Monday, March 30, 2009

William Jolly Bridge

Seventy-seven years ago today, the art deco styled Grey Street Bridge was officially opened by the Governor of Queensland, Sir John Goodwin, finally connecting Grey St, South Brisbane to Roma St at North Quay. The bridge was designed by local engineer AE Harding Frew and built by Brisbane construction firms MR Hornibrook and Evans Deakin, and the project provided much needed work during the Great Depression. The Grey Street Bridge was built between the years 1928 and 1932, during the tenure of William Jolly, Brisbane's first ever Lord Mayor. Here is a picture of the crowds present on the day of the opening of the Grey Street Bridge.
(Photo: State Library and Queensland and John Oxley Library; 34276)

In 1925, twenty local councils in the Greater Brisbane area were amalgamated, and William Jolly became the first Lord Mayor of the resultant Brisbane City Council. He served in that post from 1925 to 1931. William Alfred Jolly was an unassuming accountant from Windsor, who previously had been an alderman on his local council. Jolly was clearly energetic and committed to public service, as his list of achievements is impressive, including being a representative on the Hospitals Board and the Tramways Trust, president of Brisbane Rotary, and board member of the YMCA. Following his term in local politics, he successfully contested the federal seat of Lilley, then after his political career ended, became a member of the board of the National Australia Bank. The pictures below show William Jolly and his wife Lillie. They were taken in 1930, while Jolly was Lord Mayor.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #196481)

It was rumoured that Jolly was offered a knighthood but he declined, saying that he was concerned that it might interfere with his gardening. William Jolly died at his Windsor home in May 1955, and in July 1955 the Grey Street Bridge was renamed the William Jolly Bridge in his honour. (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The photograph above shows the art deco inspired arches of the William Jolly Bridge today, taken from the bike track that runs parallel to Coronation Drive. Although some still refer to it by its original name, I prefer the use of its proper one, as befits the legacy of William Jolly.

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PS - This post comes as a result of a request from regular reader Malonie Blue, who is the great-granddaughter of William Jolly. Thanks Malonie!

Next: Home

Friday, March 27, 2009

Booroodabin Bowls Club

The oldest bowls club in Queensland is the Booroodabin Bowls Club at Newstead, established in 1888. The sport of lawn bowls itself can be traced right back to the time of the Pharaohs - over 9000 years ago - and its variants, such as bocce, boule and petanque are played in many parts of the world. Australia's earliest recorded game of bowls took place in Tasmania in 1845, and since then bowls has been extremely popular in Australia. There are currently around 250,000 bowls clubs members in Australia today. Never having played bowls myself I am hardly an expert, but I seem to recall that, at one time, bowls was the most popular sport in the country based on the number of active participants. This photo of the Booroodabin green and clubhouse (below) was taken in 1908.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #48259)

A further picture, below, shows how bowls was played around the turn of the twentieth century. Gentlemen are wearing coats and ties, and the few ladies present are spectators only. My own recollection of bowls is that the uniform requirements were quite strict, and there was frequent discussion about coloured clothing and the lengths of the skirts to be worn by the female players.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #12027)

Things have changed somewhat. Booroodabin has its own web site, and attracts new members by offering barefoot bowls under the slogan "Barefoot at the Boo". Further attractions include live music, a bar and restaurant. The restaurant even offers take-away meals! This is the way Booroodabin looks now.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

It sits like an oasis on Breakfast Creek Rd at Newstead - right opposite the Eagers car yards - one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. I think that it has done rather well to avoid having been swallowed up by progress.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Jolly fine bridge

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


New York is undoubtedly an exciting city. "The city that never sleeps" is recognised as being the centre of the financial world - yet on my visit there a few years ago, the most memorable part of my stay was visiting Ellis Island in New York Harbor (hey -that's the way that they spell it -who am I to argue? Just so long as they spell Sydney Harbour the way we spell it!). Ellis Island was the portal through which America's immigrants passed on their way to the Promised Land. I suppose, given that I'm responsible for inflicting a history-based blog on the public-at-large, that it's not so surprising that I should find all of that history and the heart-rending personal stories extremely interesting. We should be doing something like that here in Brisbane - but we're not.

