Date of Interview: 14 February 1985
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Transcriber: Valarie Poole
Born: 1893 at Canungra
Education: Eumundi School
Occupation: Timber getter/Farmer
Dick Caplick was born in 1893. He enlisted in the army and fought in World War I in Belgium. He worked as a timber getter, in the Eumundi Butter Factory and as a banana farmer.
Images and documents on Dick Caplick on Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Dick Caplick oral history [MP3 23MB]
(Audio begins at Timber getting and the Eumundi Sawmills)
C.F.: When were you born?
CAPLICK: I was born at Canungra on 17th August, 1893.
C.F.: Where is Canungra?
CAPLICK: It's just inland from the Gold Coast, in the Coomera area.
C.F.: Where were your parents born? Were your parents born in Australia?
CAPLICK: No. They were both born in Germany. They came out here very young. They immigrated the first chance they got. They didn't like the Kaiser. He was a tyrant they reckon, and like a lot more Germans they came out here and settled here. Australia was a free country. Oh, he was a tyrant. He was having a go for to conquer the world. He was a very ambitious man the Kaiser. That's how I went over there, my father was dead then when the War came on, and I said to mother...She said: "This is our country, if you want to go, you go." So I was only too happy, because all me school mates here and that, they were all going to the War. And that's how I made up my mind and I enlisted and went with me mates.
C.F.: So you were born in Canungra. When did the family come to Eumundi?
CAPLICK: We went from Canungra to Coomera. And I did my first schooling at Coomera, and from Coomera we shifted to the Maroochy River, and from the Maroochy River to Yandina and I did some schooling at Yandina. My father was working in Eumundi at the time and he got a house in Eumundi, and we came to Eumundi about the year 1901. I attended a Provisional School in Eumundi. Where the teacher's residence is today, I attended a school there. I was regarded as a good scholar and I was a teacher's white-haired boy. His wife used to teach the girls sewing and I was the white-haired boy. He didn't get on too good with the Pioneer Storekeepers here. He used to get me to go down to Nambour on the train of a morning and come back. Do a message - leave an order for material that he-wanted at the groceries in Nambour, and come back. I did all sorts of jobs for him and that.
Well then, they wanted to adopt me. They had no children of. their own. They wanted to adopt me. And father wouldn't let them. He said: "Oh he's a good lad at home here."
My father had a selection out near the Eumundi Cemetery at the time. There was a terrible lot of timber on it. Timber was the main thing. It was selected in about the year 1901, and the cost was a half a crown per acre. Two and six per acre, with twenty-five years to pay it off. We chopped down all the bush on there, sowed grass and that there. Father was going to get some cattle. He went away to buy cattle and he came home with some horses. So, anyway they were good horses and we built a big shed, a very big shed. We stripped the bark off the turpentine trees, and the big shed was roofed with bark. Big wide sheets of bark and that there. We did the carrying business in Eumundi, here in the early days with horses. We carted timber from the sawmill out to the various farms where they built the farmhouses and that.
C.F.: When did you leave school?
CAPLICK: I left school when I was just on twelve years of age, and I went in the bush and worked.
C.F.: Tell me about your first job.
Working in the timber industry
Timber in timber yard at Eumundi ready for loading on rail.
CAPLICK: Well actually my first job, that was right – Father had a job fencing at Palmwoods, and we went down there, my brother Fred and I. We were working with him, putting up about a mile and a half of fence at Palmwoods. That's some of the first work I did. Then we came up here and he got a job at Nambour near the Sugar Mill - put the old-time post, rail and paling fence up. Father got sick and came home and I was a bit over fourteen at that time, and an old chap used to come and watch me working and he said to my father after he came back: "By Jove," he said, "that’s a clever lad you've got here." "Oh, we teach them young," he said. I was able to put up the old-time post, rail and paling fence, when I was between fourteen and fifteen years of age. There was a branch of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank in Eumundi here, at the time, in the main street, and they wanted it fenced. I split the timber, and put that up when I was sixteen years of age. Did various jobs around the town here that other fellows couldn't do. That was principally in the timberline and that.
