Monday, August 31, 2009

Government House (Fernberg)

Queensland's current Governor is Ms Penelope Wensley AO, and I haven't met her yet! Actually, I didn't meet any of the previous Governors either, even though I attended a garden party at Government House in 1966 as a representative of my school. I believe the Governor then was Sir Alan Mansfield, but I didn't get to meet him on the day - it was a large gathering. Government House is situated at Paddington, and is one of Brisbane's oldest and finest residences. It was built around 1864 by the wine merchant Johann Huessler, who called it Fernberg. He later became a member of Queensland's Upper House and was a founding member of the Queensland Club. He was also the German Consul and was instrumental in assisting many Germans to emigrate to Queensland. Eventually, a reversal in his business fortunes resulted in his being unable to keep the residence, and he left it in 1872. In 1882, the house was acquired by another politician, John Stevenson, who then hired architect Richard Gailey to design some improvements and extensions to the property in 1888. The Government House web pages describe the result as follows: "Under Gailey's supervision, the house more than doubled in size and changed from an 1860s villa to an Italianate mansion." The following photographs of Fernberg are from around 1890 and 1897 respectively.

(Photos: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #3771 and #33645)

When Queensland became a State in 1859, the first Governor, George Bowen, lived at Adelaide House - now The Deanery at St John's Anglican Cathedral. He moved into the first official Government House after it was built in 1862, but that property was eventually given to the University of Queensland when it was inaugurated in George St in 1909. As a temporary measure until the completion of a new Government House that was to be constructed at Victoria Park, Fernberg was leased by the State for the then Governor, Sir William MacGregor. The Victoria Park construction never eventuated, and Fernberg remains as Government House, after being purchased by the State government in 1911 for the vice-regal sum of £10,000. Improvements were required at that time, and further renovation, restoration and improvements have been undertaken at various times since then; with the most recent modernising of the residence occurring in 1987, and then the building of a pavilion near the tennis courts and pool in 2001. This is the way Fernberg looks today - a pristine white building in a tropical green setting, under a blue Queensland sky. Wonderful. Click any photo to see a larger image.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

My special thanks are given to Michelle Jackwitz at Government House for her assistance in gathering information for this blog post.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Spanish garden

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Mansions

Architect Mr GHM Addison, who was the architect for the old Queensland Museum (or Exhibition Building) and the Albert St Methodist Church, also designed the building we see today - The Mansions on George St. In 1889, the building was constructed as an investment by a group of Queensland politicians, including the then Premier of the state, Mr Morehead. It consists of six attached (or terraced) houses, and amongst the early tenants was Queensland's first female doctor, Dr Lilian Cooper. Like the Museum, this building also has classical lines, and this time Addison uses arcades to provide shelter from the Queensland sun while still allowing the flow of air through the rooms. Here is a photograph of the building from 1962.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #lbp00192)

The building has had a varied life since its early days. By the time of WWI, it was being used as a boarding house. It was bought by the State government in the 1950s and put into use as offices, but was subsequently refurbished in the eighties to be tenanted by shops and a restaurant as well as offices.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

One of the other interesting things about the architecture of this building is the ornaments on the upper parapet - I don't know whether they would be called gargoyles or something more technical. This is what they look like. Could they be "fat cats"? :-)
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Fernberg

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Are we soft these days? Do we have no adventure, no entrepreneurial spirit? It is hard to compare people from different eras, simply because circumstances are always vastly different, but I cannot help but wonder at the risks people took in earlier generations. Take migration, for example. Australia was built on the arrival of people from other lands, both forced and unforced, and it continues to this day. When I was at school in the fifties and sixties, I knew lots of families who had uprooted their lives and transported themselves to Australia in the hope of finding better opportunities. I always marvelled at their courage, because I figured that you couldn't possibly know how it would turn out. Here's a story of an early migrant who made good, one James McWhirter, who arrived in Brisbane from Scotland around the year 1880. He was firstly employed by merchants DL Brown & Co, then struck out into his own drapery business with some success, such that he sold up and returned to Scotland. Why he became restless there is uncertain, but he returned to Brisbane to work in the drapery business of Mr TC Beirne for a period, before eventually becoming Beirne's partner. In 1898, his entrepreneurship led him to once more set out on his own, and he established the drapery firm of McWhirter and Son in a small Brunswick St premises, employing thirty people.

