1950s - Childhood in Chermside - Ron Goward

My Memories of Chermside

This was the black house because it was painted with linsed oil. Paint was in very short supply in 1949 so the only colour was black. The roof was white asbestos which does not show on the photo.

Some Things I Remember about Chermside

by Ron Goward 13 March 2006

My memories of Chermside are principally of the 1950's and 60's: I was born in 1948, and so I am a "baby-boomer." As a child, my world was essentially bounded by Kingsmill Street to the east, Farnell Street to the west, Hamilton Road to the north and Rode Road to the south. Of course, I did range a little outside that, particularly as I grew older.

Mum and Dad built a house in Kingsmill Street. I remember it as low-set, with a corrugated fibro roof, and its colour was a kind of very dark brown, almost black. I now know that building materials, including paint, were scarce in the post-war period. The black colour was because the weather boards of the house had been painted with linseed oil. It must have been slathered on because all along the bottoms of the boards there were dried up drops of oil. They had hardened and we would pull them off with our finger nails. Inside, the walls were of a mixture of masonite and fibro, and in each room there were different mouldings and trims. It seems the builder would put an order in and, again due to the post-war building boom, take what he could get!

There were no gutters along the footpath outside number 31, just a hollow depression in the dirt between our fence and the narrow bitumen strip down the middle of the road, although there was a concrete channel across the end of Miller Street, where it met Kingsmill Street. I remember that every now and then the dirt edges would be graded. Mr Barker from our church was the grader driver: I remember he had very thick, bottle-bottom glasses.

The same house 30 years later, painted and the roof can be seen due the asbestos blackening with age.

I Can Remember Milk being Delivered

The Goward family in front of the Foy's house which was next door, it was another 'black' house painted with linseed oil. Ronald and Jennirer sitting on the ground, Elva holding Lindsay and Tom standing at the back.

I can remember milk being delivered in a horse-drawn buggy. We would leave a billy on the front step, and the milkman would pour the milk from a much bigger billy from his cart. Bread was delivered each day ("two loaves on Friday"), and I remember the horse slipping on the concrete at the end of Miller Street, and the sulky overturning: bread everywhere! A large block of ice was delivered every day for the ice chest in the kitchen.

The Boyles lived down the back of us, on the corner of Charlotte Street and "the lane" (now Byrnes Lane.) They had a spare 32 perch block immediately behind us. Mr Boyle had a timber jinker, and would empty his loads onto the spare block. He then chipped the bark off the logs using a very sharp broad axe. He had a weird array of tools for rolling the logs over and re-loading them onto the truck. Over time the pile of bark rose to about a metre deep and covered the whole block. Whenever Mum and Dad were doing the gardens, we would take a wheelbarrow through the fence and sieve a load of beautifully rich, warm, dark, moist "forest-floor" soil from the composted bark. We kids would dig caves into the sides of the bark mound and snuggle up into the warmth. And, since then, I've never seen so many witchetty grubs in one place!

Charlotte Street was a dead-end and didn't join Thomas Street. A creek ran between the two streets, where Byrne Ford is now. There was a big pool in the middle, and there was a long plank to cross to take a short cut. Often there were old wooden crates dumped there, and some of the bigger boys from Wavell Heights would play there. The banks of the creek were mostly covered with tall grass. Further upstream, near where Charlotte Street now meets Thomas Street, there was a short low level plank for short cuts, but you then had to scramble up some rough steps cut into the bank. This was fine, except for wet weather! There would often be water across the road in Hall Street, and the footbridge across the creek would regularly get washed away in heavy rain.

The Fosters lived opposite where Charlotte Street now meets Thomas Street. They had a brick house, and a tennis court at the back, with electric lighting for night games. Mr Foster had a plaster business next door. He made sheets and mouldings of fibrous plaster. He had huge, flat, very smooth and polished sheets of steel with upturned edges set up on raised tables.

