Interview with: George Eggmolesse
Date of Interview: 29 January 1985
Interviewer: Susan Brinnand
Transcriber: Valarie Poole
George Eggmolesse junior was born in Nambour in 1906. he attended the school when it was in Mitchell Street. During 1920s and 1930s he played rugby league for Nambour. George was highly regarded in Buderim and oil painting of him hangs in the Community Hall. he donated land to the Maroochy shire Council which became the Eggmolesse Environmental Park.
Images and documents of the Eggmolesse family in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: Opening day at Perwillowen Creek Provisional School, 15 May 1916. George is in the middle.
SB: George, can you tell me where your father was born?
GE: No, I can’t tell you that …. Santa Island.
SB: Santa Island?
GE: Where he came from. Yes, in the New Hebrides.
SB: Did they both come out on the Kanaka boats?
GE: Yes, that’s as far as I know.
SB: Do you know when they came out?
GE: No, that’s something I don’t know.
SB: Did they talk much about the New Hebrides to you, or to the other brothers and sisters?
GE: Never much. No, not much.
SB: What did your father do when he was in Australia?
GE: Well, they were brought out here to work on the cane fields, in Bundaberg.
SB: In Bundaberg?
SB: And when did he come down to Nambour?
GE: Well it must have been not very long before I was born.
SB: So about 1904, 1905.
GE: Because my elder sister and two elder brothers were born in Bundaberg.
SB: He was free to leave Bundaberg and come and work in Nambour?
GE: Yes. That was when most of them were sent back to the island.
SB: Right, in 1906. Why was he allowed to stay, do you know?
GE: According to the books I’ve read, after they had been here a certain year, or had a certain amount of land, or something like that, they got exempt from getting sent back.
SB: Did he own land?
GE: No, he didn’t own land but he must have been here long enough to get out of it.
SB: So did he tell you any stories of life in the New Hebrides?
GE: No, something they never talked about much.
SB: What was your family home like? You grew up in Nambour. Did you have a house in the town itself?
GE: No. He leased land at different times, and planted, you know, bits of crops – bananas and things like that.
SB: So he worked for himself?
GE: Well, most of the time, although he done well to work for different people; timber cutting and banana growing, chipping and things like that.
SB: So did you move around a lot or did you have one family home?
GE: We moved from where I was born into Nambour. From Nambour into a place called Perwillowen. You ever heard of that, outside Nambour?
GE: From there back into Nambour and we stayed in Nambour until we came up here.
SB: And when did you come up here?
GE: 1932. from Nambour I went to Bli Bli to help my brother, elder brother, on a cane farm down there.
SB: Were you mainly doing cane cutting?
GE: Cane cutting for about twelve years. That was after I come from Buderim. After I left Nambour.
SB: Well, before we get onto that, lets talk a little bit more about when you were a child. What sort of entertainment did you have when you were a child?
GE: When I was a child. How big? How old?
SB: From about six until you were twelve.
Childhood at Perwillowen
GE: Yes, well when we were living at Perwillowen I had to walk about four miles to school every day, at the Nambour School. We lived out there. You know where the Experimental Station in Nambour is? That was part of the property my father leased to grow bananas. Just straight on the opposite side of the road. And when I started school, till I was about nine or ten years old, well I used to walk from there all the way into Nambour, to school and back again every night. And then they built another little Provisional school at Perwillowen … it started a sort of banana growing area and there was a lot of families moved in, to take up properties to grow bananas and they all had children. So there was enough children out there to build this little school. So we all went to that school.
Kanakas in Buderim
SB: Were there any other Kanaka families in the area?
GE: At the time?
GE: Oh yes plenty. Yes. Especially at Buderim here.
SB: And have they just died out or have they moved to other areas?
GE: Oh most of the full blooded ones that come from the islands they were all dead and gone years ago. They come up here to work in the Sugar Mill, Dixon’s Sugar Mill. When the sugar mill closed, lots of them got employment from different people like Footes, Fieldings, Guys, Burnetts. They all employed some of them.
SB: Mainly for farm work, I suppose?
GE: Farm work you see. They grew a lot of coffee and oranges and they all had plenty to do.
SB: And they’ve just got old?
GE: Got old. Lots of our children they just moved away, you know. Didn’t stop here in the area.
SB: Do you know why they didn’t stay in this area?
GE: Oh well, I suppose, there was nothing for them to stay …. Oh I suppose they thought the grass was greener over the road and away they went. Some of them got married to other girls a long way from here. Course that’s the end of it.
SB: So did you speak your father’s language?
GE: No. Never learnt it.
SB: Did he only speak English in the home? But did your parents speak English to each other?
GE: Yes. Always. Never heard them speak any other way.
SB: And how long did you go to school?
GE: I went from about when I was seven years old right up till I was fifteen, sixteen.
SB: So you went right through High School?
GE: I went to Nambour Rural School, yes.
SB: And what did you want to do when you left school?
GE: I just wanted to work.
SB: Just wanted to work?
GE: Yes. Make some money. (Laughs) That’s all I wanted.
SB: And what was your first job?
GE: Bean picking. Farming.
SB: Outside of Nambour?
GE: At Perwillowen. Where I first went to school. Back out there. That’s how I got so friendly with all the families out there, and as soon as I left school they said that if you want a job come out and do some bean picking and work out there on the farm there.
SB: So that’s about 1922?
GE: 1922. 1921 to 22. 1921 I left school.
SB: What were the wages like in those days? Can you remember it?
GE: Yes. I got five shillings a day and my dinner.
SB: Ah, they used to give you dinner?
