In the 19th and up to the mid 20th centuries when small business dominated the scene in Chermside, an individual could greatly influence the direction of change. Gradually, during the 19211945 period larger organisations began to appear with much greater resources.
In the earlier periods individuals such as Andrew Hamilton or August Vellnagel or Alonzo Sparkes or Michael Gallagher had a significant effect on the local area; one notable exception to this trend was the large firm of Hutton’s at Zillmere which opened in 1888.
During this period, large organisations such as State Housing Commission, the Brisbane City Council, the State and Federal Governments, the banks and, especially in the following period, large private firms began to exert increasing influence on the development of the Chermside area.
The change was gradual, almost imperceptible in most cases but, in others, sudden and dramatic as in World War II when the Commonwealth organised Australia for total war. Much of the change was in the steady building up of infrastructure and the development of modern transport, communication, education and managerial systems as well as a change from a predominantly rural to suburban economy. The whole process was greatly affected by the twin disasters of the Great Depression and the Second World War.
The table below summarises the growth of population over the census years from the first one in 1871till the first post World War II census in 1947, a period of 76 years. It reflects the northward expansion of the city of Brisbane and the development of cheap transport, such as the tram network and the increased ownership of private cars and motor cycles.
It took almost 50 years to reach the first thousand people, 12 years to reach the second thousand and 14 years to reach the fifth thousand; the rate of growth was increasing This would be partly due to natural increase of residents but in the postwar period there would be a sudden influx of new residents who would in turn produce offspring and so the pace of growth would increase, dramatically.
1901 Census 649
1911 Census 811
1921 Census 1,113
1933 Census 2,319
1947 Census 5,055
The early part was a post war economic boom period which was fuelled by the general need to overcome the shortages caused by the industrial concentration on war production. The houses that were not built, the roads that needed extending and repairing, the changing of industries from war to peace time production all combined to create a demand for labour so there was plenty of work. Wages were good and people could spend, so demand grew and the good times rolled.
The troops came home and went to work, married, raised families while demand for all sorts of goods and services grew even more and prosperity seemed assured. Some returned soldiers were assisted by the government to start small farms in the local area such as the Carseldine brothers, Edmond and George, who had blocks at Deepwater Bend near Strathpine. It was a time of building ‘a land fit for heroes’, the Roaring Twenties.
The local agricultural economy had a ready market in the growing Brisbane metropolitan area as its population grew from 209,000 in 1921 to 300,000 by 1930.
The population of Chermside at the census of 1921 was 1,131, a rise of 320 or 40% over the 811 recorded in 1911.
Sport and Leisure – What did Young Folk do for Pleasure?
Joan Hamilton lived in Kuran Street near where it was crossed by Somerset Creek which formed the main playground for the local children. In the 1930s the children would:
Jump the widest part until one of then fell in, sail little boats made of rushes in races, catch tadpoles, put them into bottles and wait for them to turn into frogs; mother used to throw them out before that happened.
Catching lobbies (fresh water crayfish) using a piece of meat tied on a string and dangled in the creek to entice them out and when the lobby sunk its claws into the meat haul them out on the bank; when cooked they were good to eat.
Fish were caught with worms dug out of the garden and impaled on a bent pin tied on a length of cotton. Most of the fish were very small, cat’s food, but some were up to 20cm, and one eel was 60 cm long.
After a storm the creek would flood across Kuran Street preventing cars from using the street. A pedestrian bridge was built but one had to paddle to reach it when the flood was on. Some holes in the creek never dried up even in the most severe drought.
Val Ross continues,
Swimming or lobbying in the creeks was always worthwhile or climbing trees, building cubby houses in the scrub, or picking wild flowers and gum tips for our mothers was always an option. The boys made canoes or other types of floating craft and had fun trying them out in the creeks. Supplied with an armful of potatoes, the boys could finish off their day by roasting them on an open fire.
There was a place in Hamilton Road called the Orchard. While there was no house and it seemed to be abandoned there were mulberry and guava trees on the property. “Every child in the district knew when the fruit was available and we all had our fill”.
Sunday school was the meeting place to make wonderful friends, and have wonderful picnics. Picnics were held on Labor Day in May, there were paper chases, and adults served sandwiches and tea to the children who were seated in a large circle, on the ground.
Later, there were foot races and prizes, games and fun. At one picnic meeting, it rained, so the fun continued inside the church, which was highly unusual. Elva Smith, (my Sunday school teacher,) and myself were allowed to skip inside the church with a rope. Well! The church was old and the floor was full of borers and we went through the floor. There was no more skipping inside the church.
We also had Lodge meetings, for children, held at the School of Arts. The Harris’s were people who were always the centre of all these activities; they gave so much to our childhood. How distressed we were to lose two Sunday school teachers, the Harris’s boys in the dreadful circumstances of the war.
Adrian Turner remembers cycling in the 1920s in Victoria but the boys in Chermside were no different.
Most of the bikes were “fixed wheel,” without gears or brakes on which the experts could do wheel stands or sit on the handlebars and ride backwards. Each of us tried to outdo the others. The girls had bikes with “freewheel” back pedal brakes which we looked upon as ‘sissy’.
Fixed wheel bikes relied on the strength of the rider to backpedal when coming to a stop. It was possible to put one’s foot on the front tyre behind the fork in an emergency, but the risk meant the rider might find himself somersaulting over the handlebars. All these hazards we saw as part of the fun.
Sisters Rona Arndt and Coral Rance (nee Reid) remember the long walks and, when they acquired bicycles:
Rides to Chummy Town, which was out along Hamilton Road near the water tower, while another favourite ride was to the top of “Pleasant View”, now Wavell Heights, to Quinlan’s farm. We would then get on our bikes and without pedalling fly down the hill, along Duff Street (now Kuran Street) to Gympie Road; what fun. As we grew older, we were allowed to ride to Cash’s Crossing (Albany Creek) as long as we were with friends; we would take our lunch and when we arrived there would have a swim. Our brother Barrie preferred to ride horses to Cash’s Crossing; lovely care free days.
A tennis court was built at Chermside School. We formed a tennis club for weekends. Barrie, Peter Coney, Betty Shackleford, myself and whoever wanted to play a game had some happy days there. There were many tennis courts in Chermside. The ones I remember are Mechlim’s in Latham Street, Taylor’s in Rode Road, Stephen’s at the Saw Mill, Woolley’s at Chummy Town and Chermside School.
Valma Ross (nee Fullwood) offers a unique explanation of the width of Gympie Road and gives a significant insight into the transport of the time:
Gympie Road, how broad it is, at the main shopping area, as if by careful planning and far thinking design. Yet, about 1932, I remember when the bullock teams would travel down from the north, carting logs to Stevens’ sawmill, which was almost opposite Chermside School. The road was unsurfaced at that time and pools of water and mud at times made the centre sections of the road an impassable quagmire, the bullock teams would diverge in wider and wider swoops, in order to proceed. Gympie Road by this manner of use, became wider and wider.
Later the road was surfaced, and the tramline was extended from the Lutwyche Cemetery terminus, to Hamilton Road. A median strip was formed and planted with floribunda roses. It was a beautiful sight. There would not have been a resident of Chermside who was not proud of our suburb.
Perhaps bullocks have played a larger part in our environment, much more than we have been aware. (Yes, they did, but I don’t think they widened Gympie Road. Ed.)
While bullock wagons were largely confined to the bush, in the towns the horse was still prominent but slowly giving way to the automobile. The Hamilton family was probably typical of the time with the younger members driving cars while the older ones, such as Thomas and his generation, were still driving the sulky and would continue to do so never learning to drive a car.
Another of the younger generation, Mick Simpson, born in 1913, learned to drive bullock and horse teams and bought his first motor vehicle in 1929, an old single seater Chevrolet (Chev) car for ₤10. By this time, at the age of 16, he was becoming very skilled at mechanical work, so he built a racing body on his car, “I used iron from sulky wheels and because we didn’t have electricity or drills, in order to bore a hole, I had to heat the iron and make the hole with a punch.”
Out of work in the depression, a friend told him that a man at Yarraman wanted a truck driver, but Mick protested that he couldn’t drive a truck, only to be told that he would soon learn, which he did, the hard way. A licence to drive an automobile covered all sorts of vehicles; it was not until much later that separate licences were issued.
Mick rode his horse about 15 miles to Yarraman and asked for the job, which he got, but had to get the truck going as it had broken down with a load of logs out on the road. Next morning he went to the truck and tried to crank it; no self starters then. But there was no compression and he found the valves were burnt out so he sent the owner to get new valves at a local garage. Once he got the truck started he had to learn how to drive with a load of logs on board. It was a big five ton truck with solid rubber tyres, and no brakes and no power steering, but he managed somehow and hauled logs to the railway at Yarraman.
Although Mick was driving he didn’t have a licence until the local policeman asked him one day, “Have you got a licence?”, to which Mick replied “No”, so the policeman told him to come down to the station and get one. There was no examination; the policeman knew that Mick could drive so, with payment of the fee, Mick got his first driving licence; it was all very casual in those early automobile days.
In Chermside automobiles were becoming more common and, in 1924 , an enterprising man, Bill Auld who was a butcher, rented part of Charlie (Carl) Murr’s blacksmith shop and set up the first Service Station or garage in the village. It was an ideal site on the north west corner of Latham Street and Gympie Road where it could access the passing traffic. The blacksmith shop was set up there in the first place to cater for the horse transport and was now complemented by the garage so that automobiles could be serviced as well.
Some additional items were needed such as petrol bowsers, provision for spare parts and accessories and a mechanic’s pit in the floor. Gradually the blacksmithing would decline and be replaced by the garage services. Even with a mechanic there would be some automobile work for the smith such as spring setting on the old leaf springs. By the early 1970s both businesses had been replaced by two major service industries, the State Government Insurance Office and the Department of Education Offices. By the 1990s these businesses has also been replaced as shown by photographs in this section.
The old double deck horse buses were still operating in the early 1920s connecting Chermside with the railway at Wooloowin and in 1923 the first motor bus started. It would make the journey much more quickly than the old horse bus. The pace of life was beginning to speed up and time was becoming more important. The faster bus and improved roads made it possible for people to travel longer distances in the same time and in general, more cheaply.
Herbert Carr a life long resident of Aspley/Chermside area and a prominent student of transport vehicles in the local area continues:
I remember my mother speaking about the horse drawn bus before the motorised buses. Mum and Dad married in 1915 and it was around this time that Arthur Laverack Snr, who was the licensee of the Royal Exchange Hotel, Aspley, bought the horse buses. He later bought the Kedron Omnibus Company horse stables in Hall Street Chermside and had them shifted to his property opposite the hotel; the buses ran from Aspley to Wooloowin.
After World War I, Charles Albion and Bill Bielenberg bought the bus service from Arthur Laverack. In 1922 Les Boyce and Dave Little bought the company. They only used the horse buses for a year and in 1923 they bought their first new motor bus a Model T Ford with solid tyres and another Ford the following year.
Dave and Les bought another bus in 1925. This bus was fitted with an exhaust whistle. The only thing I remember vividly about that bus was the sound of the whistle or horn as we as children referred to it. Allan, Ronald and I were very young at that time and were impressed with the unusual sound and we referred to that particular bus as the “Toe Toe” bus. Then they bought a 1926 four cylinder bus. This was not used as frequently as the next two buses which had Dodge motors the first a 1927 and next 1928. These two buses were used seven days a week constantly for their run from Bald Hills to Wooloowin station. These two buses were in use right up to 1936. The floors on these buses were built above tyre height the same as a truck body. The passenger seats run the full length of the bus on both sides and one across the back. The only time the Chevrolet was used through that period was to transport people to the Chermside Dawn Theatre.
In 1936 Dave and Les bought a 1936 Dodge and had the body fitted by “Hugh” H.F.M. Hamilton Body Works at Chermside. This bus body was modern compared to the other buses. The seats were fitted across the bus with the aisle down the centre as they are today. In 1938 they bought a “Maple Leaf’ and that body was also fitted by Hamiltons. These two buses were still in use until Rex Mitchell bought the business in 1945 linking his Sandgate run with the Bald Hills run.
Herbert Bilsen of Aspley, who was a brotherinlaw to Dave Little, drove the bus on a Sunday. Dave and Les drove the other six days. In 1940 Dave Little collapsed at the wheel on his return trip a few metres on the city side of Downfall Creek Bridge near Vellnagel’s Blacksmith Shop. Some one in the bus was able to take control of the bus and therefore prevent a bad accident.
Dave and Les never issued tickets. You just paid the fare according to where you were going. At that time the fare on the main run from Bald Hills to Wooloowin Station was 9 pence or 3 shillings and sixpence a week ($2.07 and $9.06 in 2004 values), a one way ticket in 2008 costs $1.60. Tickets were issued after Rex Mitchell bought the business from Les Boyce.
Motor traffic on pneumatic tyres travelled much faster than the horse drawn vehicles so they needed a much smoother road surface. Rough roads can be a nuisance for slow moving vehicles but when the speed increases to 30 or 40 miles per hour they can be positively dangerous causing bad accidents. Councils were becoming aware of this new problem and if they were slow to act then the fast growing automobile clubs were quick to remind them.
The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) was formed at a meeting of motorists on the 31 May 1903 in the Brisbane School of Arts, Ann Street . It had very small beginnings but as the number of automobiles grew so did the Club; it was one of the new service organisations that were to play such a great part in the development of 20th Century Chermside.
Main roads such as Gympie Road were carrying increasing amounts of traffic which travelled faster as new model automobiles appeared every few years so the local Council had to move quickly and upgrade these roads. Widening and sealing the surface with bitumen, kerbing and guttering in concrete, flood proofing of bridges made them into safer all weather roads; it also meant a steady increase in rates.
