An interesting visit to the Beenleigh Historical Village

Today I joined my fellow members of the Redlands Genealogical Society on a tour of this village and it was definitely a walk down memory lane.

It is a heritage village and living history museum dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the Beenleigh region for current and future generations to enjoy. Beenleigh is situated between Brisbane and the Gold Coast & it took me about 45 minutes to drive there this morning. It brought back a lot of memories and was well worth the drive. We began our visit with damper and a cuppa which we had to have inside because of the rain.

There are quite a number of old buildings making up the village and they are well cared for by the amazing team of volunteers. The old Beenleigh railway station is so typical of those of its time and you can find them scattered throughout Queensland.

I especially loved the old one-teacher school. I didn’t attend this one which was moved here from Loganhome but I did attend similar ones in Hivesville and Jimboomba, both small country towns in South East Queensland and my daughters attended one in Branyan, near Bundaberg. Jimboomba is no longer a small country town but is quite a metropolis and The Branyan State School has grown into a much bigger school.

It was fun to slide into the old-style seating, pick up a slate pencil and write on the slate. I think we used slates until grade 3. We checked out the holes in the desks for the inkwells and reminisced about the cheeky boys dipping the girls’ plaits in the ink well. The Queenslanders amongst us could recite the words on the letter chart: b like a bat and ball and b says ‘b’.

I seemed to be the only one who could remember writing out the good manners chart, pictured above, for talking in class but we could all remember getting a smack over the knuckles with a ruler for talking.

This is a ‘Rural School Building’ which was moved from the Beenleigh Primary School. I went to Caboolture Primary School for grades 4 to 8 and we had a Rural School there too. Kids used to come in by bus from all the little schools around. In grade 6, we learnt ‘milk and cream testing’ which involved using pipettes and a centrifuge etc to measure the fat content of the milk and cream. I’m not sure if this was meant to prepare us to work in local dairies or just interest us in science. Looking back, it does seem a bit strange but I did enjoy it. In grades 7 and 8 we learnt cooking and sewing at Rural School and the boys did metalwork and woodwork. I think it was for one afternoon a week. I remember we had to write up our recipes very neatly and find a picture of what we were cooking and it was marked out of 10. I enjoyed the cooking but showed no skill at all with a needle.

This is a page out of one of my books – it’s a bit yellow with age but I still use some of the recipes occasionally. I would have been pleased with the mark of 8.5 out of 10.

This morning there were plenty of ‘I remember doing……’ or ‘Remember that’ moments. We could all remember trying to make a phone call from a public phone box and hearing the operator telling us to press button A to be connected or press button B to get your money back and being frustrated when you ran out of coins. Mobiles make it all so much easier. There’s all sorts of memorabilia. It was fascinating.

So fascinating that I think I’ll take my grandkids there next week in the school holidays. They will enjoy lunch in the Tin Cup Cafe too as we did before coming home.

After the ball ……..

Last week I was chatting with my hairdresser, Penny, of Penelope Jane Hair Boutique, at Gumdale as she cut my very short, greying hair and gave me a general tidy-up. She mentioned that her team had been invited to a ball and it took me back ……………….

When I was a young teacher in Nanango I had a wonderful time at the local balls which were held a few times a year in the South Burnett District in the lovely old community halls, Tara’s Hall in Nanango and others in Kumbia, Wooroolin and Tingoora – these were all small country towns nearby.

What a business it was though to prepare for these Friday Night balls! As soon as school was out I’d rush to the hairdressers to have my hair done. After it was shampooed it would be wound tightly on rollers – and, of course, I had long hair in those days so that it could be put up. Then I would sit under the drier which would pump hot air onto the rollers and it would be very uncomfortable and burning hot. I remember trying to slide my glasses in over my ears so that I could read a magazine to pass the 40 minutes or so that it took to dry. What a relief it was when it was finally dry! Then the rollers would be removed, my hair would be brushed out and the hairdresser would attack it with a teasing comb – making backward and forward movements so that the hair knotted and gained body. She would then mould it into the required position, putting about 100 pins into it to hold it in place. she would curl little strands of hair near my ears around her finger to make a little ringlet on each side. Then copious amounts of hair spray would be sprayed on so that my hairdo would last the night out no matter how boisterous my dancing became. The whole process would have taken at least three hours!

