Electricity Comes to Peel Island Lazaret

In 1947 conditions were greatly improved for the patients at Peel Island’s lazaret by the introduction of two diesel powered electricity generators comprising two (2) 20 K.V.A. and one (1) 5 K.V.A. alternators each driven by a Ruston high speed vertical diesel engineNow each cabin could be lit at the flick of a switch, there were street lights, and even movies twice a week in the recreation hall.

Peel Island Lazaret – c.1955 – from left: hospital, kitchen, power house (photo Dr Morgan Gabriel)

The diesel generators were switched on at dusk and operated until ten o’clock producing electricity for the settlement. On ‘non picture’ nights, Doris Gabriel, wife of the Medical Superintendent, would spend her time catching up on her family’s ironing.

Prior to the electricity being installed, light was supplied by hurricane lanterns or kerosene pressure lamps. For night surgery, electric power was supplied by two 6-volt car batteries which Dr Reye had removed from his yacht “Maroomba”.  The idea was that while one was in use, the other would be sent to Dunwich for recharging.  Electricity helped make the patients’ nights less drab and long, and certainly made night surgery much easier. 

 The advent of electricity also paved the way for the purchase of a cinematograph which was installed in 1948 in the special room at the eastern end of the recreation hall. Movie films were shown twice a week and proved very popular with both patients and staff alike.  All types of films were shown, but occasionally the odd Hollywood “Biblical epic” would make reference to the Leper outcasts, and these would cause great offence to the patients watching the film. Selection of this type of film was carefully avoided. 

Ron Ricketts, an electrical contractor, recalls: ‘It was my job to go into each patient’s hut and drill holes to which would be attached the gear to receive the power line. There were two male patients who always seemed to be together and they offered to help me erect the electric light poles. There was no crane on the island so we first had to dig a hole for the pole, then pull it up with ropes. I must admit that I was a bit worried when our bodies came into contact during this operation!’

Another symptom of leprosy was a numbness of the skin and this resulted in some patients burning themselves on hot objects because they couldn’t feel pain. Up until the time we introduced the electricity at Peel, each hut was lit by only a kerosene (hurricane) lamp. These were a constant source of patient burns, and so if for no other reason, the introduction of electricity would have been of great benefit to the patients.


Barrie Shrimpton writes…

I remember the old hand driven picture machines at the end of the Manly Jetty.  One would place a penny in the slot, look through a kind of viewing tube, and while doing so, turning a handle, and little pictures would flip over, thus giving the impression that the subjects portrayed were moving.  My wife also remembers these machines, but for some reason she was frightened of them. I think there were about six of these “moving picture” machines at the end of the jetty, which at the time was covered by a roof over the playing machines then available for patrons for amusement purposes.

A Moving picture machine

When my family moved from Lota to Yamboyne Street, Manly, we lived in an old shop.  Down the road, just past Mount Joy Terrace Road, there was a blacksmith’s shop, and my brother and I and a few other local kids used to watch the blacksmith shoeing horses and doing other such work.  The smell of the shop was also pleasing.

One of our favourite pastimes at weekends was to sit on the side of the road, writing down all the registration numbers of the cars as they passed. Traffic was not very heavy then.  We even ran our trolley carts (the four-wheel jobs, with rope attached to the front wheels to steer) from Manly State School, down the hill, and half way up Mount Joy Terrace. Couldn’t do that these days, too much traffic.

I also remember swimming at the old Manly Baths when they were salt-water baths.  They used to pump seawater in about twice a week on the full tide, after letting the water drain out.  If the Bay was calm, the water pumped in would be reasonably clear, but if the wind was up, it would be a bit murky from the mud being stirred up.

There was no filtration plant, and we used to pay 6d. (5 cents) for half a day’s swimming. At mid-day, everyone would have to leave; then re-enter after paying another 6d. The pool was only six feet (about 2 metres) deep at the deep end, and one had to be very careful when diving from the diving tower. Some lads used to dive from the back rail of the grandstand, right over the tiered seats into the pool. Someone would be down on pool level to make sure no one was swimming underneath.

The old Manly Baths (Wynnum Herald)

For quite a few years I was a member of the Waterloo Bay Training Squadron, sailing at Manly in 12 foot trainee dinghies.  I sailed as a forward hand for a couple of seasons until I purchased my own boat “Fantasy”.  In 1950 I held the position of Secretary and Press Correspondent.