(Photo:State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #177780)

A strong work ethic and undoubted commercial acumen enabled the business to expand fairly rapidly. A mail order department was established to enable the store to serve country customers, and McWhirter & Son then had to expand physically by buying adjoining premises in Brunswick St. This was still insufficient, and a new five-storey building was constructed for the company in 1912, on the corner of Brunswick and Wickham Streets.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #31227)

Despite World War I, Brisbane flourished, and with it McWhirter & Son also continued to develop. Then James McWhirter Junior died suddenly whilst on business in Sydney in 1917, and the firm's founder James Senior died in 1925. However, the store had floated as a public company, McWhirters Ltd, in 1920, and the strong relationship that the company had developed with its 800-strong staff enabled further success. Expansion into clothing manufacture followed, and the development of "The Valley" into Brisbane's department store precinct ensured a competitive but profitable business environment. The next step was the construction in 1930-31 of the Art Deco store designed by Hall & Phillips, who were the architects of Brisbane's City Hall.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #53704)

McWhirters maintained its position as one of Brisbane's major retailers through to the fifties, when it was taken over by the southern emporium, Myer, which ran it as a department store until 1988 by which time the suburban shopping malls had ended the Valley's days as the retail hub of the city. The site was sold, and transformed into a combination commercial and residential complex. This is how the building looks today.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Almost one hundred years of service to the people of Brisbane, the employment of hundreds of local staff, and one of the city's landmark buildings. All originating from one entrepreneurial Scottish immigrant - James McWhirter.

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Brisbane terraces

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fort Lytton

In the days before Federation, each Australian colony was responsible for its own defence initiatives. Queensland's defence force started with volunteers in 1860, and by the 1880s also had a small force of permanent soldiers and a militia. Invasion by foreign forces was at front of mind, so Fort Lytton was built near the mouth of the river for the dual purposes of defence against maritime invaders and also as a quarantine station. It operated as a signal station too, sending information about traffic into the port by telegraph to the Observatory (the old windmill) at Spring Hill, and from there it was relayed visually by the use of flags to the port in Brisbane River. Fort Lytton was used as an army training base, and remained in use from those early times right through both World wars. Shown below is a photograph of a group of Queensland Defence Force soldiers at the fort, taken around 1893.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #60097)

All of the men pictured probably slept in the tent behind them - they were 15-man tents, I learned on a recent trip to Fort Lytton. It is now a Heritage Park under the auspices of the State Government, and staffed by a group of volunteer guides who escort visitors around the park and explain the various fortifications and armaments. The museum on the grounds shows what life was like for the soldiers encamped there, as seen in my picture below.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

Here's another group of soldiers, this time in the heavy wool uniform of the time, buttoned to the neck. Great for the heat and humidity in Queensland - not!

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #196519)

The defence of Brisbane was rather primitive by today's standards. The river was protected by mines and a crude boom to prevent ships from sailing up the river to the settlement. The river is deepest near the fort, so ships had to sail quite close to the shore, putting them within range of the fort's guns (below).
((Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic))

The fort was abandoned after WWII, and the site became overgrown and, suffering from neglect, was subjected to vandalism until acquired by Ampol in 1963 as part of a parcel of land on which they were to build an oil refinery. The following image is from 1967, showing the various brick buildings used as fortifications and for the storage of munitions.
(Photo: D Finlay, State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #lbp00220)

In 1988, Ampol (now Caltex) transferred the site to the State government for development as a historic site. Since then, the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has maintained the site and with the help of the volunteers, improved the facilities to make the fort a suitable venue for visitors.

