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!



Enjoying our couple of weeks in Melbourne

Surprise! Surprise! It’s all been about the delicious food & coffees, of course. We are staying in an Airbnb on the 21st floor of an apartment block in South Melbourne. It’s very comfortable & has most things we need including a very very comfortable bed & it’s very quiet.

Across the road is a wonderful eatery/cake shop, Crux & Co, which we have visited a few times. This is my sweet potato & zucchini fritter which I had for breakfast yesterday.

After that I walked in the lovely botanical gardens just near here for a couple of hours with my lovely niece Chris.

This morning we went to the Immigration Museum which has very interesting displays of the various waves of migrants who have come to Australia. We then wandered around Southbank & had lunch at The Atlantic.

The seafood was lovely but I lashed out & had their pecan pie with pumpkin & mandarin for dessert. I wished I could have licked the plate. I think it was the best dessert I’ve ever eaten. Wow!

Crown Casino is amazing. The decor is all glitter but there were so many people gambling away their hard won cash. There must be thousands of poker machine & there were lots of croupiers looking bored to tears waiting for suckers to come along to lose their money.

During the week we caught the tram down to St Kilda &, of course we had coffee & cake in one of the famous Acland Street cake shops. (We love the trams. It’s so easy to get around with our 7 day MYKI pass.).

Another day we visited the Melbourne zoo which I found a little disappointing

We love the Queen Vic markets & went there to stock up on Friday. Fortunately it’s on our tram line as we had lots to carry home.

We still have another week of exploring. We’re looking forward to that!

Safely home again

It was certainly an eventful trip& we are very pleased to be home as usual but we do have some regrets that our beautiful cruise never really got underway & we totally missed our Rocky Mountaineer journey.

However we are very grateful for the wonderful medical assistance we received everywhere. It could not have been better

We really enjoyed our week in San Francisco & we loved the time we had with the family on Vancouver Island. Kay & Ben are great people & our time there was our highlight of the trip. The beauty of the mountains, forests & waterways of the areas around Bellingham & on Vancouver Island will stay with us forever. I loved it!

Quick look around Victoria & a lovely family bbq & so very sad to say goodbye.

Yesterday Ben & Kay gave us a whistle stop tour of Victoria itself before we went to the home of my cousin Jane & her husband Don for a family BBQ. All of the Victoria family were there but I was sad to miss the Tofino crew. We had fish & chips for lunch at Barbs on Fishermen’s Wharf which is something you have to do along with visit the Gardens so we did that well.

Here’s some pics of the day:


We are in the lounge at Vancouver Airport now after a bus, ferry, bus ride from Victoria. It will be a log trip home but hopefully an uneventful one.

It was sad to say goodbye to Kay & Ben but we are really looking forward to seeing them in Brisbane early next year.

Over the Malahat

We’ve missed our Alaskan cruise & our Rocky Mountaineer train ride, both of which we were really looking forward to but we are so happy that I’ve been well enough to have a few days with Kay & Ben & to see a little part of Vancouver Island.

Ben has been preparing special meals for me to help me get my strength back & I’m feeling much stronger. David shared his head cold with me though & I could have done without that.

Kay & I have been sharing family stories. She says I really look like her twin aunts, my 1st cousins & I can see definite resemblance between my kids & the family here. There’s no doubt we are Alleys!

Yesterday Ben & Kay took us over the Malahat & into Chemainus, an historic mining town where the mill still employs 200 people. It reminded us of Sheffield in Tasmania as they have murals on the buildings telling the early history of the town. I seem to keep repeating myself about the beautiful mountains covered with conifers & the magnificent waterways but we drove through them again yesterday.

Spectacular Butchart Gardens

Each day I’m feeling better & stronger & yesterday Kay, Ben & Jane, Kay’s sister &, of course, my cousin too took us to Butchart Gardens.

And, yes, you all said I would love it & you were right. We loved the colours, the shapes, the fragrances & the various formations & sections. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

After the gardens we had lunch at a great little restaurant beside Brentwood Bay. It was called Blue’s Bayou which served Cajun/Creole Southern food. I tried Jambalaya with shrimps & loved it.

We’re getting on like a house on fire. There’s much chatter about our family history, looking at photos & we’ve found a shared love of the same books, movies & TV shows &, of course, Travel. We’re having a lovely time so I’m so pleased that we were still able to visit Kay & Ben. It has also allowed me to rest up before the flight home as the doctor recommended.

Lovely way to arrive on Vancouver Island

We were collected by our Uber at 6:20 to drive south for an hour though beautiful forested mountains interspersed with lovely waterways. Apparently the air here is some of the cleanest in the States & I can see why with the extensive areas of forest. I reckon it would be a very pleasant part of America to live.

At Anacortes we boarded our ferry for the almost three hour spectacular ride across to Sidney on Vancouver Island. Many mountains (maybe hills) poke their heads above the water & it really reminded me of Halong Bay in Vietnam. Same same but different as the Vietnamese people say!

The ferry was large with capacity for 1200 Walk-ons & 400 vehicles. As you traverse International waters, it even offers duty free shopping for about 20 minutes. The crossing cost only $9.65 each for us oldies so that was very reasonable.

We stopped on the way at Friday Harbour near the marina & many people disembarked with bicycles. On many of the islands cute log cabins nestled in amongst the forest on the water’s edge. I could picture us having a lovely family holiday there with all of our kids & grandkids, walking, canoeing…… it would be great. Perhaps Grandpa David wouldn’t enjoy it as much as the rest of us. He’d be ok though if he could download “The Australian” on his iPad & find a comfy quiet reading spot.

When we docked at Sidney I could see my cousin Kay & her husband Ben waiting for us & it was so exciting to finally meet. Going through border control as we entered Canada was very quick & easy. They brought us to their lovely home where we will stay until Sunday when we head home. Kay’s grandfather, Will Alley was my father Sid’s brother. We had a very pleasant afternoon sharing photos & telling stories of our families. Their daughter Laura & her two sons, Dallas & Archer, popped in too so my family keeps expanding. I love it! But more about that in my next post.

Bellingham is a beautiful place

I’m not sure there’s ever been Aussie tourists here before but it is a lovely place & now that I’m out of hospital we are enjoying our brief stay here.

We’ve just had a lovely lunch, the first I’ve had in 5 days at a great restaurant, Keenan’s on the Pier, recommended by one of my nurses – local oysters, small but very sweet & a shrimp & raspberry salad. Delicious!

Bellingham has it all. It’s ringed by mountains covered with beautiful green conifers & other trees & it sits on a lovely big bay. The whole city seems to be green with flowers everywhere. The architecture is different again from San Fransisco but just as attractive.

It seems to me that there are quite a few differences between the way hospitals work here & at home. The best thing about St Joseph’s was the Room Service Menu. I didn’t get to enjoy it as I wasn’t eating but it’s just like a restaurant menu with great options, catering for all dietary needs.

There was a computer for every bed & everything went straight into it. There was no paper! Amazing! And I didn’t have to state my name & date of birth 30 times a day. They just waved the scanner over my wrist band. It was so easy.

I am very excited that tomorrow we resume a part of our planned holiday. We are going by ferry to Vancouver Island to meet & spend a few days with my birth cousin, Kay & her husband, Ben. I am so pleased that we are still able to do this.