Kate Millar’s Cleveland – Part 1

My dad was Peter Millar. He met my mother – a McQuillan – while living at Galloway’s Hill. Her father had a dairy farm at Cannon Hill, and he worked very hard to have a school established in the area. When mum was 13 her mother died and being the eldest of 8 children, she had to look after them. After their marriage and when I was 13 months old, dad and mum moved down to Cleveland. They rented a shop just near the railway station at the Paxton Street Jetty. A lot of the property down from the Grand View Hotel was owned by a Mrs. Rooney. Mum and dad eventually built on the corner of Little Shore and Paxton Street (the building is still there today). 

During World War II, when many American forces were stationed in Brisbane, many American personnel used to come down to Cleveland on weekend leave. They’d arrive by train at the station at the back of our shop. The Americans would head for the Grand View Hotel, where they’d stay for the weekend and have a good time. The proprietors of the Grand View Hotel at that time were Banko and Bair. 

George Lippincott (American serviceman) with me and my sister Ruth. The building in the background is our shop. (photo courtesy Kate Millar)

One day, an American serviceman, George Lippencott, came into our shop and asked mum and dad if they knew of someone who would give him a bed for the weekend. George was on General Douglas Macarthur’s staff, and was based in the AMP Building in Brisbane. George, being a Christian who didn’t drink alcohol, did not wish to join his mates at the Grand View Hotel. After talking it over, my parents offered him a bed at our place. We had a newspaper run and sometimes George would go out on the run to deliver papers for dad. 

George was a devout Christian and he used to attend the Methodist Church here in Cleveland. Actually, he donated a crucifix to them. I think it is still there, but no longer on display in the church. George used to attend the church every Sunday that he was able. After the war, when he was leaving to go back home to America, he told mum that he had bought himself a pair of binoculars so he could watch the coast of Queensland until it was no longer visible. Mum corresponded with him after the war. His parents had a garden cemetery in Baltimore called Sunset Memorial Park. 

There was an American Army camp at Victoria Point and, praise the Lord that they were there, because when dad had an accident and lost his arm, they were there to help. Dad had a utility truck and used to go into Brisbane once a week on Thursdays to get groceries for the shop from a company called QCT (Queensland Country Traders). He also went to the markets in Roma Street to get fresh produce. However, on this particular day, he also had with him granddad and a crabber, Bill Austin. The Austin Brothers were fisherman from our district. Granddad liked to have a drink – and so did Bill Austin – but dad could take it or leave it. On the way back to Cleveland, on the old Cleveland Road where it intersects with Creek Road, dad’s utility was side swiped by another coming in the opposite direction. Dad used to drive with his arm out the window, and unfortunately it was torn off. Fortunately, though, there was an army convoy coming up from Victoria Point, and they had a doctor who was able to render immediate assistance. He was then taken to the Mater Hospital. It was late in the afternoon, and I can still see our phone in the shop (it was mounted on the wall then) – our number was Cleveland 27 – and I can still see mum in my mind’s eye standing at the phone taking the call. She was a very brave woman. When dad did come back to work in the shop again, the local kids were very intrigued by his new appearance. 

“What happened to your arm, Mr. Millar?” 

“Well, I was driving along, and it just fell off, so if you can find it can you let me know.” 

He had all the kids in the district looking for his arm.

Peter Millar with his children (photo courtesy Kate Millar)

The Road to Cudgera

Hastings Point lies at the mouth of Cudgera Creek, just a few km south of Kingscliff on the far north NSW coast. It’s still a quiet respite from the housing developments that are constantly moving towards it. However, it was once a focus for (mainly Queensland) fishermen in the post WW2 years, with its foreshore camping area invariably crowded with their tents every Christmas and Easter holidays. Our family was just one of the many to spend its holidays there. It was known to us then as Cudgera. Just getting there then by the sand track from Kingscliff or by the narrow winding dirt Round Mountain road was a feat in itself, but made the reward of arrival all the more worthwhile. 

The old bridge at Hastings Point (Cudgera)

Invariably, dad chose the sandtrack and our overloaded Zephyr Six was always in imminent danger of getting bogged. So it always a relief when we finally trundled over the rickety bridge and set up camp (usually in the middle of the night).