While automobiles were becoming more common, most people could not afford them and had to rely on cheap public transport, of which trains and trams were the main ones. However neither came near Chermside until the electric trams arrived at Lutwyche Cemetery on 2nd May 1925. Even then passengers had to leave a tram on the south side of Kedron Brook, walk over the bridge and join another tram on the north side. This persisted until a more substantial bridge was built over Kedron Brook by the Brisbane City Council in 1927. The trams finally arrived in Chermside on 30 March 1947 and were greeted with enthusiasm; convenient cheap transport had finally arrived.
Brisbane had expanded along the northern route of Gympie Road since the 19th Century and much of this expansion depended on cheap public transport, the most important of which, in the interwar period, was the electric tram.
As the trams moved out towards Chermside, housing estates opened up along the route so that the housing front generally moved with the trams. But in the case of the 1919 Kedron Tram Extension Estate it got well ahead of the trams. This estate was at Rode Road Chermside and the trams did not arrive there till 1947. Added to this was its advertising of an “expected extension” of the railway from Maine to Chermside which has still not arrived in 2008. Is this an example of poetic license or just plain misleading advertising? They did, however, mention that the existing tram terminus was 1.25 miles or 2km away at Kedron Brook.
In 1925 when the trams had reached Lutwyche cemetery on Gympie Road the people living in Chermside could walk to the terminus and catch a tram into the city. Peg Powell (nee Radcliffe) recounts that, as a child, she walked 1.5 miles each way to Chermside State School and thought nothing of it. When she went to Commercial High in the city she walked another half mile to the tram terminus but when she started work and was able to buy a bike she rode it and left it at the Cemetery caretaker’s house. People walked a lot in those days, especially when they didn’t have any other option.
Some of the community from ‘Chummy Town’, which consisted of families on Maundrell Terrace opposite Craigslea High School, used to walk about 2.5 miles (4 km) to the terminus to catch the tram to work.
In 1925 the ‘Rainey’s Hill Top Park Estate’, near the present Prince Charles Hospital, included Robert Street, Rode Road, Wallace Street, Hill Top Avenue and Rainey Street. It was offering 99 allotments on ₤1($60 in 2004 values) deposit and 10/ ($30 in 2004 values) monthly at 6% interest. It was about half a mile to the tram terminus.
The following year, 1926, the ‘Glenora Estate’ of Paul Maggs, the tannery owner, was divided into188 housing blocks of mostly 16 perches. It included Rode Road, Bristol Road, White Street, Taylor Street and Maggs Street. Although it was very close to the Lutwyche tram terminus it took over 30 years to sell all the blocks which indicated that the demand was steady.
The same year the Hamilton property ‘Chermside Township Estate’, about a mile from the Lutwyche tram terminus, was offering 77 blocks in Kingsmill, Thomas and Charlotte Streets and by 1928 they had sold only 17 blocks.
In about 1927 ‘Glentanna Estate’, Kedron, which was 300 yards from Lutwyche tram terminus on the west side of Gympie Road and included Rode Road to Edward Street, was offering 108 Blocks on ₤10 deposit over 5 years at 6.5% Contrast the deposit with that of Rainey’s Estate further out at Chermside.
About the same time ‘Seskenore Estate Kedron’ which was on Gympie Road and included Cremorne Road, Nieppe Street and Armentieres Street, was offering 34 Sites.
These estates were being developed just before the Great Depression began in 1929 so that, if Glenora Estate is any guide, they would have experienced difficulty in selling. The two estates at Chermside were ahead of the tram and would wait till 1947 before it arrived in Chermside; the other estates were all on the existing line to Lutwyche.
Before the advent of electric power in Chermside the usual method of lighting was candle or kerosene lamps; later in the early 20th Century carbide lamps which produced flammable acetylene gas were used. None of these were much use for street lighting and piped gas was not available this far out from the city.
The electricity supply was gradually extending out from the city and according to Teague reached Lutwyche cemetery area by 1924 and the following year was installed in the Chermside School of Arts but while the State School asked for it in 1925 it does not seem to have been installed until, at least, February 1930.
People began to install electric light in their homes as it was vastly superior to the earlier methods and much safer as it reduced the risk of fire from knocked over kerosene lamps and candles; once people learned of the dangers of electrocution it became even safer.
When piped gas became available it rapidly replaced the old cast iron fuel stoves and consequently reduced the demand for fire wood, so the occupation of wood cutter declined and it eventually joined the growing list of extinct jobs. On the other hand, both electricity and gas supply created many new jobs. Thus a change in technology causes changes in the employment structure of society, some lose, others win.
In 1925, the Queensland State Parliament passed the City of Brisbane Act to set up a single government in Brisbane with 26 aldermen. Before this, the Brisbane area had been divided up into 20 local authorities and joint boards with more than 200 aldermen.
The newly elected Brisbane City Council, headed by Brisbane's first mayor, William Jolly, previously the mayor of Windsor, took over the local administration on 1 October 1925. This marked the end of the Kedron Shire Council and local control over local government; from then on this control would be in the hands of a much larger and more remote administration.
On the other hand, the new council had much greater financial backing and could use the economies of scale, especially in the areas of buying specialised machinery and purchasing materials in bulk quantities. It could also afford to employ highly specialised people for specific tasks such as town planners, architects, specialist engineers, historians, office managers and many others which the smaller local councils were unable to do with their limited resources.
More importantly, the City Council could start to plan the overall development of the city using the then developing science of town planning, build or supervise the building of city wide systems of libraries, sewage systems, major roads, shopping centres, industrial areas and many other features. Brisbane was moving into a much better position to develop the growth of the city over the future. It was replacing piecemeal development with central control. Chermside would be a small part of a much larger dynamic complex with consequences that nobody could have foreseen in 1925.
In 1925 the Kedron Shire would have comprised the proto suburbs of Aspley, Bald Hills, Chermside, Everton Park, Geebung, Gordon Park, Kedron, Stafford and Zillmere with farmland and bush covering most of the area. In the census of 1921the shire had a population of 5,834.
By 2000 in addition to the above suburbs new ones had developed in the old Kedron Shire area – Boondall, Bracken Ridge, Bridgeman Downs, Carseldine, Chermside West, McDowall, Mitchelton, Stafford Heights, Taigum, Fitzgibbon and Wavell Heights; the population was about 120,000 persons.
The open paddocks and bushland were largely gone and the area was jealously preserving any remaining open spaces for development as public parks.
The Great Depression was so called because it was the most severe depression that the Industrial world had suffered in the preceding 100 and more years; the previous depression was the Bank Crashes of the 1890s. The Great Depression is generally slated to have begun when the New York stock exchange crashed between Black Thursday, 24 and Black Tuesday, 29 October, 1929 causing price of stocks and shares to plummet. Millions of wage earners, mostly male, were suddenly thrown out of work as businesses of all kinds closed and went bankrupt.
Australia already had a 10% unemployment rate during the latter 1920s as the agricultural and mining sectors were unable to sell all their export produce. It got worse in the 1930s when up to 28% of the workforce was unemployed, with a much higher rate on the coal fields. Almost one worker in three was out of a job. Many men went ‘walkabout’ in search of work, any work, at virtually any wage.
There was a kind of dole available but a man had to move around and collect it from different police stations as a proof that he was looking for work. Jack Thompson remembers that the unemployed men walked to Caboolture one week then to Ipswich the next for their rations worth about 13/6 ($50 in 2004 values) per week; Relief work was started later.
The sight of soup kitchen queues became commonplace along with the ‘Happy Valley’ settlements where the unemployed and the evicted built their shanties. A generation of families was raised in these settlements and the remains of the government built toilet and shower blocks can still be seen in some out of the way places.
In the 1930s few women went to work outside the home or the family farm. The dominant family unit was a male breadwinner, housewife and dependent children, with an occasional son or daughter working outside the family. So for most families, if the husband was out of work there was no income.
The 1930s were described as the ‘Hungry Thirties’ and ‘The years of cutting back’ when the Premiers Plan appeared, reducing government spending by 20% along with wages and pensions.
The following measures were implemented in schools, including Chermside State School:
Teachers’ salaries were cut, but they still had jobs.
Promotion was on paper only as salary increases were not granted.
There was a reduction in spending on school requisites.
Children were required to bring their own writing, copy and drawing books or use slates.
The School Paper was discontinued
Free dental service was restricted to schools on railway lines, so Chermside missed out.
Children came to school hungry. The fortunate ones brought bread and dripping (slice of bread used to wipe the fat from the frying pan and sprinkled with salt) to eat for lunch. Patched pants and bare feet were the order of the day. Children were arriving and leaving as their families moved in search of work. It became harder to raise money for school projects but, on the other hand, prices were lower and not so much money was required. Relief work was used in school improvements. The effects continued till the beginning of World War II.
This was a form of ‘work for the dole’ which was developed on government projects for limited periods of time, to provide some work for unemployed men, maybe one week in two. It was probably the first work for the dole scheme in Australia and it lasted till the outbreak of World War II. The work was mostly “pick and shovel”, or unskilled work, although some of the men were highly skilled tradesmen and office workers.
Projects were mainly of the public works type such as road building and maintenance, water supply, improvements to parks, school yards, hospital grounds and other public places. The Chermside State School records list several times when men were employed on relief work during the 1930s. The most each man could have received per week was about ₤2/2/6 ($155 in 2004 values) but prices for basic commodities were very low. There were a lot of skinny people around in those days and a fat person was envied.
Everyone was cutting back on costs, even the Department of Public Instruction. In the Queensland State Archives there are documents typed and written on the back of printed forms and even student exercises. They were recycling paper and the schools where doing likewise. Slates were still in use and they could be reused indefinitely by just wiping off the last exercise with a damp rag or, alternatively, a spit on the slate and a wipe did the job.
Money was being paid direct to the schools to help the children of relief workers so that they were helped to keep up with the children of men who had jobs. The money would probably be for school supplies and possibly for some food. Inspector F. H. Fletcher noted, in his report on Chermside of 1June 1936, that “Children of Relief Workers received ₤14/12/2 ($1,008 in 2004 values) worth of assistance.” He did not say how many children or for how long.
Coral Rance (nee Reid), who worked in her father’s grocery store in Chermside, recounts that times were hard during the Great Depression and every second Thursday was payday for the men working on Relief Work. They would gather at the Police Station on the corner of Kuran Street and Gympie Road to collect their pay and her father would put out a notice showing the price of necessities such as bread, flour, sugar, milk, so that they could buy what they needed for their families.
One day a young girl came into the shop and asked the price of skim milk. When she was told she went around the other grocery stores of Early, Fisher and Hacker and priced skim milk again. Then she returned to Reid’s and bought it there because it was a halfpenny cheaper. Time did not mean much to that young girl but the little money she had did; a halfpenny was a halfpenny in the days when farthings were still in use.
Churches and Lodges
Although the Registers of the Chermside State School show a wide variety of Christian denominations among the pupils, the numbers of any one group were not enough for them to erect their own church building. Consequently, up until the early 1920s, the Methodists were the only denomination to have their own church building in Chermside although there were others in nearby suburbs.
By 1900 there were Anglicans at Lutwyche, Aspley and Nundah, Baptists at Nundah, Church of Christ at Zillmere, Congregationalists at Bowen Hills, Lutherans at Nundah and Nudgee, Presbyterians at Bald Hills as well as another Methodist church at Nundah.
The interwar period saw a notable increase in the number of small local churches as the area expanded and the population grew.
In 1913 local people formed the Kedron Presbyterian church beginning with a Sunday school in a house on the corner of Gympie Road and Castle Street and in 1914 built a church on the corner of Caithness (later Strathmore) and Richard Streets.
In 1925 the Kedron Methodist (Leckie Street) church started in the Wintergarden Theatre, since replaced by Kedron Bowl, with a Sunday school and the first services were held 1926/7.
These two church congregations merged in 1977 to form the Kedron Uniting Church and in 2000 merged with the Chermside Kedron Community Church (CKCC).
The second church in Chermside was the Assembly of God which began in the Hannah home on the corner of Hamilton and Pfingst Roads in 1922. Jim Hannah, in his history, says that the church became fully functioning in 1930 and affiliated with the Brisbane church. In 1947 a Church Hall was built and a Club Hall added in 1975, while the present brick building was erected in 1985.
The Gordon Park Methodist Church was founded in 1927 and, in 1932 the Chermside Congregational Church was built on Rode Road. Both of these churches subsequently merged with the Chermside Kedron Community Church in 2000.
In February 1926 the Chermside Methodists purchased a property on the corner of Hamilton & Gympie Roads for ₤300 ($17,253 in 2004 values) and in November 1926 moved their existing church building from Banfield Street to the new site at a cost of ₤140 ($8,000 in 2004 values) NB. Due to the increase in the local value of land in Chermside, the sale price of the property in 2006 was $1.2m all of which went to purchasing land and building the present Uniting Church on the corner of Rode and Gympie Roads.
The Masonic Lodge started in June 1925 at a meeting in the Chermside School of Arts and in 1957 moved to a new building at Kedron. The United Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia, Perseverance Lodge No 54, was founded in Chermside from the Lutwyche branch in about 1898 when Thomas Hamilton joined.
Days of Orange and Green
Val Ross (nee Fullwood) illustrates the antagonism that existed between the Catholic and Protestant churches of the time. Mostly the problem was concealed and enabled people to work together but sometimes it surfaced and caused heartbreak.
Times were tough, too tough, but it seemed humans are prepared to make it even tougher for some.