My brother and I cut a lot of timber at Doonan. Before we went to Doonan, we got a job scrub-felling. The district was noted for the thousands of acres of heavy scrub, or rain forest they call it now. We had a contract the brother and I. The first year we worked for Ball. He was one of the first settlers with Gridley, with Joan (Keehn's) grandfather. Ball had a big property and elder brother had worked for him as a boy. He had 320 acres of big scrub and he got us on there. We felled thirty acres the first year we worked for him. That was the year I was seventeen, and the brother turned fifteen. The following year, we did a block of seventy-three acres there for him. Cut the brush out and fall it. The spring-board you brought from one big tree to another. You'd climb up. You'd have it all mapped out. You wouldn't cut every tree singly. You'd have it mapped out with a big tree up the hill further. And you'd cut the trees lower down on the uphill side...Cut them about halfway. Then you'd fall this big tree on. And one tree would push another over, what they call a drive. And we'd cut one drive. Well I started early morning and I worked all day till three o'clock, just cutting in trees at the back on the uphill side. Then my brother helped me from three to four. We started off with three big what we call, hickory or booyong (aboriginal name for hickory). And this drive, the timber crashing, it was up at Sunrise, and they heard it at Nandroya - the roar of this breaking timber and that. That's what they called a drive. You didn't cut every tree singly. It wouldn't do.
C.F.: Tell me, Dick, where did you learn to be a timber feller, and to use the spring- boards?
CAPLICK: Oh well, that was actually when my father selected out here at the Cemetery, and a fellar, married a sister of mine later ...He worked with us. At that time, I think it was the Queensland Government had contracted to supply South Africa with half-a-million railway sleepers. And on our selection, there was plenty of timber there. Timber everywhere, and we were cutting these sleepers for South Africa. The fellar that became my brother-in-law, he did the squaring with a broad axe, and my older brother and I cut these huge logs, sometimes fifteen feet in girth and cut them into nine foot lengths and split them into billets, sufficiently in size to square a 9 x 5 sleeper, nine feet long. They were bound for South Africa and anyway, years went by working in the timber, scrub cutting and such like, and then the war came on of course, and I got away to the war. I did my training in Victoria.
The Kenilworth Survey
C.F.: Just one thing Dick, before we get to the war, was it before the war you went on the big survey cut? Do you remember that? When you joined a survey gang. Was that before the war?
CAPLICK: Now let me think. It was before I was married. That would be before the first War and I went with a government surveyor hired -they sent word in here, they wanted a young man, a good bushman, knowledge of timber, and a good axeman, and I went out on a horse-drawn coach from Eumundi, Hassall's coach, and they had to change horses at Belli, those days. Too far for horses from Kenilworth in here and back, so they used to change horses at Belli. Well I went out on that and I camped at Mount Ubi Station with Hassalls - the Proprietor of Mount Ubi Station- for a night. Then I had to walk from there to Walli Creek, and there was a man from the survey gang waiting for me. My first week with the survey gang was on Walli Creek.
C.F.: What was the gang actually doing? What were they surveying?
CAPLICK: We were doing the initial survey. Something like 70,000 acres of virgin country, it was those days, up the Mary River, from Kenilworth. Anyway, we camped on the river there, and we used to go out for "flying camps". Instead of walking miles back to the main camp, we had horses. We'd make a flying camp where there was grass for a couple of horses. I used to have to ride back to the main camp, midweek – the cook there used to make bread - and take a fresh supply of bread to the gang. And then we'd come back to the main camp of a weekend, and do our washing and so on. I went down to the river in me birthday suit to do me washing and have a swim at the river. There was a shoal of mullet coming down the river and I knew I could race as quick as they could swim, and chase this shoal of mullet. Some of them dashed in under the roots of a tree, in a pocket of water, under the roots of a tree on the bank, and I laid on my back and pushed under this tree and felt something amongst me legs and into a pocket of stagnant water and back under. He did that twice, and I used my Aboriginal instincts and I patted a lot of bushes in there, and this cod fish - I frightened him out, and he dashed in where he used to dodge me, but he got stranded amongst the bushes, and I pounced on him. I walked up to the camp with this lovely big cod - 6lb weight. And my mates were all interested, and they said: "Where did you get it?" And of course, the boss was in a separate tent, Amos was his name, a government man, he came out.
"Oh my goodness" he said, "What a lovely fish. How did you get it? But there's no hole there?" "I got it out under the tree," I said. They'd travel the river, the shallow streams at night, and get grasshoppers and their feed there. Anything that got in there they'd get it. Well we went down and we got another six-pounder that afternoon. We got quite a few fish that way. Talking recently to someone from Kenilworth and they said there is not a scale there now. They use dynamite on them and they killed them. Even those days, a feller came along, a Gympie man. "Huh!" he says, and he threw a plug of dynamite. "Look what I got. He got twelve mullet. And I said, "Look what you didn't get." All the little fish were all dead there. I said; "I don't want fish if it is that way." Even then I didn't believe in it. I knew enough that it was no good. And you wouldn't get a scale in the river now they reckon. No.
