morning. Then wherever the gang was working he would work away there. Whatever they were doing – packing sleepers or something like that.

AW: And he met your mother in Yandina?

JG: NO, he knew mum in Northern Island before he came out here. They arranged that he would go to Australia, this strange country that they all talked about, and see whether there was any prospects out there. And if there wasn’t he would come back home again. He came out and then roughly a year later, about 1913, Mother came out and they got married.

AW: In Yandina?

JG: No, they were married in Brisbane when Mother arrived and they moved up to Yandina. Dad had the Railway Gatehouse on the south side of the town.

AW: Do you want to tell me a little bit about the Gatehouse? What the role of the person in the Gatehouse was?

JG: Dad and Mum got the house free of rent and Mother was to look after opening and shutting the gates for anybody that wanted to go through on that road.

AW: So your father was out at work? Working on the lines?

JG: He was working on the job and Mother looked after the gates during the day and Dad used to do most of it at night.

AW: So the trains ran all night?

JG: Oh yes, there would be more trains in those days then there are now, because the trains were much shorter. Small steam engine, small rails, so they didn’t pull the loads they do nowadays. Much lighter rails. So it was more like a tramway rather than the railway as you see it today. Although it was still three foot six gauge.

AW: Have you got any brothers and sisters?

JG: Yes, I’ve got one brother living and one got killed in a motor accident.


AW: Were you all educated in the area?

JG: We all went to Yandina State School. My elder brother went to the Rural School.

AW: So how old were you when you went to School?

JG: I think I was six.

AW: A pretty average age.

JG: Yes round about six.

AW: What sort of subjects were you taught? Were they much the same as today?

JG: Oh, well you had a lot of tables and spellings first thing in the morning and then sums; write a composition or something through the day, and so on. I think it would have been general for those days. No algebra or anything. Not till about the year I left school, algebra came in. I didn’t know a thing about it.

AW: Did you have any favourite subjects?

JG: I loved drawing. But I’ve never followed it up. I couldn’t spell for nuts, I couldn’t read because I had crook eyes. My head teacher, I got all my sums wrong and he found that – well he reckoned I couldn’t see what he wrote on the board because I didn’t know the difference between a 3 and a 6, and an 8 or a 9; anything that had a curve in it, I didn’t know what it was. He found that’s how I was getting all my sums wrong.

AW: Did you wear glasses then?

JG: I was ten when this happened and I wore glasses from then till now.

AW: Where did you get your glasses from?

JG: In Brisbane.

AW: Went to a special optometrist in Brisbane?

JG: Yes.

AW: Was it a big deal in those days?

JG: Oh, there wasn’t too many wearing glasses, not at school. Because as soon as I went to school with the glasses they called me ‘Specs’. So you know, it was unusual for a kid to have glasses I think. And I played football in me glasses and sometimes I got a new pair of glasses. Christmas holidays I’d be taken to Brisbane, my eyes tested again, a new pair of glasses. Before the bill was paid they might be back two or three times to have a new wing on them.

AW: You played sports at school did you?

JG: Yes, football was very popular.

AW: Was Yandina a very big school?

JG: Yandina had about 130 kinds in those days, because every little farm had a family on it. Even if it was only a small dairy farm, there was a lot of little farms that might have anything from eighteen to thirty cows milking and that meant that there was usually a fairly big family in all these little places, had quite a few kids. About 130 I think, when I went to school.

AW: That’s a lot. Can you remember any of the teachers’ names?

JG: Yes, I had Miss Steggall I think when I first started. That would be Miriam. I’m trying to think of the head teacher when I went there. But he had left.

AW: How many teachers were there for that many children?

JG: I think when I started first there was only three teachers. Eric Marsh was another teacher, he went from the top grade – whatever it is in school – straight to teaching. There was no going off to college or anything. And Eric Marsh – I only found him out the other day – I knew he lived in North Arm when he retired and I only found out the other day, he died.

AW: Just recently?

JG: Very recently. It was in the “Sunshine Coast Daily”.

AW: Did you go to school anywhere else after Yandina or did you go to work when you finished school?

JG: No, I couldn’t get a job for love or money when I left school.

AW: When did you leave school?

JG: It would have been in the early thirties, ’31 or ’32.


AW: Just into the Depression. And what were times like then?

JG: I think my dad was on somewhere about four pound five shillings or four pound ten shillings a week. Straight away his wages were cut to three pound ten shillings. It was very bad. There was such a lot out of work, you’d have a string of swaggies going north or south all the time. There was no begging.

AW: You were telling me about swaggies during the Depression, John.

JG: Well, I can remember my mother was a softie and there would be a knock on the door and “Can you give us anything to eat?” Mother would make a few sandwiches and away they’d go. Then before the week was out, she’d have had half a dozen called on the door. Someone along the way had say, “That woman on the top of the hill’s a good catch.” This would have been when we lived at Kulangoor. I can remember Dad and Mum talking one night that it was going to have to stop because they couldn’t afford to feed the family, let alone feed all these fellows that come for a handout.

AW: It was mainly men was it?

JG: Yes.

AW: No families?

JG: No families. I never seen any families. But you might find a family in an old horse and dray moving from point to point, but we never came across them at all.

AW: Were you given any ration tickets?

