Brian arrived in New Farm in 1944 at the age of three years. His father was a telephone technician and his mother a central telegraph operator. Their work was essential for the war effort. After arriving in Brisbane they settled at Kedron but this was too far from the city to be convenient for shift workers so they relocated to New Farm and settled into Coronet Court until 1962. From there it was a short hop to Moreton Street with its cool shady tunnel created by the trees arching across the street. Brian was in his twenties now and the local lads were keen on their cars.
He started school early attending the Misses Stevenson’s New Farm Private School for his kindergarten years. He remembers that there was lots of shrubbery around the school but it did not seem overgrown. A pedestrian path led through to Moray Street but generally access was from Reginald Street. Two large Hoop Pines grew outside the Misses Stevensons’ home in Abbott Abbott Street. All the children liked the ladies – it was a pleasant place. The children would sit with their arms folded across their chests as they waited to go to ‘little lunch’ and ‘big lunch’. The dumbbells used for exercise impressed him.
From here he moved to the Convent School until he was six. Lay teachers (generally young women) were used as teaching staff for the younger pupils but the Nuns took all the upper classes. As he was not of the Roman Catholic faith, he was excused from Religious Education classes. The Nuns conducted these. He liked the schoolyard games and recalls that they seemed to do a lot of drills. The playground had a set of monkey bars. This was good fun as the only play equipment in the area was a set of swings at Teneriffe Park. There were no slides, swings etc in New Farm Park. The classes were mixed and he wore a uniform of grey shorts, a blue shirt and a necktie.
In 1948 he moved to New Farm State School to complete years 1 to 7 in preparation for Scholarship. It was a big school with almost 1,000 students and two classes per grade. This meant that there were approximately 60 students in a class. The classrooms were fitted out with long wooden desks and bench seating. Some classes were connected by concertina doors that could be opened up to make a larger room. This was useful for music lessons in particular. Miss Baird (the pianist) and Mr. Moxie (the teacher) took the music lessons. They were visiting specialists. Ballroom dancing classes were compulsory and lessons were conducted either on the graveled playground or under the school if the weather was wet. These lessons prepared the students for the annual school ball held at City Hall. Brian recalls that fancy dress was optional but all girls and boys participated.
There were other special outings as well – two only in seven years. Some students visited parliament house and others watched the symphony orchestra perform at city hall. Brian thought it was unlucky to go to the symphony twice. Swimming lessons at the Valley Pool were a must until a Proficiency Certificate could be obtained. The students walked in a group to the baths.
Once the certificate was obtained, the lessons stopped.
The playground area was limited and the gravel surface resulted in many skinned knees. There was a tennis court but Brian does not remember it being used very often. The girls played women’s basketball. Hockey was popular with both boys and girls. New Farm had a reputation as a strong hockey school. The boys played cricket and rugby league. Rugby League started again after the war in 1949. One of the teams was outfitted with pre-war jumpers in orange and white hoops whilst other teams got new ones in maroon with a blue V. The old orange ones were rotten from storage and would readily be ripped off in tackles. Football training was undertaken at New Farm Park during the week. At a parade before Friday it was announced how much money was needed for the bus or tram fare to play in an interschool game. If you had the money you headed off in a group with the teacher. Venues included Ashgrove and Windsor. Children’s circumstances varied. Some never had shoes and wore only hand-me-down clothes others had sailing boats for their personal. It did not seem to matter; everyone was a mate. Traffic was light although the streets were not quiet with many trades people delivering to the homes and others walking to the tram or shops. All the children rode bicycles and visited the homes of their friends. An athletics day was held annually at the Park.
The school enjoyed a good reputation and the students did well. Mr. Curry was the headmaster initially but he retired. Mr. Moonie/Moody replaced him. He was well liked but passed away during the Christmas break. The students were sad. Mr. Cochrane followed and whist he was strict he was not a brute. He was a great organizer and commenced fundraising activities at the school. He planned a fete. During Mr. Cochrane’s time the school rooms were wired for electricity and the wartime anti-shatter tape was removed from the windows. Miss Suttie was there for many years and taught the students ballroom dancing. Mr. Haley specialized in preparing students to take the Scholarship exam. He was a good teacher, a well-known Brisbane poet and he had been at he school a long time. Brian had Miss Cook briefly in Grade 1, but another class was formed and Mr. Faint took this one. From Grade 2 to Grade 6, his teacher was Mr. Craven and Mr.Haley for Scholarship. The Scholarship exam was sat at the Fortitude Valley State School. Brian had Mr. Craven as his teacher for five years in total.
Tuckshops did not exist in schools at this time and lunch could be purchased from either of the neighbouring corner shops. These were located on the corner of James and Annie or James and Heal Streets. Pie vans came to the school. A vendor with a horse drawn cart catered little lunch whilst the big lunch vendor drove a Chev. ute with a hot box on the back. Peas were an extra to have with the pie. The pie ovens had wood fires in them.