I am told the bridge had been constructed by a Mineral Sand Mining Company, the beaches having had their wealth extracted and sent to US markets. In building the bridge, the abutments filled up half the creek and in doing so created a deep hole which abounded in fish. The Black Bream were so thick in number that they could be easily jagged by pulling a three barbed hook through their shoal (illegal of course).

Dad fishing at Hastings Point (Cudgera) from the old bridge

The alternative to fishing the creek was the beach, and my father would spend hours casting all along the beach. He was nothing if not persistent. No wonder his favourite book was Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Yes he really was a Santiago at heart.

Strangely, when the coast road and the bridge at Hastings Point were upgraded, the campers went elsewhere. Today, though, visiting this unspoiled area still holds many happy memories for me.

Cudgera Creek in 2020

A Little Night Navigation with my Father and Uncle Jack – by Marilyn Carr

(This is the third article sent in by Marilyn. You can read the previous two at 03.12.2016 – Bullets and Beans and at 10.12.2016 – Koopa Memories)

My father had bought, from Army Disposals, a compass – its half-orb wobbled inside a squat, navy wooden box. I think it was a deep blue box but this is only a memory – and from over seventy years ago. Dad and Uncle Jack’s small adventure with night navigation happened on Moreton Bay on a trip down the Brisbane River and across to Bribie Island, in January, 1947. Well, I have calculated it was then.  If so, I would have recently turned eleven and I became a somewhat seasick witness to their escapade.

Dad had been attending a night class in navigation and, as he was quick with numbers, he would have been keen to practice his newly-gained skill.  And he had the boat! She was the “Lady Ellen” which he owned with two other members of the family. Now, do not think motor launch circa 2020 with sleek lines, running on marine diesel. 

The “Ellen” was about seven metres in length, wooden, squat; it had two bunks, the engine cover acted as a table, there was a rudimentary galley, a heads – and here I have a memory of confusion with rope and anchor storage.  However, the singularly most unsatisfactory circumstance about the “Ellen” was the engine.  (I have had ‘phone discussions with a cousin not seen for years about this.) After the war, engines were scarce, very scarce to obtain.  Evidently, the engine found for Dad’s boat was scavenged from a 1920’s car called an Essex Four. The boat was seriously underpowered, though possibly not for the time it had been built.

The Simes’ boat moored in the Bribie Passage

After the day spent organizing for the trip, Dad and I were ready to have our evening meal aboard the “Ellen”, as she was at her mooring in Breakfast Creek which runs into the Brisbane River. How many meals does one remember from one’s childhood?  Well, I recall that offering from Dad.  He opened a tin of Libby’s luncheon beef from a tin with a key and there were grapes. That was dinner.  It grew dark and I was put to bed on one of the bunks (next to the engine). Dad was waiting for Uncle Jack to join him. I thought we were to set off down the river at first light.  

Asleep on the bunk, I was unaware when Uncle Jack had joined Dad. They had decided to catch the ebbing tide, not wait for the dawn, and start down the Brisbane River. (If this was, indeed, 1947, petrol rationing was still in effect and conserving it was paramount.) Passing Bishop’s Island at the mouth of the river, with the lights across to Redcliffe enticing them on, their charts at the ready and all fair before them, rather than wait for the dawn, they sailed on to navigate to Bribie at night.   

Sometime later I woke up. There were Dad and Uncle Jack in the dimly-lit cabin. We seemed to be at the heaving centre of war-time-remembered shiny, black-out darkness.  The old engine grumbled at an idle. The “Ellen” rose, was slapped and dropped, ruled by the waves’ chop.  We were well out into the bay; it was past midnight. But the boat was not powering forward. She was moving only at the sea’s whim.  And it was getting windy.

Awake, although feeling decidedly queasy, I managed to get up and to hoist myself onto a cabin bench; I did my retching over the side! From then on, I watched what happened half asleep and wrapped in a blanket. 

 The “Ellen” had stopped travelling forward! The connection from the steering wheel, the helm, through to the rudder had snapped.  The screws of the propellor were turning but the boat’s direction could no longer be controlled.  And we were really not that very far from the main shipping channel into Brisbane.  

Checking today a map of Moreton Bay and the sea route to Bribie Island by crossing Deception Bay, the land area of around Deception Bay shows much development – it might even be referred to as an outer suburb of Brisbane, maybe.  Dad’s navigation trial, though, was over seventy years ago, when there was no electricity available on from the seaside town of Scarborough until Caloundra. We were at sea, unable to control where we were going and, around us, all was new-moon darkness.     

