Eddie De Vere
In 1967 Eddie was elected Chairman of Maroochy Shire, a postion he held until 1982
Date of Interview: 15 October 1985
Interviewer: Caroline Foxon
Transcriber: Heidi Scott
Place of Interview: Bli Bli
Edward (Eddie) Owen De Vere was born at Murwillumbah, New South Wales on 7 August 1914. In ca 1920 his family moved to Nambour, where his father leased the Commercial Hotel. This proved unsuccessful and within two years the family purchased a dairy farm at Dulong. E.O. De Vere left school in 1928 and started a butcher's apprenticeship with a local farmer's co-operative butchery. He then went to work on properties in Mapleton and surrounding districts. In 1934 Eddie De Vere moved to Kenilworth to run a dairy property 'Camden Vale' in the Brooloo Kenilworth Gap. He purchased the property towards the end of WWII and on 15 June 1946 he married Phoebe Elizabeth Horsfall. In 1951 E.O. De Vere was elected to the Maroochy Shire Council and served as a Councillor for No. 1 Division from 1951 until he resigned in 1967. He relocated from Kenilworth to Bli Bli to take up cane farming and in 1967 he was elected Chairman of Maroochy Shire, a postion he held until 1982. Eddie De Vere was awarded an OBE on 31 December 1980 for his services to the community.
Images and documents about Eddie De Vere in Sunshine Coast Libraries Catalogue.
Image: Edward O. De Vere, ca 1980.
Eddie De Vere oral history - part one [MP3 58MB]
Eddie De Vere oral history - part two [MP3 59MB]
Eddie De Vere oral history - part three [MP3 59MB]
Eddie De Vere oral history - part four [MP3 34MB]
Begin Tape 1/Side A
Childhood memories of Nambour businesses
CF: Mr De Vere, you tell me you were born in Murwillumbah, in northern New South Wales, in August 1914, where your father was dairy farming. Then your family moved to Nambour in 1919, and took over the Commercial Hotel. What do you remember of Nambour at that time?
DE VERE: Well I can remember Nambour as a town of just dirt roads, streets I should call them, dirt sheets. And I can remember the bullock teams hauling the timber through, because it was a very big timber-producing area and I can remember those, they were some of the highlights, to see a big team coming up through the sh·eets. And my memory is just walking along the little wooden buildings that constituted Currie Street, they were little shops up the street and down what is now is Lowe Street, that used to be a paddock where the butcher used to keep all his delivery horses, where he used to deliver the meat in horse and cart in those days.
CF: Do you remember any of the names of the businesses then?
DE VERE: Oh yes, I do. Being in the Hotel [Commercial Hotel] I can remember next door to the Hotel was Mr Harvey, the saddler, on the eastern side and on the southern side was the J.J. Wilkinson the first probably auctioneer that the district ever had, he was there , quite a white-haired gentlemen, I remember him quite well. And then of course you got the Collins. The two Collins boys are gone now, but I remember their father when he had the main store. Whalley's had a store. Lowe's had the butcher shop. So I can remember G.H. Thornton used to be the newest auctioneer, I can remember when he came with a great fun-fair, fanfare, into town and, ah there was Hill the saddler.
Being a boy in a hotel those days, the hotel had yardmen, they had panh-y maids, they had cooks, they had the other maids that looked after the room and it's not a good place to bring children up in, on the streets and talked to everybody, and that was what I seemed to get a lot of fun out of, because all the business people knew me.
CF: What brought your parents into the hotel work? Their background had all been dairy farming, hadn't it?
DE VERE: Yes, I think it was an experiment of my father's wish to go into business and he was dairy farming. Then he sold that and went into and bought a horse team, and used to do cartage of horse teams down on the Murwillumbah area, and from there of course he come up and went into the hotel.
CF: And how long did your family stay at the hotel?
DE VERE: Only about 18 months. My mother didn't like it because she then had a family of four, at that stage, and I think she readily realised that it wasn't a place to bring up children in because, those days it was not uncommon for teamsters and woodcutters to come into town, and they might stay there till they've drank a fair bit of their pay, and they were around the hotels quite a lot. They were quite wonderful people, most of them, very friendly, but they'd get us kids and give us sixpence, and you could go up the street and buy a big packet of boiled lollies that was not good for you. I can remember that happening many times.
CF: So for this reason, your family then moved up to Dulong?
DE VERE: To Dulong on a dairy farm, yes.
CF: And you'd started school, presumably in Nambour, so where did you go to school in Dulong?
Mapleton businesses and schooling
DE VERE: Well first of all I should tell you where I went to school in Nambour. Where the present, new Council Chambers are, and that carpark that was part of the school ground in Nambour and the school was there, and I went to school there. Where the businesses are now between Bury Street and the Royal George Hotel, well that was just bush. I used to walk through the bush there to school. And so then I went to Mapleton, you asked. I went to Mapleton, I started school in Mapleton in 1922. Mapleton, believe it or not, those days was quite a busy little school, I say a busy little school because it was all citrus orchards, Mapleton, and consequently there was close settlement because for many years Mapleton used to grow wonderful citrus because of that red volcanic soil. But later in the times, Gayndah became the prominent citrus area, and Mapleton slowly went out because they didn't have irrigation potential.
But the school in my day it had about 100 students going to it, then it degenerated, or lost its numbers because of the citrus orchards went out, and the saw milling, not declined to nothing, but it did have a lesser workforce. And then the Mapleton tram, that was its terminal and that's where all the drivers and the firemen lived and the guard and some of the maintenance men, so that made quite a few extra employees.
And the store at that stage was a branch of the Whalley's store in Nambour and it had a staff of about seven and there was a hotel that was very busy because it was a tourist area those days, believe it or not. And there was two very big guest houses there, and they were always fairly well booked out too.
CF: So it really was quite a booming town in the '20s?
DE VERE: Yes, well they had the Ocean View Hotel, and then they had one of the guest houses name was Elanora, well the school has since brought the property that they were on, it was adjoined to school, and then there was Strongarra, and they were quite busy guest houses.
CF: Mapleton was really a very popular tourist place?
DE VERE: Yes, it was a popular tourist place. Those days people went more to mountain resorts. I'd give a parallel, the Blue Mountains in New South Wales was a very prominent tourist area in those days too. Well you know that the Blue Mountains is still alright, but it doesn't carry the same load of visitors as the coastal resorts do. I think as they developed better suncreams, I think people started to go, and got more interesting swimsuits I think... (Laughs)
CF: The trend moved away.
DE VERE: When they got more interesting resorts along the coast, well people started to go to the coast. But in those days there was those three, plus two other guest houses at Montville.
CF: Was the tramway a big reason too for the population to increase?
