Interview with: Peter Overland
Date of Interview: 28 December 2000
Interviewer: Diane Warner
Peter Overland recalls growing up at Moffat Beach where his mother Merle had holiday cabins during WWII as well as the 1950's, 1960 period.
Images and documents of the Overland family in the Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: Dicky Beach Huts, Caloundra, ca 1937.
Peter Overland oral history [MP3 44MB]
D.W. Can you tell me your full name please?
P.O. Peter Richard Overland
D.W. And what were your parents' names?
P.O. Myrtle Elizabeth Overland, and James Richard Overland. My Grandparents lived here also and they were Richard Perry Overland and Beatrice Louise Overland.
D.W. When were you born?
P.O. On the 24 October 1937
D.W. Where was that?
P.O. In Brisbane.
D.W. Did your parents always live in this vicinity?
P.O. Initially this place was bought and they were going to live here. They built cabins on the land in the front which they used to rent. Then the army came along and we had to leave and go back to Brisbane, whilst they occupied this land.
The Overland family settles at Moffat Beach
D.W. Let's go to when your parents first got the land, what period of time was that?
P.O. That would be about, and I would be guessing as I do not have the title deeds but it would have to be about 1935, and they purchased that land there.
D.W. Can you describe to me where that land is?
P.O. It is on the corner of Seaview and Bryce, Moffat Beach, and initially on the Council plans you can see where there were another two lots in front which were wiped away. The Council was given that land for a park.
D.W. So your parents bought here in 1937?
P.O. This one was bought in 1937 where I live now. The one in front was bought in 1935 so I believe.
Holiday cabins at Moffat Beach
D.W. When they came here and decided to build holiday cabins who built those cabins?
P.O. They were built by my father who had help from his mates as they used to do in those days. One of his mates was a fellow by the name of Salter who owned the block of land next to my father.
D.W. So there was a working bee and the cabins were built?
P.O. That's right, they were built over a little period of time.
D.W. Can you describe those cabins? What they were made of?
P.O. Initially they were individual cabins and they were 12feet x 12feet, they had four bunks and a table at one end of them. Kerosene stoves, and ice was the only refrigeration they had. For the power to those cabins, we used to have a model T Ford engine in the back yard of this place with a generator on. That used to run up to the cabins.
D.W. What sort of people would come and stay in those cabins?
P.O. They would be mostly people from Brisbane. They always came up for the fishing, crabbing and for the solitude and isolation.
D.W. So the fishing and the crabbing, were crabs plentiful then, today?
P.O. Tooway Lake was full of crabs, Moffat Beach was full of fish and eugarie, you used to get eugarie on the beach here at Moffat Beach. So if you wanted fish for tea you would just pick up your fishing rod and go down wriggle your toes and put the anchor on and throw you rod out and no trouble getting fish for tea.
D.W. You always had plenty of people wanting to stay in these cabins?
P.O. Yes there was always people, and people would rent them years in advance for holidays and Christmas holidays and Easter and school holidays.
D.W. How would the people of find there way here?
Tourist transport to the area
P.O. In those days you could drive with great difficulty, but you could, I think the sealed road was only from Brisbane to Strathpine there was a dirt road and it was relatively accessible. Most people would co-ordinate rail from Brisbane to Landsborough, and then take Kings Bus from Landsborough to Caloundra.
D.W. How would they get to the cabins?
P.O. The bus would drop them off here.
D.W. Was it sandy tracks from here to Caloundra?
P.O. Oh yes, it was a dirt road. I know you used to come along Sugarbag Road, and then Vance Palmer got a certain amount of money from Council to put a track through from here over to the rail hotel which is Hotel Francis and you used to come down Queen Street then and down that way.
Remembering Vance Palmer
D.W. Can you recall Vance Palmer?
P.O. Yes I knew Vance Palmer, I got a block of land off Vance Palmer back about 45 years ago now, and that this one up on the corner, on the corner of Rinaldi Street and Seaview Terrace. It was a 'B' shaped one, it was only about 16 perches. Vance Palmer was a bit of an author. I knew his sister she was also an author. I bought it from him. It was not much of a house. We bought it with the intention of selling around here in Moffat Beach and living up there.
D.W. Can you recall him there writing, did he actually live in that house?
P.O. Yes he lived there and I can remember Vance because he was there till I was at least 17, he lived there and had a garden, shack and one of those hip baths, he had a lot of manuscripts there I suppose. When we bought the place from him, his sister Arma came and got a lot of the furniture. Vance used to keep all his manuscripts and that type of thing.
