Interview with: Frank Clark
Date of Interview: 1970
Interviewer: Ivy Young, Nambour Primary year 4 teacher
Transcriber: Valerie Poole
Frank talks about going down to Petrie Creek in Charlie Dean's motor boat for holidays when the Salvation Army had a large marquee and charged a shilling for a night. Frank discusses the gas light street lights in Nambour and the early houses. He speaks about dances held in barns and plays a song on his accordion on the tape. He and his wife won waltzing competitions as well as rowing competitions on the Maroochy River.
Image: Charles Dean's boat shed and slipway, Petrie Creek, 1914.
Frank Clark oral history [MP3 24MB]
CF: Oh, I used to go down to Maroochydore to camp at Christmas time or Holiday time, after Christmas was over. Not at Christmas time because I couldn’t carry down in the boat tent poles too. But going down after the people had camped there, well there would be poles.
NPS: Someone told me it was quite a party going down from Nambour. They’d go a few miles down to Petrie Creek and make quite a procession going down Petrie Creek when it comes to holidays.
FC: That is correct. They used to go from Nambour here in those days, by the tram perhaps before they opened up what they called Deepwater – as far as the Cedar Tree. And they used to go down to Petrie Creek in Charlie Dean’s motor boat. He’d tow a couple of other boats behind. And take down the families and all their belongings and everything like that , in those days. And the Salvation Army used to set up a camp down there and they had a large marquee. That is a few years later of course, before the place was cut up for sale. And they had a large marquee there and they would let a bed for the night for a shilling – anybody that didn’t have a bed. And they would also have soft drinks and a certain amount of foodstuff there with the necessities that people would buy. And they would have to come down from Nambour, that way. Oh yes, that’s right!
NPS: Did the creek stink as much as it does now?
FC: There were not nearly so many people about those days to pollute the creek. Not nearly so many people.
NPS: It would be a very fresh pretty place to be around, wouldn’t it?
FC: Oh yes, yes.
NPS: Did you plant a jacaranda tree?
IY: We were telling the students that the jacaranda trees weren’t here when the Aborigines roamed around the district. They wanted to know did you plant any?
FC: I don’t know when the first jacaranda tree were planted here. I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you, years ago Nambour had some streets lit with gas lights and each gas light – there were three or four in Nambour – each gas light on the corner of the street had its own generator. And the man had to come around to see if the generator was working right, and light the gas light at night time. And that’s going back a long way. There’s one down near the bridge down there, and one here on this corner of the Railway Station, which I can remember quite well. And I was only a boy then.
IY: What year?
FC: I can’t tell you exactly what year. I wouldn’t be able to, but I can remember it quite well. I might have been ten years old, but I couldn’t say for sure. Reminiscing I love!
NPS: Was Petrie Creek flowing faster than it is now, or slower or was it just the same?
FC: Petrie Creek. When there is a lot of rain, it flows faster. When there is no rain it stops flowing. It always been the same. Always.
NPS: There would be more trees around it though?
FC: Oh yes. You see when there was a lot of timber on the hills, it took a long time for the water to get down to the creeks, because the trees would stop the water from getting down and the water would soak down. But now when it rains and all the timber is gone – there were thousands of acre of timber – now that its all gone, the rain falls, the water gets down to the creeks and gets away very, very quickly. That’s why we haven’t got underground water supplies.
NPS: What did you have for equipment, like bulldozers and that, to push all the soil away?
FC: There were no such things as bulldozers in those days. If we wanted to clear a piece of ground, to put a plough in, we’d have to take a mattock and shovel and grub around the roots and chop the roots out and get the stumps out with a jack. With a wallaby jack. And perhaps use a horse to snig the stump away, or something like that. Or perhaps use a bit of gelignite and blow the stump up or something like that. It was all hard work, son.
NPS: Did everyone live in a house?
FC: Oh yes. They lived in houses but not flash houses like we’ve got today. A lot of houses were made of slabs. The slabs would be split out of a big tree, trimmed up with an adze, which is another tool. You asked about tools. And our school at Fairhill was a slab wall school, with a galvanised iron roof, and sawn floor boards. But the walls were all slabs split out of timber, with wedges. Hard work again.
NPS: Probably some of your windows were shutters instead of glass windows.
FC: Quite a number of houses built those days were shutters and not glass windows. The shutters would be on hinges and they would open like these hopper windows today. You’d just have a piece of wood and shove it open like that, and prop it open and if it came on to rain you just let it come shut again.
NPS: What are slabs?
FC: Well I just told you. The slabs are split out of big logs. They might be – you’d split them whatever length you want them – they might be anything from this wide to this width, according to the log. And perhaps two inches thick. But you split them out of a big log with a maul and wedges. The log might be so high and you’d split him up. And there’s a way of doing it. You’ve got to learn to do those things, to get the number of slabs out. You split rails for a fence the same way.
NPS: I have a picture of a slab hut at a holiday place we go to, Denis. I’ll bring it along and show it to you.
