Dulcie Kelly - part 2

Dulcie was the daughter of Oliver Birrell, the Caloundra Lighthouse Keeper from 1918-1931. Dulcie lived on isolated Moreton Island until her family moved to Caloundra

Dulcie Kelly - part 2

Early in the piece, my sister wanted to learn music. Mr. Sleath was a friend of ours, Mr. Sleath of Sleath's Music Store. Remember important people used to come, Sleath's Music House. The first man to specialise in music, Mr. Howard Sleath.

AW: This is in Caloundra? He had a shop?

No, he had a tent. But he was known, he was a sociable man and he was a gifted violinist. Sometimes he would play for us.

AW: How old were you when he first started coming to Caloundra?

Oh, they were coming before we got there, the Sleath's, they had a tent.

AW: This is early 1900's?

He was an old man, but he had sons. Howard Sleath became a celebrated violinist. He lived at Mooloolaba and he died there not long ago.

AW: This is one of his sons?

His sons, an old man. He used to make violins.

AW: And he'd set up a tent?

But he still had to come for his mail and he had the gift of music in him and he'd hear my sister playing on the piano. We had the piano and she was always at it. She learned from Audrey King, once again, another King, the other family of King. She was a good pianist, my sister she learned all the basics, 'Ronde au' and 'Rustle of Spring', all those old little things that kids used to play, including some things from My Fine Day, but moving up the ladder ‑ she was good.

AW: So, Mr. Sleath would come up and he would hear her playing Humoresque and he couldn't stand it, she hadn't got much ear for how to play it. He would say, "That child, may I go in and speak to her?" Father would say, "Yes of course." He'd go and say, "Mr dear", or something like that, "you are not playing that correctly". And she would scowl at him and he would show her, he would pretend he had his violin or his hands. You know, “La la la. Life Happiness". And he'd lift his voice up to that pitch and she'd do it again dully. "No," he would say, "no, lift, lift". He would be at her, he couldn't stand it, you see, until he got her right.

AW: So he started giving her lessons, did he?

No, he wouldn't do that because she was being taught. No, he just gave her a few clues from his expertise, which he had inside him. He was a terrific violinist, like his son, who made violins.

AW: So when you said he had a tent, did he live in the tent all the time or he only travelled to Caloundra occasionally?

He opened his shop later. His first wife and he were poor, and he lived in a tent, but it was a comfortable tent.

AW: Whereabouts did they live?

Down near where the old beach was, halfway between Kings Beach and Bulcock Beach, halfway a little knoll that was sheltered. He could go down to the creek and get fresh water. There was a fresh water spring there; he'd get his water from that. Very comfortable little tent, I can remember it. Sometimes, we'd take down a thing for him that he'd left behind or we'd walk. He always gave us a soft drink, nice man, lovely man. And she was nice too, but she died and he married again; a bit more up the ladder. He had a shop, and on Sleath's Street, everything is called after him down in Redland Bay. Sleath's Street, he had a lovely home.

AW: He moved down to Redland Bay, did he?

Yes, he moved down in his retirement and his sons took over the Sleath's business, Howard and another one. Howard lived the longest and opened a violin making/repairing shop at Mooloolaba or Maroochydore, one of the two, where he lived and died in old age.

AW: You were telling me about entertainment, what did you do for entertainment?

Well, very little really except cards and the odd party which was in summer time, not winter? We were too cold to go out in winter, walking at night. The parties would be summertime when we could play outside, outside if it was a fine night. We couldn't go outside at Mrs Tilney's because her yard wasn't suitable. Mrs Tilney had a great big room which we could have games in, and the piano. Mrs Mackay had a tight little house and a big organ. But oddly enough, she had the funniest little house, but we had the happiest parties there. And our parties were pretty good too.

AW: What about alcohol, did you have alcohol at parties?

No, no alcohol.

AW: Well, the Hotel Francis.

There used to be rumours of Mr. Anderson. The ones lived near the Hotel; they were the only ones with access to a bit of liquor. If they had it in him, they secretly had a little toddy or two. They didn't brazen it forth.

AW: In those days alcohol was very low key?

Very low key, but Mr. Willie King had access to it and he didn't really know that he was really an alcoholic as time passed on. He used to be able to go to Landsborough Hotel and get into the store because he was a mailman. And he would come home laden with drink, you see. Much to Mrs. King's upset, but being a loyal wife she never made a thing of it. Mr. King himself, Mr. senior King had it in him too and he would do the same, much to Mrs. King's despair. They had that problem that they kept to themselves. Mr. King, Mrs. Rooke, a beautiful looking woman who had the problem herself, was always like a duchess but when she was indisposed she would have influenza or something, not come out. But these were all semi hidden, because it was rather disgraceful to be drunk.

AW: So it wasn't accepted by society?

No not to be drunk. My father of course, was a teetotaller, but he never condemned; he just shrugged his shoulders at that sort of thing, it didn't concern him.

AW: I 'd like to know a little bit more about the social distinction .

When we had parties, we asked the ones that we knew would be enjoying themselves with the visitors we had in our homes that were there, some reason for the party. There would be somebody, my brother would be home from Brisbane or my sister.

AW: What was your brother's name.

He was Charles Birrell, Charlie Birrell, and he was a wit. He had friends in the theatrical world, all this caused parties.

AW: So you would have interesting people visit your home?

Yes, interesting people would come and the Campbell's who taught music, loved to come, because it would get them out of their lonely little house, with no music, and they loved to sing for us. Their singing was a delight; they were champion singers and they taught us good music, but the rest of the party depended on games. And the games were all sorts of things, some of them came back to me and some didn't. But with Mr. Moreton's games, they only had a small room, we couldn't go outside and play and, somehow, we used to have the funniest games there. Poor pussy. Poor pussy would be: whoever was pussy would have to kneel in front of a lady. If you were a girl, you knelt down in front of a man, and you must make them laugh, it was as simple as that. You made them laugh by your antics, by your crawling and your smoothing of their knees.

