Through some stories we may learn a little more about the history of our area. 

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Miss Roberts Remembers

By Beryl Newton

(Miss Roberts Came to Maleny as a school teacher.   She was a city girl coming to the country and taught at the Curramore State School.    She married a Maleny farmer and lived a very happy life in the Maleny District with Bill, her husband who passed away in the late 1990's.    Miss Roberts is better known to us today as Beryl Newton.)

A few years ago, in the Maleny Newsagency, I was talking to a couple of six-year-olds, telling them what it was like “when I was a girl”, emphasising the difference between then and now - very few cars, no aeroplanes, no wireless, no TV, etc.    They were silent for a while as they digested this sad state of affairs, then one of them ventured “Mrs Newton, were there dinosaurs around when you were a girl?”.

Well, I guess I deserved that, but I was born in an age of horses and trains.     I have lived to travel in all forms of transport and watched (by TV) a man walk in outer space and on the surface of the moon.   My lifelong affections,though, are for the horses and trains.

When I went out to the country to teach, in those pre-school-bus days many children rode to school.    There was always a horse paddock attached to the school grounds.   “Doublers” and “treblers” were common, and sometimes there’d be as many as twenty horses in the paddock.     Bill can remember that once, with brother Fred up behind him, their horse took off suddenly (probably helped by a boot in the ribs).    When he arrived at the Bald Knob school, Fred was missing from behind him.     There were lead-footed drivers in those days, too.

At one of the schools where I taught, as my place of board was three miles away from the school, the committee provided a horse for me.  Unfortunately, for a while I couldn’t trot and the horse couldn’t canter, but in the end we both learned something.

After my father died in 1917, my mother took a position in the Queensland Railways, first as a gatekeeper and later as station mistress, so our lives became bounded by trains and railways.    I loved the trains - not the diesel or electric kind, but the good old-fashioned steam ones that huffed and puffed as the gradients warranted, accompanied by clouds of dense white or black smoke.   That left clothes grimy and filled your eyes with smuts if you dared to look out the window, to hear the gangers working on the line, calling out ‘paper , paper!”, and, oh, the thrill of getting out at a station refreshment rooms to purchase scalding hot tea and a ham sandwich or scone.    Then, as the train prepared to move out, waitresses would hurry alongside the carriages, asking “Any cups, please?”.

Landsborough Railway Station - 1930's

In the late 40s, 50s and 60s, many of our young folk worked in Brisbane for five days, returning home on Friday evening by train and returning to town on Sunday nights.    At least four or five buses used to transport these crowds between Maleny and Landsborough.   Very often there was standing room only as the same thing was happening all along the Near North Coast.

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Perhaps my affection for this mode of travelling arose from the fact that, as a small child, I and my sister had a two-mile walk to and from school.    Sometimes, if we were lucky, and especially if it were a wet day, the coal train would be shunting at the mine.   Then we’d race up the long hill to the level crossing and wait.   The engine driver and fireman would hoist us up on to their seats in the engine and away we’d go, the longer way home.   It might have been against departmental regulations to do such a thing, but I’ll never forget the thrill of seeing the wheels going round, through spaces in the iron flooring plates, or the sight of the angry red maw of the firebox when Peter opened the door to shoot in another shovelful or two of coal.

When I came up to Maleny, the road deviated considerably from where it is today.     At the top of the hill east of the town, it came down across a now-disused old bridge, past Chris Brooker’s and up the hill to the present day high school.    Those grounds were the site of our airfield, which it shared with the golf course and the cows.     My first flight was in an open two-seater, and the plane didn’t so much rise from the ground, but that the earth dropped away from beneath us.    Of course, I was exhilarated but terrified too, and I promised God that if He got me back safely to earth I’d be good for the rest of my life.     God kept his part of the bargain, but I’m afraid I haven’t always kept mine.

On our flight to New Zealand years later, from about 25,000 feet I could see the curve of the earth and knew that I had taught the children correctly, the earth is round.

In 1970 Bill and I moved into Maleny and joined in its urban pursuits.   The Maleny Rotary Club was responsible for the formation of a Senior Citizens Club and I became its Foundation President, serving for four years in that position and in every other position in the next twenty years.     At first we met in the CWA room, then at the RSL hall, and now in our room in the Community Centre.    I remember planning our first bus trip, a new kind of venture for the Over 50s.    We weren’t sure if the Oldies could stand a long bus trip, so we decided on Yabba Creek, Kenilworth, Cooroy, Tweantin and Noosa and home along the coast.     We all managed to survive the test (stop laughing), and now we venture all over the state, interstate and Norfolk Island.

The Seniors also participated in the town’s centenary celebrations in 1978.    Many of those people were direct descendants of the original timbergetters and dairy farmers, and could speak first-hand of times and places and events.    May those who have come here later never forget the people who lived and loved and worked in this beautiful, quiet spot in the Blackalls.     I hope you enjoy my recalling what it was like “when I was a girl”.

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