C.F.: And on the survey you were the axeman. What did you actually do?
CAPLICK: Well, you see the thing was, when there was a line surveyed, the distance was recorded and you had to pull a certain -chainman, his name was George Spann. He had a belt around here, and hooked the chain tape on, and he had to pull so many pounds of pressure on the steel tape to ensure that your distance was correct. You’d have a sag in it one time, and straight line another. You always pulled the poundage that was required. This registered what tension was on the chain. That was how that was done. See, I've had a varied experience. I didn't sit here and twiddle me fingers all me life, just play with a bit of a garden. I've had a lot of different experiences and I think I made a success of whatever I was at. They always wanted me to stay on and that.
Last Aboriginals in Eumundi
C.F.: In those days, that’s before the First World War, were there any Aboriginals around the area then?
CAPLICK: There was two. The original two. There were two Aboriginals left here. Georgie Bath, and Wom - his little gin. She was only about up to my armpits. A tiny little gin. No Piccaninny. They reckon they had no children. And they camped along the Doonan Road about a mile and a half from Eumundi. That was the last two Aboriginals in this district.
C.F.: And how did they live? How did they get food? Did they work?
CAPLICK: Georgie would do anything for a little bottle of rum. He'd cut wood for you, and do all that. And the people used to be sympathetic towards them and give them food and different things like that. Yes, old Georgie and Wombah. They were the last two Aboriginals that I can remember here.
C.F.: What happened to them? Do you remember?
CAPLICK: Oh they took Wom to a mission, and she died. And then they took Georgie away. Oh, they took Georgie first. Georgie got sick and they took him away first. And the police come to get Wom to take her to a mission. They had about six hungry starved- looking dogs there, and the police shot all the dogs before they could get old Wom. We heard her for a considerable distance. Screaming. Poor old Wom was screaming her eyes out while the police shot the dogs. Then they took old Worn away to a Mission where she died. I don't know whether it was Barambah or where ever they went. But that's all I can remember about it. But that's how the last two Aboriginals finished.
C.F.: So when World War One started, when did you go off to War?
World War I
CAPLICK: Oh, I went in to do my initial training as a machine gunner in 1916 and I was stationed at Seymour in Victoria where I did my training. We went from there up to Sydney by train and embarked at Sydney on a New Zealand freighter, 14,000 ton boat, but it was confiscated for military service, to carry troops from here to England.
C.F.: Did a lot of men from Eumundi go together? Did you stay together?
CAPLICK: Just depended. I was the only one, like, in Victoria training there. All got into different units and that. I was a trainee of the Seventh Machine Gun Company, and trained at Seymour in Victoria. And at completion of the training, we went to Sydney by train. I thought we'd see a bit of Sydney, but instead of that, they put us on board the boat and anchored us out in "Our Harbour". (Laughs)
C.F.: When you went on the ship, you went to France, did you?
CAPLICK: I went to England, to Liverpool in England and there by train down to Salisbury Plains and did our training on Salisbury Plains. Then across to France. I was wounded on the third of October, but prior to being wounded, I left England on the first of January, 1918 and joined the battalion in the trenches in Belgium, and the French made a big bid to capture Paris. And they rushed three divisions of Australians down to the Somme from Belgium and they saved Paris. There was a big battle on the third of October, I was wounded in it. Mount St. Quentin in France. I was wounded and from a field dressing station I was carried to the Field Ambulance Brigade for men. And four German prisoners had surrendered - carried me out to a Casualty Clearance Station, across the Channel, from Calais back to England. First thing I remembered. I didn't remember the crossing of the Channel or anything. Probably hit with a needle to keep me quiet. I woke up and I said, "Where the heck am I?" And a Pommy voice says, "you be in a train in London. You bound for a hospital in Birmingham," he says. And that's where I was hospitalised, in Birmingham.
While I was in France the Sergeant was putting the mail around amongst the boys. I said, "you're pretty lousy Stan. You didn't have one for me." "Oh," he says, "here's one you can have Cap." They all knew me as Cap there. And it was just addressed to "A lonely Australian Soldier" - no Regiment. It happened to find its way into our mailbag. Greatest of chances. I opened it. "Should the occasion arise, you should be made welcome at the little town of Canonbie, just over the border from the town of Carlyle." That's on the English -Scottish border - Carlyle. Anyway, when I was in hospital I... Mary Helen Armstrong was her name. She was like most other girls. They were all conscripted into the army, on munition manufacture and she was in uniform, and she got off the train where I got off. Anyway, she'd been telling her mates that there was an Australian soldier coming to see her. "Mary, Mary, here ye boyfriend." So I made her acquaintance and they treated me like I was a hero. I had a wonderful time. We went into Carlyle and had our pictures taken there, and all that. I still have the address, but they'd be all gone now.