JG: No, I don’t think so. Not till later on, after the War you got some sustenance or whatever they called it. You got so much a week or something like that. Or you go a docket from the police station and you could go to your storekeeper and he would pass that in and he would give you the amount of goods. Next week you’d go back again and get that amount of goods again.

AW: So to supplement for your father’s loss of wages, you would have grown vegetables?

JG: Oh yes, Dad was a very good gardener and out there we had a lot of fruit trees.

AW: Did you have cows?

JG: Yes, we had a few cows and there was always plenty of milk and butter, so you always had your milk and butter.

AW: Did you make cheese at all?

JG: No, never, but we made our own butter.

AW: Did you make bread?

JG: Yes. At one time my mum made bread but I don’t know if that was in the Depression or not.


JG: In the early part of the Depression, the Government decided that they would change the railway from Nambour to Kulangoor, because the grade was too steep. Most trains that came from Brisbane had to be cut in half and they had what they call a banker engine if they didn’t cut it. Very often they used the banker engine too, to push it over the top of the range from Nambour. Down below our place, coming towards Nambour, there was a big construction gang there. There was probably a hundred tents – I don’t know how many men – but there was whole families lived in tents and that went on for about two and a half years.

AW: And they were building the new railway?

JG: And they built the new railway. It was done mainly by horse and dray even in those days. I don’t think there was any trucks worked on it, but they had tramways with tumbling Tommys as we called them, with a truck that tipped sideways. And it was shifted that way.

AW: That was called a ‘Tumbling Tommy’?

JG: A ‘tumbling Tommy’; and you would have a fellow with a draft horse that would pull so many of those to where they had to be dumped and then pull them back again. And they did have a steam navvy that was a big steam shovel. But that only worked in several places, it didn’t work the whole line. The change of the grade started where you come off the Nambour railway bridge going north and by the time they reached Tucker’s Creek, I think it was roughly about twelve feet higher, the railway when it crossed the creek than when it had previously. When it got to the top of the range it was somewhere about seven or eight feet lower. So it give them a better grade.

AW: You were telling me about the Yandina rail yards being a big place in those days?


JG: Well it was in those days. There was an awful lot of timber cut and hauled in by bullock teams.

AW: Where would that be coming from?

JG: It would be coming from a lot of farms close in, not far from the railway, a lot of it. A lot of it going towards Cooloolabin or Kiamba. And at one time I believe there was about eight bullock teams working in Yandina railway yard at the same time.

AW: Where was the nearest mill?

JG: There was a mill in Yandina. There was quite a big mill in North Arm at one time that worked three shifts a day. That was before my time, I don’t remember that. My dad was telling me that when he first came to Yandina it worked three shifts a day. Jocumens had a mill in Yandina, where the present sawmill is in Yandina, but I think the sawmill in Yandina is closed down now. Wilkinson had it after Jocumsen and they did saw quite a bit of timber.

AW: Where would the timber that was being loaded onto the trains go to?

JG: The logs’ be going to Brett’s or one of the big timber firms in Brisbane to be sawn up for houses or whatever they used it for.

AW: So they just left the seconds of the timber for the local mills?

JG: Oh well, no it wouldn’t be that. Whoever was cutting this timber would have a market and would send it there. They would have so many thousand super feet to supply over a certain period. I don’t know about Jocumsen because that was a bit early for me, but when Wilkinson’s came they did away with having theirs hauled in by bullock team. They used bullock wagons and a caterpillar tractor. Things had progressed that much in those days. They would have two bullock wagons hooked behind a caterpillar tractor. But then there was a restriction there because they couldn’t go a great distance with their logs, because the tractor was pretty slow and it could only work in good country. Sometimes they had to pull one bullock wagon so far and then go back and get the other one and then hook the two together to do the last stretch to town. But at one time you would have nearly a whole train load of logs going out. They mightn’t load every day, you know, they might stockpile.

AW: So, did you ever work on the railways?

JG: No, never.

Cane farming

AW: What did you do when you did leave school? You said jobs were hard to get?

JG: We were on a piece of country with eighty acres and it was mostly all scrub and when I couldn’t get a job I felled some of that. There was a little bit of it cleared, got a fellow in to plough it and planted sugar cane. I didn’t have an assignment to the mill so I couldn’t send any to the mill, not unless I sent it through somebody.

AW: So what did you do with it?

JG: Well, a neighbour sent it for me that had an assignment.

AW: How long did you grow cane for?

JG: In was still growing cane up to the start of the War in 1939. Then in that, I felled scrub and planted cane with a grubber. Just lined up a line and went along and put the plants in and chipped it and so on that way.

AW: Hard work.

JG: Oh yes, it would be hard work. But it was rewarding.

AW: Were there many other people growing cane in the area?

JG: There was a few growing. At the time at the little siding at Kulangoor – it’s gone now – but that siding would have loaded anything up to eight six ton trucks a day. Sometimes they would clear the siding and there might be another four by nightfall gain.

AW: How did you cut the cane? Did you do that by yourself?

JG: With a cane knife.

AW: All by yourself?

JG: Yes, you loaded it into – a chappie had a German wagon used to cart it from the farm to the truck at the rail way and load it there. I didn’t mind cutting cane, but it wasn’t a very good wage. If I’d cut six ton of cane a day, I’d have really worked. I’d be there before the sun was up and I’d be there till I couldn’t see at night, but there was some blokes could cut ten ton in that time.

AW: So they were professional cane cutters?