GE: Yes, that’s where I worked anyway.
SB: What did they give you for the meal?
GE: Oh, a hot dinner, good dinner, good as they’d cook.
SB: What were the meals you got at home, that your mother cooked?
GE: Oh she was a pretty good cook. Yes. She liked cooking. Cooked pretty well.
SB: Is it any different to the food you eat today?
GE: Not much. No.
SB: About the same?
GE: Better I think.
SB: It was better.
SB: Why do you think it was better?
GE: There wasn’t much tinned stuff and stuff like that. It was just, you know, straight out of the ground and into your mouths. (Laughs)
SB; So you had your own gardens for your own vegetables?
GE: Most of them. They were all South Sea people. Wherever they worked or wherever they had a farm, they grew most of their own. Yams and taro and things like that. That’s the first thing they done, was grow this for themselves.
SB: Did they grow any other South Sea plants or ornamental plants?
GE: Oh not much ornamental plants, but yam and taro was mostly what they planted.
SB: And what meat did they eat?
GE: Oh from the butchers.
SB: Did they eat a lot of fish?
GE: Oh yes. They liked fishing.
SB: Did you used to go fishing when you were a child?
GE: Me and all my school mates were always out fishing.
SB: You were always out fishing?
SB: What sort of fish were around in those days?
GE: Oh well that all depends where you went. Went up Petrie’s Creek, we used to catch fresh water catfish and things like that. Went down the river way, we caught the same fish down there, you know bream and stuff like that.
SB: I’ve heard other people saying that there were so many fish in those days, compared to now.
GE: Oh yes, yes. All the crabs you wanted. If you wanted a feed of crab, you just went down with a hurricane light and crabbed along the sandbanks. All along the Mooloolah River there. You know where the yachting club is now and where the old fish board …. Well there was none of that in those days. We used to walk along there from where the Caravan park is. You walk there to about the Yacht Club and you got all the crab you wanted to eat. So you’d go home then.
SB: Did you sell any of your fish or crab?
GE: No, we just got enough for what wanted.
SB: What religion were your parents?
GE: Church of England
SB: They were Church of England. So they didn’t bring any South sea Island religion with them? Any religion from the South Seas?
GE: No. I don’t think they did. They never said nothing about that at all. I think there must have been a Missionary out there before they came here. But they never said nothing about that. Anyway my father himself, he was pretty religious. He used to walk in there nearly every night with a hurricane light to the Church of England in Nambour.
SB: He used to walk?
GE: He used to walk. That’s the only way you could go in.
SB: Other people would have had horses and that wouldn’t they? Did you have horses?
GE: Oh yes we had horses. Only nothing in those days, to walk that far. It was very good exercise.
SB: Tell me a little about your mother. Did she have all the children in hospital?
GE: No, not that I know of.
SB: Where did she have them?
GE: Just at home.
SB: Just at home. And did she have a midwife who would come?
GE: Not that I know of. She had friends and things like that come to help her.
SB: The friends would come to help?
GE: Her friends. Well, they were my friends too.
SB: Of course. There were a lot of South sea island people living there to help the women have children.
GE: That’s what made it hard for us, you see. We got no birth certificate. And if we wanted to buy land or anything like that, we had big trouble then.
SB: So you can’t buy land, even now?
GE: I can buy land now, but when I first started, I couldn’t. Just lucky that my father knew a man that came from Bundaberg, where he used to work in the Sugar Mill up there, and he came and testified. He said he knew my father in Bundaberg s many years ago.
SB: And that proved that you were born in Australia?
GE: That’s right, yes. From then you see, after that, we were right then.
Sports and games
SB: Tell me about things you used to do in your spare time when you were a child. Did you have do much work at home, help at home?
GE: No. Play, play, that’s all I ever do. Play all the time.
SB: What sort of games did you used to play?
GE: See I had no one to play with.
SB: What about your brothers and sisters?
GE: Well till after they grew up again, I was alright then. But I was old enough to go and play with some neighbours and that, you see. I had very good neighbours just across the road. They were farmers. And they used to come over and I used to go over to their place.
SB: Can you remember the games you used to play?
GE: Oh anything at all. Nothing special. No, we just used to play around, anything like kids play.
SB: What sport did you like playing?
GE: When we went to school you see, for the first few years all we played was marbles, hopscotch, bit of cricket. And the old school – you know where the old school was behind the Council chambers is there – that’s where we went to school there. And there wasn’t much room to play around there, until about the 1920’s and then we got a new teacher come in and he taught us to play football.
SB: This was when you were at High School?
GE: Yes, at high school. And he taught us to play football. That was when rugby league first come in then. Just about took over from Rugby Union.
SB: I see.
GE: He taught us. And taken from then on, 1921, our school was the first team ever on the North Coast to play a Brisbane representative (team).
SB: And did you win?
GE: No, we got beaten. Not much but. But we was the first team. I’ve got photos here.
SB: Oh I’d love to have a look at them later.
GE: And from then on Rugby League was my favourite. I played right up to World War 2, 1939. They knocked off playing then while the war was on and then I played again in 1944 to start the league going again.
SB: So that was your big interest, playing football?
SB: And were there other South Sea Islanders interested in playing football?
GE: Oh yes, a lot of them. I had a mate there. I’ll show you his photo later on. He was a good footballer. I’ll show you where when they started the league in 1944, they were all South Sea Islanders that was in the Buderim team to start the League going.
SB: They were better than the Australians, were they?
GE: Oh no, but they liked playing football and they liked playing so they all formed up and just to make up, you know, a team.
