After dad’s accident, I became literally dad’s ‘right hand man’. Of an afternoon, I used to have to go up on my pushbike to Raby Bay train station, which was situated down a little dirt road that went down towards the water from where the Sands Hotel is now. I used to meet the rail motor from Manly, which used to get in about 5.15 in the afternoon, and pick up the bundle of “Telegraph” newspapers. Then I’d have to do a paper run on my bike to deliver them. One of my first deliveries was to the Sands Hotel, which at that stage was under Thurhect’s management. I used to take the paper in to the hotel and front up to the bar for a ‘double sars’. After I’d had my drink at the bar, I’d get on my bike and do the paper run which went all around the Raby Bay area, then down Middle Street, Oyster Point, and then along Cleveland Point. I’d always end the run in the darkness of night. All I had for a light was a battery-operated torch that fitted in a holder between the handlebars. On one occasion, near the Police Station that was then situated near the Cenotaph, I was riding up towards Oyster Point and passed a beautiful old Queenslander home that belonged to the Ramsey family. The house was next door to the bakery of G.W.Walters – where all our bread came from. Actually all the houses in that area were owned by G.W.Walters and were used by the employees of his bakery. In those days, Cleveland was owned by virtually just a couple of people.
Just up from the bakery was the Hospital where, much later in my life, I was to give birth to three of my children. It was a private hospital that handled general patients as well as maternity cases. I remember the Matron during my time because her name was Ray Rae. Sister Hutton was the Sister there. My youngest son, Anthony, was born in 1952 at Whepstead Manor at Wellington Point, which at that stage was a Convalescent Home. Doctor Foxton delivered Anthony there.
Now in those days, cattle were free to roam the streets, and the Wallace family-owned cows near where our shop was. There was a well in a fenced off area near our shop just off Shore Street, which had a hand pump on it so that water could be pumped up for the cattle to drink from. Anyway, on this particular night, just near the Church of England, I was pedalling along like mad with my head down, and with only this little feeble light to guide me, when ‘Bang!’ I ran into a cow. The light went one way, the bike went one way, the cow went one way, and I sat there bellowing in the middle of the road. Nobody came to rescue me, but it was something I never forgot.
Right next door to our house was the show grounds. Every July there was an annual show there, and all the farmers in the district would bring along their agricultural produce, and they also had the dog show, and chooks. It was at this time too that the schools’ sports were held. The hall from the old show ground was later moved to its new site in the present showground in Smith Street.
During World War II, members of the VDF (Volunteer Defence Force) used to meet at our shop and practice their Morse Code, with dad sitting at the head of the table. Some of them had been issued with rifles, but there were not enough to go round. When the Centaur was sunk, some of our fishermen went over to Moreton Island to help.
After the war, the Robinson family started a Devonshire teahouse at what is now the Old Courthouse Restaurant. They had a house next door that was right on the water and had a shark proof bathing enclosure where people could go and swim. The Old Courthouse was also used for accommodation and one family who stayed there was the Dingles. However, during the war one of its occupants was a lady who, while her husband was away in the war, had local tongues wagging when she entertained the American soldiers on leave.
Bobby Fitzjohn used to bring his boat, the Karboora, across from Stradbroke Island. Alfie Martin was the engineer. Many of the Stradbroke Islanders used to catch the Karboora over to Paxton Street, and then get the train up to Brisbane. They used to call into our shop, which was next to the station. Dad had a lot of dealings with the Perry Brothers who were Aboriginal oysterers on Stradbroke who would put them through the Fish market opposite the Old Court House. Dad used to get orders for the oysters that they supplied. These had to be filled at particular times, but for one reason or another, supplies were not always available on time.
Originally, there was no jetty at Paxton Street, and before the Fish market was built there, the fisherman would bring their catches to dad at the shop and he would take them up to the Fish Markets in Stanley Street in Brisbane.
When dad had his accident and lost his arm, the people in the district took up a collection for him, and with the money, dad built a trailer that he took up to the markets in Brisbane.
When the Cleveland fish depot was completed, dad went in to manage it. We had sold the shop by this stage, and had built a house in Paxton Street where we then lived. They built the condenser tower at the side towards the back. At the back of the cold room were the tanks where dad would make large blocks of ice. In between the cold room and the front office was ‘Leaping Leena’- the machine that kept the cold room and everything going. Dad used to have to top it up every now and then with ammonia. When it was time for dad to have a holiday, it was difficult to find someone to take his place because dad knew ‘Leaping Leena’ like the back of his hand, and he could do anything with it to keep it going – even though he had never any experience in refrigeration!
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)