The photo below, from 1907, is of Queensland's Immigration Hostel, Yungaba, at Kangaroo Point. Click on the photo to see a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #48341)

Yungaba was the first port of call for many thousands of the migrants who came to Queensland. Built in 1887 by the Queensland Government expressly for that purpose, it is situated right on the tip of the Kangaroo Point peninsula and with three-sided river views, it is a marvellous location for such an establishment. Yungaba was also co-opted for other duties at various times - it housed the workers for the Story Bridge project, it has acted as an employment agency during times of economic hardship, and it was converted to a military hospital during both world wars. The picture below shows some returned WWI soldiers who were hospitalised there.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #158559)

Yungaba ceased to operate as a migrant hostel in 1993. Sadly, and despite the actions of a dedicated conservation group, successive Queensland Governments have failed to see the potential in retaining Yungaba as a museum. It has been decided instead to allow private developers to buy the site and refurbish it into apartments. I believe that the intention is to keep some of the features of the hostel, but full details are not yet available.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

On my recent visit to the site to take this image (above), Yungaba looked sadly neglected. There was temporary wire fencing everywhere, with warning "KEEP OUT" signs liberally scattered around. A partly demolished building and a huge mound of dirt spoils the entrance to the hostel from Main St. My picture was taken at the rear of the building, and orange tape and warning signs can be clearly seen. Compared with the way that, for example, Newstead House has been cared for and preserved for future Queensland generations, what is happening at Yungaba is a disgrace. Just like the sign on the road in the foreground indicates, we seem to be going one way - but in the wrong direction.

EDIT: The makeover is complete, and despite my reservations above it seems like a well planned and executed transformation.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Anyone for bowls?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Cannery

We all know that a typical Australian hamburger has to have beetroot on it, right? Our American friends just don't get that, but it's been the proper way to eat hamburgers since before the American fast-food chain invasion began. The beetroot used normally comes sliced, straight out of a can - whilst fresh beetroot is one of my faves, when you are having a simple burger meal it's just easier to use the tinned variety. So, what about those tins? Here in Queensland, it would be a good bet to say that you would normally use the Golden Circle brand, tinned at their Northgate factory, which was built by a growers' co-op in 1947. Prior to that, there were a few privately run canneries scattered about South-east Queensland, as well as the State Canning Factory at Teneriffe. Here is a photo (below) of the Teneriffe canning factory site that, according to the information held with it, dates from around the year 1913. The Golden Circle history (click on the link above), however, says that the State Canning Factory was built in 1920.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-045-0001-0003)

Even though the caption under the picture refers to Bulimba, the factory was in Vernon Terrace near the Teneriffe wharves - at that time Bulimba referred to both sides of the river. You can see the railway track in the foreground, which served not only the canning factory, but also the New Farm Powerhouse, the sugar refinery, and the wool stores. Along with the rest of the Teneriffe area, the State Canning factory has also undergone a metamorphosis. To satisfy Brisbane's apparently insatiable appetite for accommodation, it has been transformed into a range of over 200 one-bedroom to three-bedroom apartments. The complex is simply called "The Cannery", and this is the way it looks now.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The main building, on the corner of Vernon Terrace and Dath St, has been retained, and an additional apartment block has been constructed behind it. You can compare the transport of the early twentieth century in the original photo with that of the early twenty-first in the later one. And, for people who live in apartments on this site, it should be mandatory to have tinned beetroot on their burgers.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Hostel and hospital

Friday, March 20, 2009

Queen & Edward (3)

In July 1942, Brisbane was hit by a storm - the arrival of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur. Offered various options as headquarters, MacArthur steamrolled the recommendation that he should be based outside the CBD - a recommendation that was not only about his safety! Instead he selected the AMP building on the corner of Queen and Edward Sts, because of its solid construction - it was almost bomb-proof. The building was commandeered under military orders and the AMP staff and other tenants were promptly evicted so that MacArthur could set up his office on the eighth floor. Similarly, the General determined that he and his family would be accommodated at Lennons Hotel, then Brisbane's most luxurious hotel. MacArthur motored to and from these two buildings under armed escort in his personal army vehicle, with its number plate USA 1. Here is a picture of the AMP building today, now called MacArthur Chambers in honour of the general. The statue above the Queen St entrance (click on the photo to see a larger version) was known as Amicus, and was placed on all AMP buildings. Amicus represents the AMP's motto " Amicus certus in re incerta", Latin for "A sure friend in uncertain times", usually inscribed below the statue .
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic) 

The nine-storey AMP building that MacArthur stayed in was constructed between 1930-34 on the north-eastern corner of Queen and Edward. It wasn't the first AMP building on that site.The previous AMP state headquarters, a three-storey building, had been erected on the same corner in 1885, itself replacing the former Federal Building Society building. Here is a photograph of the first AMP building - notice the earlier version of the Amicus statue on the top of the building (click on the photo if you wish to see a larger image).