AW: You'd be all dressed up with your silk stockings, wouldn't you?

Oh, the parties were not so important to dress up for. I couldn't have been in my time that I was incognito. I wouldn't go around with my brace on my back, but I seemed to be around.

AW: So this must have been in the early twenties?

Yes, it would have been in the early twenties.

AW: I read somewhere the other day about Moonlight Cruises.

Oh, that was me saying that too, because this was one of the things that came on a wee bit later, when Tom Maloney had these trips and the lifesavers had started coming up, somewhere in the early 1920's, the Metropolitan Lifesavers. We had men in our midst.

AW: And you weren't used to that?

We were trying to entertain them, all of us.

Coupling in Caloundra: Moonlight cruises

AW: So Caloundra was really a population of young women?

Well, they didn't have sons, the elite, they didn't have any sons, they had daughters. Even the Hotel keeper later had two daughters.

AW: So a young man would come into Caloundra and there would be a handful of young women dying to meet him.

Oh yes, and one did come too, and was he beautiful. Jean and I won him. We played tennis, you see. Ian Campbell, he was in one of the banks, he was so good looking, he was like David Niven only a little bit more severe looking than whimsical, but he was lovely. So handsome and beautifully turned out with his creams and his nice hands and his gentle way, I've got lots of photos with him in it. There's one where he is holding my hand on a rock, dressed up as always and we were in long dresses. I must have recovered by then, I must have been about 15 or 16, because we took a great deal of notice and they loved being with us, the two men, he and his friend. They went everywhere with us, the whole fortnight they were there.

AW: And all the other women were envious?

Envious, yes. We'd won the round. Jean had the other one and I had the good looking one because he thought I was so pretty.

AW: You were going to tell me about Tom Maloney's Moonlight Cruises.

Well, when we went up through the Passage, that would be half a crown for Tom Maloney's moonlight trip, it would have to be at moonlight. The Baldwin boys would come from Mooloolah. Jean's friends, the Verney boy and the lifesavers and the Clarke’s if anyone cared to come. Somehow we would have quite a rash of young fellows and there were enough girls even if you knew you were going. But they were great, because you'd get there on the boat to the old lighthouses, of which the first one was only a hop, step and jump from the water.

AW: This is at Bribie?

Yes, this is the big one. The other one was too far to go. We didn't go over there; it was a bit lonely. We stayed at the first lighthouse, we had a place to boil the billy there and a big stump to put our food on. Our picnic was really toast and cakes, rainbow cakes and pikelets.

AW: By full moon?

By full moon, the older people would love to go because there is a chance to chat and to bring a picnic basket, but fathers didn't go. Mr. Rinaldi, Mr. Mackay and my dad, wouldn't be seen dead, none of them. None of the people from the top of the hill either, so it was just a little clique that went.

AW: So would you all sing songs?

Yes, we'd sing to the mouth organ and sing any song we could think of. Tom Maloney had a pleasant singing voice and so did one of the Baldwin's; they could lead the singing. And Audrey could sing and Mrs. King couldn't sing, but anyway she didn't go. She had small children.

AW: So was that the "Waterhen" you used to go on?

No, that was the "La Rita".

AW: Right, that's one of Mr. Maloney's boats.

Yes, that was Tom Maloney's favourite boat, the 'La Rita', it couldn't go outside. It was only a shell of a boat. It had a flat poop deck that we would all sit on and ladies down below with their baskets would sit down below. We'd sit up on deck. If you had a date of any kind you couldn't do any harm, but they would give you a few kisses on the deck. That's about all. And the games would be a chance, because they would play "Kiss me Charlie" and of course, that was a great one because it was up to you. It was twice around the lighthouse, if you could catch her. And of course, if she wanted to be caught she could easily fall over something. And she's caught.

AW: Did you ever fall over?

Oh, I was always last. Nobody wanted me, I was too young anyway. They wanted somebody a bit older than me. Jean was popular and so was one of the Maleny girls and I think the Clarke girl, can't think of too many girls that went. No, there weren't that many that could fit on the boat. Then our own parties would go on, but they didn't go any later than midnight at the latest. They would always include visitors. So therefore, we were making ourselves agreeable for the visitor’s sake. We nearly all included visitors except on a rare occasion, like when it would be somebody's birthday. We didn't have any weddings, no weddings.

AW: You don't remember any weddings in Caloundra?

No. They went elsewhere to get married. Later on when we left, they must have got married there later on. There was a church built and eventually the Church of England came and the Catholic Church got built. But many years later, before they even attempted to do it, they left us in the lurch, the lot of them. It was only the poor old Methodists. Our last Minister to my knowledge was the most interesting of all Rev. John, I think, or Peter Kingsford Smith, cousin of the Kingsford Smith man. The services were held by the church minister coming two or three parishes in a day, riding a horse.

AW: Did religions play a big role in your lives in those days?

Oh yes. We enjoyed going to church and I got to know all the hymns Isobel Mackay taught us Sunday School, and she was wonderful. Everyone loved Sunday School. She died young unfortunately, Jean's sister. A redheaded nurse and she started the first Sunday School and the first little plays. It's a shame she had to go.

AW: So you had a play group in Caloundra? A theatre group?

Only if she got it up. Mr. Eaton was a bit inclined that way too. Mr. Eaton got up when I was a maid; I had to serve afternoon tea on the stage. So that was the only one I clearly remember, because I was definitely in it, instead of being on the sideline. I was a maid, I had to come in and say something. The other one was leading an organ and Mr. Alexander, he gave us an organ, he gave the school/church an organ and Isobel used to play that. Then they bought one for themselves that was two organs. So our religion was quite thorough. I can tell people out of the Bible now much more than they can tell me. So we must have learned it. There is one passage in the Bible that I clearly remember that often comes to me that when a person boasts is when the Minister must have told us quite forcibly ‑ "Do not boast of what you will do, you are not in charge of your life, you only think you are".