SB: And what did you like at school most. What did you like doing?
GE: Oh, I don’t know. I wasn’t too good at school. You know, I liked it alright but I’m a bit dumb. (Laughs) There was nothing I liked most than outside.
SB: But your parents thought it was important for you to go on to High School?
GE: To go to school?
SB: High school.
GE: Oh yes, well they had no say. They just thought we was going to school and that’s all they wanted.
SB: A lot of people left when they were about thirteen, didn’t they in those days?
GE: Oh yes, I suppose they did. But I couldn’t. I know that because I tried to leave when I was fourteen. I got a heck of a hiding at school over it.
SB: The school teacher didn’t want you to leave?
GE: They reckoned I was too young.
SB: What did Nambour look like in about the 1920’s?
GE: Oh well, it was a different town to what it is today, a lot different. It’s hard to imagine the difference. We used to live down Reilly’s Road then, right down there. I think there’s a sawmill there. That’s where our old house was, where we used to live. There was no road then. You couldn’t go down in the motor car in those days.
SB: it was just a track, was it?
GE it was just a track, half way down. We was mad on go-carts in those days. You know, four little wheels, a thing we used to drive and steer it with … if we had to go shopping for our mother, one of us would drag this up to the top of the hill there, you know where Palms corner and the Catholic Church is. And hop in it and ride right down the corner down there where the New South Wales bank is now. Do our shopping, stick it in, and then we used to come home round the other way, around Howard Street, and away down. There’s a street off down there. Past the ambulance a bit, around that way and we’d come back on the level. Home back to Reilly’s road again.
SB: With all your shopping in your go-cart. Was it bitumen then?
GE: No, no bitumen. Never heard of it in those days. There was no bitumen nowhere. Come to Maroochydore, we had to catch the loco to Nambour there. Jump in and the loco used to take us right down the tram line. Right down to Deepwater at Bli Bli. We’d catch the boats there and go to Maroochydore by boat.
SB: For your holidays?
Holidays at Maroochydore
GE: For our holidays. And then afterwards for a weekend, anything like that. The tram used to run regular service. Weekend and about twice a week. From Nambour down to Deepwater. The boats used to meet the old tram there, and take them right down to Maroochydore. The big boats used to go right down to Cotton tree then. They can’t get near it now. Right down to cotton tree. That’s where they had the big wharf there.
SB: How often did the boats go down to Maroochydore?
GE: twice a week. I suppose in the middle of the week. That’s the only way provisions and that could go to Maroochydore.
SB: This is in the 1920’s is it?
GE: Yes, about that time.
SB: Did you down to Maroochydore much?
GE: Oh yes, we used to go down. We were on the other side of Bli Bli. We’d go down to Maroochydore for Christmas, for holidays. It was all tents then, no houses.
SB: You used to camp?
SB: Did you have to carry your water?
GE: They had a well – Cotton Tree Caravan Park now- they had a well there. Right in the middle of it somewhere. A cement pipe. We used to go with our billy and throw it down and bring up our water.
SB: Did all the farmers used to go down there for their holidays?
GE: Of yes, a lot of farmers and all the townspeople. Some of the town people like William Whalley and Collins at the time. They used to have their own motor-boats you see. They’d leave it half way up.
SB: Did you know about a sailing boat called the ‘BP’?
GE: A sailing boat? No. Never heard of it. No.
SB: I think it was owned by a Mr. O’Connor, who lived at Maroochydore.
GE: Old Tommy O’Connor?
SB: Yes. You knew him, did you?
GE: Oh, I knew Tommy O’Connor. He owned half of Maroochydore. Yes. He used to live down there at Alexander Headlands. He built the motel down there. You know. The Alexander Hotel. Tommy O’Connor built that.
SB: what was he like?
GE: Oh a little old man with a big beard. Not a big beard. He was an old surveyor. Old feller. He lived down there right where Alexander Headlands is, where Buderim road goes down to Mooloolaba, and the Coast Road goes to Alexander. Right on that corner. He was an old man when I knew him. Lively old toff he was. He owned up there, half-way up to Buderim.
SB: So when did you meet Frank Wise?
GE: Well, when I was going to school, I used to have a lot of South Seas living up here, all our friends. He used to come up here for holidays and he used to go over there to see them too. He and his sister Pearly.
SB: Is she still alive?
GE: Oh no. She died just a few years ago. But she has three or four sons ….. Gordon, and another one. We used to call him Snow. Don’t know what his other name was. Only know one another by nickname.
SB: Did you have a nickname when you were a child?
GE: No, not until I played football. My football mates used to give me a nickname.
SB: What did they call you?
GE: Oh I don’t know. (Laughs)
SB: Oh you won’t tell me?
GE: Oh I might tell you later on.
SB: What did you used to do with Frank?
GE: F rank? Oh he used to just come and play over there, him and pearly. They were only kids then. They were still going to school, a lot older than I was, but they used to come over to our friend over there, that used to live over the road. They used to come and make themselves at home over there, and talk there. Cause my friend had a son too, you see, about frank’s age. He used to come and see him.
SB: So you met him. When you became older, did you used to go to the dances?
SB: In Nambour. They used to have dances.
GE: Well the only dances I used to go to was … we started a football club in 1927 – the Burnside wanderers. Our home ground was at Burnside. And to raise funds we used to go and hire the old Hall. I don’t know what it is now. I think it’s a church now. They called it the Rechabite Hall. You know at palms Corner in Nambour. I forget what they call it now; runs down that way.
SB: Towards Burnside?
GE: No, no. The other way. You know there’s a park there. Memorial park. Or something. Well the road runs down right opposite. There’s a building there; an old church.