Local flora and fauna
D.W. What was the wildlife like in these areas besides fishing? Can you recall what sort of animals, birds were here?
P.O. There were plenty of cows that used to break your windows, Maltman up here had cows and they used to come down to the beach and break the big glass windows in the shop. They would come up and see their reflection and they'd break the glass. Wild animals, there were kangaroos, seagulls there were sea eagles and osprey and that type of thing.
D.W. What about wildflowers?
P.O. There were miles of them, I used to make pocket money as a kid I'd go down to the Buzzacott Reserve at the end of Robert Street here and pick Boronia and sell them.
D.W. And what would you sell them for, Peter?
P.O. A shilling or something like that.
D.W. And Christmas Bells?
P.O. Yes, we used to get Christmas Bells, but you used to get them more down Golden Beach, Currimundi as well. We never bothered to get them out of Two Mile Stream. They always were there but I don't think there's so many now, sugar cane land has taken over now.
D.W. Sugar Cane?
P.O. Yeah, there is sugar cane growing along the same strait where the beekeeper was.
Busy tourist periods
D.W. And what are your earliest memories of the early days when your parents had the cabins here? What were the times you looked forward to?
P.O. You always looked forward to Christmas because there was a stack of kids and all of this was covered with tents. On the beach it was covered with campers at the time. The same campers would come back every year. You would get to know the children your own age and we would play football. What we did do was go around and pick up bottles, milk bottles and softdrink bottles and take them to the shop for a penny or tuppence returning the bottles. One of the chaps down there used to play cards for money. We would have to sell a lot of bottles first to get the money, but once we got the money we usually ended up beating all the old people playing cards. That's where most of my pocket money came from as a kid.
D.W. So they were great times, and they were very safe times for children?
P.O. Yes they were. The only unsafe time was we had one child out at Tooway Lake drowned. He went missing from his parents. He was here for the day, and he went missing during the day. The fishermen then came around with there fishing boats, and pulled the fishing nets back in and the little boy was in it. Then there was one chap drowned here on the beach. They left his body under our house as there was no mortuary in town at that time and they picked him up the next day.
D.W. So I guess there was no surf life savers at that time in this area?
P.O. No, there wasn't. The only life savers were at Metropolitan Caloundra and I joined that club, and got my bronze medal in 1953, 1954.
D.W. So where did you learn to swim?
P.O. Down Tooway Lake.
D.W. So were there any lessons or did you just learn as a child?
P.O. No, you just learnt as a child, kind of taught yourself especially after school.
D.W. Can you describe for me not only the cabins but also your shop?
The Overland’s general store
P.O. The shop at the front was next to the cabins and we lived above the shop, there are some photos available. It was like an open area downstairs, and the icecream would come from Brisbane in the big canvas containers with dried ice. We would get it once a week. It used to come to us underneath the bus. You sell normal things, like papers. You would get a certain amount of papers from the main paper shop in Caloundra, which was supplied to the people. A lot of fresh milk was delivered to Caloundra by the milkman on Caloundra turnoff.
D.W. And how did that come around, by bottle?
P.O. No, in the old cans, at the back of his truck.
D.W. And people would put their billies out and get their milk that way?
P.O. Yes, bring it up, and tip it in.
D.W. So there were fairly relaxed times?
D.W. Did your parents have a car?
P.O. Yes, they did. Father had various, he seemed to like motor cars. Father was in charge of the parts division of Elpingstands in Brisbane, which was Overland Motors. He used to answer the phones and say Jim Overland and that put a name to the business. We used to drive up here quite often from Brisbane, in the motor cars.
D.W. I guess in those times with the highway from Brisbane to this area that it would take you quite some time to get here?
P.O. Oh yes, the creeks and gutters might have water in them, and you would have to get out and walk through it first.
Remembering the Dicky Wreck
D.W. Can you recall the Dicky Wreck?
P.O. Yes, I have photographs of it. I remember as a kid playing on it, and in those days there was still a roof on it. I have photos of my grandfather standing on the roof, and we used to play in the hull of it.
D.W. Did you walk up there?
P.O. Yes, we used to walk there, no trouble. You didn't get lost in those days, you followed the beach, and didn't go too far out, although we used to go Birt’s in Edmund Street, and pick up chooks and eggs. He had a poultry farm there.