FC: It is interesting too. There is an old slab house in Brisbane, you now, that we used to live in.
NPS: This one is built at Binaburra, in the Lamington National Park. The first ones were built of slabs about three feet wide. They are still using that.
FC: You’ve got to have a big tree. Oh my word.
NPS: How many Aboriginals were there in 1901?
FC: Oh yes. You’ve never seen an Aborigine’s gunyah, I suppose. Well I’ve seen the Aborigines make a gunyah. They go with a tomahawk. These were steel tomahawks in my day, they only had stone tomahawks before that – and they would go and they would find a tree that would make nice bark. And they would cut the bark. Nick it around, and nick it down, and take the bark off the tree, perhaps six feet long. And they’d bring the bark to where they were going to camp. Somewhere not far from a water hole, where there was fresh water. And they’d put the bark around the tree, around the tree like that, and they had to get on their hands and knees to crawl in. And there’s a shrub growing in the country – I don’t see many of them lately – and they would take the bark off of these shrubs. Believe me the rain water would never get in once they put that bark up, because they would tie it so snug up there and put a bit of mud around it,that the water would never get in when it rained.
NPS: Did they use paper bark for huts?
FC: They may have done so, but I’ve never seen them. I’ve only seen them out in the forest country. And they would use the turpentine bark or something like that.
NPS: Was the land real hilly before they started clearing?
IY: Just the same as now.
FC: The only difference is now with the weather, the rain. With the timber being cleared off, there was a lot of gullies, small gullies, that were not there before. The force of water has opened some of these gullies up. But they are mostly the same as they were when I was a boy. Mostly. Slightly different in depth, but they’re still there.
NPS: Did you have any lawn-mowers in those days?
FC: We never had lawns those days, girlie. We never had time to have lawns. We were too busy doing other things – making a living. Some flash people in cities might have had lawns. But not out in the country. No, we never heard the word ‘lawns’ in the country.
NPS: Would they have any sport?
FC: Oh yes, most people could afford it. Not like today, because people were too busy. But there was a certain amount of cricket in the country. And rifle shooting was very popular with some people. There was a rifle range here in Nambour. A little bit of tennis in those days too, but not much; only the wealthier people could afford to play tennis. We were too busy making a living. Money was too hard to get.
NPS: Did you have any whisky or rum in those days?
FC: Yes, unfortunately, girlie, there was whiskey and rum in those days too. You could buy it for about one-fiftieth the price now, bit it would cost you just as many hours of labour to buy a bottle of whisky as it does now.
NPS: On Saturday night the young people go out to dances these days or else to the pictures. Did you have any special Saturday night outing?
FC: Oh well, sometimes. But when I was very, very young, from the time up to when I was about nineteen or twenty I never knew what it was to go out to a dance. But quite a number of people did. They used to dance in farmers barns and such like things. Perhaps a dozen of them or twenty people would make arrangements to go and have a party in someone’s barn. And they cleaned the barn up and they’d have a good time too. Playing accordions. Who can play an accordion? I’ve got an accordion in there and that’s they sort of accordion they used to play in my boyhood days and young days too. We didn’t have any pianos in people’s barns or gramophones or anything like that. But somebody would take an accordion along and there might be eighteen or twenty young people and they would have a real good time. They’d take some eats with them and somebody would boil a kerosene tin of water outside and they’d have a good time.
NPS: That must be where they got the barn dance from?
FC: They probably did, yes, probably too. Would you like me to play a barn dance to you on the accordion?
NPS: Did people believe in girlfriends in those days?
FC: (Laughs Heartily) Not like they do now. Yes, boys and girls had sweethearts those days. Its always been the same.
I am going to play a barn dance. This is an old fashioned tuned this one, and one I danced to many times. My wife and I won a lot of waltzing competitions too. I’ll tell you something about that later and Ill tell you how we won rowing boat races too, when I was single.
Mr Clark plays a barn dance on the tape of his button accordion.
FC: Going back to the war years. First War years, they used to run carnivals on the Maroochy River. And in 1917, on Easter Monday, they had a big carnival, a good carnival, at Dunethin. And my wife won the single ladies culls and we two won the double sculls the same day, and we had never been in a boat together before or since. We used two sets of oars. And there was a woodchop on. I was second in the woodchop. I shared the first prize dead-heated with another runner, in the hundred yards. I won the stepping a hundred yards. And at night time I won the waltzing competition. I reckon we had a day out. See the medals we got? We had never been in a boat on the water together and we pulled against people who were a mated crew, and we pulled against others that had been training. And I hadn’t been down there. I came down from the country to go down there and take part in that carnival.
IY: Is that what decided you that you could pull together in life, is it?
FC: Oh I don’t know. We did it on the spur of the moment. My wife didn’t even want to go in for it at all. Anyway she won two medals out of it.
FC (wife): “No” he said, “you’re not going in it to pull against those big strong lions,” because I was only small. My cousins were a terrible size. And he said, “No you’re not going.” Anyway he went and entered me in the single one and I won it. So we entered in the double and we won it.
