A look back in time

Frances Windolf
A long time Coolum resident with a passion for local history

Dating your location points 

A Department of Primary Industries (DPI) map of the Coolum area. Referencing this is just one way old time locals can be heard to state how long they have lived in the area. Photo: Contributed   

Dating your location points 

AS I STARTED to write this article, I had a confused phone call from a friend who stated – “Near the Post Office” he said, trying to describe a building location. I suggested the Post Office which stood in Beach Road until January 1986, or the one in Wright Place on the William Street – David Low Way corner, whereas he was talking of the Birtwill Street office. 

In our rapidly growing area, it is interesting to judge how long people have lived here by descriptions such as this. A ‘Coolum school’ might mean the Provisional School opened in 1917, the Coolum State School which stood at the corner of Warrack Street from 1930 to 1955, today’s Coolum State School on School Road, or Coolum High School in Havana Road. 

One phrase which helps to judge when people became members of the Coolum ‘family’ is the term ‘D.P.I’ … if you are puzzled by this term, this article might help to explain why. 

Seventy years ago, on March 31, 1952, the Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Stock wrote to Mr David Low, the Member for Cooroora, the local member for the Coolum and Nambour areas, to tell him that an area of 1,930 acres [just over 781 hectares] had been “set aside as a reserve for experimental farm purposes, in Portions 610 and 470 in the Parish of Maroochy … situated close to Coolum Beach”. The letter explained that “departmental officers (had) recently been devoting some considerable time to an examination of the potential uses to which the many thousands of acres of ‘Wallum’ soils extending along the Queensland coast might be put”. 

The “Reserve for Experimental Farm Purposes” formed a reverse “L” shaped area, stretching up the coast from today’s Stumers Creek bridge to today’s Emu Mountain Road and – on the southern side – out towards Yandina Creek. It was managed for many years by Coolum resident, Cliff Wright, the Department of Primary Industries (D.P.I.) station had instituted great advances in the treatment of coastal Queensland soils. However, by the mid-1970s, it had completed most of its research work, coincidentally at a time when the population of Coolum had grown to such an extent that other services were becoming needed. In 1975 a request was made for a police station, and in 1977 a High School was requested. Both were built on D.P.I. land – the Police Station in 1983 (later to be moved to central Coolum and later to South Coolum Road), and the High School in 1985.  

The term “out at the D.P.I.” is still heard in Coolum – mainly by older residents. If you hear it used, maybe you can locate this great area! 


Electoral roll gold

Florrie Windolf – like many housewives, also worked on the family farm. Florrie was registered on the Cooroora Electoral Roll from 1953-1969 as a housewife. The old rolls give a fascinating insight into the lives of the people who lived in our region. Photos: Windolf collection

AS WE approach the coming Federal election, I have been lucky enough to come across a paper listing all the citizens from the Coolum area who were eligible to vote on the Cooroora Electoral Roll in 1953 – 69 years ago! Instead of being just a boring list of names, this is “Gold” in that it tells us so much about our town, and the people in it at that time.

At that time adulthood and voting age was 21 years of age – and this encompassed a total of 107 citizens in the area roughly between Sunshine Beach and the Maroochy River. It was a male-dominated population with only 46 women. All these women were either housewives, that is, married women, or engaged in domestic duties, which meant that they worked only at home and were unmarried. No woman was registered as being employed outside of the home, although it is certain that many of them worked hard on family farms.

The 61 men shared a wide range of employment. Farmers accounted for 28 of the men – most of them were just registered as farmer, but there was also a cane farmer, a banana farmer, a fruit grower, a canecutter and a dairyman. These included well-known names as Cecil Apps, Merv Doyle, Tom and Bill Hart, Birt Hewitt, George Lambert, both Jack Morgans (father and son), Martin Oosthuizen, Don and Leicester Peterie, Vic Sakrzewski, Jack and David Smith, Verner Yabsley and my father-in-law Alex Windolf.

Eleven of the men registered ‘none’ in the employment listings and these men were presumably retired and possibly on a pension, although the wives of those who were married were still described as a housewife.  Amongst these names was Tyrell Labatt, who was well-known as an artist. There were also ten men who listed their occupation as labourer and these included Vic Barrett, Fred Carter, Arthur Mulley, Herbert and Albert Wintzloff and George Wruck.

The other 14 men had a wide range of occupations, and these give a good picture of the services needed to keep a small town running. Arthur Anderson was a truck driver, Thomas Dutton was a fitter, George Armstrong and Otto Wruck were carpenters and John Bauer was a traveller – presumably a commercial traveller. Cyril Shooter and Les Stark were bus drivers – running the service to and from Nambour and two very important people in the town were Alfred Dahl the schoolmaster and Bill Wallace, the postmaster. Unusually, there was also a soldier by the name of Arthur Bassham, but unfortunately, we do not know how or why he made part of the local population.

All of these people helped shape our town – I can’t help but wonder what ‘gold’ today’s electoral records might reveal.

Photo: Windolf collection

WW2 memories – from our own turf

Frank Cove in 1942. Photo: Windolf collection

ANZAC Day is made for memories and reminiscing – usually thinking of war stories from far away. However, our part of the Sunshine Coast – above the ‘Brisbane Line’, played an important part in keeping Australia safe, and there are many stories that are worthwhile remembering.

Early in November 1939, the Coolum Progress Association had complained that “… the Military Camp had picketed their horses to the tree guards …and trenches had been dug on the frontage and not filled in.” Most likely the Military Camp was from the part-time militia unit in Yandina, which had had to build a new drill hall in 1939 to cope with a steadily increasing stream of volunteers. By December 1939 the CWA ladies had formed a committee for the Australian Comforts Fund, making cakes, socks, balaclavas, jumpers and gloves for soldiers in Europe and were also making nets some seven metres square, woven from greasy twine. Mrs Coulsen of Yandina, whose husband and son ran the boat to Coolum Wharf, made 31 of these in one year! The Volunteer Defence Corps, whose members recorded passing ships, and patrolled Coolum swamps – keeping the area safe from invasion – worked throughout the war from the Grant family’s holiday home overlooking Point Perry.

Coolum provided 28 local people [including seven women] to the armed services during World War 2. However, thousands more troops – temporarily based in the Yandina district – practised their skills in the area between the railway line and the ocean, climbing the hills and cliffs, running on the beach and landing from flat-bottomed boats, while adapting to tropical conditions. A thousand men of the 2/14th Battalion trained in the Mount Ninderry area before heading for the vicissitudes of the Kokoda Track, and the 2/7th Independent Company of commandoes [who became the first Australian troops to fly to war when they flew north from Townsville to Port Moresby in October 1942] also trained in this area.

As a child in Victoria, I loved my father’s war stories – although he would only tell us of happy times shared with his unit. One favourite story involved he and his mate being sent uphill because their drinking water had stopped flowing, only to find that a cow had died in the creek, damming it, so that all their water was flavoured by dead cow … we would often beg him to tell it. My Dad died seven years before I moved to Coolum, and some years afterwards his mate Jack recounted the story to me. You can imagine my surprise when, the next week, Dulcie Fink of Maroochy River told me the story of ‘Frank and Jack’, not knowing she was talking of my Dad!


Our ‘godfather’ of swimming and surfing

Coolum lifeguard Jack Morgan and his family 1919. Photo: Windolf collection

THERE must be thousands of people who have, over the years, connected the words ‘Easter’ and ‘Coolum’ when considering a beach holiday, and this year will be no exception. Most of these people though would be surprised to hear that the surf beach at Coolum was often not the first choice for a swim in the early days of settlement in the area, with many choosing to swim at Coolum Creek, in the area now known as West Coolum rather than risking the waves at Coolum Beach. Bodysurfing at Coolum was first reported in the Nambour Chronicle from October 1915.

Few people today know of Frank Venning, who lived at Maroochy River at that time. However, he could truly be called the ‘godfather’ of swimming and surfing in our region. Frank Osmond Venning was born in London in 1876 and won numerous swimming and diving competitions there. He married in 1899 and travelled to Western Australia for business reasons, but “went broke” and returned to England. In 1908, encouraged at the London Olympic Games by Sir Frank Beaurepaire, he returned to Australia with his family and became manager of the Fortitude Valley baths and secretary of the Queensland Royal Life Saving Society. In 1912, after three young men drowned at Southport, he began training teams in the use of a reel, line and belt for saving lives.

In 1915 Frank Venning moved his family to Maroochy River, where he became notable for his forward-thinking which improved life in the district. One day, when he was travelling in Mr Coulson’s boat to Maroochydore, he met two young boys at the Coolum Creek wharf, and asked why they weren’t at school … when they told him that there was no school in the area, he organised a meeting which led to Coolum’s first educational institution. In March 1917 he organised “a large concourse of people” – who arrived in motorboats from up and down the river – to the first swimming event in Coolum. It was recorded that the Coolum team lost to Bli Bli “by a foot” [30 centimetres]! Frank’s daughter Elsie Venning went on to become a top Queensland swimmer.

In 1918 Frank Venning approached Jack Morgan [senior] to “do something about Life Saving” at Coolum Beach. Jack, who had trained in Sydney surf, was appointed as Lifeguard by the Maroochy Shire Council for eight shillings a day, working from 6am to 6pm.

In 1930 Frank Venning helped found the Queensland Royal Surf Life Saving Association, became a life member, and was awarded an M.B.E. He lived until he was 92, still working for life-Saving. Remember him when you go to the beach this Easter.


History and a pint of petrol

John Windolf in front of Murphy’s Garage in 1959. Photo: Windolf collection

RECORDING personal and local histories are often a thing we plan to do “someday”, but often that day never comes. Here in Coolum, we have been lucky in that many of our elders have shared their knowledge of our history with words, newspaper clippings and photographs … but collecting much of our early history was facilitated through a local garage and service station.

In 1954 Theo Chapman had started a small garage enterprise at the southern corner of Beach Road and the Esplanade, but four years later, in 1958, John Murphy opened a more comprehensive garage on the site of today’s BP garage – coincidentally, on the site of the original Perry-Keene home and guesthouse. “Murphy’s Garage” became a repair centre for local Coolum farmers, and visitors to the town for some 25 years – servicing cars, utilities and farm vehicles and providing fitting and turning services and heavy welding.

