Interview with: Leslie Ivins
Date of Interview: 6 November 1985
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Transcriber: Heidi Scott
Les grew up and went to school in Cooloolabin and helped his father on the family citrus farm. He married in 1933 and worked for the Forestry Department. Les also worked in banana farming and sandmining on the Tweed.
Image: Sunday School class and teacher at Cooloolabin, 1915.
Images and documents of Les Ivins on the Sunshine Coast Libraries catalogue.
Interview with: Leslie Ivins
Date of Interview: 6 November 1985
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Transcriber: Heidi Scott
Les grew up and went to school in Cooloolabin and helped his father on the family citrus farm. He married in 1933 and worked for the Forestry Department. Les also worked in banana farming and sandmining on the Tweed.
CF: Right Les, you might like to tell me something about your family history, about when they came to Cooloolabin.
IVINS: Yes, well my father was born in Grafton and my mother came from Melbourne. They married in Lismore and on that part I'm not real clear where they went to in the first place, but early in their married life they spent twelve years on the aboriginal settlement at Deebing Creek. They used to have the aboriginal settlement there, later it went to Murgon, but he was there for twelve years.
CF: What sort of thing was he doing there?
IVINS: Oh just looking after the aboriginals. It was the Government used to help them with rations, it was a Government project.
CF: Where was Deebing Creek?
IVINS: Deebing Creek, yes it was round about there, two hours out from Ipswich.
CF: Oh right, and they came up from there to Cooloolabin?
IVINS: No, they came from Deebing Creek to Montville. He bought an unimproved property there and cleared the scrub and started dairying. I'm not sure how long he was there but in 1912 he was worried with redwater in the cattle, you know it's a disease that ticks carry. Redwater, and he was worried about that. So he sold there, I think he got round about fifteen hundred pounds for the property, and he bought another estate then at Cooloolabin and it was also unimproved. So, until he got a house and some land cleared, we lived in Yandina for about a year.
CF: How old were you then, Les?
IVINS: Well, I was born in 1908, so I would have been five and I went to school in Yandina for the best part of 1913. I had my arm broken while I was there and, of course, I missed the later part of '13. Anyway, we finished up going to Cooloolabin in November in 1913. At that time I can only remember Frasers, they were the oldest family, and Kennisons, although Smiths, a family of Smiths, came there at the same time that we did. So that was about three families for a start.
Other families and life in the Cooloolabin district
IVINS: Frasers were there for quite a long time before anyone else came. It was just pure scrub country when they came there and they cleared enough to put up a rough house and cleared enough land to grow small crops, mainly strawberries I think. There was no road into Yandina at that time and they used to cart strawberries on a pack horse into Yandina to sell them.
CF: Well, that would have been a very rough trip.
IVINS: Oh, it would have been a very rough trip. And other vegetables that they grew at that time, course those were the very early days. Then later they got a road good enough for a wagon and horses to travel on to Yandina. It was a very rough track but they used to get a wagon and horses to Yandina. Then he planted citrus trees, he had quite a lot of citrus trees but, of course, it took a long time before they would bear enough fruit to help the family.
And in the meantime he grew bananas, he grew quite a lot of bananas Mr Fraser, and his three sons. When War broke out, oh, I'm not sure if it's when War broke out or later, but during the War, the two elder sons went to the War and they were both killed, that was Willie and John. Jim was left to help run the farm. That's about as much as I can remember on Frasers before we got there.
CF: So about 1913 then your family...
IVINS: Yes, yes they came [the Frasers] much earlier, how much earlier I'm not sure, but it would have been quite a while, probably about the turn of the century, I would say they must have been there, possibly earlier than that.
CF: What attracted your father to Cooloolabin? Sounds as if it was a bit of a rugged area.
IVINS: Well, he did that at Montville too, you see, he bought unimproved land and cleared it, but where at Montville he cleared it for grass for dairying, at Cooloolabin he cleared it for fruit growing and small crops. He bought an estate with twenty-one blocks of land on it and he cleared block one and two for a start and built a house there, pretty rough house which was slabs.
CF: Built that himself, did he?
IVINS: He and his sons, who died. All the sons of course.
CF: How many children were there in the family by that time?
IVINS: Oh, there were nine. Nine in my family and my father was married twice and from his previous marriage he had two, a boy and a girl, and it was the boy, Joel that helped, he was a carpenter by trade.
CF: Right, so that was a pretty big family.
IVINS: And he helped build things that were needed at Cooloolabin in the early days.
CF: So, what do you think made him turn to fruit growing? I mean his background had been in dairying.
IVINS: Well, did I mention it was a disease in the cattle called redwater, that is a disease carried by ticks. It may have soured him against dairying and, another thing, the property that he bought there the land wasn't suited for grass, although Fraser, the original pioneer, he took the eyes out of it. He picked all the scrub, you see. All the other properties around, most of it was forest and wasn't suitable but was good timber country. So anyway, my father planted ten acres of citrus trees and, while they were growing, he had pineapples in between the rows of citrus trees and, of course, he grew small crops too, being quick to mature and he was able to get a fairly quick income from that.
CF: What were the markets like for fruit in those days?
IVINS: Very poor, very poor in those days. When you were growing crops you wouldn't know whether you'd get anything at all, maybe take it to Yandina and not get anything for it.
Travel to Yandina and mail delivery
CF: Oh right, yes, yes.
IVINS: They'd blow that and that indicated that there was mail there for us.
CF: You'd go and collect it off them.