End Side A/Begin Side B
SB: What was the name of the hall?
GE: We used to call it the Rechabite Hall then. I don’t know who owned it or whatever. I don’t know what it’s called now. It’s a church or something. It’s still there I think.
SB: And what type of dancing did you do?
GE: Mostly old time dancing. One of our members was a good accordion player and he used to bring that accordion and we used to one-step and all sorts of waltzes, and the old-timer …. what they call it …I forget the name … that long ago.
SB: What about the jitterbug?
GE: Oh that was before our time. I’d knocked off dancing then before that.
SB: That was in the 1930’s. The jitterbug.
GE: Oh yes.
SB: You stopped dancing in the 1920’s?
GE: Oh yes. After ’27, ’28, we knocked off. The club didn’t form up anymore so we give it away.
SB: So did you raise much money with the dances?
GE: Oh enough to keep the club going. Then after the season finished, and we won a cup, we had enough money left over to buy every member a gold medal.
SB: have you got your gold medal?
GE: Yes, I’ve got it here.
SB: that club stopped. Then what club did you join?
GE: I joined the Nambour Club then.
SB: And you used to play with other teams in the district?
GE: Oh yes. We went as far as Cooran, Kin Kin, Cooroy, Pomona.
SB: A nd were you one of the better teams who used to win the competition?
GE: We won a lot. I’ll show you the photos later on.
Working the Banana Farms
SB: And while you were playing football, what work were you doing in the ‘20’s?
GE: Oh I was mostly working for other farmers, bananas mostly.
SB: It’s hard work, isn’t it?
GE: not as hard as cutting cane though.
SB: W hat did you have to do on the banana farm?
GE: See in those days we didn’t even have sprays like they did these days. It’s all spray now. Those days we had to chip all the weeds with a hoe. Cutting day – we had a harvesting day - we had to carry the bananas into the shed on our back.
SB: And how and where did the bananas go from the shed?
GE: Well we had to put them in case and take them down to the Railway station. From there most of them went to Melbourne and Sydney.
SB: And did you take them down by horse and cart?
GE: Oh no. They had a carrier. When I first started work, well there were horses and wagons that used to go and bring banana down from Perwillowen in those days. There was a certain two, three different carriers. And they only had horses and wagons and they’d bring them into the station. As time went on and the motor car came in, they went into trucks then. Transferred and brought them down in trucks. When they started off first, most of the farmers had a lot of ground to have horses, and they used to keep their own horses and have a wagon of their own. Fruit day they used to load up their wagon and bring it into the station.
SB: And did you have any transport as well? Did you have a bicycle or a horse?
GE: Who, me?
GE: When I grew a bit older my father bought me a horse.. I used to ride about on it. Send me to Sunday school on it. Some days I used to get lost and didn’t know the Sunday school was and head off somewhere else.
SB: I see. What did you used to do instead of going to Sunday School?
GE: Oh, used to have a ride around and look at the scenery.
SB: Did a lot of people used to go to the Sunday School? The Sunday school you went to.
GE: In Nambour. Oh yes.
SB: This was the Nambour Church of England Sunday school?
SB: And your father was strict about you going to Sunday School?
GE: He used to think we’d go to Sunday School. It all came to a head one time, when we was riding around where the big hospital is in Nambour now. There was my brother, myself, a friend of ours who used to live in Bli Bli, but he used to come on his horse to Perwillowen. So we went riding on Sunday. It ended up we had a race there in front of where the hospital is now. But there was no hospital in those days, and the old horse I rode on tripped and fell on the ground. Course, my mate that was behind me, his horse tripped over my horse. Then he went down and knocked his kneecap out. Well, that was the end of our joy-riding.
SB: What happened then?
GE: There were some friends of ours lived not far. They had a banana farm just opposite the hospital there. Well, we were going to their place, but that’s how we arrived there. We had to call them and t hey come down and me and my brother and the other mate went down to the doctor and got him to come up.
SB: Can you remember who the doctor was?
GE: Yes, Doctor Malahar. He had a big surgery there. You know where you come out of Queen Street, the big car yard there? Well, that was Doctor Malahar’s residence.
SB: Was he the only doctor in Nambour?
GE: No. There was Doctor Penny. He used to live up the street, Maud Street. And there are new units just gone up, just this year. You know just where you turn up into the Convent there? You go into Maud Street, then the first street up to the convent there. Right on the corner there was old Doctor Penny.
SB: So after your accident you went to the doctor?
GE: Well that was the end of our joy-ride.
SB: And what happened? What did your father do?
SB: Nothing. Wasn’t he angry with you?
GE: He wasn’t angry. He was more concerned about our mate having a crook knee. We had to nurse him then. Kept him at our place until he got all right again. Everything went on alright. It really knocked off our joy-rides.
SB: I think you were lucky.
GE: Oh yes, I suppose we should have called ourselves lucky.
SB: And what did you do after the banana farming work?
GE: Well, I worked in the banana farm, you know, for different farmers, and one farmer that I knew very well, he offered me to work his farm on royalty. I had to give him so much a case out of the money I made, see. I forget what it was now. Whatever price I got out of the case of bananas, I had to give him two shillings or something.
SB: Were you given some land to work?
GE: No. The land was theirs. It had bananas and everything on it. All I had to do was to keep it clean and farm it. His son – see they were all school mates of mine – and his father, he was a real gentleman, I knew them all well you see. I sort of lived with them. And then I worked the farm until the Depression come along and it just wasn’t worth working for someone else.
