Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Looking back at Townsville's Centenary - 1964

This month marks 150 years since the proclamation of Townsville as a municipality in 1866. The population at that time is likely to have been only a few hundred but when the city turned 100, it had grown to be the home of roughly 60,000 people.

His Excellency the Governor, Sir Henry Abel Smith (in white), unveiling the Centenary Memorial Plaque in Anzac Park, 1 November 1964. Dr R.A. Douglas (second from left), grandson of Andrew Ball, watches on.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by Townsville City Libraries.
The centenary celebrations were timed to coincide with the arrival of a party of white settlers who arrived in Cleveland Bay in late 1864 and included a Centenary Pageant at the Sports Reserve, a Centenary Community Fair held in Hanran Park, the official opening of Jezzine Barracks, and the unveiling of a memorial plaque in Anzac Park.

On Sunday, 1 November, Queensland Governor Sir Henry Abel-Smith, unveiled the bronze plaque in Anzac Memorial Park that commemorated one hundred years of European settlement. Set in a massive granite rock brought from Kissing Point, the plaque was inscribed with the names of the men who were key figures in Townsville’s founding - John Melton Black, Andrew Ball, Mark Watt Reid and Robert Towns.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported that Sir Henry Abel Smith told the assembled crowd that “it was indeed an historic occasion”.

“During the past century a swamp has been turned into the second city in Queensland, one of the most beautiful tropical cities in the world and undoubtedly the most healthy,” Sir Henry said.

The Governor believed that Townsville’s greatest accomplishment had been to “show the whole world that a city predominantly of western races could spring up and be one of the healthiest places in the world,” he said.

Also present at the ceremony was respected Townsville physician, Dr R.A. Douglas - grandson of pioneer Andrew Ball - who was believed to be the only descendant of the men mentioned on the plaque, still living in Townsville.

“The memorial, in timeless bronze and native granite, is something that should last forever, and these men in a thousand years will still be recognised as the main founders of Townsville,” Dr Douglas said.

But the organisers of the Centenary Pageant, held on the afternoon of Saturday 31 October, which featured 100 performers, were disappointed with the “handful” of people who turned up to watch the two-hour pageant.

According to the Bulletin, half an hour out from the start time, there were less than 30 people in attendance. The pageant, which took the form of tableaux and floats, featured Indigenous dancers and historical re-enactments, all designed to highlight the city’s progress over the previous 100 years.
Re-enactment of 1866 Speech by first Mayor, Mr. John Melton Black at Incorporation of Townsville Municipality.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by Townsville City Libraries.
The chosen highlights included the arrival of the first white settlers to the area; the first Townsville race meeting; the speech delivered when the city became a municipality; the founding of Anglican and Roman Catholic churches; and the raising of the newly-designed Australian flag by the Earl of Hopetoun here in 1901.

By the time the pageant cast had assembled for a final circuit of the Sports Reserve, 300 people were in attendance, but this was still a disappointing turnout.

There had been no lack of enthusiasm from locals when earlier that morning, the Governor had inspected 300 troops at a ceremonial parade at Jezzine Barracks. A precursor to the official opening of the barracks, an estimated 2,000 people watched the parade and then took the opportunity to inspect the new barracks.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Ladies' Rest Room - Flinders Street

Despite the need for austerity during the years of the Second World War, the Aldermen who made up the Townsville City Council in the early 1940s were a group of progressive thinkers, who introduced many initiatives of benefit to the community despite the difficult economic climate.

Women’s Rest Room, Flinders Street, Townsville, circa 1965.
Photo: City Libraries Townsville
At a time when almost every available resource went towards the war effort, which included supporting the massive influx of American and Australian service personnel based in Townsville at that time, the City Council established a municipal ice works, and a council-run wood depot and fruit and vegetable market. These projects were designed to offset the shortages caused by massive population increase due to the war.

Another forward-thinking initiative that proved extremely popular was the introduction of a Women’s Rest Room in Flinders Street – the heart of shopping in Townsville at that time.

In August 1944, the Council began renovating shops adjoining the Town Hall that had been occupied by a shoe shop, for conversion to a ladies rest room. The premises were designed to include a waiting room, toilet facilities, and a room for mothers to feed their babies. Soon, strollers were available for hire from the rest room, which proved a real boon, particularly for those women who had travelled to town by bus.

The Women’s Rest Room was such a success that it was enlarged in the early 1950s, in order to keep up with demand. It operated between 9.10 am and 4.50 pm on weekdays and 9.10 am and 11.30 am on Saturdays.