C.F.: Tell me, when you were in France during the War what were the conditions like? What was the food like?
CAPLICK: Oh, you couldn’t complain about the food. The food was very good as a
matter of fact. Occasionally you got on to tough going. You had "Anzac Wafers."
C.F.: What Wafers?
CAPLICK: Well they were the big Army biscuit. And a mate of mine said, "By gee, you feel full when you've eaten one of them." "Well," I said, "no wonder. See that one laying on the top of the trench." It had been out in the weather and it had made up to about four times the size with the moisture. I said, "you eat that and that's what happens inside yer, swells and makes you feel full." That was a fact. These Anzac Wafers, the army biscuits. But we didn't get them as a regular, no. You got them when they were running short.
C.F.: What sort of thing did you used to do? You know, was there any entertainment?
CAPLICK: No. Plenty of fireworks. Night and day. Used to put up flares at night to keep tab to see if the enemy were making any movement in the barbed wire entanglement between - well, we made a big advancement there. The Australians would advance and put up a temporary lot of barbed wire. The French, it was early spring, when the French had ploughed the fields and planted potatoes and rye, and different things. Anyway we pushed the Germans back over that, and put up a hurried bit of barbed wire entanglements. All night work of course. I used to go out at night and 'bandicoot' potatoes. They were ready to dig by the time we were there. Get these potatoes and take them to the cook. His name was Fred Herman. And say, "Cook these for us, will you Fred." And anyway one of the other fellows said, "By gee, you're lousy. Look at the lots you're giving Cap there" He says, "They're his own spuds." "His own spuds. Where the hell would he get spuds?" I said, "Well you go out in 'No Man's Land', if you've got any guts." I says, "There's plenty of them there."
C.F.: Tell me Dick, about your two-up games.
CAPLICK: Of course, it was regarded as a national game. Two-up. We'd come out of the trenches, and we'd be put on guard duty, where the German Prison Compound, where the German prisoners we captured would be in there. We'd be playing two-up for pastime see, and the German prisoners, "Zwei-Op". We called it the "Zwei School". Zwei is German for two - eins, zwei, drei, fier, funf, sechs, sieben, aucht, nein, zien... and so on etc.
C.F.: And that's why it was called Zwei Game?
CAPLICK: It was called the Zwei School. Zwei-Op. Op for up see. Their language is very much like ours. Very easy, but the French language was pretty difficult. Yes.
C.F.: So when you came back to Australia, did you come back to Australia from England?
CAPLICK: Yes, they heard I was coming back, that was after the War finished. I was in London the night Armistice was signed, and I tell you it was a gay little village… the same London. Actually, this is a fact. Everything in those days was horse-drawn, and there was a horse-drawn lorry load of beer going along near Trafalgar Square and the Aussies stopped it. This was Armistice Day. The war was finished, Kaput. Kaput Krieg - that was 'finished war', in German. Anyway the Aussies stopped this lorry and they put these kegs of beer all around Nelson's Monument at Trafalgar Square. Free for all - donated by the Aussies. That's as true as I'm telling you. Yes and that was it. The beer was put out there, donated by the Aussies.
C.F.: So when did you come back home then?
CAPLICK: Well I came back home, and they said to my mother: "Dick’s coming back." "Oh, he’s back is he. I didn’t see him." Three days after I was back I got a job and I was
cutting scrub on the range out between Eumundi and Belli.
C.F.: You had no trouble adapting when you came back?
CAPLICK: No. They gave us a welcome home afterwards, a lot of us that managed to get back. Yes, I’m still carrying two bits of German steel. One’s in behind the right jaw, and the other piece under the brachial nerve in the shoulder.
C.F.: They never took them out?
CAPLICK: No, well, I was in Greenslopes Hospital. I had a lot of trouble with this arm, and the nerve is affected by the shrapnel in the shoulder see. The two doctors down in Greenslopes that x-rayed, in view of removing it, they decided, "We won’t be operating." And I heard one say to the other, "That’s probably why it was left there in the first place." It would interfere with the brachial nerve see. The other bit there. The Yankee doctor said, "Your face is ugly enough without a scar. We’ll leave it." So that’s the history of that lot.
C.F.: And this didn’t affect you when you came back? You went straight back into timber cutting again?