Part Three

AW: These are the Laxton family, they were poor.

They were very poor. Their clothes were made out of anything they could grab.

AW: What did Mr. Laxton do?

He was a kind of fisherman's help. She had quite a lot of children, at least four; they went to school. Their clothes were made sometimes from the flour bags, the name boiled out.

AW: Is this when you were still at school?

Yes. People used to help them a bit. They were sorry for them.

AW: Dulcie, I'd like to get back to early Caloundra, when you first moved there as a child and talk to you about the transport up the Passage. Now being a lighthouse keeper's daughter you would have known a lot about Pumicestone Passage and the lighthouses on Bribie.

Well, we had no other choice; we couldn't go easily any other way, because few people took on the long journey to Brisbane in the car. It was tedious; it was dangerous and too long. It was happier and more pleasant to go on whatever boat from Caloundra you happened to get onto, such as Tripconys or Maloney's. To go on the Koopa, you'd have a civilised ride to Brisbane and land at the Custom House.

AW: How long would it take for you to go down?

All day. You'd leave at nine o'clock in the morning and you'd have lunch at Bribie.

AW: Whereabouts on Bribie? Oh, you would go across on a small boat.

No, we went to Bribie on a big boat from Caloundra, the Karibri or the Grace. And we'd leave him there, or he'd go home to Caloundra; he might have gone straight away to catch the tide. But we'd have some fish or something, must have been something to eat there because we ate, little shop to eat. Then we'd go on the Koopa about three o'clock and in about two or three hours we were home at the Custom House, and we'd have a nice journey.

Brisbane Visits

AW: And where would you stay when you came down to Brisbane?

Boarding Houses. We weren't hotel people. A succession of boarding houses, homely places that took casual boarders like us, a little family in one room. Cheap accommodation, kind people.

AW: So you'd just come down to Brisbane and do some shopping?

And we'd do shopping; we'd get excited about going to go out every night to the pictures and visiting people. All the ones that we'd entertained, that we could possibly visit, and we visited whether they liked it or not. We rang them up and they seemed reasonably pleased to see us. One of them was a dentist, Norden, down the road here; the Nordens would play tennis. And we became very good friends and when I came to Brisbane I looked up the Nordens and she said, "You must join our tennis club". So I joined the Norden's tennis club and came over to East Brisbane every Thursday.

AW: From where?

From Ashgrove. In two buses, I'd go to Norden's tennis club and won those pretty little things in tennis tournaments.

AW: Did you ever play tennis in Caloundra?

Oh yes, all the time.

AW: Whereabouts were their tennis courts?

We played at Allan Water's court mainly, because it was more interesting.

AW: What sort of court was it?

Ant bed. That was a good court, a very good court. Gar Moon himself had played there. Gar Moon was a celebrated champion of the day.

AW: A tennis player.

A tennis player, yes. Like the big shots of today. Interesting fellow, dark. He had no one good enough to play with, but he brought his tennis down to our level.

AW: So he would holiday at Caloundra.

Yes. Glad to have a game.

AW: So you'd play at where?

Always at Allan‑Waters court. But later on, in the last two years, the opening of that as was seen in Jean's photo, where it said, Mr. Tytherleigh, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Allan King; the opening of the new public tennis court.

AW: Whereabouts was that?

Down at Kings, in front.

AW: Kings Grand Central.

Yes, just where the Perle Hotel is.

AW: Did Kings Grand Central Boarding House own that tennis court or was it public?

It was on public land; it was just outside their grounds. Just where the ambulance is now, exactly.

AW: Was that an ant bed court?

It was a decent court, yes, it was a public court. You paid to play on it, but it was nothing. Sometimes we felt we ought to patronise that one more because it was further away than we liked. We liked going to Allan‑Waters at afternoon tea and everything, boarders. But it was right to patronise the public court too. So we went and played there and I'd ride my pony there.

AW: Would you get all dressed up in your whites?

Oh yes, we got dressed in white and had stockings on, never bare legs, ever.

AW: Why not?

We didn’t have bare legs.

AW: Why not?

We didn't have low necks either. We dressed in dresses that covered us. We didn’t have bare legs, not when we went out; only at home.

AW: Why was that? You were regarded as unladylike?

Yes, it wasn't lady‑like to go out among people with bare legs. And then even the Miss Lewis' and Miss Beasley, coming for their mail, would have stockings on. And hats, big hats, all of us. The Westaways particularly had enormous hats; wonder you didn't see them in that.

AW: What the hats, they were for practical reasons of keeping the sun off.

They were for practical reasons because ladies didn't have coarse brown skin. Ladies had fine white skin like the English, if you could do it.

AW: So, if you had a sun‑tan you were regarded as being...

too brown.

AW: And what, lower class?

No, not lower class. She'll be sorry, she'll be all frizzled up before she's forty, and we were. Well, not me, but the others. The hatless ones were all shrivelled up at forty, nothing to look at, none of them. You see they were right. Given time, your skin will deteriorate with sunburn. My sister had a beautiful skin till she died.

AW: And she always wore a hat?

And even in bowls, she wore a hat and had protective cream from the doctor, in the finish. She was very careful of her skin. I'm not so careful of course; I do nothing to perfection, nothing. So if I was out, I was out and that was the end of it. So, I'm a bit more wrinkled and a bit more shrivelled up than she was.

AW: Getting back to being a lady, what was a lady like?

Doing the correct thing that we were supposed to do, not swear, not take a drink until we didn't know what we were doing, and not to play up to the boys and touch them. Nowadays, girls touch boys all the time, they touch them any bit they can reach. Watched a girl the other night. The man was playing his violin, she was at the edge of his elbow, the edge of his tunic, and she had to touch him somewhere. She was definitely gone on him. She had to show him.