In April 1953, the Townsville Daily Bulletin reported that the average daily attendance at the Women's Rest Room In Flinders Street, which was a free Council service, had reached 200.

“Two electric fans afford a constant stream of air to revive tired shoppers, and tall, green palms arranged around the attractive main sitting room, lend a restfulness to this centrally situated retreat. Iced water is on hand at all times and mirrors and other toilet conveniences are available for those wishing to freshen their makeup,” the Bulletin noted.

“As well as the stroller service and the provision of a retiring room where mothers may feed their babies, the centre offers facilities for heating bottles and changing infants’ diapers. A parcel-minding system is also in operation.”
Women's Rest Room, Flinders Street, Townsville, 1965.
Photo: City Libraries Townsville.
On average, 97 strollers were hired out each day, with scrupulous attention paid to the cleanliness of the equipment for hire. A junior assistant was responsible for making sure that each stroller received a fresh cover before use, and that after use it was treated with disinfectant, so that “all precautions were observed for the sake of the children’s health”.

The Rest Room’s supervisor, Mrs M. Whitaker, told the Bulletin that since the extensions to the room were completed, the attendance had almost doubled.

“Tourists make this their headquarters when they are in the city, and I have been complimented by women from as far afield as America, on the cleanliness of the premises,” she said.

Note: I've had some wonderful feedback about this article, which was published in the Townsville Eye on Saturday, 6 February 2016.
One notable comment came from a former colleague who said that it was her mother that was pictured on the left in the top photo! Do you have any memories of this rest room? Please leave a comment below.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Star of Townsville Attracts Big Crowds - 1930

When the Star of Townsville flew into the city for the first time in March 1930, thousands of locals flocked to see the aeroplane that would reduce the time it took to travel from Townsville to Brisbane to just one day.

First flight of the aircraft Star of Townsville on arrival at Ross River Plains aerodrome in Townsville, March 1930.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
The Queensland Air Navigation Company Limited’s Avro 618 Ten - named the Star of Townsville - was a tri-motor monoplane capable of carrying eight passengers and two crew between Townsville and Brisbane, with stops at Mackay, Rockhampton and Bundaberg.

When it arrived in Townsville around 11am on Monday, 17 March, excited crowds were gathered at the newly constructed Ross River Plains aerodrome to see it land.
Refuelling the Star of Townsville, an Avro 618 Ten, circa 1932.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
The following day, her “sister” plane – the Star of Cairns – a smaller, five-seat Avro, commissioned for the Cairns to Townsville route, landed in Townsville and taxied into position beside the Star of Townsville.

The Star of Cairns, an Avro 618 Five, c. 1930.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
Once both planes were in place, the Mayor, Alderman W.J. Heatley, was invited to christen the Star of Townsville, something he was pleased to do, as he felt that “aviation was soon going to be a big mode of travel in Australia”.

A propeller on the Star of Townsville was decked with flags and a bottle of champagne, which the Mayor duly broke with a decorated hammer. Champagne streamed over the nose of the plane and splashed over several men on the lorry, much to the amusement of the onlookers.

Later in the day, locals were able to take a half hour flight over the city in the Star of Townsville, and that weekend, an air pageant was held at the aerodrome that attracted 10,000 people.

One of the Star of Townsville’s passengers on its inaugural flight to Townsville, was a businessman named Charles Hoffman, who told the Townsville Daily Bulletin that he was determined to use the service as often as possible, as it was such a time saver.

“The sense of security in air travel was real, the comfort excellent, and above all the one day journey means much to those who need fast transportation,” Mr Hoffman said.

But as exciting as this new mode of transport may have been, commercial air travel at this time still had its risks. In May 1930, the Star of Townsville went missing for half a day when the pilots were forced to make an emergency landing due to heavy fog on the journey from Mackay to Rockhampton.

They put the plane down safely in empty countryside roughly 180km north-west of Rockhampton, but knowing they would be missed, walked for hours in the hope of being able to communicate what had happened.

When they failed to find any trace of human habitation, the pilots returned to the plane and decided to attempt to take to the air again, which they did, without incident. According to one newspaper, it was a “thrilling experience” for the passengers.
Crash of the Star of Cairns, in Maryborough, December 1930.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
Tragically, on 31 December that year, the Star of Townsville’s sister plane, the Star of Cairns, crashed in Maryborough killing the pilot, 32 year-old Dudley Percy Davidson, and 24 year-old Townsville Daily Bulletin journalist, Ian Henry Higgens.

Spectators who saw the plane take off from Maryborough said the plane had only just cleared the airfield when the engine stopped. The pilot tried to turn back, but the plane stalled and crashed into a nearby road.