CAPLICK: Oh I went straight back to work. I was always after a bit of work to earn a few bob. I allotted my mother three shillings a day out of my pay, to help keep her going while I was away, see. Father was dead.
C.F.: Where were you living then? When you came back?
CAPLICK: Oh just around past the Eumundi School. The old house we lived in was demolished just recently. Old – too old. Got untenantable. They demolished it.
C.F.: And after that did you always work locally, in the timber around this area?
CAPLICK: Oh yes, and West Cooroy. There was a Chinese firm there before I was married. Two brothers and I worked out there at West Cooroy. A Chinese firm… a Melbourne firm had bought out a big area in West Cooroy. There were some bananas growing there. It was owned by Ross Brothers at the time. They bought that out and my brothers and I, we fell a big area of scrub there. Burnt it off, and planted bananas there for these Chinese. They had a big flat-roofed shed up in the valley there, all surrounded with bananas. And they asked us up for dinnerone Sunday. There were four of us. "Four feller blood come have dinner." And we went up and had dinner with them. Well, you never saw anything so spotlessly clean. You could have eaten your dinner off the floor. That’s right, and beautifully cooked food and that. Roast meat, and baked potatoes, everything. Oh they were excellent cooks.
C.F.: What was their name? Do you remember what their name was?
CAPLICK: Oh I don’t know. Chum-ju was one of them. Oh I couldn’t tell you their names now. But one was Chum-ju. Sounds Chinese doesn’t it?
C.F.: Had they been in the area a long time?
CAPLICK: Oh no. Government had put a heavy tariff on the import of bananas to allow the expansion of our industry here. And there were acres upon acres of bananas grown here then..
Tell me Dick, about some of the other jobs you had around the area?
Timber getting and the Eumundi Sawmills
CAPLICK: Oh well there were two sawmills here at the time, and there were thirty-three teams of bullocks operating in the district at that time. There were no motors, of course. And one of the biggest trees I cut logs out of was down at Doonan. Terrible tall red stringy back it was, and I cut five logs out of it, big enough for a team of bullocks to drag a log along and then load it on the wagons see. But yes, there was mighty timber around the district those days. I think I told you about exporting sleepers to South Africa and that.
C.F.: What sort of trees were they? Were they mainly gums you were cutting down?
CAPLICK: Red stringy bark. There were different gums here. There were in this area. There was blue gum, grey gum. Grey gum was a very good timber. Very durable. Cut for railway bridge transoms or sleepers on the bridges. Flooded gum. It was a second class hardwood. Spotted gum was in the Gympie district. That was the four gums. There was Turpentine. For a long time it was regarded as useless. Then they found out it was a very good timber, and we cut a lot of that stuff into sleepers too. During my training in Victoria, I had a look at the railway sleepers. They were nine feet long and nine inches by five was the size of them. And when I was in South Africa, I had a second look. Oh damn it, that’s the same size as ours. Then I remembered exporting sleepers from here to South Africa. Not many know that. But I remember that as well as I remember anything. The railway sleepers in South Africa….
C.F.: A lot of timber you cut. Was that for the sawmills? Did you work for the sawmills?
CAPLICK: I worked in a sawmill eventually. But we cut a lot of timber and that, scrub- chopping and that. I got a job in the sawmill. I was on the breaking down. What they call the breaking-down with the vertical saws, and put four vertical saws through one log simultaneously. Up and down. And cutting the logs into flitches. And I was pushing – when the log was finished – pushing it over on to the skids, to go to the Number one bench, to be cut into commercial size timber. I was pushing it over and the flitch tipped aback and hit the piece of wood I had and knocked my hand and busted the finger see. That was before I was married, and I still got the scar. Engine driver, we were running under steam at the time, no power those days, he tied it up. Said, "You can’t work with that." I went on working. Today the doctors would keep you because they’d be getting a pay out of it. The compensation those days, was so small, you wouldn’t bother with it. Went on working.
C.F.: Who owned the timber mills, the sawmills, in town?
CAPLICK: Etheridge. The oldest mill in the district. It was a mill working where the little park is down the town there. Etheridge owned that. And then the other was owned by Straker Gilliland and Co. I worked for there. A friend of mine, Artie Adams, he was a timber man. They originally came from Canungra. It was a big timber district. That’s where I was born. Canungra. My father was a night watchman there, so they must have had a lot of timber there, in its day.
C.F.: And where was the second sawmill in town, the Gilliland sawmill?
CAPLICK: Up where the Butter Factory used to be. There was the Butter Factory and the sawmill up there. They are all gone now.