AW: So in the old days a lady..?

Didn’t touch her man. Not publicly, never.

AW: So how would you let a young man know that you were interested?

By your eyes. And your little shut‑down smiles. I saw one do it beautifully, flutter. She didn't marry him, but she showed him she liked him well enough.

AW: How?

By demureness. And just being there smiling sweetly and casting her eyes down, saying gentle little things. I always remember that, it was something like 'I'm glad that you told me' little nice gentle things. At least those were the lady‑like ones; I don't know what the others did.

AW: So who taught you these lady‑like things?

Oh, your aunts and your elders. You know, by hearing them talking, 'She was no lady.'

AW: Who’s this?

That's what they'd talk about some of them. 'She was no lady'. We had one small time prostitute there, whom we were never allowed to get in touch with.

AW: In Caloundra?


AW: And her clientele, who would go to see her?

The more outgoing of the community. She'd come up for the mail, in silk. She was rather nice, poor little beggar.

AW: And where did she live?

She seemed to live alone.

AW: But did she have a house?

Yes, she had a house. For all intents and purposes, she was holidaying. But the word got around. There were two or three of the older ones that used to come visiting, like the Clarkes and that. They were seen going near her place, but no one found out anything deeply about her and of course, I suppose starved out, and she left. She was quite nice.

AW: When you say starved out?

She wouldn't have had many contacts, they would be too afraid of being known. But she was definitely known to take money.

AW: Were the women of the town of Caloundra at the time, did they ostracize her?

Yes. More or less. The ladies didn't speak to her.

AW: How did your mother treat her?

She just never came in contact with the poor thing. She'd come up for her mail, father didn't have to even smile, so that was no different to him.

AW: When was this? Was this before you had polio?

Oh no, we were still there. It would be after I took up to living again and I was about fourteen.

AW: So that's about 1926?

Yes, the mid-twenties when things were changing. And we even had a lady like that. And another lady came, a widow from Brisbane, she was a hard case, Mrs Illidge, her daughter was at the reunion. And she said, "Come on now, where are all your bachelors? I'm a widow. I don't lie about being a widow, where are all your bachelors?" And they all laughed, because she was outgoing, and they said, "There's the Honourable Campbell." "How old is he? Too old, too old, what about anyone else?" "Mr. Illidge." "What's he got?" "A house, Mr. Illidge had a house; his wife had been dead for two years" "Oh, that sounds a bit better, anyone else?" They couldn't think of anyone. Tom Maloney, oh you'll never get him, he's a will o' the wisp. She was too old too. So she fastened latches on Mr. Illidge. And she played the ukulele to him. She sang a little tune; he became besotted in no time and married her.

AW: So she moved to Caloundra with the sole purpose of finding a husband?

Yes, and got one.

AW: That must have been something unusual in those days because Caloundra was so small.

Yes, well she went away to get married; they went away. They didn't get married in Caloundra that I know of. But he brought her home to a big house and she did it up and she gave afternoon teas and she was quite a sociable woman and everyone liked her.

AW: It sounds like the whole day seemed to evolve around lunch and afternoon tea.

Not supper so much, we didn't revolve around supper because they would come to see us at night and play cards. But the trouble of going home in the dark, and it often was raining, deterred most people from going out at night unless we were going to a party. The party would get us to go; we would all go if we were asked.

The Prince of Wales visits

AW: Do you remember when the Prince of Wales visited the Sunshine Coast?

Well, he didn't come to Caloundra, as I've said. We had to go to Landsborough, where Mrs. Ruby Rooke trained us on how to behave in front of the Prince, should he look down at us. And hand him carefully, into his left hand because his right hand was sick and tired of holding anything. He did everything with his left hand; he was resting his right hand.

AW: Why’s that?

Because he was worn out with handshakes.

AW: Shaking?

His right hand was quite sprained and we were told to make anything go to his left hand and not embarrass him, which we did. He looked down and smiled and said, "Thank you very much, they are beautiful".

AW: Now, who's we?

Well, my sister and I, Phyllis and I, with a great big bunch of perfect blossoms of baronia.

AW: Where did you get the baronia from?

From the plains, a special trip to the plains to get fresh and thick baronia for the Prince. Where the airport is. They were the plains they wrecked, to build the airport. And the baronia went forever. One of my older photos, I've got these two big bunches of baronia and there were visitors who had a car. And they all would get in and they took a photo to send back, because they couldn't take baronia, except by pressing some. And in this dear old photo, I remember them quite well, for a long time. Jean and I, we took afternoon tea and we sat on the edge of the car, and they had these big bunches of Boronia all of them.

AW: And did you get all dressed up?

It was winter time by the look of our clothes. We didn't go out so much in winter, but these were visitors at Caloundra House. And they wanted the baronia. So we gave the Prince Baronia when he came, because it was the most colourful of flowers. What he did to them heaven knows, but they were our wild flowers.

AW: So he came in August, 1920?

Well, I was still pretty young, under seven.

AW: And he stopped?

He had a whistle stop at Landsborough, where he was welcomed officially by the council people. Anyone high up or the member of the district, done the usual things he had to do, shake hands, be shown something, given this small present and away he went, another whistle stop.

AW: So did you actually talk to him?

Oh yes, he looked down on us and said those few words that he had to. "Thank you very much. What wild flowers are they?" Perhaps, he might have said, because we were told to say: They are wild Boronia, Sir". I don't think we made a very wonderful fist of it, but we tried. And no one took our photo, that I kept, pity. I had no record of that, but they laughed and said: "You won't wash your hands, he shook hands with you".

AW: So, you have shaken hands with the Prince of Wales.

