Backward Glance – Friendships on spit

This is a story of family friendships forged during holidays and a love of life at the beach.

Keith Pacey recalls memories of his family who obtained a block of land at Mooloolaba on The Spit. At the time there was no road access and the only way in to the property was to drive along the river bank at low tide to reach their destination. This of course needed careful calculation of tides and to add to the challenge, immediately in front of the block, there was a sand hill to negotiate and on many occasions the car was bogged.

The family lived in Brisbane so the first adventure was to get there as the road north was rough – gravel most of the way and with the start of World War II, the additional armed forces heavy vehicle traffic did little to help the road’s condition.

The location was known as “The Spit”, it was the strip of land formed by the river on one side and the ocean on the other, it was wide enough for single blocks on the river side and single blocks on the ocean side with a road being built down the centre. All allotments were positioned with a “reserve” in front on the foreshore, so the blocks did not have absolute water frontage.

Keith’s father built a shack on the block using corrugated iron from the remains of the old Catholic Church at Fig Tree Pocket and it had a sand floor. This first on-site construction was aptly named “Shangri-la”. Eventually the floor was concreted using cement carried up from Brisbane in the family’s 1934 Ford sedan with the back seat taken out for space.

Extensions were carried out over time and after many years of happy holidaying in the hut “Shangri-la” a decision was made to build a block of flats. Dave Mitchell and his sons, builders from Nambour, constructed the shell and Keith and his father completed the internal work.

Concreting the floor was a titanic job. Cement was mixed with boiler furnace coke from the Tennyson power house in Brisbane and was transported in instalments up to Mooloolaba. Disaster struck when the levels were wrong and did not meet the minimum ceiling height so with chisel and hammer in hand the saga of removing the concrete was undertaken. Finally after many blisters and sore arms the job was completed.

The next door neighbours were the Menary family, who were pineapple farmers from Woombye. Their first hut was a packing shed from their farm, moved to Mooloolaba and fitted out with a wood stove, furniture and beds.

The Menary boys would collect the dry flower stalks from the Swamp Grass clumps and green cane from along the river, to make cane bows and grass stalks to be used as arrows. Many hours by the river were spent trying to “shoot” fish without much success.

As friendships developed between the locals and the visitors, pranks were often enacted. Keith remembers on one occasion the Paceys arriving from Brisbane to find half of their back yard planted in sweet potatoes, courtesy of their neighbour, Charlie Menary. The joke backfired as the family ended up with a great batch of potatoes which amazed Charles, seeing as the ground was pure sand and the only water came from the irregular rainfall.

Bill Kuskopf was the nearest permanent neighbour. He was a bachelor and one of the true characters of the area. He had inherited wonderful boat building skills and his work was seen around the area from net boats to fishing launches. Bill’s brother Harry also was blessed with boat building skills which earned him a widespread reputation of excellence.

He designed and created a range of boats of various size and design, from soft chine net boats, surf boats for the Mooloolaba SLSC through to an 18 metre double-ended tug “Adelyn” used for the transport of timber between Fraser Island and the saw mill in Maryborough.

One of his earlier constructions was the motor/sloop rigged sailing vessel named “Minerva” which was constructed on the banks of Eudlo Creek. Assisted by his brother Bill, Harry launched the “Minerva” on May 9, 1927. The “Minerva” had a colourful life morphing from a deep sea fishing/pleasure launch to a cargo carrier between Brisbane and Maroochydore. Sadly she saw a tragic end when she caught fire and was burnt to the water line.

Christmas and New Year holidays brought an influx of holiday makers to Mooloolaba. With the increased population, demand on goods and services was high, with the supply of ice being in strong demand. Refrigerators were uncommon with ice chests being the preferred option to keep perishables or a meat safe covered with a wet hessian bag.

For many years during the holidays, there would be a Boxing Day cricket match between the locals and the Briso’s. These were fun days with all families attending. The games were taken seriously with reputations at stake on both sides. Food and fruit were aplenty with the bucket, not billy, coaxed to a boil over a fire for tea making. Charlie Menary supplied water melons and pineapples from his farm while cakes, scones, damper and roasted spuds made up the remainder of the food. At the end of the day, a wooden keg of beer with a wet bag enclosure to keep it cooled was rolled out.

On reflection, Keith remembers the friendship that existed among all was one of the most endearing parts of “life at the beach”. The readiness to get in and give a hand continued for many years. It was usual on trips up to Mooloolaba, just as we arrived and unpacked, one of the locals would drop in to see how things were going.

Keith describes his father as “The Great Beholder of the World Around” such was the magic of Mooloolaba in the early days. There was something soothing for the soul – just gazing out to sea and his father and mother enjoyed this greatly.

Thanks to the Heritage Library for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

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