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APE-047-01-0008 )

Readers of earlier posts know that I worked in the AMP building (that would be the top photo, for those among you who were preparing to joke about my age!), and there are lots of stories I could tell about my time there. But as they say in the classics - "What happens in the basement strongroom stays in the basement strongroom!" ;-)

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Next: Aussie burgers

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gas Works

As a cricket tragic, I have spent countless hours glued to television sets, watching cricket from around the world. One of the more interesting grounds (to me, at least) is The Oval, in London, with the large gasometer visible in most camera shots. I always wondered what it was for and how it worked. I didn't realise until I moved to Teneriffe that we had one at Newstead, not very far from where I now live. In fact, it has been here since 1863 - how could I have missed it? After all, the thing is huge. In a typical piece of larrikin Aussie humour, the hulking AFL footballer Mick Nolan (a towering 195 cm and at 125 kg, one of the heaviest men ever to play in the AFL) was nicknamed "The Galloping Gasometer" because of his size and the fact that he didn't run too far.

The picture below is from the infamous February 1893 floods, and shows a substantial amount of water surrounding the gasometer. I'm not sure whether the photo shows Teneriffe Hill or the Bulimba hills in the background. Look for the lone swimmer and the people in the boats - click on the picture if you want to see a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; # API-080-0001-0009)

The gasometer supplied natural gas to parts of Brisbane until 1996, when it was decommissioned as part of Brisbane's urban renewal. The area is to be known as Newstead RiverPark, with the Gas Works apartments to be included in the development. The outer frame of the gasometer will be retained as a feature of the area. In my recent photo (below), you can see the gasometer standing in the middle of the reclaimed area.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

There has had to be a great deal of site rehabilitation done here. I'm not sure of the reasons for the contamination, but the process has been lengthy and arduous. I understand that the large site will contain commercial and retail tenants and a lot of green space. It should be great, but I do wonder whether the infrastructure here can cope with the influx of so many people.

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Next: Supreme commander

Monday, March 16, 2009

Woolloongabba Post Office

I see that Pauline Hanson is in the news again. Firstly, I read that someone was contemplating making a film about her, and that, of all people, they are considering Cate Blanchett for the role. I suppose that the skill of acting is to make an audience think that the actor is someone that she's not, but still! I can't think of any two females more poles apart. I mentioned Diane Cilento previously, and I could see her playing Pauline Hanson.

Secondly, about a week after I read the first item about Ms Hanson, I read that she was about to announce that she would be campaigning for a seat in the State Parliament in the election that has just been called in Queensland. By the time you read this, she might be running. I hope that she is indeed running - far away! I am afraid I have no time for her xenophobic perspective on my country.

Anyway, here is a picture of the Woolloongabba Post Office, on the corner of Stanley and Hubert Streets, from the year 1906. How's that for a segue?

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #19335)

When I was in my first few years at primary school, we lived at Annerley, and visits to the Gabba were quite frequent. There were a couple of large department stores there, and the Gabba cricket ground was an attraction too. The first cricket match I can recall seeing there was a Queensland v NSW game that my mother took me to, because the charismatic Keith Miller was playing for NSW. Unfortunately Miller broke down with a sore knee and wasn't able to play on the day we were there. I'm not sure who was more disappointed - me or Mum!

Another great reason to go to the Gabba was to buy the world's best fish and chips: Jack's fish and chips shop, according to my father, made the best fish and chips in Brisbane, if not the world. I hadn't tasted too many others at that time, but I was happy to agree with him! The owner of that fish and chippery was Jack Seccombe, the father of Pauline Hanson.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Gabba Post Office building still stands at 765 Stanley St (see picture above - click on it to see it in a larger size), and still does Australia Post business. The ornate emblem in the front wall says "Post & Telegraph Office", but I don't suppose there is too much telegraphing in these internet and email days. The Gabba is now quite different to my childhood memories - no fish and chip shop that I could see, and certainly no sign of Pauline Hanson. Thankfully.

Click here for a Google Map.