He had a range of moulds to make fancy mouldings. There were bags of off-white fibre everywhere (was it horse hair?), and stacks of sacks of very white plaster of Paris. He would pour a slurry of plaster onto the steel sheet or into the moulding, then lay the fibres into the wet plaster, then cover it up with more plaster. When it was dry, the sheets were stacked. I remember there was always a covering of white dust around the area, and piles of dried plaster and plaster droppings. The workmen always wore white shirts and shorts, and their arms and faces and legs were always white.

The Corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road

I remember on the corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road, was Mr Channer's butcher shop. It was a long and narrow shop. Meat was placed on a small sheet of butchers' paper and, after weighing, would be wrapped up in newspaper. We would roll up clean old newspapers and take them to him. He would weigh the roll and give us threepence a pound for them. Next door was a milk-bar, which sold fish and chips, pies and drinks, and a new fangled thing called a dim-sim. I would go there to buy Tristram's soda squash in the squat bottle.

Next door was Argo's bike shop, which later became the dry-cleaner. Argo's moved across Gympie Road to a workshop behind the drapery. Next to the bike-shop, part of the same building, was a barbershop. Further along there was a draper's shop, and then the Post Office. Around about there was another milk-bar where the bodgies and widgies used to hang out.

There were a couple of houses before Kuran Street, and one of them had a shop right on the footpath - it might have been a cake shop. Across Kuran Street was a Shell garage, and I remember down the back, towards the creek, the land and creek bank were always covered and greasy with oil.

The Naylors lived just across the creek, and they were next door to Simpson's Sawmill. Mr Naylor was a scout leader at Kalinga, the nearest group. Along with Richard and John Mason from Sparkes Street, we would walk to the Naylors and Mr Naylor would drive us to Cubs and later Scouts, along with his son Gary. When Mr Naylor resigned, I continued to go to Kalinga, riding my bike. It was great going down Shaw Road, but coming home was another story!

The George (Jnr) Lemkes lived in a big two-storeyed weatherboard house on the other side of Gympie Road on the corner of Wallace Street. Next to them was the drapery, and there were a number of steps from the footpath up to the house and the shop. Argo's bike repairs shop was at the rear of the draper, and the land next door was vacant, but I remember the new Post Office being built there.

Then came the Dawn Theatre and the Dawn Milkbar, then a fruit shop, and Mr Jackson the boot-maker. The corner of Norman Drive was vacant, but a new butcher's shop was built, Mr Chandler I think. Later it became a sort of gift shop, and they sold books and magazines, and nick-nacks for bikes. I remember I desperately wanted a pair of pink tasselly thingoes for the handles of my bike!

That's also where we bought batteries for our bike torches, and they stocked coloured plastic tubing for ladies to make shopping-bags, and for us to plait key-rings.

Behind the Dawn Theatre was Dixon's tennis court. My family played there every Saturday afternoon. On Saturday mornings, I'd ride my bike to my Nan's (Jessie Smith) house in Kidston Terrace (it used to be called Victor Drive) to do "the messages."

My Aunty Mave (now Mavis Rye) would give me the money to buy three new tennis balls from Pradellas, a packet of Highfields Green label tea, a pound of sugar and a pint of milk. This was for afternoon tea at the court. There was a group of up to about 15 who played socially, but seriously.

Scores Were Kept for Tennis

Well, scores were kept, so I guess that's serious! A couple of bays under Dixon's house, facing the court, were used as the "club-house" - this enabled the jug to be boiled for afternoon tea, and there was a radio always playing, so we were up to date with the cricket and tennis scores.

I remember that everyone wore whites - shorts, shirts, tennis frocks for the ladies, who also often wore frilly bloomers underneath! My job at home, after "the messages," was to get all of my family's sandshoes ready. This meant scrubbing them clean in a bucket of water, rubbing a white paste onto them, and smoothing it out and into the canvas, then putting them into the sun to dry, hopefully in time to get ready for tennis!

Back on Gympie Road, around the corner from Norman Drive, was Pradella's Barbershop. Their house was in Norman Drive, and the shop was attached to it. In their shop at the front, they sold tennis and golf balls, fishing gear, bike bits, tobacco and smoking requisites, magazines and casket tickets. I remember there were four barbers' chairs. Mr Pradella used the front one, closest to the shop. I think his sons also became barbers.