 Somehow, Dad had to get the “Ellen” back on course, and sailing forward towards Bribie.  I have never known if the solution Uncle Jack and Dad came to was their ingenuity, or if the solution was a standard ploy in such situations. I do know it worked. Uncle Jack crawled into the stern of the “Ellen”, after the hatch had been removed.  His feet could reach the rudder control rods and he was able to command the direction the rudder – with his feet. On we went: Dad at the helm, Uncle Jack standing in the stern’s hold. 

Although, we were on our way again, and hopefully not much off course, around us was the darkness.

Years after this adventure of Dad’s and Uncle Jack’s, my Father would tell how, trying to discern something ahead, he had found, far-off, one pin-prick of light. He reasoned it could be a fisherman on Bribie and steered towards this lone night beacon. He was right:  it was a solitary fisherman with his lantern on the Bribie Island jetty.  

They edged past the jetty and cruised close into the shore until they discerned the huge gum tree in front of “Torphins”, our seaside house on the island.  The anchor was dropped.  We scrambled into the dinghy we must have towed all the way, rowed ashore and amazed the family when we appeared out of the darkness.  

That was Dad and Uncle Jack’s adventure in night navigation on Moreton Bay. There are many stories about the yesterdays around Moreton Bay – here has been the telling of one more. 

‘Torphins’ in 1948
Peter, Allan, and Marilyn Simes with their father, Peter in 1948

 The navigators: Peter Simes (1906 – 1974); Jack Kieseker (1914 – 1983)

Writer: Marilyn Carr (nee Simes)

Recollections on Redland Bay’s Water Airport by Ernie Tickner

(Recorded by Brian Russell – Feb. 2015) 

Ernie Tickner, a resident of Wellington Point, was a qualified Draftsman when he migrated to Australia from the United Kingdom around 1949, and around 1952/3, he obtained employment with QANTAS. He was working at Archerfield as a draftsman, his job being to prepare drawings of aircraft components and modifications to his employer’s aircraft that were required for submission to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) for approval.

QANTAS then decided to move the section he worked in to Sydney. Ernie and his wife Pam, who had been born at Cleveland, were building their new home at Wellington Point and Pam was a school teacher at the Wellington Point State School with no desire to forego her work there. Consequently, Ernie resigned from QANTAS rather than move to Sydney. 

He was able to obtain work with Barrier Reef Airways, then a division of Ansett Airways Pty. Ltd. Flying Boat Division, who had commenced regular services through Redland Bay, then known as the Brisbane Water Airport, to and from Sydney and the Barrier Reef Islands (Hayman), Cairns and Townsville, and Gladstone to Heron Island when required. Occasionally, aircraft would stop in at Grafton in NSW when there were passengers for that region of northern NSW. For a period the Redland Bay flying boat facility was the International Airport for Brisbane, being a stop-over for the QANTAS flying boats (Sunderlands) on the Sydney to London route. 

The following are some recollections of Ernie’s time spent working at the Redland Bay facility, where he found himself doing all manner of tasks associated with the operation of that facility. Barrier Reef Airways were operating two Sandringham and one Catalina aircraft (see photo), and there were some half a dozen employees responsible for all activities required including attending to the arrival and departure of aircraft, the maintenance of aircraft whilst at the facility, and the transferring of passengers to and from the aircraft. The base, along with the DCA’s Communication facility, was then at the end of Banana Street, Redland Bay. One of the other airline employees, Ewan Lahey, was in charge of Air Frames, whilst another, Leo DeGroot was an Engineer, and together with Ernie, they would usually meet at the Redland Bay Hotel a little before the scheduled time of an aircraft’s arrival, which would be telephoned through to them, be it day or night. Life then was pretty free and easy, with no requirement to clock on or off – Ernie just had to see that the work he was required to do was done, and his employer was happy. 

The Redland Bay Hotel was also the venue where the out-going passengers were assembled ready for departure, having travelled by company coach from Brisbane, and from there, those waiting could witness the arrival of the aircraft. All the paper work relating to the departing and arriving passengers was handled in Brisbane, so Ernie didn’t have to bother with that side of the formalities – he simply had to ensure their safe transfer between aircraft and shore. 