JG: Yes. I did cut cane two seasons, a portion of two seasons down on the Maroochy River, but I would have been the poorest cutter in the gang.

AW: Who did you cut for then?

JG: Well there was a Mr Fink; Freddie Fink’s father, had one of the gangs; I can’t remember who had the other gang.

AW: Were there Kanakas cutting cane at that time?

JG: No, none at all.

AW: Had they moved out of the area?

JG: Oh no, there was several families at Bli Bli. I think some of them are still living around Bli Bli. There was Robe family lived between where we lived and Nambour.

AW: This is when you were a child?

JG: Yes, when I was a lad. This Mrs Robe used to walk from where we lived, about halfway between Nambour and Yandina and she had a couple of those little black kids and I was scared stiff of them. This is when I was a toddler running around.

AW: And they’d come and visit your mother would they?

JG: Oh she would always stop in, on her way past, to talk to mum.

AW: Did they go to school with you, these children?

JG: I can’t remember the Robes going to school until the last girl. I remember her going to school, but I can’t remember the older ones.

AW: Do you think there was discrimination, where people would say, “You can’t come to our school.”?

JG: Well I don’t know if it would have been like that, but there would have been a lot of people that were black people. I got quite friendly with Tommy Robe; he was quite a good sportsman, good footballer. He was a lot older than I was. They were related to this Eggmolesse family in Nambour. I think the Kochos would be related too. They lived up, out Image Road somewhere.

AW: Do you know how to spell that, Kocho?

JG: I wouldn’t know how to spell it.

AW: So when you were cutting cane there were no Kanakas left in the fields.

JG: Well not that I know. There may have been some cutting cane down at Bli Bli. I think Tommy Robe cut cane somewhere but I’m not sure where. I can’t remember his father, but I remember the mother.

AW: Getting back to your childhood, did you go to Sunday School at all?

JG: Yes, I got dragged to Sunday school at the Methodist Church in Yandina. Yes, I got dragged to Sunday school.

AW: And you went there every Sunday?

JG: Every Sunday.

AW: Did religion play a big part in your family?

JG: Mother was very religious. I don’t think Dad – although he went along – I don’t think Dad was so religious. But yes, I’d say it did. Mum practised what she preached. You know, she was fair dinkum.

AW: Did you have Sunday school picnics?

JG: Oh yes.

AW: Where did you go for the picnics?

JG: Well, the main place that I can remember most of the picnics, was at the sportsground in Yandina. But I think we did go to Maroochydore in Coulsen’s boat. I’m not sure about going to Mapleton falls with the Sunday school, I think that was Orange Lodge. Mother belonged to the Orange Lodge and when, I suppose via the grapevine, they arranged to go to Mapleton for a picnic at the Falls. By word of mouth it would get around and the Eumundi Lodge and Cooroy Lodge – every little place seemed to have it’s Orange Lodge – when the day came and the train stopped in Nambour they poured out, about a hundred of them, to go on the little tram to go to Mapleton.

Mapleton Tram

AW: Where did the Mapleton tram leave from?

JG: It left from about where the dead end line is at the back of the station now, where the big gate is, right at the back of the Town Hall.

AW: You were telling me the other day about where the track goes that it’s still visible, do you want to tell me a little bit now?

JG: The only place I know of it being still visible is just as you start climbing the Range at Dulong, after you pass the Day’s property. That big hill is on your left where you sort of go into the cutting and then in falls away. Well the line used to go round in a real S bend there, across the creek. I had a look about twelve months ago. We were coming from Kondalilla Falls or somewhere and I stopped the car and walked down there to see if I could find if that bridge was still there. Well most of the bridge is gone – probably burnt out over the years – but there’s still some pylons there.

AW: Did they have sleepers and tracks the same as a railway line, for the tram?

JG: Yes, just the same as trains.

AW: Do you want to describe to me what the carriages were like on the Mapleton Tram?

JG: Well I know they did have a carriage. It would be more like what you would see on the cane train for the workers. If you’ve ever seen that going through the streets of Nambour, it’s about twenty feet long, has a roof over it and a boarded end for supports for the roof. It had seats across it.

AW: Both sides?

JG: No, I think it was open on the side. Not unlike the little pineapple carriages, only they had some long ones. Quite respectable. I think they had one or might have had two of those. But when we went, mostly it was in like open cane trucks with seats on them. Like the little old cane truck, not like the big one they got now, the small one. Because I can remember the fire in the engine was wood that made a lot of ash and then choo- choo up the chimney and it landed on your ears and your neck, and burnt your clothes.

AW: You were telling me about men having to get off the tram at Dulong?

JG: Yes on the very steep pieces the men got off and if the engine still couldn’t pull it, they pushed. So you paid your fare and pushed too.

AW: And it was a big deal to go out on a picnic in those days wasn’t it?

JG: Well it was a big deal. I think the first time I may have been under school age, or around school age, but I can still remember I was fit enough to walk from the station at Mapleton where that swamp is below the lily pond. Just below the hotel there.

AW: And you walked from there to the Falls?

JG: And you walked from there to the falls. There was a track around the road but an awful lot of people used to cut through… There was a lot of oranges growing in those days. And they used to hop through the fence and through the orange patch and pick oranges as they went even if they were on a church picnic or something, which I didn’t approve of.

Mapleton Falls flying fox

AW: Was the flying fox still there over the Falls?

JG: Oh yes it was a big deal.