That's what we thought about afterwards. We did shake hands with him. But it was all thanks to Mrs Rooke, who I always was very fond of, because she took an interest in lives like that. And when I'd go to Caloundra and stay, which I did once or twice, on my own. She saw that I had my meal nice and hot and we'd have the scones that she'd make for me, kiss me goodbye. And I visited her every time I went to Caloundra after that, and I remember saying to her, "You know everything, why don't you write it down so that people can know what you know. None of us will ever know about the old hotel and life." And she says, "Why should I?" I said, "Well, because no one will ever know” She said, "Well, let them find out for themselves," she cried and laughed.

AW: This is Mrs. Rooke?


Caloundra Wildflowers

AW: You were telling me about the wild flowers near where the present Caloundra airport is.

Christmas bells were different from the wild flowers. The wild Boronia grew on the plains, where the airport is. They didn't grow so lush anywhere else, but there. They grew lush there, and the Bachelors Buttons and the wild may and the curly foxtails, the curly bushes. Mainly, bachelor buttons, wild may, some yellow flowers and the Boronia.

AW: I understand a lot of tourists used to go to Caloundra solely to see the wild flowers. Do you remember if there were many travellers?

I saw once a car in town, and he opened the bonnet and it was full of thieved wild flowers and thieved Boronia and Christmas bells. All done up in parcels and packets to sell. He was selling them; he had a market for the Christmas bells. He shouldn't have, they were never allowed to be sold indiscriminately.

AW: But it wouldn't be unusual for residents to go and pick a bunch.

Oh, well they would be residents, they couldn't pick that many. But this man had a car boot full. I remember thinking at the time, he's a cheat, he was only pretending to be a tourist, and he’s selling them. Shouldn't have done that, he'd stripped them. Eventually, they got less and less. Even before the airport came they'd gone.

AW: And when did the airport come?

Not long ago. About ten years.

AW: So when do you think that the wildflowers started to diminish?

Kathleen McArthur, she knows all about it. She strived desperately to protect them. She's painted them all for Christmas cards and pictures around Caloundra and bought them. And she knows the life and death of the wildflowers.

AW: For example, in the time you were in Caloundra...?

They were going, they were even going then.

AW: Why?

Because people were picking them too much and building houses near them. Trampling over them, going places. Wildflowers or oysters, anything like that, know when man comes. And man destroys everything gradually, sometimes hollis bollis, but when man comes and builds, makes roads ‑ the wildflowers go. And the oysters go.

AW: Talking about the oysters. Do you remember Mr. Clark's Moreton Bay Oyster Company?

He would have had it, yes. They would have had oysters. The rocks around Kings Beach had lots of oysters, and Shelly Beach, not Moffat Head so much. Oddly enough they had cowries, but they didn't seem to have that many oysters. The oysters were around Kings Beach, they are still there in small quantities. There are people who can find the odd rock oyster there; they are well worth eating at low tide.

AW: They are still there now?

They are still there, but very small and not many. People have had a pick at them with a stone or something that breaks them. But within the last twenty years they've gone, but before that they could have got their quota in oysters, even then. But the Christmas Bells went a long time ago, ever since they built that road to Mooloolah. That road to Mooloolah from Caloundra, the bridge. They were safe till then, they had Moffat Beach and they had the Lake, up the top there, Lake Currimundi. That was protected by no bridge, so they grew in that plain there, but now it's a public place, with a bridge and men, they've all gone.

AW: As children did you go walking wholly or solely to see the wild life.

No, we'd have to have transport, it was three miles. We didn't walk that far. We had horses or cars, one of them. No, I don't know when ‑ she would know, she said she knew where Christmas bells still grew in grottos and plains between Meridan and Palmwoods. But I doubt if they would be there now, she wouldn’t know. They've gone. And they are not a big wildflower on Moreton, they are not big there at all, they never have been. But Moreton has the one thing that we never had, the Wedding Bush, the Bridal Bush. And we've never had that.

AW: At Caloundra?

No, it's a sandy island thing mainly. I was surprised when they told me it does grow on other places. To me it was only Moreton, doesn't even grow on Stradbroke. But Allister Milser, he runs the paper, he’s president. He's found out that it does grow on other islands, but I didn't know that. It's most prolific on Moreton.

Caloundra Depression Years

AW: We are into the twenties now in Caloundra. The depression, how did it hit Caloundra? Say in the late twenties.

News was coming from Brisbane that jobs were getting shorter and shorter, my brother eventually got out of work. That's how it hit us. He was writing to say the irons in the fire. He had a trade, which others didn't have. He was a fitter and turner, but it didn't do him any good. The work got shorter and shorter about 1930 when we were leaving.

AW: What was your brother's name?

He was Charles. He was named after the Welsh Minister we had in the family. Charles Birrell. The name was spelled Welsh in those days. You see, it was a Welsh name.

AW: Birrell is?

And the Reverend Charles Birrell, my brother was named after. So he was out of work and he really suffered. Contrary to these days when the Government pays them a living, pittance. He got nothing that was either of use to him. He had to have handouts from somewhere to survive.

AW: What about the people in Caloundra itself, were they hard taken?

They must have been, but as you had your fish and food, they didn't depend on outside work so much.

AW: Did you have many travelling people, homeless people, going through Caloundra?


AW: Why do you think that was?

Because there was nothing much there to do, you see. Boarding houses had their families. Stores had their wives and sons. Fisher folk had their big families. There were no more Government jobs only just like cutting the wood. The bakery had his wife. There was no employment there. The boarding house might have had the odd waitress.

AW: But I would have thought it would have been a good place to go when there's no employment, just to survive, because there always the sea food.