I recall the day the old Star Theatre burnt to the ground. There was a printing works incorporated in the building, where the “Waterloo Bay Leader” was published.  I worked in the printery as a linotype operator, but left about six months before the fire burnt the printery as well as the theatre.

By the way, I met my wife while swimming at the Manly Swimming Baths in the salt-water days.

Manly Baths today

October 13, 2002

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’ Peter Ludlow 2003)

Life at Lota in the Early Days

Barrie Shrimpton writes…

(In your book ‘Moreton Bay People, The Complete Collection’) mention is made of an old housing method of hessian bags sprayed or stuccoed with cement.  I remember a similar house at Lota made of the same material, but with the added material… flattened out kerosene tins.  If my memory serves me correctly, the last time I was down that way, the house is still standing, but has been “renovated” with an outer covering.  I wonder if the original hessian bags are now hidden?

I lived for a few years very close to the old sanitary depot at Lota, and I remember the smell of the tar they used to boil up to paint the pans with.  The house we rented had no electricity or reticulated water.  We had kero lamps, and tank water, a wood stove, and no bathroom, so we had to bath in a round galvanised tub in front of the fire… and as referred to in your book … the dirtiest went in last, and hope the water was still warm.  My brother and I used to walk from Lota to the Manly school every day along Whites Road which was then gravel.  The school headteacher was named Gould.

I remember old Dirty George and his camera.  I have a couple of group class photos he took at the Manly State School.  Dirty George hated anyone whistling, and the kids at school used to whistle if he was passing the school.  As they say, boys will be boys, and I remember one of my mates setting fire to the bush in which Dirty George had his humpy.  The fire wasn’t serious so his hut was spared.  Believe me, Dirty George’s hut was a patchwork quilt… made of everything.  One thing for sure, he was a good photographer, especially considering the gear he used.

The old boat that used to travel across Moreton Bay to the RKLM islands to pick up produce from the farms etc I remember seeing on many a clam day from the beach at Wynnum.  My wife and I and a couple of friends (before we were married) used to go to picnics on Coochiemudlo Island, and we remember (only) a couple of houses and farms (being there). Quite often we would be the only ones on the beach … it is a different story now.  The flying boats landing and taking off were great to watch.

I mention before closing that my parents owned a shop on the beach at Sandgate (below the Brighton Hotel). It was a real goer until the Hornibrook Highway opened, then all the traffic went past.  I remember we sold a billycan of hot water for 6d (5cents) to picnickers so they could make tea.

My wife and I spent part of our honeymoon on Bribie Island, when to get there meant a gravel road from near Caboolture, and then over on the old barge, then more gravel and earth roads. Boy, what a difference today.

Lota House built from 1856 by William Duckett White still remains today as a reminder of Lota’s early history.

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’ Peter Ludlow 2003)


A Letter from Gaill (Stevens) Macciocca

My dear friends,

It was so good to see you after all these years.  It’s funny how we can forget so many things until we start talking to old friends and family. After our chat I started reminiscing about people we knew and places which held some degree of curiosity for us as kids growing up in Sandgate. As you will recall, my dad knew everybody as a Black and White Bus driver. The old buses used to pick up all around suburban Brighton and Shorncliffe and then through Sandgate into The Valley and ‘Town’. Dad, or Jimmy Stevens as he was known to the locals, would do the school run as well and every kid would get on the bus and say “hi Jimmy” except for us kids.  As my friends, your parents would make you say “Hello Mr. Stevens” and I had to address Dad as “Dad” not “Jimmy”.

Black and White buses (photo State Library of Qld)

A couple of things I remember:

Saturday afternoons in the late 50’s were often spent meeting up at the Bonny View Hotel at Bald Hills with our uncle, aunt and cousins from Chermside.  The pub had a family afternoon in the outdoor beer garden, which had swings and a stage.  We would have Panda potato chips and a double sars.  Dad and uncle would have a beer and rum chaser and the ladies would have a shandy.  We would listen to this group of young kids play guitar and sing.  Their names were the Gibb Brothers – the Bee Gees.

Dad would always tell me that when I went to the Sandgate Beach Picture Theatre as a 13 year old going to the matinee, in 1963, I was not to sit up the back because that’s where the “lovers” sat and if he found out I was with a boy, there’d be hell to pay.  Besides the naughty kids rolled the Jaffas and Coke bottles from the back to the front and ‘bodgies and widgies’ sat up there too. I also couldn’t sit down the front ‘cause that was “bad for the eyes”.  So in the middle was the option. It was always hard to find a seat there!!!