AW: Did you go on that?

JG: Yes I’ve had a couple of rides on that. It was strung between trees and it was…. You come down the present track down to the Falls; you come down, you go round a loop, well the trees were just there and the Falls would be over here. The Flying Fox ran from here over the gorge so you were almost over the Falls but you could have looked back onto the Falls. And it would have been a two or three hundred foot drop if it would drop. I can remember my mother gathering brother and I into – I supposedly you could call it the swinging basket – and it ran on a pulley above it. If I can remember rightly, it had another rope that ran through it from the side and you pulled yourself along. That’s if me memory’s right, that’s where you got on fairly well, because of the sag in the wire and when you got to the middle you had to pull yourself, if you wanted to go up to the other tree, or if you wanted to come back. Then when it came up close to the tree, someone grabbed the rope or a hook on it and pulled it up.

AW: You wouldn’t want to be faint of heart to stop in the middle of the Falls.

JG: Well Mum gathered us up and said, “Oh well, if anyone’s going, we’re all going together.” But there was hundreds rode on it so it must have been pretty safe.

AW: Do you know when they pulled that down?

JG: No I’d have no idea when it was pulled down, but I know that if you look at the trees now you can find some of the ironwork that attached it to the trees on this side; but I can’t find the tree on the other side that it was attached to, it may have had a fire and burnt down. But it was an experience. I think there’s two trees on this side where you go down to the Falls….

AW: Did you ever go on the Buderim Tram?

JG: Yes, I can remember going to Buderim on the tram. You got off the train at Palmwoods and walked along the platform and a bit south and down to get on the tram and it would around all over the mountain. But I don’t know where it finished up in Buderim.

AW: Did it go through Chevallum and up to Buderim?

JG: It could have gone through Chevallum, I wouldn’t know. Was pretty young in those days. I can remember more about the Mapleton than I can the Buderim but I can remember going there.

AW: What would you do when you got to Buderim?

JG: I can’t remember that either. There was a lot of bananas and fruit growing in Buderim in those days, because it was a farming area. And if you paid perhaps five pound an acre in the country around Yandina you paid one hundred pound an acre for it in Buderim those days.

AW: Why was Buderim so much more expensive?

JG: Well it was such a fertile country, they could plant anything and get a crop and it was first class stuff anything they grew there. They grew coffee in the early days but I don’t know where.

Maroochy River travel and transport

AW: Did you ever go swimming down the coast?

JG: Well when we’d go to Maroochydore, I’d go to have a swim in the river where the boat pulled in at Cotton Tree.

AW: Which boat was this?

JG: That was Coulson’s boat.

AW: So you couldn’t drive to Maroochydore?

JG: Not in those days. And even about the time I left school the boat used to stop at Butt’s wharf. That was the main wharf in Maroochydore. That would be if you went down through Woombye and down the Maroochydore Road and you arrived straight in onto Duporth Avenue, I think it is. Butt’s store was straight in front of you, and they backed out onto the river. That’s where Coulsen did all his transhipments – stuff that was going up the river or stuff that he was taking down.

AW: So how often did his boats run?

JG: He used to run every day that I remember. But then on a weekend he would run a boat trip, perhaps on a Sunday or a Saturday.

AW: So you’d catch Coulson’s boat to Maroochydore and go swimming at Maroochydore?

JG: We’d have a swim in the river, we didn’t swim in the surf much I don’t think. If you went on a mail day and not a special picnic day, you only had about an hour so while he ate his dinner, so if you were going to have a swim you had to be pretty quick.

AW: When you say mail day…?

JG: Well a week day. He had the mail run that was guaranteed part of his money was this mail run. And also he would cart anything at all to the farms. If it was machinery, if it was too big to handle onto the top of the boat, and you couldn’t get it in, they’d load a lot of it onto the roof of the boat. And if it was a plough or something, well they’d managed that; but if it was something bigger they would dismantle it and take it, a bit today and a bit tomorrow until the bloke had whatever he was getting. That was in the very early days before roads.

AW: Can you remember when the first road went through to Maroochydore?

JG: No I wouldn’t remember that, but it would have been half way through my schooling. And I was in Maroochydore one time staying with – it would have been my head teacher – and his son and I were near the same age and I stayed with them fro a week. Horton and I decided that instead of taking the row boat and rowing all the way from near Butts Store, down to the Cotton Tree to go swimming, we decided we’d walk. We walked pretty well where the road would be today and we were finding our way through the rubbish and tea trees and so on where someone had drive a horse and cart, or a horse and sulky, and that was all the road. You couldn’t have got a motor car along then. There was a couple of creeks to cross.

AW: How did you cross? You just swam across the creeks?

JG: Oh they were just up to your ankle or a bit deeper. Just tiny little drains actually. So in those days there wasn’t much travelling on land, the river was the road.

AW: You’d know a lot about the development of the area because you have lived in Yandina and Nambour. You were telling me about the Yandina railway bridge, from what your mother had told you, about its construction.

JG: Yes, Dad told me it was being built when he first came to Queensland and it was still being finished off when my brother was a baby. They usually have two planks running between the lines on the bridges and when Mother would be going to town instead of having to jump from sleeper to sleeper across the bridge with a baby in her arms, one of the workmen would say, “Here give me the baby and I’ll carry it across. You can’t manage on your own.” So that would have been in the early part of 1915 or 1916, because my brother was born in January 1915. We could get from our place to Yandina, but you had to go up the hill and then down onto the highway and across the bridge there. Then walk away around to town. The other way you’d go in ten minutes across the bridge and by walking around it might take up to three quarters of an hour to do it. So that’s why the bridge was the main thoroughfare.

