by Jane Thompson nee Bellamy.
Editor’s note. Jane Bellamy (Palmwoods) married Bill Thompson (Montville). This delightful story recaptures Jane’s memories of arriving from England and settling in and making friends in the Palmwoods community.
I came out to Australia as a ’10 pound pom’ in 1951. My brother was going blind and learning Braille. The specialist recommended my parents go and live in a sunny country. My father, Dr. John Bellamy saw an ad in a medical journal, for a home and practice in ‘Pretty Progressive Palmwoods’ with these four beautiful pictures seen from the windows; ‘View from the range”, ‘The beach & sea’, ‘A forest’, and ‘Pineapples’. He couldn’t resist and off we went with all our pets, two dogs, a cocker and a springer spaniel plus three Sealpoint Siamese cats that went into Quarantine for several months on arrival. Mum was the first to breed Sealpoint Siamese in Australia and issued a proper pedigree for each kitten born. Jane Thompson, at Montville had one of the kittens called Cuzca. She later became my mother-in-law.
We arrived in Palmwoods and were directed up the small road at the top end of the main street to the little fibro house with one tank, an outside dunny, three houses right up close and a small front and back garden. So much for the idyllic views from the windows.
Not long after our arrival the toilet was required but we couldn’t find it inside. The shock of going down what seemed a long narrow cement path with the neighbour’s kids sitting on the fence in touching distance, talking, laughing and jumping around was a shock. We had never experienced such a toilet or manners. The smell was disgusting and sawdust seemed pretty inadequate to cover it. Then to top it off there was the Dunnyman in the night to empty the bin! The neighbours threw nuts on the roof at night. I think my mother cried in horror and disappointment. Dad I expect had an extra beer.
We all had a deep bath each night and cleaned our teeth and hands with running water. Naturally, by the end of the week we had run out of water. The tank was filled and again it ran out fast. Then we ordered another tank full, but this time four VIP Men in a row walked up the street like in a western but without guns here. It was scary for us kids. They told Mum and Dad that this was the last tank we could have because the rest of the town needed the water too when it doesn’t rain. It was very selfish of us. We were taught how to save water.
The wireless from the neighbours played endlessly the ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘The Red Red Robin went bob, bob, bobbing along’ songs, and we ended up singing along with them. Dad grew zinnias and Mum mastered getting the gerberas to flower by putting fire ash on them.
Russell holding Guapo the Siamese and Benbow the cocker spaniel in the front garden.
Mum’s first visit to the Butcher’s shop at 10am.
Mum asked Jess Mason, the Dentist’s wife, about it as it didn’t seem to look like a butcher’s shop. Jess said, “I’ll introduce you to her, but we need to call into the pub first to get a couple of cold bottles of beers to share and some glasses.” Mum introduced herself, and Mrs McKillop, the Butcher, a big strong lady lifted the counter and said, “Come in and have a beer love and sit yourself down, pointing to the big wide tree stump, chopping block.” The three ladies had the beers and got to know Mum.
This house at the top of the steep hill after the Railway bridge at Palmwoods, just before the Dairy on the left, is where ‘Holly’ (Mr Holliage) retired. Holly and his wife had lived for years in India and came to the area and grew…yes, pineapples. He was great friends with the Thompsons and with a loud laugh he told everyone that the bar opens at 5.. It still opens here at 5pm sharp and I think of him. He was great fun and good company. He left all his worldly goods to Bill’s (Bill Thompson – my future husband) Mum. Holly had a good farm worker and he suggested to Mum that my sister go out with him. She refused, not even meeting him. Lucky she didn’t. He turned out to be the infamous Hank, who murdered his wife at Surfers and put pillows over the old girls in the hospital where he worked for a while.