At Nanango Rural Youth Debutante Ball 1969 with Joy Perrett, Belle of the Ball. My hair isn’t “up” but it does contain many pins and lots of hairspray.

The balls were great fun and it was just fun in those days – I don’t remember any alcohol. I do remember the large teapots of sweet milky tea and horrible sweet coffee made from coffee essence being brought around to fill our china cups and the wonderful array of freshly made sandwiches and home made cakes. Supper was always delicious.

But when I got home about 1:30am, it was annoying. I could’t sleep with all those pins in my hair, so no matter how tired I was, I had to take my hair out. Brushing out the teasing was a painful process too.

Now my visits to the hairdressers are very pleasant. I’m offered tea, coffee or water and then I take my seat on the lovely massage chair which massages my whole body whilst one of the team shampoos my hair and gives me a wonderful scalp massage – such bliss – I wish it could go on for hours. Then my trim and blow dry takes no time at all and I’m out of there, looking and feeling great. Even if I was going to a ball, my visit to the hairdresser would be just the same – no need for all that carry-on.

How things have changed!

Christmas Holidays at Donnybrook Queensland in the 1950s

The long summer holidays began here in Queensland this weekend and we heralded it with a traditional game of cricket, a swim in the pool and a BBQ in the backyard at the home of my daughter and her husband and three kids.  It was a wonderful evening!

It made me think of my Christmas holidays when I was a child.  I grew up as an only child of parents who were mostly running their own small businesses in very small towns.  Between 1957 and 1962 we lived in a small fishing village called Donnybrook about 20kms east of Caboolture which is about 60km north of Brisbane.  The business was multi-faceted.  We had one of the two corner stores and an unofficial post office and Dad was fishing and crabbing professionally.  We also had a fleet of boats for hire: 12 boats with inboard motors (as opposed to the outboard motors of today), 30 dinghies and one large motor launch for towing the dinghies out into the bay when fishing clubs hired them.

My Dad, Bert RICHARDSON at Donnybrook

As I remember there were only about nine houses that were permanently occupied and probably about another dozen that were holiday homes.  So there were only about 13 kids who lived there and caught the old red truck to school in Caboolture each school day. I was pretty much a loner. I loved to read, loved doing maths, loved to row a dinghy out into the middle of the channel and fish.  On weekends I would help serve in the shop and would have to clean the boats after they were returned by our customers. Mum couldn’t drive and Dad was always busy so there was never an opportunity to do any after school activities. I guess it was a pretty lonely existence.

But everything changed in the school holidays, especially in the long summer holidays.  The park area became a city of tents and there were kids everywhere.  Most brought their bikes and we formed an unofficial bike club and we would ride and ride.  Of course, there were more customers to serve and more boats to clean.  How many lollies would I have sold?  They were all displayed in tall glass bottles and you’d open the bottle and count the lollies into little white paper bags.  This was before the days of decimal currency and kids could get so many lollies for threepence or sixpence.  You could buy three conversation lollies and three raspberries and three chico babies all for threepence (about two or three cents).  Those delicious bags of sherbet with a liquorice straw would be another threepence.  I was never allowed to help myself to the lollies but had to buy them out of my pocket money of a shilling a week (about 10 cents).

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Some bike club members.  I’m the one in the hat!
My little foxie Pete was a bike club member too!