First motor vehicles

AW: Can you remember the first motor vehicles in the area?

JG: Yes, well the first motor vehicle that I actually saw working was loading stuff in the railway yard. I wouldn’t know what he was loading, but that was the first one I remember seeing. But there was a Mr Steggall had a Rio. I believe he bought it. I don’t know how it came from Brisbane. It was delivered to him and he was frightened of it, so when he wanted to start it up and drive it, he tied it to a tree so he could go round and round the tree – or that’s the story that was told to me. I never saw this vehicle until after the war when Sims bought it.

AW: That’s Sims from Kenilworth?

JG: That’s Sims from Kenilworth, they got it going.

AW: Who told you that story about the tree?

JG: Well I’d heard that when I was going to school, so I’d have been half way through my schooling when vehicles started to come into the area.

AW: Did many people around Yandina and Maroochy River get motor vehicles?

JG: After the first few there was the fellow had an old Dodge I think it was. I’m not sure whether he was the fellow that started the first garage in Yandina or not.

AW: Can you remember his name?

JG: Granger, Bill Granger. Twelve months ago, or it might have been two years ago I met him at a ‘Back to Yandina Reunion’ at Brisbane. He was pretty active even then but he would have been getting a very old man. He would have been I would say into his eighties, but he was enjoying himself at this reunion.

AW: Do you see many of your old friends from Yandina still?

JG: I go to Brisbane now and again. There’s people that used to live on the ranges at Cooloolabin. I didn’t know them. She was Miss Barren in those days. I think it’s her that organised this ‘Back to Yandina’ in Brisbane and it’d fall some time about October.

AW: Every year?

JG: Every year, and last year there would have been about 100 to 150 people there. An awful lot of them I didn’t know until they told me who they were. It was very interesting to go back and talk to them.

AW: So you left school in the beginning of the Depression and worked on the cane and then you joined up and what did you do then?

JG: I went off to the Army.

Service stations

AW: And what did you do then?

JG: We’ll forget about my Army career. It wasn’t very exciting. But on coming out of the Army, I had a job to go to at Blair’s garage; he had the Shell Garage that’s over the hill going north in Yandina and I worked with him for just on eight years.

AW: Is that where you trained to be a mechanic?

JG: Well I had worked two and a half years in workshops in the Army. That’s where I got the general knowledge from, picked it up. I was pretty good at picking it up in those days because if there was a welder around and I wanted something welded, I couldn’t see why I should have to go and ask someone else to weld it. I should find out how to do it myself. So I learnt how to weld with the oxy and the electric and we had some terrific workshops in Alice Springs.

AW: That’s where you were stationed?

JG: That’s where I was stationed most of the time, because everything that went north to Darwin and also to the Islands close handy, all went through Alice Springs. It came up by rail. And we would have a hundred trucks a day gong out of Alice Springs.

AW: Getting back to the Yandina Service Station, can you remember what your first wage was?

JG: Around about four pound five shillings, I think.

AW: Did it go up slowly after that over the eight years?

JG: Oh yes, we got a raise, I don’t know how often. I wouldn’t know just how much in the eight years, but it would probably have doubled in the eight years.

AW: And where did you go when you finished work in Yandina?

JG: I got a job in U.E.S (United Engineering Services) in Nambour. They were where Beaurepairs are now. They had quite a big workshop there.

AW: And that was another garage was it?

JG: Another garage. They sold Austins in those days. You could get an Austin if you couldn’t buy any other make of motor car.

AW: Where did you get all your spare parts from?

JG: Oh spare parts were fairly easy to get at that time. But when I first came out of the Army, if you wanted – say you had a shaft that was worn – you might weld it up and have it turned around or ground down, like that. You couldn’t get it off the shelf. They would ring Brisbane and get it up.

JG: Well I didn’t come in contact with Whalley’s Store all that much til I worked for Retuned Soldiers Garage. I worked for U.E.S for about two years. Then I went and worked for Return Soldier’s. And I found we were still working on pre-War motor cars quite a bit, even at that time, you know. They just kept going and going and going. And if you wanted a part you couldn’t get in Brisbane because it was obsolete, you’d go down to Whalley’s and they used to have a garage and I think by this time their garage was shut down. But they still had a lot of stuff and you would ask Frank Whalley if he had a part, tell him what it was, show him what you had in your hand, and, “Oh yes, we’ve got some of those somewhere. I’ve seen it one day.” And half an hour later of climbing up and down ladders, and looking in drawers and so on, he would produce your part.

AW: It was a very famous store, Whalley’s?

JG: Oh yes. I think earlier than that they must have got in a great supply of parts to service the vehicles they were selling, so they in turn had some pretty old…. Wouldn’t be surprised if when they shut down they still had car parts that were still on the shelf.

AW: When you were a child in Yandina where did you go and do your shopping?

JG: Mainly in Yandina, it was quite a good place to shop. There was the Maroochy Co-op Store.

AW: What sort of thing did you buy?