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

My guide on the day I visited was Graham Kilver from the Australian Army Reserve, and the tour was extremely interesting and informative. I recommend it.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Canny Scot

Friday, August 21, 2009

Old Government House

When the fledgling State of Queensland came into being in 1859, the need arose for a Governor's residence, and they started building one straight away at the southern end of George St. It was designed by Charles Tiffin and built by Joshua Jeays at a cost of £17,000. The completed building's first resident was the state's first Governor, George Bowen, who moved into the building in 1862. Our old photograph today, from 1897, shows then Governor Baron Lamington and the official party leaving Government House for the opening of Parliament. This may have been one of the first ever Lamington drives! :-)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #171777)

The building continued to be used as the Governor's residence until it was absorbed into the new University of Queensland in 1910. The incumbent at that time, Governor MacGregor, was relocated to a leased residence, Fernberg, at Paddington - more on Fernberg in a future blog-post. Later, the University of Queensand relocated to St Lucia, and another campus, that of the Queensland University of Technology grew in its place. The National Trust gradually assumed the control of the building. Recently, the building has undergone a refurbishment, and has just been reopened to the public. This is the way it looks now, front and back.

(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

And, if that's not enough history for you, then there is a claim that the first ever lamingtons were made right here when Governor Lamington had unexpected guests and the chef recycled some old sponge cake by tarting it up with chocolate and coconut. My friend, author and food historian Janet Clarkson (check out her wonderful food blog The Old Foodie), thinks that the claim is dubious. Like many food stories and recipes, Janet says, the actual origin may never be known and probably stems from several sources anyway. Read her take on lamingtons (and get yourself a recipe!) here.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Fortifications

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bank of NSW

Queensland's first bank was opened in 1850 by the Bank of New South Wales, and was situated in a rented building on the corner of Queen St and George St. The site was purchased by the bank in 1853, and it later built its own premises there. The following photograph from 1869 shows the bank's building, containing the bank offices as well as accommodation for staff.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #API-001-0001-0009)

This building was later demolished, and a new bank, designed by architects Hall & Devereux, was built on the same site between 1928 and 1930. This served as the Queensland head office of the Bank of NSW until 1970, when a new building was constructed further down Queen St opposite the GPO. The Bank of NSW is now known as Westpac Banking Corporation. The former head office still stands in what is now the Queen St Mall, and it still contains a branch of the bank. My recent photo (below) shows how it looks today.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

These days there are generally a couple of ways that people think about banks. The first is that we take them for granted - they are part of our daily lives and perform (more or less) as they are expected to perform. The second reaction, one that actually involves some conscious thought, is that they are devil's spawn that bleed the population dry with a bevy of steep fees, like the outrageous $2 for each ATM transaction that occurs at a machine that doesn't belong to your own bank - that transaction would probably actually cost the bank about 2 cents. Ambivalence rules. I think that today's banks seem to have shifted their financial focus from their customers to their shareholders, with disastrous results for the former. No-one expects a bank to be completely altruistic, but neither do they expect a bank to rip them off at each opportunity. Free enterprise should be able to co-exist with compassion. Rant over.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Lamington drive

Monday, August 17, 2009

TC Beirne's

The man pictured below was one of Australia's first millionaires. He was also a pre-eminent businessman, and a politician, as well as a benefactor to church and education. He is Thomas Charles Beirne, poorly educated son of Irish farmers, who emigrated to Australia in 1884 to work as a sales assistant in a Melbourne drapery store.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #93804)

