SETTLING THE STILL WATER SIDE – Part 4

Recalled by Ian Hall

       During the 1920s, Bribie’s first lawn bowling green was constructed near the dance hall, which in about 1929 was to be taken off its stumps and moved down the hill to become the club’s first clubhouse.   Alfred Hall took a keen interest in the sport and in the bowling club’s formation. He was to become its second President. 

     Boarding Houses sprang up in the street along from the Hall and Bestmann store.  These included the Davis’, the Davies’, and the Stones’.  All were popular with the weekend bowlers because of their home cooked meals.  Most noteworthy was that run by Bob Davies and his two sisters, Lilly and Rosie.  As a further attraction and mealstop for the passengers of the “Koopa”, Bob had trimmed his Bribie Island Pines into the shape of Kangaroos, Emus etc.  He called his enterprise The Novelty Gardens. 

Rose and Lilly Davies with trees sculptured by their brother, Bob. Novelty Gardens, Bribie Island, 1920s. (Photo courtesy Jan Burge.)

   The Tug Company also had a boarding house and luncheon rooms just to the north of its jetty.  When these were leased to the Moyles, they became famous for their lovely fish meals. 

     The scheduled discharge of passengers from the “Koopa” and “Doomba” also provided a market for other enterprising locals.  Harry Freeman, a fisherman who lived at Ninghi Creek on the mainland would come over to the Bribie jetty and sell crabs and fish to passengers.   Ned Bishop in his launch “Wisper” did the same for fruit and vegetables, and sometimes a goat which he called lamb or mutton.  Joe Campbell and Pat Levinge also traded their produce with the tourists. 

     During the 1920s, other shops were established at Bribie’s Still Water side: Kerr’s bakery, Jim Ormiston’s boat hire.  The first school was commenced in 1924, and the first Church of England in 1928. 

     The Government even showed enterprise at Bribie when it started an experimental farm in 1922. Tom Mitchell was the manager and grew banana suckers and avocado pears.  However, because of poor soil and a lack of water, it was closed in 1929.

     A similar fate also befell a tobacco farm which was started in the depression years by Arthur and Eddy Winston. They built a curing shed on the Still Water side and had some good crops but abandoned the undertaking because of poor soil & lack of water. 

            During the early 1920s, all activity on the south end of Bribie had been concentrated on the Still Water,or Pumicestone Passage, side.  However, the Halls had cut a walking track across the island to the Ocean Beach side, and this had been later widened to allow a horse and cart to pass. On the Ocean Beach, waves were of sufficient size to allow body surfing, a pleasure not possible on the Still Water side of the island.  As a further incentive for tourists to visit the island, it was decided to construct a road to the Ocean Beach side in 1923. A contract was let and won by Bill Shirley, one of Bribie’s residents, and with the cooperation of the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company, a gang completed the task in that year.  

     After the road was finished, Bill Shirley converted the construction trucks into buses in which he collected the passengers from the “Koopa” and took them across to the Ocean Beach. These trucks‑turned‑buses had solid rubber tyres, so the trip along the gravel road must have been quite a bumpy affair. Later, Bill Shirley was to become Bribie’s first councillor on the Caboolture Shire Council. 

     With the road now completed to the Ocean Beach side of Bribie, and with Bill Shirley running regular convoys of visitors there, Alfred Hall thought it time to open a shop there.  As he and Artie Bestmann were totally occupied with their store on the Still Water side, Alfred brought out his niece, Lily, from England with her husband, Wilfred Cotterill, and eight year old daughter, Muriel.  Within weeks of his arrival at Bribie in 1924, Wilf Cotterill constructed a combined residence and kiosk on the Ocean Beach side, the area’s first building.  It was made from corrugated iron and sported a rustic tea garden alongside.  Here, visitors could enjoy tea, soft drinks and sandwiches.  However, the trade proved to be very seasonal and confined mainly to weekends, and Wilf Cotterill was forced to close down his enterprise.  Wilf was then engaged to manage the Hall and Bestmann dairy farm on the Still Water side. 

     Alfred Hall retired about 1926/7 and the Hall‑Bestmann business was divided.  Artie Bestmann kept the shop and the surrounding land, while Alfred Hall kept the 321 acres dairy farm.  Later, because Alfred’s sons were not interested, the farm was given to Wilf Cotterill, who retired a wealthy man. The Winstons (of the failed tobacco company) later bought Artie Bestmann’s shop and carried on the business until after World War II.

