Friday, March 9, 2012

Graceville Memorial Park

When Harold Holt died - Sunday 17 December 1967 - I was at this venue. In one of those "where were you when... ?" moments, I was watching cricket with a couple of friends when someone told us that the Australian prime minister had drowned at Portsea in Victoria.
(Photo:; S Liddle)

I spent a fair bit of time here in my youth. I played inter-school cricket at this ground and many games of rugby union on the other fields of this huge reserve in the middle of suburban Graceville.  Here's a photo from 1973 of a team-mate attempting a kick for goal - that is Oxley Rd in the background.
(Photo: © 1973; the foto fanatic)

We played football here a couple of days after a team member was killed by a train in a senseless accident. I also remember one football injury at this ground where a player's knee was dislocated, leaving him lying on the ground with his lower leg at an unbelievable angle to his thigh - just like what happened to Brandon (Matthew McConaughey's character) in the start of the movie "Two for the Money". In those pre-mobile phone days we had to make a dash by car to the ambulance station to get help for him.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

Above is a photograph of how the grandstand looks today. A white picket fence, common on many cricket grounds, was built here in the 1930s, but for some reason it was removed in the sixties. The ground's incumbent cricket club, Wests, celebrated its centenary recently, and a new fence was erected in time for that. It looks inside-out to me - the fence supports and horizontal rails are normally on the outside of the fence (spectator side) rather than on the inside where the players are. As a former bowler, the last thing I would want would be to have the batsman smack a shot to the fence where it could strike one of those sharp corners and take a piece out of the ball. No doubt there is a reason for it having been built this way.

To me there is something satisfyingly nostalgic at looking at this old grandstand and the white picket fence that surrounds the cricket oval. In some ways it represents a simpler time. Lazy afternoons watching the bowler trundle in, hearing the crack of bat striking ball (and then an echoing crack if a well-struck shot hits a picket fence) would still be possible here, but at the major grounds the international matches have been corrupted by Mexican waves, beach balls, constant noise and fancy dress. I still love cricket, but somehow or other it too has sped up - just like the rest of life, I suppose...

The area is known as the Graceville Memorial Park, so named because of the WWI memorial in the grounds, but in fact the recreational use of the park originated years before the outbreak of the war. Lacrosse was played here in the 1890s, and in the early twentieth century the area was gazetted as a recreation reserve.

The memorial to Graceville's fallen was unveiled on 29th November 1920. An honour roll listed 51 soldiers and one nursing sister who did not return, out of the more than 250 men and seven nurses from the area that volunteered. The memorial was designed by Mr I Bennet and built by the Petrie Monumental Works for £225.
(Photo: Courtesy Brisbane City Council; BCC-B54-31062)

Later the monument was surrounded by a low sandstone wall and three flagpoles were erected next to it. This is the way it looks now.
(Photo: © 2012 the foto fanatic)

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  1. I am glad the sporting ground was renamed Graceville Memorial Park, and I am very glad the WWI memorial were built IN the grounds of a field that would have been used by the young men before they went off to war. It seems appropriate.

    But I wonder if young people play team sports in the same way Australian school children always did. Or if they do, perhaps it is inside the closed walls of their own high schools, not in public grounds.

    And I never see children playing kick to kick (football, not rugby or soccer) in the suburban streets these days. Too dangerous? Too many electronic games?

  2. Hels: It's interesting. When I pass the local park on a Saturday it is full of kids playing organised sport - soccer, cricket etc.

    But after school hours during the week - nothing! I guess they go straight home to their PlayStations and iPads now.

    I know it's boring and that I repeat myself, but the afternoons after school was premier outdoors time when I was young. My mother didn't expect me to come inside until dark. We would be just kicking the ball around, or throwing a cricket ball or playing tennis. All to hone those fine motor skills for the various team sports.

  3. Hi,
    what an interesting entry! But, gee, what a horrible description of a football injury! I might just mention, my son plays soccer (he's only 7 and a half) for New Farm United and they train after school, so no ipads and playstations after school for those kids! But yes, I agree, it would be nice to see more children kicking the ball in the street. I think we can blame cars for that--speaking as a mother, that is my only worry...
    Kind regards,

  4. Veronika: great to hear that your son and his mates enjoy playing outdoors. It would be wonderful to see more of it,

    I agree that the streets themselves are not the place for kids to play, but our beautiful parks are.

  5. As a mother of a child at Graceville State School, I know I would prefer her to be out riding her bike in the streets, but weekdays she is at after school care as I work full-time. I wonder if this also has something to do with the lack of street action, apart from video games and the like.

  6. I think that is a good point, and one that I hadn't considered.


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