Before too long though, Beirne moved to Brisbane to partner fellow Irishman Michael Piggot in a drapery store in South Brisbane, prior to striking out with his own business in Fortitude Valley. His first premises were rented, and the Beirne family lived in upstairs quarters while he was establishing the business. One of his early employees was James McWhirter, who was later to become an equally successful retail rival in the Valley. The success of his store enabled Beirne to buy the original premises from his landlord, and then adjoining properties to enable expansion. Prominent architect Robin Dods was engaged to design a purpose-built premises for the store, which was constructed in 1902. The following picture of the building dates from around 1909.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APA-004-0001-0009)

The building was expanded a couple of times under Dods's stewardship. TC Beirne's, together with McWhirters (which will be the subject of a later post) and Overells, other well-known Brisbane stores that were also situated in the Valley, ensured that this precinct became one of the city's main shopping areas until the introduction of suburban shopping malls. It has been suggested that sectarian issues played a role in the patronage of the two main stores, with McWhirters being Protestant and TC Beirne's being Catholic. By the time I was old enough to go to these shops as an adult in the sixties there was no evidence of that, at least as far as I was aware. Major retailer David Jones took over the TC Beirne's business in the fifties, and the building now has been refurbished as part of the makeover of the Valley area. This is how the building, now called TCB on Brunswick, looks now.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

But that's not all there is to the TC Beirne story. He was an acknowledged business leader, being President of the Brisbane Traders' Association; he was on the boards of several major companies including AMP and Queensland Trustees; he was a member of the State's upper house for many years before its abolition in 1922; and he was University Warden for more than a decade. His increasing wealth led to generous donations for the benefit of his fellow Queenslanders - the TC Beirne School of Law came into being after his donation of £20,000 and he gave significantly to the Catholic church, becoming a Papal Knight in 1929. He died in 1949, leaving an estate of £1.25 million in Queensland, as well as further estates elsewhere.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: First bank

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Ekka

This isn't the post I had planned for today - I'm holding that one over until next week. What special event could cause me to alter my schedule, which is normally set three to four weeks in advance? Why, it's The Ekka, of course! This annual agricultural exhibition commenced at its current venue just outside the central city in August 1876, and was known then as the Queensland Intercolonial Exhibition. The Australian predilection for contracting words soon came to the fore, and the event is now commonly referred to as The Ekka, even in its own PR output. Its original intent was to showcase everything agricultural, from livestock to crops, from axes to machinery. This is still a vital part of The Ekka, but today it is also so much more. Our first old image is from 1914, and shows a parade of cattle in the main show ring. Did the photographer intend to have the prominent "Dining Hall" sign so visibly placed behind the prize beef cattle? :-)

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #193884)

I'm not sure when the "fun-fair" type of attractions were first included, but it must have been early on. Here is a photograph of a ferris wheel at The Ekka sometime around 1918. The garments worn by both men and women at the time are worth a look - click to get a better view.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-030-0001-0020)

Naturally the Ekka is a huge hit with kids. Anyone reading this who has children will know what I am saying. When I was in my teens, nothing would stop me from attending - it was one of the "big four" events of the year. Taken chronologically, they were Easter (school holidays, and people give you Easter eggs!); birthday (people give you presents); The Ekka (school holidays, people give you money for rides and sample bags); and Christmas (school holidays and people give you presents!) Do you see a theme here? OK, I admit that I was a shallow child. :-) I think that people still go to The Ekka to have fun - they sure looked to be having lots of it when I took this photograph yesterday. The ferris wheel looks a fair bit more advanced than the earlier model, and note the unattached legs that are dangling in the top left corner. They belong to folk that were on a ride that looked like it could launch them to the moon.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

But, I have to confess that I don't go to the Ekka any more. Not since 1977 in fact. People's Day (the special Ekka public holiday), Wednesday 17 August, to be precise. How do I remember the exact date? My wife and I walked out of one of the pavilions to be confronted by a paper-boy selling The Telegraph, Brisbane's afternoon newspaper, now defunct. "The king is dead", screamed the headlines. We had a queen actually, but it wasn't that sort of royalty that was involved. We all knew what the headline meant. Elvis Presley, dead at age 42. I haven't had the urge to go back since - not even yesterday. I took the photos from over the fence.

