Friday, May 29, 2009


Brisbane has often been described as just a bigger country town, and it certainly had that sort of a feeling in the fifties and early sixties. Back in those days, people often left the house without locking the door, and children were allowed to play in local parks without adult supervision. Some people say that Brisbane changed forever after a violent and still unsolved murder occurred in Brisbane's northern suburbs in 1952. Public servant and part-time student Betty Shanks caught the tram home to her suburb of Grange one Friday night in September of that year, but never reached her house. On the morning of Saturday 20th September, her strangled remains were found in the yard of a house just down the hill from the tram terminus in Days Rd. This is a newspaper photograph of police at the scene on that day.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #199191)

Former Courier-Mail journalist Ken Blanch, who had reported on the murder for the paper at the time, revisited the mystery when he released his book "Who Killed Betty Shanks?" in 2006. Blanch remains intrigued by the mystery, and although several suspects were eliminated over the years, he still feels that the murderer may be caught one day. The house where Betty Shanks's body was discovered has changed a little since the day of the tragedy over fifty-five years ago.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

These days it seems as though murders are an almost daily occurrence in our news media, and I sometimes avoid the news because it can become too depressing. Wouldn't it be great if there were some way to revert to a time when a story of such violence was the rare exception rather than the rule?

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Plane unlucky

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Woolloongabba Fiveways

A perfect exmple of what can happen when a city grows quickly is the Woolloongabba fiveways. The junction of Logan Rd, Ipswich Rd, Stanley St and Main St became a traffic nightmare after the opening of the Story Bridge. As well as cars, this intersection had to cope with trams, trolley-buses and trains. That's right, trains regularly passed through the fiveways, requiring all vehicles to come to a stop so that the train could proceed. Here is a photo taken in 1969 of one of the last trains to make that journey - click on it to see a larger image.
(Photo: Queensland Rail, State Library of Queensland & John Oxley Library; #17994)

Did you notice the railway signalman clearing the way for the train? He is specially equipped with a warning bell and a red flag to warn off the driver of any other vehicle. If you have never seen a trolley-bus, there is one in the picture, right behind the train. In this further image (below), you can see the signal box that contained the man who directed the trams through this intersection.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #4047)

The fiveways is still a busy intersection, but today it's only motor vehicles and buses, and the electrical infrastructure needed by the trams and trolley-buses has been removed. The railway signalman and the tram signal box have also gone, and traffic lights control the intersection.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In my recent photo (above - click on it to see a larger version), you can see a fairly clear fiveways, with one of the controversial chimneys for the Clem7 tunnel, not yet completed, in the background. It's been specially designed to look like a jacaranda tree so that it can merge into the landscape. I think it sticks out like a sore thumb - what do you think?

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: End of innocence

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hillside Crescent, Hamilton

Today's historic photo is not as old as many we have seen before, as it dates from 1970, a mere 39 years ago! It shows, in colour, the view from the Hamilton hill across the Brisbane River to Bulimba. Hamilton, of course, is one of Brisbane's blue-ribbon suburbs, and the houses high on the hill, with their fantastic river views, are much sought after. This picture was taken from Hillside Crescent, a rather winding and very narrow Hamilton street. The long buildings evident across the river were, I believe, a large Telstra workshop and some other warehouse buildings. If I recall correctly, Annand & Thompson, who were importers of European cars and parts, had premises in this location. My Renaults sent me there quite a few times!

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7610-0001-0002)

In any case, those buildings have been demolished. What was once one of Brisbane's industrial areas (many ship-building firms were also based along this reach of the river) has been gentrified, and modern and expensive houses have now been erected there. You can see their roofs behind the mangroves in my photo below.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Just to demonstrate why Hamilton is such a prestige area, I swung my camera a few degrees to the right, and presto! Looking upriver across the Bulimba reach and all of those lovely boats, you can see the city skyline. a mere 4km away as the crow flies. But crows are probably too bogan to be allowed anywhere near Hamilton. :-)
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Train crossing

Friday, May 22, 2009

Perry House

One of Brisbane's earliest businessmen was William Perry, who, having arrived in Brisbane in June 1860, had set up a hardware store in Queen St by August of that year. He was joined in that venture by his brothers George and Frederick. The business thrived, and from those beginnings it further flourished under William's sons, Herbert and George. During the years 1911 to 1913, Herbert and George highlighted their business by building Brisbane's then tallest building, the eight storey Perry House on the corner of Elizabeth and Albert Streets in the city. The success and extent of their business at that time can be gauged by the fact that the whole eight floors of this building was used by Perry Bros. - this is the way it looked around 1924. At the top of the building is inscribed "Perry House - Estd 1860".

