With Adrian Dalgarno
Hayles did very well on the Bribie run until the barges began running from Toorbul Point. The first had commenced just after the war. It was an old army landing barge skippered by Bill Woods, a huge fellow whose standard working attire was a blue or once‑white Jackie Howe singlet, a filthy pair of shorts, and bare feet. His barge didn’t run to a particular timetable (on the hour every two hours) because not much traffic used it then. One day, Adrian arrived at Toorbul Point to find the barge beached on Bribie. Bill had had too many drinks at the bowls club and the tide had gone out!
The service gradually extended to three barges as the amount of road traffic increased. With the increased traffic the Council upgraded the road to Toorbul Point from Caboolture, firstly from sand and metal to all metal and then bitumen. Alec Thornley started the Bribie Bus service not long after the war. He ran the Brisbane to Bribie service for years, relying on the barges to take him over. Snowy Drennan, a school teacher, a pawn broker et al. Bought the barge service from Bill Woods and did extremely well until the opening of the Bribie bridge in 1963.
“Jim Murray was an old dero who used to dress in an army greatcoat, had long white hair and beard and wore a balaclava rolled up on top of his head. He was always barefoot and his feet were always dirty. Every now and then he would shuffle off down to the shop to get his supplies. He rarely went out otherwise but contented himself with sitting outside his house smoking a pipe. The story went that in his younger days he had been a very well respected barrister, a Pom, but had gone off the rails and had settled at Bribie. He lived cheaply, and did not look after himself, and kids would scamper to other side of the track when they saw him coming. He was known as the birdman because he had set bird baths all around his house.
“Another personality was Tex Parcell. Tex was the only butcher on Bribie immediately after WWII. He was as thick as your little finger, about 5’10” tall, and was never out of a filthy pair of old denims, filthy riding boots and spurs, and a huge ten gallon hat. He kept a magnificent pair of horses just behind his shop, and he had a slaughterhouse up about where Solander Lakes now are, and about 1 km in from the Passage. Here he used to shoot all his own beef. He had an old meat sulky pulled by an old mare which he used to transport his slaughtered meat to his shop. Unfortunately, all the gauze was missing from the sides of the sulky, so that by the time the meat reached the shop, it was covered in a million flies.
“There was no refrigeration then and the shop’s cooler room was kept cool by circulating water evaporating from hessian bags hanging from ceiling. Like all butcher shops at that time, the floor was covered with sawdust. The local kids, myself included, used to go up with Tex to his slaughterhouse to see him kill the cow!
“Then there was Hughie Doss, an American who came out on a merchant ship during the war, married an Australian girl, and settled at Bribie. Hughie had a casual approach to work but always liked to faze people with his stories of big bulldozing projects out west for the government ‑ he was obsessed with tractors. He bought an old Bedford truck to pull Cyprus pines from people’s properties. Perhaps it was due to his tree‑felling exploits that he discovered that miles of copper cables had been laid under Bribie’s streets during the war for the communications network. With copper securing good prices, Dossie got plans for the cable junction points dug down at night to find them then traced the wires out from them. Then he would shackle the Marmon to them and go like mad down the road pulling miles of cable up. Next morning the residents would have to fill in the miles of indentations left in the sandy tracks after the copper had been pulled
“He also bought an old Hudson Terraplane to take people from Ocean Beach across to the pictures in the church hall at Bongaree. These were run on Saturday nights by Ivan Tesch and his two pretty daughters who acted as usherettes. The catch was that he would go home to bed during the show, and his passengers would have to walk back when the show was over.
“Brennan’s was a well respected store at Bongaree at that time, but Winston’s was the big store and it sold everything. It also marked the terminus for the bus from Brisbane. Outside was a huge old fig tree under which all the old people used to sit for a talk. When the bus came in they would point out any unfamiliar faces disembarking.
“Bribie was originally all old pensioners. Because of its isolation, it was a good place to drop out of society. It was also a bit of a refuge for eccentrics.
“On one occasion I spent a camp at Bribie with the Sandgate Senior Scouts and Rovers, during which time we constructed, as an exercise, several grass huts in the bush at Bongaree. We left them there at the end of our camp and they were later taken over by the artist Ian Fairweather and used as his first home on Bribie. He was later to become famous throughout Australia’s art world, but at that stage he was just another dero as far as I was concerned.”
With the opening of the bridge to the mainland, Bribie gradually ceased to become a refuge for the misfits of city life. Slowly more and more people settled there, content to spend their retirement enjoying the peace that Bribie could still offer.
As suburbia encroached on the bush, the nature of the place subtly changed, but as Adrian still notes: “It’s still possible to walk along the Ocean Beach at dusk on a perfect summer day and see … only two people!”
And on the sea breeze, still moaning through the banksias, it’s still just possible to catch that faint childhood memory … that Bribie feeling.
Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.