D.W. Now, getting back to the Dicky Wreck, so you recall when it had a roof on the top of it?
D.W. And did a lot of people go there for walks, along the beach just to look at the wreck?
P.O. They would of yes. It was a point "Oh, let's go look at the Dicky Wreck". You could also walk up to Cockatoo Creek, which is next to the pass, and there was always plenty of mullet in there. In those days or later on, you used to get milk bottles with a big round top on it, and you would fill them with bread down the bottom, then fill them with water and hold them up so the bread would drown. You would set them in the morning, and go back and clean them out in the afternoon. The fish would swim in and they can't swim backwards so you would go up and collect the mullet that you wanted and put the rest back.
D.W. So they were easy times to catch fish?
P.O. Yes, easy times.
D.W. Getting back to the Dicky. There was talk that there may of been a fire on the Dicky in the early days. Can you recall any indication that there may have been a fire there, it is a bit of a rumour?
P.O. I would not like to say. I have read articles. I think it was done by Pearl Windsor. She said people may have lit fires in the hull of it. They may have had a B.B.Q inside of it. I can't really remember it.
D.W. You obviously recall that the big propeller was still attached to it?
P.O. Oh yes, that was always there till Bob Brown pulled it out, 38 years ago.
D.W. Can you recall any major cyclones since you were living so close to the beach. You were saying a cyclone went on to your land down there?
P.O. It wiped out two allotments for the full length. That would be as early as I can remember. The worst cyclone I can remember would be in 1953, 1954. My wife was here then. All the crowds got sand blasted down the front there. All the tents got blown down. So they all moved up and came into the cabins or the house. You could not get out of Caloundra.
Volunteering and Surf Life Saving in early Caloundra
D.W. You were talking about surf life saving, and you got involved in that as a young fellow?
P.O. North Caloundra to start with, I was never a member of North Caloundra, Metropolitan Caloundra I was. I helped build the North Caloundra Club house as a kid. My mother and most of the women around here, they used to hold fetes on Moffat Beach here. In those days there was a shelter shed, and they made cakes. I used to pick up the shells from the beach, and punch a hole into them and string them onto a string and make necklaces and they would sell that type of thing. It was all built by volunteer labour. Charlie Reid was one of the fellows that was there, and Jeff Herman. I used to go up there and be more of a hindrance than a help.
D.W. With your mother and the ladies volunteering, can you recall any other ladies names that may have been a part of that voluntary organisation?
P.O. There was Nelly Herman, Mrs Hughleberg, and Mrs Hughleberg's husband. They had a caravan just down the road that he used to sell fish and chips from. Then later he became the cook up at the North Caloundra Surf Life Savers. There were a lot of people here over Christmas time. Down here you had the Deep Sea Fishing Club. They'd put on concerts, there would be the two Wildman fellows.
D.W. So they would put on concerts to help the surf life savers?
P.O. Yes, Bagley would come over from the other side of town. They were very well attended concerts.
D.W. So, that was a major fundraising event. The same as Met Caloundra had chocolate wheels in Caloundra. Did they have concerts, like the life savers in Caloundra?
P.O. Yes, they would do the hula, hula and those types of things. Wearing short skirts, and dancing up on stage with them. The can can, men used to do the can can.
D.W. That was the entertainment for the campers?
P.O. Campers, and everyone from Caloundra too. It used to get pretty crowded down there.
D.W. In those times electricity would have been here? In those early days you would not have had power here. You said you had icecream on dry ice. Where did you get the ice from?
P.O. The ice we used to get from Steve Chaplin, Chaplin's Iceworks they had the ice run, they would come around and supply ice to the campers. They had the ice works. Lloyd Clarke, he had an iceworks too, I don't think he delivered ice this far.
D.W. Let's get on to when the Australian Military decided the cabins were what they needed.
The Overland family moves to Brisbane
P.O. Well I can't remember too much about that, I was only relatively young at that stage. We ended up having to move to Brisbane, as I say to live when they took over. My grandfather then built a shop here. He was a Chief Steward on a Coastal Liner. He used to have tea and hot water that type of thing. The soldiers would come down for scones and things that my grandmother used to make.
D.W. So your grandparents stayed here, and you moved to Brisbane. Was it for the fear of invasion, or was it because there was nowhere else to go once the building had been taken over?
Caloundra becomes a restricted area: Wartimes
P.O. For us we had nowhere else to go. There weren't too many people around in those days. It was thought easier for us to go back to Brisbane, and live in Brisbane which we did.