Depression in Buderim
SB: No. So what did you do when the depression came along? Were you able to get work during the depression?
GE: Oh well. I gave the bananas away then. That’s when I left out there at the banana place. My brother came down you see, and had this cane farm. He had a cane farm up at Nickenbah, at Hervey Bay, and he sold that and he came down here then.
SB: And what work did you get during the Depression?
GE: Well, when I left I helped him out with a couple of seasons on his cane farm. I come up here again then to grow bananas again.
SB: And when you went to Buderim, did you buy land at Buderim?
GE: No, not when I first come up. I come up when the depression was on you see. You could have bought land for a song in those days. Anything. What they are getting thousands and thousands for now you could buy it for I suppose twenty pounds, or something like that.
SB: Was it cheaper during the depression because people wanted to sell?
GE: Well, it was. They just walked off and give it to the Bank and the Bank had to pay rates on it and the Bank just sold it to whoever wanted land. Most land, not all, but that’s why you could have got land pretty cheap.
SB: Did you know any people who had to leave their land?
GE: Leave their land? Well, there was vacant land everywhere.
SB: But during the depression. The ones that had to leave it. Did you know any of those people?
GE: Oh, I didn’t know them personally. But I knew the land that they left behind, vacant.
SB: So where did you work on the bananas when you came here?
GE: Well a friend of mine that brought me here, he had bananas. See all those tees along here? That was all bananas. You wouldn’t think so, would you?
SB: All along the cliff here?
GE: All along the cliff here. That’s where he was leasing a bit of ground, for Foote Brothers, you see. And they said, “Oh come up and help me grow bananas”, and we sort of keep it steady in the patch, and they can bench it, see. So anyway I come up with them and everything went well and I was only here for about, I suppose about six months, and then he died.
SB: And then you took on his lease?
GE: I took on his lease you see.
SB: How did he die?
GE: Well he had pneumonia. A very weak chest you see. Anyway he died. So I took over his banana farm and he had a wife and three kiddies. She went back to her people in Rockhampton. And I looked after the farm.
SB: And you stayed in Buderim from then on, did you?
GE: She didn’t like it up there and she came back and I married her. So that’s why I’m here now.
SB: This was her house, was it?
GE: No I wasn’t living here. This was all jungle then. There was no house. The only house was Foote Brother’s, way up the hill there, where Foote’s Lookout is. There was a house on either side of the road. They were the only two houses up there. An old “Mons Mari” further up where old man Foote, their father and mother lived. That’s the only house down this end. Next house was way down near the Cemetery.
SB: And she was a South Sea Islander, was she?
SB: What was her name?
GE: Well now I have to rack me head there.
SB: No, just her first name.
SB: Muriel. She had three children. Did she have any children with you?
GE: Oh yes. Their three children are not included with my six now.
SB: So she had nine children?
GE: Yes. One was an adopted son. See her husband was married before he married her, and they had no children, him and his wife, so they adopted this boy. So when he died, she had this boy.
SB: So she had eight and one was adopted. That was a lot of mouths to feed.
GE: I’ll say. And it didn’t take much to feed them in those days. Well, took the whole weeks wages, but we was only getting ten shillings a day. Two pound ten a week. That’s five dollars a week.
SB: Were you working for yourself then on the bananas?
GE: Oh right up for a good while until I married her. Still had the bananas going, but it was pretty ….you know. You just got to wait for your banana cheque. Relief work come in then at that time. So one of my friends said to me “Oh, you’re slaving up there on those bananas. Why don’t you go and get on the Relief Work?” See I had three children then, her children. So we got married and then I got half-a-day per every child. If you were single you got one day a week, the next day you got rations. If you had no children you get one day every week. For every child after that you get half-a-day, extra.
SB: What rations were you given?
GE: If you were single?
SB: Well for you. You were married with three children.
GE: yes, well, they didn’t give you any rations. They gave you so many days a week. Give you work every week.
SB: I see. And for a single man, what rations would he get?
GE: Oh well, they give a ticket and he went to the shop and so much worth of ration. Whatever it is. Whatever wages he was getting g one week, well the next week they gave it to him like in a ration ticket; that much worth of rations. So you took it down to the shop where you wanted. He could pick out what he wanted to.
SB: Were there a lot of people unemployed in Buderim during the depression?
GE: Oh, a few. Not what you would compare with other places, but I suppose for Buderim – couldn’t count them all up now – but there was quite a few. We used to go up and report at the old Station – the old tram shed up here where the old loco used to bring passengers up – at 7 o’clock every morning. Ganger used to come down in his truck and take us out to wherever we had to go. We had to go as far as Palmwoods sometimes. That was our area. From Palmwoods Railway Station to half way down Foote’s Hill here.
SB: What work were you doing?
GE: Road work. We had to repair roads. Keep the roads going. And then we had an old stone crusher, about opposite where the “Supa-Valu” is now.
SB: What’s a stone crusher?
GE: Well, crushed stones for the road.
SB: Was it like a big steam-roller?
GE: No. They still use them like up there at Image Flat. They’ve got crushers up there. They crush the metal up to put on the roads. We had an old crusher there, and we had an old Fordson tractor. It used to drive that wheel round and it used to crack the stones small enough to put over the top. It used to crack stones to about that size, see. We used to take it and fix the roads up.
SB: So they were bitumen roads then?
GE: No bitumen, no. They were all dirt roads in those days. In the rainy season, you couldn’t drive a truck from up here, where the mail box is, from there to the top of the hill, Wirreandah. You couldn’t drive a tuck up there.
SB: The roads would get washed out?