Yes. They survived there, the leading example was the lifesaver, the good looking lifesaver, Captain Ivan and Les Soden who married the beautiful beauty; Walsh, from Landsborough's daughter, Maureen, Miss Brisbane. Two of the best looking sorts you could ever see. But they were stricken with the depression and they got a tent, or a little cottage they built out of nothing and they brought up their one beautiful child there because it was cheap. That wasn't because he wasn't an educated man, or her, but they could get no work. So they lived there, the poor things, very cheaply. Might have done something for their living, she might have done some work for a clerk or something. Wasting their talents because they were broke.

AW: What about economics at the time. Can you remember any news coming through in the newspapers?

Well, we got the paper every day in the finish I think. After all we must have moved to getting a paper. We didn't get anything any more than three times a week, before. But after all we had about thirty odd subscribers or more by that time.

AW: When you say subscribers, what do you mean?

Families. We had a butcher and a baker and a church and cars.

Part Four

Change begins in Caloundra 1930s

AW: In the late twenties, Caloundra started changing, how?

Well, because more people opened up a living there and started to live there. The old homes changed hands. The Bulcocks old home changed and went to a doctor. The Cilentos left, with their family that became another place. Mrs. Lamb left and the Green solicitors moved in. The baker changed and the Alderdices came. The Hotel changed two or three times. Allan‑Waters was going fine. Mr. Rinaldi had competition, I think even an ambulance popped up.

AW: This is in the late twenties, or 1930?

I think we had a policeman, who was obliged to come from Landsborough anytime he was wanted. We even had a doctor coming now and again.

AW: But you didn't have a resident doctor?

We had a hospital, came later.

AW: When was that?

It was up on top of the hill.

AW: No, when?

Gee, when was it indeed?

AW: Was that before you left Caloundra?

No after. The hospital came much later. The matron and the doctor had a racial war. One or the other didn't want black babies.

AW: In the hospital?

Yes. I have an idea it was the matron. They were at bitter tongues over it, writing letters and all about it. Eventually, the hospital folded up altogether. They couldn't agree to differ. So the hospital folded up.

AW: So, this is in the early forties.

Yes. It was going well until they fought over the babies. There were a lot of aboriginals moved into Caloundra then, up at Golden Beach. Cheap living up there shacks. And they had to have babies and she wouldn't have them. That was a bit unfair, but I suppose that was that. The doctor was probably from Maleny. Maleny comes into Caloundra great deal more, law and police and hospitals and doctors all come from Maleny.

AW: They had to come all that way? So if there was an accident, how would you let the doctor in Maleny know that you needed some help?

Well, you would be taken somehow to Landsborough, or Maleny Hospital.

AW: And what, you'd ring up?

Oh yes. They'd be helped; after all there was a taxi service of sorts, a paid service, if you were that sick. I don't remember how I got with my broken arm and all. My mother was often sick, but we'd just go to Brisbane. But the policeman would come every now and again; my father had to call on a policeman. And he would come, he had to come.

AW: What would your father need to call a policeman for?

An accident on the bay, a drowning. Identifications, bodies. We had two or three and a suicide off Moffat Head. The drowning was Carseldine’s and Matt from Sandgate. There's a cross on Bribie, halfway up where the drowning of young people on Bribie; one taking the other. That is denoted by a cross with the names on it, of the young men who died. And the suicide was best forgotten, evidently. He was staying, I think at the hotel, over Moffat Head.

Rapkins take over the Caloundra lighthouse

AW: Who was the person who took over the lighthouse after your father left.

Mr. Rapkins; he had a family of a couple of daughters and a wife.

AW: Who was Mr. Powell?

He was in between, awaiting I think. No, the Rapkins took over from us. Mr Powell was there too, but he didn't last long. But then I've lost track of when the post office was moved from our house to a small post office, down where it is now, in the backyard there. This big post office was built with a lot of bally‑hoo. The best part of fifty years ago now.

AW: And you remember that?

Except that I didn't see it built, but the little post office, Rapkins was still in it. Don't know when Mr. Powell got into the act. He had a pretty daughter called Beryl. But he wasn't long a post master, not long at all.

AW: Was the mail affected. In 1927, there was a big railway strike, do you remember that?

There was a big disaster at Traveston. The worst railway disaster they'd ever had

AW: What happened?

Trains crashed into one another and killed a lot of people at Traveston. But if there was a big rail strike, and we never got any mail, we'd just have to put up with it, wouldn’t we? There was nothing we could do about it.

AW: Would the mail have come up by boat, up the Passage?

No, I don't think so.

AW: It would always go by the mail train?

The franchise of the railway man who had to deliver the mail to the mail man, you know the carrier in Caloundra, which was each in turn, Mr. King. Mr. Mackay and Frank Rooke. And Allan‑Waters, Ken Allan‑Waters had it too.

AW: So they had the contract to deliver the mail to the post office?

Ken Allan‑Waters came into the picture much later. He wasn't an identity, although colourful figure. He wasn't ever a real identity, he was a soldier alright. The first World War too, but no one got the truth out of him.

AW: About what?

Whether he had a pension, he always seemed to have pocket money, he said he had a good pension, I don't know. He told so many lies. But he managed to get two lovely cars, an Oldsmobile and a Hudson. Whether his sisters gave him the money.

AW: This is Allan‑Waters?

Yes, they never married, the two sisters, and they were devoted to their brother. They made money out of the guest house and so did the old mum, Mrs. Senior Allan‑Waters.

AW: Which guest house is this?

Caloundra House. They were a dynasty like the grandma, and sons and daughters‑in‑law, but they didn't go back as far as Kings by any means. Kings were the ones that created the first and the Rooks Hotel. We did have the Archbishop, Leveque, I remember him coming for his mail. My Father said the place was closed for an hour, it was his dinner hour, and he had no intention of letting the Bishop even sit in the place. The door was shut. It was very wrong of him to do it; he left him to sit outside under the public phone box.

AW: There was a public phone box?


AW: How much was it for a call?


AW: What year was this?