John Murphy married Caryll Windolf, and when Caryll’s brother John [who later became my husband] returned from stints in the Australian Navy and at Mawson Station in Antarctica, followed by travels in South America and Britain, he helped in the business, which had grown rapidly since his departure. Between 1961 and 1981, the population of the Coolum area had grown from 190 to 2954, an increase of almost 1500 per cent, so there were many notable changes in the area. The impact on Coolum’s earlier population must have been startling, and John Windolf found that the local farmers he had known as a schoolboy were now senior citizens, somewhat bemused at the changes in their home area.

One familiar refuge for these aging men was “Murphy’s Garage”, where they would come to buy, ‘a pint of petrol, please’ for their lawnmower, then sit and chat with their friends about earlier times. John Windolf realised that their tales of early Coolum would disappear, as they frequently commented that “my kids aren’t interested in anything old”. Consequently, he began to write down their stories, with permission, and they responded by bringing him photographs, newspaper clippings, scraps of faded paper, and many, many memories – a cornucopia of Coolum and district history. These were carefully stored in a series of second-hand apple boxes – a real collection of treasures!

I came to Coolum as the first Teacher-Librarian at Coolum High School, in 1985, read a paper discussing the 1862 wrecking of the ’Kirkdale’, and asked where I could get a copy for the school. Four months later I married John Windolf, and after I retired, I wrote “An Island Surrounded by Land” in 2004.  John’s collection started with “a pint of petrol please” and became the basis of a wealth of our local history.


Relics in the hinterland

The Maroochy Lift Bridge in January 2020. Photo: Frances Windolf

Most Coolum and North Shore residents live within five km of the coast, and it is fair to say that many residents are not familiar with the hinterland of our area. The hinterland region has many historical sites such as the Tramway Lift Bridge at Store Road Maroochy River, which is just off the Coolum Yandina road. There were two Lift Bridges in the [Nambour] Moreton Mill network initially, at Store Road and Petrie Creek, but the Petrie Creek Bridge closed many years ago.

Most cane trams to and from Moreton Mill in Nambour ran on temporary tracks, but the Store Road Lift Bridge, which was completed in August 1921, was necessarily much more permanent. A permanent low-level cane tram line would have blocked river traffic along the Maroochy River between Nambour and/or Coolum Creek and Maroochydore, so a bridge with a movable span between two towers was built. The span, lifted by a system of cable, pulleys and counterweights, could be raised vertically to a height of nearly eight metres within the framework – operated by a man winding a hand-operated winch, and this allowed boats to travel up and down the river, it could then be lowered so that a cane-tram or a tram-load of passengers, could safely travel across.

Until 1927, the road to Coolum was of such poor quality – being basically just formed by tea-tree trunks laid side by side across a ground-level track to form a ‘corduroy road’ – the cane trams which crossed the Lift Bridge became a necessity for transport to and from Coolum. Initially, the route was so popular that more than 1000 people were estimated to have travelled by tram between Nambour and Coolum in December 1922/January 1923, but as time went on, and road travel became easier, fewer and fewer people travelled on the cane trams and that passenger service ceased in 1935. However, the Store Road Lift Bridge remained in use for cane transport into this century, until the Moreton Mill closed in December 2003.

Since that time, the Lift Bridge has been used in a range of ways such as being loved by fishermen and as a base for diving into the Maroochy River. It has been photographed by people in boats, painted by artists onshore, and it has been a destination for tourist boats from Maroochydore. It has been loved by many, including Coolum resident Andrew Palser, who valiantly fought to restore the bridge until his death in 2021. The lift section was removed to a council storage in 2020 and now rests in Caboolture.

Sadly, the recent floods in the area may have marked the end for the Lift Bridge, with even more parts being washed downriver. Is this the end for this part of our history? I hope not!


Water, water everywhere!

The huge 1992 flood affected many across the Sunshine Coast region, including houses near Stumers Creek in Coolum. Photo: Windolf collection  

Recent persistent rainfall and floods sparked many comments, particularly from those who are relatively new to ”An Island surrounded by Land”, the book of Coolum history which I wrote nearly twenty years ago, about this lovely township surrounded by multiple water bodies such as the Pacific Ocean, Coolum Creek and the Maroochy River, and by miles of boggy swamps. There are many stories of wet years when it was almost impossible to get to Coolum other than by river launch, or from Yandina on horseback or the “corduroy road” of felled tea trees.

The 1950s were a very wet period, with the only road to Coolum being so bad that Brisbane newspapers reported that motorists had to be pulled out of the bogs and no warning notices were posted to save them from being trapped in a danger area covered with water, and not barricaded. The late 1980s and early 1990s were also notable for wet weather and flooded streets, but 1992 was a truly memorable year. Back then – thirty years to the day before our most recent wet-weather episode, many residents of central Coolum woke to find that their homes had been silently inundated during the night – in some cases by water so deep that it was lapping at their mattresses!

You can imagine their surprise, panic, and horror – and the fear that ensued for months and years afterwards. We had just flown overseas, and our house sitters were woken at 2am by someone banging on the front door and then stepped into 30 centimetres of cold, flowing water. Every carpet, cupboard, wardrobe had to be replaced, wallpaper peeled off walls, chipboard swelled to huge proportions – everything was a disaster – but repairable.

Naturally, Coolum residents wanted answers! Initially, heavy rain on the Blackall Ranges had flooded down the Maroochy River to the coastal plain, where it was met by a ‘King Tide’. However, rain fell here on the coastal plain as well – the “Jamaica” sugar plantation on the northwest corner of today’s Peregian Springs received a metre of rain in one day! That water followed its usual course – southwards, along a route west of today’s industrial estate, towards Coolum Creek – but was thwarted because no more water could fit into Coolum Creek or into the Maroochy River. The only way to go was eastwards into Coolum, inundating dozens of homes.

Why do I still live in that house? Well, the Commonwealth Government paid several million dollars for a protective bund wall between Stumers Creek drain and the National Park, and the Sunshine Motorway formed another protective barrier. Previous Councils have improved drains and roads. With 677mm of rain this month, I had only 25 centimetres of groundwater – I feel safe!


Hooray for heritage heroes!

The Coolum Caprice in 1982 – a high rise of this height would not be allowed to be built now. Photo: John Windolf

I wonder if other areas have had to fight as much to keep the heritage of pristine environment as the Coolum and North Shore. We all know of the superb efforts, which succeeded recently, but our heroes have been fighting for more than 65 years.

In February 1956 the Coolum Progress Association was intensely concerned about a plan for our frontal dunes to be leased to sand-mining conglomerates. They organised a local petition and sent an urgent telegram to the Minister for Mines, supported by the ‘Save the Trees Campaign’ – Queensland’s first environmental action group. Our beaches were threatened for another ten years but were saved by a ban on sand-mining in July 1966.

Between 1961 and 1971 the resident population of the Coolum area grew from 190 to 463, and hundreds of people from outside the area bought land and started planning their houses – although resident population growth was limited by poor facilities. With roads, better communications and the supply of town water, the population of Coolum, Point Arkwright and Yaroomba almost trebled between 1971 and 1976. Between 1961 and 1981 the population grew from 190 to 2954. During the 1970s, all along the Sunshine Coast, people were concerned that beaches would be striped by ugly shadows from high-rise buildings and although initially, Coolum seemed isolated from that scourge, local people shared the fear that beach erosion, shadows and wind tunnels between tall buildings would ruin our ambience and heritage.

In March 1980 the Coolum Beach Progress & Ratepayers Association welcomed experts from Mooloolaba and later wrote to the State Ombudsman. Of the 65 applications for high rise buildings between Maroochydore and Coolum, sent to Maroochy Shire Council in 1980, only 23 were erected, and two of these began construction in 1982. Coolum Caprice went ahead, but the Clubb Coolum site remained a deep hole until 1990. Another resort – the ‘$25 million Cascade Gardens tourist resort’, (planned for the hill below the water towers) was passed for development in 1982 – split the community in two, with the Coolum Concerned Citizens Association voicing opposition, and Coolum and Yaroomba Ratepayers and Progress Associations receiving support from, “26 of the 30 shops along the waterfront”. Fortunately, a 1982 by-law then limited “permissible height of new buildings to six storeys”, and the proposal failed.

However, in January 1986, when the Maroochy Corporation proposed a ‘chairlift and tourist development’ on Mount Coolum, some 450 people filled the Coolum Civic Centre to protest, and the Save Mount Coolum Committee began a five-year battle which ended in the formation of Mt Coolum National Park.

Our recent ‘heritage heroes’, who have fought so hard against the Sekisui proposal, deserve huge congratulations – they continue a wonderful tradition!


Schools have changed!

Coolum State School pupils in 1950. Photo: Windolf collection

Today’s school students are experiencing changes unprecedented in their lifetime … and many of us wonder whether schools will ever be the same again. While thinking of the scale of change, my thoughts fly to “Little Johnny” and the changes he experienced as a pupil of Coolum State School in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Little Johnny” was nearly four-and-a-half when the school principal, Mr. Langusch, asked if he could start school in 1947, because the school, which was suffering from a lack of numbers caused by a post-war exodus from the Coolum area, would have to close for lack of pupils otherwise. His sister was seven years older and could accompany him each day for the first year. At that time the school was situated on the corner of South Coolum Road and Warrack Street, 4.5 kilometres from their home – a very long way for a four-year-old to walk twice a day! Mosquitoes were a constant nuisance on the lengthy journey around the western edge of Mount Coolum, and like children from other areas of the district, “Little Johnny” would carry an old jam tin with a wire handle, which contained burning dry cow manure to chase the mosquitoes away. Once at school, all the “smoky billies” would be centrally placed, to repel mosquitoes from the classroom. This continued after Mr Langusch was followed by Mr Dahl in October 1947, because it was the only way to protect the teacher and students from airborne pests!

There was little choice of where to sit, because all the desks were built to fit five children sitting in a row, and there were many arguments when the smaller ones wanted to sit closer to the blackboard than their older counterparts. Most schoolwork was carried out on “slates”, because paper, pencils and chalk were hard to come by, and students from that time still happily reminisce about searching for sea-urchin quills at Third Bay, because these made superb “slate pencils”. The school “Library” was an old wooden pineapple case nailed on the classroom wall!

Boys and girls went to school in bare feet, even in winter, and some of “Little Johnny’s” fellow pupils found that it was easier to walk to school rather than push a bike through mud and water in the wet season. At recess times, many of the students would ‘escape’ from the school, to hunt frogs and tadpoles … or even to catch snakes!

I married “Little Johnny” and heard these stories from him and his friends many times. He and some of his friends are no longer with us, but I can’t help wondering what tales today’s school kids will have to tell their children.