(Note: Elvis actually died in Memphis on August 16. The time difference meant that the news missed the morning papers in Australia, where the time is fifteen hours ahead. In those pre-internet days, we were not to find out until the afternoon press was published.)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: TCB - taking care of business

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Queensland Club

In a recent post, I referred to Rosamond Siemon and her first book, The Mayne Inheritance. I mentioned then that she has written a second book, and that one is called The Eccentric Mr Weinholt. Like the first, this book is also a historical novel set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Queensland. Although I haven't yet finished reading the book, I can already tell that it is no less interesting and exciting than The Mayne Inheritance. Arnold Weinholt was born into a wealthy squatter family in Queensland, and although sent to England for an upper-class education at Eton, he chose to return here to become involved in the family businesses, and to partake in other adventures too. The Weinholt Estates Company owned around 300,000 acres of choice land on the Darling Downs and elsewhere, and also held interests in mills and mines, ships and shops. Like his father had before him, Arnold Weinholt stayed at the prestigious Queensland Club when he was in Brisbane on business. This is the way the club, situated opposite the Botanical Gardens on the corner of George St and Alice St, looked around 1888 - the time that Weinholt senior would have been using it as a base.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #201412)

The Queensland Club remains in the same location - beneficially close to the Queensland power bases of Parliament House and Brisbane's CBD. Although not a member (I don't have the pedigree!), I have managed to go to a couple of functions that were held there. It is how you would imagine it to be - quiet and distinguished, and, at least in the areas I have seen, wonderful colonial architecture and appointments.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

You can see from my recent photograph (above) that the building is largely unchanged since the earlier picture some 120 years ago. A recent report in the Courier-Mail would indicate that clubs are doing it tough in the current economic climate. The reporter was unable to elicit a comment from The Queensland Club, but their longevity suggests that they have weathered such storms before. However, another sign of the times is at work too - the cause of political correctness. A piece in The Australian recently indicated that politicians in the current federal government have been noted by their reluctance to appear in any "men only" establishments, regardless of how venerable they may be. The times, they are a-changin'.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: TCB - taking care of business

Monday, August 10, 2009

Creek and Elizabeth

Sportsmen often talk about "white-line fever", where a player becomes a different person when he crosses the sideline to enter the field. I've known a couple of footballers who were the nicest people off the pitch, but were regarded as absolute lunatics at match time. Recently, I have been suffering from "white van fever" - that's where everything that I go to photograph has a large white van parked in front of it. In one recent instance, it was a huge white passenger coach that I had to contend with! Grrrr! Nothing sucks the pixels out of an image more than a large white blob in front of the subject. The viewers' eyes are drawn to it like a giant zit on a pretty face - it's too ugly to look at, but you can't keep your eyes off it! Today's old photo shows the corner of Creek and Elizabeth Streets in 1895, looking south along Elizabeth towards Edward St - click for a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-031-0001-0002)

The building on the left is the now-demolished Dalgety Building, and further along Elizabeth St can be seen St Stephen's Cathedral. A beautiful horse and smart-looking carriage are outside Dalgety's, while a couple of Clydesdales are pulling an extremely strange load around the corner into Creek St. I could not possibly even hazard a guess at what is being transported! And I am having difficulty in coming to grips with the light pole in the foreground, which carries an extraordinary number of insulators on its crossbeams.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The only identifiable structure that remains in my recent photo, above, is the cathedral. It was a grey, overcast day when I took this picture, but fortunately, no white vans or coaches! Serenity now! :-)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Queenslander!