(Photo: State Library of Queensland & John Oxley Library; #APE-065-01-0008)

I notice that the building on the right in the photo is the "Royal Exchange Hotel", which no longer exists. An early owner of that property was another of Brisbane's prominent businessmen, one Patrick Mayne, who, from humble beginnings as a butcher, accumulated such substantial property in Brisbane that he became one of the town's wealthiest citizens. We will hear more of him in later posts here. The hotel disappeared long ago, and on that site now is a newer building that contains several floors of Borders, the book store. There is an "Exchange Hotel" elsewhere in the CBD, but that was named after the stock exchange. A "Royal Exchange Hotel", known these days as "The RE" also exists out at Toowong, and is a university student haunt of note.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And what of Perry House these days? In a very common story, after its years as a commercial building and having been used by the US military during WWII, it has been reinvented as accommodation. It is now the "Royal Albert", a boutique hotel, the Albert coming of course from Albert Street. It was very wise of the developers not to name it the "Prince Albert", wasn't it? ;-)

Click here for a Google Map.


Stone the crows!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Macadamia nut

SPECIAL NOTE: My mother is celebrating her 80th birthday tomorrow, and she is heading off to Melbourne with her three daughters and her granddaughter for a girls' theatre and shopping expedition. Happy birthday, Mum! (And watch out, Melbourne!!) :-)

I wonder whether today's children get to climb trees like I did when I was a boy. I guess they must, although I'm not in close contact with kids of that age these days, which is rather unfortunate for me. We used to spend hours in trees when I was a kid. We could have entire games that took place in a tree; we used trees as hiding places (essential for avoiding the washing up!); I can even remember the times I used to sit in a tree to read a book. I can distinctly recall the smell of the frangipani that was in our back yard at Annerley. Its flowers were beautiful, and it was a nice safe tree because there were branches quite close to the ground - they were really good for those times when you just wanted to hang upside down and look at the world from a new perspective. But I always thought that the best trees were the ones where you could get a feed while you were up there. Mango trees and Queensland nut (that's what a macadamia was known as when I was a kid) trees were fairly common - many Brisbane back-yards had one or both of these trees. Macadamia nuts originated right here in Queensland, native to the area around Bauple, just south of Maryborough. It wasn't until the trees were exported to the US for the nuts to be harvested and marketed in Hawaii that we Aussies realised their potential, and now there are significant plantations on the eastern coast, as well as a suitable marketing presence. As a kid, I found the Queensland nut an absolute delight, because not only did you have to collect them from the tree, but you also had to crack the hard outer shell to get to the delicious kernel inside. Much like the man in this photo is doing - he is Mr John Waldron from the Tweed Valley, a pioneer of the macadamia industry, and the picture appeared in People magazine in 1957.

(Photo: People Magazine, State Library of Queensland & John Oxley Library; #7719-0001-0003)

In houses that had a macadamia tree in the yard, after gathering a good supply of macadamias, you had to find a place where you could "bust the nut". Many of the houses were Queenslanders on stumps, and so under the house would usually be a laundry. Laundries back then were a couple of cement tubs and a copper in which clothes were boiled, then rinsed in the tubs. These utilities would be on a concrete floor to avoid washing day turning into a muddy mess, and there you could find a small hole or groove in which you would place the nut to stop it from rolling around. Then with a hammer, a brick or a rock, you would belt the nut to crack the shell and then you would pry it open as quickly as possible to get at the treat inside. I used to eat them as I shelled them, one at a time, but my sister was an accumulator - she would build up a pile of nuts like this.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And then, after I had eaten all of my nuts, she would sit in front of me and maddeningly eat hers, one by one!