I went to the Nambour school by train and walked down the hill to the station. They were weird trains with verandahs on both ends of the carriages. All new to me, and I loved standing on them with the wind in my hair and the occasional soot in the face, singing to the click of the tracks. I wore my uniform from England for the last three months of term when it was very hot. It was a thick dark navy serge dress and a dark felt hat. I was the laughing stock when I arrived. Boys were intrigued and found I was very naive. I had never heard any swear words in my life and when they said B…. , I asked, “Who is bleedin?”’ Of course that caused more laughter and more swear words were hurled at me. On Friday I bought from the tuck shop a 1/4 of a tiny fresh pineapple frozen on a stick that all the kids liked, I think it cost 4d, and I liked it too. But I often missed out as the boys asked me for money for their lunch, till someone a few weeks later told me they knew I was a sucker and they did have money. I bought 6d worth of chips near the station on Fridays wrapped in newspaper. It was a wonderful experience eating with my fingers on the way home. Our school was moved to a new area and with a new building. We all had to plant a tree both sides of the road. I watered my plant regularly and it did well, but most died.
School lessons I didn’t understand and wasn’t a bright student. ‘Good morning, Miss or Mrs….’ Then ‘OK tables’ and off she went banging five times per line on her table, 1 + 1 is 2 and the kids banged and shouted them out. I had never heard these tables before and it took me awhile to gather what they were doing. So up to 10 + 1 is 11. Then it was the tables I kind of recognised, but I was not good at them. Still banging on the desk. What a racket and this is school! ‘Mental arithmetic’ the teacher yells. Then she wrote down ten numeral under each other on the board. She pointed to the first two numbers and the kids added them, then the next number was added to them and shouted back as her ruler just slid down too fast for me, but the kids kept up with the ruler as they added the next number to the last total. I was still working on the first two numbers and they had finished. Then the last exercise was with another set of numbers, added in silence, and hands up for the answer. All so fast. Then we had to write on the slate. I had never seen one and their writing was all wrong. I did script and they did flowery loops. R’s and other letters were nothing like mine that I had learnt in England.
In Grade 5, 1955, I had a wonderful teacher, Mrs Sweeney, who I thrived under in sums and in many ways. As the school was near the Show Grounds she had the whole class enter the pastel book competition. I was encouraged to enter a map of Australia, and embroidery that I loved doing with crochet edge. There were a set of four compulsory pictures; my pet, the beach, a flower and a pattern. I’d never used pastels or drawn a flower and chose a pansy which I loved doing so added three more of different colours. Patterns, I didn’t know what that meant. So Mrs Sweeney drew up a square divided into 10 squares across and 10 squares down to colour in alternate squares. I spent many hours trying out different ways to colour them. I ended up with triangles as more interesting. and won three 1st prizes. A real confidence booster.
My Grade 6 male teacher, Mr O’Halaran, was the worst teacher I ever had. He put real fear in me and a fear of all teachers that I met in the community for many years. He made me sit at the front desk so he could hit my fingers or the desk. I would jump and look up not knowing why and winked. I had an inherited wink. He must have fancied it. One day I couldn’t spell the word ‘let’. I ended up with a grade 1 kid telling me how to spell ‘ let’. and Mr O’Halaran kept rubbing it in that many times. I was frozen by this time standing in front of the class. I still hesitate before I write it. I never told my parents. Years later I met the post mistress in Glass House Mts, who was a year ahead of me at Nambour State School. She said she was strong and could cope with O’Halaran but many kids went to hospital because of the way he treated them.
We moved to this house under the Railway line and up the hill in 1952
This was Dad’s dream to have a farm of fruit trees and sheep grazing underneath it, but without any knowledge of farming it was not successful.
Mum had a rule. At 5.00pm sharp all kids were sent out to exercise, while she cooked, no matter what the weather. So we invented games starting at the base of the stairs and around the house or races to and from them. Then came the call for dinner (Tea, everyone else called it.)