GE: Yes. There used to be springs come up in the middle of the road, ran down the road in the wet season.
SB: Did you ever go on the tram from Buderim to Palmwoods?
GE: when I first went on Relief, every Friday was payday, and we used to go up there and catch the old Buderim tram and go to Palmwoods to get our pay. Come home on the tram. Every Friday.
SB: And what was the journey like?
GE: Oh they used to play cards all the way down and back so it didn’t matter how long it took them.
SB: did it take a long time?
GE: Well we used to leave here at 1 o’clock and get down there about half-past two.
SB: It was quite a long time.
GE: We’d get out pay and get back on the tram again, about half-past three, or three o’clock, and come home again.
SB: Was it open carriages or closed?
GE: The carriages were closed carriages. There was one big closed carriage, passenger carriage. I’ll show you a photo of that.
SB: Did many tourists come to Buderim? People from Brisbane just coming up?
GE: Well that’s how they use to come up in those days.
SB: In the tram?
GE: Went to Palmwoods in the train and then get on the old loco to come up here.
SB: And what did they used to do here?
GE: I don’t know.
SB: You don’t know?
GE: I wasn’t living here then. No.
SB: After the depression and after that?
GE: Oh there wasn’t many tourists in the Depression. No. It was a little while after that but see there were boarding houses there and things like that … There were three boarding houses. “Birdwood” Boarding House in Gloucester Street, and there was “Ryhope” just up there, and “Lindsay”. That’s a way down the road there. So there were plenty of places to stay.
SB: So what did you do after the Depression, when there was no more Relief work?
GE: Well then, after that, there was roadwork going on. You know near the Lions Club up there? If you go around the back, you can see where they crushed a lot of stone. Blue metal for the Caloundra road and I think a lot of it went on the Montville road. That’s where they got their blue metal from. They pitched some men for that and they pitched a lot of other men for the Forestry. Up outside Kenilworth. Kenilworth Forestry out there. A lot went out there. But I was lucky.
Seeing as I had lived here at Foote’s so long, and had worked the bananas here and they knew me, they said “Oh don’t bother going looking for work. You can come and work for us”.
That was way back in about ’35.
SB: They had farm work for you?
GE: Well, they had a big dairy. This was all dairy-farm then. We had big bails up there, where the red letter-box (is). There were big flats up there you know. It was just behind the flats there was a big cow paddock. All that was paddock. All that was cut off into night paddocks you see.
SB: And did they employ you to milk the cows?
GE: Yes. I milked cows with them and worked for them ever since. Further down the road from where I’m telling you now, where the red letter box is, about a hundred yards down the road from there, on your right side of the road going that way, you can see the old silo. That’s where we used to fill it up with ensilage for the cattle.
SB: what did you fill it up with?
GE: Ensilage. Corn, we used to grow corn, and bring it into the old shed there. Chaff it up and bring it up and drip it inside this big silo, and leave it in there during the winter months when feed would be getting scarce, by that time. We used to cook this up and the cows used to love it.
SB: And where did the milk go from that diary?
GE: Well, when I first started, most of it was cream. And it used to go to the Caboolture Butter factory.
SB: On the train?
GE: They used to take it down far as Landsborough, put it on the train there and then to Caboolture.
SB: just cream?
GE: Cream. We used to separate it, and a little bit of milk used to go down to Mooloolaba. The milk vendor used to come up and take all he wanted down to Mooloolaba. There wasn’t many houses. A bucket full of milk would go round the whole lot. What he didn’t take we used to separate and then turn into cream.
SB: What did he sell the cream for? How much?
GE: Not really much in those days.
SB: What were your wages when you were working for him?
GE: Well when I first started off, I was getting two pounds ten shillings a week, free milk, free cream, free house to live in.
SB: So you got a house too?
GE: Got a house to live in and everything.
SB: Was that in 1935?
GE: Yes. So I stayed on there and right through the war months and I’m still here. Just before the war months, they pulled my old cottage and built me a new house.
SB: They sound like very good people.
Wartime in Buderim
SB: And you were too young for the First World War?
GE: Oh yes.
SB: And too old for the Second World War, were you?
GE: Yes. Well, I wasn’t called up or signed up or anything like that. But I joined the voluntary service, Home Guard.
SB: what did you do in that?
GE: Oh, we used to have to train to fight. We used to go down to Mooloolaba at night and run around there and see if we could see any soldiers there.
SB: Every night you’d go down?
GE: No well we had Wednesday night and Sunday. Sunday all day, and every Wednesday night. And this was just like one mass of soldiers then. Down there where what you call the retired village, that was all soldiers.
SB: Was it a training camp?
GE: Yes, they were all there, ready there. We used to go with them sometimes and they were here at Horseshoe Bend. It was all soldiers’ camp there. And down where the Industrial Estate is there, hundreds of soldiers there, camped. The Japanese were supposed to land here.
SB: On the beaches here?
GE: On the beaches here. You couldn’t go down to the beach like now. It was barbed wire entanglement from Mooloolaba to Maroochydore.
SB: And did you have to keep all your lights out at night because of the blackout?
GE: Everybody here had to have a black curtain over their window every night. Soon as you put your lights on, you pulled your black curtain down.
SB: And did they have any guns on the beach?
GE: Oh yes. The big artillery mob was down there. They had gun replacements there ready to put in. Even up here in Buderim – I suppose they’re not there now - but you could see the places where they could place their guns and fire from right over the sea.
SB: Were people afraid that the Japanese would come?