IVINS: Used to go and collect and vice versa. If we went to town and had mail for them we used to blow it to them.
CF: I suppose Yandina was your closest place for shops and that sort of thing.
IVINS: Yes, that's right. There were shops at Yandina where we could get groceries. There was a butcher and a baker and a couple of stores, it was only very small though in those days.
CF: And did you start school then at Cooloolabin when you were there?
IVINS: Yes, I did. That would have been in 1914 when I went to school there. I remember being there right through the War years. We used to play soldiers and turn our hats up on the side and put feathers in it like for the Light Horse and all that sort of thing. We used to go and dig up wild ginger and you know, have you seen wild ginger?
IVINS: We used to use the butt part for the stock of the rifle and about two feet of that for the barrel of the rifle and we used to play soldiers and get killed and all sorts. We had bows and arrows we used to use and have wars and all that sort of thing. Another thing I can remember about, around about that time, there was a severe drought.
CF: About 1914?
IVINS: Yes, there was a severe drought but I'm not sure whether it was '14, it could be later than that, but it was during the War years.
CF: And how did it affect you, particularly with fruit trees?
IVINS: Oh, it would have affected them but, being so young, there was no responsibility on my shoulders and, of course, I didn't notice it so much. What worried me was falling down the cracks that were in the ground. They were quite wide, some of them you know, four or five inches wide and we had to be careful, you know, if we were running round the school ground, we didn't put our feet down in those cracks.
CF: So it was a very severe drought?
IVINS: It was a very severe drought, yes, during those War years.
CF: Tell me, the school itself - had it been there very long?
IVINS: The school, it wasn't built fora school, it was one of the sheds belonging to one of the Fraser boys. Apart from Mr Fraser, the father, the two older boys they owned property there as well, maybe he allotted them so much of the property. And the school was one of the sheds belonged to one of those boys and of course there were only a few children at the time, and they used that as a temporary school. And I’m sure that opened in 1914.
CF: Right, so you were one of the original pupils?
IVINS: Yes, one of the originals, yes.
CF: Do you remember any of the other pupils there at the time?
IVINS: Well, there was Maggie Kennison and my other brothers and sisters too.
CF: So really it would have been just probably from the three families was it?
IVINS: Yes, yes. The Smiths, Kennisons, I'm not sure about Jim Fraser, he would have only gone for a very short time and also Maggie Kennison would have only gone for a little while.
CF: Right, do you remember the teacher?
IVINS: Miss Carroll, her name was, Ellen Carroll. She came from Monkland, up near Gympie. She was a beautiful woman, we loved her.
CF: Did she find it difficult do you think, you know just as the one teacher with so many pupils at different ages?
IVINS: Well, of course, we didn't have classes, well we did have classes, but the one teacher for all the classes and, of course, there were less than twenty pupils. I think there would probably be about only a dozen pupils in those days. Frasers, apart from Jim Fraser I think he would have gone for a little while, but they had a couple of children belonging to one of their relations from Brisbane. I think their mother died and Frasers helped them out by taking them up there. Their name was Bain, there was Grace Bain and Effie Bain.
CF: Right, and they were at school there too?
IVINS: Yes, they used to go too.
CF: Tell me what it would be like, tell me what a typical day would be like, what time would you have started school?
IVINS: Oh, it was about half past nine till half past three.
CF: Right, and you'd walk to school would you, I guess in those days?
IVINS: Yes, we walked about a mile to school in those days from where we were living.
CF: What would you do first? How would the day start at school?
IVINS: Oh, of course, we used to fall in line, that was the first thing and after we all got in line the teacher used to come out on the verandah and stand at the top of the steps and she used to say, "Good morning children," and we'd say, "Good morning teacher." The boys had to raise their hats to her and I remember one amusing occasion there, it wasn't amusing at the time, but I remember one of the boys, she said to him, "Where's your hat?" and he was game enough to say, "On my head." I won't tell you who that boy is but they'll know, they'll know who it is. (Laughs) Yes, but I suppose the days at school would have been the same at any other school.
CF: What sort of lessons did you do?
IVINS: Oh, the three Rs I suppose, we didn't do much history only that the teacher used to take us round the board and have a map there and used to tell us about the different countries and explain what the people were like and what their industries were, what they did for a living and all that sort of thing.
CF: How about things like art and music, did you do that?
IVINS: Later, the teacher's wife used to come down and teach the girls sewing, whilst the boys used to go with the teacher out and practise rifle shooting.
CF: Oh, so it was very much one thing for the girls and one thing for the boys?
IVINS: Yes, and that's where I started to play tennis. We rigged up a piece of wire netting for the net. It was wire netting in the school yard and I think the Department bought four racquets for us and balls and we used to just, that's how I started tennis in Cooloolabin.
CF: That was probably, what, the first tennis court at Cooloolabin was it?
IVINS: Well no, later we built a tennis court right up on top of the hill, this was just slightly over the hill but later all the residents got together and they built a tennis court out of ant-bed, quite a lot of ant-beds around there at the time. It was quite a good surface although we didn't lay it really well, bit rough.
CF: Was tennis a very popular sport in those days?
IVINS: Well, being so isolated we had to amuse ourselves and tennis was one of the
things that we picked on as being something that we could get a lot of pleasure from. Then, later on, a family by the name of Jessup came out there and Mrs Jessup was a pianist. They also had boys who were tennis players and Mrs Jessup used to play the piano and we used to have two dances a week, oh... wait on, I'm getting ahead of myself. We had a hall built and my two brothers built a School of Arts, we call it a School of Arts but, actually, it wasn't a School of Arts it was really a public hall.
