I’m a 60 something (64 to be exact) Queenslander living the dream with my writing, riding and cooking - I do the housework too but that's not part of my dream.
Published July 19th 2014
Sad memories from a young life well-spent
Recently I took my daughter into the big-smoke of Brisbane for a meeting expected to last a couple of hours. There's no way I'm paying $40 for a car park just for the privilege of sitting and waiting so I circled several city blocks in the hope of scoring a metered parking space. No luck with that and eventually, stuck in the traffic flow, I was heading northwards and out of the city.
Although it had been quite some time since my last visit I did grow up with the city as my playground.
While the big-city drivers called out and made what I think were congratulatory gestures at my careful style of driving I recalled the times I had a Belgian waffle accompanied by a coffee in a little café on the Newstead side of Breakfast Creek. 'That'll do me', I thought as the traffic took me off in that direction anyway.
When I arrived, with thoughts of wolfing into that big, creamy, syrupy, fruity Belgian waffle the drool was beginning to pool in my mouth. Finally I swung off Breakfast Creek Road and into Durong Street – here at last!
It was then the disappointment hit me like a ton of bricks. The buildings were still there but the joie de vivre was gone. So too were the Belgian waffles. There is now just a collection of professional offices and, as if to rub it in, they are all painted grey. Part of my youth had been consigned to memories.
In a fit of pique I sat in the 'Customer Only' car park even though I wasn't a customer and wondered how many other good times can no longer be relived but only remembered by those who lived them.
Well, there's one just up the road – Cloudland. Many the time my mates and I climbed the hill from the car park and trotted our stuff. Gypsy tap, two-step, three-step, waltz and, the big-daddy of them all, the progressive barn dance. The barn dance was where you got to sample all the delights of the night as the girls changed every few seconds. Did I really know all those dance steps? Must have, or at least I could do a good impression of them.
What about Festival Hall? Gone! What about my memories of concerts there by Led Zeppelin, Wings (we all make mistakes) and Credence Clearwater Revival? Gone! That's bad enough but the worst part of losing Festival Hall is that's where all my family and I used to go and watch Ralphie Valladares and the Los Angeles T-Birds Roller Game team take on all comers. They were nights of real family entertainment assisted by the fabulous atmosphere created in the venue.
My thoughts continued to drift outwards and ended in a Drive-In theatre somewhere. Most likely it was the Galaxy Drive-In at Cannon Hill. They are all gone now, except for the one near Yatala. No new memories can ever be made from the backseat of a car at the drive-in. Sometimes I pity the younger generations and all they are missing out on (no I don't, not really).
Another great memory I can't relive is my dad coming home of a Friday night with a treat. My absolute favourite was a Crunchy and I do continue that pleasure to this day. But what about, White Knights (chocolate coated peppermint chew), Choo Choo Bars (chocolate coated licorice chews) and Curls (chocolate coated caramel chews)? I believe, they are all gone. Still on this theme of sweet things there is also my all-time favourite soft drink; Tristram's ginger ale in a short stubby bottle. My granny used to put ice cream in a glass of it for me; oh, that is a good memory.
As I sat there my mind drifted so far I ended up down at Currumbin just across the water from the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary. This memory goes way, way back and I will be surprised if anybody but me remembers, 'Santaland'. Built right beside what was then the Pacific Highway it was a little park set up for kids. It had attractions formed from cement for kids to climb in and over. I recall a tableau of Little Miss Muffet but, my fondest memory is of a cement submarine with a working periscope. I would hate to imagine the number of ship I sank from that cement submarine.
By now I was almost in tears – my life is just a sad memory! There's no chance to ever relive those good times. All I can do is remember them and, maybe, reminisce with some old friends.
What's the point of going on?
Hang on. What's that? There's a yard full of Harley Davidsons over there. Forget the dreary memories. Let's get over there and have a look!
Our house was at Palm Beach, it's still there, so to go to Kirra or Greenmount Beaches, we had to wend our way over Currumbin Hill.
Used to love going to Currumbin Rock Pools, for a swim, Point Danger Pool, & Burleigh Pool. The last two were ocean-water fed. And who can forget the best Hamburgers' on the Coast, at Val & Bill's Grill Bar, at Burleigh Heads, opposite the pub?
How's about jumping off the bridge into the deep-water channel, at Tallebudgera Creek?
I remember a house on the end of the road, heading towards Bilinga, had a long verandah railing, & there was a big tarp hanging over, painted with 'it's a boy'! That baby would be in his late 50's now!
I loved the Coast of the '50's, & '60's. It was a great place to grow up!
Good to think of the old days. I am 74 and when I was a teenager dancing was all the go. There was a dance somewhere in Brisbane every night, Monday was (I think) The Ritz Ballroom in town, Tuesday was the Blind Institute South Brisbane,Wednesday was Cloudland, I cannot remember Thursday and Friday night, but Saturday night was Cloudland or The Police Club at Paddington and Sunday night was the Bulimba Hostel dance and I went to them all every night of the week. I can also tell you, Cloudland had an electric fence out the back, that me and my mates found out about one rainy night when we tried to sneak in without paying. I met my wife at the Police Club and we married in 1961, we are still married with eight Grand Children and two Great Grand Children. Thanks for the memories.
Good news you can still get White Knights and Choo Choo Bars my husbands favourite and there is another Cloud Land in the Valley maybe not our old Cloud Land and our childrens Cloud Land and start of their memories
I am glad someone else remembers Santaland. We used to come down from Rockhampton and stay at a motel right next door. I loved going there and then on to the bird sanctuary and I still fear the sound of the parrots coming down at feeding times. Thanks for bringing those memories to light. Jubes
Aren't the curls called curly wurlleys? Or is that something else entirely..I am new to Brisbane but know a local who knew the old city well. It is a pity to know that so much grand architecture (and the just plain old) has been lost.
Still love Brizzy though and it is a thoroughly intriguing place to live wth all it's nooks and crannies.
Hi Tony, thank you for your lovely insight. Whilst I am not of your era, I too have seen a lot of changes to Brisbane since the early 70s, including being at the last concert played at Festival Hall. To put your mind at rest though, White Knights are still available, my children enjoy them greatly and there is social swing dancing at Cloudland every Wednesday night, hosted by Empire Swing. I hope to see a greater return to the social dancing scene as my fondest childhood memories are of evenings spent in dance halls, standing on my father's feet until I was old enough to keep up with steps myself. I trust this is an experience my children will be able to reflect fondly upon too but all age dances are difficult to come by now. Thanks for the memories!
Good article. I can relate, though a few years after your era. Relish chances to remember or relive. Cloudland nightclub in the Valley is impressive but not the same atmosphere. Finding park in town is pot luck now.