GE: Oh a lot, yes. They were ready to move out you know. When we joined the Volunteer Life Guard, we had everything worked out. Lot of residents here …. Poor old Hubert Foote. We had to help him. I helped him. He dug a great big hole under his house. Lot of them done the same. Put a lot of his stuff in the hole and covered it up, in case he had to move on.
SB: Did anyone actually leave?
GE: Oh, the only one I know of it, the old man, old Footes. They had a daughter living down at Texas, away out there, and they stopped out there all the time. But their house up here, “Mons Marie”, that was full of soldiers. That was a signal post. They used to signal from Coolum to here, from here to Caloundra, all the time; going, going, going. If they seen anything fishy from there, seen anything fishy round here, they’d signal here and these blokes would go out and investigate.
SB: Going back to sugar cane. You did cane cutting, did you?
GE: Well, while I was working for Footes you see. He was short of cane cutters and things like that.
SB: When was that? What year?
GE: While the war was on, about 1942, ’43.
SB: And how many hors a day did you work?
GE: We used to work about six o’clock in the morning till just about dark at night, I guess. See we had a quota of cane to put in. We had to cut so many trucks and we had to cut and load that ready for the loco the next morning.
SB: And how many days a week?
GE: Monday to Saturday. Sometimes Saturday morning.
SB: And you got holidays every year?
GE: When I was working for Footes in the dairy, I used to have a fortnight holiday down the beach.
SB: You’d go down to Mooloolaba?
SB: And were you still camping?
GE: Oh we used to go and camp, yes.
SB: How did the fashions change on the beach from when you were a child? What were they like in the 1930’s?
GE: Oh well. I don’t know. After about 1926,’27, I never went near the beach much. I’d just take a look at photos to see what’s going on. As far as being on a beach in those days, well everybody was dressed in proper clothes. You know different style. But I was in the Maroochy Lifesaving Club, 1926,’27.
SB: So you would have been on the beach a lot in those days?
GE: Oh in those days, yes. That’s a long time ago. Everything’s changed since then.
SB: Yes I’m sure.
GE: No Maroochydore in those days.
SB: Did people just go to Mooloolaba?
GE: No, Maroochydore, mostly. That’s where I was, down in Maroochydore. We used to come from Nambour.
SB: what about the movies, the cinema? Did you go to the cinema at all?
GE: Yes. We had a cinema where – what they call in there – “Mad Berry”. That was the old cinema. Years ago – we was talking about old Tommy O’Connor – well he ran the first. Old flat roof one. Now they built like that big one there?
SB: Can you remember some of the movies that you used to go to see?
GE: I forget now. Blowed if I can think of their names. But I’ve only been to the Drive-In twice in my life.
SB: That’s quite recent, the Drive-In?
GE: Oh yes, well, why I went there once was just to see what it looked like. And the next time I went to see “The Mango Tree”.
SB: That was good, wasn’t it?
GE: Yes. Well in a way. It was different. I mean, you read the book and then go to see it, then you’re disappointed in a way. If you read the book first, then go. Lots of things they miss out, what you read in the book.
SB: No. What about when you were younger? In your family and in the household, what sort of books and magazines were coming in then?
GE: Oh we didn’t do much reading. No. All the reading we done was at school. I didn’t do much reading at all at home until later years.
SB: And when you were married and living up here, what sort of entertainment did you have then, in the home?
GE: Only T.V. When that came in.
SB: that wasn’t until 1950.
GE: Was it? Well we had a gramophone. 1950 you reckon. Not T.V. Oh, I’m not talking about T.V. I’m talking about wireless, wireless. They were good.
SB: What were some of the programs you used to listen to?
GE: Poor old bloke that died – Jack Davey; That fisherman bloke – Bob Dyer. There were a lot of good programs. I used to like listening. They were funny and good to listen to. “The Amateur Hour”. What they call them? What is this fellow now? I forget their names now. It was too long ago now. Yes, they used to have “the Amateur Hour”, and different ones would come on, you know, and in the days when Harold Blair come up, they found him. He was a good singer, the Aboriginal dancer.
SB: What was his name?
GE: Harold Blair. Yes, a tenor. He was world famous. Well he started off in “The Amateur Hour”. And sang “Macushla”. Pretty good at it, too.
SB: Did you used to do much singing at home?
GE: Who me?
SB: And your family.
GE: I couldn’t sing. The only time I used to sing was when we used to go playing football and we used to get half-drunk. We’d sing on our way home.
SB: I can just imagine what you were like.
GE: Sing on our way home.
SB: What songs did you sing?
GE: We used to make up our own songs, the words, anyway.
SB: Can you remember any?
GE: Oh no. Nothing. They were good songs.
SB: I want to ask you a few questions about medicines. Did you have any home remedies? As a child, were there any remedies that came from the South Sea Islands?
GE: Yes. Well the old fellows used to use a lot. Things that grow naturally. I don’t know if they did any good or not. But they used to do it.
SB: Can you remember anything?
GE: There were different plants. I’d have to go and show you what they were. I wouldn’t know the name of it. But there used to be a lot of different plants they used to use; even the old cobbler pegs that grow in the garden. They used to squeeze that up and put it on cuts and things like that. I don’t know that it done any good but they used to do it.
SB: Can you think of any others they used to use?
GE: Oh yes. A tree they used to grow, and they used to scrape some bark off it and squeeze it into a thing of drink. It used to act as an open medicine.
SB: You don’t know the name of the tree?
GE: I wouldn’t know the name. I know the tree if I seen it.
SB: it grows around here?
GE: Oh yes.
SB: What about when your children were growing up, what type of remedies would you use?
GE: The doctor.