The 1930s were days of serious religious intolerance, where families could be split apart because one family member changed their religious affiliation from one branch of Christianity to another.
This could have far reaching consequences in unexpected circumstances. Death was always a threat, before the days of penicillin, and the medical skills of today. It was not unusual for children to lose one parent.
One student sat in the class weeping all day. He was usually a well behaved and very quiet boy, so it was difficult to have a feeling of rapport with him. The rest of the students in the class were concerned over the boy’s distress. Another student offered the distressed boy comfort and asked what the trouble was.
The reply was, “My mother is getting buried today, and my older sisters will not allow me to go to the funeral.”
More questions followed; it seems the boy’s parents were of opposing Christian religions. They had agreed to have the daughters follow the mother’s religion, and the sons follow the father’s religion. The boy believed he was not permitted to enter into his mother’s church, a belief that was reinforced by his older sisters.
I’ll never forget the tragedy of that day, or the distress of that boy.
Old groups continued and new ones developed to deal with the new problems arising in the developing society, Legacy for war widows, RSL for war veterans, while sports such as cricket, hockey and football were becoming more organised. Two examples:
This organisation aimed to upgrade the local area and was “Always to the forefront in any move to better conditions, particularly around campaigns to improve roads, footpaths, and the installation of sewerage etc.”
David Teague thinks that the Association may have had its origins in the Chermside Citizens’ Committee which was operating as early as 1913 but no records were available when he was writing in 1973. It is very likely the case in a community as active as Chermside, actually it would be unrealistic to assume that such an organisation did not then exist.
The earliest record of the local association is in an undated article in the Brisbane Courier which ceased publication on 26 August 1933. The article records that the Chermside Progress Association first annual meeting was held in the School of Arts Hall, the minutes of which show the earliest meeting of the Association as 13 May 1931, so the report would have to be that year or earlier.
The Association used the School of Arts Hall, rent free, in 1931 “to prepare it for an Evening for the Relief of the Unemployed of Chermside.” This was to raise money during the Great Depression which was then in its early stages.
The Progress Association was given free use of the School of Arts Hall on October 23 1935 to give a ‘send off’ to farewell Constable Rigney who came to Chermside when the Police Station was reopened on 22 November 1929 ; in those days he was the only policeman in Chermside.
When Eddie and Elizabeth (Jo) Kann joined the Association in 1952, most members were concerned about the poor state of the roads and ‘juvenile delinquency’. They and Vera Young were interested in a youth sport program which they saw as a possible solution to the delinquency problem. Another major project was the establishment of an Ambulance Station in Chermside and door knocking was carried out to finance the scheme. Also, to raise funds, a street carnival was held on Gympie Road, with one lane blocked off.
They succeeded in establishing the Youth Club in 1956 and the Ambulance Station in 1957. Unfortunately, no records exist of later times and the Kanns think the Association finally finished some time about the middle 1960s.
On the 23 November 1936 the garden settlement was opened on Gympie Road opposite Banfield Street with the founder and driving force behind it, Rev Harold Manuel Wheller, in charge . His aim was “To preserve the Honour and Dignity of Old Age” . A nonprofit organisation, the settlement, a pioneer in its field, has grown steadily, attracting many benefactors and giving sterling service to the residents.
A major benefactor was George Marchant who, in the beginning stages, gave so generously to the settlement that it was decided to name it after him. His reaction was “leave my name out of it just call it the ‘The Garden Settlement’”, so they named a House after him.
When it was opened it was state of the art, and over the decades as the ‘art’ changed the settlement changed with it; it is a story of constant upgrades and extension of accommodation.
By 1951 there were 140 residents and the number kept growing so that in 1957, when a 7.5 acre (3 ha) block of land on the corner of Banfield Street and Gympie Road became available, it was bought and Youngman House was established; another 56 residents were accommodated.
The next expansion was on a 4.5 acre (1.8 ha) block, in 1962, at Halsmere Street, Geebung on which was built the John Wesley Gardens; this garden settlement accommodated some 94 residents in 2007.
In January 1990 the Youngman House settlement was sold and the remaining residents moved over Gympie Road to the main settlement. In 1992 the Australian Tax Office and the Commonwealth Offices were built on this land.
In 2007 Wheller and John Wesley Gardens accommodated about 600 residents cared for by over 100 staff. Extensive demolition of old buildings and building of new accommodation is going on in the settlement. The major new buildings are the Chermside Medical Centre fronting Gympie Road and Wheller on the Park, a very large set of apartments for future residents.
Visiting teams play bowls with residents while students from nearby schools are regular visitors and provide companionship for the residents.
Facilities include: Library, outdoor courtyard, therapy centre, free bus service to local shops, special activities/entertainment/excursions and weekly church services
Three types of accommodation are provided for residents:
Independent living for couples and singles in selfcontained units.
Hostel or low care accommodation for people who need some support.
High care accommodation for people who require roundtheclock nursing care.
The police station in Chermside was closed in 1917 and a report for 1918 indicates that there were only six arrests for the year, all for minor offences. But by 1923 the Shire Council took up a petition and wrote to the Commissioner requesting that the station be reopened . They list excessive speed of ‘motors’ on Gympie Road, driving without lights at night and traffic regulations being ignored. They also say that “numerous burglaries have been committed” especially poultry thieving and “it is quite unsafe to leave goods or premises unprotected”; still people today talk about the old days when “you didn’t have to lock up the house when you went out”.
Almost all the 33 names on the petition are readily recognised as prominent members of the Chermside community; probably all the local business men, not women.
More letters followed as the Chermside people agitated for the return of a resident policeman until finally the Police Gazette of 27 November 1929 records that Constable Rigney was transferred from Windsor to the new station at Chermside. The new station was the same one vacated in 1917 on the corner of Duff Street and Gympie Road and owned by Alex Hamilton. Chermside could now breathe easy and sleep soundly at night.
When the Chermside station was inspected in 1931 it was recorded that Constable Rigney, in his khaki uniform had “one LeeEnfield rifle (.303), one new pattern revolver and sufficient ammunition”. For transport he had troop horse “Hawk”, in good condition and serviceable and one Allday & Onions (bicycle) in fair condition and serviceable . It is not clear how he was supposed to apprehend a fleeing fugitive who might be driving a car or riding a motor cycle.
The Commissioner reported in a letter to the Minister dated 21 May 1936 that “The question of supplying a motor cycle to this Station (Chermside) for use, instead of a horse, will receive due consideration when funds are available”.
The inspection report of 1936 mentions that the horse was gone and just a bicycle was available. The next three reports are missing but the 1940 report notes the presence of an “Austin (10) motor car, ………..owned by Constable Perry, who receives an allowance of 35/ per month for its use on Departmental work”.
By 1934 the police were looking at available land on Gympie Road with a view to build a new station and they favoured one of the blocks on the corner of Hamilton and Gympie Roads. The owner was W G Early whose shop was near the corner of Banfield Street and he owned most, if not all, the land fronting Gympie and Hamilton Roads and Playfield Street.
It appears that Early was not anxious to sell the land to a private buyer as they might set up in opposition to his grocery store. The police did not constitute a threat to his business but he wanted ₤300 for the land and he wouldn’t budge.
A deal was finally stuck and in the Government Gazette of 9 November 1935 a part of portion 574 was reserved for police purposes; no price was announced. The new police station was built, probably in early 1936.
With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Sparkes’ Paddock was selected as the site of an army camp and engineers moved in to prepare it for a large influx of men. Constable Perry, in a letter to the Inspector at Fortitude Valley, explained that he would need an extra man to help control increased numbers. In support of his request he cited an incident that took place:
On the night of the 30/8/40, a number of the Military men, were present at a dance held in the School of Arts, Chermside, when several blows were exchanged between them and some of the civilians, and it was only that I happened to be on hand, and prevented further trouble, that prevented an all in brawl, between the Military and Civilians, and as there is a Dance held here every Friday night, further trouble is likely to occur at any of these dances, especially Pay nights for the Military, when they get a few drinks in.
The request was granted and Constable Pitt was appointed to Chermside. It is not certain if the Department took up Constable Perry’s suggestion that the new man could be installed, after suitable alterations, in the disused horse stable; they were used to primitive conditions in those days. About this time the police began wearing Blue Serge uniforms. Would this be to distinguish them from the military khaki uniform?
The Post Office agency continued to operate in Sammells’ shop on the corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road after James Argo bought the business in May 1918 and his daughter, Christine, was appointed Post Mistress at an annual salary of ₤60/5/0 ($3,900 in 2004 values)
It is not certain, but the agency may have remained in the old Sammells shop when the next two Postmasters were appointed, R E Hall in 1926 and J H Gordon in 1928. However in October 1930, when G Jeffs was appointed, the agency was transferred to his shop a few doors along towards Kuran Street.
In 1935 Jeffs sold the shop and agency to George B Reid who ran the business as a combined grocery, fruit and vegetables, stationary, milk bar, newsagent and Post Office .
Sisters, Coral Rance and Rona Arndt, daughters of George Reid recall something of the post office:
The Post Office section of the business provided many of the services of the modern counterpart but had no computers or other electronic devices. The postman did his rounds on a push bike not a motor bike – he sweated in the summertime and got drenched in the wet. A sort of email, called a Telegram was used to send urgent messages for which the customer paid by the word. Consequently, great care was taken to ensure that the minimum number of words was used. Money orders could also be sent by telegram.
We paid Old Age Pensions, later Child Endowment and War Pensions and also operated a Commonwealth Bank Agency.
At a later stage Dad separated the store and the Post Office and remained the Post Master of Chermside for many years with Coral as his assistant; he leased the rest of the business to people named Bryant.
Industries – Processing
The main industries operating in the Chermside area in the 1920s were the tanneries and slaughter yards both of which were regarded as noxious, mainly because of the smell and the refuse they produced. Chermside at the time was on the edge of the city and so was a good place for such industries, close to the market for their products, close to the farming areas for their raw materials and well separated from the housing areas.
The Queensland Cattle Industry Commission of 1928 sheds some light on the situation. Mr D L Miller, an Inspector of Slaughterhouses, had to supervise slaughter yard sanitation, inspect the meat and the shops selling meat. He was responsible for inspecting 6 slaughter yards, within a radius of five miles of Chermside and 22 shops to make sure they conformed to regulations. The six slaughter yards, which he said were in good condition, had a weekly killing of 180200 cattle, 1000 sheep and 75 pigs.
One of the larger local slaughter yards was the 75 acre (30.3 ha) government owned State Butchery of Chermside near the intersection of Hamilton and Webster Roads, with an average weekly kill of 163 cattle, 100 sheep, 46 pigs and 95 calves. The employees consisted of 1 manager, 4 slaughter men and 8 offsiders who killed for private butchers with stock from the Newmarket Sale yards. The total investment was ₤6,676/5/4 ($397,200 in 2004 values). The State Government had set up similar yards in various localities to try and produce cheaper meat and, possibly, to act as a model for the privately owned yards.
The firm of Alonzo Sparkes Ltd probably had the largest area of yard in Chermside and supplied the firm’s six butcher shops in North Brisbane. The yard was 162 hectares in the centre of Chermside with a total capitalisation of ₤8,200 ($476,900 in 2004 values) but the value of the land, rather than the equipment, probably made up much of the value.
Among the smaller yards was that of Herbert Robinson, on Hamilton Road near the present Craigslea School. It totalled 25.25 acres (10 hectares) and killed for six butchers. He bought it in May 1908 and his total investment was ₤560 ($32,570 in 2004 values)
The end of the slaughter yards came very suddenly in 1931 when the State Government bought Swift’s meat works at Cannon Hill, possibly for ₤700,000 ($41,645,000 in 2004 values) and established the Queensland Meat Industry Board to oversee the meat industry of Queensland. This was in response to the various Commissions of Inquiry into the meat industry which clearly showed up its shortcomings, especially in the area of hygiene and disease prevention.
All slaughtering for the Brisbane market was then centralised and kept fully under State Government supervision. Those who had lost their jobs would have had trouble finding new ones as the Great Depression was underway and unemployment was rising; some may have gone to work at the Cannon Hill meat works.
Industries – Primary
Many small mixed farms still carried on producing tomatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, pumpkins, lettuce, crops of corn, millet, arrowroot, pineapples, bananas, melons, mangoes, paw paws, while some specialised as dairies and others as piggeries; the latter being as noisome as the tanneries. The farms were usually of 10 – 30 acre in size and family operated.
Kettleton Farm – Lillian Hyder (nee Kettleton) outlines the struggle faced by a soldier settler after the First War. John, born 9 November 1894 — died 7 June 1962 and Elizabeth (nee Stewart) born 13 February 1900 — died 28 January 1969; they had four children between 1921 and 1930; Lillian takes up the story:
My father was a 191418 War veteran and my mother was a war bride from Scotland. Dad returned to Australia on the H.M.S. “Berrima” with his bride in 1919. They settled on a soldier settler land at Aspley where father set up a mixed farm dairy cattle, mixed crops and grew feed for the cows. Cabbage Tree Creek bordered our land. The area is now called North McDowall.
Our family didn’t own a car or truck. My father took his produce to market with a horse and cart. Mother went shopping with a horse and sulky. Our life was good. We always had plenty of food on the table, mostly self maintained. It was hard during the drought years. Dad had to buy food for our cows.
Dad also worked on the roads because there was not enough money made from milk, cream and produce — prices were very low. Father and mother were hard working people. As we in turn were old enough we all helped on the farm milking cows, separating, picking tomatoes, beans, watermelons and then sorting and packing for market. We used to go to market at Turbot Street with father or mother, if father was working. In those days the working week was six days.