Yaroomba Street Names Revealed

Geeribaugh [Willie McKenzie] in 1962 who was instrumental in the naming of streets within the Yaroomba region. Photo: Caboolture Historical Society

Last week I received a great gift – a copy of Stan Tutt’s book “Caboolture Country”, published in 1973, which a local resident had found in his private collection.  This was important as, for the first time ever, I could put a face to the great man who named Yaroomba’s streets, just over sixty years ago.

Geeribauch [known as Willie McKenzie], who came from Kilcoy Station, provided great assistance to Dr. Fred Whitehouse, an academic at the University of Queensland, by repeatedly pronouncing each indigenous word until Dr. Whitehouse could write its closest sound value for posterity, as well as assisting Dr. L.P. Winterbotham, another University of Queensland academic.  Dr. Whitehouse owned one of the first homes in Yaroomba, and brought Mr. McKenzie to at least one meeting of the Yaroomba Progress Association, held in the Brisbane suburb of St. Lucia, in 1961, where [according to the Nambour Chronicle] “a choice of between 20 and 30 words was made and studied by the members of the local progress association and … the street names were then altered to names from the local Yinneburra tribe”.

However, the local tribe for this district were/are the Gubbi Gubbi people, and Geeribauch was a Dungidau man from Kilcoy – a Jinibara [Yinneburra] man and the two groups spoke different languages. This led to confusion in the naming of some of our most prominent Yaroomba streets, because Dr. Whitehouse assumed that the names that Geeribauch had suggested were Gubbi Gubbi names. In the minutes of the May 1961 meeting of the Yaroomba Progress Association, [Yaroomba meaning “Surf beach”],  these names were listed as … Yinneburra – “The tribe that lived here” … Goongilla – “Fresh water” … Yerranya – “Look at the flowers” … Warragah – “Surf” … Neurum – “Sunshine” … Waraan [now spelt Warren] – “Parrots” [This was followed by the explanation “… plenty along this road”] … Boward – “Low bush” … Wunnunga – “Good look-out” …  and  Birrahl – “Pleasant spot to rest in”.  These minutes state that “All [of the names] are from the language of the local Yinneburra tribe of aboriginals.”

A street named Woolgin Esplanade [meaning “Ocean”] was planned at this time, but appears not to have been built, as well as streets proposed as “Gooyoom” – a camp, “Murra Murra” – someone else’s camp, “Baal” – salt water, “Moondoothin” – a sand dune, “Diyalli” – tailor fish, “Whawoong” – eugarie, “Yoorlo” – porpoise, “Dallagoor” – whale, “Yuangin” – dugong, “Meerbeer” – turtle, “Yerra” – flowers, “Yina” – a stream flowing into the sea, “Goooorbeen” – the north wind, “Nyoorin” – sun or sunlight, “Nyandair” – a swamp … and “Bingo” – a razor shell, all suggested by Dr. Whitehouse in 1960, from words shared from Geeribauch.

It would be great if local houses and/or units could share these names!


Christmas at Coolum

Our Australian population census is taken in winter, so we have no way of accurately recording how many people have enjoyed a Christmas at Coolum, but it must be a very large number by now. From 1888, Maroochydore was a favoured Christmas camping spot with many people from Brisbane – travelling by train to Nambour and by boat down the Maroochy River – returning annually to a Salvation Army site at Cotton Tree, but it was more difficult to get to Coolum.

We know that in 1915 a group of 40 or 50 people made a day trip from North Arm and Yandina to Coolum, where “a very pleasant day was spent in surfing etc.” and that during World War 1 a few houses were built along the Esplanade, including three cottages rented out cheaply to poor people by another Salvationist, from Gympie. However, it was not until Christmas 1918 that, “the beach … was thrown open to holiday campers” and Maroochy Shire Council appointed Jack Morgan senior as Coolum’s first lifeguard where he was paid eight shillings a day, from which he donated the first Life-Saving Reel in 1919, and the Coolum Life Saving Club was formed. In the 1930s the Coolum CWA Branch not only built a “Holiday Hut” to provide country people with seaside holidays but also erected a tent on the beach to shelter mothers and children from the sun and sold ‘billies’ of hot water to raise funds.

Since then the beach at Coolum has seen an absolute cornucopia of beach activities, at all times of the year, but particularly at Christmas. Beautiful girls in “beach pyjamas” posed outside the Life Savers Club in the 1920s, and “Belle of the Beach” competitions continued until the 1950s. Children took part in Christmas “Sand Garden” competitions in the 1940s and 1950s. Fashions changed … “neck to knees” costumes eventually became bikinis!

Horse races along the beach in the 1920s caused much excitement, where “the best place to watch them from was the surf, where the water was delightfully cool [while some people] had the pull over everybody else with tents to retire to from the sun.” Motorcyclists competed to be the fastest to ride from Coolum to Noosa Heads along the beach. Thrill-seekers now parachute to land on the sand.

Fishermen still wait until the afternoon to catch fish and dogs enjoy walking on sand and playing in the surf in limited areas, but we no longer see other animals on the beach … imagine sharing camel rides like those offered in the 1930s! Instead, we share the beach with hundreds of other humans, joyfully, as we celebrate Christmas – I hope your Christmas is full of joy, too!


Blasts from the past

Green Hills” guesthouse was owned by the Perry-Keene family until it burned to the ground in 1929. Photo: Windolf Collection

When seeking inspiration for this column, I found two adjoining articles from the Nambour Chronicle of February 7, 1919. I found it interesting to compare these two items to today’s ‘pandemic situation’ …

The first reads “… I feel sure that the Brisbane public have no idea that there is such an “earthly Paradise” within four or five hours journey of the Metropolis. We left Brisbane on the 8.10 train and arrived at Yandina at 11.30, took a vehicle to carry our luggage down to the motorboat wharf … [where we boarded] a comfortable launch, [then] started down the Maroochy River. Along both sides are pretty cane farms and cultivation areas – sugar, maize, oranges, bananas etc., with cosy homesteads, most of which are surrounded by flowers and ornamental shrubs. … The river wound in and out through many-coloured foliage and virgin tropical scrub, and in each reach new views of Mount Ninderry and other prominences were seen and admired … Mt. Coolum also seemed to show itself from many angles, as we got nearer to Coolum Creek where our launch left the main stream and proceeded to the landing place. The journey by water took one hour, and upon landing, we were met by Mr Perry-Keene who packed our bags into his buggy … [for the 4-kilometre drive] … to the Homestead. Words can hardly describe the beauty of the scenery, and when we arrived at the top of the last hill and saw the beautiful Green Hills – the snow-white sand of the beach, and the intense view of the mighty Pacific Ocean, we called upon our driver to stop in order that we might take it all in.”

The second item is headed “PUBLIC NOTICE … Pneumonic Influenza” [This was a term used for the widespread, and deadly “Spanish Flu”] … It reads “(1) The New South Wales Government Health Authorities recommend for protection against the germ, the use of solid inhalant from the formula of which Wawn’s Wonder-Balm is made, apply this up each nostril 3 or 4 times a day (price 2/- a tube) [equivalent to $5.00 today]. The balm is packed in collapsible tubes considerably lessening any danger of infection by contamination.” … The second section reads (2) New Zealand’s doctors recommended, and the Hospitals used Wawn’s Wonder-Wool during the recent Pneumonic Influenza epidemic there. It was pronounced invaluable, more particularly in preventing the influenza stage from developing into the pneumonic one. Be prepared! See today that a packet is in the house (price 2/6) [$6.00 today]. Ready on the instant, Wawn’s Wonder-Balm and Wawn’s Wonder-Wool are obtainable from all Chemists in the Commonwealth.

 How different to things today … and how similar!


Trapped by history

A Coolum Creek yacht photographed in 1901 – yachts such as this is how many would have reached Coolum in the early 1900s. Photo: Windolf Collection

I have always been extremely careful when researching stories of Coolum history, but occasionally there is a ‘trap’ that leads to a mistake … and this week I came across one of these, in a newspaper article from 1903 … The story below concerns a journey made on horseback, buggy and boat from Buderim to “Coolam [sic] Mountain” on the King’s Birthday holiday in 1903, starting “at the early hour of 4 o’clock, when the moon was shining brightly” – and my mistake was that I had thought that this took place in May or June – as our monarch’s official celebrations have largely been since 1788 – but King Edward VII’s birthdays were celebrated in Australia close to his birthdate of November 9th. Here is the story, from the Nambour Chronicle of November 13, 1903, from the time that two boats [most likely quite large yachts] with twenty-six people on board, left Mr Guy’s home on Eudlo Creek …

“The morning was all that could be desired, the air being very bracing. Willing hands bent to the oars, and, though travelling against the tide, the foot of the mountain was reached at 8 am. The male party enjoyed a bath while the ladies prepared breakfast, which was heartily partaken of by all. Our leader then started for the top of the mountain, all following except three, who stayed with the provisions.

After walking about a mile and a half [2.4 km] through scrub and grassy country the real ascent began, and it was indeed labour for pleasure, three rests having to be taken ere the top was reached. It was a sight to see those picknickers assembled on the top, puffing and perspiring, with faces like the sun itself, which by this time had become very warm: but the panorama stretching away before us was indeed magnificent and well repaid our labours … Needless to say, we all enjoyed the beautiful breeze on the top, and also the views as seen through Mr. J. K. Burnett’s powerful glass.

… After satisfying ourselves with these glorious sights we prepared for the descent [which] proved very much easier than the ascent. The camp was soon reached [and] it did not take much to persuade us to dinner … At 2.30pm a start was made for home … with a good breeze blowing and some of the party providing singing. The oyster dredges were passed on the way down, and Mr Durbridge kindly gave us some of the bivalves, which were much appreciated with bread and butter on landing. The horses were duly caught and Buderum [sic] was reached at 6pm, a very enjoyable day having been spent.

What a day!


Shifting sands

3rd November 2021

Shifting sands have turned this little bay, which sits across the road from the Clubb Coolum into a delight – many years ago these little bays were not accessible due to the amount of water present. Photo: Peter Madden

As one of a multitude who are keen to protect our wonderful shoreline, I was recently surprised to hear someone suggesting that climate change was causing our beautiful sands to disappear forever. As a Coolum resident since 1985 I have seen many shifts in these sands, and historical records and memories from longer-term residents have shown me that there have been other geographical shifts over the last century.