C.F.: Was that the main Industry in town? Was that who everybody worked for?
Eumundi Butter Factory
CAPLICK: Oh well there was no other industry. But the Butter Factory employed a certain number. And there were three big churns. We made up to forty ton of butter here in one week, at its peak. The dairying industry, at its peak. Of course, a lot of the cream came from Kenilworth, and beyond Kenilworth, into town here, and I've often thought since ... Years ago they brought in pasteurisation. Those days the cream was unpasteurised and oh there was some terrible stuff -ropey cream. You'd put... the cream tester’s name was Charlie Stradwick. Anyway I used to give him a hand. I was carting waste timber from the sawmill to the Butter Factory, to fire the furnace, at the factory - to boil the water for steam at the factory. I pulled the lids off, there were several score of cans of cream. Pull the lids off the cans, give them a bit of a help, when I had a bit of time to spare off the wood. And I said, "There's one you won't test, Charlie." And there was a great big dead rat in the can of cream. So anyway, he said, "Take the rat out and send it back. They'll take the rat out and send it back here again." But he went to the furnace and got a shovel full of cinders and mixed up with the cream and sent it back to them. (LAUGHS)
C.F.: Round about the early twenties, was that when you met your wife?
CAPLICK: Actually I met her before the War. Chummed up after the War.
C.F.: What was your wife's name?
CAPLICK: Sanderson. She used to come as a girl... I was working for a Sanderson just south of Eumundi at the time, and she used to come down and visit her second cousin, see, and that's how I got to know her and then her father was a bit fascinated by the way I could work and take his stumps out. He wanted to grow sugar cane outside of Gympie there. And he got me up there to... I took the stumps out of seven acres, hardwood country and using a lot of explosives, and then blasting the stumps and that.
C.F.: Tell me about your first job when you went away from home?
CAPLICK: Yes, well that was, away from home, I was working for a man by the name of Manthey down near Dunethin Lake on the Maroochy River. I used to have to take him up to Yandina of a Monday morning, in a boat, and then go back. I had two cows to milk, night and morning and then I had a patch of corn he'd grow. I had to pick the corn and carry it up and put it in the barn. I was only a bit over fourteen. I had to cut the brush out of three acres of scrub and help him chop it down on the weekend and such like. There was no idle moments.
C.F.: How much would have you got paid?
CAPLICK: Five shillings a week and keep.
C.F.: Was that a lot in those days?
CAPLICK: You took what you could get. There wasn't much better than that. I was one of the first to get a shilling an hour around here in the district. That was the way it came around. A shilling an hour. I remember that well and we used to say there were four eights in twenty-four. And how come? There were: "Eight hours work, Eight hours play, Eight hours sleep, And eight bob a day" See.
C.F.: When was it that you got a shilling an hour?
CAPLICK: That would be in the twenties. Oh I can't recollect things like that, but somewhere around in the twenties.
C.F.: That was when you were courting your wife. What sort of entertainment was there around the area?
Entertainment in Eumundi
CAPLICK: Oh you did this in the morning and that in the afternoon. (LAUGHS) Entertainment in Eumundi in the early days -the wife used to come down and go with us. The hall would be packed there with dancing and that. I never danced but I always enjoyed rollerskating and that there. Rollerskating and dancing in Eumundi. There's no skating now. Course with the advent of the motor car, they all go their own merry way now. All this close-knit friendship is sort of gone. When we lived out near the Cemetery, when we were kids, my father was working in Nambour and he came home with an old- time phonograph with the cylindrical records and set it up and got this going. It was something really novel those days. Young people used to ride out to our place near the Cemetery there and have dancing to the old time dance tunes off records and that. Oh, it was the gay old days. They are all gone now.
Health and medical services
C.F.: In those days, back in the twenties, were there a lot of doctors in town?..
CAPLICK: No doctors. There was over one hundred workmen around here, cutting, scrub-cutting and timbercutting, and working at the mills and that. And we called it the town of 'three B's'; Booze, Bashings and Billiards. You could get a fight, you could get plenty of beer, you could get a game of billiards at each hotel there. Those days. That was in ... The Imperial Hotel at the corner down here. That was built prior to World War One. Built about 1912 or '13. I remember coming up here from the army camp in uniform, with a mate, I always brought him. He had no home here! I used to bring him up to our place for the weekend and that. Have a bit of change off of army diet and that. "Come on we'll go down to the new pub and have a beer." It was called 'The New Pub' during the First War. That's how old that pub is.
C.F.: Was there a lot of accidents in the timber industry?