Then came the day when all the work went by the wayside, father lost his job. Father couldn’t get sustenance because he owned a farm. The only alternative was to live on their meagre savings.
War was raging in Europe. Then the Americans came to Australia. Dad got work with the Americans. Then Dad got the chance to join the American Merchant Navy to load supply ships. He went to work with the Brisbane City Council where he worked until his retirement.
In 1948 the farm was sold and my parents bought a house in Nundah. Mother went to work to pay for their house.
And they promised to make Australia a land fit for heroes after the Great War!
Basnett’s Dairy Farm, West Chermside
When the slaughter yards closed they were sometimes replaced by warm milk dairies and piggeries. William Basnett, president of the Warm Milk Association, bought the State Butchery of Chermside property and established a model warm milk dairy farm; they opposed pasteurisation of milk. William’s son, Walter, describes the dairy and milk delivery business.
The first dairy was at Aspley but it was too far for the horse carts doing the deliveries, so Dad decided to move closer to his market. He bought the old State Slaughter Yard after it had been closed down in the early 1930s. It was about 75 acres (30.3 hectares), on the south side of Hamilton Road and extended from the Packer and Knox wool scour where the roundabout is now, to near where White’s Road is now. There were some buildings, fenced yards and the town water was connected and that’s what decided my father to buy there.
We were milking about 30 – 40 cows every day and each cow had to produce two to three gallons (1015 litres) per day. They were all fed in addition to their grazing, and if the quantity of their milk production dropped off, they were sold. We kept a close watch on the health of the stock. We had a telephone, and there was a very strict Vet in the city that we used to get out to here if we had any problems.
Our daily cycle was to start the milking between midnight and half past, and start out on the delivery run at 3.00 am. We would return home about daybreak. The next milking started at 10.00 am and the afternoon delivery started at about midday
The early method of separating the cream was to have the full milk in settling trays and skim off the cream with a shallow ladle sort of thing. Later on we had a mechanical centrifugal separator, and the whey was used to feed the calves; we made butter, but only for our own family.
The hygiene practices that my father adopted were out of this world, the farm was one of the best in Queensland, if not Australia. He had the lowest bacteria count in this area. We had to work very hard at it. Every utensil had to be scrubbed with warm soapy water and with fresh water again. Then every utensil had to be kept under boiling water for three minutes, and it was my job to make sure that the dairy workers didn’t take them out under that three minutes. All the milking cans, all the billy cans, the milking stools were scrubbed every day with soapy water then fresh water. Even the leg ropes, they were scrubbed in boiling soapy water every day.
The water was boiled in those big copper tubs that were used for washing clothes. They were boiling all the time the milking was going on. There were dead trees all around the area, and getting wood for the fires was a constant job. We never had any firewood commercially delivered.
The men had to wash their hands before they milked, and the cows’ udders were washed with warm soapy water with Condi’s crystals in it. Everything that was touched was scrubbed and boiled every day. The Health Department authorities couldn’t believe the low bacteria counts that we were getting from our milk. One time, they came out and tested every cow.
There were four to six men milking at any time. We demanded a high standard of work from them, and we paid twenty five shillings a week, ($91in 2004 values) one day a week off, as well as accommodation on the property. In other places, it was typically about ten shillings, and no day off. Our blokes were pretty well off. Twenty five bob was a lot of money. They were the local ‘lairs’ riding motorbikes and showing off a bit. Some of them were here for years and years. My Dad had a mania for hygiene, and the men had to comply, otherwise they had five minutes to get off the property.
The milk was sold through the Windsor, Gordon Park and Lutwyche area, right through to where the General Hospital (Royal Brisbane) is, and then we would come back through Wooloowin and Albion. This was the early 1930s and there were not many houses in Kedron then. There were two deliveries each day, and people would get one, two or three pints depending on the family. It was full cream milk and people would keep it in ice chests or cool safes. The price was seven pence a quart ($2.50 in 2004 values), the dearest around here.
We had two horse drawn delivery carts, and they would have the milk in two, ten gallon (50 litre) containers with outlet taps coming out to the rear, plus some small ones, and then you had all your dispensing containers with flipup lids, and they all had to be kept clean. Even with two carts, and two or three of the men helping, the delivering took a fair bit out of your day.
The farm closed about 1945 and, after a court battle with the Brisbane City Council in 1956, was developed and sold as housing lots.
William Barker – Farmer 19141945)
William (18881945 57 years) had a farm of 15 hectares in Webster Road opposite the present nurses’ car park at The Prince Charles and extended west over Downfall Creek; later Dandalli Street was built in that area. The farm included the piggery, a dairy, poultry and crops.
William married in 1915 but was working the farm before that time. Downfall Creek flowed through the western part of the property and he had a windmill pumping water from it to the piggery where it was stored in a tank. The water mains did not come through the area till some time before 1934 when he ploughed a furrow and laid pipes to connect the farm with the main supply.
The piggery had approximately 25 pens with 6 pigs in each, plus the ones that ran outside with open shade sheds; maybe as many as 300. Some were bred on the farm but mostly store pigs were bought at Cannon Hill saleyards in groups of 30 at a time. These were brought home and left in the open where, by fighting each other, they sorted themselves out, into groups; after about a week they could be put into pens in their own groups. When they were fattened up they could be sold as heavy bacon pigs, again at Cannon Hill.
The pigs were fed on swill which was made from the waste foodstuffs collected from hospitals, restaurants, hotels and any other eating place. The collection was then put into ‘pots’ and boiled till it was a mash, then after cooling overnight, it was fed to the adult pigs while the growing pigs had to have more nutritious fare which included additives to the swill. The pig manure was sold to small crop growers in the local area.
The farm ran about 45 cows, most of which were bred on the farm, with about 30 being regularly milked. Milking started 3 am and milk was sold to Jack McMurtrie who had a milk run around the Avenues at Kedron. However William was only making ₤2 ($142 in 2004 values) per week from the dairy and it just wasn’t worth the effort so he closed it down.
The crops grown were mainly for the cattle and included cow cane, maize, millet, imphy (a sorghum type crop), rye and lucerne which was grown on the flat near the creek. Arrowroot was grown for the pigs to be used when there was a shortage of swill. When the dairy closed down William used to sell the crops to local dairy farmers.
The poultry section comprised two galvanised iron sheds, closed in at the back and ends, with wire netting on the front, each holding 500 birds with their nesting boxes and perches. The fowls were locked up at night but ranged over the property during the day. The eggs were taken to the Egg Board twice a week in boxes holding 30 dozen per box. When birds passed their best laying age they were sold by Male’s Poultry Auction for Aged Birds at Little Roma Street in the city.
In about 1942 Bill had a stroke and was bedridden for the next 5 years till his death; during that time he was nursed by his wife and daughter while the boys, Bill and Hedley, assisted by their brotherinlaw ran the farm. His wife had power of attorney and supervised the financial management of the farm.
Pfingst Family Market Garden on Pfingst Road Wavell Heights
In 1866 Hermann Pfingst Snr (18431927) bought three 4 hectare blocks Nos. 578, 579 and 580 on the east side of a road that was named Pfingst Road, in about 1911.
The 8 hectare (20 acre) Market Garden in the sketch, Lot 567 on the west side of Pfingst Road, was bought by Hermann in 1884 from Patrick Green who paid ₤15 ($1,500 in 2004 values) for it in 1876 at Crown Land Sales.
The sketch plan shows the 8 hectare market garden, family run farm which was only partially cleared of native vegetation which, in the local area, was substantial. The bush section was used for grazing by the two cows which were kept for family milk and the horses which were used for ploughing, as they never used a tractor. The produce was carted to the Roma Street markets once a week by horse and cart until they bought an A model, one ton Ford truck in 1925; also about that time they bought a Dodge car.
The only machine on the property was a spray driven by a petrol engine and mounted on a cart pulled by a horse. The cabbage patch had to be sprayed to combat the moths which could damage the crop. Two people, walking on each side of the cart, used hoses to spray the crop.
The crops were rotated so that the soil was not exhausted and, after harvesting, the plants were ploughed under to fertilise the area for a different crop. Also animal manure was spread on the soil. Each bed was allowed to lie fallow for a time to further enhance the fertility. The vine crops were grown on the higher part of the property where the soil was drier and clayey and the grass grew long. The ploughing was harder there and two horses were needed to pull the plough whereas on the lower land only one was used.
No artificial fertilizer was used as the family obtained manure from their farm animals, horse stables at Hamilton, the Exhibition ground and Sparkes’ slaughter yard at Chermside. The manure was put on a slide and dragged along by a horse while a couple of the family members spread it using shovels.
Hermann dug the well and, according to family legend, each time there was a drought “he laughed and dug another well” which indicated that he was a renowned well sinker. There were a couple more wells on the property, and as a side benefit, they were used to cool soft drinks in the hot weather. The spring flowed constantly as seepage into a water hole where the stock would drink; there was only a little overflow down a dirt gutter.
The house on the property when Hermann bought it was a low set weather board with studs showing on the verandas, iron roof and the family added on to it as needed. A member of the family was a carpenter who organised the building by the family. Tanks provided domestic water until the town supply was connected in 1948.
On the eastern side of the house was the truck and car shed with the larger barn beyond. It held all the paraphernalia of the farm, as well as the horse stables and, at the eastern end, the cow bails for milking.
The fowl run, which held about 20 birds, provided eggs and meat for the family and was surrounded by 13 mango trees of different varieties, providing a large supply for the family and friends. Also there was a hutch in the fowl yard holding Angora rabbits which, Norman thinks, were kept for the skins and maybe, meat. But since he was very young at the time the family did not tell him too much for fear that he might get upset.
The fences around the property were made of split posts and barbed wire but the front fence to the house was a split rail fence. It was all hand made using wedges and maul, and trimmed with an adze, the timber being cut from the property.
In about 1950 the farm, then owned by Peter Pfingst (18691953), was repossessed by the Public Curator with compensation of ₤2,700 ($99,800 in 2004 values) and developed by the Housing Commission and War Service Homes with land set aside for Wavell Heights State School. Peter was allowed to keep two allotments including the one with the old house. Map of farm with photos.
Town Centre – Commercial Area
As late as 1939 the central area was spread along both sides of Gympie Road, from Rode Road to Banfield Street, a mixture of small shops, houses, vacant blocks, a couple of blacksmiths, Hamilton’s Motor Body Works, The Dawn Theatre, the State Primary School, two garages (service stations), a police station and a Methodist Church. The earlier Sammell’s Furniture Bazaar, after incorporating the Post Office agency for some 30 years, had been turned into Argo’s Bicycle shop where cycles were both made and sold. Other specialist shops included milk bars, a barber, a ladies hairdresser, Williamson’s Bakery, boot and shoe repairs, dressmaking, fruit and vegetable, butchers, May’s Ice Works in Bromilow Street, a Government Savings Bank and, maybe, a Commonwealth Bank?
There were many people on the footpaths, women carrying shopping baskets often with children in tow, business people in shirtsleeves, people standing around talking, a few cars parked along the road, with the occasional lorry, or horse drawn delivery van. The elderly were perhaps more noticeable on pension day.
This commercial/shopping area along Gympie Road was steadily becoming more specialised. Hacker’s and Early’s were large produce/grocery stores on opposite sides of the road at the northern end of the small town/suburb. In the centre of Chermside, Joe Fisher’s, Jackson’s and Daybell’s were small corner store type of shops, and Reid’s included a newsagency and Post Office agency.
Behind this façade were unsealed streets, open paddocks, some bush and scattered houses, including a couple of Estates that were slowly selling house building blocks. It was still a semirural area grouped around a busy main road, hardly worth a glance from a passing motorist, except to be wary of a slow moving horse drawn vehicle, bicycle riders and children.
Sisters, Rona Arndt and Coral Rance with their brother, Barrett Reid combine to describe a little of the workings of the Reid Shop which was a typical ‘Corner Shop’ small business of the period.
We arrived at Chermside from St Lucia in 1936 and, while leaving a home and friends is hard to cope with, we soon settled down to a new school. Our father, George Barrett Reid, had bought a mixed business from a Mr Jeffs. Dad wanted a business with a dwelling attached so he could keep his eye on the children, Coral, Rona and Barrie. Effie, our mother, had died when we were very young. We had a housekeeper, Mrs Fletcher, who was with us for about seven years.
Reid’s Store contained a Post Office, newsagency, fruit and vegetables, groceries, stationary and a milk bar. We were the first shop in Chermside with a cement footpath and with malted milks at 4 pence each. (1penny in 1936 would be about 35 cents in 2004 values)
During the depression people without employment would line up at the Police Station for relief money. Dad would have a special board outside his shop showing the prices of groceries such as: bread 2 loaves for 8½ pence or 4¼ pence per loaf, potatoes 7 lbs for 6 pence
Across the road from the store was The Dawn Theatre and it seemed everyone went to The Dawn on Saturday night except the younger Reids. The girls helped Dad serve in the shop at interval where many malted milks, ice creams, drinks and sweets were sold in a very short time.
Dad delivered papers twice a day, 5am in the morning and again at 4pm in the afternoon and also sold them from the shop. He was one of the few people in Chermside who owned a car and he used it to deliver the papers, seven days each week. He had a very constant job and could not afford to get sick or take time off.
However there were two days each year when Dad could shut up shop and take the family on very short holidays. These were the traditional public holidays of Good Friday and Christmas Day when he did not have to deliver the papers because no papers were printed on those days.