DE VERE: Well it made it a very interesting trip for people. Believe it they had one passenger carriage, but it was not unusual for them to put rows of seats on the log trucks and you'd see them shooting along sitting in the sun, fully air-conditioned because they sat out there in the open and rode these trams to Mapleton.
CF: Was it dangerous?
DE VERE: Oh I never heard of anybody falling off or anything like that, or getting hurt. But they used to have passenger days then, they would run trams from Nambour up to Mapleton and the people would then take picnic lunches and walk out to the west end of Mapleton where they used to be known as the Falls, the Obi Obi Falls. That happened every so often, it was quite a big day.
CF: Did the trams actually go very fast? What was the speed?
DE VERE: Down hill they went fairly fast. (Laughs) But on the climbing of that range when you realize the tram when it left Nambour, it had to climb from what about, two or three hundred feet from sea level up to about thirteen hundred odd, Mapleton is above sea level. There was some down-hill in that so there was a lot of up-hill and consequently it... I wouldn't know, I didn't know speeds then, I don't know whether they had a speedometer on them.
CF: It would have been hard grind though?
DE VERE: Yes, it was very steep. As it climbed the Kureelpa Range and the Mapleton Range, it was quite easy to get off and run along side it.
CF: Oh right. Getting back then to your days at the Mapleton School, what are your particular memories of it, do you remember teachers in the school?
DE VERE: Oh yes, I can remember teachers quite well. Surprisingly we only ever had, if that, a hundred students. I don't know what the Unionist would do with them nowadays, but they had a hundred students and two teachers, those days and there was a Mr Watts and Miss Morris. The Morris family still owned property up there until very recently. And so, well, if you look at Mapleton now and look at that first old school room we occupied that, inside, verandahs and underneath, and on fine days you'd go out underneath a tree. And that's how the classes were split around. But what do I remember, those days of course they didn't have grades they had classes, and mainly they only took you to fifth class, and then you went to Scholarship.
CF: Do you remember any particular subjects that were your favourites?
DE VERE: Oh yes. I think they call them mathematics now, we used to call them sums in our days or arithmetic and so that was my forte. I did always love arithmetic, and so much that I remember on about two occasions the teacher gave me the job of giving the class mental arithmetic, if you know what I mean. And you've got to be fairly slick in the brain to give a class that and keep the answers in the head yourself. So I used to enjoy that. History was alright, but wasn't my forte.
CF: How about things like art and music, was there much emphasis on that?
DE VERE: No, we used to have singing lessons, and I can remember the teacher asking me to sing up, and then when I did sing up, he asked me if I would not sing. (Laughs) I can remember that. It's strange that some of the students, I couldn't understand, when he had the old tuning fork, I couldn't understand how children could distinguish between the different notes he gave out, but some could pick them up everytime.
CF: Yes, I know what you mean. Tell me what sort of games would you play at school? Do you remember any of those?
DE VERE: Well, we built one of the first tennis courts in my time there, at a school in the region. But mainly cricket and football and rounders, those were the main games, plus the old usual one of Iackie. Hide-and-seek, that was it's name in those days. So if you get somebody my age, they'll remember Iackie.
CF: Did the school do much in the way of inter-school activities, would you have had school sports?
DE VERE: No, no. It was great to see it come in over the recent years, no we only ever once went to Obi and played them in football, in all my time I was there. Cause modes of transport weren't readily available and not everybody had a horse, and it was too far to ride, and there was only - when I went to school there - there was still the cream was brought from the Obi three days a week by horse teams. And they used to get bogged in wet weather quite often out on the road. I can remember being bogged. So therefore it was not easy to shift the students around.
CF: Did you ever used to go on school excursions of any kind?
DE VERE: No, there weren't...I think you must remember they were pretty difficult times financially, when I was going to school, and I don't think any of those things were promoted. One of the things that we did do, that I took a great interest in, and that was, we used to have fruit packing competitions with Mapleton being a citrus area, and we used to pack, in competition with various schools that entered the Nambour Show and the Brisbane Show. I won a medal once for packing, best wrapped and packed case or something. We used to pack one case plain and one case wrapped and send them to the Brisbane Show.
CF: What sort of discipline was used in the schools in those days?
DE VERE: Well I think it was pretty good. I think if it was kept up nowadays it wouldn't do much harm. I only ever got into the punishment book once, meself. But I don't know, maybe what's kept me out of the punishment book was I had to get up of a morning and milk cows before I went to school and then walk about two and a half to three mile to school, bout nearly three mile, and then I had to go home to milk. Well most of the kids used to get into trouble before and after school, so I can remember a whole lot of them lined up, and I was just lucky, I suppose I wasn't in the line and they all got four a piece over some very serious breach of discipline. I can remember that only too well and I felt terribly lonely. I felt like being left out of it when they were all called out and given it. But it was just my work pressure that kept me out of it.
CF: Overall what were your memories of school? Was it an enjoyable time?
DE VERE: Yes, I'd have to say I didn't appreciate my years at school. Learning wasn't a great difficulty as it happened to me and I have very fond memories of my schooling days. So much so, that whenever they have a Back to Mapleton, I wouldn't miss them, but they always get me regularly to be their guest speaker for the day, Back to Mapleton days, and it's great to see some of my old mates come back. But I haven't got many class mates coming back.
CF: What, they're losing interest?
DE VERE: No, passing on. When you get to my age the ranks get thinner.
CF: So how old were you then when you left school?
DE VERE: Fourteen and one month.
CF: That was very young to leave school.
DE VERE: Well you were allowed to leave school those times at fourteen, and the only reason I went the one month, was that I was sitting for Scholarship, I was in the Scholarship class. And my father had a very serious accident, smashed up with a horse, at about three o'clock one day, well I know the day, the 19th December 1928. And I know it so well because it was my next sister's birthday as it happened, and of course there was no hospital in Nambour those days and he had to go Brisbane for treatment and it seemed strange, you know, the roads were so bad, he was taken to Nambour, to the doctors, and the doctors put him on the train and sent him to Brisbane, to a hospital in Brisbane. And so being the eldest of seven, my job was to come home and, well carry on the property.
CF: It must have been quite a responsibility at fourteen?
DE VERE: I didn't think it was at the time I suppose. I just, you know, I used to do a lot of work on the farm so it was, you know, sh·ange as it may seem, I used to have the old two horses and the plough, and I used to be able to do those sorts of things.
CF: What sort of thing were you doing on say an average day when you'd taken over the farm then?
DE VERE: Oh, I suppose, I, like all fourteen year olds, I did what I was asked to do by my mother mainly, because she was there. she was a marvellous person. And whatever, if she wanted me to go and chop a whole lot of wood up, I'd chop wood up. Course always got the cows in and milked them. We had a little bit of sugar cane growing, little bit by today's standard of sugar, and I might have to get the horse and we used to call them scufflers in those days.