School of Arts
CF: When would that have been, Les?
IVINS: Sorry, I couldn't give you a date on that.
CF: Between the Wars?
IVINS: Oh no, it was later than that, it would have been round about the nineteen..., it would have been at the end of the War. Yes!
CF: Oh right, the end of the Second World War?
IVINS: That would be the First World War. Yes, about the end of the First World War, that's when they built the School of Arts and, of course, the two Fraser boys being killed the older one was Willie, he was killed in the Air Force. John, the second boy, he was killed in the Army - and they erected two tablets in memory of these two boys in the hall. One was for John Fraser, killed in action around about 1917, he had one for himself and the other was for the two of them, Willie and John.
CF: Did that have a fairly sobering effect on the district, you know to lose two from a very small area?
IVINS: Oh it did, yes, they were very upset about it. Then, of course, after the School of Arts was built we used to have, not only the dances twice a week and Mrs Jessup used to play for them, we had a library. There were two rooms, one was used for a library and the other one was used for the, the women used to come there with small children, they used to put them to sleep in there.
CF: Oh, child minding?
IVINS: Yes, used to just put them there while they danced. You could stand at the door of the School of Arts and watch the people coming with their hurricane lanterns, we all used hurricane lanterns, there were no torches then.
CF: No torches?
Cooloolabin spook lights
IVINS: No, well I don't remember torches in those days it was all hurricane lanterns. They used to come with their lanterns and another interesting thing, about that time too during those dances, we'd look over onto a hill that was about half a mile away and a light appeared on this hill and nobody could understand why that light was there.
CF: Oh, spook light?
IVINS: Yes, that was that spook light, yes.
CF: When was this, tell me?
IVINS: Oh, that was ...that would have been in the twenties, yes, the early twenties I would think.
CF: So you saw it from the hall this one light?
IVINS: Yes, you could see it from the hall and you never knew when that light was going to appear. Several people, they used to come up there just to see the spook light.
CF: Was it something that appeared regularly?
IVINS: No, very irregularly, because we'd be there dancing away and somebody would say, "Oh, the spook light’s out," and everybody'd rush to the door or the windows, you know, and we could see the spook light there and it used to be flickering on the hill.
CF: Which hill was it? Did it have a name?
IVINS: It didn't have a name. It was a hill between Cooloolabin and Yandina but nearer to Cooloolabin than Yandina.
CF: Did anyone ever go over?
IVINS: Yes, after a very long time. People were very afraid to go there. Some of them were afraid to go home of a night after watching this spook light. It would appear and then for a while seem to flicker and then it would just disappear and then later it would re-appear.
CF: What did it look like, a sort of glow?
IVINS: Just an ordinary light, just like say a motorbike light or one light of a car or something like that.
IVINS: But everybody had their own theories about what it might be.
CF: What were some of the theories?
IVINS: Oh, spooks of all sorts, you know, ghosts and all those sort of things but I think the most common one was that, the trees being fairly tall on that hill, we were probably looking just over the top of the hill. At night time the trees would give you a false impression of the height of the hill itself. You'd be just looking over the hill and between the butts of the tree. Well anyway, a party did go up there, a party of young fellows, you know, pretty game about half a dozen of them and they said, "Well look we're going to satisfy ourselves what this spook light is." So they went up there early in the night and they stayed there for hours and they didn't see anything at all. All that happened that night was that a big wallaby hopped past them and, boy did they get a fright.
CF: I can imagine.
IVINS: But my theory was that, as I say, we were looking over the hill and maybe down to Yandina because that would be about in the direction of Yandina and we were looking possibly at one of the engines maybe turning because there was a place where they used to turn.
CF: The trains you mean?
IVINS: Yes, yes. They used to turn the engines there and it's possible that when the engine was facing that way that was when the light shone just above the hill, that was my theory but it was never proved.
CF: Did it stop happening, I mean did people stop seeing them after a certain time?
IVINS: Most people left there and I think the ones that did stay there, you know, the entertainment seemed to fall away and I don't know, they seemed to forget about it. But I went back there, I was there last week, Peter and Pat took me out there to look out where we used to look out, from the door of the School of Arts but two big camphor laurel trees were shutting us off, you couldn't see it from the doorway.
CF: Oh right, the trees had all grown?
IVINS: You could see on the hill if you walked a short distance.
CF: Fascinating story.
CF: So tell me, back in those days then, when you were at school what was your family life like then? It was a very big family you had?
IVINS: Yes, well of course, the elder ones - there was Joseph, he was the boy from the first marriage and, of course, the older ones of the second marriage didn't live there. I think Gordon, one of the boys, Grace, Doris, Stella, Mavory, Fred, myself and Colin, later on, that was the family.
CF: You were all at home?
CF: And what sort of thing would you have to do? Would you have to do chores around the place?
IVINS: Yes, we used to have to carry pineapples, that was one of the chores that I can remember we used to do. Carry pineapples out to the ends of the rows. We used to pick them up with the horse and slide. But, we used to do that, school started at half past nine and we used to carry pineapples until twenty-five past nine and then run flat out all the way to school to get there on time.
CF: What time would you start in the morning, collecting pineapples?
IVINS: Collecting pineapples, oh, I suppose we used to do that for about an hour before, at least an hour.
CF: And then what would you have to do after school?