Sundays he would open the shop for a short time to sell the Sunday Mail and the Truth newspapers. He would not put the Truth on the counter but kept it under the counter. He said he did not want any young folk reading it as it was full of scandal. We were pleased the shop closed on Sunday as it was the only day our Dad did not work. He worked very hard; arising at 5.00 am in the morning to fold the newspapers for delivery and finished at 9.00 pm at night six days a week. We often think of him looking after three children after our mother died.
Barrie had a paper run and Rona delivered papers up to the Garden Settlement when residents first moved in. Dad paid us 3 pence a dozen. I saved my money until I could buy a second hand bike from Argo’s Bicycle Shop next door to the Post Office. Mr Argo painted it red, my favourite colour at the time and wrote Rona on the cross bars. My next purchase was a treadle sewing machine as I was making my own clothes when I was fifteen.
At a later stage Dad leased the store and separated it from the Post Office, he was, in effect the Post Master of Chermside for many years. Coral was his assistant and continued to work in the Post Office until she married Bertrum Rance whom she met when he was a soldier camped at Chermside in World War II. Bert saw service in the Middle East and New Guinea.
The Post Office, Newsagency and Store became very busy when the Army Camp was opened up at Sparkes’ Paddock.
Dad was a square peg in a round hole. He loved to write but he did not have any energy left over to do that. Always there if we needed him, he could be the father he wanted us to have.
We were very lucky; he made sure we had a loving secure childhood. Until we could read ourselves he would read to us at night, books such as Arthur Mees’ One Thousand Horses. We grew up with Joan of Arc, Grace Darling, Florence Nightingale and many others. We had a privileged childhood.
The Dawn Theatre 1928 to 31st October 2005
In 1928, Maurice Tilley, a builder erected and named Chermside’s first and, till 2000, only picture show. He built it sloping towards Gympie Road so that the screen was at the front of the building and it was called “the back to front” picture show.
Originally the floor was of tan bark, from the local tanneries, which was gradually replaced with large slabs of concrete which had electric heaters built into them to keep the place warm on cold winter nights. The walls were concrete at the base with fibro sheeting on timber studs up to the eaves, while the roof was galvanised iron; the noise caused by heavy rain on the roof could drown out the sound of the shows.
The cheap seats in the front were wooden garden seats while the ‘better seats’, and more expensive ones, were canvas deck chairs towards the back of the theatre.
Until 1930 the ‘pictures’ or ‘flicks’ were all in black and white and silent with sound coming from a piano and later, Reggie Bagwell’s Band, while subtitles supplied the dialogue. The ‘talkies’ arrived with the famous film “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson and it was a sensation.
The Depression years affected the picture theatres less than other industries because it offered a form of escapism from the harsh realities of life during the ‘hungry 30s’.
By 1941 business was so good that a gallery was added at the rear and furnished with upholstered tip up seats. The following year Maurice died and his son, Ken, was recalled from the Army to run the theatre which was considered vital to the war effort.
The Hamilton and Meacham families were all keen tennis players so they formed a tennis club at the Chermside School court, mainly for the soldiers on leave from Chermside Camp. They would play tennis till dark, take the soldiers home for eats, then would meet outside the theatre at interval and get in for half price.
After World War II the supply of electricity was often interrupted due to the rapid post war expansion so a secondhand generator, with a V8 motor to drive it, was installed in a little shed at the back of the theatre. A typical ‘show’ or session, running from 7.45pm to 11pm, would consist of a newsreel and a supporting film, interval, a cartoon and the main film.
Ken Tilley bought Jackson’s shop beside the Dawn, and later rebuilt it in brick, to act as an adjunct to the theatre by selling milk shakes, soft drinks, sweets and other requirements for the theatre patrons before the show and during interval.
The Saturday afternoon matinee was especially popular with the local children who would troop into the theatre in vast numbers. The serials would be greeted with great acclaim, watched with bated breath and discussed at school during the week while waiting for the next episode the following week. The Dawn even acted as a child minding centre as people knew that the children were safe at the ‘pictures’.
In 1951 Ken sold the Dawn, simply because it was too much work; he was on duty screening six nights a week as well as working by day to manage and maintain the theatre.
The Fardoulys and Pantges families took over and began renovating it extensively. They lined the inside, built new flush toilets which eliminated the sometimes overpowering smell from the old pan toilets, built a “Cry Room”, rearranged the seating and, in 1959, revamped the entire front of the building. The seating capacity reached about 930.
The 1950s saw the advent of black and white television but with improvements in the films there was a resurgence of patronage in the 1970s with school holiday matinees being sell outs. But with colour TV and VHS technology the long slow decline of the theatre began.
The worst form of competition was undoubtedly the advent of cinema “complexes” in metropolitan Brisbane in about 1988. The main problem was the method of distribution of films made it impossible for The Dawn to screen movies early enough in their commercial life to enjoy a satisfactory level of trade.
Other developments also took their toll, in varying degrees, on audience size over the years; Expo and Southbank, the Boondall Entertainment Centre, the Broncos entering the National Rugby League, Poker Machines, the Olympics every fourth year, both Gulf Wars, 9/11, construction of a cinema complex at Stafford and, in 2000, just 400m away at Westfield Chermside. Even more recently, the massive inroads being made by both legal and pirated DVD’s being bought in their thousands for playing at home on the widescreen TVs. These changes are so great that the long term survival of the whole industry in general is by no means a certain thing.
The final word is left to Michael Fardoulys, third generation Dawn theatre operator:
As for the Dawn, the era of it and its ilk is now well and truly gone. Were it not for having been family run, it would have closed down much earlier… In an effort to stave off the inevitable, we had tried it all by the end. No informed observer could accuse us of having not given it our best shot. You’ve got to know when to roll with the punches...
After 77 years it was curtain time for the ‘Old Girl’ called Dawn.
With the exception of Hutton’s at Zillmere, the manufacturing enterprises around Chermside were generally small scale but they were tending to change from their traditional products and methods and move into new methods and new lines of production; some would disappear altogether others would relocate. The following examples attempt to illustrate the changes.
Box & Beck from small to large to small and function change – a survival story
In 1940, Arthur Box, a saddler began working under his house, located where the current (2007) Post Office is sited on Gympie Road near Mermaid Street. In 1942 he formed a partnership with Stan Beck and the firm of A. Box & Beck, Saddlers, began. Their main business was in harness making but they also made saddles.
After World War II a lady sent Arthur a special set of sandals that she needed for her foot problems and asked if he could make a new pair. He did, and even improved on the old pair. He then made another pair and took them to a department store in Brisbane asking if they would be interested in selling sandals. The management was interested and so in 1948 Box & Beck started to make sandals under the house.
The business prospered and by 1955 they had bought land at 37 Kate Street, Kedron and built a factory of 6,000 sq feet (557square metres) employing more staff. A photo, taken in 1956, shows a staff group of 32 people, 12 males and 20 female, in front of the newly built factory.
Sales rose and the factory was extended by another 2,000 sq feet; still further expansion saw more land bought and another building of 4,000 sq feet (370 square metres) was erected at 35 Kate Street.
The business supplied both children’s and adults’ sandals to markets in all states of Australia and New Guinea. They were not sold under a brand name but each article was stamped with the name of the maker on the soles. When Arthur, due to ill health, sold the business in 1967 the workforce had reached about 70 persons.
The new owners , Michaelis Bayley Footwear, a larger business with a factory in the Valley employing some 600 workers, bought the business as a going concern. They were making leather thongs, sandals and scuffs for men and women using kangaroo leather supplied by Packer Bros of Chermside.
The business prospered during the 1960s and into the early 1970s but then cheap imports of footwear began to affect the sales. Because footwear is labour intensive and the wages paid in the third world were low, the firm had to move into another part of the footwear market. They began to produce high quality ladies footwear which could sustain the higher wages paid in Australia and also cover the increasing cost of leather. The cost of leather was being forced up as overseas manufacturers wanted it to supply cheap footwear to the Australian market.
The move was successful and in the mid 1980s the Chermside firm was employing 150 workers and producing 2,000 pairs of footwear per day. However the effect was not long lasting and by the 1990s the import of high quality footwear was taking over the Australian market and by the mid 1990s the firm ceased production at Chermside.
For the last 15 years the Chermside firm, under the name of The Bare Traps Shoe Company Pty Ltd, has continued to operate as a totally retail establishment selling imported footwear with a workforce of only 5 people. It is still part of a larger organisation and is one of seven outlets operating under this name.
What began as a manufacturing firm in 1942 had adapted to changing circumstances by changing products. When that was no longer successful they had to change into a retail firm and sell the goods of the opposition. The firm survives but the cost is in the loss of local jobs and this is common in Australian industry today as the economy changes and the workforce moves from secondary or manufacturing industry into tertiary or service industry.
From bicycle sales to bicycle manufacture to closure – W Argo & Sons.
In 1932 William (Bill) Argo saw the need of someone to do cycle repairs in the area as most working men rode bikes to work at the time. Bill rented the shop next door to The Dawn theatre. He set up a small workshop with a retail shop for new cycles and spare parts; he also stocked sporting goods. With the Great Depression underway there was not much trade for the shop and it did not provide enough work for him to support the family so for three years he had to go on Relief Work. During that time Mrs Argo looked after the shop and since there was not much trade she took her sewing machine and did the family sewing. Argo’s Sports Depot and Cycle Works had begun.
With the business growing, the property on the corner of Gympie Road and Hall Street, the old Sammells store, was purchased in 1935; it had a residence at the rear of the building for the family. The next step was to move into bicycle manufacture which meant he needed more space so he had Sam Harris build a new retail store next door costing about ₤210 ($14,690 in 2004 values).
A shed was built behind the shop to house the brazing benches, a large generator and a sand blasting room. By the beginning of World War II (1939) there were about eight employees working in the business with Alex Hamilton doing the hand lining on the bikes assisted by Cas Cramer in the post war period.
About 1950 the flood of bicycle imports into the country collapsed the wholesale manufacturing side of the business but Argo bikes were still made and sporting goods were still required. About this time, 1950, the name of the business was changed to W. Argo & Sons as the boys were taken on as partners. But in 1956, because of Bill’s poor health, it was decided to close the business and sell the property.
Sawmilling in Chermside – Stephens to Simpson – Closure – Housing Commission Estate
Bob Stephens originally had a saw mill at Dayboro in the 1920s and was buying logs off the bullock wagons coming in from the bush. However the mills in Brisbane could pay more for logs than he could in Dayboro so the bullock drivers were taking the logs to the railway yard and sending them direct to Brisbane. Consequently, in 1931, he moved to Chermside and set up his mill off Mermaid Street; he could get the logs from the railway at Nundah and truck them to Chermside.
In 1934 Mick Simpson was working for sawmiller, Mr Mortis, who financed him to build a mobile winder to snig logs out of the bush. Mick built the machine using a ship’s winch, a quarter mile of steel rope and a two and a half ton bull nose International truck with solid rubber tyres, all second hand. The cost was about ₤50 ($3,550 in 2004 values) and a lot of very hard work.
Shortly afterwards Bob Stephens approached Mick to come and work for him. Stephens offered to go guarantor for a loan to enable Mick to buy his own new truck, buy logs and haul them to the mill. Mick put in ₤25 to buy the truck and the bank agreed to lend him ₤420 ($2,590 in 2004 values) of which he paid ₤380 for the truck and then built a trailer. Mick, financed by Bob Stephens, bought the winder he built from Mr Mortis and he was in business on his own at age 25.
The arrangement worked well and in 1941 Mick was able to buy a minor part ownership in the firm which became known as Stephens & Simpson Sawmill; in 1945, he was able to buy a half ownership in the Chermside mill and other mills that Bob Stephens owned.
The same year, Simpson & Stephens joined with Jack Sanderson to form an engineering firm and the first thing they did was to go to Darwin to buy surplus machinery from the army. After a lot of searching they bought 4 large trucks and a lot of other machinery which they loaded on the trucks along with 44 gallon drums of fuel and headed for Brisbane. Since Mick and Sanderson were the only drivers they hitched the trucks in tandem and each drove a pair. All went well until one of the trucks broke down so they hitched all four trucks together and took turns driving the 2,300 miles over 13 days. However, the partnership did not last and by 1947 it was dissolved.
Also, on the 1 July 1947 Mick and Bob Stephens dissolved their partnership; Bob taking the Woodford mill and Mick the Chermside mill. Now that he was in full control of the local mill Mick could set about developing it according to his own ideas.
When he took full control of the Chermside mill the office was a table with a few drawers in the planeing shed, the mill employed 3 or 4 men and the business operated on a cash basis because he did not have enough money to give credit.
By 1952 there were 2 – 3 people working in the newly built office and between 25 30 men in the mills at Chermside, Mt Mee, Dayboro and Nundah along with a fleet of 14 trucks of all sizes which were fully serviced and maintained in the Chermside mill workshop.
This was the period of the huge house building boom in post war Chermside and the mill was right in the middle of the construction.
The Chermside mill closed down in 1982 when he moved his operations to Virginia and the Chermside site of 1.6 hectares was sold to the Housing Commission.
After selling the Virginia mill site to AllJap Auto Parts on 23 March 1997, Mick finally retired at the age of 84 and his mathematical wizard, George Peterson, who worked everything out in his head, also retired even though he was only 67.
This was the end of hands on saw milling in the Brisbane area as giant, fully mechanised mills, now process the timber without it being touched by human hands and the whole operation is computer controlled.
Once, Mick Simpson was driving the cutting edge of the sawmilling industry with the machines he built; now it is in the hands of large companies with younger workers, many of whom sit in offices working with computers.
Vellnagel the eternal blacksmith – the methods change but the substance remains.
