SETTLING THE STILL WATER SIDE – Part 2

Recalled by Ian Hall

Although he lost his original customers with the closure of the cannery, Alfred Hall’s business was booming from a new source ‑ the holidaymaker.  Large numbers had begun arriving at the island with the instigation of regular passenger runs from Brisbane by the S.S.”Koopa”.  Built in 1911 by Ramage and Ferguson in Scotland and capable of carrying up to 1600 passengers, she was soon to become a favourite with holidaymakers on the Brisbane‑Redcliffe‑Bribie run. Her owners, the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company, constructed the first jetty on the Still Water side of Bribie in 1912.  In addition, they leased a long strip of land on the foreshore behind the jetty, which except for a caretaker’s house and a guest house, has never been built on, even to this day. It was here, under the Bribie Island Pines that the holidaymakers camped.   At Christmas and Easter holiday periods up to a thousand tents bore witness to the lure of Bribie Island:  mullet splashing against the backdrop of the Glasshouse mountains thrusting their strange peaks into the sunset billows… brolgas summoning the salt and eucalypt breeze… pine scented smoke curling from a lazy campfire… 

‘Koopa’ at Bribie Jetty 1920 (photo courtesy Ian Hall)

Ian Hall, one of Alfred’s sons, was a young lad in the early 1920s and vividly recalls those early years of the Hall and Bestmann store: 

“The “Koopa” had become so popular that often its services had to be supplemented by another Tug and Steamship vessel, the “Beaver”.  Eventually, in 1919, the Company was obliged to purchase the “Doomba” to run as a sister ship to the “Koopa”.  Captain Johnson, skipper of the “Koopa” was transferred to the “Doomba”, his replacement being Captain Gibson, previously of the “Beaver”. 

“Holidaymakers’ tents were supported by a framework of poles cut from the surrounding bush.  Father and Artie Bestmann collected a large supply of Ti Tree poles which they hired out to the campers who brought only their tents with them.  Often, they would have their tents sent on beforehand so that we could have them erected ready for their arrival. 

 “All the store’s provisions had to be sent on the “Koopa” which came to Bribie four times a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Of course, we had no refrigeration then, but ice was brought down packed in sawdust and hessian bags to delay melting.  Even so, half of it had gone by the time it arrived, but it was useful for keeping the butter and soft drinks cold for the campers. 

 “Meat was kept cool in a meat‑safe which had a trough on top filled with water.  Hessian bags dipped into the water and hung down the sides of the safe.  Breezes evaporated the moisture in the bags and kept the meat cool.  There was no electricity either, and light for the shop came from carbide lamps, one in the shop and one on the footpath.  These could be supplemented by kerosene lamps and candles.  The carbide lamps were good for keeping down the moths because they had their wings burnt in the intense heat.  Cow manure was burnt to keep mosquitoes away, though the pungent Citronella Oil was also available for rubbing on the skin for the same purpose. 

 “The store sold food and campers’ supplies, but no building materials.  These were brought from Brisbane on the “Koopa” by the builders themselves.  Artie’s father also made homemade wine which was sold in our store for 1/‑ (10 cents) a bottle.  It was very popular in the early days with the cannery workers as there was no hotel on Bribie then.

 “When I was about 12 years old, one of my jobs was to hand deliver milk to the surrounding houses from a couple of large cans I carried with me.  Our first cow was kept behind our house.  Later we kept a whole herd on 321 acres we bought across the creek in about 1920.  These cattle were ferried across from the mainland on a specially constructed pontoon.”

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.