JG: Well you could buy most things you wanted. You could buy all your groceries. If you wanted a grubber or a shovel or an axe or a saw you could buy that. You could buy hand tools if you wanted to do carpentry; hardware lines, they were very good. If you wanted dress material or shoes or that, the women folk would find it a bit difficult because they didn’t carry a very big stock. My mother was rather lucky. Dad got a railway pass for a week in the early days for his holidays; he got a week’s holiday and a free pass. They would go to the relations in Brisbane and Mum would go and do her shopping for most of the year when she would be down. This is, you know, shoes or dress or hat.

Train travel

AW: Would you go with her?

JG: Oh yes, I had lots of train rides to Brisbane.

AW: So that would have been an unusual thing for children in this area, would it?

JG: Yes it was, because when I left school there was quite a lot of kids that had never been to Brisbane. Some of them wouldn’t even have known where Nambour was I think. You know they never went anywhere. We were rather lucky because Dad had the pass. I was at Cooinya before I went to school because Mother had a brother up at Coominya working on the railway. I don’t know why I was with Dad, ( I don’t know whether my eldest brother was with him), but Mum couldn’t have been very well and Dad wanted to go and see Dave, so she caught the train up the Brisbane Valley, must have went up on Saturday and back on Sunday. So I got lots of train rides. And then with Dad working on the railway, Mum could get a privilege ticket which was about half fare. So if Mum wanted to go anywhere in the train, she wasn’t paying full fare. So that was handy. In those day’s fares – well to me they seemed fairly cheap.

AW: Can you remember what they were?

JG: I can remember after I left school getting from Kulangoor to Nambour and I think it was a shilling on the train.

AW: What year would that have been?

JG: Oh before the War. So it seemed fairly reasonable. We could catch a bus around War-time, may have been after the War, if you caught the bus from the Yandina side of the overhead bridge he charged you a shilling to go to Nambour. And if you caught it on the southern side of the bridge, it only cost you six pence. I can remember, must have been before the War, I found out through other young they were only paying half of what I was paying and I found out that they were catching the bus on the Nambour side. I can remember going back and forwards to Nambour on the bus and one day I was going to Coolum from Yandina and he said, “By golly, you kids are cunning.”


AW: Getting back to Yandina rail yards, you were telling me about Mr Love and his arrowroot?

JG: Mr Love used to load arrowroot. It was a big white bulb. He grew this out on the Kiama Road at the top of where the Wappa Dam is now. He carted it in a German Wagon and loaded it into a truck going off to Brisbane, to be ground.

AW: What’s a German wagon?

JG: (DRAWS DIAGRAM) That’s the floor of it and this is the sides of it.

AW: So they’re slanting sides are they?

JG: They’re slanting sides. They had four wheels. They were to have a shaft there and that would be the tail end of the horse to the tail end of the next horse. Some of them had a gate for back and front.

AW: So most farms would have a German wagon?

JG: They had a German wagon or a dray or something. If you can imagine that with four wheels, and it would have been about two feet six to three feet across the bottom and it might be five feet across the top.

Coulson's Transport

AW: So all the farmers’ produce from the Maroochy River would go

Coulson’s boats?

JG: Well if they were growing bananas, the bananas would come up; if they were growing potatoes, the potatoes would come up. He had a storage place near the wharf where he could unload it into a – in the early days, he had a horse and cart. If it wasn’t being loaded in there it would be carted to Yandina Railway Station and it would be consigned off to Brisbane.

AW: Did he have anyone helping him on the boats?

JG: He had a fellow by the name of Bill Marsh, he was a nephew I think, and he looked after it most of the War years with Lionel Coulson’s wife. Bill Marsh looked after the boat side of it and ran the boat and she looked after the carrying side. They delivered parcels around town and all this sort of thing, and picked up bananas round the place and so on.

AW: You were telling me about some new railway going into Coolum?

JG: The cane train. Well as the tramway extended down to the Coolum area, they ran a Saturday morning special into Nambour for shopping.

AW: Would the shops be open all day on Saturday?

JG: No, as far as I can remember they were only open half the day. We would get up to Nambour somewhere about eight o’clock in the morning. I can remember the people lining up round eleven o’clock to go back on the train again. And the little Railway Station was somewhere near the club hotel in the main street in Nambour. I think people from the Dunethin Rock area and all around there, being able to come up on the cane tramway to shop in Nambour on a Saturday morning, helped to kill the boat run that come up the river to Yandina, cause it eventually died out.

AW: They would use the cane train instead of catching the boat?

JG: Everybody had a small boat, so they went to a point on the river where they could meet the train and go directly to Nambour. It would have been cheaper than going by boat to Yandina and then catching the train to Nambour.

AW: So you obviously had a lot to do with the Maroochy River area?

JG: I’ve certainly seen a lot of changes.


AW: Can you remember any big floods or cyclones in the area?

JG: Oh yes. In the years that I went to school every season was just like the one we’ve had where it rained for three or four months without a stop. And going to school I didn’t mind that a bit because Mum would say, “Well the river’s up, I’m not sending you to school today.” Every now and again we had a day off. But we had a big flood in 1927. It washed the Yandina Road Bridge away and it also washed the bridge away in Nambour.

AW: How did people cope with those sort of things?