IVINS: The first thing we used to say when we got home was, "Any pudding left, Mum?"
CF: Oh, right.
IVINS: They used to have their hot meal in the middle of the day and we, the kids at school, we used to miss out on the hot dinner so the first thing was, "Any pudding left?", and of course, if there was we'd get some and then we'd more or less catch what we could at night then. So we were pretty badly treated really in those days but we got a hot meal on Saturday and Sunday.
CF: Yes, what sort of thing would you have for lunch at school?
IVINS: I think I mentioned about ten acres of pineapples?
IVINS: A lot of it was bread with pineapple jam on it and the jam used to soak into the bread and make a real mess of it. I used to hate those pineapple sandwiches. Very seldom we had meat, very seldom on our lunch.
CF: And what sort of thing would you have for dinner then, at home at night?
IVINS: Mainly what you could catch in those days, I know my older brother used to say, "Do you think you could pick out a nice onion for us." We used to buy onions by the big bag and flour by the big bag. Flour, sugar, potatoes and onions all came in big bags that lasted us for a long time.
CF: You'd get those at Yandina would you?
IVINS: Yes, we got those at Yandina.
CF: So you really could be reduced to an onion or something for dinner?
IVINS: Yes, that's right. An onion and perhaps some bread and jam after that and that consisted of our meal.
CF: Were you very hungry?
IVINS: I suppose we were, I don't really just remember it that way but I suppose we got the basics. We got plenty of milk and Frasers used to make butter, we used to get our butter from there.
CF: Did you used to have a big breakfast?
IVINS: Oh, mainly oatmeal porridge for breakfast.
CF: Oh right, yes.
IVINS: Yes, and eggs, of course, we had eggs.
CF: Had your own chooks I guess?
IVINS: Yes, we had our own chooks.
CF: So, to a certain extent you were pretty well living off what was being produced on the farm there?
IVINS: Yes, oh yes. Yes, it was only the, as I say, the basics we used to bring up there. Course fruit and vegetables we used to grow those all ourselves.
CF: Did the family have very much in the way of material things?
IVINS: No, very few, very few. By the time my father had bought the property there and got it established, and they all seemed to be calling on him and one or two of the others there to put so much money in things that were going on you know, building the School of Arts or building a road or building the tennis court or different things that they needed at that time, they used to call on. I know it was very hard. Frasers seemed to be the only family that really had some money.
CF: Yes. So, was your mother very busy in the home, you know, with all those children to cope with?
Church and social life
IVINS: Yes, she was fair and simply a housewife and nothing else. Although she used to teach Sunday School.
CF: Oh as well?
IVINS: Salvation Army Sunday School, that was later on.
CF: Had she always been a member of the Salvation Army?
IVINS: Not before she was married but when she married my father they decided then, she was a Church of England, I think he was a Methodist and they decided to join the Salvation Army.
CF: Oh right. What do you think decided them on that? This was before they came to Cooloolabin?
IVINS: Yes, she used to teach there on our veranda.
CF: Oh really. And how many children would have come to that?
IVINS: Oh, I suppose there would have been a dozen or so, I suppose.
CF: So there were quite a few Salvation Army people in Cooloolabin?
IVINS: Did I mention about the four denominations that used to come to the church?
CF: No, no.
IVINS: No. Well it was Salvation Army but you didn't tell them that that was the only church. It was just mainly on the teaching of the Bible, just in general, but at the same
time four denominations used to come there, one each Sunday of the month and have church. There would be the Church of England, Methodist, Baptist and Salvation Army. They used to come out and they'd have one Sunday each in each month. Everybody used to go to every church, you know, it didn't matter what denomination they belonged to, everybody in the district used to go to church on Sunday.
CF: Was that because people were very religious?
IVINS: No, but there was no where else to go.
CF: Oh right.
IVINS: That was the main thing and, of course, that started during the War years, of course, and it was during that time that the Frasers' two boys were killed. I remember the sad times when the Ministers used to pray for the ones that were at the War, pray for the poor and that. Poor Mrs Fraser, she used to cry her eyes out the whole time.
CF: Were the preachers local men or would they come from say Nambour?
IVINS: No, they would have come from Nambour.
CF: And they would take it in turns to come to the area?
IVINS: Yes, they'd take it in turns coming from Nambour.
CF: What other sort of things would you have done, say in the family situation, what would you have done to amuse yourself. Did you used to play games or were you a musical family?
IVINS: Course my parents being Salvation Army they didn't believe in cards although some of them used to have a game on the quiet, playing cards. And we used to play bobs.
CF: What was bobs?
IVINS: It's like billiards only it's a board with holes cut in it and numbers above the holes and there was six white balls and one black one. You had to fire them and try and get them into the holes, that was bobs. That's a game and dominoes was another one but, of course, a lot of this went on in the School of Arts. Well, I suppose, most of our entertainment was out at the School of Arts. They had a ping pong table, darts and dancing. The ones that didn't want to dance played either ping pong or cards or dominoes.
CF: So it really was the social centre of the area?
IVINS: Yes, it was the social centre.
CF: Who used to run the School of Arts? I mean how was it financed?
IVINS: First they have a committee, yes, there was a committee and they used to get together every so often when anything was needed or there was any problems, they used to get together.
IVINS: And they would decide what they thought what's best to be done.
CF: And they'd organise fund raising and so on?
IVINS: Yes, yes that's right.
CF: You mentioned that there was a library.
