‘Just after the war, when I was 18, I began work at Rheems, but my real desire was to work on boats, so I obtained a Launchmaster’s Licence, and managed to get permission to leave Rheems. It seems strange these days to have to seek permission to leave a job, but it was just after WWII and manpower was extremely short, especially in essential industries.
‘I began work on the ferry at Bulimba which ran from 4 pm until 9 am. There were two shifts: 4 pm to 1 am, and 1 am to 9 am. The “Hetherington”, a vehicular ferry, ran during the day. During my shift, I ran a regular shuttle service until 2 am, after which time I’d tie up at Bulimba and do maintenance work on the boat. Any prospective passengers on the north bank would have to ring a bell to attract my attention. These were mainly Courier Mail shiftworkers and party goers.’
Reference: Moreton Bay People, The Complete Collection
‘I’m a river rat from Bulimba. We were Reliance River Rangers and we sailed out of Watt’s boat building business next to the Apollo Ferry. We sailed in the sailing season and rescued little boys in the overturned moths. We had an old English-style sailing boat, clinker hulled, sixteen feet (4.8 metres) – a scream of a boat. We used to sail down to Bishop Island and back in it.
‘When Britannia came with Queen Elizabeth II, who was a Ranger in her day, we went to welcome her, along with a whole flotilla of small craft. Our ship put up a message in flags and someone on the Britannia’s bridge read it, quickly ran down and told the Queen, and she came around to our side of the ship so she could see our message, gave us a wave, and actually strung up a message in flags in reply to us.’
‘In the 1950s the Brisbane River was a wonderful river! We knew when the blue and black funnel ships came in that we’d get rain, and sure enough it would bucket down! Even the teachers would look out when it was raining and see the blue and black funnels moored across the river.
‘Flying boats used to land at what we called the old hockey fields.
‘For a kid coming from the coal mines at Ipswich, the river was a fascinating scene. All the ships coming in and turning. I remember the Himalaya – a large ship – turning in the river, and it just made it around in the limited space for a ship of its size.
‘I lived at the industrial end of Bulimba – there was some noise from the Cairncross Dockyard but it was aircraft that were noisiest. The people at Hamilton got a reduction in their rates because of it but we at Bulimba – just across the river – never got a bean.’
‘I grew up at Bulimba and was apprenticed as a boat builder at Milkraft in 1958. It was just about all timber boatbuilding then. We built a lot of fishing boats after World War II as there was a bountiful supply of prawns and fish.
‘Milkraft also built cruise boats and recreational boats. In any one year they’d make 15 or 20 timber boats, which were either sharpie (V) or carvel (round) hull designs. Most of the trawlers were sharpies, which were cheaper than the carvel type. The bigger cruise ships were carvels. By the time I got out of boat building in 1967 they were starting to find new materials to build with. Aluminium and fiberglass were just starting off. Until then, we had only used fiberglass to sheathe battery boxes and iceboxes rather than using metal, which would corrode.’
Ken Brown (‘Brownie’):
‘I’ve always thought tugboats were the coolest looking boats. I really loved them because when they got a job they’d have to steam down from the Customs House and pick up the ship at the mouth of the river and bring it back up and were always making good way coming down the river.
‘When me and my buddies saw one coming down the Hawthorne Reach, we’d paddle our surfboards like crazy out onto the mud flat at Bulimba Point. As the tug came round the corner the stern wave would hit the mudbank, and because the tug was turning the corner it would tighten the wave up even more and we used to get waves up to three feet high. There would be three or four of them come off the stern of these tugs because of the amount of draught that they had. The first waves I ever rode as a surfer were at Bulimba Point! That was how I satisfied my surfing lust when I wasn’t at the beach.
‘The other sad thing that’s missing now from the Brisbane River is the sailing. When everyone was coming home with spinnakers up, the Brisbane River was just fantastic. In the winter they played footy; in the summer, if they weren’t playing cricket they went sailing. Of course, the guys that had a bit of money had boats, but a lot were built under people’s houses. It was the workingman’s sport and there was a huge following, with spectator boats taking people out to watch it.
‘I think Brisbane lost part of its identity when the sailing clubs moved away from the river, and I really would love to see it again. If there’s anybody out there reading this that wants to do something really neat for Brisbane, work out a way to bring sailing back onto the river, and our river will come back to life again.’
‘Although both my wife, Joan, and I were born in Toowoomba, we purchased a general store and news agency in Bulimba soon after our marriage. The store, Balmoral News, was initially situated at the old tram terminus, which is now the roundabout on the corner of Bulimba and Oxford Streets.
‘When we opened for business on 8 November 1959, there was no sealed footpath outside, and entering the shop required a high step up from the dirt pavement. To make entrance easier for our customers we quickly had a wooden platform build at the entrance. Soon after opening we discontinued the grocery side of the business, and expanded the newsagency side to include a Golden Casket agency, as well as selling stationery, books, and greeting cards. In those days, there used to be three caskets drawn per week, and our shop was allotted four books each of twenty tickets to sell. Each ticket sold for about $1. In our first year of operations the shop sold one first prize of $30,000 as well as numerous other prizes.
‘Being at the tram terminus, we had a lot of trammies with headaches coming in to the shop to buy a packet of Bex or a Vincents to take with an Indian Tonic or a Coke.
‘Joan and I were to ride the last tram on 13 April 1969, the date the Brisbane City Council ceased their tramway’s operation. We still have thei souvenir tickets from the ride.’
Reference: Don Campbell in conversation with Peter Ludlow 2014