The tennis court went in later about 20 plus metres from the tank in the picture, then our pineapples. The neighbour’s pineapples was next and they had a koala in their tree near the road and could often be seen when one drove passed. I grew carnations, Mum grew gerberas and Dad later put in two flower beds of zinnias for when the tennis players walked to the court. He also built a shelter for eats, drinks and for sitting out during a game. Everyone brought a plate along. Mum said, “It’s OK I have plenty of plates.” So we had a lot of learning to do. Mum made pikelets for her plate as something quick and easy and popular.
In the photo above, to the left of the tall tree was the old dirt road to Palmwoods down the hill, and the new bitumen one was to the left of that with native vegetation between them. This was our way to the station and for racing ‘Prince’ our Clydesdale against my brother’s pony. Nasty thing, bit and kicked so I learnt to not like horses. But Prince was different and stood by the tank so we could climb on to him bare back then he took us on a set run always and never altered it even if you wanted to. But when Russell’s horse ‘Digger’, was saddled up Prince knew it was racing time down the road. A bit scary as we were bare back on Prince – three or four of us! Dad used Prince to do the ploughing with Dad trying to keep his balance and keep up with Prince on the rough ground as the plough was dragged behind the horse. Prince also pulled a sledge Dad made to carry the pineapples from the patch to the shed.
This was our back yard, with the pine plantation. I spent many hours playing make believe houses with the pine needle lines for the walls and I still have a very imaginative mind. I was given a grown up hard cover book, on Australian wild flowers of Australia when we met a relative in Melbourne but it featured only Victorian flowers, which I didn’t realise. I spent many hours looking for the flowers in that book. There were many like them but not quite the same. Mum ran a competition for the church to raise funds. A prize for the most different kinds of wildflowers they could find in the district. I collected 36 but included weeds as they were wild too! I was the only person that entered and I won a a red plastic tomato sauce bottle for the prize. We weren’t allowed tomato sauce in our house so it was given away. But looking back that started my deep love of wildflowers and eventually becoming a Scientific Botanical Wildflower Artist.
To the right of the pole in the photo was also Dad’s veggie garden. Peanuts were grown to teach us where they came from and the usual veggies – cabbages, lettuce, carrots etc that didn’t do any good.
Between the left of the trees on the right and the clearing in the distance is the railway line to Woombye with Nambour to the right and Palmwoods to the left. Our pump house is down the hill and to the right. Avos grew all over the slope out of view in the photo. One of the sparks from a train started a bush fire one year in the avos and Mum ran down to the Pump house to turn it on and Dad was yelling, “The smoke will kill you! Come back!” But Mum wouldn’t come back till she’d turned on the pump, then she ran back up the hill and collapsed. The neighbour ran down and dragged her by her arm pits to safety. The irrigation helped put out the fire.
My Mum saw and heard so many cattle trucks going past, the cattle crying out in pain and fear as she worked on the avocados. Many had collapsed and were being trodden on and couldn’t get up. I think she rushed down once to the station and with a stick and tried to get one back on its feet and give them water but couldn’t do anything, and the station master did nothing but blow the whistle and off it went. She never ate meat again.
I was told to hold my violin for this photo though I’m not sure what the occasion was for. I was learning to play but was tone deaf and couldn’t coordinate the bow hand and the string fingers. I gave up a few years later. In this photo the original chook yard is to the right and a condemned patch of bananas on the left. The Department of Agriculture saw our other line of bananas on the left. There were two varieties and they condemned them for having bunchy top and beetles and ordered that the banana suckers be destroyed. As soon as they left a chook yard was built around them.
This is what the inspector saw a few years later with a chook run around the bananas. The officer told Mum they were the healthiest bananas he had seen. The chooks loved scratching at the base of the bananas and had cleaned them up. I liked sitting down in the chook yard there and talking and singing to the chooks and geese as they put their head to one side and listened to me. They even liked my terrible singing. Dad got ducks, and a turkey for Xmas dinner but then he couldn’t kill them.