IVINS: At one stage I was a librarian and we used to change books every Wednesday and Saturday, you know when we had the dancing. I used to change books for them and I had quite a bit of time that I used to spend in the library myself and I read quite a lot of books. Zane Grey seemed to be one of the main authors in those days.
CF: Very popular, yes.
IVINS: And Charles Alden Seltzer, they were the main ones I think.
CF: And tell me how old were you then when you left school?
IVINS: I left school when I was about fifteen.
CF: Right. And what did you do when you left school?
Working on the farm
IVINS: Helped my father on the farm, that was what I did and I worked on the farm for nothing, for quite a while. Then he said to me one day, "I think I better pay you something for helping me on the farm. "I said, "Well, okay, I'll take something." He said, "What about ten shillings a week?' And I thought that was too much. "Oh no," I said, "I don't think you better." See I knew that he wasn't well off. So I said "Say we make it seven and six a week." So we decided on that, so I got seven and six a week for quite a long time.
CF: That was a reasonable amount of money in those days was it?
IVINS: Well there wasn't much to spend on really.
CF: I was going to say, if you were living at home, yes.
Christmas holiday at Cotton Tree
IVINS: There wasn't much to spend it on, you know, they bought everything we needed, all our clothes and took us everywhere. In those days we used to go down to Maroochydore every year for a holiday at Christmas.
CF: Oh, would you camp down there, would you?
IVINS: Camped at Maroochydore under the cotton trees.
CF: The big Salvation Army used to run the camps didn't they?
IVINS: Salvation Army, they used to run the camps, yeah.
CF: Oh, tell me what it was like? What sort of things would you do?
IVINS: What was it like? There wasn't a building anywhere. Whalleys had a tin shed just on this side of the cotton tree that Frank Whalley used to run for his father and the rest of it was just a big marquee there. I think my father used to help the different campers put
their tents up. The Salvation Army used to let the tents out, plus the poles and my dad used to go out and help them put their tents up with the tea-tree poles. There were plenty here at the time, there were no roads, there was no roads in Nambour, you had to go up by boat.
CF: Oh right. So people would go there by boat or old bullock cart or something I suppose would they?
IVINS: Yes that's right. Well we used to come down every year.
CF: How would you come down...by boat?
IVINS: We'd come by boat. Coulson had the boat in Yandina, he used to have the "Irene" and the "Ariel", the two boats he used to have. And we used to come down and spend about, oh I suppose, about three weeks at Christmas time.
CF: Were you down there for Christmas itself?
IVINS: For Christmas, yes.
CF: What would happen on Christmas Day then? How would you be celebrating? Or Christmas Eve?
IVINS: Mainly a terrible noise. All sorts of trumpets and whistles of all different kinds but we didn't get anything expensive in our stockings. We used to hang our stockings up and received a few things, not anything very much.
CF: How about the food and that sort of thing, special Christmas treats, how would your mother arrange that down there?
IVINS: Yes, well my mother was a very good cook, yes plain foods she was very good on that, and she used to make very good pastry. She was well known all round for her pastry like the little tarts and things she used to make.
CF: Yes, mince pies.
IVINS: Yes, that's right.
CF: So you'd have a Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding?
IVINS: Yes, yes.
CF: The full thing.
CF: And would you run to a chook or a turkey or something?
IVINS: Oh yes, yes we used to have chooks and turkeys in those days. Bit I remember ice-creams in those days were a penny for a small one, thruppence you'd get a very big one, and we used to get those from the little store, Whalley's store. We used to climb all over that tree, that cotton tree.
CF: Oh. The cotton tree.
IVINS: The cotton tree, used to climb all over that. In those days I used to be able to
catch fish too, but I can't catch any now.
CF: Oh, lost the touch.
IVINS: Lost the touch alright. But in those days it was easy to catch fish because they weren't frightened by the noise.
CF: How would it be celebrated on the day, would the Salvation Army put on a concert?
IVINS: Oh yes, they always seemed to have a band, as far back as I can remember, the Salvation Army, of course that came from Nambour, the officers were based in Nambour.
CF: Oh that was who organised it?
IVINS: Used to come out from there really. They used to hold their meetings there, and have their band of course the same as they do now.
CF: So it was really the thing to do at Christmas time.
Religion and sport
IVINS: Yes. Strange to say that, big family that we had and both of them belonged to the Salvation Army I think yeah. I'm the second youngest in the family and my brother, my younger brother was the only one that followed the religion.
CF: Why do you think that was?
IVINS: I just don't know, maybe there was a little bit too much of it, they were very strict. I used to be very keen on tennis, and I used to have a great battle with my mother to get on that tennis court on Sunday.
CF: Oh of course.
IVINS: She used to do everything possible to keep me off that court on Sunday. All the others used to play and I could see them playing and it used to be too much for me. I used to sneak out and go over and have a game. And to stop me she used to hide my racquet and I'd find it. Yes, oh it was hard in those days to do what you wanted because my father was a very strict man too. Although he wasn't playing tennis on Sunday, but we got a good grounding I suppose.
CF: Yeah. Did the other kids ever tease you, you know sort of give you a hard time because you couldn't do all the things they could?
IVINS: No they didn't strangely to say, no they didn't. No they, teasing didn't seem to be one of those things that was done in those days. We accepted what the others did.
World War I
IVINS: Yes. There was a German family living just over the range where a couple of the boys used to come to school there too, and through the War. But they used to play you know, armies and soldiers and all that. But their parents didn't approve of it. Of course they play like that at school but they wouldn't take it home.