CF: What's a scuffler?
DE VERE: It's a scarafier that you put through your cane to loosen up the soil and remove some of the weeds. And so we used to use the horse, so that was my job.
CF: How long in effect were you the man of the family? How long was your father away for?
DE VERE: Oh he had about six months in hospital, and when he came home, he had another few months before he could do any of the horse work, like I'm talking about the ploughing or any of that sort of thing. As soon as he was able to do that, then because of the limited funds at home I went out and got a job.
CF: Was it ever possible that you might have gone back to school and carried on with your Scholarship?
DE VERE: I think one of the things to me credit, is worth mentioning, the teacher of the day, by this time our Principal was a Mr Franklin, and he rode a horse out to our property, it was as I told you about three mile away from school, and asked my mother to let me come back to school again. But you gotta realise the diff icult financial situation of the time. I was the eldest of the family and things were very lean. I went out to work and from then I worked around, and I worked for about four years and I never even kept a pay packet myself. My mother used to give me a little bit of spending money out of it, till I was nineteen. So it was very diff icult. You must remember it was all the very toughest depression times.
CF: Yes, of course it was the start of the Depression.
DE VERE: Yeah, '28 was the start of the Depression. I'm talking about up till it was '33, and then she banked my first, she gave me a little Commonwealth Savings Book with eight pound in it, and I thought I was the wealthiest bloke in the country. I thought I was loaded.
CF: Did you ever regret having to leave school early like that? Is it something you've ever thought about?
DE VERE: Through those years - they were survival years - it never crossed my mind. But it did cross my mind in later years, very much later years when I started to get some business interest meself, and so I took a course by correspondence in accountancy, because that was my forte, as I told you earlier. And that stood me in good stead. I kept it going until it got too tough, and by that time I learnt to put together balance sheets and look at them and understand them. It was the basic things that I wanted to know.
CF: So when you went out to work then, when you lef t the farm, what sort of jobs did you get for the next couple of years?
DE VERE: Well I took whatever job was offering. I took cane cutting, cane chipping, there was chopping scrub, and these were some of what we call clearing land, you know, those days you chopped the scrub and then you burnt it and then what we call lumping up, we went and put all the chopped pieces that didn't burn into smaller pieces and stacked them. And that's how we used to clear the land. And then the butcher's ...
CF: When you mentioned that you were cane cutting, was that up at Mapleton that you were cane cutting?
DE VERE: Yes, yes and Kureelpa.
CF: There was cane growing at Kureelpa?
DE VERE: There was cane all over Kureelpa, yes those days, there was cane in the Kureelpa area. And that's where the best cane growing was happening then because they improved the variety and then they got to appreciate... they improved the variety for frost resistance and then they got to appreciate getting on to the flatter country was a desirable move. Not so much for mechanical harvesting because that wasn't even thought of those days, but erosion, washing of the soil in the heavy rain.
CF: On the hillsides?
DE VERE: Yes. So yes, you wouldn't credit it, the right hand side of climbing the Mapleton Range, just when you go up the Range, that was cane, right round all those slopes. The cane cutters used to cut the cane, the horse teams used to bring the slides, they used to slide the cane down the hill, loaded on the trucks. But they used to bring the slides up and the cutters would load the cane on these slides, or sleds, people call them slides nowadays. And then the cutters would take them down because those days the cane wasn't burnt, and all the trash and tops were left on the ground. Therefore it was impossible to take it down with horses in front of it because it would race up onto the horses, cause the ground would be so slippery. So the cutters used to take the slides down till they got down to the flatter bottom country and then put the horses on again to take it along till it was loaded on to the trams.
CF: Why didn't they burn it in those days. Hadn't they thought of it?
DE VERE: No, burning only came into cane cutting later than this. I can't tell you the exact years, but it came about because of rats in the cane, which spread 'Wheels' disease amongst the cutters, and the cutters went on strike in a big way. The mills would sooner have green cane, or what we call unburnt cane, so the mills after a lot of arguments and probably strikes, I don't remember them in detail because I wasn't in the sugar then, they agreed to it, but they stuck a levy on burnt cane, because burnt cane, you could cut nearly twice as much cane when it was burnt because you didn't have to remove the trash from it. You just had to cut it, lay it over, and then take the tops off it. A lot of them got very smart in that they cut it off and load it over, it was laid up the field, and then they used to have a circular saw driven by a little motor, and they used to drive these saws, push it along of course, over the tops of all this cane and it topped it mechanically.
CF: So it really was the very early start of mechanical harvesting?
DE VERE: Yes.
CF: Was it very hard work?
DE VERE: Oh yes, yes. You'd go into the cane season with a nice lot of condition around the middle and look nice and fresh in the face, and you'd come out like whipcord. You know, the time the season ended because, you not only had to cut it, but you had to load it by hand. All those were tremendous, physical strain on the body it was, and consequently, people had worked from just on the crack of dawn, until late in the evening to get their quota out because you were paid so much a tonne.
CF: You mean you'd cut right through the heat of the day?
DE VERE: Oh yes, you'd cut all day. You'd cut all day, and then you'd have to load it after that. But you'd take all this trash off.
Work as butcher's apprentice
CF: You were saying that you got a job as an apprentice with the butcher shop.
DE VERE: With the butcher shop, yes. I went butchering then, and that again was a bit of an unusual experience. I used to have to help with the slaughter. Help with what we call the break down of the beef. You'd bring it into the shops and break it down into the rumps, the ribs and the sirloins and the silversides and all those parts. And then you had to do the brining, that was put the corn beef away, pump it and put it, and then you had to make the sausages with all the scraps. That was a hard job making them sausages. Turning that mincing machine by hand, no electric motors those days. So anyway, and then I used to have to deliver four days a week. I'd drive the butcher's cart then from Mapleton to Montville on a Monday and a Friday. Then a Tuesday and a Saturday I drove it to Dulong.
CF: That was a horse and cart arrangement?
DE VERE : Horse and cart, yeah.
CF: How did the meat used to keep in those days?
DE VERE: Well, summertime, we used to start in the killing of about four or five o'clock in the morning, and right in the heat of summer. Because we had to get that meat into the shop and broke down. It was terrible you know, when you look back on today's standards. Meat was hot, you know, and we had to break it down and cut the orders of the steak, and that was so easy to cut up cold meat. We never had cold rooms, and the best we had was fly-proof shops, that was all we had. That's the best we could hope for. And so then we'd deliver it round, that was probably the Monday morning in the middle of summer. We'd kill enough on Monday morning to do the Flaxton, Montville run, and also the Dulong-Kureelpa run on the next day. So it was enough to keep us going for two days. So that was what happened. Then the same happened on Friday. But winter time of course, we'd kill the day before, and left it hanging in the slaughter house, and it was lovely to break down.