Who's got gas?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Newstead House

Newstead House is one of Brisbane's oldest and best-known sites. Positioned at an unparalleled spot on the Brisbane River, right at its junction with Breakfast Creek, it sits in a beautifully maintained park. Its history is interwoven with Brisbane's development, and thanks to some hard-working people, remains available and accessible to the public. The picture below was taken around 1959, although the time-line for this wonderful place goes back much longer.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #67825)

The traditional owners of this land were the Turrbal people, first sighted by John Oxley (who named Breakfast Creek) when he visited the area in 1823. Apparently the initial contact was peaceful, if wary, but things deteriorated after Oxley's hat was stolen by an aboriginal man, who was later shot by one of Oxley's men. Subsequently the land became a pastoral property developed by Patrick Leslie who first constructed the house, which was later improved by Captain John Wickham and then George Harris. The house was used by US armed forces during WWII, and since then it has operated as a museum and historical site. Recently I took this photo of Newstead House (below) from the same position near the large fig tree. Click on the photo to see a larger version.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And there is one more item to include in the history of Newstead House. The wedding of tff and his beautiful spouse took place there many years ago. It was a soft, grey and rainy November day, and that meant that our plans for a garden wedding needed to be adapted to avoid transforming our guests into wet and soggy messes, so the ceremony took place on the verandah instead. For the purposes of authenticity, I have included a suitably anonymous photo of the ceremony, complete with aforementioned grey sky (below).(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And, I am pleased to report that mrs tff is still beautiful and that we are still very happily married!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Best fish & chips

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stones Corner

I was living at Annerley when I started primary school. In those days there were no huge suburban shopping centres, and in any case, many families didn't have a car. Ours certainly didn't. Shopping entailed either going to the local corner store for groceries, or, if you wanted clothes (or material to make your own clothes!), then you needed to catch a bus to a larger retail area like the City or the Valley. We had two other choices - the Gabba, which also entailed a bus journey; or we could walk to Stones Corner. I walked to Stones Corner with my mother lots of times - across Juliette and Cornwall Streets, through Hanlon Park and there you were! I remember a few things about Stones Corner: the Alhambra picture theatre; the Stones Corner Hotel; a leather goods shop that sold the change purses that bus and tram conductors wore around their waist (for some unknown reason, I always wanted one!); and the library. I can remember joining the Stones Corner Library, and the ritual of borrowing books and taking them back at the end of the allotted time. Across the road from the library was the building below, the National Bank, shown here in 1952.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #13314)

I'd have to say that I don't specifically remember that bank although I did have a bank account. Like a lot of other schoolkids, I was able to have a Commonwealth Bank account into which we could make deposits that were collected at school - you got a little stamp in your passbook for every florin (two shillings, or twenty cents) you deposited.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Anyway, the library is still there. I wonder what they did about that Biggles book that wasn't returned because I moved house? :-) The bank building is still there too, although NAB has moved out. It now houses a skate shop - how cool. Today's kids can pester their Mums about skateboards instead of leather tram conductor pouches!

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Wedding vows

Monday, March 9, 2009


Brisbane's General Post Office building is the theoretical centre of the city, situated on the eastern side of Queen St between Edward and Creek. It was built in two sections - intially the Post Office section which was completed in 1872, and then the Telegraph section (completed in 1910). They were joined by an arcade, above which was going to be built a tower, although that part never eventuated. The original building had a clock facing forwards towards Queen St. When the second building and the arcade were finished, the clock was repositioned to hang from the incomplete tower, with the faces looking up and down Queen St (see photo below, in 1931).

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #65624)

The history of the Post Office has changed with technology. Letters were the main means of communication before the telephone. Telegrams were for more urgent or more serious messages, and they were usually delivered by "telegram boys" on bicycles. Gradually telephones and then fax machines spelt the end of telegrams, and now of course the ubiquitous email and mobile phones that connect to the internet have conscribed posted letters to an archaic entity known almost contemptuously as "snail mail". The GPO building is no longer full of Post Office employees - there is an RACQ office and a coffee shop inhabiting the ground floor alongside a post office branch.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In today's photo of the building, the clock has found its way back to the centre of a gable in one of the buildings, which tends to look a tad unbalanced. Perhaps it has been restored to its original positioning - I can't tell which was the original building. Despite how much or how little post office work is done here, this building remains one of Brisbane's best known and most recognized.

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Next: Biggles and Algy

Friday, March 6, 2009

Buddhist Temple

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10124)

Has there ever been a country that has provided as many emigrants to the world as China? Often seen cheap labour, Chinese workers have found their way to countries all over the world in search of the security of a job and better conditions than those they were leaving. Unfortunately, in many places they were ruthlessly exploited and discriminated against, whether because they were seen as taking jobs from locals or for bringing different beliefs and customs with them.