Mr Pradella was a smoker, and I remember him cutting hair with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. It was interesting to me that men and boys always knew their place in the non-existent queue: you'd just walk in, and take a seat. There was no fuss. Somehow you just knew when it was your turn.

Next came Lemke's butcher shop. I remember it as a large, airy shop, a couple of steps up from the dirt footpath, The floor was always covered with sawdust. The meat was cut up on huge, round, wooden blocks, and there was a big band saw for cutting through bones. George Lemke and his son George (Jnr) were the butchers.

George lived in a house round the corner in Sparkes Street in a big weatherboard house, with louvred sleep-out. I always remember the sound of canaries whistling. Across Sparkes Street was the Golden Fleece garage. Joe Fisher's produce shop was next door, a long narrow shop, which sold hardware as well.

On the northern corner of Latham Street was Timmins' Caltex garage, a two-storeyed building. The Harkers later took over, and they lived upstairs. Next door was a doctor's surgery, then a milkbar, a chemist, and a number of other shops down to the corner of Hamilton Road.

I remember the BCC (Brisbane Cash and Carry) being built on the corner of Gympie and Hamilton Roads. Then there were a couple of houses - the Mikkelson's lived in one. Between what became Bouchard Street and the Garden Settlement, was Hackers', a large produce merchant - there was another one, Early's, across the road, where the Motel is now.

Hacker's had a large dirt-floored shed filled with sacks and bags and bales. I remember you went up a half-flight of stairs to the shop. Dad used to buy laying mash for the chooks, a half bag, which would be tied off with string, and he would balance it on the bar of his bike as he rode home. Years later my brother would buy seed for his pigeons. The seed was put into a paper sack, carefully folded at the top, and neatly tied with string.

Grandparents at the Garden Settlement

Arthur and Frances Goward, Ron's Grandparents moved into the Garden Settlement, now called Wheller Gardens when it was opened in 1936. Their cottage is the one in the centre. This photo shows the small cottages made of fibro with tile roof. This was a pioneer venture that was a major step forward in aged care.

I remember visiting Dad's parents at the Garden Settlement. They were the very first residents there, and lived in a cottage overlooking bowling greens to the front and back, and a short walk to the dining room.

The cottage had two rooms, a bedroom and a sitting room, they had to go on to the veranda to move from one room to the other. The
verandas were on two sides of the cottage with a bathroom and toilet at the end of one of them.

After our rest after lunch on Sundays, we would walk from Kingsmill Street to the Garden Settlement. After visiting Grandma and Grandpa (Arthur and Frances Goward,) we would walk along Kelso and Farnell Streets. Sometimes we would visit Dad's sister, (Chris and Bill Denning) in Latham Street, or my Nan Smith in Kidston Terrace. And then home down Hall Street in time for tea.

The Police Station was on the corner of Gympie and Hamilton Roads. Sergeant Mahoney lived in the house, and there was a small lock-up at the back. I remember the fire station being built, a two-storeyed brick building.
My birthday is in January, and I missed out on going to school by 10 days - you had to have turned 5 by 1st January. (In fact I did start school at Wavell Heights State School when I was 5, but was sent home on the second day, because I was too young! When I was 6, I started school at Chermside.)

Mum and Dad sent me to Mrs Whelan's Kindergarten. I remember playing with coloured wooden blocks, drawing on blackboards (which were actually dark green!) on the wall, "sewing" with a bootlace and a punched card, reading stories, and finding any excuse to leave the room so we could see what pattern was on the milk bottle tops.

The milko would deliver the crate of one-third pint bottles we had at morning tea. I remember some kids didn't like milk and one girl always vomited when she was forced to have it. I remember the smell of my new "Paklite" school bag, and the different smell of it after a few weeks.

I remember Mum wrapping my morning tea and my sandwich for lunch in waxed paper, and packing them with a piece of fruit in an old biscuit tin, which went into my bag, along with my raincoat, a canvas affair with a black coating which cracked as it got older. Of course, the rain leaked in through the cracks.

If it was raining we packed our shoes and socks into our bag, along with a small towel, and walked barefoot to school. We had to do the same after school. I remember the smell of shoes drying at home, in the front of the open oven.