We didn’t have electricity at Donnybrook but we had our own generator beside the house.  We would have to keep it running to keep the icecreams frozen.  These weren’t delivered in refrigerated trucks but rather Dad would drive to Brisbane in our ute and visit the Pauls Icecream Factory beside the Brisbane River where he would buy little single  serve buckets of icecream to sell in the shop.  Pauls would pack them in dry ice in a green cylindrical shaped container about a metre tall and about 50cm in diameter. 

Of course, there were no powered tent sites so campers used kerosene lamps and they needed ice for their eskies.  Ice would be delivered to our shop in blocks about 80cm by 80cm and 12cm deep in brown hessian bags. The campers would have ordered their ice from us and we would deliver it to their tent by wheelbarrow.

The boats would often break down and Dad would have to fix them.  I remember our oven in the big slow combustion stove often being filled, not with cakes or roast dinners but with carburettors from the boats. They’d get wet and wouldn’t work again until they’d been properly dried out in the oven.  On a hot summer’s day, in a small fibro house with the fire raging in the stove it became very hot and unpleasant.

Each Sunday during the holidays, the Methodist Church would come to visit and would run a Sunday School Service under the big old trees.  All the kids used to attend as it was a bit of entertainment –didn’t matter if you were Methodist or not, religious or not.  They told good stories and we all sang along to the piano accordion.  I can remember belting out “  Jesus loves me, this I know…….”.

Up on the hill lived three generations of the one fishing family in four homes surrounded by big old mango trees.  They weren’t any of the fancy new tasty varieties – just the plain old stringy ones but they bore masses of fruit and we thought they were delicious. Every year, I would push the wheelbarrow up the hill a few times and pick up mangoes from the ground until the barrow was full.  Then I’d push it home, peel a few, run the bath and climb into it and devour the mangoes.  Yum!  I’m salivating at the thought of it. Then Dad would make the most delicious mango chutney from the rest.

One of my favourite jobs was helping Dad to empty the crabpots.  He’d have them scattered through the creeks in locations where he thought there were plenty of crabs.  We’d be up and out on the water in one of the inboards by daylight. Sunrise over the water was always beautiful.  I’d steer the boat alongside the pots, Dad would pull the pot in, empty out the crabs, put his foot on the back of each one in turn and tie its claws into its body and put in a wet hessian bag.  When all the crabs were restrained he would rebait the pot with beef bones and toss it back in.  I loved eating the catch, too!  If I had one meal left and could choose what to eat, it would definitely be mud crab on bread and butter, as chilli crab,…… any way really!

I love the ocean and loved living near the sea.  I think this was the favourite part of my childhood.  My Mum, that is my Adopted Mum hated it but I loved it. I still do and really enjoy living in Lota, Brisbane just 500 metres from Moreton Bay.  I wonder if this is a throwback to my Couch ancestors who were Master Mariners and fisherman in Port Isaac in Cornwall?   I reckon it is!



Baking was my Saturday morning chore

As I’ve said before, Mum hated cooking so never taught me to cook. Fortunately for me though, in grades 7 & 8, we went to Rural School. These grades were still part of our primary education, but we went across to the high school section for Rural School. (I seem to remember, Caboolture State School had a secondary department attached to it in those days. The separate high school was, I think, opened when I was in Grade 8 and I went there at the start of Grade 9.)

At Rural School boys learnt woodwork etc & we learnt cooking & sewing. I still have my recipe books from those years, almost 60 years ago. We had to copy the recipes off the blackboard into our day pads & then write them up for homework in our recipe books in our best handwriting in pen & ink (no biros allowed!) & decorate them with whatever pictures we could find in magazines etc that resembled what we cooked. We had no smart phones then, of course, & although I had a little camera, you had to use up a whole film before you could get it developed & that was an expensive process that took a couple of weeks.

