By Gordon Plowman, March 2023
When Beatrice Willett married Percival Arnold Dixon in 1913 and moved into their newly built house, “Booran,” she must have been barely able to contain her excitement.
Elevated above the ground in typical Queensland style, the amply proportioned east-facing house set high on a grassy ridge exhibited all the trimmings of a fine country estate. From the front verandah could be seen the extent of Percy Dixon’s cow pastures defined by rows of pineapples on one adjoining farm and an orange orchard on another. On a clear day, glimpses of the distant blue Pacific Ocean sparkled into view.
Our much less grandiose house stood beside the Flaxton forest about half a kilometre to the west so it isn’t surprising that, as a child in the late 1940’s, I got to visit Percy and Beatrice’s fine establishment. I usually went with my parents but sometimes just to play with Dixon’s grandchildren, Barbara and Norman Mayne. Occasionally, accompanied by my father, I would sit outside while Percy wielded hand clippers and scissors to render my unruly hair back to a manageable length.
Partially hidden by a grove of Macadamia trees, the back steps led up to a verandah which overlooked a garden almost completely dominated by the biggest monstera deliciosa plants I have ever seen.
Between Mill Road and Dixon’s house was an essential item of infrastructure for keepers of livestock, a cattle dip. Across Mill Road from there, Percy’s parents Joseph Chapman and Elizabeth Alice Dixon lie at eternal rest. The graves once sat within a peaceful bush clearing on J.C. Dixon’s property but things are much changed since then.
At the intersection of Mill Road and Dixon’s driveway was a roofed platform where cream cans were left for the local carrier, Gordon Mayne, to pick up and drop off.
A pair of wheel tracks led easterly from near Dixon’s house to the dairy and the share-farmer’s cottage. Over the years, many well-known Flaxton identities worked as Dixon’s share farmers including Tommy Rattle. I attended Flaxton School with Ivan and Lorraine Rattle.
Another aspect I remember was a spring bubbling from the ground and feeding a large area of swamp between our place and Dixon’s. Excess water trickled along the watercourse and eventually disappeared into the forest and down a rocky creek and into Skene Creek.
For me as a young child, Dixon’s house held many mysteries. The kitchen had a pantry, the first I had ever seen. Packed with everything from currants to curry powder it reeked of the exotic odours of herbs and spices. Some of the floors were carpeted, but the fascination for me was the gadget Mrs. Dixon’s niece, Beth Willett pushed about, a carpet sweeper. There was no electricity supply and so the sweeper was a mechanical device for cleaning the carpets. I loved the lounge room. A piano with sheet music piled on top and on the floor beside dominated the furnishings. My Aunt Vera was a music teacher and organist at the Lyceum Theatre in Sydney and, on her infrequent visits to our humble home, would sometimes be invited to play Dixon’s piano. On one occasion I remember Flaxton folk gathered around the piano for a good old community sing-along. All the usual songs echoed through the hallway, “Just a Song at Twilight,” and the almost mandatory, “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” I am told they sometimes held dances on the front verandah.
The house looked quite magnificent from the front gate. A pathway led through a cluster of camellias to an impressively wide set of steps to the front verandah. Over the years Mrs. Dixon had nurtured her collection of showy camellias which, when covered in blooms of red and white, created an unforgettable sight. Sometimes, they held a garden-party there.
Dixon’s house, as I remember, was a happy place but in 1948, Beatrice Dixon died aged just 59 years. The pall of sadness prevailed but at a later date, Percy again married and the happiness returned.