Next: First high-rise

Monday, May 18, 2009

Botanical Gardens

The Alice St Botanical Gardens are meant to be one of Brisbane's quiet and restful places of contemplation. But I never liked going there. My earliest memories are of the days when there was a zoo of sorts there, and the animals and birds seemed to be held captive in the most deplorable conditions. After that, I recall them as being the marshalling yards for Brisbane's secondary schoolkids for the annual march through the city streets. Thousands of kids would be herded in to the Gardens in Brisbane's hot and humid climate, implored to be at their best behaviour. Naturally, there was the inevitable hand-holding, smoking and doing a runner into the city. And that was just the teachers :-) Today's picture, from 1952, is taken from the Gardens, looking across the river towards Kangaroo Point, and shows the 200 million year-old cliffs, St Mary's Anglican Church (constructed 1872-3), and the old Naval Stores that date back to 1886.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #17282)

Brisbane City Council decided to build new Botanical Gardens at Mt Coot-tha, far away from the Brisbane River. I guess they figured that might be cheaper than continually replacing plants and rebuilding paths each time the river flooded. The Alice St Gardens now are a lot different to my schoolday memories. The adjacent QUT furnishes plenty of students who use the area, the bike track along the river from New Farm to Toowong passes through the Gardens, and the Goodwill Bridge provides pedestrian passage between Southbank and the western end of the Gardens. Here is a recent view from the Gardens to Kangaroo Point.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The Gardens now has RiverStage for concerts, and is a great vantage spot for any city fireworks displays. As can be seen in my picture, it also remains a very popular mooring area for the many yachts that visit Brisbane, especially during our beautiful winters. And my most recent visit, apart from riding through it on a bike, was for the wedding of our close friends a few years ago, and it proved to be an admirable venue.

here for a Google Map.


Next: Nuts to you

Friday, May 15, 2009

Victoria Bridge

My most embarrassing moment as a motorist was the time I ran out of petrol on the Victoria Bridge - in morning peak hour traffic. Running late for work, I knew that the dial was telling me that the need for fuel was pressing, but not only did I not have time to stop, I also had an empty wallet. The car coughed and spluttered and finally stalled just before I reached the city side of the bridge. In a humiliated panic, I got out of the car, and ignoring the insults and horn blasts of other harassed drivers, set off to call the RACQ. While I waited for them, I returned to my car, a rear-engined Renault R8, and threw the bonnet up in the time-honoured symbol of mechanical failure. When the RACQ mechanic arrived with the sorely needed fuel, he must have noticed my stressed countenance. After looking at the empty luggage compartment beneath the raised hood, in a jovial voice he announced "Mate, someone stole your engine!"

The original Victoria Bridge, which had opened in 1865 was wooden, and collapsed due to a wood-worm infestation. The replacement bridge, although made of iron, was still no match for nature and succumbed to the mother of all Brisbane floods in 1893. The next bridge was completed in 1897, and lasted until 1969, when it could no longer service Brisbane's ever-increasing traffic. Here is a picture, taken in 1952, of that bridge. Notice the line of traffic and the queue of trams trying to reach Brisbane's CBD - click on the picture for a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #62835)

When the latest bridge was opened in 1969, a reminder of the previous structure was left. On the South Brisbane side is one of the old bridge's portals, a pedestrian arch (below), and affixed to that is a tribute to a young Brisbane lad who was killed in a traffic accident at that spot while waving to returning WWI servicemen. Fellow blogger Cara at Brisbane Daily Photo mentioned in her recent post that, each Anzac Day, wreaths are still laid to his memory.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)
(Photo: Brisbane City Council; BCC-C35-57.3)
The photograph above, from 1974, shows former Brisbane Lord Mayor addressing the memorial service for the lad.

And finally, the current bridge. Much more attractive than the old one, which I always felt looked like a bad Meccano structure, this one is all sweeping curves and open space. But it has the most confusing traffic flow. To allow Brisbane's buses to run on schedule, the traffic engineers have created separate lanes for them, but as a motorist you are never quite sure where you are meant to be, and I always have mild anxiety attacks as I am confronted by large vehicles of the bus kind seemingly heading straight towards me. This picture, taken from the Queen St end (click on it for a larger image) might give you some idea of what I am saying.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

here for a Google Map.