Our first baking effort was ‘Fairy Cakes’ and, of course, we had to cream the butter & sugar by hand – no electric beaters available then. We made sausage rolls, peanut toffee, shepherd’s pie, lemon delicious pudding, Anzac biscuits, apple crumble and more. We’d take the ingredients from home & then take the food home, safely we hoped. This was no mean feat on the old truck which was our school bus & then on the ride from the bus stop on my bike over corrugated dirt roads. Mum loved it when we cooked something that was a main meal as she didn’t need to cook dinner. We still had to light the fire though to heat up the food as we didn’t have an electric stove &, of course, there were no microwaves in those days.

Once I discovered that I enjoyed cooking, doing the family baking became my Saturday morning activity & I had great fun making jam drops, banana cake, cornflake biscuits, date rolls, melting moments (my absolute favourites) & whatever else took my fancy at the time. I still love to bake as do my daughters & grandchildren but I don’t do it very often these days, just for special occasions or when we have visitors. Let’s face it. If we bake it, we eat it & it’s better if we don’t. Sadly!

What’s for tea Mum?

This is the age-old question asked of mothers by their children as they arrive home from school. Looking back, I’m thinking that I was no different.

My parents sold their business, Twin Towns Radio, at Tweed Heads when I was 5 and went into hotels The first was at Hivesville in the South Burnett Region of Queensland and the second at Jimboomba, south west of Brisbane I don’t remember our meals until after that time; I guess we ate what the cooks were preparing. I do remember that every Sunday night when we lived at Tweed Heads Dad would go and buy fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and we would sit on the lounge room floor and eat it out of the paper. What a treat! I still love to do that!

Mum hated cooking with a passion and especially hated deciding what to have for dinner so the menu was fairly restricted. After we left the hotels, Dad became a professional fisherman and crabber at Donnybrook north of Brisbane, on the mainland sheltered by Bribie Island. We had a boat hire business, a corner store and an unofficial post office as well. Consequently we ate a lot of seafood – the mud crabs were so good, fresh whiting, tailor,….. whatever was in season at the time. We were so spoilt. Dad & I loved it. Mum didn’t like it at all!

Next Dad turned his hand to poultry farming, a poultry abattoir and growing citrus at Chevallum near Nambour on the Sunshine Coast – he was truly a man of many talents. Our diet changed again and we ate a lot of chicken and duck and, of course, oranges in season. I can remember taking five oranges to school for lunch and nothing else!

Our Monday night dinner was usually a roast – chicken maybe – with roast vegetables. (At this time, chicken was still a treat for most families as it was very expensive so again we were spoilt. No-one had freezers so the chichens had to be bought fresh.) Sometimes, we would have corned beef with white sauce and boiled vegetables or maybe even picked pork! Then on Tuesday night it would be cold meat and mashed potato and vegetables. If I was lucky, we’d have been able to get a wheelbarrow of green mangoes from the people up the hill and Dad would have made his wonderful mango chutney to go with the cold meat.

Mum’s speciality was oxtail! It was so good. I use her recipe too and it was a favourite of my kids as well Sometimes we’d have rabbit with white sauce; sometimes lamb chump chops with vegetables.

We would always have dessert too. I did like dessert! Mum would make a lovely rice pudding and serve it with stewed apples and this was one of my favourites – still is, actually. Sometimes, if the oven was going she’d make a baked jam roly poly pudding and serve it with hot runny custard!

Dad liked to cook when he had time and he was pretty handy in the kitchen when he wanted to be. Often on a Sunday night he’d cook us up a Chinese feast. He had books of recipes and he’d buy the special ingredients he needed. These meals were pretty tasty and Mum enjoyed the night off.

To make Mum’s Oxtail Superb you will need:
1 oxtail, fat removed
2 carrots chopped
1large onion finely chopped
4 oz tin mushrooms (I used fresh mushrooms but they weren’t readily available when I was a kid.)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup diced celery
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 3 hours. Mix 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour to make a smooth paste with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon Parisian Essence & stir it in to thicken the stew. Simmer a further 15 minutes before serving.

This is a great dinner for a winter’s night. Enjoy!