Interview with: Peggy Payne (nee Short)
Date of Interview: April 8 1986
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Transcriber: Heidi Scott
Place of Interview: Nambour
Mrs Payne was formally Peggy Short, the youngest daughter of Dr Francis John Short. Dr Short, born in Melbourne in 1886, came to Nambour in 1919 as one of the first doctors here, along with Dr Malaher and Penny. In 1939, the family moved into a house and surgery that Dr Short had had built in Currie Street, Nambour. This house stood on the very site of the new Nambour Library, and in fact was only demolished early this year to permit excavation of the building site. In this interview, Mrs Payne shares with us her memories of Nambour in those earlier days, and especially of her father who gave service to this locality for forty-nine years. Also in attendance was Mrs Marion Davey, formally Marion Small, a close friend of the Short family.
Images and documents about Peggy Payne and the Short Family in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: Doctor Francis Short and family holidaying at Maroochydore, early 1930s.
Peggy Payne oral history [MP3 62MB]
CF: Right Peggy, now you’ve told me that your father came to Nambour in 1919 and set up practice. Where was he born? Was he from Queensland originally?
PAYNE: No, he came from Melbourne, and he was born at Kew, in 1886. So he came to Queensland after.
CF: And did he do his schooling and training down in Victoria?
PAYNE: Yes, he went to Wesley College - he was Dux of the school there in 1904 - and he graduated from the university, I think in 1911, or somewhere there. And then from there went to Toowoomba to do two years in the General Hospital of Toowoomba.
CF: That was his first practice so to speak?
PAYNE: Yes. And while he was there he met Mum - she was a nurse in the hospital.
CF: And what was your mother’s name, her maiden name?
PAYNE: Bennett. The Bennett’s had a big property eventually out at Oakey, a big wheat property. And her mother was left very early in life; the husband died, he was bank manager in Toowoomba. And I think Mum might have only been about twelve or thirteen - not sure about that - when he died. And there were four children, one boy, three girls.
CF: So they married in Toowoomba. And where did he go once he’d qualified and done his internship; where did he go for his first general practice?
PAYNE: He went to Mittagong for about five years I think and the climate was a bit cold. They had two children - Joan, she was born in 1914, and Beryl in 1918. So because of the climate they came north to Queensland and settled in Nambour in 1919.
CF: Where did the family first live when they came to Nambour?
PAYNE: They got a home at the corner of Mitchell and Daniel Street, and that was where I was born in that house.
CF: And is that house still there?
PAYNE: Yes, but it has been altered.
CF: Right. And did your mother ever talk about what it was like in the early days when they first came to Nambour? Do you remember her talking about it at all?
Doctor Francis Short in surgical coat outside his Mitchell Street residence, Nambour, 1935.
PAYNE: On remembering back myself it was just a very red Main Street with a great cliff actually on the corner of Maud Street and Currie Street. And she fell down this cliff before she had me, which was a quite a worry.
CF: So the roads weren’t sealed or anything then?
PAYNE: It was quite different, it was not at all flat.
CF: Your father, would he had delivered all his own children, by the way?
PAYNE: No, no.
CF: Right. He would have had someone else?
PAYNE: I can’t remember.
DAVEY: Malaher, I suppose.
PAYNE: No, I don’t remember. Though Dr Malaher was here when Dad came and Dr Penny.
CF: And were they still practicing?
PAYNE: Yes, yes.
CF: Do you remember them at all?
PAYNE: Dr Penny had a house on the corner of Maud and Sydney Street, and it was a unique house with an attic; we were always impressed with this attic.
DAVEY: It’s been pulled down now.
PAYNE: Yes. And Dr Malaher was in Howard Street, and I think that house is still there.
CF: Were they the only three doctors here then - Malaher, Penny and your father?
PAYNE: Yes, that’s right.
CF: And so they had a fair area to cover I suppose, did they?
PAYNE: I’d say so, yes, and it was very difficult because of the roads.
CF: He did have to travel a lot did he?
PAYNE: Yes. In wet weather they had to put chains on the wheels of their car and tyres. I can remember going with Dad up to Cooloolabin and going through such mud. He used to immunise in these outback places.
CF: How old would you have been then, when you went with him?
PAYNE: Probably about twelve, because I can remember writing all the children’s names for Dad.
CF: You were keeping the records?
PAYNE: And holding their arm when they had the injections.
CF: What was he like with children?
PAYNE: Oh, very careful, very good.
CF: And they liked him did they?
DAVEY: He never lost a baby did he?
PAYNE: Only one.