The widely promoted advertisement for the initial Mt Coolum Beach land sale on Boxing Day 1922 promised many attractions, including a “Beach Race Course – hard and level sand – where later on all the motor speedsters will score in a straight 5 to 10 mile [8 to 16 kilometres] run at 80 to 100 m.p.h. [130 to 160 kilometres per hour]”. On 10 January 1923, the Nambour Chronicle recorded that “An item of considerable interest to those who love high speed in the motor world, was a run made by the Rev de Parelle on his 7-9 Indian motor bicycle from Green Hills to Noosa Point.” The Reverend was not the only speedster on this stretch, and I have heard anecdotes of others regularly making similar excursions, including one local man who was a championship rider – of course, at this time the drain that is now Stumers Creek was nowhere near as wide.

During the late 1940s to the early 1950s, the local girls’ netball team often traveled along the wide beach to games at Noosa on the back of a tractor, saving some 30+ kilometres each way … there were no health and safety regulations in those days! Closer to home, school picnics were held just south of the Lifesaver’s building, but the next small bay [opposite today’s Clubb Coolum] was out of bounds because the water was so deep that there was no sand in that area. Today that bay is a delightful sandy cove where families gather to play and relax together.

In the post-war era, when supplies of pens and pencils were short, Coolum students would walk to Third Bay to collect sea urchin quills, which replaced the ‘slate pencils’ used for their lessons. By the mid-80s, there were fewer sea urchins, but huge drifts of pumice stone, which had floated westward following volcanic eruptions in Tahiti.

When I first walked my dog on the beach near “Stumers” in the mid-80s the sand was so low that people could walk through ‘avenues’ of coffee-rock. I’m above average height, but the ‘avenues’ were taller than me. However, for the last thirty, and more years, there has been so much sand that we walk over the top of those rocks now.

No matter how our sands shift, we still love our superb beaches!


The Carnival continues

20th October 2021

The Coolum State School Carnival is happening this weekend and has always been a big fundraiser for the school. Photo: Coolum State School

Surely there can be few people in this world who can remember that their lives were enriched by a “Big Gorilla rip-off”! However, there are a number of people who fondly remember it, the “Pirate Pete fete”, and other such thrilling events at Coolum State School in the 1970s.

In 1971 (fifty years ago) Coolum State School had three teachers and 84 students. However, the rapid growth of the coastal strip from Peregian to Marcoola in the following six years meant that by 1977 there were 10 teachers and 202 students at the school. Schools are always provided with basic necessities, but in those days local people were expected to provide ‘extras’ which we would consider basic now. The Mother’s Club, which was established in 1970, originally provided Tuck Shop food once a month, then fortnightly and weekly – and eventually twice a week.

School fetes were small in the early days and fundraising for improvements not provided by the Education Department was difficult in an area that was far from affluent. Many different activities were tried, with varying success. One year a turkey was donated, but by the morning of the fete very few tickets had been purchased. To increase sales, Les Morgan drove around town with some ticket-sellers holding the turkey in a crab pot in the back of his ute. It was reported that the winner was horrified at winning a live bird but, it was said, “It was the only way we could keep things fresh in those days”!

On the fete day everybody pitched in to help, Jim Barns used to bring his tractor for rides, and Cliff Wright, the chairman of the P&C, used to bring his horse … one year, the horse disappeared when its owner went for a cool drink – a frantic car chase found one of the boys riding it, way up the road! 

Fundraising by the Coolum State School P&C raised $685.00 in 1971, but by 1976 the P&C income had increased to $7,123.00. In 1975, the “Big Gorilla Rip-off” fete was a huge success – so much so that the funds, with the aid of a government subsidy, were enough to build a Tuck Shop for the school – a modern, attractive area under the main brick building which cost $2,400,00. In 1976 the “Pirate Pete Fete” raised enough money to build an Adventure Playground, constructed mainly from local timbers, at a total cost of $2,500.00.

These, and subsequent fundraisers, built Coolum State School’s complex to what we see today. The brilliant annual “Coolum Carnivals” which so many people enjoy, and which help school finances so much, continue … why not join the fun this week?


Creek-ing confusion

6th October 2021

Fred Stumer (right) with Surveyor Robert Abbott in 1913 who in honour of his hard-working ‘chainman’ named Stumers Creek after the young Fred Stumer.

I have recently been asked to clear up confusion between Stumers Creek and Coolum Creek. This problem arises, I believe, because Stumers Creek enters the ocean at Coolum Beach … but Coolum Creek is quite some distance inland! Many residents and visitors have never seen Coolum Creek, despite it once being the main entry to this area.

Coolum Creek can be reached by two ways. One involves travelling from Bli Bli or Dunethin Rock by boat, then branching northwards at the entrance into the Coolum Creek Conservation Area. By road, you follow the southern side of Mount Coolum along Suncoast Beach Drive, Mountain View Drive, and West Coolum Road, over the motorway and left along a dirt road to Coolum Creek, where there is a boat launching area beloved by fishermen.

As early as some 140 years ago, when it took hours to travel from Yandina to Coolum, Coolum Creek wharf was the major entrance and exit to and from Coolum. Timber from the Coolum hills was rafted to the port of Maroochydore and, later to the railway at Yandina. Later, fruit and vegetables were carried to markets in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, mail, machine parts, food, parcels, furniture, and many other items were delivered to the Coolum Creek wharf by the boats “Kate” and “Ariel” run by the Coulson family between Yandina and Maroochydore. Coolum could not have developed without Coolum Creek as its major link with the outside world.

Stumers Creek is crossed by a bridge at the northern entrance to Coolum.  Wilhelm Carl Stumer [known as Carl] took up 16 hectares comprising today’s First, Second and Third Avenues in February 1906, and the land was worked by his eldest daughter Rebecca Berry and her husband, Edwin Berry for a year. In 1907 Carl moved to Coolum with 17-year-old Fred and Fred’s brother August, and during the next eight years cut the property up into allotments, which were mainly taken up by people around North Arm, where the Stumer family had previously lived. In his early twenties, ‘Young Fred’ secured a job with Surveyor Robert Abbott, as a ‘chainman’, measuring and mapping the land on which today’s Coolum was to be built. Surveyor Abbott was so impressed by his keen employee that he named the creek ‘Stumers Creek’ after him.

Originally, Stumers Creek drained waters from the south side of Mount Emu, and a small creek still runs there. However, today’s ‘Stumers Creek’, which runs around central Coolum and now separates the National Park from the residential area, was dug by local farmers in much later times for drainage. Most of us know it, however for the beautiful entrance to the ocean, which we all love!

Coolum Creek wharf was still important in the 1950s and was a crucial link to the outside world during the years that Coolum was first founded – now it is a popular fishing spot. Photos: Windolf collection

Tales out of school

22nd September 2021

Miss Chapman and pupils of Coolum Provisional School, posing for the photographer.  Photo: Courtesy Jack Morgan junior.

With Coolum and North Shore school students enjoying a vacation this week, this seems an appropriate time to share some stories from the past – from the Coolum Provisional School which was part of the Coolum School of Arts [which stood near the corner of today’s South Coolum Road and Toolga Street], and later from Coolum State School, which stood at the corner of South Coolum Road and Warrack Street. There was always only one teacher at a time for all the students from Grades 1 to 8, and there were 11 Principals and two short-term Acting Principals in that time.

The first teacher was Miss Ellen Chapman, who welcomed twelve pupils on the first day – April 2, 1917 – 18 pupils by the end of that year, and eventually 42 pupils between the first class and sixth class, all in one room, with one teacher. Miss Chapman was reportedly surprised by the number of wallabies, which hopped through the school ground, and there were stories of her students playing “follow the leader” over the top of the lantana bushes surrounding the school – ripping their trousers and replacing the stitching with long thorns from the school ground. Most of her pupils had never been to school before, and once a “big boy” grabbed the cane, which was used for punishment, broke it in half, and then left school – through the window! One wet morning, the boys plastered clay on the fence, which Miss Chapman climbed through – no one, would own up, so every pupil was kept in at lunchtime by their very muddy teacher.

When a travelling photographer visited, Miss Chapman lined up 23 pupils for an official photograph. Jack Morgan junior told us that just as the photographer went to take his one-and-only picture, one small boy ‘broke wind’ noisily – and the official photo featured the girl who stepped away from the smell!

Miss Jack came in 1926 when farms were being developed. At cane-cutting time the number of ‘students’ could double, because all the children, even toddlers, would come to school while their parents worked on the farms.

In the 1940s, Mr Languish once travelled back from Maryborough on a crowded troop train, then walked from Yandina to the school, arriving just in time for class. At lunchtime, he was so tired that he fell asleep, and was woken mid-afternoon by an irate farmer because the students were playing ‘paper-chase’ through nearby cane, knocking it down.

School supplies were in short supply in the 1950s, so students would search Coolum beaches for sea-urchin quills, to replace scarce ‘slate pencils’ … how different from todays’ technological world!  I wonder … what tales will today’s students tell in the future?


Toboggan Hill – today’s modern mystery

8th September 2021

Muriel Broe [later Doctor Pawlik who was well-known in Coolum until the 1990s], Hilda Tait and Gladys Low sliding down Toboggan Hill in 1922. Photo courtesy Jack Morgan junior.

If there is any divide between “newbies” and “old-timers” in Coolum, then that divide is represented in the area known as Toboggan Hill, with “old-timers” knowing where Toboggan Hill is, and why it was called by that name … and “newbies” being puzzled by that term. Fortunately, those who know the answer to the mystery are so keen to share their knowledge that it is easy to slide from one group to another, so keep reading.

Toboggan Hill is hard to see today, as it is largely covered in new homes, but if you stand at the traffic lights beside the Surf Club and look southwest, you can still see the slope rising above Beach Road. If you are driving, then you can approach the lookout at the top of “the Toboggan” via Scrub Road, turning right at the top into Grandview Drive – once you get to the car park, you, too, can imagine the thrill of riding a toboggan down the slope in front of you.

The first official mention of “THE THRILLING NATURAL TOBOGGAN” [which was to be “reserved for the residents”] appeared in November 1922, in an advertisement for a Land Sale to be held on Boxing Day 1922. Although a toboggan is defined as “an object for sitting on and sliding over snow and ice”, Toboggan Hill sported a huge range of craft, which were used to carry people of all ages down the grassy slope of the hill. Local historian Fred Fink, who ‘rode the toboggan’ at the second Coolum Land Sale in 1923 could still clearly remember the thrill of that first ride some 75 years later.