Next: The Gardens

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Old Queensland Museum

The Queensland Museum is now based at Southbank, and I haven't yet been there. It's on my list, as they say. This post is about the old museum site at Bowen Hills, which is the one I went to as a student. It was sort of exciting, because it was right where The Ekka is; but it was also interesting. In fact, so interesting that on one visit with my primary school, I must have been walking around looking at the exhibits more than I was watching where I was going, and I bumped into a pillar and took a chunk out of my ear. I've still got the notch there today. The following photo, from 1910, shows the exterior of what is now called the Old Museum Building.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #117228)

In the old days, there was an old WWI German tank, Mephisto, parked out the front, and that was enough to get a boy's attention immediately. The tank was there because it was captured during the war by a Queensland regiment. Then, when you walked inside, the first thing that you would notice was Bert Hinkler's plane.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The building was constructed in 1891, and its style is described on Wikipedia as "progressive eclecticism", which sounds pretty much like a back-handed compliment to me. It is now the home of the Queensland Youth Orchestra.

Click here to see a Google Map.


Next: A tribute to Hector

Monday, May 11, 2009

Queens Park

In any growing city, a park is a valuable resource to enable people to counter the noise, pollution and stress of a busy environment. One of Brisbane's central city parks is Queens Park, located behind the Treasury Building and bounded by George, Elizabeth and William Streets. Below is a photo from 1949 that shows Brisbane people relaxing in the Park at lunch time. Brisbane's sub-tropical climate is emphasised by the palm trees surrounding the statue of Queen Victoria, first unveiled in 1906. The building in the background is the former Executive Building, later the Lands Administration Building, which was erected between 1901 and 1906.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #99726)

The gardens were originally called the Executive Gardens, but were renamed when the statue was dedicated to Queen Victoria. The old Executive Buildng has been refurbished and is now the Conrad Treasury Hotel. Details of the meticulous and expensive makeover are contained in this document. The statue and park have been retained,and can be seen in my photo below - click on it to make it bigger.(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The park is still cool and green, and still a haven for harried CBD workers.

here for a Google Map.


Next: Tanks and planes

Friday, May 8, 2009


(Photo: National Archives of Australia; #A1200:L12157; J Brand)

Although recent years have seen an upsurge in the number of quality hotels in Brisbane, it wasn't always that way. For decades, it seemed that the only upmarket hotel accommodation was Lennons Hotel in George St (above, in 1949) - temporary home to presidents, politicians and pop stars. In WWII, it was the Brisbane home of General Douglas MacArthur and his family, along with other US armed forces personnel. The hotel was called "Bataan" in army-speak, and MacArthur motored between there and his headquarters in the AMP building accompanied by an armed escort. Apparently Brisbane residents used to queue outside the hotel to catch a glimpse of him. Old pictures of the hotel are hard to come by, but this line drawing of the building can be found on this WWII history site.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
(Photo: Courtesy Michael Elton and

There is also this advertisement from the 1889 Post Office directory, showing a previous version of the hotel. Note the three-digit telephone number:
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #13064)

As the image suggests, the hotel faced west on George St, and was bounded to the north by Ann St and the south by Adelaide St. As well as MacArthur, Brisbanites also gathered in crowds outside Lennons to see The Beatles (well, there was no McCartneys Hotel, was there!) and US President Lyndon B Johnson. Each of these gatherings had both supporters and critics of the respective visitors. I didn't make it to The Beatles when they visited in 1964, but I did go into the city to see a real US President, LBJ, when he arrived in Brisbane in 1966. Along with thousands of others, apparently. I wasn't part of the protest on that evening, but had I noticed this girl, I might have been.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The old Lennons has been torn down and replaced with stuff that in turn is being torn down and replaced. There is now a Lennons in the Queen St mall (above); its full name is The Chifley at Lennons. Bigger? Perhaps. More central? I guess so. But better? Nup!

here for a Google Map.