CAPLICK: Oh a terrible lot. A friend of mine, Bob Etheridge, we were counting up one time. There were over fifty fatal accidents around the district here – between here and Kenilworth, in the timber industry - scrub-cutting and timber-cutting and that there. Yes there were over fifty fatalities.
C.F.: What sort of accidents were they?
CAPLICK: Unfortunately, my eldest brother was killed in the railway yard, with a log there. As I said previously there were thirty-odd teams of bullocks pulling logs into Etheridge's Mill and into the railway. We had the job for a start, then my brother got killed there, and then Father give the job away. I worked for a fellow by the name of Sanderson, that had the job loading on to the railway, and he'd be up town enjoying a few shandies, while his lad, sixteen year old, with a few bullocks and I. We loaded thirteen trucks of logs in one day there. Jack Neil was the stationmaster's name. He said, "You boys will be putting up a record here. "We did too - thirteen trucks in a day. It took some loading. Wire rope around them to pull them onto the trucks and that. There's nothing about timber that I didn’t know.
C.F.: If there were a lot of accidents in the timber, and there was no doctor in the town, who looked after them?
CAPLICK: A brother of mine was hit with a tree at the head of Brown's Creek. That's on the road between Eumundi and Yandina. He had his thigh fractured with a tree and they carried him four miles from there into North Arm, and there was a Swedish man lived down there. He helped to get the brother out and they had him on an improvised stretcher. They were going to put him on a horse-drawn dray, and he yelled blue murder. He couldn't stand it. So they carried him in. Then I got on to the same train and went to Gympie. Put him in hospital in Gympie. And I was walking down Mary Street, in just the clothes I walked out of the bush. Where I finished that night I couldn't say. Walking down Mary Street, and girls inside dressing the shop windows and that. They were all having a good look at this bag of rubbish, walking down Mary Street. Just as I walked out of the bush, you see. Yes, there were no doctors and that's that I say. Compensation was very small those days. It wasn't worth knocking off for that (Broken finger) -carried on. I got In the P.M.G. I had a futurity bond. They paid us a shilling a day.
C.F.: Can you tell me about the Great Depression, from say 1929 into the thirties? Did you feel it much out in the country?
CAPLICK: No, not a great lot. Things went on much the same. Timber industry and the dairying industry. Yes, the dairying was a major industry here, one time. I think it was in the thirties.
C.F.: Where were you living then, after you were married?
CAPLICK: Oh, I had a War Service Home built and lived down where Crescent Road joins the old Highway. I had a War Service Home built there and I started growing bananas and I made money out of it, and I had the War Service Home on monthly payments, and that. I went in and I paid two hundred pounds off. I forget just where that was now. Somewhere in town here, at one of the banks. What he says, "Did you have a win in the casket? " I said, "A win on the bananas!" I paid that home off in a matter of a very short time. Proceeds of banana growing, see.
C.F.: Was there a lot of banana growing here then?
CAPLICK: Oh yes, a fair area. There was eighty acres, ninety acres, owned by different ones on the slopes of Mount Eerwah, eastern slopes. Then different places in the district around the hillsides and that. But I grew a lot on five acres over there. You can see them from here.
C.F.: The other side of the railway line?
CAPLICK: Yes, down Siebs Road. I had five acres there, and I really made some money out of those too. When I started clearing it, the first bulldozer in the district pushed the trees off that for me. Five acres there. The owner he got killed afterwards out at Belli. Andrew Murgard was his name. He got killed. My son had a four-wheel-drive jeep at the time. It was terrible rough country at Belli where he was killed. Son drove his jeep right up. And where he got killed went down steep, and then a drop like that. He was working. He had a power winch on his bulldozer, and the wire rope came down and his son was putting the rope around the log and he used to winch them up out of that gorge and then further up. And his three other sons, there was four of his boys working out there and saw what happened to Dad. It was a terrible tragedy that. I had to go and break the news. She lived down there, Mrs Murgard. A tragedy - I was just on the point of breaking down myself. I still feel a bit that way about it.
C.F.: Who did you used to sell your bananas to?
CAPLICK: Oh, I sent all my bananas to Gympie, to Comino, a Greek. There as a Comino those days in every town. He took all my bananas. He paid me a lot of money, that fellow, everything, the home, everything come out of bananas.
C.F.: Did they go up on the train to Gympie?