CF: In the cool weather?
DE VERE: Yeah.
CF: What sort of meat were you mainly slaughtering? Was it beef or lamb?
DE VERE: Beef, lamb and pork. Yeah, beef, lamb and pork.
CF: And where did you get the supplies from?
DE VERE: Oh, the beef we used to buy it from - that was another job, you used to be very versatile - we used to buy out in the Conondale area for Mapleton in those days. And we'd drive the bullocks, no road-trains those days, you'd drive the bullocks from Conondale down through Kenilworth up through the Obi and put them in the paddocks up there. And the pork of course was always supplied locally by local farmers. And sometimes veal, not very much veal in those days, but the lamb, well of course we'd buy a truck load of sheep and the sheep used to come by tram. Up to Mapleton.
CF: They'd be brought from out west or somewhere?
DE VERE: They'd be brought from somewhere, and come in by rail and then loaded into the tram and then up by tram. Well then you drove them out. We used to have to muster them every night and put them away because the dingoes would get there share.
CF: Oh you actually had dingoes?
DE VERE: Oh yes. Stacks of them. Stacks of them.
CF: And they were a real problem.
DE VERE: Oh yes. Real problem. We used to have to muster the sheep every night. And lock them up in a dingo-proof yard. So that's my experience of the butcher and then of course we had a lot of pigs ourselves too. We only used to keep brood-sows in those days for breeding young ones. we never ever killed pork in those day that was reared on slaughter yard offal.
CF: Oh, why was that?
DE VERE: Oh, just a feeling that the Manager had I think at the time. So we always got grain-feed pigs, you know, for killing.
CF: In that time, in the Depression, was meat very expensive? Was it something that people could afford?
DE VERE: Well, strange as it may seem, what shrunk my job out of existence was a firm from Brisbane started wholesaling meat in a big way. They used to send sugarbag-fulls of it up to various customers from Brisbane on the train and then it was loaded onto the tram. And the firm was named Anderson and Cameron, and they just about put us out of business with their very cheap... and other butchers too.
CF: So the meat would keep, coming up from Brisbane?
DE VERE: Yes it would keep, because they would do the orders up and have them in freezers down there, or in ice, on ice. I don't know if there was so much as freezers those days, but there was ice works. And they would have that whole lot frozen. They loaded them up from these great ice rooms in Brisbane. Loaded them in a heap in the railway trucks. Well that volume of meat stacked together that had been on ice all the time, it would enable it to keep frozen. Well then when they got them onto the h·am they done the same again, the Mapleton tram to deliver round the Ranges. So when you got the meat it was quite cold you know, still from Brisbane because if one single bag was kept by itself, it wouldn't have been so cold. So they supplied the meat at a price believe it or not, at about tuppence, two pence it was a pound
for corn brisket in those days.
CF: And what would it have been?
DE VERE: Been about four pence per pound. And that was for brisket, and then they used send up - our price was for fillet steak. I can remember it was quite expensive. It was the equivalent today of about ten cents a pound, that was fillet steak, it was the dearest cut we had and rump steak was another penny, those days cheaper. Rump steak was. And then you got down to the sirloin steaks and then back to the rib steaks and so on. Anyhow those were the days in butchering.
CF: Relative to what people would had been earning at that time - I mean obviously it sounds very cheap by our standards - was meat actually cheap, compared to what people would have been earning?
DE VERE: I think food stuff those days was reasonably cheap. See the basic wage those time was about, round about four pound a week. That was the basic wage. The average basic week. But a lot of people have worked for less than that, there was no... you were just glad to have a job because you must remember there was no other subsistance, there was no doles, or anything like that about.
DE VERE: Oh no. No help whatsoever. If you didn't get a job, and get enough to feed yourself with, well then you weren't fed. So there was no dole at all.
Effects of the Great Depression
CF: What happened to people in situations like that, I mean did people starve?
DE VERE: No, I think that, could I say in the Depression I was working on farms and then I went into the butchering and then I went back onto farms. And it was not uncommon to find people coming to the farms where I was working, and offer their services for five shillings - which is equivalent today to fifty cents - a week, and keep, as long as they were fed. But seven and six and ten shillings was quite a common pay a week in those times. I was one of the fortunate ones. I was never out of work one day in the Depression years, and I didn't have to work under a pound a week and keep.
CF: Did if affect the country areas all that much? I mean you hear pretty awful stories about what it was like in the towns.
DE VERE: See, I'll tell you the only other subsistance that people got was what they call relief work, you had to go out and do a certain amount of work, for the councils. You were allocated where you'd have to go and do work, relief work and you've got a certain amount of pay. It was a pretty low pay but that was the equivalent to the dole, but you had to do work, you gotta turn up for work.
CF: Were there any families around Mapleton that were very hard hit, during the Depression?
DE VERE: No, Mapleton had the dignity of being fairly - I'm not going to say wealthy, because nobody was wealthy in those days - but a town that had a lot of dignity because most people worked hard, number one, in those days. But secondly, they were fairly astute as far as their businesses was concerned. And generally Mapleton was not a town that had a lot of relief workers in those days. And of course there was a lot of timber work, which was hard work and people were prepared to do that hard work, if they got it. Keeping the tram-line fixed from Mapleton to Nambour. Plus all the drivers and so on and these sorts of things. And as I said the store had to start at seven. And then there was the two guest houses and the hotel. And there was a blacksmith's shop, which was very busy, keeping all the bullock wagons fixed and the horses shod, he had a staff of about three. And there was a bake-house up there which supplied all the region with the bread. Those were some of the things. But people did things to try and get a living. I was only at a function at Mapleton the other day where a person reminded me, did I remember one dear old lady, she lived in a house in Mapleton, and it had these ordinary windows in the front of her house, and she used to have licorice for sale and different sweets up there, we kids used to ogle at them. But anything at all to h·y and make a few shillings and then she run a few house cows, and those house cows used to run the roads, and she'd milk those and cart milk round the street.
CF: So I suppose a lot of people in that area, to some extent, would have been aiming at self sufficiency where they would have their vegie gardens.
DE VERE: Oh yes, their own gardens and fruit. Yeah that's true.
CF: How did you stay in the Dulong-Mapleton area then?
Move to farming in Kenilworth
DE VERE: Well I leased my first farm, that was the farm, the herd and all when I was nineteen, and I run that farm for, I leased it for a year, while the man was very sick. So Ilef t that after. Then I went, the next season I went cane cutting. And then as soon as that season had finished, I went to Kenilworth, to take over a property that a chap had bought, and I stayed working on the property for, well as it happens for the next thirty-three years.
CF: That would have been what, about 1934?
DE VERE: 1934. Yes.
CF: What attracted you to Kenilworth?