Friday, August 7, 2009

All Hallows'

Not being Catholic, and not being female, I don't have any personal connection to All Hallows', one of the best known schools in Brisbane. But I have always been interested in it, and not only because of my fascination with the type of person who would attend such a school (that is to say, girls!). In the typical fashion of Brisbane's Catholic forebears, who always had the nous to combine education with prime property, the school is marvellously situated in one of Brisbane's most prestigious positions - on the riverfront, close to the Story Bridge. And it has been there for a good while too - Bishop Quinn purchased the site and the house on it in December 1863. Below is a photograph of the school entry that was taken in 1914 - note the horse-drawn carriages on Ann St, now one of Brisbane's busiest motor carriageways.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #196399)

All Hallows' School is run by the Sisters of Mercy to offer young women a quality Catholic education, says their web site. In 1861, (Arch)Bishop Quinn arrived in Brisbane to take charge of the Catholic community. With him were five Sisters of Mercy led by Mother Superior Mary Vincent Witty, who from all reports was a forceful and energetic personality with more than a tad of foresight. The Sisters commenced their teaching activity at St Stephen's in Elizabeth St until the property "Adderton", previously owned by a Dr Fullerton, was purchased for them by Quinn in 1863. It was promptly renamed All Hallows' (after All Hallows' College in her home town of Dublin) by Mother Mary Vincent. Below is a photo of the school from 1889 that shows the Stombuco designed main building, and below that, a current photo showing the original building on the left of a raft of improvements (click for a larger image).

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #APO-010-0001-0015)

(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

There is a lot more information about the school on its own web pages, and also at this State government EPA site. I also photographed the old entrance gate from across Ann St in the manner of the top photo in this post, and this is how it looked.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

It's fairly obvious, even to a casual observer like me, that the school has done exceptionally well since its foundation. It has an excellent reputation as an educational facility, and it has been producing quality people into all walks of life over many years.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: White van fever

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The iceman cometh!

Today is my 60th birthday and my life is flashing before my eyes. There's no reason why I shouldn't share some of it with you! :-)

When I started primary school, my family was living with my grandmother in her house at Annerley - the house my father grew up in. Actually, we were never sure whether to call it Annerley or Thompson Estate, but Annerley seemed to win most of the time. I still have very fond memories of the house and the neighbourhood despite the decades that have since passed. The house is no longer there - the land was subdivided and two dwellings stand where our house used to be at 73 Baron St, in what is now known as Greenslopes. This picture (below) was taken within a few fences from where I lived, and I'd say that I probably climbed most of them; rampant choko vines and splinters not being a handicap to an agile boy.
According to the accompanying records, this photo was taken from the back yard of 64 Earl St, Thompson Estate (the next street to Baron St), so our house was just to the right of the houses at the back of the picture. Our family would have known most of the people who lived in these houses at the time this photo was taken in 1952, although I was only a toddler then. I can remember some of the neighbours - the Blows, the Howletts and the Gleig-Scotts. There was a man who lived further up Baron St towards Victoria Terrace who had a miniature train set (not a model - one you could sit on and be towed along by a steam engine) in his back yard. (Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #127848)

What do I remember about life at that time, less than ten years after the end of WWII? Well, I remember the two sorts of clothes lines that are evident in the photo. Ours was the old-fashioned kind, where wire was run between two uprights, and clothes were pegged to the wire. If the wire was sagging too much, you needed a clothes prop (a long piece of wood with a fork in one end) to prop the line up and prevent the clothes from dragging on the ground. Clothes props were sold by a man who drove around on a horse-drawn wagon calling out "clothes props, clothes props". The more modern Hills rotary hoists that can also be seen in the picture gradually became the norm.

I remember that houses mostly had fresh water tanks that collected rainwater, and we had one on a stand behind the house. After running around the yard in the heat, there was nothing better than a drink of cool water, straight from the tap at the bottom of the tank. Water tanks fell out of favour for health issues, but the recent prolonged drought has seen them become essential to residences once more.
We could play cricket with a tennis racquet and ball in our back yard, but our house was directly across the street from a large park and sports ground, useful for group games of cricket or tiggy or red rover. Before the days of power mowers, men used to come and cut the grass in that park by hand, using huge scythes that they swept around their body like a golf swing.