D.W. Did you come up here at all during those times, because this area was restricted?
P.O. Yes it was restricted. We used to come and stay here in the shop, that my grandfather had. I don't remember a lot about it because, I was young as I say, but we had barb wire along the fence and steel pickets.
D.W. So how many Military personnel would you say would have been camped in this area?
P.O. Well, I would not like to answer that. They were camped up around Roderick Street. There was a camp there. I used to go up as a kid and get biscuits from the soldiers there.
D.W. There was an accommodation shortage when they did come here as far as what they could get.
P.O. Well, there wasn't much they could get, so they had tents.
D.W. The Officers were in here?
P.O. I'm not sure who was in there. I remember the writings on the walls in here. The only thing I can really remember is that I was staying here when one of the planes come over to Dicky Beach, and crashed on Battery Hill.
D.W. Can you explain that to me?
P.O. Well we were sitting outside, Margaret and I, and we heard this plane roaring and the noise. It came down pretty low down here, and clipped the beach near the rocks just up here, from what I can remember. Then it went up in the air again and then came down and then someone said it might of crashed. My grandfather said "Stay here, I'm going up there", I said "I'm not staying here", so I went with him. I remember being there and the bullets were still going off. The plane disintegrated and bullets were exploding.
D.W. Were the men killed in that accident?
P.O. Yes, that's one thing that stayed in my mind, I can remember that, I stood there and watched it, as a young kid.
D.W. What period would that of been Peter?
P.O. Most probably 1944.
D.W. So you would actually have been up here on holiday with your grandparents?
P.O. I was on holiday. It could possibly have been Christmas, I'm not sure.
D.W. What was your grandfather like?
P.O. He was tall, thin, as he was a Chief Steward on a ship. He could look around with a cigarette ash half the length of the cigarette. He used to roll his cigarette so he would serve tea or that and never, ever drop the ash off the end of his cigarette.
Along the beach besides the barbwire they had square holes in the ground with a roof on them. They were 18 inches to 2 feet high. They used to have a border. They were all built out of tea tree, the actual floor was dirt and the sides and the top were tea tree.
D.W. So they cut the tea tree?
Early erosion and clearing
P.O Just behind here through to Currimundi.
D.W. Lloyd Clark said that he believed that throughout Kings Beach the military cut the bush out, and that was probably the start to the erosion in this area. The bush went, they drained the swamp behind Kings Beach it was so dry that the dunes started to go. Can you recall that?
P.O. The dunes most probably would have been blown away. I remember the dunes with our life saving shed on top of it, when they had to shift the shed.
D.W. Do you recall that?
P.O. I can recall being on top of the dunes, there used to be a lot of change sheds for men and women to change in.
D.W. Can you recall the Wishing Tree?
P.O. No. I have been asked about that, it was at Shelly Beach. It was just a tree that was there. I can't remember it.
D.W. What about when surfing came? Can you recall Ma & Pa Bendall?
P.O. Oh yes, they came years after. I remember Ma & Pa Bendall pretty well. They had a very attractive daughter. She had the most beautiful hair I've ever seen in my life. They had tennis courts there, and then they ended up turning it into a skating rink. We used to go there, skating on the tennis courts. He was one the first to start the surfing out at Maroochydore. We used to surf out here. We used surf skis in those days.
D.W. Can you tell me a bit about that?
P.O. Surf ski's were about 12 feet long they were timber frame. The bottoms and the tops were usually made out of plywood. That was probably 20-30 pounds of weight.
D.W. What period would that of been Peter?
P.O. Around 1950's.
D.W. And you had one of those?
P.O. Yes I had one, I have photo's of them. We used to use them with the life saving, but mainly we used them for sport. They weren't used as a rescue craft. They were good fun. A fellow named Gordon Jefferies, he is the main fellow who built most of that type around here.
D.W. Do you remember his full name?
P.O. No. I used to know his son, because he was in the cabin with Gordon Jefferies, but old fellow Jefferies, he is still alive and living up around Wurtulla at the moment. I have seen him in the past 12 months.
D.W. Regarding tourism the cabins where here, the Military came. When did you get the cabins back?
The military returns Overland family cabins
P.O. Straight after the war. 1945 I suppose.
D.W. Did they pay your parents?
P.O. I don't know that they paid them or not. My father ended up dying when I was about 4, so he wasn't alive when the war was over. My mother was still running the place. She only died about 2 years ago. Originally there were 5 cabins, there was an old fellow by the name of Byerlee, and he came along one day and saw ours and said that's a good idea I might build a few of those myself. He built a few cabins where Raintree's is now.
