Wally Warner

Wally was a Royal Life Saver and the Warner family lived at Mooloolah

Wally Warner

Interview with: Walter (Wally) Warner

Date of Interview: 18 April 1997 and 18 September 1997

Interviewer: Dianne Warner

Transcribers: Kim Gough and Beth Tucker Paul

Walter (Wally) Warner was a Royal Life Saver. The Warner family lived at Mooloolah. Wally's mother was the gatehouse keeper at Mooloolah Railway Station. He learnt to swim in "Hell Hole" Mooloolah. The family moved to Cooroy in 1929 and he became a lifesaver at Noosa. Walter and Una Warner (nee Fenwick) resided at Fenwicks Mill site, where the new Cooroy Library is located.

Image credit: Walter Warner one of the original lifesavers to patrol Kings Beach at Caloundra in 1927. Pictured in 1999.


Wally Warner oral history part one [MP3 44MB]

Wally Warner oral history part two [MP3 6MB]

Wally Warner oral history part three [MP3 28MB]


Tape 1/Side 1

DW What is your full name?

WW Wally Warner

DW Did you arrive in this area or were you born in Cooroy?

WW Arrived here from Mooloolah.

DW From Mooloolah, and what year was that?

WW Arrived in 29th January 1929.

DW 29th January 1929 and you were born in Mooloolah?

WW No I was born in Brisbane.

DW You were born in Brisbane. Whereabouts were you born in Brisbane?

WW I was born in Brisbane, but later, I was living at Mooloolah at that time…

DW At what time Wal?

WW At the time I was born I was living in ????? But I was born in Brisbane.

DW Oh, I see, and when did you come to this area, Cooroy?

WW I lived in Mooloolah from 1912 to 1929.

DW From 1912 to 1929, can you remember anything about Mooloolah in those days? Can you describe what Mooloolah was like?

WW A quiet town they had a butcher shop, a baker shop, a hotel and a blacksmith shop

DW Do you remember any of the names of the people that owned those shops?

WW People named Lock owned the hotel.

DW Lock.

WW Jones owned the shop. I can’t think of the others names, but I went to

school in Mooloolah.

DW You went to school at Mooloolah, do you remember the names of your teachers?

WW Henderson, one teacher was Mr Henderson

DW What year would that be? How old were you then?

WW Oh well he was my teacher right throughout my school days

DW In Mooloolah?

WW Yes

DW What sorts of facilities were available in Mooloolah?

WW A railway station

DW A railway station, and did the train come everyday?

WW The train came through everyday; it was the train to Brisbane.

DW Did you have any sort of mod cons, did you have electricity at your home?

WW Oh no there was no electricity in those days.

DW How was that? How many children did your mother have?

WW There were four of us

DW Four children

WW Three boys and one girl and we lived at the Mooloolah gatehouse.

DW At the gatehouse?

WW My mother looked after the railway gates, my father worked on the railway line.

DW I see, your mother looked after the railway gates. And what was her name?

WW Mary Warner

DW And your fathers name?

WW George

DW George Warner. And what was your mother’s maiden name?

WW Sandys

DW So the area that you grew up in at Mooloolah was near the railway, and then you moved to Cooroy?

WW Yeah

DW What did they do in Cooroy?

WW Well my father worked in the railways

DW Yes

WW And I did odd jobs around the place.

DW So how old were you when you left school?

WW I left school when I was fourteen, fourteen and a half.

DW Yes, and what sort of odd jobs? Was that for the railways or just around town?

WW No, just round about on farms, just odd jobs.

DW Yes

WW Until I went and worked at the railway, I started work on the railway line. In 1948 I joined the railway. I worked at the sawmill during the war years.

DW You did what?

WW I worked in the sawmill all during the war years

DW I see

WW I was cutting army orders.

DW Cutting army orders in Cooroy sawmill. Is this the sawmill that’s right next to your house now?

WW The sawmill here, yes

DW I see

WW It was only a small mill then

DW It was only a small mill? Who owned that mill?

WW Originally it was owned by Una’s parents, they owned it originally

UW Fenwick started it

UW In 1912

DW That’s your parents?

UW Yes

DW And they were from Gympie?

UW Really they were New South Wales people

DW Yes

UW They moved from New South Wales up to here.

DW Yes, so the Fenwick’s started the mill in Cooroy?

UW Yes in 1912

DW 1912. And Mrs Warner what’s your full name?

UW Una Ethel Eva Warner.

DW Una

UW Fenwick

DW So you were Ethel Eva Fenwick. And if you don’t mind me asking, your date of birth?

UW March the 18th 1916.

DW 1916. What were your mother and father’s names?

UW Mum was Sivyer

DW Sivyer, s-i-v-y-e-r

UW That’s right

DW And what was her first name?