One wonders how many tin trays disappeared from the homes of young Coolum residents or visitors, and wooden fruit-packing cases became popular toboggans. Excellent toboggan slides could be made from sheathing fronds of the Archontophoenix palm which was common in the district, and other enthusiastic locals built single, double, and treble seater sleds that accommodated groups of shrieking friends. In 1923, even the Governor of Queensland, Sir Matthew Nathan, ascended Toboggan Hill, in a daring journey up the track-less hill in a brand-new Special Six Studebaker car driven by a Mr Thornton, along with two ladies from Nambour, and two other men … it was recorded, though, that once they reached the top, the ladies got out and walked back down Toboggan Hill, while the others drove down the slippery slope!

Even in the 1980s, local teenagers could still manipulate the slopes of Toboggan Hill, but from then the name began to disappear. Now you, too, can show your knowledge of the mystery of Toboggan Hill – you are no longer a “newbie”!


They never failed to deliver!

18th August 2021

Bennett’s Store in Coolum taken c. 1930, which shows the Bush House where the CWA members first met. Photo: Windolf collection

Four cups self-raising flour, 300 ml cream, 300 ml milk, one pinch salt, one teaspoon sugar … for those who missed going to the Ekka again this year, this is the QCWA scone recipe which has sustained so many Ekka visitors over the years! Even though many people may no longer bake scones, the recipe is relevant in Coolum this week – ninety years after the Coolum Beach branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association was formed – and just on eight years since the group folded. In those eighty-two years, the ladies did so much more than bake scones – they helped make Coolum into the strong community we experience today.

The first meeting of the Coolum QCWA branch was held in the ‘bush house’ beside Coolum’s only store, opposite today’s Surf Club. Fourteen ladies attended, and Mrs Perry-Keene became the inaugural president, Dorothy Abbott the secretary, and Mrs Bennett (whose husband owned the store) was the treasurer. The ladies immediately began working for the community – records show that they were concerned with getting banking facilities at the Post Office and providing facilities for children to board in Nambour for secondary schooling.

In 1933 Isles, Love & Co. donated a block of land and the ladies bought another block next door to build a ‘holiday hut’ to provide country people with seaside holidays. The CWA ladies raised funds by selling hot water to day-trippers at sixpence a billy, and local residents donated timber stumps for the building, which cost 104 pounds ($208). With the help of a 60 pound ($120) bank loan and fund-raising – which included dances, fairs, garden parties, tennis afternoons, and raffles of a dog, a goose, ducks and a turkey – the cottage opened in July 1937, offering holidays costing four shillings per weekend or one shilling and sixpence (15 cents!) per day.

When World War II began, the CWA ladies helped make camouflage nets, and baked cakes and knitted socks and balaclavas to send to soldiers. In 1955, after a flood in Brisbane, they collected “six cartons and one chaff bag” of clothing for flood relief. The ladies were always a strong presence in the town and helped the community in a multitude of ways. In 1965 the old Ilkley schoolhouse was repurposed as a meeting room, this became a social centre for card nights, a youth club and many other activities. In 1990 a new brick building was built, and it was used by many Coolum groups, as well as the busy CWA members. However, as the Country Women’s Association members aged, and numbers dwindled, the Coolum Beach branch finally closed and the property was sold into private ownership in September 2013.


Mount Coolum gondola proposal 1986

4th August 2021

A Save Mt Coolum Going Going Gone 1986 promotional poster which was used to highlight the proposed development being presented for Mt Coolum.
Members of the ‘Save Mt Coolum’ committee. Photos: Windolf Collection.

After writing about Mount Coolum in my last article, my thoughts went back thirty-five years, to January 1986. I had only lived in laid-back Coolum for a year when an earnest local lady requested that my husband and I attend “The most important meeting that [would] ever be held in Coolum”.  Feeling curious, we went to the Civic Centre, along with some 450 other local people, where we heard a representative of the “Maroochy Corporation” [not linked with the Shire Council] put forward a proposal for “the development of a gondola, restaurant and flora and fauna tourist complex” on the mountain, to include “a gondola [which would] travel from the base area by cable across steel pylons to the top of the mountain where the main building would encompass facilities such as cafeteria, restaurant, function room, scenic outlooks and other tourist-related activities”. Each ‘gondola bubble’ would “allow people a comfortable all-weather ride to the top of the mountain”.

Surprisingly, the Maroochy Shire Council had passed a resolution in August 1985 that the Mount Coolum leases should be declared an Environmental Park, under the auspices of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, with the council as trustees. However, in December 1985, the same council gave approval in principle for the chairlift proposal.

The thought that Coolum’s beloved landmark could be desecrated led to the foundation of the Save Mount Coolum Committee, a small organisation which kept the anti-development lobby in the limelight with press releases, walks, bumper stickers, a powerful poster by Ron Potiphar, and even concerts. At the same time, the committee was also working on a proposal for an environmental park encompassing several Crown Reserves of varying status, but all under the control of Maroochy Shire Council.

                In July 1986, the Save Mount Coolum Committee put forward a “vision” for “a place of peace and solitude … a quiet, pleasant atmosphere where families could enjoy a picnic or bar-b-que amongst the trees and perhaps the satisfaction of climbing to the top to survey the view.”  The committee proposed access to the base of the mountain at two locations – the Tanah Street West site now used, and another at Quarry Road, at the southern end of South Coolum Road, where, in the lower level of the disused quarry, “bar-be-ques, toilet facilities, carpark and children’s play area … extensively landscaped with indigenous plants” could be situated.

There is a lot more to this story – and more will be covered in a later article. However, I find it interesting to compare Mount Coolum as it is today with the vision put forward in 1986, and how that vision has changed … and still there are no toilets!


What’s in a name?

22nd July 2021

Just how did Coolum get to be named? Pictured is Mount Coolum or as it might have been known – halfway lump! Picture: Windolf collection

During the recent NAIDOC week, I was asked “Where does the name ‘Coolum’ come from … is it an indigenous title?” I assured the questioner that it is a Gubbi Gubbi term, but this led me to refresh my memory as to the non-indigenous history of the use of the term ‘Coolum’.

In the period when Brisbane Town was a penal settlement, from 1825 to 1852, three escapees notably lived with the Gubbi Gubbi people – John Graham [1827 – 1833], James Davis [1827 – 1842] and David Bracefell [1839 – 1842]. However, although they lived in more northern parts of the Gubbi Gubbi area, we have no records that they lived this far south, and it was not until Bracefell met with Andrew Petrie [a free settler who had travelled north in a small boat with a few others, looking at timber resources] and learned from him the names attached to some of the natural features visible from the Noosa headland. As Bracefell – who had become more proficient in the Gubbi Gubbi language than English – pointed out the natural features they could see, H. Stuart Russell, one of Petrie’s companions, wrote down the names of the places, including ‘Coollum’ [sic.], some twenty kilometres south.

Over the years, as maps were drawn, the spelling of the name varied – ‘Coolum’, ‘Coollum‘, even ‘kulum’ and ‘gulum’. One map – drawn by Thomas Ham in 1871 – was even shown as ‘Half-way Lump”!

An important twentieth-century reference – E.G.Heap’s important 1965 history “In the wake of the raftsmen: a survey of Early Settlement in the Maroochy district …” gives widely differing meanings of the term ‘kulum’, also spelt ‘gulum’.  He suggests that the two spellings of the name are interchangeable, and both mean ‘wanting’ [a term which refers to the lack of peaked top on the well-rounded mountain], but that it could also mean ‘a short snake’, as in the ‘Death Adders’ often found sunning themselves there.

In 2004 we discussed the derivation of the name ‘Coolum’ with Nurdon Serico, a well-respected Gubbi Gubbi elder, who believed that the term means “wanting”. However, he explained that this did not mean “wanting [or ‘without’] a top”, but “wanting [or ‘without’] a cover”, meaning “bare of covering” … Mount Coolum is truly a bare mountain, without trees or scrub on top, and this explanation has much relevance, especially when we think of earlier, pre-European times, when Gubbi Gubbi people roamed through the heavy forests covering the low Coolum hills, and then suddenly came to the bare, rocky volcanic core, rising above them.

Like so many people, I love Mount Coolum – but I am very glad that my address is not “Halfway Lump”!


Missing that ‘Sweet smell’

8th July 2021

Cane Harvest 1920s. Photo: Windolf Collection

Several long-term residents of the Coolum and North Shore area have commented that they miss the ‘sweet smell’ which was once an annual feature from July to December due to the sugar cane harvest. The smell of burning sugar cane pervaded our lives, pleasing many, but annoying others, especially housewives who had left their washing on the clothesline overnight, only to find that the ash from burning cane had left ugly smudge marks. Children, and many adults, [not just farmers] delighted in the flames which flared high with burning trash, and the crackling noise which accompanied a burn, and in the cane trams which pulled long lines of cane trucks into the Moreton Sugar Mill in Nambour. You didn’t have to be a farmer to feel rural when you smelt burning cane in the air.

The first cane in the Coolum area was planted 140 years ago, in 1881, by Mark Blasdall, on Portion 93 – a 252 hectare selection adjoining Coolum Creek, near its junction with the Maroochy River. Mr Blasdall, wielding an axe, cleared the land of tea-trees and ploughed the land with a horse-drawn plough to remove the twisted roots. He planted nearly eight hectares of cane by hand, and cleared Coolum Creek of snags so that boats could access it, but despite all his hard work he was declared bankrupt in 1884.

In 1913, Sugar Industry magazine reported that Mr W. H. Perry-Keene, of Coolum Creek, Maroochy River district, North Coast Line had 22.4 hectares of land under sugar cane, which was expected to yield 1800 tonnes of cane. This cane was transported to Coolum Creek wharf by horse-drawn drays, and then taken to Dunethin Rock along the Maroochy River on punts lashed to a motorboat. From there it was transferred to cane trams for the journey to Nambour.

A lifting-span bridge was built across the Maroochy River at Dunethin Rock in 1921, and by 1923 the line ran to Coolum Creek, passing over two bridges linked by a mid-stream island and thence to a loading area on South Coolum Road.

Although machines were used to cut cane from the mid-fifties, cane was still cut by hand until the early 1970s, with cutters in danger of contracting Wiehl’s disease from rats living in the cane. This was the reason for burning the cane – a practice made mandatory in the 1930s, to protect workers. Burning continued after machine cutting came into practice, because it was an effective way to remove trash.