DE VERE: Well I think just it built me ego enough to go out and take over this property, I felt a big shot, you know, as a young fellow. And asked to look after it until he could come out.
CF: How did you get onto it?
DE VERE: Oh well I knew he was buying it. As a matter of fact he took me round the district looking at properties with him to see what property he would buy. So I knew where I was going. So I rode out through the Obi when there was no road down through the Obi in those days. So that's 1934. So I stayed there and eventually I took that property on half shares with him till about 1939.
CF: This was dairy cattle?
DE VERE: Dairy and a bit of beef and so on, yeah. Then I eventually bought it in 1942, and then I bought the two adjoining properties in later years. So I ended up I had about 800 acres out there.
CF: Presumably it was a very prosperous area?
DE VERE: Well it was alright, it was hard work.
CF: How many cows were you running?
DE VERE: Oh, about, I got up to about 200 hundred.
Prisoners of war working on farm
CF: Presumably you would have had workers?
DE VERE: Oh well those times I only had two workers, two helpers. But then later I went in and I had about -I planted bananas in 1943 - I had up to eight to ten working for me then at times when things were really busy. So that's how I really got started in life, because I didn't realise it until after the war was over. I was one of the fortunate ones because I had properties, and nobody to look after them, that they didn't call me up, but they took all me staff off me during the war years.
CF: How did you cope?
DE VERE: Well they ended up allocating me five Italian prisoners of war So we lived together and it was a very good relationship I had too with them all. I appointed one of them chef, and he used to go out in the paddocks and work with us too, but then his job was to order the meals and have them ready. So we got along very well.
CF: What was it like, I mean did you have provide security?
DE VERE: No, no. We all slept in the one house and so on. Itwas quite okay, we had a good relationship. They acknowledged they were prisoners of war, and as a matter of fact the captain of the group that used to come out, he said, "You know you've got the happiest lot of prisoners there is in the whole country". Well I said it must be hard work just keeping them happy because they gotta work every day.
CF: Well that was obviously very lucky then.
DE VERE: Yes.
CF: During war-time, was there very big demand for dairy produce and so on?
DE VERE: Yes. Yes, because they were short. At one stage in the War I went to a Captain Horsley and said "Well look the war's getting so serious, I think I should volunteer." Well he said "I'm gonna be one who's going to be talking hard to keep you out of it, because at present we're terrifically short of food from the producers." I might say I wasn't very enthusiastic, because by this time I'd acquired interest in this property. And I didn't know what I was going to do. But by this time I had two brothers away, and my wife-to-be had three brothers away and I was feeling the odd one out.
CF: You stayed on with the property then?
DE VERE: I stayed on with the property with the help of the prisoners, yes.
CF: Where was your produce going to?
DE VERE: Eumundi. We used to send cream to Eumundi. They were all on cream producing then, and of course, and the cattle well they were trucked to the meat works in Brisbane.
Kenilworth township, social life and sport
CF: Right. And when you first came to Kenilworth, what was Kenilworth like then? Was it a very big town?
DE VERE: No it wasn't a very big town. If somebody came into town who was a stranger, well everybody would be out looking at him to see well who's he, and where's he come from, and what's he there for. You know, because we knew everybody so well. See Kenilworth basically came from about five very old families, they came there in the 1890s, and I can always remember a chap saying to me there, quite some years after I was there, he said, "Look with a name De Vere, are you related to anybody here". Because everybody else was Uncle Tom, or Aunty somebody, or the relationship they'd married around. Oh they were wonderful people, we were lucky to get type of calibre of the people who were there, they were honest, good hard working families, all of them. And I said, "No". He was a chap who'd just moved into the area for a couple of years, I said, "No, I'm not related to anybody". Well he said, "Thank goodness. I've been dying to talk about some of these people and I haven' t had a chance".
CF: So I can imagine putting your foot in it there.
DE VERE: So, anyway I had no relations out there at all.
CF: What sort of businesses were there in town?
DE VERE: Oh well there was the little grocer shop, the grocer shop used to be drapery, and then there was a little newsagency, and a post office, and that's all. But it was quite fairly close knit family, you know, if you wanted to start anything, you got the whole district support, didn't matter what we wanted to start out there, as later years I got deeply involved with it. And it was tremendous co-operation and help from the district. They were very proud of their district.
CF: In an obviously very close knit little area like that, what was it like for social life and so on, were there a lot get togethers?
DE VERE: No, there wasn't a lot of get-togethers. Cause they used to have the pictures, they'd run pictures in the hall every Saturday night, and that was quite a night for us young fellows to go along to in the old canvas seats. Anyway, but we had some very pleasant memories of those, but there'd be about three or
four decent balls every year. They used to have a Bachelors' Ball in those days.
CF: What was the idea of that?
DE VERE: Oh, I don't know, as the district grew up a bit the chaps that were working in the mill and the factory and roundabout and a few of them, they used to put on a Bachelors' Ball, invite three parts of the district. They'd levy themselves X numbers of pounds those days, and put this on. And it used to be one of the big social occasions. Then there was, if I could name the balls that there used to be, there used to be the St. Patricks Ball, there used to be the Church of England Ball, and the C.W.A. Ball and in later years the Rodeo Ball and I think that sort of wound them up. But they were quite social occasions. The girls used to look - I don't know whether I'm looking back through rose tinted glasses - but they looked very beautiful the way they used to come out.
CF: Was it long frocks?
DE VERE: Very, oh yes, oh yes, long frocks. Men, no one would come out unless dressed in a suit, and a lot of them come out in the you know, black, they wouldn't have a dinner suit, but they'd put a black tie on. You'd be laughed out of the place if you tried it now.
CF: Would everyone go to all the balls?
DE VERE: Just about everyone that was able to go would turn up at those balls. The district as a whole would almost be there. And they were quite substantial functions. One of the funniest instances at one of the balls - I'll remember this one - is that it was raining like billyo this night, and this was one of the those balls that I was telling you about, and we had a chap come along in a little baby Austin. You don't remember them you're not old enough, but they were Austin seven, only a little car, they were the littlest car on the road those days. And another chap came there in his great cream, mail truck, he had the mail contract as well as the cream and he had all the blinds down cause he was the passenger one from Eumundi, used to run Kenilworth - Eumundi. Course being raining he had all his blinds down round it all around, and so these lads got the idea at a ball one night. They were normal lads in those days, and they picked up the Austin and they put it in the back of his truck. And of course he went home with his truck, and that's Mr Jack Hassell, one of the old Hassell families out there, and he took the baby Austin home. (Laughs)
CF: Would have been a bit of a shock to both of them.
DE VERE: Yes, it was quite a shock, but a very sheepish lot of fellows owned up where it had gone when the ball was over.
CF: Was there much else in the way of entertainment?