DAVEY: One mother.
PAYNE: One mother was it?
CF: It’s probably not something you’d remember yourself.
PAYNE: That’s in forty-nine years of practice.
CF: That was very good going.
PAYNE: Quite a record. In fact in the Medical Journal it said that it could have been a record for Queensland.
CF: That’s quite amazing. Do you remember yourself if childbirth was a very dangerous thing in those days?
PAYNE: Well, what I can remember mostly about it was Dad was very careful with his patients, and he used to walk up and down the hallway all night, some nights.
CF: Oh he was very concerned.
PAYNE: Yes, yes, very careful. But how they brought the babies into the world in those days, I …
CF: You weren’t actually at that. And tell me where was his surgery situated?
PAYNE: In the house, in the front part of the house. He had a waiting room and a surgery.
CF: Right. And when did you move to Currie Street?
PAYNE: About 1938. About a year before the War.
CF: And that was the house that’s just been demolished for building the library.
CF: Can you tell me something about when you first moved into the house? Was it one that your father had built himself?
DAVEY: It was beautifully built inside wasn’t it.
PAYNE: Being specially … a special floor put down, he wanted to have Crows Ash on the floor so he could hold dances for us, as girls, and was only used that floor once.
CF: Oh, after all that trouble.
PAYNE: All that time. Beautiful floor and panelling in different colours. The upstairs lounge was in a ginger colour. And they were quite unique.
DAVEY: Listen, where’s it go? You don’t know where it’s gone?
CF: So the family were living in the house, and your father had his surgery there as well. Was there very much contact between the family and the patients at all?
PAYNE: Oh my mother was very concerned; she was always on the ball all the time, she was answering the phone for Dad.
CF: So she was like receptionist?
CF: And was it a very busy practice?
PAYNE: Oh I can’t remember really. I suppose average in those days.
CF: What sort of cases would he have had? You know, what would be an average sort of day? Would you recall the sort of people that would come to the surgery?
PAYNE: He had every variety of person to treat.
CF: Were there any different sort of illnesses that you could recall from those days that perhaps aren’t as common now?
PAYNE: Yes, there was a very important case of polio in Nambour and Dad treated this. He was a banker’s son I think, about thirteen years old the kiddie, and he did treatment on that child, and he overcame the polio through his patient care of the kiddie.
CF: Gosh, that would have been quite unusual in those days.
PAYNE: It was, and I think it was a lot of massage work and so forth, but the child was …
CF: Was there much polio in the area? Did it occur frequently?
PAYNE: I don’t think there was very much. That was an isolated case.
CF: Having a doctor as a father, did you find in the family that he was very strict about certain health sort of things? Do you remember that at all?
PAYNE: Well thinking back, I’d say that he was very fussy about where we played outside when we were young, and we were never allowed to play in dirt, or in sandpits. And we weren’t allowed to sit on grass at any stage. Also I’d say we were only allowed to eat a certain amount. He’d put out his hand and he’d say, “That’s how big your stomach is. You must not eat more than you can take.” And so we were quite concerned about food, in those days.
CF: Was he concerned about particular sort of things that you’d eat or not eat?
PAYNE: Well we had a regular meal every day. And I think it was an important part of our growing up, our diet. And you’d have your greens, and vegetables, fruit.
CF: So it was well balanced?
PAYNE: It was a well balanced diet.
CF: Do you think that was unusual at the time? Thinking of acquaintances and so on, you would have been friends at the time with other children, was it unusual in town for that sort of concern to be shown?
PAYNE: We probably did have a more strict diet than most people, but we definitely cooked a meal each day; we didn’t have any prepacked food. And I’ve carried that on all my life.
CF: That sounds pretty sensible.
PAYNE: Even though we might be a bit on the heavy side. (Laugh)
CF: Robust. Tell me, with the family gatherings and things like that, how did the family relax? Did you go to the beach, that sort of thing?
PAYNE: Oh yes, this was one of the early periods. Dad bought a beach house, and it is one of the original houses in Maroochydore.
CF: Where is it situated?
PAYNE: It’s in Sixth Avenue, opposite the ambulance, but it’s been build on so much now you wouldn’t recognise the house.
CF: Did he build it originally?
Doctor Short and family at their holiday home in Maroochydore, ca 1935 (Peggy sitting)
PAYNE: No it was an existing house. But it was on tree trunks and very, very small, very high, and the houses in front were very close to the sand, in fact two of them had sand coming from the hill into their houses. So it was a weekly thing to go down to the beach every Sunday for a swim.
CF: And you’d drive down?