CF: You do hear some stories how people were not very tolerant of German families,
particularly during the First World War.
IVINS: That's right. But that was the only German family. Allendorf was their name. And then when peace was declared we had a big celebration that time.
CF: Oh what happened?
IVINS: Oh yes, we made an effigy of the Kaiser, hung him up on one of the trees near the hall, and fitted him up with crackers all around him and you know, had straw that would burn inside of him with all sorts of things and the crackers went off, we had a great time. But the poor old German family they were in tears. The old people. You know they came to everything, everything that was on. Everybody - whether they believed in it or whether it offended them or not - they were always there.
CF: You had to be there.
IVINS: They had to be there.
Isolation in Cooloolabin
CF: Do you think it was because people were lonely out in that sort of area?
IVINS: I`d say so. We were isolated really, we were isolated.
CF: How would you find out news about things like the War and so on?
IVINS: Yes there were no radios in that time. The radio was talked about, but there were no radios then. The "Courier" we used to get the "Courier".
CF: The "Chronicle" would you have got that?
IVINS: I think the "Chronicle" may have came later on, but the "Courier" and the "Daily Mail" were the two papers that we used to get in those days, and I think it was later on that the "Chronicle" started.
CF: It started about 1903.
IVINS: Did it?
IVINS: Well we only started getting it then, evidently we didn't know about it.
CF: Oh it probably took longer to get to Cooloolabin. How long would it take for the papers to get to you though? How old would they be?
IVINS: Well of course we wouldn't get them every day, we only went like twice a week or so. Be just two days a week I suppose when we'd get the mail and the papers.
CF: So there really was a sort of a sense of isolation from that point of view.
IVINS: Yes, yes. Well later on then a mail run started. Johnsons was another family that came there later on. They bought parts of Fraser’s estate, he retired and went to Brisbane, and Johnsons bought the dairy part of his property, and he started a mail run to Yandina. And we used to go in, I'm not sure, I think it was only two days a week for a start but later on it become more frequent then that. We used to have our letter boxes
under the School of Arts, which was about - the highest part of it was about five feet off the ground - and we used to get in under there and put our letter boxes up. Where the mail wouldn't get wet.
CF: Oh I see.
IVINS: So when he dropped the mail he'd put them in the box if we weren't there to collect it.
CF: Very convenient . So tell me then, how long did you work for your father on the farm?
IVINS: I suppose until I was about seventeen or eighteen.
Effects of the Depression
CF: Would this have been during the Depression at this time?
IVINS: Yes, yes it would have.
CF: Did it affect the area very much?
IVINS: Yes, I think I mentioned my brother Joe, he was a carpenter and he went out even just looking for carpet snakes to skin to make a bit of money. Yes, well I got a job on a farm, on a banana farm from neighbour, about a mile and a half from where we used to live. And that started me then, I worked for him for some time and then he sold the property there and went away to Tweed. The reason he was there was that bunchy top wiped him out on the Tweed and he came out during the time bunchy top...
CF: That was a disease in bananas?
IVINS: Yes, you weren't allowed to plant any bananas on the Tweed, and during that time he came out there and he bought a part of what used to be my father's, part of my father's estate. And he bought that and he gave me a job with him there. And later on...I worked for him for about a year or two.
CF: What sort of thing were you doing on his place?
Move to the Tweed
IVINS: Only growing bananas, that was the only thing he had was bananas. Then when he sold it he worked me into a job with him on the Tweed, he started it up again on the Tweed.
CF: You went down south with him then?
CF: And did you come back to Cooloolabin at all?
Marriage and return to Cooloolabin
IVINS: After we were married, yes, after that we were married in 1933. We came back to Kiamba first, that was a district joining Cooloolabin. We came there and I worked with my older brother, Fred, for some time and then later I worked in the Forestry Department , the Forestry had started up at Cooloolabin during that time. And they had a Forestry house at Cooloolabin and I worked with them for a while.
CF: Where did you meet your wife by the way?
IVINS: At Woolooma, she was a "switchy" in the post office in Woolooma.
Changes to Cooloolabin district
CF: Did she mind coming up to Cooloolabin?
IVINS: Oh no, oh no, no. In those days we married for love and where one went, the other followed.
CF: And did you notice when you came back to Cooloolabin then, did you notice many changes, had the area changed?
IVINS: Yes, quite a lot of changes and more noticeably in Nambour and Yandina, you'd walk up the street and no one would know you.
CF: How long had you been away, about ten years or so was it?
IVINS: Yes, it was quite a while.
CF: About mid-Thirties.
IVINS: Yes, that's right.
CF: What sort of things had changed in Cooloolabin?
IVINS: The place, the entertainment scene had gone back, they didn't have as many dances or as many church services. Course they had better roads in those days, they used to go to Yandina to dances and Nambour for entertainment.
CF: So it wasn't that there were less people.
IVINS: No, there were more people, but less to hold them in the district.
CF: In other words it really wasn't the isolated area anymore, they could get out.
IVINS: No it wasn't anymore isolated, no that was right.
CF: Had shops and that sort of thing grown there then?
IVINS: There were never any shops in Cooloolabin, there's still no shops. I was up there last week, and there's still no shops. There's a telephone exchange, cause that had been going for several years.
CF: Why do you think there was never - you know it always strikes me with a place like that - at least a corner shop or something would have grown.