The First Methodist Church of Downfall Creek - Chermside

The original Downfall Creek - Chermside Methodist Church was built on the corner of Banfield and Gympie in 1877. It was slid down the hill to Hamilton and Gympie in 1926. The skillion on the side may have been added after the shift.

On the opposite corner to the Police Station was the Methodist Church, later to become Uniting Church.

My Mum and Dad were married in the old church, a wooden building which had been shifted from its original location on the hill near where the Green motel is currently located.

The Second Methodist Church of Chermside

The original Methodist Church was moved back to allow the first stage of the new one to be built in 1950. The new brick church was extended later but still had a boarded up eastern end when it was sold and demolished in the early 21st Century.

When the second church was built in 1950, there was a temporary wall at the back, as they had not enough money for the hall. When the new church was built, the old church became the church hall.

I remember the new church hall being built on the eastern end of the brick church, and it too had a temporary back wall, right up until it was demolished for the development that never seems to happen!

Kindergarten Hall

The Kindergarten class of 1953 with Ronald sitting up straight right in the middle wearing a white shirt and a dark tie. Later the lower part of the walls were lined with masonite and painted with blackboard paint. It was divided up into metre lengths with spaces for each child to draw using chalk.

To build the new church hall, the old one had to be shifted. Known as the "Primary Hall," it was where primary-school-aged kids had Sunday School. Behind it was a smaller, unlined hall, known as "Kindergarten Hall." This is where the little kids had Sunday School, and where, during the week, Mrs Whelan ran a kindergarten.

Dr. Parer's Surgery

Next door to the church in Gympie Road was Dr Parer's surgery, then a cake shop and the Ampol garage. A little further along, was Hamilton's Coach and Body Works. As well as repairing cars, the Hamiltons repaired horse-drawn vehicles: carriages, sulkies, carts, drays. We would often go home that way from school, just to watch Mr Hamilton painting the decorative lines, scrolls and curlicues on the beautifully shiny, dark paint of a newly-restored coach.

Then there was Mr Cash's grocery shop. I think it became the first cash and carry store in Brisbane. For the first time, you walked through the shop choosing what you wanted and taking it all to the front counter, where it was checked out. I remember that Mum would often send an order to Mr Cash, and the groceries would be delivered to our home later that afternoon. Further along was a newspaper shop and a fruit shop, then a beauty salon, and Mr Ferguson, the chemist.

On the corner of Kingsmill and Hall Streets, Mr Lex had a grocery shop attached to his house. I remember getting some pocket money for weighing out and packing potatoes and onions. Two doors down, Mrs Fawcett had a hair salon in the sleep-out at the front of her house.

I remember the bushland where Burnie Bray Park is now. I think it was first called Annand Park. Halfway up Meemar Street was an old house, with a tall roof. I remember it being covered with vines and shrubs. The Wiltshires lived there, but it was originally owned by one of the Hamiltons. (Burnie Bray House?) When the house was removed, and the scrub cleared, swings and a slippery slide were installed in a row across the middle. I remember the fantastic view right across Chermside, away to the mountains. That vista is still there.

I remember that a circus would come every year or so. I remember the music was so loud you could hear it all over Chermside. I remember sitting on a swing and watching the steel framework of the new Chest Hospital being built, up off Rode Road.

I remember the trams. We would catch the tram at the stop at Argo's. The terminus was outside the Methodist Church. I remember how, on quiet, still nights, you could hear the tram come down the hill from the cemetery at Kedron, across Gallagher's Flat, stop at Lawley Street maybe, then at Rode Road, maybe stop outside the school headmaster's house opposite Mermaid Street, stop at the Dawn, and then thunder down to the church.

When a tram reached the terminus, the conductor changed the electricity poles which ran along the overhead wires. You could hear the sound of metal as the pole contacted the wire, and sometimes there was a crackle as the electricity arced across. The same happened with the big trucks, only you could then hear them change up through the gears as they went up the hill towards the Garden Settlement, then down to Downfall Creek, past Vellnagel's Blacksmith, and up towards Webster Road. That's when the noise faded away.