I remember being with my mother at the next-door neighbour's house one day, and dropping something through the back steps. I squeezed my head and shoulders between the steps to retrieve the object (I'm not sure now what it was), but then couldn't pull my head back through the steps. I called to my mother and our neighbour, who had become such a close friend of my mother's that we called her Aunty Vee. They were having a cup of tea in the kitchen, and came out to try to release me from the steps. After several minutes it was apparent that I was well and truly wedged in there, and Aunty Vee announced "I'll go and phone the fire brigade - they'll have to come and saw the steps". I don't know which of the words "fire brigade" or "saw" did it, but my head then came straight out! My big head has been the butt of family jokes ever since.

I remember that not all houses had refrigerators, and those that didn't kept their food out of the Brisbane heat in an ice chest. Huge blocks of ice were delivered daily, and brought into the house by men wearing gloves or using giant pincers to hold the ice, which was placed in a compartment in the ice chest to keep the food cool. Below is a photo of some female ice deliverers taken at Woolowin in 1942, but I don't recollect ever seeing any "ice-men" that were not in fact men. Must have been a luxury accorded to those on the north side of town!
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #22136)

I remember the time my little sister fell off a tricycle onto a cement path, sending a tooth straight through her top lip. She had to be rushed to hospital for stitches, and there was so much blood I wondered whether I would ever see her again. Fortunately she made a full recovery. Then there was the arrival of our puppy Lassie, who was to be a faithful companion for many years in a few different locations. She had to have a "ladies' operation", we were told one day, and when she came home she hid under a bed and wouldn't come out for a couple of days. My photo, below, shows a much older Lassie, aged about twelve, taken with my first ever camera in 1966. We were on a family outing to the Oasis swimming pool complex at Sunnybank, and she was tied up because her border collie instincts would have had her rounding up all the kids who were playing by the pool.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I remember a trip home in a taxi one day when the driver let me sit on his lap and steer the car down the hill on Juliette St (in the opposite direction to today's one-way traffic flow) towards Baron St. The steering was so heavy that I couldn't quite manage the right-hander into Baron St, and I thought I was going to steer us straight into the big house on the corner that was owned by Mrs Nissen of the FW Nissen's Jewellers family. Of course, the driver had his hand on the steering wheel too, and we made it around the corner without major calamity. Can you imagine a taxi driver asking a little boy to sit on his lap and steer the car these days? I think not! How many laws would that break? And not only the road rules, either! :-0

I remember the fairly long walk to Junction Park State School that I made by myself in Grade 1, and then with my sisters as each of them in turn started school. It probably wouldn't happen today - it seems that the family car delivers most kids to the school gate. At school we learned to write on a slate with a special slate pencil. How prehistoric is that, looking back from these days of computers and mobile phones! My younger sister is a left-hander, but she wasn't allowed to write with her left hand. The teacher would smack her on the recalcitrant left hand and make her write with her right hand. However, my sister was tough, and she had endurance too. She stuck it out and remains a left-hander to this day. My teacher in both Grade 1 and Grade 2 was Miss Masterson, and she was very nice to me, even on the day I marched out to the front desk with my school port and announced that I was going home because my mother was sick. Mum was at home in bed after coming home from a stay in
hospital caused by a respiratory problem. There was an oxygen cylinder next to her bed, and she had to place a scary black mask over her face to breathe oxygen from time to time. The whole process was very frightening to a child, and stressful for all of us. I think I was actually allowed to go home on that day, too. I first learned to swim in the infants' pool at Junction Park State School. One day we were just learning to kick, and we had to kick our way across the pool to the other side, hands out in front like Superman flying. Evidently my left leg had been affected by Kryptonite, making my right leg more powerful, because I never reached the other side - I had veered almost 90 degrees to the left, and was steadily kicking my way up towards the deep end of the pool when I finally ran out of breath and had to stop. There I was, in the middle of the pool, unable to reach the bottom and too tired to paddle to the side. The female swimming instructor had to rescue me, and I was the butt of jokes in the boys' dressing room later. Grade Three kids can be so cruel. :-(