Oh it went for quite a while; we didn't change our prices too easily. Tuppence, it wasn't until the war that it was four pence.

AW: Second World War?



Well, if there's any very old stamps you'll find they were tuppenny ones.

AW: And that would give you a local phone call, tuppence?

Yes. Mr. Rinaldi used to protest and say that they'd come into his shop and want to use his phone. And why shouldn't he have to do a little bit extra when one penny more for the use of his phone. He was quite right of course. But my tough old dad saw no reason why he should be a favourite and not the others, so he said no it wasn't ethical. He used to always be mad about that.

AW: So what, your father organised for a public phone?

Yes, but it was a long way, a mile between phones. So our phone would be tuppence. But poor Mr. Rinaldi would have to charge tuppence for the use of the phone and we know the private phone can use another few cents or depending, ten cents for using a phone, towards your rent. Well, he wouldn't come in on it you see. That was a bit mean. Just as it was for the Bishop, the man of the cloth, at least he could have gone in and opened the post office and given him his mail, but, you see, he was a hard old thing. He didn't see why he should play favourites. So I don't doubt that he was rather disliked by people up to a point. After all, he was unsociable, he didn't smile.

AW: He sounds like his family made up for his lack of sociability.

No, he didn't, he wasn't sociable to us either. He never talked to us as children or read us a tale, or told us a story. It was always: "Get your mother" or "Tell your mother", or "I'm busy", or "Go and play". Occasionally he had to plait our hair, because mother would be sick. He'd plait it and tie it with string from the office. I was called Squib. It was always me he counted on, because I was the most obedient. And I'd be counted on to take these people up the lighthouse, or show them your coloured sands; they want to know how you do it.

AW: Was the lighthouse keeper's job a very important job?

The Caloundra Lighthouse as a landmark

Yes, it couldn't go past our lighthouse without recognising its light. It couldn't turn without it.

AW: Well, of course Caloundra's always used the old lighthouse as its symbol, like in the old days, you'd see on all the tourist brochures, you'd see the lighthouse. So it was a landmark.

It was a landmark, but it was also significant, but not nearly as significant as Moreton Island, Cape Moreton. That was a long way away, twenty two miles. And we had to behave as the offset, to offset Bribie Lighthouses, which were important. There's a reef out there. They'd have to come down there and come to the buoy as I've said, turn sharply. There's Bribie, turn sharply and go in a straight line to Bays Rock.

AW: So they had to line three lights up, is that correct?

Line the three lights up in nautical fashion and use that channel. Well, the Anro Asia failed because the Captain was drunk, well not the captain, but the Pilot was drunk. Anyway he forgot his duties, he allowed the ship to go forward instead of turning there to go to Brisbane. She went forward and as one of the maids told me at the Hotel Perle, they said, "Good God, she's not turning". The big lump of a freighter, big beautiful ship it was. She kept going, she headed for Bribie and crashed into the shallows of Bribie, and she stuck there as the tide was going out. She lost contact with the tide and she had to stick there. Didn't worry particularly much except the tide wasn't heavy enough to come in, it was low tides. She couldn't move next day. They'd planned everything, they'd moved the cargo back and they'd moved it forward. They did everything but move it altogether, because of money. Eventually big helicopters from the Army came and lifted the cargo out and then she floated on the next high tide a week later. Cost a fortune. But she struck the soft weather.

AW: So that is just an example of how important the lighthouses on those islands are.

That night that my father was able to hang the lanterns in the lighthouse to save the Bombala, and their passengers.

AW: Well, Dulcie, I would like to ask you now, what do you think is different these days. How do you think your generation is different?

Well, I go back two generations of course. After all that was a long time ago. We did notice that when my brother got married, and living was much the same as it was then. My sister got married correctly, did all the right things, had a honeymoon, a sensible, nice man, never swore, didn't drink. So things hadn't changed. That was 1930.

AW: Before the Second World War?

Before the Second World War when would she have been married? I was twenty three or four. Must have been married middle thirties, before the war.

AW: 1935?

Changes in social practices post WWII

Yes, before the war. Things changed after the war. The Americans came, licence to drink, licence to flirt, licence to move out of your country, to consider going forever, running after the fellows. Morals slipped, definitely came down. Bosoms were in and the long curly hair to your shoulders. Bosoms were out in our day. My sister being rather buxom had a piece of calico, which she would fasten around herself with safety pins, to flatten it. Never once did they hope to show themselves. But afterwards the girls really flaunted themselves, really.

AW: After the War?

Bosoms were in.

AW: Well, why do you think it all changed after the war? Because you were all brought up with the same moral values?

Well, we couldn't have been after the war. It was more fragmented. People got flats, moved out of their homes. Got married younger, flirted more openly.

AW: So, you think the family unit broke down?

It started to break up after the fifties. The fifties and the sixties were good years. Prices didn't change much. You could always tell by holidays at Coolangatta beach houses, St. Leonards. Two pounds ten, for years and years. Then they were five pounds, then decimal currency came in and suddenly although there were plenty of jobs around and plenty of food and plenty of good times, they hadn't yet moved into going away on holidays together,

AW: You were saying to me before, you were taught what was lady like.

That died out too. People started not to answer thank you letters and swear. Generally behaving in rather unladylike fashions. Stay up later at night and come home later. Had boyfriends that publicly courted you at night. And no shame. See I went to no end of trouble not to show everyone else that I would have a man coming to the house in the night. That died slowly, definitely did.

AW: So you still did it, but you were very secretive about it.

Oh yes, but you didn't do it as much, you couldn't, you never had time or chance. Most people had someone else in the house, and if they flatted, they flatted; there was no touch of lesbianism anywhere. None at all. You flatted with a girlfriend, right, that was it. When that cropped up, I wouldn't know. It wasn't in my time.

AW: So sexual promiscuity..?

That hadn't happened until the sixties at least.