A number of New Farm children from this era had successful sporting careers. Brian Eldridge, Don Lind, and Jimmy Lingard all played first grade Rugby League for Valleys. Harry and John Bates moved to Wavell Heights as teenagers and played first grade for Norths. John played for Queensland. Their father, Jacky Bates, was a pre-war Valleys champion. They lived in Brunswick St. near St. Michaels. Stan Campbell, from Mark Street, eldest son of Tom Campbell, the alderman for one term, captained one of Valleys lower grade teams to a premiership. Brian Eldridge, son of “Poddy” the New Farm Postmaster and Kath, from Lower Moray Street was a member of Valleys 1955 undefeated premiership team and also coached Valleys Reserve Grade teams for some years. Jimmy Hannam from Terrace Street played for Brothers. Richard and Robyn Ebbern were also well known for their sporting success. Jimmy Lingard also played first grade cricket for Valleys. The Lingards lived in James St. and later the QHC flats before moving to Enoggera. Glen Mann (Clay St.), John Richards (Bowen Tce.), Brian Hjelm, Darrell Melksham (Mark St.), Kevin McMahon (James St. & later Gibbon St.), Lance Goebel (Sydney St.) and Terry Edwards (Merthyr Rd.) all played Rugby League with Valleys. Darrell Melksham’s father was a Captain in the 2nd. AIF and Headmaster of West End State School.
Brian went on to study at Brisbane State High School. He had a part-time job, as did most of the lads. Doing deliveries was popular. Brian chose to deliver ice for Mike Dwyer in Welsby Street. The ice came from Trails Iceworks of The Valley and was distributed by Mike. He had a truck with an insulated box on the rear. The boys picked up the block with large tongs and carried it into the homes putting it in the ice chest. Sometimes half a block was all that was required and they would need to break it up with an ice pick. It was heavy work and disappointing to find a note at the back door saying that ice was not required today. The deliveries continued into the sixties as many furnished flats did not come equipped with a refrigerator.
It was usual for the children to run errands for their mothers and Brian was no exception. He regularly went to Stewarts Grocers, Rayner’s butcher shops, Feltham’s Newsagency, and the Tropical Fruit Shop in Merthyr Road. Stewarts was next door to Rayners second butcher shop. He recalls that home deliveries from the grocer cost one shilling however orders over ten shillings delivered free. The department stores in The Valley all delivered. There were five corner stores/general businesses between Merthyr road and the river. They were on the corners of Abbott and Merthyr; Sydney and Brunswick; Mountford and Moray; Hazelwood and Oxlade plus Locke and Moray. The department stores and Banks were all located in Fortitude Valley. There were two hotels, the Brunswick and the Queen’s Arms. There were no restaurants, coffee shops or bars, only two cafes that served traditional meals to workers and residents of rooming houses. The Astor Café, corner of Brunswick and Annie Streets, and the Merthyr Café, corner of Merthyr Road and Hawthorne Street. Industry abounded in the area and provided a great deal of employment. Businesses were well regarded and many of Brian’s friends found apprenticeships nearby. To recall a few, there was Bill Stanley’s plaster works in Sargeant Rd. near Oxlade Drive; Dyne & Co Wireworks near Merthyr Park on Oxlade Drive; Gates Laundry in Kent or Harcourt Street; North Coast Carrying Company in Browne Street; a bakery behind a home in Heal Street and a home based confectioner in Chester Street. He sold honeycomb and toffees to the school children. Fooks’ owned two houses on Brunswick street at the corner with Elystan Road and ran a sawmill and joinery operation on the blocks behind the houses. Big logs were brought in by truck. The WWII US Military Barracks which faced onto Dixon and Lamington Streets had been converted to housing commission flats. Braemar hot water systems were manufactured in one of these buildings before moving to Zillmere. Some of the families living there were Lingard, Blake, Wade, Howard, Brown, Ohmsen, Gaske, Finlay, Merritt, Moore, Masters. Of course the bigger employers were the CSR sugar refinery and Austral Motors workshops. Here they assembled and serviced Dodge and Standard cars and trucks as well as Ferguson Tractors. They owned the land bordered by Lamington, Welsby and Sydney Streets. As homes came up for sale they were acquired and the business expanded. Bruce Magill (Lower Moray St.) completed a motor mechanic apprenticeship at Austral Motors. Brian Eldridge, and Glen Mann, both completed apprenticeships at CSR and stayed there until retirement. Alan Johnson (Hawthorne St.) started at CSR as a junior clerk and was there for many years.