Isabel and John Bellamy dressed up in the front garden
How Bill and I met 1952
Bill Thompson was Tony in the novel, Lantana Lane, by Eleanor Dark in the chapter, ‘Sweet and Low’. My Mum was religious then, and went to the Church of England Church in Palmwoods. In those days on Sunday the priest visited all the Churches in the district to give a sermon. One day he said to Mum, ‘ There is a lady on the range that speaks like you. Both had English voices with Ploms in their mouth. I did too to the mirth of all the school kids till I left. Would she like him to organise a morning tea to meet this other lady? Mum said she would be delighted to come. They met and got on well so my Mum invited Mr and Mrs Thompson and their only child, Bill, to dinner at out place. The adults dined in the dining room and got on well. The men loved sailing, telling jokes and drinking. The children ate in the kitchen. I was 10 and he was 8. Bill did some cooking that night and I remember laughing a lot as he was so funny. When they left my sister said you are going to marry that boy. I thought she was stupid, just because she left a boyfriend, Henry, in England and still wrote to him. She did marry him eventually. Bill and I were like brother and sister as he was part of our tennis team. Our families went to Mooloolaba often to swim.
My Mum was the driving force to put in a tennis court so we could all meet people in the district and have some social interaction. It was named ‘Leonta’, apparently suggested by an elderly relative who pioneered sugarcane in Mackay, Qld. He lived in Sarina when we met him. He told us about the worst cyclone he had experienced up at Mackay in 1903 called ‘Leonta’. Trees left standing were completely stripped of every leaf and his shed roof was eventually found 6 miles away. Why not call your team ‘Leonta’. So it will be the strongest team and clean up the other teams.
Dad was trained in Tropical medicine in England and many of his patients thought he was wonderful curing some long-term problems that were tropical and local doctors didn’t know about them. He was also laughed at as rather eccentric. His dog was always under the table in the surgery, and of course, the dog could do no wrong. Dad was more interested in the snake or the type of shark that had bitten them than the patient himself. He loved nature and had been forced in to being a doctor as a child. My bedroom was near the ‘phone so I had to answer all the night calls. I had to ask what the problem was and go and wake Dad. Or if a patient was in the surgery at dinner time I had to go down and attend to them, tighten bandages, wrap a dressing to stop a bleeding or calm them down and say the doctor will be down in a minute or soon, knowing too well he wouldn’t come till he had finished his dinner!
I remember there was a crazy man and he came one night going around the house shouting and yelling to see the doctor. Our parents were out so it was very scary. I think my sister rang to get Dad to come home.
Dad was called out, maybe by the same person. It was on the south side on a farm. He drove over a two-plank rickety bridge and arrived at the house to find his patient pointing a gun at him. Not trained in this kind of thing, he yells out of the car, “You are a good shot I heard.”
“Yes I am.”
“See that tree over there, show me how you can hit some spot on it.”
He did. So Dad had him shooting various targets till he thought the magazine was empty, he then jumped back into the car and reversed back at full speed across this bridge, turned and went home and rang the police to deal with him. He was very shaken telling us the story.
Dad had friends Dr and Mrs Brown on the western side of the railway bridge. Dr Brown was doctor to the Queen of Tonga and had to attend her not knowing the correct protocols. She lay in a huge circular bed and he had to crawl over the bed to examine her. On the first picnic together we took them to the Obi Obi where they boiled the in a silver teapot and brought a picnic table. Dr Brown and his son were very bright and made an automatic car before they were commercially available.
Mr Bambrick from Woombye taught Dad oil painting and Dad bought his painting of the bakery in Woombye where he bought hot bread every lunch to have with his celery sticks and cheese. I had it for years but left it to a friend who liked paintings.
Dad loved going to the cinema and we went to the Palmwoods cinema with its canvas deckchairs. They were really odd. They are for the beach not for inside. We also went to Eudlo to see a superman serial that was screened at one time I think. He also loved exploring all the back roads and the bush areas in the district. The patients paid Dad in pineapples, watermelons and eggs which we had already, and he hadn’t the heart to force them to use real money. So we went broke.