DE VERE: Oh yes, they were good cricket enthusiasts, tennis, and hockey, they had the best hockey team in Queensland.
CF: Hockey, I wouldn't have thought that a big sport.
DE VERE: They had a hockey team out there, Pickering family, that was one of the old families. They lef t one of their sisters out of the Queensland team one time, to play hockey, there was about four of them that played hockey. And they lef t one of them out, when they picked the Queensland team, so the other girls jacked up and they said, "We Pickerings will play the team that you've picked, the rest of whatever you like in Queensland." And they played a draw and then they had to have ten minutes exh·a each way to decide, and they reckoned the ref had to give it to the other team to justify why he left one out. That was the story. But that is true what I've told you about, they played the rest of the team.
CF: So sport was a very big thing?
DE VERE: Oh yes. They had a very good cricket team. Some of their cricketers got into what we call 'Country Week'. And they had a football only came in about 1936, I think but they never played any football much then, but they did play cricket, hockey, tennis of course, there was quite a few tennis courts around then, and they had an association out there.
CF: And were you yourself very involved?
DE VERE: I played tennis, and then I played nine seasons of football, Rugby League. So I was quite involved in that way. But I only played cricket whenever they were short, you know I wasn' t a cricket fan. I just didn't get the opportunity in my young life to take part in cricket.
CF: Because there was what, a lot of work to be done?
DE VERE: Yeah. But Idid play a lot of tennis.
Meeting future wife to
CF: And did you meet your wife in Kenilworth? Was Jo a local girl?
DE VERE: She was almost local. She came from Bundaberg, and lived in the what is known as Brooloo. That's the next, from Kenilworth, that's the next town towards Gympie.
CF: Is that where the state forest is?
DE VERE: Yes, it's in that area. But anyhow Brooloo is where she came from. Yes, that's where I met her. I met her one day on the road when she was quite a young girl, of about thirteen, and I didn't see her again until she was about sixteen, and I thought, gee she's grown up pretty good. (Laughs) I'll keep and eye on her. So then we got married about nine years after that.
CF: And had you actually got involved in Council work by that time, or was this before it?
DE VERE: This was before it. Yeah.
Establishment cheese factory in Kenilworth
CF: Tell me then, what actually got you involved. How did you become the councillor for the area, was it something you'd become interested in?
DE VERE: Well probably this I'd say, that I, by this time, - when I look back and reflect I didn't realise at the time - but I was showing up as a fairly successful farmer, I didn't realise it, but somebody said to me, an old man and he said to me only yesterday as a matter of fact right here, old Harding Smith family, but they said, "You were a real farmer". So it was showing up, and I was successful, me productions was going up, me banana plantation was great and all the rest of it.
So there was a move afoot to establish a proprietary cheese factory in Queensland. And Queensland those days was very dominated by co-operatives, everything had to be co-operative, if you thought anything different but co-operative, well it was worse than apart, those days, you know you were really on the outer. So they invited me to come and chair this meeting. Well at this meeting the farmers were invited to come along and listen to the proposal to establish a proprietary factory. Well I was at that stage just reasonably neutral, but the longer the meeting went, the more I realised well we were sending our product to Maleny, that had a factory and employed everybody. We were at the access of it all if you know what I mean, and we were sending our products to Eumundi where they were a little thriving community. We were sending - some of the farmers were supplying Gympie, with our products. And so here at Kenilworth, well you could shoot a cannon up the street after nine o'clock of a morning after all the cream trucks went out, and the potatoes and the other things went off to the railheads, and you wouldn't hit a soul until probably four o'clock that
So I started to realise that, well we could have our own factory and generate employment for local people. So I supported the move as the meeting rolled along. But to me surprise when I asked for a vote, would the people support the factory, I didn't realise it that a very strong contingent of the co-operative of Queensland Q.D.O. had arranged a walk-out.
CF: That's the Queensland Dairymen's Organisation?
DE VERE: Yeah. And some of the very senior people in that led a walk out of the meeting, and I was left with about a quarter of the meeting left. To listen to me talk.
CF: What was their objection?
DE VERE: Well, this was a break in the solidarity. You know, of the industry. Of allowing a proprietary factory to come in amongst us. So enough stayed for me to ask would those in favour that we look at this further come and sign a petition to the Government to grant a licence for these people to have a factory in Kenilworth. So naturally it progressed along and the Government set up a commission, and it sat in Kenilworth for one whole day. And so myself and two others had to give evidence for a factory and all the co-operative factories had their people appointed to give evidence, and that's the ones I've named and the Q.D.O. Anyhow we won the day and the Government ultimately granted that a licence be granted to Kenilworth, something to that effect. So of course, none of my makings of it. It was a win for the pro-factory people.
CF: Which company was it?
DE VERE: Kraft Foods. And it all turned out as I was hoping it would, which generated about twenty-five jobs, that weren't there before. So up sprung a restaurant in the area we didn't have, and up sprung a clothing shop, which we didn't have, or a drapery as you call them in those days. And up sprung the plumber shop, if anybody wanted to get anything, windmill or anything fixed they had to go to Nambour for it. Up sprung an electrician shop. And we got a full time bank branch out there.
CF: This was all within what?
DE VERE: All within a couple of years. But everybody knew they were coming in a very short time. See, so that's how it came about. The next thing I was approached, would I stand for the Council.
CF: And it actually had stemmed from...
DE VERE: Well looking back I can only see why it would have happened. Because all I'd done was milk cows, looked after my fences and paddocks and grew bananas, I didn't have any interest in public life at all.
CF: Actually I'd heard that there had previously been an attempt to have a cheese factory in the area, what was the story about that?
DE VERE: That was in war-time. They built it and all. It was built by the Government. A cheese factory in Kenilworth, and it was built to try and get protein food to our soldiers overseas. They couldn't send butter, they couldn't send milk, without you know, proper and great refrigeration, but they could get cheese there in limited quantities by looking after it fairly well. So the farmers all got together and opposed it. And they opposed it very strongly, so strongly that I think the war come to an end while the argument was still on.
CF: So it all died a death.
DE VERE: It all died a death. And so when this Kraf t won the licence to start a factory, there was moves afoot by somebody, why didn't they take over this cheese factory. Well then there was the protest by all the strong opposition to stop them having that factory. And so the co-operative had a fair input into that first factory, so they stopped them from having it, so they built their own factory.
CF: Was the original building ever used for anything?
DE VERE: Never. It's a bit of a shed. I don't know if there's any much of it left now, it's down towards the river.
CF: Right. The Co-operative had decided that that was definitely not going to be used.
DE VERE: That's right. Well they just threw everything in there. There's a quotation which originated with me from a chap that I had heard it once, I think, but for a chap that just worked and wanted to please everybody and do my own thing, I didn't think I had an enemy in the world. And the time I got that cheese factory started, well I could have entertained all me friends in a telephone box. (Laughs)
CF: So there really was strong feelings?