SB: You’d just take them to the doctor?
GE: Take them to a doctor. We had a good Doctor then.
SB: Who was he?
GE: Dr. Shaw.
SB: Was he in Buderim?
GE; Yes he lived over at Shaws over there. See along there? Old Mrs. Shaw still lives there.
SB: Is that his wife?
GE: His wife still lives there, yes, and his son, Keith. He’s turned a doctor, he’s the doctor over, I think. Kingaroy somewhere. Chief Medical surgeon out there. He has a lot to do with the Flying doctor too, him and his wife.
SB: What were some of the common illnesses that people used to get then in the 1920’s and ‘30’s?
GE: Mostly colds and things like that. Colds was the worst I think. No there wasn’t anything bad, you know. Not that I know of …. Old age.
SB: Were there poisonous snakes around?
GE: Snakes? Plenty.
SB: Plenty. Did people used to get bitten very much?
GE: Well I wouldn’t be here now, would I? (Laughs) This place was full of snakes, especially brown, King Brown. Black snakes – used to be a terrible lot of black snakes around, but they’ve moved out now, and the old King browns still here. Death Adders – there used to be a few around.
SB: did you hear of anyone being bitten?
GE: Yes, I heard of people being bitten. But it mightn’t have been a bad snake. One of my sons got bitten once but I took him to hospital and he got over it.
SB: was there a hospital in Buderim then?
GE: No. No. That’s only just recent.
SB: When you were a child were there many Aboriginals in this area?
GE: They used to live down by the river bank. Not in hundreds. A dozen or so.
SB: Did they live in houses down there?
GE: Oh, they had little shacks, humpies or whatever you call it, to live in. There was a lot of them.
SB: Did any of those go to school in Nambour when you were at school?
GE: Who? The Aboriginals? I don’t know of any. There wasn’t too many young ones. They were all old. Most grown up.
SB: So there wasn’t really any Aboriginal children?
GE: No. They were mostly all grown up, because at that time … I’m talking about now, there’s quite a few of them down there. They used to sneak down to the Maroochydore Hotel, get some rum and things like that and drink it like a sieve. And just at my age, when I was, you know, wold have been able to take an interest in them, they come up there, just about, you know where the new bridge is going up, on what they call the canal? On the river down the back there on Bradman Avenue I think they call it, the canal there. They used to drink and camp there, at different times. And they were drinking – drunken or drinking-spree there one night and one woman got killed there. Her husband, or a man or a boyfriend or whatever they call it, belted her with a waddy and killed her. So that put the kibosh on everything. They took them all away to Barambah then. And there never been any here since.
SB: When was that?
GE: Oh, I was only a kid then. I must have been only about ten.
SB: About 1916? When the First World War was on?
GE: Somewhere about that. Oh it could have been just before. It could have been. I was just too small. I knew the people, knew them by name and everything, but I wasn’t old enough to go amongst them. See there was no youngsters with them, were all grown up then.
SB: And did Australians sometimes think you were Aboriginal? Did people confuse you?
GE: Well, no.
SB: No. They knew?
GE: No. well, not that I know of. Didn’t hurt me, didn’t bother me, because I had that many friends, I didn’t have to worry about that sort of thing
SB: And so you had no problems growing up in Australia?
GE: No problems absolutely. No. Had a lot of good friends and I’ve still got them. I can still go and say “Good Day” to them anytime. They see me in the street, and they always come and say “good-day” and “hello”. Some of them are dead and gone and some of them have left their good name behind, you know.. Jimmy Ryan, that I went to school with and played football with, he’s gone now. Dead and gone.
SB: Were there any Chinese in the area?
GE: Not many. No. Very few. Hardly ever seen any. The only time I’d have seen them was when banana boom was on and a lot of them used to be banana agents in Melbourne. And they used to come up here canvassing for trade.
SB: They came up in boats did they?
GE: Oh, in later years, yes. But there was a lot of Indians.
SB: Was there?
GE: Quite a few yes. I know some of them pretty well.
SB” And what did they do?
GE: Oh, farming and horse dealing. There was one fellow they called “Button Singh”.
SB: What did they call him?
GE: “Button Singh”. Oh no, not “Button” … Button Singh was in something else. But the horse dealer was Rood Singh. I’m getting mixed up. One had a big shop in Nambour, grocers shop. I think that was Rood Singh. Button Singh was the horse dealer. He must have been a prince over in India once. He used to dress up and ride a flash horse, like a prince around here.
SB: Did they call him “Button” because he dressed up?
GE: No. That was his Indian name Rood Singh, Button Singh and there was Deleepa had a farm down here at Forest Glen.
SB: What was his name?
SB: Was he Italian?
GE: No. Indian.
SB: He was Indian too?
GE: Sian Singh. He had a big shop here in Buderim one time.
SB: What did people think about the Indians?
GE: I suppose they just thought they had the right to live and that’s all there was about it..
SB: So there was never any problem?
GE: No. Quite a few were in Nambour there. Budjet Singh. All sorts of Singhs.
SB: And when did the Italians come into the area?
GE: I suppose in the ‘30’s.
SB: Were they farming?
GE: Oh they were farmers, yes. Down there at Glenview, you know, there was quite a few of them around there. There were Frizzos and what-you-call-them, right along there. You know where they sell trailers there? Well they were Italian first. People named Frizzo used to live there and they had a big farm there.
SB: What did people feel about Italians coming into the area?
GE: Nobody growled about it. Friz used to go down and they used o bring all their groceries from Nambour. They didn‘t mix with people much. They just kept to themselves mostly. They had their own ways of living.