I remember that, at the tram-stop near the Dawn, there were three steps up to the road level. This was because there were gardens along both sides of the tram tracks. In fact the garden beds stretched from the terminus at Hamilton Road up into Kedron, beyond Tommy Packer's dental surgery, as far as Somerset Road, I think.

I don't ever remember seeing a single weed in these gardens. The gardens were planted with one thing - roses, a small shrub variety. I remember the gardens always being immaculate, always men working on them, with long handled tools tilling the soil, spraying, and pruning. I remember the little roses were always pink or red.

Chermside School of Arts

Family gathering for the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Arthur and Frances Goward - Grandparents of Ronald, Jennifer and Lindsay in the School of Arts, 1949.

On the corner of Hall Street was the School of Arts Hall. It was set back from the road a little. On the left, as you went through the front door, was the library. I don't imagine they had a children's section, but I do remember the smell, a pungent "gluey" smell, and the smell of the ink used to stamp books out. There was a ticket booth, and a servery.

On the right were store rooms, particularly for the equipment used by the Masonic Lodges and PAFSOA (Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia) which met there. I remember the outside walls were of corrugated iron, and the left hand side of the hall had been extended as a kind of annexe. At the front of the hall was a stage, and to the left of the stage was a kitchen.

In 1949 a family gathering was held there to celebrate the 50th Wedding Annirversary of my grandparents, Arthur and Frances Goward. I was only 18 months old so I depend on my cousin to tell me about it. He said that the Workplace Health and Safety people of today would have had heart failure if they had seen the way in which people were placed to give the tiered effect.

We have identified most of the people but not the lady in the hat sitting in the middle front. She is certainly a relative but she was not the centre of the assembly. A photo of Arthur and Frances cutting the cake appeared in the Courier Mail the next day.

I remember my Aunty Mave's 21st Birthday being held there, when I was 3 - lots of streamers, lots of laughter, and lots of singing. I remember lots of concerts there. I remember that, as the numbers at our Sunday School became quite large, we had our classes at the School of Arts Hall. I think the front of the hall was demolished to make way for the new Library.

The Shop on the Corner of Rode and Gympie Roads

I remember a shop on the corner of Rode Road, opposite the Chermside State School. You went up four steps to the door, right at the corner. They sold the most wonderful iceblocks for threepence - the ice was flakey, and the flavours were nice and strong. The best ones were sars and lemon, although the green lime ones were pretty good too. They were about a good inch square, and about five inches long, and came in a twist of lunch wrap.

I remember Williamson's bakery in Bromilow Street. They baked only bread and rolls, and I guess that's where all our bread came from until Tip-Top came along! I was in love with Anne Williamson, the second daughter I think, when I was at school. She had lost both her front teeth. We were in Grade 2.

I remember the bush along the northern side of Hamilton Road. I remember the pony club which met where Playfield Street is now. I remember Playfield Street being made and the houses being built.

I remember the Chermside Drive-In Shopping Centre being built, the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere! I remember on opening day how a small helicopter hovered overhead and dropped hundreds of ping pong balls, each of which had a slip of paper inside indicating a prize. I think the "big" prize was a car. The centrepiece of the opening events was a large circular tower, made of scaffolding, in the car-park, opposite Thomas Street. Banners and flags were draped on the scaffolding.

Opposite the Drive-In, where Byrne Ford is now, was Woodland Woodworks, owned by Jim Wayper. At the far end of the block, where Charlotte Street turns to go up to Thomas Street, there was a saw mill, where pine logs were ripped into boards for use at the factory up the street.

Timber was delivered about halfway along Charlotte Street, and put through a series of planing mills. The timber then went into the factory where square, round and rectangular wooden blocks were drilled and routed for light fittings. After he was retrenched from Bruce Pie's, Dad worked at Woodlands, and he kept a daily tally of the number of wooden rulers he had cut, ready for printing with the measurements. Pencil cases were also made, together with fibro-covered electricity metre boxes. All the fibro off-cuts were dumped alongside the creek next door. I remember we would "peg" bits of fibro across the creek trying to get them to skip across the water.