Moreton Sugar Mill, in Nambour, crushed its last cane on December 4, 2003 – although some local farms have carted cane to Maryborough since then. Now, even that avenue may close. How long will we enjoy that ‘sweet smell’?

Remembering Andrew Palser, a relatively new Coolum resident, who dedicated so much time until his recent death tracing Coolum tram lines and trying to save the cane tram bridge near River Road.


An anniversary worth celebrating

17th June 2021

Happy Birthday to Coolum! Pictured are Merv and Beryl Doyle, John Windolf and Caryll Murphy with their anniversary plaques in 1996, which celebrated Coolum’s 50th birthday. This year will mark 75 years of ‘Coolum’. Photo: Windolf collection

On June 30, 2021, Coolum will reach an important historical milestone. That day will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the day when Coolum Beach was officially declared a township, on June 30, 1946. At that time, the township of Coolum Beach, which included today’s Coolum Beach, Mount Coolum, Yaroomba, Point Arkwright, South Peregian and Peregian Springs had a population comprised of 155 men, women and children – 107 adults who were twenty-one and older, and 48 minors. There were 55 households in that area and twenty-two of the householders were farmers, nineteen were retired, six were labourers, and two were drivers, and there was one shopkeeper, one school teacher, one postmaster, one salesman, one bus proprietor and a “bait man”. Fifteen people lived on their own, there were eighteen two-person households, sixteen families of between three and five persons, and six families in households of six to ten people.

When Coolum Beach township was declared, there were 29 children attending the State School, on the corner of Warrack Street and South Coolum Road. However, over the next five years, that number varied dramatically as new families – including the Lambert and Parnell families – moved to the area, and others left. At that time, there was still only one road out of town, which was considered to be “almost impossible to keep in any reasonable state of repair”. There was only one shop, no doctor, no nurse, no electricity, no piped water … and people still had to empty their own toilet pans! At least fifteen or twenty families moved to the area, and left again within six months of a year, realising that the inexpensive land that they had bought with deferred army pay or cheap war service loans was not as idyllic as they dreamed it would be, so Coolum Beach remained a very small hamlet.

Fifty years later, the area was very different, and the 155 residents of five decades before had grown to 6999, even though the area encompassed by the name “Coolum” had become limited as “suburbs” had developed around the central core. In 1996, 1054 Coolum residents had been born overseas, and only 38 per cent of residents [2659 people] had been at the same address five years previously, At that time 1524 residents [22 per cent] were aged under 15, with most attending one of the two excellent schools.

The fiftieth anniversary of Coolum Beach was celebrated by a black-tie ball in the Coolum Civic Centre, where plaques were presented to five residents who had lived in Coolum fifty years before – Merv and Beryl Doyle, Ray Wintzloff, and John Windolf and his sister Caryll Murphy. None are left, but their legacy lives on. … Happy 75th birthday, Coolum!


Right up your street?

3rd June 2021

This photograph – taken from Toboggan Hill – shows Central Coolum and Yandina Road just before these areas were developed. Photo: Windolf collection.

The photograph which accompanied my last article was commented on by numerous people, surprised by the amount of open space in what is now central Coolum, and this led me to seek out another photograph, taken from Toboggan Hill in 1957. This date was a watershed for the Coolum Beach area, following the arrival of electricity in December 1956, and marking the start of a rush of housing development.

The early expansion stretched westward towards the newly-situated Coolum State School, at the corner of Yandina Road and South Coolum Road, and seems to have been developed by Pinedale Developments, through Willmore and Randall – a Brisbane firm – the sole managing agents when the development was put up for sale between 1958 and 1960. The development was divided into four different areas. Morgan Park Estate encompassed the area from Elizabeth Street to Banksia Avenue, while Coolum Beach Estate included most of the sea-themed streets: Seagull, Spindrift, Sorrento, Seaspray and Sunrise Avenues, and most of the wind-themed thoroughfares: Fourwinds, Tradewinds, and Mistral Avenues, with the exception of Sea-Breeze Avenue, which was part of the Morgan Park Estate.

The Surf Rider Estate, which included names of American beaches: Long Beach, Daytona, Key West, Malibu and Santa Monica Avenues, extended to the eastern end of today’s Banksia Avenue, now a well-known thoroughfare. Banksia Avenue shared its plant-themed name with an estate towards its western end: Acacia, Pandanus, Palm and Cassia Avenues.

One street in the area, noted for its non-themed name, is Jones Parade, named after Jack Jones, a popular land salesman who worked for Willmore and Randall during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was known for his charismatic ‘flim-flam’ manner, and his large American tail-finned car, so different from the ‘old bangers’ usually seen around Coolum at that time!

Compared to today’s concrete-edged, bitumen streets in well-designed estates, the Coolum streets were just tracks, graded across the loose sand of the wallum flats, and they deteriorated rapidly. By mid-1960, the Coolum Beach Progress Association was requesting Maroochy Shire Council to give “urgent attention” to at least seven of the new streets, and by 1962, they noted that “Coolum Beach Estate and Ocean Beach Estate roads have had no attention for the last three years … [they were] … badly pot holed, overgrown with grass, and in some cases young trees [were] establishing themselves in the roadway.” In 1963, they repeated their request, noting the “shocking state of the roads through the Ocean View Estate … [where] … In some places, particularly in Trade Winds Avenue, there are Ti-trees of considerable size growing in the drains.”

Do you live in one of these streets today? I do!


Keep calm and drink water!

20th May 2021

The Beach Road tank in 1953 which was Coolum’s only water supply. Photo: Windolf collection.

As water bills arrived in letterboxes last week, I heard several grumbles and complaints. This reminded me that the provision of a water supply has been the source of complaints in Coolum over many years, despite a reversal of the cause of those complaints.

In 1940, at a time when drinking water only came from the sky, every house had a rainwater tank – usually holding between 7000 and 9000 litres. For visitors who enjoyed camping near the beach however, water was a very scarce commodity, and in February 1940, the Coolum Beach Progress Association petitioned Maroochy Shire Council because, “the supply at Christmas was very poor and had it not been for private houses supplying water the Council may have been involved in heavy expenditure carting water”. Coolum Beach, at this time, had 52 residents, with another 49 people living on farms around the township.

Good news came later that year, when the Progress Association reported that, “at last we were going to get a water supply for the beach campers – a well has been put down and it was understood the water had passed the test and the Council were erecting a Wind Mill and tank and laying pipes to the Camping Area”. The water concerned came down from the slopes of Toboggan Hill, and the windmill was situated near today’s BP garage.

Unfortunately though, this was not the end of water problems for the township, and at the end of 1950, it was recorded that, “Mr Tickle drew attention to the tank in question and the need for immediate action to have tanks in position as visitors were becoming more numerous every Sunday. Besides, nothing had been done by the Shire Council in connection with the water supply generally. We do not want a repetition of last year’s performances with an inadequate water supply.”

In 1963 the Progress Association asked that the Council “discontinue the application of the [1.5 cents] Water Rate to the Ratepayers of Coolum in view of the fact that water has not been and is likely to be extended to this area in the near future.”

In 1966 Coolum residents tried to have a dam built on land owned by the Morgan family, near Jasper Court. However, the Local Government Department would not subsidise the project as it was on private property. Piping was laid for the project, but heavy rain early in 1967 filled the dam with soil, and it was abandoned. Coolum did not receive a reticulated water supply until 1972, thirty-two years after the first requests were made by the Progress Association!

Yes, I hate getting a water bill, but I’m glad that I DO get one!


No longer an “Island”

6th May, 2021

Driving around the Coolum and North Shore region is much different today than it was back in 1961. Photo: Windolf collection.

When I first met my husband, in 1985, he had a large collection of articles, photos and hand-written reminiscences about the Coolum and North Shore area, carefully labelled, and stored in cardboard apple cases. Nineteen years later – after I had taken early retirement, and we had circumnavigated Australia in our motor home – the collection had grown considerably. We decided that I should record all the wonderful stories in book form. Early Coolum had been separated from surrounding areas because there was only one road, which was sometimes flooded for weeks, even months on end, and this led to the title ‘An Island Surrounded by Land’.

On May 13, 1961 – fifty years ago – Coolum became no longer an ‘Island’ after a second road to Coolum was developed. Perhaps, then, it is time to look back on the long process, which led to road access, permitting the growth that has led to today’s bustling, sophisticated town.

In mid-1950, when the only way to get from Coolum to Noosa was to drive west to Yandina, north to Eumundi, then east to Noosa [or to drive along the beach on a tractor], Maroochy and Noosa councils agreed that at ten thousand pounds [$20,000] … “the road would be too costly to construct”. However, in May 1958 the Brisbane Telegraph announced that “North Coast local authorities are hoping private enterprise will help build the coast road to link towns from Caloundra to Tewantin”. Developers T. M. Burke acquired leases from the National Party state government which required them to build sections of road along wallum land from Sunshine Beach southwards and to establish urban areas. Testro Brothers won the leases for Marcoola [so named because it was between MARoochydore and COOLum], Willmore and Randall for the swampy beach land which became Mudjimba, and Saul Kallay for Pacific Paradise.

In 1959, access to Maroochydore from Coolum came a step closer with the construction of the Bli Bli bridge – although there was still no direct access from Bli Bli to Maroochydore – and on April 2, 1960 the through road from Peregian to Noosa and Tewantin was opened by the Queensland Premier, Frank Nicklin.

The Coolum-Peregian link was slower because Stumers Creek blocked the way with its shifting sands. However, once the necessary bridge was built, the Minister for Lands, Alan Fletcher, declared that section – decorated by flags and surmounted by an archway declaring it “THE GATEWAY TO PROGRESS” – was open, and a long line of cars celebrated by driving onto the new section.

Coolum and North Shore residents now have a wide choice of ways to travel around our area … and Coolum is no longer an ‘Island’!


Welcome home!

22nd April, 2021

The Coolum School of Arts Hall – photographed in the 1950s. Photo: WIndolf Collection

For the men of Coolum who served their country in World War 1, coming home meant returning to a very different Coolum to the one they had left. In 1915, Coolum was just a few scattered farms with fewer than seventy men, women and children residing in the area covered by the Coolum Advertiser today.  There was no shop, no hall, and no school, and transport to the area was on horseback or by boat from Yandina to Coolum Creek wharf.