Sandgate Beach Picture Theatre

Insert image Sandgate Beach Picture Theatre

Dad’s bus used to terminate outside the Beach Theatre and he would do up his “run sheet” there and talk to the locals wandering down to the then very sandy stretch of swimmable beach directly in front of the Theatre – between Cliff Street and Third Avenue.  There was also a covered shelter with bench seats on either side and a big wooden bench table in the centre.

Each Easter, a sand sculptor would come to Sandgate and create a full scale sand sculpture of the last supper under the shelter.  It was quite sensational and people would come down in masses to have a look at it then take a dip in the beach or at the wading pool, which was where the Swimming Pool is now.  Oh and remember the old bathing boxes that the nuns used for their dips right next door to the salt water baths which were adjacent to the beach shelter.

Bathing Box (photo Sandgate Historical Museum)

            Every Anzac Day there was the parade through Sandgate down Brighton Terrace to the Sandgate Memorial Park.  You reminded me of the old air raid shelter that was there in the park. I think it was covered with a large concrete block – not very secret- the shelter being underneath somewhere. We were kind of fascinated by it but were never able to go down to see what it looked like. Perhaps the concrete was put over it to stop curious people from going down or maybe it was covered in.

There was a rotunda there where the band would play on Sundays. They would also go up to Moore Park and play in the rotunda up there. Alternate Sundays I think.

I laughed when you told me about old Cyril who is 91 now and recalls when he worked as a boy at the food counter of the Bon Accord Theatre. That was in Rainbow Street, on the service station site now, near the old ice works, which is now Jeays Hardware site. A fire gutted the theatre in the late 50’s unfortunately.  Cyril would serve the theatregoers with their drinks and food before the picture started.  He would then race off to get his “catch of the day” down in Cabbage Tree Creek or on the beach somewhere.  Amazingly he would return in time to serve the food at interval!!!  Must have been some sort of a record!

The grandpa of one of our other friends, a well-known family identity in Sandgate, had the first horseless carriage in Sandgate. After drinking with a mate at the “Billiard Club” which I have been told is still in Sandgate opposite the Town Hall, I recall from memory, took a wrong turn on his way home in the dark and ended up in the “First Lagoon” (now ironically mostly a car park). The other irony of this story was that the next morning he had to get his mates with their horses to help him get his horseless carriage out of the lagoon!!!

One more thing I remember was the funny little arcade almost opposite the police station called “The Laurels”.  I never did find out where that name came from but they had lots of funny little shops in there and they were very dark.  The nuns would walk past the Laurels down to the shops and we would all hide in case they “grabbed us” and took us to the home for the homeless children down on the beachfront.

We also got scared off going near the First Lagoon as there was an old Aboriginal tale about the Bunyip, which lived there.  As I went to the State School we used to sneak out the back of the school, across the school grounds with the biggest Moreton Bay figs (we used their roots as caves when we played at lunch time), towards the back gates of the school over the “forbidden” section of the grounds known as “the cliff” and down to the lagoon to see if we could “catch” the bunyip taking a dip.

Oh and remember when Sandgate School had the fires?  The first one was in 1958 – I was in Grade 3.  The beautiful old main building was gutted. Some dissatisfied pupil they thought. The next year another old building went and my class had to go into a demountable building – they sadly removed our favourite Moreton Bay fig to make more room. That building was so hot.  No fans or air conditioners in those days.

Oh, how simple our lives were.  Sandgate was a great place to grow up and I thank my parents for giving me those wonderful years down at the Bay. As you will recall, on the weekends Dad would “march” all of the neighbourhood kids down to the beach for a swim.  He was so good with kids and we would all climb all over him and dive off his shoulders into the water, and he would give us “drag” rides through the “ripples”.  The water was much cleaner in those days. There were always lots of soldier crabs and those little clear jellyfish that we would throw at the boys when they teased us!  In the early sixties, when surfing became popular, Sandgate kids had their own version of “surfing”.  It was known as “skimming” and you used a “skim board” which was large and round like an oversized skimming stone. You would get on in the edge of the water and skim along. It was great fun! The boys from my class called themselves “The Sandgate Ripple Riders”.

Dad also let us put the little green frogs all over him when we played in the backyard.  Those days there were thousands of them.  Makes you wonder what we have done to the environment doesn’t it.

Well I could go on forever, reminiscing but have run out of time.

Perhaps we will catch up again soon.

Take care

Gaill (Stevens) Macciocca

Age: 53 years

A Sandgate landmark – the town hall today

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’ Peter Ludlow 2003)