Many New Farm people worked in the long line of wool and hide stores along Vernon Tce. and Macquarie Street, and in the wharves along the same stretch of river. There were also the BP-COR and Mobil fuel depots and also the wharves in this section of the suburb, and the Naval Stores next the Hawthorne Ferry. BP-COR depot was taken over by Riverside Coal after the oil company moved to Eagle Farm.
Old New Farm residents will remember the cast iron pissoir that stood at the end of Merthyr Road near the Hawthorne Ferry. At the other end of Merthyr Road one could find the remains of the jetty for the ferry that went across to Kangaroo Point before the Story Bridge was opened. Across the road from this was the Commonwealth Governments lighthouse depot.
The boys liked to forage in the scrap metal piles looking for ball bearings for their slingshots or other interesting items. Moloney Brothers had a small wharf near here right at the river end of Welsby Street. They ran a small cargo vessel up to what is now the Sunshine Coast. This business faded out in the fifties as roads and vehicles improved. They had, years before, operated fish canneries at Bribie and Caloundra. Old Mr. Maloney bought Coronet Court from the builder and original owner, Mr. Strickland. The building passed to his daughter, Mrs. Eileen O’Connor on his death. Mr. Strickland also built 999 Brunswick Street, next to Coronet Court, and continued to live there with his wife and small dog until their untimely deaths in the early fifties. He had started the successful plaster business, Stucoid.
The local lads enjoyed a swim in the river at the sandbank off Merthyr Park and would scramble along under the wharves looking for the “wharfies” crab pots. They would lift them out and check the proceeds. Most interesting was investigating the bait. It would include anything that may have been procured from the docks! The boys could travel all the way from Merthyr road to Commercial Road using the piers that supported the docks. They found lots of rats and were fascinated by the range of coat colours. They could be tan, white, black or grey. The rail line here was busy with wagons full of bagged sugar or coal for the powerhouse. The coal was stockpiled near the edge of the park and as the area was unsecured, men with wheelbarrows could be spied taking a load of coal from the pile.
The Astor Theatre was a popular place to socialize. Brian would go to the Family night on a Thursday when prices were reduced or to the Saturday matinee. He remembers it as a ‘posh’ theatre without any canvas seats. There was a milkbar across the road where you could sit down and enjoy a milkshake or a mixed grill. Across Annie Street, and after the general store which was run by two old ladies, then past the barbershop was the fish’n’chips shop. The barbershop was good for repairing fishing rods and tennis racquets. They also liked the fish & chips from a shop on Merthyr Road. It was beside the bootmakers.
Brian was able to describe the sporting oval in New Farm Park. Located near the corner of Brunswick and Sydney Street the oval was ringed by a low wire fence with white painted posts and rails. Cricket was played here in the summer and goal posts were erected in the winter for rugby league. Large white painted sight screens for cricket were at each end of the oval. Athletics and baseball competitions were also conducted on the oval. A two-storey change room was at the street corner. It had a verandah on the second storey with space for a table that could be used by the sporting officials. Another single story change room was built at the other end. Past this, between Sydney Street & the kiosk near the end of Dixon Street were tennis courts and netball courts. These used to flood as a watercourse ran through here. This is where the library now stands, on a floodway. Nearby was the kiosk and croquet court. A unit block is also built on top of this small creek at the corner of Welsby and Alford Streets. The creek’s course could be clearly seen until filled for the unit construction. Welsby Street, and Brunswick Street, from Welsby Street to Elystan Road, would regularly flood during severe storms or heavy rain periods.
During the war, materials and labour were diverted from housing into the war effort and housing was in short supply. A lot of homes were occupied by quite large numbers of people, often whole extended families of three generations had to squeeze in together. Many people helped out by taking in boarders and the council encouraged the break up of the big houses into flats. Even medium sized family homes were turned into several flats, including a small low set home in Moray Street named “Our Cabin”. Brian remembers this trend continuing in New Farm from the late 40’s through to the end of the sixties. He recalls the introduction of strata title unit blocks and the effect that this had on the area. The biggest homes on the best blocks were often the first to be removed. As materials became more available in the 50’s, families moved from New Farm to suburbs such as Chermside, Mitchelton, Mt. Gravatt and Inala.. Brian remembers the ‘thinning’ of families where older children moved out. New Farm seemed to age. School numbers dropped. Times changed. Many of his school mates were now living in what were then outer suburbs and considered too far away to visit by the confirmed inner suburbs dwellers. More cars were on the road and even the Park was locked at night. The Merthyr Bowls Club which was originally located on the corner of Sydney Street and Oxlade Drive merged with the Limbless Soldiers Bowls Club and a high rise block of units was erected on their site. This block is called Glenfalloch and was a first for New Farm. Brian moved away in 1967 aged 25years and returned from 1973 to 1976 before moving to Norman Park.