IVINS: Well I don't think there would have been sufficient people to warrant a shop. Of course apart from the wagon and the horses, we used to ride to Yandina too quite a lot. Any of the boys that had horses we used to get together on Saturday morning and ride to Yandina. We used to pick up, you know certain goods that we needed and mail too.
Work with the forestry department
CF: And what sort of work were you doing round Cooloolabin with the Forestry?
IVINS: On the Forestry I helped them clearing breaks, fire breaks, and thinning out they used to call it, cutting down the useless trees and allowing the tree that would be suitable when they got big enough to give them a chance to grow. And then part of the time that I was there I relieved in the tower. They built a ninety foot tower out there where you could see all over the forestry area, and we used to have to report, have a log book to report everything that went on that we could see from up there, mainly fires and people going past.
If we saw a fire we'd know that there was a fire, and then we'd keep watching, and maybe a second or third fire. And then every hour we had to put an entry in the log book, wind velocity, time, everything and if a car happened to go past we used to identify it if possible, try and get the make of the car, colour or the car, if possible the number plate. So as if say a car went past - maybe a car would go past at say three o'clock in the afternoon, and at ten past three a fire would start up further down - well we'd probably ask him to answer a few questions about whether he saw any fire starting at that time.
CF: You mean there were arsonists even in those days?
IVINS: Oh yes, oh yes of course. I suppose most of the men smoked in those days and of course maybe just throw down a match carelessly and start a fire.
CF: Right . And were you in walkie-talkie contact with....
IVINS: No ,no.
CF: Oh right, so you were very much on your own.
IVINS: Very much on your own, yes. In fact totally on your own.
CF: What did it feel like?
IVINS: I'll tell you about the tower, the different ones went up there , and the first question they all asked was, "How did they get the last sheet of iron on that roof?" It was only - the tower - was only about as big as this room, and had galvanised iron on the roof. Putting that last sheet, could you imagine someone tacking on the last sheet and then being able to get into that tower room.
CF: Oh bit of a dare devil.
IVINS: Yes, I'm not sure how they did it but that was always a question that people asked when they went up there, how did they get that last sheet on that tower.
CF: What was it like, was it very windy up there?
IVINS: In the tower?
IVINS: Yes, very windy.
CF: I mean was it all enclosed?
IVINS: Yes, it was enclosed it was all glass all round. So that you could see in every direction.
CF: And did you have to do any actual fire fighting yourself?
IVINS: No, I wasn't in that, no I wasn't in that. But during that time or around after that, I did six years cutting timber for a sawmill that was started up there at Cooloolabin.
CF: Oh right. Who had that?
IVINS: Queensland Hard and Softwood Company. They had a thing. Although previous to that there was a sawmill there only for a short time and it shifted to Yandina. Jocumsen used to own the Mill in Yandina. But I was a mate, of course, cut timber for the Mill during part of the Second World War too, that we cut timber there. The chap that I used to work with he was young enough to go to the War, but being in a protective industry, you weren't allowed.
CF: Essential service sort of thing.
IVINS: Yes, yes that`s right. I was older I had a family at that time.
Effect of World War II on the community
CF: What was it like in Cooloolabin during the Second World War. You had radios and that sort of thing by then, so you must have been more aware of what was going on, what was that feeling? Were people scared?
IVINS: No, I think we still felt as though we were isolated, that War would never reach us. It was all right away from where we were, and I think we had a sense of security there, we felt as if nothing would ever happen to us.
CF: How about when Singapore fell though, it must have seemed closer then.
IVINS: Oh yes. As they got close and even the, what was the, Queensland Line was it? That line that they had Queensland, that they were going to surrender to...
CF: Oh yes the Brisbane Line.
IVINS: Brisbane Line, yes that’s right, even then. Although we did build trenches for the kiddies to get into, and that was near the school. By that time too, the school had shifted from that shed that we used to have school in originally. We had a proper school built up on top of the hill, right on top. So we built, oh I suppose what would you call them, not trenches.
CF: Sort of air-raid shelters?
IVINS: Shelters, yes, air-raid shelters, we built them sort of zig-zag fashion so the kiddies could go into those if any Japs came along the road firing at them, they could get into these. And we used to say at the time, "No one will ever be this close to us that they will ever be needed." They weren't either.
CF: Just as well they weren't. Yes. Did you have to have blackouts and that sort of thing?
IVINS: Oh no, no never blacked out. No the worst, I suppose the most serious we got, we got down to deciding when we had to move out, who had vehicles and when we had to evacuate the place who had vehicles, who the drivers would be and how many they could take in each vehicle.
CF: Right, so was that ever practised as an exercise?
IVINS: No, we never practised it, we just knew that it would happen if it was needed.
CF: There was rationing at that time, did that affect you much at all?
IVINS: Yes, yes it did affect us, yes.
CF: In what way?
IVINS: Well of course you had to have the rationing coupons for everything you wanted. Course we didn't have a car in those days, not till later on, we got a car. But rationing for everything. That seemed to dampen us a little bit, but not to any great extent.
CF: It was more of a nuisance than a worry sort of thing?
IVINS: Yes, just a nuisance really I suppose about as far as we were concerned because mostly we were self-sufficient , we grow most of what we needed.
CF: When that War ended, what was the difference between say the end of the Second War and the end of the First World War, was it the same sort of feeling, sort of almost hysteria?
IVINS: Well, as I say I was only a boy when the First World War finished and there was a great excitement and then those days that I haven't mentioned, that everybody used to come and there was a great celebration, but at the end of the Second World War when Armistice was signed I was on my own, I was on my own, my wife was on holidays down with her people at the Tweed. So actually I didn't have much of a celebration being on my own.