FC: We had little boats for hire at Evans’ place. There used to be a sawmill down there. And that’s where the timber used to go down to be sawn. Pettigrew’s Sawmill. They used to have a crane down there, a derrick there, to load the timber. If you look underneath one of those jetties at Evans’, you will find the old stone heath where they used to have the crane on those stones. You see, the piles of stone washing into the river there about so high and the jetty is over the top of it. And that’s where the crane was to load the timber on the boat to take it down to Brisbane. That’s where the sawmill was, right there where one of the Evans lives now, between the river and Duporth Avenue. The sawmill was right there on that block of land. It was a bandsaw sawmill and part of Maroochydore was there even when Evans – that’s my wife’s people- brought that property. The old rusty machinery and so on was still there.
NPS: Did you have any lollies or ice creams. My grandmother had talked about having a penny and only have one thing to buy.
FC: There would be no ice cream because there was no such thing as ice in those days. No such thing as ice at all. I read in the paper the other day of the first ice made in the Southern Hemisphere. And I just can’t tell you where it was. It was made down in Victoria I think. But it is not many years since there was any ice made in Australia. In those days there was no such thing as ice. To keep the butter from running away, in the summertime, people had to keep it in a cloth or in a dish in cold water in a breeze, where the breeze could blow on it. You didn’t buy butter in pounds like you do now. The butter used to come in big slabs, and they had two little pats made of wood. I was looking for one, but I couldn’t find it. They used to have what they call butter boats, to put the butter in. They were made of thin slices of wood and cut in such a way, so that they turned up at two ends and two sides and they were sealed with staples. And they would put a bit of paper on there, and put the butter with a butter pat, a wooden pat, on there and weigh it in the machine that way. But it like that. They always kept the butter pats in cold water, because if they didn’t keep it in water, the butter would stick to the pats. And the pats were made of pinewood, about four inches long and three inches wide. One side was always serrated and the other side was always smooth. The serrations was to make it look pretty when they were finished.
NPS: Did you make your own butter?
FC: Before the days of butter factories, most people there only had one cow or two cows. They could make their own butter, most people.
NPS: Did you have hospitals in those days?
FC: There was no hospital in Nambour. There was a hospital in Brisbane, of course, and one in Gympie, but when we came to Yandina, there was no doctor between Brisbane and Gympie, not even in Nambour. Dr Malahar was the first doctor to come to Nambour. I couldn’t tell you exactly what year he came here. Today we have about fourteen doctors practising in Nambour.
IY: So you just didn’t become sick in those days?
FC: People used to just take medicines that you could buy as patent medicines when anything was wrong. You couldn’t go to a doctor because there was no doctor about. The first hospital that was about here was at Cooroy. That I can recall. The frist between Brisbane and Gympie was at Cooroy, but I would stand correcting on that. We had a chemist in Nambour. We had one chemist in Nambour and his name was Cross. Very nearly on the same spot as where chemist Charles is now. That was the first chemist.
We didn’t have a dentist in Nambour for some time. But these people Goeths, old Mr Goeths, at North Arm, he had forceps. So if anyone wanted a tooth out, he’d take it out for them. But they would have to put up with the pain, because there was no such thing as anaesthetic in those days. Everything in those days was Epsom salts and caster oil; kerosene on sugar or just hold it up in their mouth and take it down very slowly.
It was quite all right. It was quite a good medicine.
IY: Pettigrew had a great deal to do with the Maroochy district. James Low, a fellow Scot, also became friendly with Pettigrew. In 1862, James Low visited the Mooloolah and Maroochy Rivers. And early the following year, returning to Brisbane, he helped Pettigrew add a stern wheel, an engine and a boiler to a boat called “The Granite City”, a sailing vessel which the latter had purchased for the transport of timber from the Noosa, Maroochy and Mooloolah Rivers, to Pettigrew’s Brisbane sawmill. In addition, they lengthened the vessel by eighteen feet. Arrangements were made for Low to buy a third share in the ship which had its name changed to the “Gneering”, an Aboriginal word meaning black swan. In 1863, Pettigrew explored Buderim and the Noosa River. He preferred the fertile red soil of Buderim to the land he saw along the Noosa River. His diary states: “Went looking for good agricultural land. This I found at the top of Buderim, suitable for eighteen farms.”
FC: In the early days, I was cedar cutting in New South Wales. It had been the custom, after felling a tree, to cut the log into the planks by means of a pitsaw. In the rainy season the sawer down in the pit, often worked up to his knees in water. Excepting where the timber was cut for local requirements, this method was not used in the Maroochy district. The logs being rafted down the various streams and then drawn by bullocks to the Mooloolah River, where they were loaded on to the timber vessel which was called the ”Qneering.”
IY: When the timber was close to the streams, as was more often than not with the case of cedar, the logs were rolled to the bank. If the logs were too far away to be rolled, bullock teams were used to snig them to the nearest stream. These snigging tracks proved useful for travelling through the thick shrubs.
The Students, then in turn, told a short event in their everyday life.