While the soldiers were gone, Mr. Rodgers offered his unused cottage near Coolum wharf, as a social centre to raise money to build a School of Arts hall near today’s South Coolum Road and Toolga Street corner. With its internal walls removed, the cottage hosted weekly dances, attracting patrons from other areas up and down the river. In January 1917, while the soldiers would have been under fire in France and Belgium, the new hall was built, as a meeting place and a public library, setting charges of five shillings per annum for members, who could also borrow books from the School of Arts library, from 3pm to 4pm on alternate Saturdays.

On Monday April 2, 1917, Coolum Provisional School opened in the School of Arts Hall, with eleven pupils enrolled on the first day, and another seven by the end of 1917. There had been no school available for the district’s soldiers before they left to fight, so this was a tremendous change.

Back at home, the hall could be hired for meetings for one shilling and sixpence per meeting, while use of the hall for dancing cost seven shillings and sixpence per evening use, or ten shillings if dancing continued after midnight. Musical accompaniments for dancing were simple, with local people bringing their own instruments, and ‘accordions’ – commonly known as ‘squeeze boxes’ – provided by the committee. The accordions, which cost four pounds each, were frequently damaged by over-eager patrons, so they were put in the care of the School of Arts caretaker until dancing commenced and were not permitted to be ‘used between dances’. Part of the money raised was forwarded to the Services Fund, to provide, ‘Comforts for our boys’ until the Armistice in November 1918.

After the war was over, it took some time until Australians could be brought back, due to a lack of ships. Coolum ‘boys’, Sergeant Hart and Sergeant Stumer did not return home until June 1919, and Private Wintzloff did not return until February 1920. The returned soldiers were each greeted delightedly at crowded ‘Socials’ at the hall and presented with welcome home gifts which surely puzzled them considerably … each ‘Welcome Home’ gift was … a suitcase!


A wet Easter

8th April, 2021


Easter in the region has been known to be wet. In 1958 the roads were severely flooded with the photo titled “Flood” taken by Ron Filer near where the solar farm stands today. Photo: Windolf collection

Coolum and North Shore residents and visitors alike looked forward to the recent Easter period as a time of relaxation and enjoyment, planning a sunny break, away from the many restrictions which have recently limited us, and many were disappointed by the inclement weather which was a feature of the long weekend. Unfortunately, the weather around the Easter period is very hard to predict, and has varied greatly over the last century or so – disappointing many, and pleasing others at different times.

In 1919, the year in which the Coolum Beach Surf Life Saving Club began, the Nambour Chronicle reported that: “On Easter Monday, the camp being augmented by many residents from the district, some 300 and odd people witnessed the official handing over of the new reel to the Coolum swimming club.”  It is fair to say that 1919 was obviously a fine Easter, which allowed both residents and visitors to enjoy themselves. However, this was not always the case.

The 1950s comprised a series of very wet years, at Easter, and at other times. In 1958, the road from Yandina to Coolum [the only access to the beaches between Noosa and Maroochydore until the 1960s] was so bad at Easter time that both Brisbane newspapers reported the situation at Coolum. The Brisbane Courier Mail stated in an article headlined ‘RAIN DIDN’T STOP NORTH COAST TREK’ that “Thousands of Easter holidaymakers … risked possible flooded roads and treacherous weather to come to the North Coast yesterday.”  The Brisbane Telegraph newspaper reported on how the weather had affected David Low [after whom the coastal road was later named] in an article which reported that: “Mr. D. A. Low is member for Cooroora and chairman of the Maroochy Shire Council, in which the seaside resort of Coolum is situated. On Easter Monday Mr. Low intended visiting friends at Coolum, but when they reported the state of the road to him he decided he wouldn’t take the risk with his car. Several motorists ran into trouble trying to negotiate one particular bad spot and had to be pulled out of the bog. They complain that no warning notice was posted to save them from being trapped at this spot and the danger area, which was covered with water, was not barricaded”. The photograph accompanying this article, shot by Coolum electrician, Ron Filer, was taken near where today’s solar farm is situated – that must have been a very wet Easter, for visitors and residents!   

Fortunately, road access to Coolum is easier now, and there have been many ways in which visitors could enjoy their Easter break without being overly upset by the wet conditions. Maybe next year we will have a fine Easter!       


A prediction from the past

25th March, 2021


Robert Abbott and his daughter Dorothy from 1915. Photo: Contributed

Dorothy Abbott, who was born in 1912, left a legacy for today’s greater Coolum area which is worthy of our consideration more than a century later. Her father, Robert Abbott, was the surveyor for the original housing blocks in Coolum, and her grandmother, Magdalene White and her aunt, Maude Perry Keene were the two women who bought the rights to today’s central Coolum area. Dorothy grew up near today’s Jenyor Street, and was a first-day pupil at the Coolum Provisional School. Despite her family heritage of development, she appears to have been one of Coolum’s first conservationists, if we judge by this poem which she wrote in her early teens:

The Scrub Goes Down – Dorothy Abbott

Trickling stream beneath the shadows of the palms

That daunt their ferny banners to an azure sky;

Giant scrub trees hold in leafy outstretched arms

The magic of the breezes passing by

Breathing faint blessings and a sweet content,

And minding not the elkhorn’s strong embrace –

Entwining creepers – whose rich berries lent

Their fiery beauty to this elfin place

Enchanting it. And round are strewn

The falling leaves of gold and soft dull brown –

So soon – so soon

They’ll hew them down.

Out on the farthest edge, the axe

Is ringing out its message sad and grim;

I hear the moan of trees, and, glancing back,

I see a streak of light where all was dim.

We grieve together – these tall trees and I,

The little unsuspecting birds sing bravely on –

Their gay incessant chatter. Then their cry

Of terror as a giant comes down upon …

And everywhere this ruined splintered mess,

The little broken nests and dying babes;

The broken-hearted mother who, alas!

Shall have to journey far to scrubland glades.

Death or mortal friend could hardly touch

My grief today. You gave

So much … so much

I could not take a leaf and keep it green, or save …

Dear little bush-land pals forgive

For where you died – we live.


 A playwright in our midst

11th March 2021


Local playwright and community champion, George Dann – photo taken in the early 1970s by Ron Filer. Photo: Windolf collection

While researching information RE: sand mining for my last article, I remembered a former Coolum resident, George Landen Dann, who was a strong activist in the fight against damaging our local beaches. I never met George, but had heard much about him.

George Dann was a quiet man, who became very well known. Born at Sandgate in 1904, he became a draughtsman in the Queensland Lands Department and Brisbane City Council, while living with – and caring for – his mother and sisters. However, he had another, more artistic side as a playwright who won many competitions, both within Australia and internationally and had many works performed on radio and TV.

In 1931, when interracial relations were considered scandalous by many, George’s play ‘In Beauty It Is Finished’ – about a love affair between a white prostitute and an indigenous man – created an outcry in the press and some churches, but was allowed to proceed with the support of public figures including the then Archbishop of Brisbane. Another of his plays – ‘Fountains Beyond’ – first performed on stage and radio in 1942, and considered his best work – told the story of an indigenous community leader from Fraser Island, who refused a “demeaning request” from the local shire chairman to stage a ‘sacred corroboree’ for a visitor. After World War Two – where George had served in an army entertainment division – Fountains Beyond was staged around Australia, and in London and Wales in 1950.

Although George continued working at Brisbane City Council, he continued his prolific writing of plays right through his working life. These won many prizes and were widely performed by amateur companies and regularly appeared on ABC radio. His subjects ranged from biblical topics to Australian history, including ‘Monday Morning’ – about a bushranger condemned on false evidence – and ‘Caroline Chisholm’ – which was said to be one of his most popular works.

In December 1954 George retired from the city council and moved to the Sunshine Coast, where he lived a few doors from today’s Clubb Coolum. Here his play-writing activities also lessened, although a 1958 radio play, ‘The Orange Grove’, set around today’s Pacific Paradise, remains popular today. He soon joined in community life, joining Coolum Beach Progress Association and becoming extremely active in the conservation battle for North Coast beaches when sand mining threatened. As he aged, he moved to Noosaville, but kept in touch with Coolum friends including Ron Filer and John Windolf, with whom he would camp on Fraser Island. He died in Eumundi in 1977, having stated, “I always humbly hoped my name would live on after I died and not die while I lived”. His name lives on!


The sands of our times

25th Feb, 2021

The View from Noosa to Coolum in 1950 – where minerals were often sourced from along the shore in the past. Photo: Windolf collection

It would be fair to say that most people are attracted to our area by our beaches – the waves, or the sandy shore. Grains of sand, small as they may be, are immensely valuable to our economy, and it is interesting to consider the ways in which this value has been exhibited. We are all familiar with the attraction of our beaches and ocean to would-be residents and visitors, as exhibited in local land sales during the last century, especially in today’s residential market, but there are other aspects of our beaches which have repeatedly concerned local residents.

Currently, many of our beaches are under stress from activities ranging from proposed building activities to transport problems and sand pumping, and we are concerned for the future. However, beach stress is, unfortunately, not a new problem in our area. Since early in our residential history, the lure of minerals marking our sands with ‘peculiar black sand’ deposits – rutile, ilmenite, monazite and zircon – has attracted mineral-seekers to our area.

The first recorded venture of this type occurred in 1929, when a syndicate approached the Moreton Sugar Mill Board to transport sand from ‘a peculiar black sand deposit’ at Coolum to Nambour, for expected sales to Germany. We are told that the cartage was a “very good thing in the way of freight for the mill”, but no other records about this venture have been found, and it is possible that the onset of the 1929 Depression quashed the idea.

By the mid-1950s, however, sand mining on beaches on the eastern seaboard of Australia became a keen subject of discussion, as rutile (for titanium), zircon (for ceramics and nuclear reactor elements) and monazite (for thorium, a nuclear fuel), were dry-mined for mineral sands. In February 1956, the Coolum Beach Progress Association ‘sent an urgent telegram to the Minister for Mines objecting to mining of frontal dunes’. Indeed, they were so concerned that they also moved to ‘have a petition prepared for public signatures’ as well. Under pressure from local protestors, the Minister inspected the Coolum area, agreeing that mining companies should be required to protect trees in the area, but ‘he repeated the government view that sand mining would not disturb anybody or anything as there were few houses between Coolum and Noosa.’

Fortunately, around this time the government was changed, and historian Helen Gregory tells us that “the change of government and the plan to develop the area for tourism saved most of the beaches from the sand miners but they were permitted to move further north to Fraser Island.” Although other attempts were made until 1966, fortunately none were successful and our beaches remain safe – we hope!