CAPLICK: Yes. There was no other way of transport, those days. It was just like the sugar industry here, when there was Father... we had a horse team, and a German wagon, horses and that drawing it along. We used to load the sugar cane into this wagon, cart it and load it on to the railway to go to Nambour. I've seen us down at Yandina there, and the other side of Yandina, Kalangur, loading on to wagon and putting it into the truck in the railway to go to Nambour. Now a machine comes along, chop, chop, chop, and next thing it's down in the Nambour Sugar Mill. Yes, they don’t know what work is today.
C.F.: So when you had the bananas, did you ever go back to the timber work then, or did you stick with your bananas?
Working in timber
CAPLICK: In a casual sort of a way. And they generally got me on to jobs that others couldn't do or wouldn't do. There was nothing in the timber industry that I didn't understand and couldn't do. That picture of that tree in there -that was a job. That wasn't a gimmick. That was done for a purpose.
C.F.: Tell me about that job. That was really good.
CAPLICK: I was on a dairy farm at the time and the Bank Manager was well acquainted with my ability. The Catholic Church was at that time up on the hill and it was too much of an effort for the old people to get up there and they bought a block handy down to the main road. I was on the diary farm at the time. He gave me a ring on the phone and asked me could I cut down the timber where they were going to shift the church. And this big gum tree was a problem. It was on the front end, up against the footpath and the telegraph and telephone lines running along. And it was a problem. Anyway, I went up with a spring-board and cut the top off the tree and fell it sideways. And I stood on the stump of the tree and cut the limb off, and then I removed the stump. There were no power winches or anything those days. That's how I overcame that problem. There was no problem with a tree as far as I was concerned. It didn't matter what it was, I managed to do it. One time I wish I'd had a camera to record it.
Falling the timber, you wouldn't cut a tree separately, you'd cut them in on the back. One’s push the other over see? Save a lot of work.
"More you would break the more you'd make," we used to say. Well I saw one thing happen up on Sunrise there. We were falling for T.J. Ball, and his son had two bullock teams. And they were pulling logs out of the bush for commercial milling, logs and that. We fell thirty-three acres the first year and the following year we had seventy-three acres. And where we fell the bush the first year, I'd cut a tree in, halfway, and put a big fig tree - you've seen these big figs - I fell one of them on. I'd cut the tree in about eighteen feet from the ground with a spring-board. And where I cut it, it split up and this big fig tree pushed over and the head of the fig tree went on the ground and the butt was way up in the air. And this feller says: "We're paying you fellows to fall the scrub not to stand it on end, like that." They made a joke of it. There was a fellow by the name of Taylor. He came from the Northern Rivers in New South Wales, up here. This district was just booming then. Wherever there was beautiful scrub, or rain forest it's called, they were buying up these farms. And the scrub cutters were falling the scrub. I seen all sorts of things happen in the scrub, and no camera to record it. It: would have made a great picture, these days. The butt of that huge fig tree right up in the air, and the head down on the ground, impaled on this big stump. What a pity a fellow didn't have a camera to record a thing like that. I've seen different things that would have been of great interest today.
C.F.: When did the timber industry start to finish here? When did all the trees go?
CAPLICK: It started in the early days of Eumundi. Eumundi grew on timber. Yes, and when it finished, oh, after the First War. It petered out. Commercial timbers were all cut out. And thousands of acres of scrub, a lot that they could utilise today was all just chopped own and burnt to make dairy farms. As I said there was up to forty ton of butter made here in one week
C.F.: That's why you started growing bananas then was it?
CAPLICK: Round about that time in the Twenties. I leased five acres for a start, then I got a block of land up on Mount Eerwah. And the wife - we had a nice home down here. She rented the home and we went up and she lived in a hut up in the bananas. I had to live on the ground. It was Perpetual Lease ground and you had to live on it.
C.F.: Was it very difficult for your wife living there?
CAPLICK: Oh no. I understood the various timbers that were good wood for making coals and that. I knew how to cook in a camp oven. And she used to cook in a camp oven and no trouble whatever. The son was a little fellow. He used to carry water up from a water hole down below the hut, up on Mount Eerwah. Beautiful spring up there. That's how we went on. Then when we got this home, she said it was the nicest home she ever had, and I know it was. I said, "Well you worked hard for it. You remember camping up on Mount Eerwah." Yes... living in a little hut there. I got up one night to get rid of some hot water, and I looked across. You could see Cooroy very plain from Mount Eerwah. I woke the wife and said, "Look at that over there!" There was a hotel in Cooroy, two o'clock in the morning, full blaze - getting burnt down. I saw that from Mount Eerwah, looking right across the valley to Cooroy. The breweries owned the two hotels and they had them leased out see and they never rebuilt that one. It didn't pay them see. Better with the one pub.