August Christian Vellnagel, born 1873 in Germany, landed in Australia in 1891 and after a time on the cane fields worked for Charlie (Carl) Murr, a blacksmith in Downfall Creek. In 1897 Vellnagel bought 1.6 hectares on the north corner of Murphy and Gympie Roads from John Ballinger to set up his forge, but registered the purchase in William (Billy) Hacker’s name . This was to ‘sidestep’ a previous agreement with Murr; finally in 1899, the business was registered in the name of A C Vellnagel.
When George Marchant donated his 38.4 hectare spelling paddock to the Kedron Shire for use as a park, he made it a condition that Vellnagel’s 1.6 hectares be included, thus making up the original 40 hectare area; August fought hard and long against the move, but finally had to go. The Council offered him 1.6 hectares on the west side of Gympie Road where the Council Chambers stood, these having been removed to the top of the hill and into the newly acquired park on the east side of Gympie Road.
Audrey Twining, daughter of Charlie Vellnagel, recounts that the Council had to move the Vellnagel house on skids and rollers with plenty of manpower, over Gympie Road to its new site, while the forge and workshop were demolished and reerected. To complicate matters, a horse and cart managed to run into the house while it was moving; August must have been incensed.
Today, after 113 years, the original forge still stands with its dim interior, now lit artificially, with its earthen floor, now concreted, but the original vertical wooden slabs still form the side walls. These slabs are unique; they measure about 2m in length, between 5070mm thick and between 406304mm wide. They were split on site from local timber by skilled workers using steel wedges and wooden maul, trimmed with adze or broad axe and cut to length with a crosscut saw. And, like blacksmithing, it was hard, heavy manual work.
In the 19th and early 20th Centuries the blacksmith worked the black metal, the iron on which our society was built; they forged the iron and steel that made the tools, machines, hardware for houses, the parts for machines in the days before spare parts, sharpened tools, made tools to order, shod the horses and put the iron tyres on cart wheels, forged the axels to hold the wheels on and made the bolts that held the carts together. The small village of Chermside and the surrounding farms needed five forges in the early 1900s; Hamilton, Plucknett, Carr, Murr and Vellnagel .
When August died in 1932, the business, renamed Vellnagel Brothers, continued under the direction of August’s sons Alf, Charlie and Harold. While the work continued to be largely heavy and manual, a pump engine was installed to power some of the machines they used. Still later, in 1938 when electricity was connected, an electric motor replaced the old engine.
After World War I the motor car appeared in increasing numbers and animal transport declined, so also did the work of the smith. With the end of petrol rationing in 1949 the horse almost vanished as a source of power, and with it, much of the smith’s work. Tractors and new types of farming equipment appeared, all of which used spare parts for repairs and so reduced the smith’s maintenance and repair work.
In the 1950s and 1960s housing was replacing the farms and the hardware stores supplied much of the builders’ needs so Vellnagels had to adapt to find work and compete with large scale manufacturers of hardware. The workshop was upgraded by using separate electric motors to power each machine and thus improve productivity and reduce costs. The manual blower for the forge, the cutting of steel with hammer and chisel, drilling holes by hand, welding by fire and hammer were all replaced by machines.
They did find a lot of new work repairing tools for the building industry, such as spades, crow bars, pickaxes and chisels, as well as the agricultural equipment, so another building was added onto the original in the 1950s. In the 1960s backhoes and heavy industry equipment started to be used in road construction, so while a lot of the pick and shovel jobs were lost, they started to repair backhoe buckets and jack hammers.
They looked for niche markets where specially designed work had to be executed and could not be done by the mass production factories. Cattle brands, estate gates, lifting devices for heavy stones, a lefthanded plough, detailed adjustments to trucks, rooftop racks for cars and anything that no one else could make.
Much of their success was due to being able to adapt to changing demand and they had to turn their hand to virtually anything in the art of moulding the black metal. In the 1990s they made security doors and grilles, decorative gates, lattice and elaborate garden furniture.
The third generation represented by grandson Peter, son of Harold, continued till 2004 when the site was sold and the firm relocated to Kremzow Road, Brendale in the Pine Rivers Shire where it continues as Wrought Ironsmiths. For the first time in 129 years Chermside was without a smith and most people didn’t even notice.
The old site was bought by a firm called Towrite Queenslan – Manufacturers of Trailers and Chassis who, in turn, sold out to Dixon Homes in 2006. While retaining the original forge, the latter firm have refurbished the whole site as a sales office for the homes they build.
Hamilton’s Motor Body Works (Joiner – Wheelwright – Blacksmith – Carriage Builder – Motor Body Builder) (This section is largely taken from Beverley Isdale’s book on the Hamilton family, “All Blessings Flow”)
Andrew and Margaret Hamilton arrived in Dead Man’s Gully in 1869 and settled on a 8 hectare block which Andrew intended to farm although he was a joiner by trade.
It soon became apparent to Andrew that cart building was more profitable than farming so he bought another block of land on the Gympie Road and set up his workshop; the site is now occupied by the Commonwealth Bank. The business flourished and he installed a blacksmith calling the business Fivemiletown Forge after Margaret’s native village in Northern Ireland.
Other relatives followed bringing their families with them to Australia and some worked in the business. Andrew’s son Thomas started the Albion and Lutwyche Fuel Depot selling fire wood to various brick yards as well as to domestic users. He installed a steam engine to drive the circular saws which were used to cut the wood to specific sizes; he also made coke.
When Andrew died in 1897 Thomas took over the management of the entire business. The trade was flourishing and they built standard vehicles such as drays, sulkies, wagons, spring carts as well as vehicles for specific purposes such as grocer’s cart, milk cart, flat top cart or lorry, German wagon or fruit wagon.
If someone wanted a special cart or carriage, as long as they had a photo or a magazine picture or drew a sketch of it, then Thomas would build the vehicle including accessories such as rubber tyres and the best leather upholstery.
This was the time when the vehicles were individually built by local tradesmen working manually so that the local industry was immensely flexible. The hours were long, the work hard and often heavy, there was little in the way of machinery and the workers had to be highly skilled.
However, large scale production of standard vehicles was already happening. Cobb & Co had been doing this with their coaches almost as long as they had been in Australia, while mass production was flourishing in USA and Europe. So instead of making all the parts for a vehicle Thomas had to buy imported mass produced parts as they were cheaper.
In the early 1900s motor vehicles were appearing and the Hamiltons saw that they would probably replace the horse drawn vehicles so in 1913, they decided to sell the vehicle building business. Thomas became a director of the new firm, the Chermside Manufacturing Company Ltd, which prospered for some years but by 1919 it was experiencing difficulties.
The company finally went into liquidation in May 1920 and Hugh Hamilton, son of Thomas, bought it to combine with his blacksmith business; Hugh had decided that the future was in motor vehicles and not horse power; he was right and Thomas went and worked for him.
The business specialised in building bodies on chassis imported from the UK and USA. “Bodies, canopies, windscreens, toolboxes and seats had to be adjusted to meet requirements for customers whose vehicles delivered milk, bread, fruit, ice and meat to shops and homes.” He built many heavy duty vehicles for councils, the first motor horse float in Queensland, bus bodies and converted cars to utilities.
Finally the business was sold in 1951 to a bodybuilder from Stafford but it retained the Hamilton name and is located at 531 Gympie Road Kedron. By this time motor vehicles were being mass produced in a very wide variety of brands and models so that a motor body builder would have a much more limited scope than in the pre World War II era.
Brisbane Hospital was the main source of medical treatment for the people of Chermside for injuries and diseases and especially when surgery was involved. The hospital was financed on a voluntary basis by public donations with doctors providing their services free; those who could afford to pay were probably expected to do so. They followed the English system which many regarded as a ‘cultural cringe’.
In 1923 the State Government, under Labor administration passed, the Queensland Hospitals Act of 1923 and undertook to finance public hospitals in Queensland – James Stopford, the Home Secretary said “… hospitals are not charitable institutions. Hospitals are a public community service, just the same as water and sewerage.”
People did not go to hospital as readily as we do today, partly because they were not trained to do so; the prevailing thinking was that you ‘didn’t bother the doctor’ but fixed yourself up first, then if that failed, and you were still alive, you went to hospital. This is seen in the account that Thomas Hamilton gave of the family experience in the pneumonic pandemic, the flu, of 1919 when almost the whole family contracted the flu. In a day by day account over three weeks there was no mention of medication or visits to the doctor; it seems that if one did not go to hospital then the treatment was much the same as for a ‘normal’ dose of the flu; go to bed till nature effected the cure.
There were no doctors or dentists in the immediate Chermside area until after World War II and a Dr Clowes, who may have lived on Sandgate Road, an hour’s drive in the sulky, was the doctor for the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society’s Chermside Lodge; Thomas Hamilton was treated by him for Bell’s palsy in 1919
Matron Phipps was mentioned by Peg Powell (nee Radcliffe) when the family went to see her baby sister, Doreen, who was born in 1930. They walked “through the paddocks, just off Gympie Road (and) came to Matron Phipps house and went in to see the baby.” Mavis Rye, a contemporary, noted that the house was in Victor Drive now Kidston Terrace.
Joan Hamilton was born at Nurse England’s which was at Wooloowin near the school while her older sister, Jessie, was born about 18 months earlier in 1922 at home in Chermside with a doctor, possibly Dr Alex Murphy, in attendance.
Dr Jack Ford in his book “Marching to the Trains” mentions the following private hospitals, which functioned for general practice and maternity:
Brook Hill Private Hospital in Shaw Road West Nundah (Wavell Hts) opened in 1927 in the Cressy residence which was built in 1916.
Nundah Private Hospital, now Cadogan House Medical Centre, 1382 Sandgate Road opened in 1933.
Virginia Private Hospital in Prince Street opened in the 1930s in the house of William Clathworthy, of Virginia Brickworks. The house was built in 1912 and is now a private home.
THE LADY AND THE LAMP Val Ross (nee Fullwood) fleshes out a picture of Matron Phipps, or Mattie, as she was known.
Our first neighbours were elderly, and were like grandparents to my brother and me. Mrs. Phipps had retired as a hospital matron, but she had not retired from the attitude that was part of a matron’s armour. To reinforce her control, she continued to claim the title of MATRON.
Her home was an amazing display of her prolific artistic talents. Curtains were made from thousands of tiny pink shells sewn by hand in long strips and mounted upon a rod. They were very unusual; all her cushions had drawings upon them. Sketched in Indian ink were kookaburras, koalas, peacocks and so on. Embroidery and all manner of home crafts adorned her home.
Mattie Phipps was well known throughout Chermside. During the 1930s, as it was often the choice for the women to give birth at home, Mattie Phipps often acted as midwife. She personally knew all her children and had an enduring interest concerning their progress throughout life. Mothers would often bring their baby sons to her home, and the doctor in attendance, would perform a ritual snip. It was not unusual to hear the cry of infants emanating from her home.
My brother and myself had a very strong bond with Mattie and Mr. Phipps, they were like grandparents to us. Both of us were well aware that we had received special treatment from them, and we felt deep affection toward them. I knew I could always seek comfort or friendship from Mattie.
Little did I realize there would come a time when my brother would be screaming as loudly as any child that had entered through her doors.
My father had owned a motorbike, with a carbide type lamp. He stored the bike under the house where my brother and self often played. One day, while we played, the bike fell over and carbide went into my brother’s eyes. No time to waste, my father dashed with my brother into Mattie’s home; my mother rushed in also, carrying my brother’s high chair. I was banished from the scene.
After some time I ventured up Mattie’s back stairs, there was water flowing from her kitchen door as if someone had turned on a hose. I entered the kitchen, the floor was covered in about half an inch of water, and I saw my brother tied firmly in the highchair while Mattie continued to furiously syringe his eyes with water. This was not the time to be house—proud.
In spite of the mishap, my brother grew up with good vision, I wonder if he would have been so fortunate if it wasn’t for a follower of THE LADY WITH THE LAMP.
The enrolment at the Chermside State School was steadily growing throughout this period with an enrolment in 1921 of 138 rising to 173 in 1931 and 219 in 1940 and 211 in 1945.
In 1926 the Kedron State School opened and although there were pupils from Kedron attending Chermside it did not make any noticeable difference to the enrolment at Chermside.
By 1932 when the school enrolment reached 166, the south east wing pointing at Gympie Road consisting of two rooms and a veranda was built and in 1938 the north east wing of three rooms and veranda was added; the enrolment had reached 228 pupils. While this was being done the whole building was raised on high stumps and the ground underneath concreted.
Although the school was continuing to grow it was still a relatively small school and in 1936 arrangements were made to allow pupils from the senior grades to attend Wooloowin School to study Domestic Science for the girls and Manual Training classes for the boys. It is not clear how long this arrangement lasted, it was mentioned as late as 1962 but this may have been just to use the swimming pool.
Another persistent factor was the regular mention in school records of all the childhood ailments, often in epidemic proportions; whooping cough, influenza, chicken pox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, mumps, measles including German and ordinary, poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis) are all noted. In 1919 the school closed for 48 days from 6 May to 11 July during the pneumonic flu pandemic
Val Ross (nee Fullwood) recalls another, less serious but very worrying, suspension of school in the pre antibiotic and vaccination eras at Chermside State School:
Students had attended school, on this particular day in or about 1938 or1939. They were waiting for the bell to ring heralding us to line up for assembly. The bell did not ring as expected, and it was getting late, too late.
Rumours began to circulate among the gathering students. “There is no school today,” one student said. Another said,” We are getting six weeks holiday.” That seemed to be a little unbelievable. Eventually we were called into line, and were told to go home until further notice.