UW Ida

DW Ida Sivyer

UW Ida Sivyer, and dad was Walter Fenwick

DW And your father was Walter Fenwick.

UW They came from New South Wales

DW Whereabouts in New South Wales?

UW Oh, round the Bangalow area

DW I see. They came to Cooroy. Did they have mills before they settled in Cooroy?

UW No, no they were dairy people down in Bangalow.

DW Dairy farming?

UW Yes dairying.

DW When they came to Cooroy was the mill a success for them?

UW Yes

DW It was

UW It has never looked back since, during the depression it did. The Fenwick’s didn’t own it then. But during the depression when was the depression? 1936-38 it was slowed up a bit.

WW The depression started about 1929.

UW The war made it, the war came and the war made it, it built up again.

WW The depression was about 19….the depression actually started in 1926 I think to about 1929

UW Oh no, not then I’d remember it

DW It was just before the Second World War was it?

UW Yes, World War Two made the mill

DW Yes

UW It has never looked back since

DW And what were the conditions like during the Great Depression?

WW The Great Depression?

DW What were the conditions like in Cooroy in the Great Depression?

WW Terrible

UW Bad

WW They were worse then than they are now.

UW No work

DW No work at all?


WW Nothing

DW And like yourselves living here I guess it wouldn’t have been town then, but close to the town, how did you survive? Did you have a cow?

UW We always had house cows

WW In those days you always had your house cow and your garden

UW We did

DW Yes, and chooks

UW Yeah, all that.

DW So you would have had more land here then in order to have that cow?

UW Fenwick’s owned from that top house way down right round

DW What do you mean by that? Where do you mean?

UW Well there is about four houses up here

DW Yes

UW Right to that boundary, right away back right away down there right down towards the creek away along the railway line.

DW To the railway line. How many acres do you think that would have been?

UW How many acres, that was the area. Fenwick’s owned all that.

DW I see

UW See, then these houses were built.

DW When you married you moved to this house at 5 Mary River Road?

UW Oh, no


UW We moved into different houses over Cooroy and then we moved to live in Nanango

WW Nanango for about four years

UW And we were in Amamoor

DW In Amamoor

UW And my mother was so sick we came back

DW Your mother was sick?

WW I worked in the mill over there at Fenwick’s.

UW That brought me back

WW Una’s mother got sick so we came back and I worked in the mill over here and stopped here till after the war was finished

UW That’s what brought us back

DW You stopped here until after the war was finished, you worked in the mill

WW Then I went to the railways in 1948

DW So when you came back to Cooroy that was it, you stayed on and lived here permanently? No more moving?

UW Yes we had to.

DW How was your mother did she get better?

UW She died in 1957

DW So that was some time later

UW Yes

DW So is this the original Fenwick home, this home here?

UW No, no this wasn’t the original Fenwick home it has gone. My Grandmother and Grandfather, mum and dad had to move in with Grandmother and Grandfather because she was so sick, she had nerves and she was so sick. No we didn’t pick up this until 1948.

WW We bought this place in 1948

UW See all that was happening next door

WW No, 1946 we bought this

UW And all that up there, all those houses were there then

DW What the houses next to you?

UW Yes

DW By 1948 they were all here

UW We bought this didn’t we in 1948 we owned right up to that lower house didn’t we?

WW 1946 we bought it

UW And we’ve sold those three allotments next to us.

DW You sold the three allotments

UW Yes

Tape 2/Side 1

Di We're resuming our interview on the 18th September 1997 with Wally and Una

Warner in Cooroy. Got anything to add there Wally.

WW Not necessarily, there a few members who lived in Cooroy who were surf life savers.

Di So we’ve got a list of the early members of the Cooroy life saving group. Was it a successful group, the ones who used to go to Noosa? Have you always had enough members at that club?

WW Oh yes, members used to come and go, but we always kept up enough members for patrol. Those around Sunshine Beach, we might have been a bit short at times, but we still did those.

Di You did those, and the Noosa club, was it where it is today.

WW We didn’t have a club house.

Di You didn’t have a club house, what year was that.

WW 1929 to 1936.

Di Did you have a tent like you had in Caloundra.

WW After the club opened at Sunshine Beach, they built a small club house there, a small club house and we used to have to walk from there across the sand tracks everyday. The trail was popular. On the weekends we used to get off at Tewantin. We travelled down over Christmas and Easter, we used to have to walk from Sunshine, across to Noosa and then walk back again.

Di Across the sand dunes.

WW Across the old road through. There was a road through to Sunshine Beach.

Di From Noosa.

WW From Tewantin.

Di Yes.

WW That road was there now, from transporting vegies that road was always there, but it was a big sandy one. You could go down the track, but you only had to push it back up again. Filled with sand.

Di So all the life savers would go by truck over to Noosa from Sunshine Beach.