CF: What sort of car did the family have then? I heard your father was rather keen on cars.
PAYNE: Yes, he had the usual one that was popular at the time. But he had another one, an old Buick, which was, oh, it wasn’t old in those days, it cost six hundred pounds. But it was just a single seater, it didn’t have a dicky seat at the back, but it did have a back that opened out, and we put our luggage in that. But he used to keep this one really for his practice, not that he used it all the time, but it was a popular car with him.
CF: For tripping round. Would this be in what the ‘20s, ‘30s?
PAYNE: Yes, I’d say it was one of the first ones he had with another car. 1920s.
CF: And what was the trip like in those days, down to Maroochydore by car?
PAYNE: Very slow, very long. In fact I think in the first days we went down on a tram and then we caught a boat down. That was the original was of travelling to Maroochydore. And then afterwards, it used to take hours to get to the beach, across the saplings, across the road in various parts.
CF: On the corduroy roads [created by laying saplings cross-wise on the track], I’ve heard about.
CF: Very bumpy I would imagine.
CF: And would the family take a lot of things down for the weekend with you, or was the house stocked up?
PAYNE: Oh I think we used to pack up and take them down. We used to have a long container we put on the running board at the side of the car and we’d fill this. I’ve still get this tin trunk, and it was the full length of the running board, and we used to strap that on the side of the car.
CF: And you’d get away then for the weekend?
CF: And do you remember how your father enjoyed those, did he see this as a real break away from work sort of thing?
PAYNE: Yes, I think he enjoyed it. Though Christmas time we used to go down for the six weeks, and course he couldn’t come during that period.
CF: Oh right. Could he ever take much of a holiday?
PAYNE: No, no he did not.
PAYNE: He had some locums in at various times, but not very often.
CF: And how do you remember him as a father? Was he a very strict father?
PAYNE: Well, we had great respect for him as everybody did in those days for their parents. And I think that dad was a great sport, he liked every sport actually and was very good at most things. Billiards was the one that he surpassed with, and I think the local, the older, local people can say how good he was at billiards. From billiards he went onto I think golf was his main thing, though I think he did play tennis at one stage, but golf was his thing.
CF: I heard that he was one of the very early golfers in Nambour?
PAYNE: That’s right.
CF: Was he at all involved in setting up the actual golf course or the golf club, do you remember?
PAYNE: I couldn’t tell you that.
CF: But he was a very keen player.
DAVEY: Your mother too, wasn’t she?
CF: Did he encourage you as children, did he encourage you in sport?
PAYNE: I think music was the thing that he encouraged us in mostly.
CF: Was he very musical himself?
PAYNE: He was very musical, he used to play Beethoven and Chopin. This is how I have my love for music now.
CF: Do you remember yourself, you know as a child, was he a very good player?
CF: He was trained in other words?
PAYNE: Yes, yes. Oh well I think his mother taught hi;, I don’t think he went to a teacher himself. And he was self-taught from his mother’s tuition in the beginning, and she was up to concert pianist standard. Also on my mother’s side, she was very musical, she learnt the piano for twelve years.
CF: Oh, so family gatherings would … music was very important?
CF: What sort of way during the week or on the weekends would you get together and have musical evenings? Or did you play for enjoyment?
PAYNE: Oh well Sunday it was mostly. And through the week Dad and Beryl and I would play duets or trios or whatever. In the early days though, I think listening to cricket on the headphones was his favourite thing. He’s get up at two o’clock in the morning to listen to the cricket coming from England.
CF: Oh the test matches? Good heavens. Yes. So he was very interested in sport, and music?
CF: What about reading, was the family, were they keen readers?
PAYNE: Oh yes, yes, very interested in reading. And his granddaughter is now in Sydney as a Barrister, head of the Law Library in Sydney.
CF: So it’s carried on through the family?
CF: What sort of thing did your father read, anything in particular or just right across the range?
PAYNE: Yes, I think anything.
CF: Did he read the Classics?
PAYNE: I think everything.
CF: I suppose he would have had to read a lot of medical material.
PAYNE: Yes, there was a lot of study involved with the medical. Yes.
CF: What was it like in those days, did he ever go off on courses to do things or was it mainly reading to keep up?
PAYNE: I think reading, He didn’t have the time to go away because of the job. And then doing the, … yes he was very involved with the Government medical work and he was standby doctor at the hospital always when the doctors needed the extra person there.
CF: What did he have to do as Government Medical Officer, what did it involve?