Mum went to work in Nambour. She bought a car for herself to get to work with money from a family trust in England. It had a dicky seat in which we kids loved to ride. She visited all the doctors in Nambour and sold herself as a top physiotherapist and chiropractor who could also read Xrays. She learnt from Dad, who had rooms with Dr Eklund in Nambour, that the Physio wasn’t up to pace and behind the times, with gentle massages. At the sugar mill the men would stand under the shute to receive a bag of sugar to load onto a train. But it was shocking for their backs. All her patients had been going to the physiotherapist for years. So she told them she would have them in working order in eight weeks. She manipulated their backs and did extensive exercises with them to make their muscles strong. She even taught their partner on the last appointment how they could pop their partner’s back in if it went out again – the sooner the better before inflammation set in. She instructed them to start doing the exercises again to strengthen the area around the weakness. Once a back goes out it has a weakness in a certain direction and tends to go out the same way. They were all thrilled and the doctors were always calling on her to read the X-rays as no one seemed to be able to see dislocations and fine details. She got quite a reputation.
Mum recalled later in life that, “One patient who was so big I had to get on the table to manipulate him. I told him he was weak and in a mess.” The next patient came in and asked me, “Did you know that he was the Australian wood chop Champion?” She later tried to get a lecturer’s position for Physiotherapy at the Qld Uni but clashed with the man in charge saying they were so out of date. She had taught at St Thomas’ Hospital, London for a while. She learnt how to sell a bone so she could sell her instructions to her patients! It was a long trip driving to Brisbane in the open air, four hours, with lots of corners and lots of bush. My parents always allowed an hour extra to the drive to allow for punctures.
The Dentist was Mr Harry Mason who lived in Nambour with his wife Jess and son Rod. I had a persimmon fight with Rod and so I ran into the house knowing he would stop, but he didn’t. He ran after me throwing them at me still and hitting the walls. We both got into trouble.
His surgery was the first building after the Bridge on the corner of the steep hill to the dairy beside the main road. We picked the milk up from the dairy in a billy. We all learnt to swing it without a lid most of the way home.
The Dentist had a small waiting room and square surgery with a big chair in it. I don’t think there was any running water. A cup of water… to sip from and spit. I had shocking teeth having eaten too many sweets and biscuits and didn’t clean my teeth well. He had an old-fashioned drill and gave no injections. He had no feelings for his patients, or maybe it was a way to get the job done while one was out to it. The pain and noise as it ground and ground at my teeth was terrible, and he never stopped when my nerves were on edge. I can still see the pole top and its wire through a small window trying to distract my mind. Many times I passed out and then amalgam was stuffed in. I had to wait for my brother’s turn and then walk home. My brother had lovely teeth and I caught him once feeding in the shed on the horse’s molasses and hay. He loved it. I tried it but couldn’t cope with the hay.
The Dentist’s wife, Jess Mason, became Mum’s good friend. She was a salt of the earth person and taught Mum how to live in Australia. They had lots of laughs together. I remember they came home from Brisbane in Mum’s car and the creek was over. So Mrs Mason told Mum to tuck her dress in her bloomers and get out and push, while she pushed and steered. It seemed so shocking and embarrassing, but Mum did and came home exhilarated.
We went to Mooloolaba three or four times a week after Surgery. Bill and Peter came and their parents when they could. Mooloolaba was lovely then. John Thompson from Montville sailed with Dad many times. Dad had a bad stutter but once sailing he never had it, John said. There were a few houses on the town end of the spit. One of the last was a double storied Blue House, and called that too. The river here wasn’t developed and had a large mud and sand beach flat. A few rowing, motor boats and Dad’s sailing boat, ‘Sabrina’ were moored there. He was the first person to have a permanent mooring there in the Mooloolah River at Mooloolaba. Now there is a huge Marina and no river beaches on the river. He started the sailing craze there. It always looked lovely from the beach watching this small sailing boat go to Old Woman Island and back or fishing off a reef near Pt Cartwright.