It had eventuated that a mother of some of our students had been inflicted with poliomyelitis, (generally referred to as infantile paralysis). The risk of contamination to the students was considered to be serious enough to close the school for a few days.
We returned home, but not for the rumoured six weeks. There was a full six weeks ban preventing children from attending meeting places, including going to the pictures at the Dawn Theatre.
Val Ross continues with perceptive comments on the hard times that some pupils endured in the 1930s alleviated by some wise and understanding teachers:
Asleep in Class
Times were tough, too tough. Rarely was a home equipped with refrigeration, some food items were bought daily. Milk and meat were two such items.
Jack was neither privileged nor a dull student. He was in fact a good scholar, and blessed with better than average learning ability; but here he was once again asleep at his desk.
The teacher, Mr Hooper, made a remark to Jack about not being permitted to sleep in class, and with a hint of sarcasm about not sleeping at home. A few days later Jack was once again asleep at his desk. Mr Hooper, the teacher, was a wise compassionate thinking man. Privately, he spoke to Jack. The next time Jack fell asleep in class, Mr Hooper said to the other students, “Let him sleep” and so we did. The reason for Mr Hooper’s change of heart was as follows:
The milk was transported to our homes, early each morning, by horse and cart. The usual procedure was for residents, nightly, to place a billycan on or near the front gate with the milk money and order form. Each household on awakening would collect their milk from the front fence, and enjoy very fresh milk. We’d paid for the milk, but without thought at the real cost of our fresh milk.
Jack’s father was the dairy farmer who supplied the milk, after milking the cows (without milking machines), harnessing the horses, the milk rounds began. Jack’s help was needed to assist his father. He would commence working about 3 a.m. each morning. Indeed times were tough, too tough!
In the early thirties life and times seemed harsh and unfair to many children. Several children lived in poverty, some had lost a parent, one family of girls had lost both parents. At least four schoolmates had died as children. Child abuse was acceptable by community standards, parents had the right to brutally control their children.
Many students of Chermside State School felt indifferent about attending classes. It was something we had to do. The best day of the year was break up day, a treat that Mr Rice offered, in great style.
The students were indulged with gifts, fruit and sweets distributed by some parents, and then we were dismissed for six weeks. Six weeks of swimming or lobbying in the local creeks, playing Monopoly, riding our bicycles or having fun climbing and chopping down trees. We would build a cubby house on a nearby vacant block, bring sandwiches from home and have our own picnic.
Several years ago I purchased secondhand an old encyclopaedia. As I flipped through some of the encyclopaedia’s volumes, I was flooded with memories of school days. There were many, many poems, stories and lessons, which had been part of my education.
In my maturity, I was able to consider the quality of our school lessons. I marvelled at the richness of it, and in appreciation of the teachers that gave us so much without adequate recognition and reward. I offered a belated heartfelt prayer of thanks. Indeed we were privileged, although we were unaware of it at the time.
A Lesson with Mr Rice
I would like to tell one wonderful story about Mr Rice our headmaster. He taught our class whenever it was necessary. This particular morning he conducted the usual school parade. When we were in our places in the classroom, he announced that his dog has been poisoned by a bait and we were to accompany him into his back yard.
When we arrived there, we circled around the prostrate dog. Mrs Rice brought out a mixture of Epsom salts and water in a bowl. Mr Rice then appointed the larger boys to assist him as he forcefully poured the liquid down the dog’s throat. In turns the boys and the Master swung the dog in circles holding the poor animal by its back legs. After a while the dog was placed on the grass and we returned to the classroom.
Our lesson that day, we were told, was ‘how to save a dog that has been poisoned’. We were keen to learn of the outcome of that morning’s lesson; the dog lived.
Mr Rice earned a special place in our hearts that day. (Jack Smeeton was one boy who helped swing the dog.)
The Cinnamon Cake
In 1935 my brother and I had spent almost 12 months in Melbourne. My mother, who had been devoted to us and indulged us as much as circumstances permitted, had been ill with a heart condition; she needed rest. Her elderly parents had agreed to care for us, in order to help my mother recover.
Sadly, my mother did not recover, and we returned to Chermside. Being in Melbourne during the cold winter weather, my clothes were warm and thick with thick Lyle stockings my wardrobe was complete. This clothing was very much out of place in the warm Brisbane climate. My Grandmother did not seem to understand or could not help; I had to wear these unsuitable clothes.
Now, in reflection, I suppose there was a real shortage of funds within our family, considering the expense of my Mother’s illness, death, and our travelling expenses back to Chermside. There were no luxuries for us. It had been a long time since I’d eaten a piece of cake, or fruit. Breakfast consisted of white bread cut into cubes, sprinkled with sugar and milk. Never during my short life had I tasted Cornflakes or Weetbix. These were luxuries.
One day at lunchtime, I remember being in the back of the school ground, I was feeling so dejected, alone, and also so ugly in my thick hot clothes, when unexpectedly a teacher approached me. She had a cinnamon cake, which she said she could not eat and would I like it. Suddenly I felt like the ugly duckling, the moment it found out it was a beautiful swan.
Me! The teacher had noticed me, of all the other children, the teacher gone out of her way singling me out to offer me this cake. I gratefully accepted it.
No cake had ever tasted so good. How long was it since I had eaten home made cake? I couldn’t remember. The cinnamon flavour was so unique and delicious; it created its own memorial.
Today, whenever I have cinnamon, I am compelled to remember that teacher and the occasion. The teacher in her kindness, unknowingly, created her own permanent memorial in my psyche.
Steady growth continued, reaching 244 pupils in 1940, but as the war situation worsened, with the threat of air raids and possible invasion, many children were evacuated and enrolment reached a low of 177 in 1942. As the Japanese were pushed back the local situation improved and the enrolments rose to 211 by the end of the war in 1945.
In June 1940 the Inspection report noted that there had been an absence of staff on military duties. At first there was a teacher for every class but the young male teachers were enlisting and the number of teachers dwindled causing some classes to have only part time tuition. The younger males would have been conscripted, or volunteered, for the armed services. They may have been replaced by retired teachers coming back into the service or, possibly, by teachers continuing beyond their retirement age. Also heavy reliance was probably placed on female teachers as was done in World War I.
Only pupils in Grades 6 and 7 were required to attend for a full school day. School hours were staggered to allow children in the lower grades to receive at least three hours instruction. School uniforms did not have to be worn. Many children transferred to country schools, causing overcrowding in those schools.
World War II
On 3 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany and, as in 1914, the Australian government followed suit, but this time there were no patriotic demonstrations in the streets, too many people remembered the Great War which had ended only 20 years before.
Australia was now in a most awkward situation as she now was bound to send troops to help the war in Europe while at the same time watching Japan which was looming as a possible opponent in our Near North. Japan, an ally in World War I, was now allied with our enemy Germany, her army was moving south through China and then, there was her huge battle fleet.
In the overall international situation, Australia was very small and expendable by the British who were soon fully engaged fighting for their own lives. It was ‘every man for himself and no quarter would be given’. Who would help us if push came to shove?
Australia’s armed forces were put on alert, a recruiting campaign begun and preparations were made for training large numbers of young men. All these measures affected Chermside and one which was the most visible was the setting up of a very large army camp in Sparkes’ Paddock.
The Commonwealth Government resumed the 162 hectares and by October 1940 it was expected that 6,000 troops would be in training there, according to a letter from Constable W R Perry of Chermside station in which he was asking for an extra constable to help control the huge influx. Constable Perry had the problem of keeping the peace between the soldiers and civilians at the local dances; he got the extra constable.
This Paddock was owned by the firm of A. Sparkes Ltd and bounded by Ellison, Newman, Hamilton, Gympie and Murphy Roads for which the Commonwealth Government paid ₤9,973 ($580,000 in 2004 value) on the 12 June 1941. It was a case of get the land first and pay later, it was wartime.
Army Camp (recorded in detail by Dr Ford in “Marching to the Trains”)
Chermside in World War II by Beverley Isdale
Young men and women from the area enlisted in the armed services and the progress of the war was closely monitored by the locals while the presence of the military camp highlighted the serious aspects of the war, and its proximity.
American warships paid a friendly visit to Brisbane in March 1941, 9 months before Pearl Harbour and Brisbane gave them a friendly welcome. After the bombing of Singapore, the Japanese midget submarines in Sydney Harbour and then the bombing of Darwin, many of the local people were terrified that the Japanese army was not far away.
ARP (Air Raid Precaution) wardens practised every Wednesday night with all their equipment – helmet, whistle and baton – pretty much like Dad’s Army, without the humour. There was a searchlight battery near Mermaid Street, opposite the Chermside School. Hutton’s Factory at Zillmere blew the whistle at 5am and at knockoff time – any other time it was for an emergency.
Chermside during the war was a small place with a population of about 3000 judging from the maps and photos of the time which show that there were not too many people about among the working farms and the large areas of bush. The town had houses, school, churches, theatre, lots of vacant paddocks, no public hospital and the closest doctor was at Lutwyche.
Public transport was limited. The tram terminus was at Lutwyche and Mitchell’s Bus service and Boyce and Little’s took passengers to Bald Hills and Redcliffe; you had to book a ticket if you wanted to travel to Redcliffe.
There was rationing of necessities such as meat, sugar, eggs, tea, butter, petrol, clothes, and footwear while non essential goods such as tobacco, sweets and alcohol were either in short supply or simply not available. Petrol was rationed from October 1941 and full rationing from mid 1942 it was a time of patch up, make do or go without, mostly the latter. And more children went to school barefoot, either because there were not enough coupons for school shoes or just not enough school shoes.
Windows were blacked out with heavy paper, lights were turned off and there were no street lights or car headlights, except for the policeman’s car – it had a special attachment that directed the light beam on to the road in front of the car.
There were not many cars at that time in Australia; one estimate was about 1 car for 10 families. Many owners could not get petrol at all so they simply put the car on blocks in the garage and left them there for the duration of the war. Others ran the car on gas and had a large gas bag on the roof while others used a charcoal burning contraption on the back which produced the gas.
This encouraged the return of horse and carts and sulkies to such an extent that the Brisbane City Council employed men to pick up manure in the inner city streets while the local children did it in Chermside and sold the manure for garden fertiliser.
With so many young men away in the armed forces women had to do their jobs to keep ‘the home front’ operating. In addition to the traditional female jobs such as nursing, office work, house work and child care the women moved into factories, farms, delivery of goods, driving trucks and other heavy vehicles. Butt’s fruit cannery at Zillmere, just past the military camp, employed some of the young girls of the district. They often did the very heavy lifts of pineapples from the trucks coming from Zillmere station because there were no young men and no machines to do the lifting.
Chermside School, at the corner of Rode and Gympie Roads, had about 220 pupils – quite a large school. At first, there was a teacher for every class but as the teachers were gradually taken into the armed services, their numbers dwindled. Some children had classes 3 days a week, or half a day and in 1942, the school was closed for most of February on the orders of the Premier till the threat of invasion had passed.
The school had its own air raid trench – 4ft deep (1.2m), 2ft wide (0.6m) and 68ft long (1.8 to 2.4m), in a zigzag pattern to prevent a blast from going right along the trench. One parent thought the ditch was too shallow and instructed his children to run home if there was an air raid. Air raid drills were carried out but fortunately there were no raids.
Class photos were not taken from 1942 onwards, they were not one of the necessities of life but the classrooms had extra posters for plane identification and the area underneath was sandbagged to serve as an emergency casualty station; during air raid practices, the children acted as “injured patients”.
Then, as now, Chermside seemed to have a reputation as a shopping centre and their customers included soldiers and American personnel as well as the locals. There were large grocery/produce stores – Early and Hackers who carried large stockpiles of goods for emergencies as well as the smaller grocers such as Jackson’s, Fishers and Reid's. Reid’s had a mixed business, with a newsagency and the Post Office. They supplied the newspapers to the military camp and a paper boy could carry about 250 papers on his bike. It seems a lot, but the Courier Mail was much smaller, about 46 pages and no advertisements or sales as there was nothing to advertise. And it cost 2d as prices and wages were controlled for the ‘duration’, only the government could alter them.
There was no hotel in Chermside so their early closing did not affect the area. The nearest ones were at Aspley and Kedron. Mr Lemke was the butcher, and there was the baker, ice works, motor body builders – Hamilton’s, Plunknett’s, Vellnagel’s blacksmiths.
Although the community was small there was a wide range of social activities and the School of Arts, the ‘hall’ was the focus of the district for any function involving more than 10 people. It had a good dance floor, and the band consisted of a local pianist, saxophone and drums while supper consisted of tea and biscuits, nothing fancy. The Comforts Fund held concerts in the hall to raise money for the war effort and parcels for the troops. It was the place for wedding receptions, Lodge meetings, Red Cross activities, public meetings and the local lending Library.
Churches were also community foci providing religious services and helping people cope with the horror of total warfare as well as conducting choral and orchestral activities and fellowship for home sick soldiers.
There are no surviving programmes for The Dawn Theatre in the papers as there was no advertising during the ‘duration’. At the end of the programme, there were newsreels or short films showing war atrocities but not everyone stayed to see those as there was always a rush for the last bus to Bald Hills. It sometimes happened that a newly arrived soldier would offer to see a girl home, find she lived at Bald Hills and then have to walk back to the camp; they soon learned.
Musical evenings were held in private homes and soldiers were invited. Many were lonely and far from home and members of church congregations opened their homes to service personnel both men and women. One family took photos of all the people they welcomed into their homes.
Another family had open house every Wednesday night for service personnel and family friends; sometimes there were about 30 people in the house. They could play billiards, use the two table tennis boards, play darts in the stove recess or cards in the back bedroom. They then enjoyed a fancy supper, in spite of the rationing, and it all finished about midnight.