Once the aircraft was sighted, Ernie and his fellow employees would proceed to the base jetty and take the launch out ready to service the arriving aircraft. DCA operated the launch to clear the runway of any vessels that may interfere with the safe landing of the plane, and they were also responsible for the land/air communications with all aircraft. 

The operation of the service launch, INA (with a Chrysler engine) was done by Ernie and his compatriots, any of whom were expected to be able to drive it when required, as in those days there was no such thing as job demarcation – one just did what had to be done to achieve the desired result. 

They would secure the plane to its mooring buoy, and then commence the transfer of passengers, crew, mail and cargo to the shore. The refuelling and any maintenance tasks were done by these men, including oil changes if necessary, whilst the aircraft was at the mooring. The boarding passengers and crew were then transferred from shore to the aircraft by the same personnel, who then attended to the departure routine for the aircraft. 

In the event that an engine change was needed, the aircraft would be taken into Brisbane landing on the Hamilton Reach, and brought ashore up a ramp at Colmslie where there were workshop facilities that had been constructed during the war years to service these machines. Ernie and the other gentlemen in the team would go there to undertake this task, so he had to be quite versatile and multi-talented. Occasionally, other circumstances, including foul weather on the Bay, required the planes to land on the Brisbane River, however, this was rare as it did disrupt the then increasing river traffic, and when that did occur, then Ernie would go up there to do his usual work. 

One of the ‘perks’ of the job back then, and there is no way it would be even contemplated in today’s working world, was that he could ‘hitch’ a ride on an aircraft at the discretion of the its Captain, should there be available space on the flight, and Ernie was “free to go”. One such occasion that he took up the opportunity to go on a ‘freebee’, was when the Catalina was going on a special run to Heron Island, and it was to be the last flight for the flying boats to the island. The aircraft was to pick up and return the internationally well-known underwater photographer Hans Hass and his wife Lotte who had been doing an assignment on the island, plus all their filming equipment. As a bonus, Ernie was able to take his wife Pam along for the ride, and it ended up being an adventure they’ve never forgotten. 

It was found when they got to the island, that there was far more equipment to be returned than had been envisaged, so when loading was completed the aircraft was very heavily loaded and all available on-board cabin space was taken up. No way were Ernie and Pam going to be left behind, which meant that they found themselves seated in one of the aircraft’s ‘bubbles’, which during its war- time role served as a gunner/observer position, so they enjoyed a real bird’s eye view during the return trip. The loaded aircraft was also so heavy, it apparently took some time to actually get airborne and gain altitude, somewhat disconcerting for the passengers. 

One significant event that Ernie recalls vividly was the loss of the Short S.25 Sandringham Mark 4, VH-BRD. It was moored on the Brisbane River, and was struck by a Riverside Coal Transport barge in July 1952, causing damage to its port wingtip, which was repaired and it returned to service. Sometime later in the year, the aircraft sank overnight at its moorings on the Brisbane River, having been struck by an unidentified boat causing damage to the port float, resulting in the flooding of the aircraft. 

It was towed to Colmslie Slipway after being refloated, and declared a write-off following a detailed inspection. Following this, it was eventually sold to a Gold Coast interest who intended to convert it to a floating restaurant. Whilst on its way under tow to the Gold Coast it was swamped by waves after leaving the river and sank. Despite the size of this object, and having been under tow by a vessel which one would have presumed knew its position, the wreckage was never located. 

Ernie worked at the Redland Bay facility until the flying boat services ended in 1971. He was offered the opportunity to move to Sydney with Ansett, which he, along with a couple of his other workmates from Brisbane, took up for a short while before resigning and returning together to Brisbane. 

QANTAS also approached him again with an offer of work in Sydney, which he declined. Following his return home, he obtained a position with the Courier Mail newspaper in the artwork department, well before it became computerised, and went on to create many of the then well-known hand-drawn advertisements for some of Brisbane’s notable businesses.

Always a keen artist, Ernie naturally painted things very familiar to him, and he has to this day retained some wonderful oil paintings of the aircraft with which he developed such a close association. He is pictured here at his home (February 2015), the one he and Pam were building when he resigned from QANTAS back in the early 50’s, with some of his paintings.

Ernie Tickner (Photo courtesy Brian Russell)