D.W. When you came back after the war, did things start to progress in this area?
P.O. No, not much, there was not a boom or anything like that. A house might go up occasionally, things never really took off for quite a while. In fact if you went to Brisbane and they asked where you came from and you said Caloundra they'd say, "Where's that?" People just didn't come up here.
D.W. Where you at school at this stage?
D.W. Did you go to school at Caloundra?
D.W. Where did you go to High School?
P.O. I didn't go to High School, I could not afford to, and there was no school around here. So I got a job at the Post Office.
D.W. Did you have other brothers and sisters?
P.O. I have a younger sister, she is four years younger than I am. My mother was pregnant before my father died.
Death of James Richard Overland
D.W. What happened to your father?
P.O. He had an operation, I think it was for his gallbladder, and during that time there were not any good doctors around and he died.
Death of Myrtle Overland
D.W. When your mother died how old was she?
P.O. I think 84 or 86.
D.W. Looking now to the early 60's development started to come to Caloundra?
P.O. Yes, it was starting to grow. It was still relatively small in the 60's.
D.W. Did you imagine that this area would grow to be this large?
P.O. No, I didn't. I came back here when I was 22. I lived here till 1955, then went to Brisbane for a couple of years and then out west for a couple of years, then came back.
D.W. Do you think the rapid change in the area is a good thing or a bad thing?
P.O. Well, the lifestyle is not as good as it used to be, but no matter what I want to buy, I can find a shop in Caloundra.
D.W. Moffat Beach had the camping grounds. What was at Dicky Beach?
P.O. They had a camping ground too. There was one shop there. There was a caravan park there also. There weren't a lot of houses over at Dicky.
D.W. Were there any Guest Houses around?
P.O. No, there was one behind here before I moved in.
D.W. Where did you go to get assistance if you were sick?
P.O. Later on there was Doctor Woodson, Doctor May was here in 1950, there was an old Doctor in Macaray Street.
D.W. Your sister, did she go to school in Caloundra?
D.W. Before your Mum passed away what did she think of progress?
P.O. She was amazed by it.
D.W. What happened with the cabins, when were they pulled down?
P.O. It was not viable to upgrade them. So they were pulled down about 1975.
D.W. What happened to the land then?
P.O. Well, when my father died he died without a will, and in those days if you died without a will it was divided between the wife and the children. When my mother died my sister and I shared the properties.
Personal hopes: Caloundra’s future development
D.W. Can you give me an idea of what you would like to see for the future of Caloundra?
P.O. Well I know what I like for the area, and I'd like to see more play areas for the children. If you look around the beachfront for a place for children to play, there's not a lot. They seem to use more ground for car parks than for play areas. As a rule at Christmas time there is a cricket game that goes on pretty late. I'd like to see more grass, there is too much traffic.
D.W. So you think some more forward planning is needed?
P.O. They have to do something about the traffic, I tried to get the Council to extend to fence, down to the footpath the kids play football or cricket and hit the ball over and the children run onto the road, and one day someone will get hurt.
D.W. So gone are the days of the open space you remember?
P.O. That's right. When you came here, you never went anywhere, the tent went up and the car stayed here till you went back to Brisbane. You went fishing at Marlow Hole, at Shelly Beach.
D.W. So the good old life as you knew it Peter, has certainly changed?
P.O. The only other problem is they will have to do something about dogs, there are too many dogs, not on leashes.
D.W. Did you think the old Landsborough Council, might of cared a bit more?
P.O. They certainly cared. The Councillors were retired people. What I think has happened to council, there are too many on top and not enough out doing the work.
D.W. You worked with Australia Post and Telecom, are you surprised about the change in technology?
P.O. We have seen a lot, with mobile phones that sort of thing.
D.W. Did you ever imagine that those sorts of things would come in?
P.O. Well I think I could as they happened gradually.
D.W. Did you have the phone on here at Moffat and Dicky? P.O. Yes, we got the phone on in 1960.
D.W. Can you recall Sir Frank Nicklin?
P.O. Yes, I knew him well, I used to deliver telegrams to him as a kid. Then later when I was in the North Caloundra Association, he used to come and lecture us.
D.W. Did you help your mum quite a bit?
P.O. I was like most kids not very responsible.
D.W. Thank you Peter for you time.