Another family invited soldiers to feel at home by letting them do their washing, ironing and cooking. The soldiers sometimes brought their ration cards but they were probably better fed than their hosts. “It was marvellous what you could do with jelly and cream”.
There were picnics and swimming at Cash’s Crossing (Albany Creek) with transport by bicycle; people went visiting and there were paper chases for young people; there was a great deal of fun and all home made. Some of the friendships made lasted till the 21st Century until the young men became old men and like all old soldiers, died.
The soldiers, camped in Sparkes’ Paddock, were 6 to a tent and they were each issued with a groundsheet, 2 blankets and a mosquito net. It was hardly luxurious camping if you include the timber floor they slept on, with their personal items and their shoes for pillows.
Some stayed in camp for a long time, the 113 transport Company carried petrol to the petrol dump; 148 Company later in the war, worked on the wharves and transported bombs and ammunition. There was the militia, waiting to be sent to the front line; some soldiers returning from New Guinea and others in training. They marched along Gympie Road, which had a single strip of bitumen; at least the war did speed up the surfacing of the whole road to accommodate the large convoys travelling north.
There were some accidents. It seems almost worse for soldiers to die in accidents before they even reached the front line. A plane crashed one Saturday afternoon in 1943 and was seen by the tennis players and it was one of the paper boys who told the Fire Brigade how to get into the paddock. Another accident in the same year took the lives of two South Australian soldiers who drowned in the flooded Downfall Creek.
The AWAS (Australian Women’s Army Service) had their camp at Chermside near Kingsmill and Hall Streets. Most of their work was secret and done at Ascot; the famous poetess and civil rights activist, Kath Walker was one of the women working there.
The Civil Construction Corps (CCC), consisting of many tradesmen, was based at the Ellison Road end of the camp and their work involved building roads and airfields in a hurry.
Visiting day at the camp was once a month but visitors needed a pass and soldiers had to know the visitors were coming and meet them; it was such a large place that visitors would never have found their relative/friend in the camp.
There were American soldiers in the district and they built a wooden observation tower at West Chermside where they could see out to the Bay but this was abandoned after the Battle of Midway and young boys made use of its rickety structure. The fuel dump at Basnett’s dairy was guarded by soldiers and Alsatian dogs while the future Prince Charles Hospital site was the location of a bomb and ammunition dump which disappeared quickly during the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Chermside served as a staging and training post during the Second World War and there is little evidence that the Camp ever existed. There is the name, 7th Brigade Park, a large concrete floor with a basketball hoop, a concrete lined pit and a 75mm X 75mm piece of hardwood, which once carried electric wires into the camp, bolted to a tree. The latter is difficult to find as the tree has grown out around the cross piece and the one end that could be seen in 2006 has disappeared leaving an unnatural square hole. However, the general shape of the crosspiece can be seen in the shape of the living wood.
Where once young men were trained to fight and kill, the birds forage for pickings, the children play in the large Kidspace, families picnic at the BBQs and people walk and cycle along the concrete tracks that wind around the flourishing reforestation areas.
This is a sacred place to enjoy and, maybe, remember the young men who passed this way in the early 1940s.
The Grey Days of War Val Ross (nee Fullwood)
The children of Chermside had noted the rumblings of war. One day sitting in class looking through the window, we saw soldiers on horseback gathered at the corner of Gympie Road and Rode Road. At morning recess, which we used to call ‘Elevener’, several of the students went to speak with the soldiers and to attempt to charm some of them into giving us the feathers from their army hats. It did not happen. Few people realize Australia had a real Light Horse Battalion at the beginning of the Second World War.
More and more soldiers were transported to, and were camped at, Chermside. There was no need for a clock in the home, as the sounds of the bugle calls could be clearly heard from Marchant Park to The Dawn Theatre. Every morning and night, meal times and bedtimes the various bugle calls became part of our lives. The children knew what each tune meant and had appropriate words to accompany every call.
The School of Arts Hall became a very popular place for dancing each Friday night, and no lady was left to sit alone unless by choice. There was always somebody’s Mum at the dance, unobtrusively observing and protecting us.
The policeman was always available, he would stand in the foyer of the Dawn Theatre every night the theatre was open. If there was trouble at the School of Arts, one only had to cross the road and enter the theatre foyer and help was on hand in seconds. The Chermside I knew was trouble free.
During the war some commodities were hard to buy. Chocolate, potato crisps, hairpins and elastic were among such items. Some necessities were rationed. Our manpower was not squandered but utilized towards wartime successes. The lamp posts of many streets had signs upon them, informing the reader that the people of the street were subscribing cash to the Red Cross for the benefit of Prisoners of War. The women formed a group called the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF) and they knitted and did charitable works for our soldiers.
A radio station had regular concert benefits, which were named Smokes for Sick Soldiers. Funds were raised to distribute cigarettes and other small comforts to give to the soldiers in hospitals. The Dawn Theatre was a host to one such party, which I attended. I was selected with a few other ladies to sew a patch on the trousers of selected male victims. The ladies were seated on stage and the boys had to lean across our laps as we sewed the patch upon the seat of their trousers. After a few needle pricks in the victim’s bottom, the audience were in fits of laughter. Those occasions were never to be forgotten days.
Plane Crash at Chermside 13 November 1943
Research – Robert and Beverley Isdale
In the late afternoon of Saturday, 13 November 1943 , a US fighter plane crashed in Sparkes’ Paddock and the pilot was killed. As a commemoration of this tragic accident the street that now connects Hamilton Road and Murphy Road is called Kittyhawk Drive; but from the time it was named there has been controversy over the type of plane that was involved.
The Chermside and Districts Historical Society has tried to establish the identity; Kittyhawk or Thunderbolt. Several people have offered opinions but one, Ron Alvisio, gave us the most comprehensive account of the tragedy.
The Alvisio house was, and still is, on the northern side of Ellison Road on the hill halfway between Murphy Road and Newman Road, about 3 houses from Piccadilly Road. Ron, (16 years old) with his father and two brothers, was in the backyard, probably playing cricket, when the plane appeared. They were used to planes coming over the house on test flights from Eagle Farm where there was a Repair and Salvage Unit.
At first they took little notice but it soon became apparent that this one, the only one in the air at the time, was in trouble because it was a lot lower than usual with one wheel retracted, one extended and the motor was backfiring. The plane swerved towards Sparkes Paddock, the army camp, and then there was an ungodly bang and a loud explosion, followed by black smoke rising above the trees. They jumped on their pushbikes and set off to see what happened. By the time they arrived at the crash site the fire brigade was using foam to extinguish the large blaze.
They easily got through the barbed wire fence and managed to join a rather large crowd of people at a point about 20 or 30 feet (69m) from the plane. Ron recollected that the location was about 100 (91.4m) yards on the north side of Hamilton Road and about 200 yards (182.8m) east from the present Kittyhawk Drive.
The plane had hit the corner of the Army amenities block and Ron could still clearly recall the sight of the white pedestals in the Officers toilet section; fortunately no one was using the toilets at the time. The plane was sitting on the ground right way up but was partly hidden by foam used to put out the fire. A couple of soldiers came with a blanket and used it to screen the cockpit as the pilot was dead and had been very badly burnt.
As the soldiers began to shepherd the people back towards the road Ron noticed that there were bits and pieces of the plane scattered on the ground. Ron souvenired a bit of the plane which turned out to be the tip of the bead site for a gun; it was still warm when he picked it up.
Because Ron was waiting till he was old enough to join the RAAF, he practiced aircraft recognition, with models of about 100 planes that he had made. He noted that the crashed plane was a single seater, with a single radial air cooled engine and it was definitely a P47 Thunderbolt. This ruled out the possibility of the plane being a Kittyhawk because they had an inline, liquid cooled engine. Later he acquired a spareparts manual for the Thunderbolt (P47) which shows the souvenired bead sight in situ, along with the ring sight, on the guns; this adds further credence to his identification, although he qualifies this by noting that the Kittyhawk could have used the same bead sight.
Ron is adamant that there was no US presence at the crash site, all the work was done by Australian Army personnel including the ambulance. He adds that the US officials would have come later as the aircraft was a US plane.
Terry Hampson, as Marchant Ward Councillor, arranged for the naming of Kittyhawk Drive when it was constructed in the understanding that it was a Kittyhawk that crashed. This was a fairly general belief at the time but once the name was announced in the local newspaper the objections came in. Too late, the paper work was completed for the naming, the signs had been erected and the deed was done; so the name remains as a caution to all of the pitfalls associated with naming places after historical events. “Anyway”, adds Terry “if we named it Thunderbolt Street then people would think it was named after the bushranger buried at Uralla outside of Armidale, New South Wales.”
Research – Glenys Bolland
The pilot of the P47 Thunderbolt was 2nd Lieutenant, Solomon Stanley Scherr, Air Corps, USAF. He was a member of the 317th Depot Repair Squadron which was stationed at Eagle Farm in 1943 with Major Norman W. Kuebler the Commanding Officer.
Lt Scherr was born on the 25 October 1921 at 1500 Boston Road, Bronx, New York, son of Louis and Tillie Scherr. He had two brothers, Arthur the older and Norman the younger.
His death was caused by an “airplane accident five miles west of Eagle Farm”, Queensland on 13 November 1943. The body was interred at the U.S. Cemetery Ipswich and marked by a headstone inscribed with a Star of David as he was of the Hebrew faith.
His remains, along with those of 1,395 men and eight women, were exhumed from the U.S. Cemetery and prepared for transport to the USA. They were transported to the U.S.A.T. Goucher Victory in Brisbane between 23 and 30 December 1947. He was finally interred at New Montefiore Cemetery, Pinelawn, Farmingdale, Long Island, New York on or about 8 March 1948. R.I.P.
The location of the crash in the report varies somewhat from the direction of Chermside which is north west of Eagle Farm but the straight line distance is about the same, nine kilometres or five and a half miles. Since no crash has ever been reported in the Wilston, Herston area which is a similar distance to the west, or any other site in Brisbane on the date above, then the Chermside site is the one referred to in the report.
This information was sourced in 2008 by Glenys Bolland a member of the Chermside and Districts Historical Society Inc who spent many hours searching the internet, interviewing people and reading newspaper reports over a 10 month period.
The Location of the Crash
Eye witnesses agree that the crash was in the vicinity of Ballantine Street or Corrie Street on the north side of Hamilton Road. Mavis Rye locates it near the electricity substation on Hamilton Road near Ballantine Street.
Ron Alvisio clearly remembers the line of white pedestals in the Latrine building which the plane clipped during the crash.
The map of lower Chermside Camp shows two Camp blocks fronting Hamilton Road. Block E was bounded by Newman Road and the future Corrie Street while Block F continued across the future Ballantine Street to near the present Aquatic Centre.
The only latrines near either of these entrances into the Camp from Hamilton Road were on the east side of the track that became the future Ballantine Street. The Latrine building No. 212 was 400 feet or 122 metres north from Hamilton Road while the Latrine building No. 214 was 900 feet or 274 metres north of Hamilton Road. There is no foolproof way of identifying which building the plane clipped but either one is probably as close we are ever going to get to the exact location.
The End of the War
The last word on the war is left to Peg Powell (nee Radcliffe) who joined the WAAAF in February 1942 on her 18th birthday. A few days before the end she was given leave and, along with her two close friends Eunice and Lyn, went to Sydney where they took part in the victory parade. She skilfully captures the bittersweet atmosphere of the time.
…. and so we were down there when peace was declared, and for the big victory parade, so we joined all the other servicemen and women, and marched in Sydney. What a day it was. Unless you have lived through such an event, it is hard to imagine the atmosphere and the crowds, and the flags, balloons, confetti, the bands, the proud people marching, the crowds lining the streets, the joy, happiness, excitement of that day. The war was over, this was a victory march. PEACE AT LAST. However amid all the excitement, we spared a thought for all the servicemen and women who had died on active service, and who would not be coming home to enjoy the peace, they had fought and died for, to keep AUSTRALIA free. We will never forget them.
After the War
The end of the war was the beginning of the peace when everybody expected to ‘get back to normal’ but the trouble was, no one knew just what normal was anymore. Much had changed and people had a lot of adjusting to do after the shortages, the stress, grieving for the dead, but there was a general expectation that ‘things would be better’.
There would be no more war; people would build a better world, building homes, making refrigerators, washing machines, wireless sets, lots of goods instead of guns and bombs and weapons of war. There was joy at seeing the service men and women coming home especially the Prisoners of War, there was also an expectation that the war criminals would be punished.
The service personnel had to be demobilised or ‘demobbed’ back to ‘Civvey Street’, collect their deferred pay and use it to start their new lives. Being young, most wanted to settle down and raise a family in their home on their own block of land. There was going to be a big demand for tradesmen to build the new suburbs that would arise in the scrub and the materials had to be found for the expected expansion.
A series of social benefits were being implemented by the Commonwealth government such as Child Endowment in 1941, Widows Pensions in 1942, Funeral Benefits in 1942, Unemployment Benefits and the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1945.
The 44 hour working week was gradually being phased in, state by state, during the 1920s but it was replaced by the old 48 hour week in the tougher economic times of 1929. In 1939 the 44hour week was phased back in and World War II broke out.
Female wages were fixed at 54% of the male wage even though they might do the same work. The theory was that the male had to support a family but the female did not. Also, when a woman married she was often expected to resign and stay at home to raise a family. However, many women had served in the forces, worked in industry, found that they could do many things as good as the men and their thinking was changing; they wanted a better life in the new world that was expected to begin when the war ended.