In our yard was a tasty loquat tree, a pretty frangipani tree and a prickly bouganvillia, all surrounded by a wooden paling fence complete with the ubiquitous choko vine. Our house had a name-plate next to the front door - it was called "Maroon" after the town of Maroon, south-west of Brisbane, where Dad's family came from. We pronounced it to rhyme with moon (as I assume they do out there), but State of Origin now has it rhyming with bone. The house was a typical Queenslander, raised high on stumps to create a magical area that we called "under the house" in reverent tones as if it were another world (like you would say "up on Mars!"); and there, on days when it was too rainy to go outside into the yard, we had
a swing to play on, as well as lots of space for cowboy forts or games of marbles, or twirling hula-hoops, or skipping, or playing hopscotch. We were usually outside the house during the day, playing something physical either at home or elsewhere. We wouldn't come inside until dark, when we could listen to serials on the wireless (the old-style radio, which wasn't actually wireless at all!) until dinner time. My favourites were Biggles, Hop Harrigan and Tarzan. I loved The Goon Show too, but I usually wasn't allowed to listen to it - it was considered too adult for me. "Yes, what?" with Bottomley and Greenbottle was also hilarious, but once again, my parents thought that it encouraged children to be rude, and so it was a struggle to get to listen to that one as well.
Upstairs in the house were hardwood floors with a rug in the lounge room and lino on the kitchen floor. There was a hallway down the middle of the house with rooms off to each side (bedrooms at the front, kitchen and bathroom at the back), and a verandah or "sleep-out" that provided much needed extra room for a family of three adults and three children (at that time - a brother and another sister arrived after we moved!). The roof was corrugated iron, and the sound of rain from a Brisbane evening storm drumming on the roof was a frequent lullaby.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Hallowed grounds

Monday, August 3, 2009

Commissariat Store

Being a bit preoccupied by age at the moment, I'm presenting this building, one of the oldest in Queensland (along with the windmill on Wickham Terrace), for today's post. It is the former Commissariat Store, built by convicts in 1828-9, in William St near the river. I don't know about you, but I need to know what purpose a Commissariat Store actually served. It sounds vaguely military, doesn't it? That's because it is - Webster's dictionary defines a commissariat as "a system for supplying an army with food". And remember, when Brisbane was originally settled in 1824, it was a penal settlement. That means it was a place where prisoners were sent - and wherever prisoners went in those days, also went soldiers! The photo below was taken in 1928, and it shows the side of the store, taken from William St. This photo includes an insert that shows the Royal Seal of King George IV that is part of the front wall of the building. Click the photo to see a larger image.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #103466)

The original store was in Elizabeth St, but it made much more sense for it to be relocated to William St where goods could be easily unloaded from ships. Wouldn't it be interesting to know what sort of goods came in? Probably refined or processed or preserved foods; possibly even livestock; also clothes, I guess; and perhaps even building equipment and materials. I imagine that it would be a pretty busy place, and that the nature of the imports would have changed as the colony became more self-sufficient. The building itself was constructed of local stone from Kangaroo Point and Oxley Creek, and the original structure included a wharf.

The State government's EPA site provides a great deal more information about the building, past and present. Here are today's pictures of the Store, starting with the same viewpoint as the original.
(Photos: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

My second photo, above, was taken from the original front of the building in Queens Wharf Rd (the entrance to the building today is in William St), and shows the Royal Seal above the main doors. Click the photo for a larger view. The building is now occupied by the Royal Historical Society, and of course, it was one of the city's first buildings to be heritage listed.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next (tomorrow): Turning 60
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