DE VERE: Oh yes, there was strong feelings. Some of the old farmers never got over it.
DE VERE: Yeah. But anyway, so then the next of course I...
CF: So obviously a lot of the town supported you?
DE VERE: Oh yes, it did when they could see the benefits starting to flow, and so from there of course, well...
Entry into Maroochy Shire Council
CF: This was when people then started approaching you to become the councillor?
DE VERE: Yeah they approached me then to become a councillor. In 1951. And nothing had been further from my mind to be a councillor. And then the local councillor came to me, Councillor Arthur Tanner, then, he was Deputy Chairman of the Maroochy Shire Council. And he approached me to be the councillor. Because he said that he wasn' t gonna stand for the next term, and I still didn't do anything about it, so then he come out and saw me, to my property, and said, "Well look, I'm gonna make it this attractive for you, if you'll say you'll go for the council, I'll resign, and I'll tell the rest of the councillors over there they've gotta put you in, in my place". Because the council has to nominate the person who's gonna replace a councillor. I didn't know that until after I was a councillor. I wondered why he had to tell them that, I thought once he told me to go in and take his place, I thought that would have been good enough. But anyway so, as it happened, we called a public meeting in Kenilworth, and I was endorsed in that public meeting to go forth as his nominee. So that's how I became a... and I promised, look I'll do three years for you, and if it interferes with me life too much, that's it. And of course I was there almost thirty-two years.
CF: What was your initial impact, obviously you went into it perhaps not totally committed, you probably didn't know what you were getting into?
DE VERE: Well I went into it and I was very interested to see what, what they really did in a council.
End Tape 1
Begin Tape 2/Side A
Kenilworth roads, water supply and sewerage
DE VERE: I didn't even used to read the papers what they done in the council. So after I'd been there a little while I started to realise what you could do by concentrated effort, and getting people to support you. And those days of course, all Kenilworth wanted was a road in and out of the place because there were dirt roads everywhere they went. You know, whether you wanted to go to Eumundi, or to Maleny or to Obi or wherever they wanted to go, it was just dirt roads, it was all dirt roads. And consequently when the wet come, all the crossings in the Obi and the Cooloolabin and the Walli Creeks, well they just might get their produce out and they might not for a few days, because the creeks flooded, and there was no way of getting their produce across.
CF: So your first task then was getting the road.
DE VERE: Well the first task I was to see was to get some of the roads on a priority basis, you know, so that the council get a resolution through and get the support of the council, the next main road job come out, would be a piece of road from Eumundi, you know just a section of it. And then you'd keep picking the worst sections, and then that was Main Roads in those days, all Main Roads Department, still is. And so that was that from that budget fund, I started to learn where all the budget monies come from and then from your own budget, then I asked for causeways to be built in these creeks so that farmers... well the water would go over in an even level and you could drive through them, you know, when the floods were on. Surprisingly what happens when you go through into a creek and it's just all a rocky base, and when a flood's going, well the deepest part is right in the centre. But what you do with a causeway, instead of having the water, say a ten or fifteen foot spread, you give it a forty foot spread, and consequently it gets down to about six inches deep, so you can drive through it, over the top of the causeways. So we built causeways, quite a number of them. They were the first moves, they was hailed, he's really doing something, you know, so I was pretty happy, we were starting to get bits by bits of the... there was no Bruce Highway then, the Bruce Highway, as was used as a Bruce Highway, came from Eumundi, out to Belli and up through the Mary Valley, that was the highway, and the highway now, of course as you know, goes from Eumundi up to Cooroy, and so on. So it wasn't hard to get the first piece from Eumundi out to Belli, they came along fairly quickly. I can remember the first election, that I had to face after that time, which kept me going, I only had four people vote against me.
CF: That must have been rather satisfying.
DE VERE: It gave me a tremendous kick. I can remember they announced it in the - elections used to be on Saturday and they come and announced it in the pictures, that night at interval.
CF: Oh you must have been very pleased.
DE VERE: So naturally I was quite keen to go on.
CF: So what was your next challenge after the roads?
DE VERE: Oh the roads, they remained a big challenge for a lot of years. Cause there was a lot of road to be done, and then of course the general town only had dirt sh·eets in it. We had all of the streets of the town sealed, very quickly and then of course we decided to put a water supply into the town. And that seemed to catch the imagination of a lot of people. Strange as it may seem, the only opponents I had was the ones that I had from the cheese factory days.
CF: Did this become a traditional opposition?
DE VERE: Oh yes, it was the traditional opposition, it was the opposition. Anyway we proceeded with that and as it happened we got a fairly economical water supply for the people of Kenilworth.
CF: Where did the Kenilworth water supply come from?
DE VERE: It's from bores, put down near the Mary River, where the old river bed used to be probably, half a century ago, and the water was still seeping through the gravel. So we just put bores down into that gravel, and was able to pump enough water to keep the town going. And of course the factory used the water, and
it was good for everybody.
CF: Was that an expensive proposition?
DE VERE: No it wasn't. Strange as it may seem, we raised some of the money to do that, on those days of an interest rate loan of three and three quarter percent. We raised the final bit it went up, it rocketed up to four percent. We paid four percent on the loan. And people might not realise, when you raise a loan for a local government project, that interest stays through, whether it's a twenty or a thirty year loan, it doesn't vary. It doesn't go up like your housing loans, lif ts up whenever the banks decide to shift the interest rate up. It stays at that same rate until that loan is paid out. So we were pretty lucky there.
CF: Did it mean much of an increase in rates across the town, I mean how did the system work for allocating rates?
DE VERE: Oh, well you just struck a rate for them, and then the initial stages of course, we took a little bit out of the general rate until everybody got connected up and then they produced enough rates to pay for the water rates themselves, out of their town, I think - I'm not too certain - I think they got the water at those stages for about twelve pound per annum. And everybody thought a pound a month, to have all the water they wanted was a pretty wonderful asset, because when the drys come and they had to cart water a long distance, drinking water you know, it was very expensive.
CF: And the bores always ran, you never had any trouble with the bores running out?
DE VERE: No, only had to put down extra bores later. You know as the town grew, the demand grew.
CF: How did the system work in those days. You got roads for the town, you got water for the town. Was it essentially that Division that would have to pay for all this?