PAYNE: Oh, immunising in all departments. Yes, in case of accidents he always had to do the post mortems at the hospital and this worried him greatly because he could see the terrible accidents that occurred on the roads in those days even.
PAYNE: And it worried him. I think after seeing so many he became a very slow driver. But initially he was …
CF: I wouldn’t have thought people were travelling fast enough in those days to have …
PAYNE: Oh well he did like travelling fast, but after seeing so much, I think it quietened him down a bit.
CF: And would he have had to go to things like health inspections around the town?
PAYNE: Yes, he used to go round with the Shire Council Clerk, or the Health Officer … whoever was in charge.
CF: Inspecting premises and so on. Now tell me what was the town like in those days? Was there very much in Nambour itself, well say prior to World War Two?
PAYNE: I think the best thing was Mrs Prunty’s old shop.
CF: Mrs? …
DAVEY Prunty’s (laugh)
CF: Where was that?
PAYNE: It was actually where …
DAVEY: Where the library is wasn’t it?
CF: Really, the present library? [in 1986 the Nambour Library was in the old Commonwealth Bank building, one building from the corner of Currie & Howard Streets]
PAYNE: Yes. It was the little creek affair, wasn’t it? You had to go across a little tiny narrow bridge to get to her shop. And she’d come out between these curtains …
CF: And what sort of shop was Mrs Prunty’s shop?
DAVEY: Oh just a little thing like that.
PAYNE: Just a little shop with lollies mostly. I can remember it like that, for the lolly point of view, because we were never allowed lollies, and I think I used to sneak down a couple of times and get some lollies.
CF: That’s why it was so attractive?
PAYNE: Yes. Possibly kept fruit and vegetables, but I can’t remember a lot about it except that it was a very interesting shop.
CF: And you were living right in the middle of Nambour there. What sort of things did you do for entertainment? Was there a cinema there then?
PAYNE: Yes, I can remember this was owned by Mick Gray initially. Can’t remember where that was, I think it was where the Town Hall is now, wasn’t it Madge?
DAVEY: What’s that?
CF: And was that a very popular form of entertainment?
PAYNE: Oh yes, everybody went to the pictures.
CF: Would you go every Saturday or something like that?
DAVEY: Yeah, once a week.
PAYNE: Yes. Oh I think I was the worst too. If there was a change of programme on, I’d be there.
CF: Oh right. Were there things like dances, would there have had dances in town?
DAVEY: Yes they had balls didn’t they?
CF: Where would they have held those?
PAYNE: The balls were held at the Diggers Hall in Howard Street. And I think mostly there, sometimes in the Town Hall. That was later.
CF: And were they very grand affairs?
PAYNE: Oh really very beautiful. And they were catered for by the local women. My mother used to spend hours on the day of the ball cutting sandwiches. She had to cut the bread because she had the sharpest knife, and she did it the thinnest.
CF: And would your father and mother both have gone along to the balls?
PAYNE: Oh yes, it was very formal and they’d get dressed. Dad would be in tails and a bib and tucker.
CF: Oh the whole bit. Right. And were your parents very involved in the affairs of the town? Were they very out-going sort of people?
PAYNE: Not a lot. They enjoyed playing bridge, but kept a really very quiet life on the whole.
CF: Was that do you think because being doctor, perhaps you had to be a little bit elite?
PAYNE: Well I think no, it was his nature.
CF: It was his way.
PAYNE: I think he was a quiet man.
CF: You obviously would have had some feedback yourself from other people, do you know how the town people felt about him as a doctor?
PAYNE: Not really.
CF: No. Was it something you sensed yourself? Were they in awe of him or did they regard him as a friend?
PAYNE: I couldn’t tell you that. No I couldn’t tell you. I think when you’re young you don’t take much notice of these sort of things.
CF: You’re not as sensitive to it obviously at that age. Yes. And did he continue in that particular surgery for all of his practice in Nambour?
PAYNE: Yes, he retired and went up to Blackall Terrace. But he kept his Government work going until he died.
CF: Right. And when did he actually retire?
PAYNE: He retired about 1962 and went to Blackall Terrace, but kept going until he died in 1968.
CF: And would have been well into his eighties then, would he?
PAYNE: Well no, he would have been eighty-two in about another month.
CF: So that was a long period of practice in Nambour.
PAYNE: Forty-nine years.
CF: Yes, forty-nine years. And how do you think he felt about it, did he ever talk about what it meant to him?
PAYNE: Well he didn’t talk to us about his patients; he kept everything to himself. But he was very concerned about them all the time. And being a private man, he kept his patients’ business private and we respected his attitude.