Along the Charlotte Street side of the buildings was a set of steel rails set into the ground. A large trolley, about 8x4 feet, on small railway wheels was wheeled along, and stopped at hatches in the wall of the building. The waste timber off-cuts, sawdust and shavings were pushed into the trolley. At the end of the buildings, adjacent to the bush, and on the edge of a bank down to a flat area away from the creek, the waste was dumped.

It was where we got the bits and pieces to make our model cars and trucks and army tanks. The waste pile was often set alight, and occasionally the bit of scrub adjacent went up too! My Uncle Bill Denning was the bloke who cleaned out the factory at the end of the day, and I remember it was good fun to help him roll the trolley, and ride on it.

I remember my Dad going to work at Bruce Pie & Son's up off Rode Road opposite the Hospital. He never drove a car, and rode his bike to work, rain, hail or shine. I remember he would arrive home at exactly 20 to five in the afternoon. I remember sitting on the gate post, with Mum standing with me and my sister, waiting for Dad to come round the corner. He would greet us, wheel his bike down the side of the house into his shed, then he and Mum would sit at the kitchen table, with a cup of tea, for fifteen or twenty minutes.

While Mum cooked tea, Dad would feed and water the chooks, water the vegetable garden, and potter about in his shed. He loved working with wood.

Mattress Making

Tom Goward worked at Bruce Pie Ltd as a mattress maker after World War II. Even after he was retrenched he continued to make mattrasses for family and friends.

Dad was a mattress-maker. After the War he had hoped to do something with electronics - he had been a signaller in the War. He was offered a traineeship at Bruce Pie's, and made mattresses until he was retrenched, probably sometime in the 1960's.

Sometimes he would refurbish a fibre mattress for family or friends. We usually had some part of an old mattress under the house. For the week prior to the refurbishment, we would help Dad "tease out" the fibre from the old mattress. He had mounted the head of an old steel rake on a wooden stand and we would stand in front of it and scrape the compressed fibres across the prongs, and tease them up into a big fluffy pile. On Friday, Dad would bring home a new mattress cover.

On Saturday morning, Dad would rip open the mattress to be refurbished, and we'd tease out the fibre. Dad had made a large flat table from old T&G wall boards - I don't know where from - which he put up on a couple of high trestles. After smoko, he would fill the new mattress cover with the teased fibres, distributing them evenly within the cover. He would stitch the cover shut, and there would be a big bag, filled with teased fibre, high in the middle, coming down to the right thickness at the edges.

There was an art to getting just the right amount of fibre in the middle. Dad had a set of mattress needles each about a foot long (30 cm). He would tie a leather "button" to one end of his string, and push the needle right through the mattress. He would compress the mattress to the correct thickness, then tie it off to another button, and so on until the whole mattress was done.

I think our family was fairly typical and fairly ordinary. My sister Jennifer is 4 years younger than me, and did the usual "girl" things - played dolls with the kids around us, went to Brownies and Guides, sang in a folk group with some friends. My brother Lindsay is 8 years younger than me, and he rode his bike with his mates, kept some pigeons, was in the Army Cadets, and played the cornet.

Most of our activities centred on the church. Dad was a member of the Church Trustees, the governing body which looked after the church's property. Before she married, Mum had worked as a book-keeper. After she married and stopped working, she still did some book-keeping for her old boss, working at home. This, plus the overtime Dad worked, enabled us to have a holiday at the beach for 3 weeks each year.

Mum was something of a stalwart in the community. There always seemed to be someone popping in for a chat. She was a founding member of a young married women's fellowship group, and organised fetes and other events. She was deeply involved in the management of the church, and was Secretary and Treasurer at one time or another. She was also deeply committed to the spiritual welfare of the church people. Many people looked to her as a quiet voice of sanity and reason, sort of a "Judge Judy" sometimes. She had that knack of not taking sides, and I think people listened to her when she would calmly and simply state what the issue was really all about.

Our house at 31 Kingsmill Street was demolished to make way for a block of units. So too was my Nan's house in Kidston Terrace. There's not a lot left of the Chermside I remember from the 1950's and 60's, let alone from any earlier. I guess that's what memories are for.