DE VERE: Oh yes, that Division paid for everything. It was... oh no you didn't expect any outside help at all, for those projects. It went along very well, well I think one of the interesting side lights in that one, after we had the water for a couple of years, everybody had their own vegetable garden. You know, because they could get plenty of water for their vegetables and there was some beautiful - there's good soil in Kenilworth - and they could grow some lovely vegetables there. And of course everybody had their house cow, and they used to leave their house cows feed off the roads, because there was good pasture on the roads. Well of course kids would come out and leave the front gate open, and in would come the cow and eat the cabbages or the peas or the beans or whatever was growing. And a real ding-dong fight developed in the town after about... they were at me for ages to pound the cows, well when your in public life, you like doing popular things but you don't like doing unpopular things. So, and nobody's changed to this day. (Laughs)
CF: That's what it's all about isn't it, yes.
DE VERE: So they called a public meeting and put me on the mat about it all, and everybody in the town seemed to have turned up at that meeting. And of course they said that it was time that the people - the anti-cow people - said it was time we had a good reliable supply of milk and also get a supply of milk for the school kids, you know school milk, it was just being talked about in Queensland those days. So the meeting settled down to a fairly harmonious meeting and I'm watching it very carefully and I could see well, the winning trump will be on this, say yes I'll pound the cows. So I gave them so long that I would get rid of their cows, and then we'd send the herdsman out to pick up their cows. Ninety-five of them accepted it. But then the meeting finished so quickly, they got onto the next argument was, with so much water, everybody having half a bath for water and having the sink full for washing-up, different when they had a tank, they had to be careful about it. They left their sullage water run, and it'd run into the next door neighbour's yard. And they were in a real old ding-dong, and developed into, "You let your damn water into my yard, you ought to see the mess, and I can smell it", and so on. So then they asked me straight out, "What's the answer to that", and I said "Well, the only thing I could think of was sewerage".
So out of that meeting came a resolution, that I investigate the cost of sewerage and report back to another meeting. And the story's all in history now of course, but I did investigate it, I came back to a meeting, the only objections I got was my opposition from the cheese factory days. Some of them had retired and lived in town by then, and we went ahead, and we had sewerage and we were one of the first towns, which had its own water supply and sewerage. We had it before Gympie, Redlands, Redcliffe, course naturally Nambour and all these places here, and they had their own water and sewerage. But it wasn't me so much, it was the people.
CF: They were pushing.
DE VERE: Well they wanted this problem cleaned up of their sullage water going. So that's how it come about.
CF: Right, so you were then able to initiate it, carry it through.
DE VERE: Yep, yep.
CF: But obviously this did seem to be only happening in the Kenilworth area. Why is it the rest of the Shire didn't seem to be keeping pace?
DE VERE: I think that everybody was frightened of the cost. I can remember councillors saying when I applied, you have to come back to the Council then to apply for a loan to go on to get the money to start all these projects. I can remember they said, "Well look we'll back you on a loan, but it's your head that's gonna be chopped off, because people can't take this". Nambour should have been sewered years before. Years and years.
CF: One would have thought so with the population they had.
DE VERE: Oh yes, and the problems they had, all the pollution going into the creeks and so on. But anyway as it happened, I didn't think it any big deal at the time, again as I said by the time we put the diggers through everybody's back yard, and dug out their favourite cherry trees, and their rose plants, and mucked up their concrete paths, I didn't have a lot of friends lef t there either. But what I learnt out of that, why I never hesitated when I became Chairman later, of sewering all the places, within six months of that being sewered, say if you went to those people and say what would you do away with, your footpaths or your streets or something else, or your sewerage, and everybody said you can take everything but the sewerage. They just appreciated it so much. Af ter all the years of using the old thunder box down the back yards, going out on stormy nights with a torch, I don't know what you did when you didn't have a torch, but anyhow.
CF: So they appreciated the convenience.
DE VERE: They did, the convenience inside.
CF: So Kenilworth by then, had water supplies, sewerage. What would your next priority have been then?
DE VERE: Well by that time our schools was a major problem in developing, because our children used to end at a grade and only a few went to Scholarship because they couldn't afford to be sending their children away, or they thought they couldn't because they had to board them away to send them on to any secondary schooling whatsoever. Was a move to h-y and get some sort of secondary education in the place. And so I travelled the district pretty extensively and I knew all the people intimately by this time, because after all I'd been on the Council a few years. And we decided to apply for the closure of a number of the small schools, Lower Kenilworth, or Gheerulla whatever you like to call it. The Obi Obi, Kidaman, Cooloolabin, and there was another one, Bulumba, but it was closed. And have a central school in Kenilworth to be taken to a you know, a secondary level. And consequently we got those all closed with again a great deal of heart burn, because some people traditionally had grown up with their school in their district, and just was going to be reluctant to lose it. It was a long story over many, many months, but I did have the support in the move, by a Mr Jack Pizzy, the Minister for Education. And because he would like to see it happen in some of Queensland was to bus children into where they could get a better education, he was quite keen about it. And we made the first big move in Queensland, the biggest move in Queensland. To close so many schools on one day.
CF: Really. What year would that have been, that central Kenilworth was set up?
DE VERE: The school? Oh you'd have to take me back a year or two. My daughter was in the first class. I didn't do it for that reason, I might say, that was my eldest daughter. Be about twenty-one years age.
CF: Right, would have been about '64?
DE VERE: Yeah.
CF: And that again was quite a turmoil?
DE VERE: Oh yes, it was quite a turmoil to see all our favourite schools being closed, and I suppose I would have felt it too, but I wasn' t tied to any school, because my kids were on correspondence. My wife was teaching them by correspondence, we were too far away.
CF: So what was the reaction once it was set up, how did people take it?
DE VERE: Oh well of course, this again, was you know, it was one of the highlights of my career according to the people in that area, to get this high school into the area. And so the numbers dramatically grew. I hear rumours that their numbers are dropping, now I don't know why, but they said they're down to what they used to be quite a bit, but I don't know about that.
CF: Did the school end up going right through to High School?
DE VERE: No, it went to what they call a "High Top". And that took the students to Junior level, and then the Department decided to put on a bus that those who felt that they were good enough after Junior, what's that in grades today, nine and ten, isn't it. And to take them up to that level and then they were given a free bus to
another High School. Which enabled them to you know, carry their education through. Quite a number did that, and they turned out pretty bright kids, they went onto University. Which was denied them, in fourteen years only four children ever left that area, when I was doing that survey, ever lef t that area to go away and board and take Junior education. Only four in fourteen years.
CF: So it really was a big thing.
DE VERE: Oh it was great lif t in the prestige of the area.
Involvement in committees
CF: There seemed to have been a lot of interaction between yourself and the people in the area, were you involved in a lot of committees and that sort of thing?
DE VERE: Oh yes, well of course they straight put me on the Hall Committee. When I became Councillor, I was patron and life member of the Bowls Club, I was the deputy of the Rodeo Committee - I originated putting the rodeo committee together. The only reason I wouldn't take president was that, well I was too involved and I couldn't be sure I'd sit there at every meeting. Because I was on Council and I had other business interests at the time. But I used to get there to most of them.