JG: Well, we used to go back and forwards to Yandina and they had a crossing on the river, about where the present highway bridge is at the moment and they anchored logs across. They supported rock that they put in and the river could be in flood. I’ve driven a horse and buggy through and the water went across the floor of the buggy through and the buggy was nearly going too and the horse didn’t like that too much. But above that you just couldn’t cross. Only after the bridge was washed away, or what was left of it, the pylons that were left, they strung a footbridge across. It went like this across and it wasn’t till a year or two later the bridge was built where the present footbridge is below the main highway. You’ll notice the little footbridge across there, no pylons.

AW: That’s the original pylons, is it?

JG: Yes, the first bridge that was built after that 1927 flood. It was built while I was still going to school. And a year or two after it was built, we had quite a big flood and the bridge the Yandina end, the abutment to the bridge the water tore the bank away and they had to build an extra span on the bridge. They had put the bridge in that position to save a span because that was the narrowest part of the river at the time. So they needn’t have bothered. A chappie we knew, Bill Ackerman lived out at Kulangoor and he worked on the railway. And this morning he was driving to town and he drove down onto the bridge and it wasn’t till he was nearly tipping off the end that he realised it wasn’t there, because he was looking at water and he decided how big the flood was and the next minute he finds there’s no bridge. The bit that washed away was enough to make another span and the bank came around something like that. Until they had this span, they did have a spider bridge across there.

AW: And a spider bridge, that’s two big logs?

JG: Two big logs with a bit of 2x11/2 nailed on the outside edge.

AW: Treacherous?

JG: Well that was only used in flood time. And I wouldn’t have used it. But there was quite a lot of people used the spider bridges. Kenilworth had a lot of those in the early days, out that way.

Yandina Volunteer Fire Brigade

AW: So you were in the Yandina Volunteer Fire Brigade. Do you want to tell me a little bit about that?

JG: Well there were about six or seven that were interested and it was formed.

AW: Can you remember what year?

JG: No it would have been somewhere between ’45 and ’50. And on practice days we used to run hoses from the river right up to the town. Well by the time you ran the hose that far, if the fellow down at the river decided, oh well we’re all set here now and he left someone with the engine running, he could be up the town before the water got there. It was so far – it’d have been a good quarter of a mile – to pump the water.

AW: Did you have an old fire engine?

JG: We had a fire engine on a Dodge truck. It was quite effective. We never had to use it for a house fire but we used it in North Arm for a railway fire, when they rolled a train off in North Arm railway yard.

AW: A train fell off the line?

JG: Well I think it came into the loop line in North Arm far too fast and the engine tipped off or jumped off the line and then rolled off. And the trucks all piled up, nose down and tail up and each one went under the other one and they had a lot of trucks of coal. Some chemicals were exploding, set a fire going and we got called. It was show night in Nambour and we got called to go and fight the fire in North Arm. We pumped the water from about 11o’clock in the night till about 8o’clock in the morning and we still hadn’t won the battle.

AW: Because all the coal was alight?

JG: Yes, the coal would be under the trucks, as the trucks went under tail up and nose down. When we were pouring all this water on, it just ran down the floor of the truck and didn’t get on the fire. Coal is very hard to put out anyway. They brought a bulldozer in about 8o’clock in the morning and we still hadn’t won the battle.

AW: Because all the coal was alight?

JG: Yes, the coal would be under the trucks, as the trucks went under tail up and nose down. When we were pouring all this water on, it just ran down the floor of the truck and didn’t get on the fire. Coal is very hard to put out anyway. They brought a bulldozer in about 8o’clock in the morning and he tipped the trucks over, pushed them aside while we damped them down.

AW: In the big Nambour fires, when the commercial centre of Nambour was well ablaze, were you ever called into any of those fires?

JG: I was never in any of the main street (fires) other than the Town Hall. I got involved in that. It was on Anzac Day, I think. I’d been to an Anzac service in Yandina. I don’t know whether it was a lunch or a morning tea or something but about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, might have been a bit later, we got word that the Town Hall was on fire. We raced over with our fire engine and we put it in the creek between Grace’s car yard and Coles, just there. In those days that was a nice sloping bank down to the creek and sloping up you could drive the vehicle down from each direction. We put the fire engine in there and pumped the water up. I didn’t see any of the fire; I worked one of the fire engines. It was quite a blaze.

AW: From what I hear it was a very big fire. So did you have petrol pumps or were they hand-operated pumps?

JG: When I first come out of the Army they were ‘pull the lever’. I can remember – we did have them when they first came out. And then they were electric and if you had a blackout you had to put a handle on and pump petrol and I can remember some of these big whopping great tanks with two big forty gallon tanks on each side – coming in for a refill and you would pump with one arm, until you couldn’t swing it, then pump with the other. Then ask the bloke who owned the truck to have a go.

AW: Talking about electricity, can you remember when electricity came to Nambour or into the Yandina area?

JG: It was before the War, not long before the War.

AW: Did many houses go on to electricity then?

JG: Well all that were close. We never had electricity at Kulangoor although it went through our property. Even if we paid they wouldn’t put it in because they would have had to run – it was 33,000 volt line. So they’d have had to break that down from Yandina and run it out.

AW: Did it make a big difference in the commercial centre of Nambour, having electric lights?

JG: Oh it would have. I don’t remember much what they had before that in the town area. They had gas lights I think, carbide lights. They had the carbide lighting for the railway station in Yandina before the power.

AW: Did the bullock teams still go through town when you were younger?