CF: A bit of an anti-climax.
IVINS: Yes, yes. But we did celebrate later. I went down.
CF: And you were saying you didn't have a car there at that time. Once there were roads and everything did you feel a bit cut off not having the car then?
IVINS: Oh well I had a pony, I used to ride everywhere I wanted to go. I used to ride across to Mapleton, of course that was in new territory as far as I was concerned, that was about five or six mile away. Further along the Blackall Range. I used to ride over there and play in competition there, nearly every weekend.
CF: You were still a keen tennis player?
IVINS: Oh very keen tennis player, yes. And apart from tennis my other sport was shooting, rifle shooting. We had our own range there, it was a combination of Cooloolabin and Kiamba. And they called the club Coolki.
CF: Right. And you later had your own clubhouse and that sort of thing did you?
IVINS: We only had shelter sheds because we used to walk down, oh it was a fair step too, used to walk down. Everyone seemed to walk down to the rifle range, and we only
had sheds at each of the mounds, you know, we had the three hundred, five hundred yards and six hundred yard ranges.
CF: The rifle ranges seemed very popular at that time. They seemed to be all over.
IVINS: Yes all the towns seem to have rifle ranges at that time, and we had fixtures too. We used to go to the different towns, you know Palmwoods, Woombye, Nambour, not Yandina but North Arm, I think Yandina did at one stage have a rifle range, but later it was only North Arm and then Pomona, and that’s apart from Coolki. We used to go round to all the different ones.
Cooloolabin after the war
CF: And did Cooloolabin change a lot after the War and coming into the `50s. Did the township change a lot then?
IVINS: No it didn't change a lot at all. It was for the same reason that I mentioned before that there was nothing much there to hold the people. It didn’t build up very quickly, the families that were there, they would sell to someone else, well that wouldn't add to the population.
CF: Oh right, so it was more of a turnover of population than an increase.
IVINS: Yes, that's all. And that was the reason I think it never went ahead much. But I think there’s more houses there now than there ever were.
CF: What sort of people are there now?
IVINS: Oh mostly I think retired people.
CF: I see. And they've been attracted to the area. What do you think brings them out there?
IVINS: Quietness I think. Course the big dam, have you seen the big dam?
CF: Yes, it's very impressive.
IVINS: Yes, the first thing I said when I knew they were going to build a dam there, "Well what are they going to do for water?" But I realised later that most of the creeks from around Cooloolabin started right where the dam is. They ran out in different directions right from that highest point. And they were permanent water creeks too, they didn't run dry.
CF: I heard there was a lot of controversy a lot of to-ing and fro-ing before they actually decided on that site. Was there a bit of excitement around the township while it was being decided?
IVINS: Because of the dam?
IVINS: Well of course that's only recent. It's only recent, I don't know, I think they employed quite a few people when they were building there and it helped in that way, but as far as the reaction of the people that were living there, I just couldn't tell you that.
CF: And how long did you stay, did you stay for very long after you joined the sawmill after you were working for them?
IVINS: If I'd have known this was coming up I would have got all the dates for you and I would have helped you quite a lot more.
CF: Just take an approximation.
IVINS: See we were married in `33, about ten years I suppose we would have lived up there before we came back to the Tweed.
CF: Right so you left there in about 1960 or so was it?
IVINS: Yes, it would have been around about, yes it would have been around about that time.
Return to the Tweed
CF: And then you went south again.
IVINS: Yes, yes. Went south.
CF: What made you decide to go back to the Tweed again then?
IVINS: Oh mainly because of work, work wasn't very plentiful in a small place like, I didn't have a trade or profession. So it was mainly farm work that I had to do. And of course I worked for quite a while in the banana industry and then later I was into the sands, sandmining.
CF: Oh right.
IVINS: Yes, that `s right.
CF: Tell me did the family retain the farm out at Cooloolabin, they still got that there?
IVINS: No, no that's gone now, it'd been all sold, maybe more than once sold.
IVINS: Yes. One thing that I forgot to mention that is very interesting as far as our family is concerned is that one of my brothers, Gordon, used to have bees, and that was used to supplement his income. He had bees and he did it in a fairly big way, he had the extractor and he used to extract the honey. To get the hives we used to bang kerosene tins. If a hive of bees went over and if you made a noise, the bees couldn't hear the buzzing of the wings of the leaders and they would settle in a tree fairly close, they wouldn't go very far if they couldn't hear the buzzing of the leaders’ wings. So they would settle and then of course that's how he used to get his hives. And apart from that, he used to go out and find bees’ nests in trees and get them. But what I started to tell you was that one bees’ nest that he discovered was the first big branch of very, very black butt tree, and that first limb was very high. He worked out a way of getting up to that bees’ nest and getting it, by getting two stirrups, you know two stirrups from the saddle, with the leathers, two of those, a container with a lot of six inch nails in it, a bag like a carpenter’s bag say, of six inch nails, a hammer and a ball of string.
And he drove the six inch nails into the tree, put the stirrup and next one up, and he went up right up, till he got to where that limb branched out. He crawled out on that limb and then got himself well settled, let the ball of string down. They tied a handsaw to the string, he pulled it back up and he cut that limb off and let it down.
CF: How incredibly inventive.
IVINS: Look I've been trying to find that tree ever since, I've been trying to find that tree, I want to take a photo of it, and I can't find it.