AW: What about sex education, when you were a child in the early 1900's, say 1920.

Hit and miss.

AW: You had no education?

No. Hit and miss.

AW: Well how would you find out about the facts of life?

The odd book or pictures. Movies.

AW: So you had sex education?

Not at school or even in home. My mother would give us a book to read, all delicately written. My father ignored the whole thing. What boys learned I have no idea? It was all a bit too hush, hush to even bring the subject up.

AW: Did you talk to boys about it?

No. No. If other girls did, we, my little lot, never did. In fact I think I was twenty‑one before I learned about petting parties and what it might be up to. You got your odd kisses of course and dances and holding hands.

AW: It just wasn't done in those days?

Well, it might have been in the city. Remember, I lived in the back water. I was 19 or 20, following my sister round like a sheep because I didn't know what else to do. She was more worldly, she had to be, she was in the Bank, and they had their little jokes.

AW: There was a Bank in Caloundra?

No, she was in the Commonwealth Bank in Brisbane; she was boarding. She only came home for holidays and brought that girl with her called, Clare. They were known as the two pair. I was not the sister, she was, as far as they were concerned, the boys. They had trouble identifying me as the sister, and not Clare. They dressed the same. They almost looked the same. But I wasn't jealous, not of Clare anyway.

AW: But you were slightly jealous of your sister?

Well I had to be, because I never had a fellow whom she didn't take off me without meaning to. He'd take one look at her and I'd be an also‑ran.

Reflections on marriage expectations

AW: So it sounds like your whole purpose in life was really just to find somebody to love and to get married?

No. Not to get married. No, I didn't want to get married.

AW: Why not?

Because that would mean having children.

AW: And why didn't you want to have children?

Because I was trained not to think about it.

AW: Was that because of your polio?


AW: So were you scared of having children?

Yes, very.

AW: So you were in a bit of a dilemma?

Well, it didn't do much for my life as a married woman; I can say that for it. But when I was free in the age group, I seem to react alright, but only for a short time, I got tired of all that.

AW: How old were you when you got married?


AW: That’s very late.

Yes, I didn't want to get married. I had this other fellow at the war, I was supposed to be engaged to him, but underneath in my heart I knew I wasn't going to marry him; I knew I would have to break it off. Except that I didn't fancy growing old under the jurisdiction of my older sister and brother.

AW: So you didn't get married until 1946?

Yes. In St. Andrews Church, over there at Kangaroo Point, with instruction from the local scene, lovely nuns. Lovely wedding, lovely nuns to look after me had a very easy life, except for the drinking problem he had.

Reflections: War impacts male ‘spirit’ and morale

AW: You were saying to me before, that you think the second World War, the soldiers that came back from the war, that you feel the war somehow damaged their spirit.

Well, it changed most of them. You got the soldier, not the man. You know if you ever see this Platoon, I don't think if I will see it, I don't think if I want to. Platoon is a picture of the year. It was a soldier who started off with ideas, and good nature, but he and his friend are completely brutalised, cut off a head with the best of them, brutalised in their thinking and actions, raping women. Even in the villages, they'd conquered the brutalisation of the man.

AW: So do you think that's what the Australian soldiers learnt in the Second World War?

They learned to kill and they learned how to knock their wives about more, and knock everyone else about. They must have done; there’s such a lot of cruelty about.

Aw So is that where our moral decline has started from?

Well, they would really knock God, wouldn't they? Can't be any God when he kills this lovely man, this Minister, the 'Saints of our Time' was one man said, "Kill me, my life is half over, this man has a wife and children." It became the man of the unknown Saint. When the Pope went to England and chose the Saints that they were going to honour in the Cathedral, he chose the Saint of no name, who died so that another could live, because he was younger. "Kill me, don't kill this young man with a wife and children," and that was the unknown Saint. I thought that was rather beautiful, I liked that, I cried away.

AW: So do you think Australia would have been different today if there hadn't been any war?

Might have been the King, the Cathedral man himself, what's his name again. Martin Luther King and I think a black woman chose a noted black man, anyway it was very interesting.

AW: Is there anything else that you can remember of the history of the Landsborough Shire or Caloundra that we haven't covered?

Well, there's nothing there except a good hall. They had better dances than we did the Maleny people. And they'd have big dances.

AW: At Landsborough?

Once in a while we were allowed to go to Landsborough, where there would always be a good dance with supper and lots of people and a good hall.

AW: Which hall was that?

The Lambert Hall, still there.

AW: The same hall at Landsborough today?

Yes. Mr. Walsh was the Postmaster and there were refreshment rooms. It was a great place.

AW: So what were you going to say about the Westaways?

They used to go to those dances at Mooloolah. Four daughters and another cousin. They didn't come to our dances much; they would go to Landsborough and to Palmwoods and to Mooloolah.

AW: Those areas would have been closer to the Westaways.

Well, that's right, that's their cemetery, that's where the Westaways are, almost all of them. Well, Eileen that I speak to, her husband is buried there, and where Kate, my best friend, of the Westaways, Kate, she's buried there. That's their grave place. Not Caloundra, there's no Westaways buried in Caloundra.

AW: So the Westaways just had a holiday house at Caloundra?

The holiday house. Their home was Meridan Plains. And that's why none of them is on the pension; they've all got property left. Eileen herself has got enough money to not get the pension.

AW: Whereabouts is Meridan Plains?

Just beyond the racetrack.

AW: On the left hand side, going towards Landsborough?

No, both sides, it’s all Meridan Plains. The Westaway's homes Percy Westaway, Mrs. Lil Westaway, John Westaway and all their cattle property.

AW: So did they run cattle?

They ran cattle and horses. They were rich. Their daughters went to private schools and only appeared at Caloundra in enormous hats to shelter their gracious complexions. Yes, they were colourful people; you'd do well to talk to Eileen really.

End of Interview

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