Next: An old queen

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Story Bridge

Brisbane's most iconic emblem is probably the Story Bridge. It was built to supplement the existing Victoria and Grey St (now William Jolly) Bridges, both already struggling with increasing traffic flow. Its position, connecting Kangaroo Point with Fortitude Valley, also allows vehicles to travel from one side of Brisbane to the other without having to pass through the CBD. John Bradfield, designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was engaged to design the new bridge, and apparently he leaned heavily on the design of the very similar Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal. Construction of the bridge commenced in July 1935 and the bridge was opened in July 1940. The following composite photo, taken during construction, shows the Kangaroo Point side of the bridge on the left and the Fortitude Valley side on the right.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #63184)

Here are some facts about the Story Bridge that you may not know. It was named after Queensland public servant John Douglas Story; the road across the bridge is the Bradfield Highway, and it is the shortest highway in the country; the length of the bridge is 777 metres; it was originally a toll bridge; there is now a tour group that offers Story Bridge climbs. The bridge is repainted every seven years, using 17500 litres of paint, and there are 105,000 square metres of painted surface. There are 1.5 million rivets in the bridge - some of them are visible in this photo of men working on the guide rails for the bridge walks - click for a bigger image.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Below is a panorama photo of the completed bridge made up of several separate images stitched together - click on it to see a larger version. (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Of course, despite its six traffic lanes, the Story Bridge itself was gradually overcome with traffic, requiring the building of the Captain Cook Bridge to form another entry point to the city. The Story Bridge is still a vital conduit for Brisbane traffic, but more importantly it is an identifiable symbol of the city.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Bataan

Monday, May 4, 2009

Central Station

It's somewhere between 7 am and 9 am on a weekday. Crowds of people pour out of Central Station. While some disperse along the way, others continue through Anzac Square, across the road to Post Office Square, through the GPO arcade, then through the grounds of St Stephen's Cathedral to enter the massive office towers along the Brisbane River and through the city. The whole process is reversed into a mass exodus between 5pm and 7pm in the evening. I was part of this human ebb and flow myself for more years than I care to remember - the tidal flow of Brisbane commerce; the human resource that powers big business.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #150532)

The original Central Station was constructed from wood and galvanised iron, but after the tunnel through to Brunswick Street was completed, the station was rebuilt in 1899 from a design by architect JJ Clark "with arches of corrugated galvanised iron over the platforms and a portico on Ann Street". This is the way it looked in 1901 (photo above). You may also enjoy this postcard from 1904 that shows a night-view of the station, complete with a beautiful moon.
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #67427)

Central Station was incorporated into the Sheraton Hotel (now the Hotel Sofitel) building during its construction in the early 1980s. and, as a result, it has been significantly altered. This is the way it looks now (below) - click on the photo to see a larger image.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: That man Bradfield

Friday, May 1, 2009

Corner Adelaide & Edward

For many years, the tallest building in Brisbane was the City Hall, with its impressive clock tower. During the 50s and 60s, multi-storey office blocks were erected that started to challenge the height of the City Hall tower. One of them had a little extra help. The MLC building on the north-eastern corner of Adelaide St and Edward St followed other MLC buildings around the country by installing a weather beacon on its roof in 1958. The following photograph from Kodak for the Queensland centenary celebrations shows the MLC building in 1959. Subsequently, MLC built a new state office block up the road on the corner of Adelaide and George Streets, and the weather beacon was relocated as part of the move. On this page you will find a guide for reading the beacon - I assume that the lights would have worked in the same fashion in their earlier position.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #6944-0001-0003)

There's a bit to look at in this picture - just click on it to see a larger image. Firstly, the MLC sign on the front of the building is quite modest in comparison to the signs we see today. Next, we can see a Holden sedan of the day about to make a right-hand turn up Edward St, which these days operates one-way in the opposite direction. Then there is one of Brisbane's trams picking up and dropping off passengers at the "safety zone" at the tram stop. It's a shame that we've lost the trams, and if you look behind the tram in this picture you can see one of the reasons that they are no longer present on our streets. They slowed the traffic considerably because of the amount of room that they needed, and the fact that cars were obliged to stop behind the tram at tram stops where there was no safety zone for passengers. In front of the tram, you can just see a traffic cop in his white pith helmet, assisting traffic through this busy intersection in those pre-traffic lights days.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

In my recent photo (above) we can see a much larger sign at the front of the building - the sign shows the address (243 Edward St) and the name of the principal tenant. The area is now much leafier and less congested, with most through traffic avoiding the city. Adelaide St now has designated bus lanes for the Council buses that replaced the trams. They take up as much room as the trams did, and the buses spew out smoke and noise - have we really gained anything by losing the trams?

Click here to see a Google Map.


Next: Commuting
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...