WW When we patrolled, we used to have to walk back from Sunshine Beach.

Di How long would that take you, to go from there in those sorts of conditions?

WW Oh, it depends on how fast you walked I suppose.

Di Yeah, I guess so. And it was all trees and native wildlife.

WW Just a dirt road, that’s all. They provided land to be able to build a club house for us, to build a club house on.

Di At Sunshine Beach.

WW The club house is not on that piece of land where Sunshine Beach club is today.

Di So the land was definitely given to the club.

WW as far as we know or I know, because that’s where we built the club house, because members of the club built the club house themselves. Because I used to go and help build that clubhouse, so we used to stop there over Christmas and Easter.

Di You had facilities there to stay, beds and everything like that. Who would have supplied all of that timber for you to build the clubhouse?

WW I think the mill at Cooroy and Tewantin.

Di The mills, there was a mill at Tewantin was there?

WW Yeah.

Di Where was the mill at Tewantin Una?

UW Past the roundabout near Wallace House, out that way

Di Near Wallace House?

WW Wallace House, go out that way, past Wallace House going towards Doonan, is it?

Di Yes, its Eumundi Road.

WW Yes.

Di There was a mill there as well.

UW I don’t remember that one, but I remember the one out at Mackinnon Road., Mackinnon, out past Wallace House.

Di So Mackinnon Road out there.

UW Well that’s where there was a mill.

Di There was a mill there?

DW Was that a prosperous mill as well?

MW Well it wasn’t a big mill; it wasn’t as big as this town’s mill.

Di It wasn’t as big as the Cooroy mill?

UW No! It wasn’t as big as that. Oh, No.

Di How did the timber get to Cooroy mill.

WW Bullock teams and they came from everywhere.

UW All around the scrub area

Di All around the scrub.

UW All around West Cooroy, all around the place

WW They used to turn near here.

UW They came in past the butter factory

WW The high parts, you know where the fire engine is.

Di Yes.

UW That was the road, Maple Street.

MW Down the main street, past the toilets that are on Maple Street

MW And right into it the mill

MW And follow the railway line, turn round behind the fire station and follow the railway line.

Di I see.

MW (?)

WW (?)

Di Were the Americans were here somewhere at one stage during World War Two?

MW They were camped out on the Cooroy showgrounds.

Di They were camped on the showgrounds.

MW Yeah.

WW I don’t think the Americans?

MW The Victorians.

WW The Victorians camped on the showgrounds.

Di The Victorians.

MW I don’t think the Americans were here, The Victorians were.

WW The Victorians were here, but not the Americans, no.

Di Right, the Victorians. Do you remember what division they were?

WW No.

Di How many men would that have been out there.

UW No, we weren’t in that scene

WW They were coming and going all the time, you see.

Di The army you were saying……the war actually helped the mill get established, that they got lots of contracts.

MW It was broke……it was defunct until the war, they were selling timber…..the Fenwick’s didn’t own it then, the Bramfords owned it then and they were selling firewood.

WW The stragglers then bought it just before it.

MW The stragglers then bought it just as the war came and it boomed.

Di Just as the war came on.

MW It boomed, it’s never stopped since.

WW (?)

MW Yes, it’s never stopped since.

Di Yes, and that timber was taken by rail away from Cooroy Rail.

MW Rail, yes, yes.

WW The army picked up a lot of stuff too themselves, I think.

Di The army came in trucks.

WW They picked up some, but most of it went by rail.

Di Yes, by rail.

MW In my…. Fenwick’s day, it was two horses

Di Two horses.

UW And a German wagon, like a German wagon.

Di Yes.

MW It used to go out past the gate here.

Di Who would have been the person on the wagon? Where they local? Did the German wagon and the two horses belong to Fenwick’s Mill?

MW Yes, they belonged to the mill.

Di Who was the driver of that German wagon.

MW Jack Clark, I think, Jack Clark.

Di And he’s a local person.

MW Yes.

Di He had the two horses and he did it for years?

MW Yes, he did it for years

Di When would that have been, what period.

UW About nineteen….

WW 1920’s

MW 1920’s

WW In the twenties, yeah.

Di And the bullock wagons coming to town, when did they stop.

WW The bullock wagons must have stopped, just after the war started

MW Yes, before, before. Cliff used to drive the truck. My brother did.

Di Your brother.

MW Yes, he drove the truck.

Di He’s your older brother.

MW My twin brother.

Di Your twin brother.

UW He used to drive the truck into the yard.

WW That was in 1940.

UW It was long before the war stopped.

MW Oh, yes, no I’d say the thirties.

Tape 2/Side 2

Di Before that overhead bridge went in, there used to be gates there.

WW Gates, that’s right.

Di So you drove across there?

WW It should never have been shut. Emergency for the trucks. The trouble is you used to come down and be trying to cross at nine o’clock and there would be a train waiting.