Today's historical photo shows a very old building, simply described as "Joss House, Breakfast Creek, 1886". It was made by Chinese craftsman with materials imported for the purpose, and it was opened in 1884. The picture shows several people gathered around the building, which is notable for its extraordinary roof ornamentation.

The Chinese word joss can be translated as "luck", but this temple was more formally known as the Temple of the Holy Triad because three religions were practised here - Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Nowadays it is listed as Quan Am Temple, at 8 Higgs St, Breakfast Creek (just behind the Breakfast Creek Hotel's Spanish Garden), and appears to be a Buddhist temple only. This is the way it looks now. (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

It is actually much smaller than it looks in the older photo. I don't have a human figure for reference in my photo, but I would have to stoop to enter the temple, so the men in the earlier picture must have been quite small.

On the day I visited, I was welcomed warmly by a couple of members of the temple's congregation who were quite proud of the fact that it is the oldest Buddhist temple in Brisbane. The building went through some hard times in the 1960s with neglect and vandalism, but since then has been restored. It is situated behind a protective wall, now with some adjoining ancillary structures, and is a visible reminder of the early Chinese inhabitants of Brisbane.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Meet you under the clock

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Alhambra Theatre

I have mentioned "going to the pictures" in a previous post. Today, we are looking at one of the "picture theatres" that I used to frequent when I was younger. It is the Alhambra Theatre in Stones Corner, right across Old Cleveland Road from the Stones Corner Hotel. In fact, one of the reasons we went there was so that my parents could drop us off at the movies and then have a welcome child-free hour or so in the beer garden. This is the way the Alhambra Theatre appeared in 1949 (below), showing a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby film, "Road to Rio". Judging by the number of bicycles left at the curb, I assume that the picture could have been taken during a Saturday matinee. Maybe there was a Flash Gordon serial on too!

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #146464)

When I was in primary school I saw a film at this theatre that scared me silly. It was "Moby Dick" with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab. I'm not sure exactly how old I was, but I certainly remember the effect it had on me - I had nightmares for ages. Looking back, I'm not sure now whether it was the big white whale or Peck's performance as the crazy Ahab that upset me! Does anyone remember the totally non-PC song "Ahab the Arab" that was around during the early sixties? I'm sure singer-songwriter Ray Stevens would be cast into jail if he were to release a similar song now.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Alas, like many other picture theatres, the advent of television had a huge impact on the Alhambra
- this is the way it looks now (above). It might have gone physically, but at least its name has been preserved in this redevelopment.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Zen and now

Monday, March 2, 2009

Customs House


Monday 5th May, 1947 in Brisbane was the Labour Day holiday. The Brisbane Customs House staff social club had planned a picnic so that members and their families could enjoy a relaxing day in the country. The picnic was to be held at Samford, outside Brisbane, and the Customs House staff had arranged a special train to take them from Brisbane's Roma Street and Central Stations to Samford Station, a journey of about 20 km that would take a couple of hours. The train, carrying over 200 passengers, left Central Station at 9:00 am, but the picnic never eventuated - the train was derailed near Camp Mountain on the way to Samford. In Queensland's worst rail accident, 38 people were injured and sixteen were killed. Among those who died were my maternal grandparents and their nine year old son, leaving my mother, then only a teenager, and her other two brothers as orphans. The Ferny Grove to Samford section of the line was closed some years afterwards, but this is the memorial cairn that marks the site of the accident.
(Photo: © 2009 (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Customs House has long been a readily recognised Brisbane building. The large copper dome and the huge columns made it a landmark right from its construction in the 1880s. This photo is from 1889.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #100069)

One of my mother's brothers went on to work for the Customs Department in this building, so I was familiar with it from an early age. It made sense for Customs to be housed here when access to Brisbane was via ships that travelled up the Brisbane River to unload passengers and goods. However, as air travel became more prevalent, and with port facilities moving down the river, this wonderful site became redundant, and the building was sold. It is now owned by the University of Queensland, and is dwarfed by its office block neighbours.
(Photo: © 2009 (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The building is now used for cultural events such as art shows and book launches, and it also houses a restaurant. It is still as beautiful as ever, and still a poignant reminder of relatives that I never got the chance to know.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Road to Rio
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