JG: Yes right up to about 1957. Nipperess had a team of bullocks and he used to haul from this side of town, wherever he got it, from the forestry and he’d haul it up through the street and down to Lanham’s mill and the road was only the width of two vehicles and everybody cursed him in the main street.

AW: This was going up Currie Street.

JG: Yes, I think to about 1957.

AW: And he found it cheaper to run his bullocks than getting a truck?

JG: Well he wouldn’t have been able to have handled a truck, he’d handled bullocks all his life.

AW: So he was fairly old then?

JG: Yes, he liked his bullocks. He was the last bullock team in the area.

Rechabite Lodge

AW: Maybe you could tell me a little bit more about the Rechabite’s, about the aims of the Rechabite’s?

JG: Well the Rechabite Lodge, the aim was that you were a teetotaller and you pledged to abstain from drinking alcoholic liquors and to try and get others to do the same. That was your pledge when you joined the Rechabite’s.

AW: Was this an off shoot from the Prohibition period do you think?

JG: Well it could have been. I’m not sure how it started in the early days.

AW: Were there many Lodges on the Sunshine Coast?

JG: Yes, Nambour had a pretty active Lodge and Cooroy and Gympie that I know of, had Lodges. We used to have our own Friendly Society’s Hall where you had the meetings in. We used to have our own indoor bowls match, we’d play a couple of games.

AW: So it was a very social club as well?

JG: Yes, it was a social, and they’d have a break up at the end of the year, invite other members of your family.

AW: Was it a political association at all?

JG: No it wasn’t. Nothing political about it.


AW: In the early days the community would have been very dependent on each other for support?

JG: Oh more so I think than today.

AW: How did the big community buildings like the School of Arts for example, how did they get built?

JG: Well you had to have a place of entertainment, whether it was dances or concerts and there was a lot of talent about that got used, in those days, that wouldn’t be used today probably. I can remember in Yandina the Methodist Church would run a concert, in the hall. And the hall would be – wouldn’t be just Methodist that would come to it, it was some good singers and some people that could really act the goat and be entertaining.

AW: So it was just locals that would entertain you?

JG: Yes. An odd time you’d have a show passing through, but I never went to them at all.

AW: To the travelling shows?

JG: No. I liked to go and see the people I knew. Then they’d have dances and they’d be the real countrified dance where all the kids got put under the seat to sleep and older ones would run around and play on the dance floor and things like that. The closest you can get it is to go to Palmwoods, to a dance.

AW: These days?

JG: Yes, because all the kids from five years up get out on the floor.

AW: So it was a regular event to have a dance in the local School of Arts?

JG: Yes, I never danced till after the War, but it was the entertainment and balls every year. Different ones would run a ball.

AW: I’m interested to know how the halls actually got built, like how were they funded?

JG: Well they would form a committee and then they would run functions to get started and they’d have a debt to the bank or something. If you had a good committee they kept working and functions. About the time before I left school pictures were coming in. You’d get a travelling show, Gilbert in Maroochydore, I can’t remember his first name, he used to do the circuit once a week with his pictures.

AW: Did he change the movies?

JG: Yes you’d have a new movie every week.

AW: Were those the silent movies or were they talkies in those days?

JG: No I think the talkies would have been coming in in those days, yes. Then Jack McDougall ran pictures in Yandina Hall, he had his own projector and everything. I can remember the pictures used to arrive up on a Saturday, midday train and go back on Monday morning and he’d show the pictures in the hall. The hall would have been nearly full, that was a good income. Then there was bazaars, all the Churches would run to bazaar. And with their stalls. That’s the way it was financed.

AW: So nearly every weekend there was a social activity happening in the area?

JG: Oh there was something going on. There were pictures. From about the time I left school I think it would be, there was pictures in the hall pretty well every week. If it wasn’t a Saturday night it would be a Friday night.


AW: Did you have a local doctor?

JG: No.

AW: You had to come to Nambour?

JG: We used to come to Nambour in my time to the doctor.

AW: Did people use herbs and home remedies in those days?

JG: Oh yes, you had your bottle of castor oil. That was very difficult to take. I wasn’t in bed but I was sick and I didn’t want to go to school; and Mum wasn’t too sure I was sick so she said she’d give me a dose of castor oil anyway. She didn’t have enough brains to put me to bed, so I chased her all around the yard and the garden and everything before she caught me to give me the castor oil. I can’t remember whether it was it or not.

AW: Can you remember any old wives tales or home remedies?

JG: Oh yes, you got poultices put on for boils.

AW: Did you know what they contained?

JG: I don’t know what was in them, but they had something to cure everything. Yes bread poultice that’s right. I’m just trying to think, bread poultice and then if you had a cold they cut onions up and put them on a saucer under your bed till you could hardly breathe and that was supposed to clear your head. Whether it did or not I don’t know. But I think there was probably something in a lot of the old remedies.

AW: Did many women have their children at home in those days?

JG: Yes. Mrs Steggall, the chappie I told you that had the car, she was the local midwife. I was born in St James Hospital in Nambour. I’m not too sure where it was. But it was somewhere near where the Council yards were in those days. So it was somewhere near….

AW: So the Hospital is no longer there?

JG: Well it was a hospital. I think it was only one or two beds in the thing, but Mrs Steggall went around the place. She would have brought most of the kids in the area, into the world I think.

AW: Is there anything else that you’d like to tell me of your early reminiscences of the area?

JG: We must have covered it all I think.

End of interview

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