Di Used to be good trains

WW He’d be waiting two or three hours before he could get across the railway crossing.

Di He would be cutting the road in half

? Yes that’s right.

WW It would be very awkward, you could be held up for hours.

? There are no goods trains now.

WW Tibby Jeynes wrote a poem about it.

Di Yes, yes, when Tibby Jeynes was a local poet. He wrote a poem about me too once.

UW He was good. He was good poor old Tibby.

Di Yes he had a lot of stories to tell didn’t he; he was a battler and a half.

WW He worked with my Dad once.

UW He had a sad life.

Di He did

WW He got belted by the Japanese

Di I read his memoirs, he gave the Library a copy of his memoirs.

WW I bought his book.

Di Yes, yes

WW He got so belted by the Japanese. It’s a wonder he lived as long as he did.

Di Can you recall, like in the summer months, you were saying that you couldn’t recall any major droughts or anything. So you being a good swimmer, did you take your children to the beach?

UW Camped a few times.

WW Camped a few times down there at a…

UW Not that much, not that much.

WW We used to camp there at Christmas time.

UW We’d have cars then.

Di So where did you camp, where would the tents and everything for camping be?

WW One time we camped at Noosa Heads, and at another time we camped near the life savers.

Di At Noosa Heads there, so did other people used to pitch there tents there too?

WW Tents all round.

Di Tents all along there.

WW All tents.

Di And when would that have been.

WW About the 1940’s.

UW In the 1940’s, and little shops down there you could buy you’re….

WW Grocery shops down there.

UW Not many, not many.

WW There were always shops down there.

UW Not like this day.

Di No, in Noosa. And what do you think of the changes in Cooroy now. You know things are changing at a rapid rate.

UW I don’t like the way the traffic’s changing. The driving, the driving.

Di Do you still drive Mrs Warner.

? Yes

Di And is that the only problem you think in the town at the moment, there’s lots more traffic or people.

UW Well I don’t like the crossing in front of Christensen’s fruit shop. I saw where they have got that sign. I came through yesterday, a police car followed me, a police car stopped for the people going across

Di Well, yes I suppose I stop for people going across too.

UW Yet my grand daughter said, “Grandma, if you do that and you get hit up the back, you are in trouble.

WW That’s what gets me, there’s a sign there, give way to the cars and they pull up. Tell them to go and see the council. Otherwise there is a double up.

UW See, well the police pulled up. I even watched them yesterday, the police pulled up for this person. She said I wouldn’t stop for a pedestrian, she said then that if you get hit in the back, then you’re in trouble.

Di When did you first join the library, the Noosa library.

WW Oh, the library.

Di The library I work for.

WW I wouldn’t know.

Di So did you join with the mobile library here, or before the days of the mobile library.

WW I think I joined at the mobile library.

Di When the mobile came to town, the blue bus that we had before the white bus.

WW As far as I know.

Di When you were in the life saving movement in Caloundra, were there any boats, did they have any boats that they used.

WW Life savers never used boats.

Di They didn’t have any boats

WW No, no, no such thing as boats.

Di What about ski’s.

WW No, no (chuckle)

Di Nothing like that

WW The only thing they had were belts

Di They only had the rescue belt.

WW When I left the life savers in 1936, there were no boats or ski’s anywhere.

Di No.

WW Now it’s all boats and ski’s isn’t it. Rubber duckies.

Di Yes, , fast ones at that Well we’ve talked about the Neptune Ladies, and you cant fill me in on any more?

WW I’ve heard of them, but never seem them.

Di You’ve heard of them. The women surf life savers had a lot of trouble trying to breaking through the male ranks. However, like you said, if women walked out of hotels they were in trouble, so I don’t know about these women in the bathing costume.

UW You weren’t allowed to go into hotel. I can still remember when women used to go to the saloon because you weren’t allowed in the public bar.

Di You probably wouldn’t want to go in there anyway.

UW No. If a woman was seen in the hotel she was classed as low.

Di The local men, is that where they all used to get together and have a yarn. When that would have been on a Friday night or Saturday night.

WW Saturday I suppose.

Di Who would have been the publican in those times. Would you drink over at this hotel where the hotel burnt down?

WW Mrs Roundtree

Di She was the licensee of the hotel. When was that?

WW Oh, that was back in 30’s. I don’t know who was the top pubs licensee The Victory?

Di So did it have a good atmosphere over there, any brawls Wal?

WW The pub never opened on a Sunday then.

Di That was when the Bruce highway cam through Cooroy, people wouldn’t stop along there for a refreshment?

WW On the Sunday, later on the Sunday if you travelled 70 miles you could have a drink.

Di It looks like we have been through most of everything. Thanks very much folks for sharing your memories with me today.

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