            With the advent of the family car after World War II, the demand for excursion vessels such as the “Koopa” and “Doomba” fell off.  The completion of the bridge to Bribie in 1963 sealed their fate. 

     “I had been a passenger in the first car to make the trip from Brisbane to Bribie, ” remembers Ian Hall. “This was in 1919, and the car, a two-cylinder 1913 Talbot, was driven by Artie Bestmann.  The trip took two days, and the final crossing of the Pumicestone Passage to Bribie was accomplished on the family’s cattle pontoon. 

     “When the bridge to Bribie was finally completed in 1963, it was fitting that Artie Bestmann was the first to drive across.” 

Pumicestone Passage about 1920 showing Koopa Jetty & Moyle’s house viewed from Hall & Bestmann’s shop (Photo courtesy J.Foote)

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.

SETTLING THE STILL WATER SIDE – Part 1

Recalled by Ian Hall

 When Alfred Hall first began visiting Bribie Island about 1912, there were some twenty inhabitants permanently living there.  Most of these were employees of the Mullet Cannery which was then situated on the southern end of the island on the Pumicestone Passage, or “Still Water” side of the island. The cannery was then owned by Mrs. Sarah Balls, after having been moved, under a succession of owners from Toorbul Point to a northern section of Bribie Island, and then south again in 1910. 

The cannery marketed under the “Anchor Brand” label and several of its employees are worthy of note.    Bill Wright was the foreman, while Peter Rich gutted the fish.  Many of Bribie’s early residents were labelled with nicknames befitting their occupation or physical characteristic.  Thus Peter Rich became popularly known as “Peter the Gutter”. Similarly, another employee was nicknamed “Hoppy” Dixon because he had one leg shorter than the other.  Another employee, by the name of Gotch, boiled down the fish heads and bones to extract the oil which was valuable.  The remainder of the residue was used to make fertilizer, which was sent to Brisbane. After canning, air was expelled by steam through a hole in the lid, then the hole was sealed with a daub of solder. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the supply of tin required for the cans became scarce and the cannery was forced to close down.

 Some employees stayed on at Bribie as pensioners, while others started the island’s net fishing industry.  Old Hoppy Dixon operated the wind‑up gramophone for the Saturday night dances, while Peter Rich turned his attention to Grouper catching, and became known as the Grouper King.  These he caught from the jetty in the Pumicestone Passage with a large hook, chain trace, rope and a mudcrab for bait.  He’d dangle the rope from the end of the jetty and when a Grouper became hooked he would land the fish on the beach.  He’d cut it up and sell it for 3d a lb.  Photos of Peter and his catches, some weighing as much as 500 lb, still hang in the amateur fisherman’s club at Bongaree. 

Hall and Bestmann’s store at Bongaree

 Alfred Hall owned a successful grocery business in the Brisbane suburb of Toowong.  He went to Bribie at weekends and for holidays to fish and relax after long hours spent working at the shop.  At Bribie he soon formed a friendship with Arthur Bestmann, son of the pioneering family of the Godwin Beach area.  Arthur, or Artie as he was more popularly known, had left home to raise bees at Bribie.  To supplement his income, he used to bring passengers ashore from visiting vessels such as the “Sunrise”.  There was no jetty, and passengers had to be taken ashore by pontoon, an awkward manoeuvre, but safely conducted by Artie Bestmann. 

 At first the Hall‑Bestmann friendship was restricted to fishing expeditions, but about 1913 when Bribie was first surveyed, they bought a few acres of land just back from the beach at Bongaree.  There, Alfred Hall built a small shack which he used as a holiday home.  There were no shops on the island, and when the cannery workers learned that he owned a grocery business in Brisbane, they persuaded him to bring some supplies down on his weekend excursions. This he did, and commenced selling tinned goods and biscuits on the verandah of his shack via the bedroom window. As business improved, he converted the entire front bedroom into a shop.  In 1918 he went into partnership with Artie Bestmann and in 1921 they built a larger shop on the corner allotment next door. 

Another view of Hall and Bestmann’s store

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.