The more things change …

11 Feb, 2021

The site originally known as ‘Portion 502’ and later as Hyatt Regency Coolum and more recently as Palmer Resort as it looked in 1958. Photo: Windolf collection.

The saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, seems relevant when considering one of our most discussed local facilities. In 1913 John Parker selected Portion 502, gaining permission to farm that area, while improving it, building a home, and making payments to the Government.

Portion 502 was roughly bounded by today’s Warran Road to the north, and Tanah Street to the south, stretching inland to a line roughly running between the southern end of Grandview Drive and Lagoda Drive – most of it known in recent years as the “Hyatt Regency resort”, or the “Palmer resort”. John Parker built a house where the 17th green now delights golfers, ran cattle on the land, and grew bananas, pineapples and beans for Brisbane markets. However, the area was swampy, soil quality was extremely poor, and this led to Mr Parker and a succession of other farmers, battling to make a living. From the late 1950s the land had reverted to a mixture of swamp and scrub, unsuitable for farming.

When the David Low Way opened in the early 1960s, developers realised that there might be potential in the area. The area covered by Portion 502 changed hands several times, each purchaser dreaming of a great financial future for the location. This came to fruition with the Hyatt Regency resort, described thus by the Sunshine Coast Daily in August 1988: “This $134 million resort and health spa on 150 hectares … will comprise a vast array of recreational, health, retail and accommodation facilities – eight swimming pools, 18 hole golf course, nine tennis courts and jogging track and underground tunnel to the five holes on the beach side, where the resort boasts one kilometre of beach front.”

Hyatt Regency Coolum attracted visitors from around the world. Queen Elizabeth II joined the Commonwealth Heads of Government there, at least one member of the Japanese royal family went birdwatching with my husband, film stars climbed Mt Coolum, Australian PGA championships were held there from 2002, and every-day Aussies came to stay in villas which could be owned privately or on a part-share basis. Some 700 staff were employed, making the resort the largest employer on the Sunshine Coast.

And then came the change … in 2011 the resort became the Palmer Resort, and the years since have held a litany of changes, from the Palmersaurus dinosaur park to closed facilities and on-going villa ownership troubles, settled late last year with villa owners sharing some $20 million.

”The more things change, the more they stay the same” … Will the resort flourish during Portion 502’s second century? The future could be interesting!


Moving School in 1956

28 Jan, 2021

Coolum State School being moved in 1956. Photo: Coolum State School archives.

Across Coolum and the North Shore, school holidays are finishing, and a new year is beginning. Many students are looking forward to returning to their school, their friends, their teachers, and others are facing new adventures. It is safe to suggest, however, that no student will encounter the situation faced by the pupils of Coolum State School in 1956.

In the first couple of years after Mr Edward [Ted] Chapman had become Head Teacher at the school, Coolum changed considerably, with the development of subdivisions stretching from Stumers Creek to Warran Road. This meant that by the end of 1955, of the 23 children attending Coolum State School – a one room, one teacher timber building situated on the corner of South Coolum Road and Warrack Street – only one – John Windolf – lived south of the school. 

A booklet produced for the school’s Golden Jubilee in 1967 explained the situation in the mid-1950s: “As more families began to settle at Coolum Beach, the two mile [3.22 kilometre] walk was proving difficult for the young children, so agitation to move the school nearer to the Beach brought action by the Education Department … District Inspector N. Pyle examined four proposed sites along the Main Road, and the parents present at the investigation gave unanimous support for the present site.”

Twenty-first century Queensland schools are large, well-designed complexes with multiple learning areas, sporting fields, libraries etc. However, in the 1950s things were much simpler. The Coolum State School building on South Coolum Road was a simple timber building measuring 6.4 by 5.5 metres in area and designed to fit 35 students. It had been built in mid-1930, and its only facilities comprised an open space under the school [used for recreation on wet days], a rainwater tank, and two “drop” toilets.

The ‘new’ school was actually not a new school at all … on January 11, 1956 the entire school was placed on the back of a semi-trailer brought from Brisbane and transported down south Coolum road to the new site beside Yandina Road, on the western edge of the extended Coolum township. When the 1956 school year started the school was in place on its new site, surrounded by dense eucalypts and tea-trees, near the burnt-out remains of an old farmhouse.

In the next few years, local residents, proud of “their” school, bulldozed trees, fought a 1957 bushfire threatening to burn the school down, built a tennis court and planted pine trees along the road edges. It was not long until a second teacher was appointed, under the original school. The original building remains – a ‘moving’ tribute to the early years of Coolum State School.


Coolum Land Sale in 1922

Jan 14, 2021


The house owned by the Jocumsen family as it looked in 1922. Photo: Windolf collection

In my last article I promised details from Coolum’s first land sale, on Boxing Day 1922 … little did I know that on the very day I sat down to write this article, a visitor would arrive with details of their family’s purchase on that day, bringing the story to life!

The Nambour Chronicle from December 29, 1922, which suggested that the sale day might “be looked back to as the birthday of what must in time become a very fine seaside town” reported that, “People flocked there from every possible direction” by road, by boat and by cane tram – “easily 1000 all told”.  Although many people just came for the occasion, 47 allotments were sold, at an average price of 52 pounds [$4316 in today’s terms] for a block that was 16 perches [roughly 531 square metres] of beachfront land.  The most expensive block sold for 79 pounds [$6557 today] – of course, this was undeveloped land with no water, electricity or sewage services and dirt roads prevailed making for a long journey from buyers’ homes!

Last year, a Mr Jocumsen visited us, seeking to establish the location of his grandfather’s Coolum home. Initially, we were only able to locate a few early photographs of that area of the Esplanade, and we could not trace the house which Mr Jocumsen recalled seeing as a child. It has now been established, through the Department of Resources, Mines and Energy, that his grandfather – Andrew Jocumsen, a Yandina sawmiller – bought one of those original blocks [Lot 152, which was 21 perches in area] at the Boxing Day sale in 1922, on land previously owned, before the 1922 sale, by Piercey Maud Perry-Keene and her mother, Magdalene White. Andrew Jocumsen died young, in 1934, leaving his holiday house to his wife.

One early photograph located stirred Mr Jocumsen, but it was labelled “Jorgensen’s house … built by Mr Best C. 1930”, so the search continued, seemingly without success. It now appears – through the paper trail provided by the Department of Resources – that this photo showed the correct house, but Mr Jorgensen was its eighth owner. The building known as “The Rocks” is now on that block of land.

Why have I shared this story – with the permission of the original owner’s grandson? I know that many current – and past – Coolum residents and visitors have sought distantly remembered or historically related homes of their ancestors, and many of them have contacted my late husband and me for help. I am always happy to assist, where possible, but there are other avenues as well. Online newspapers, your local library, and Government departments are places where you might find treasure!


Coolum’s most important day?

24th Dec, 2020

Muriel Broe [later Dr Pawlick], Hilda Tait and Gladys Low slide down ‘Toboggan Hill’ in 1922. Photo: Windolf collection

Most Coolum people would be guilty – at some time – of commenting “Coolum’s not like it used to be”, particularly when considering the current housing situation. Perhaps the most important day in the historical development of Coolum housing occurred on Boxing Day 1922, 98 years ago, changing the area from isolated farming hamlet to holiday destination, and a home for many.

Newspapers far and wide trumpeted the glories of “Mt. Coolum Beach” … not the Mount Coolum area we know today, but 100 or so allotments, “all with an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean”, running south along The Esplanade to Point Perry, and inland as far as Coolum Terrace. The advertisement declared that the area possessed ”attractions far beyond any other seaside in South Queensland” with a, “superb and absolutely safe beach for Surfing”. Other attractions included sporting activities such as fishing; seasonal shooting of ducks, quail and snipe; and a hard and level Beach Racecourse, “where later on all the motor speedsters will score in a straight 5 to 10 miles run at 80 to 100 m.p.h.”

The hill just to the south of Beach Road [still known to some locals as “Toboggan Hill’] was described as ”the thrilling natural toboggan … to be reserved for the Residents’ and other attractions included “ mountaineering on Mount Coolum, where the view from the summit is entrancing” and “Scrub Hunting for orchids and ferns in the gorge and in the dense tropical scrubs.”

Other delights promised “Ladies and Gent’s bathing sheds and lavatories, Maypole and Swings already erected and handed over to the local Shire Council” and “Golf Links already laid out, and now playable” [although no-one ever seems to have sighted these wonders!] as well as “Cricket, Football and Tennis facilities etc. etc”.

An article in the Nambour Chronicle told prospective buyers that “The new road from Yandina has been completed and is now accessible by motor car from Nambour [70 minutes] or from Yandina [40 minutes], and, in addition … arrangements have been made with the Moreton Sugar Mill for the early use of their tramway now under construction, which will allow the journey to be made easily within 30 minutes from Nambour”. The article continued, “Anticipating a large number of visitors and campers … the Maroochy Co-Op Store has opened a branch upon the Estate.” This was the first shop in Coolum.

Most campers hired tents on site, and today’s residents will be happy to know that they were advised that, “there will be no necessity to bring mosquito nets as sandflies and mosquitoes are unknown on the estate”

My next article will provide details of this all-important sale, including prices of the allotments!  


Christmas Party Time – 1943 style

10th Dec, 2020

Christmas 77 years ago in Coolum during World War 2. Photo: Windolf collection

Even though the Covid-19 Pandemic has affected traditional partying for children in 2020, our young ones are still enjoying a plethora of seasonal Christmas activities. However, local Coolum kids experienced a very different run-up to Christmas in 1943, during World War 2.

On one hand, a number of local children had left the Coolum district, heading inland with their mothers to areas considered less dangerous than the coast – where Japanese vessels might perhaps come ashore in this area, above the “Brisbane Line” of security. Others had relocated with their mothers to more-distant relatives who could help with childcare. The School Register for Coolum State School shows that there were 19 children at the school in 1943. In 1942, trenches had been dug there, and the children drilled daily in their use, putting wooden pegs between their teeth so that they wouldn’t bite their tongues if a bomb fell.

There were few younger men in the Coolum district at this time, as many had joined up – twenty-one Coolum men served in the Armed Forces, as well as seven Coolum women. Early in 1943 the Hospital Ship Centaur had been blown up and sunk near Bribie Island, and this impacted Coolum people. Some saw the blast from surrounding hilltops, and others – advised by the Army – searched the beaches south of Point Arkwright for wreckage, finding not just parts of the vessel, but items such as board games and a card table. These items were delivered to the Corner Shop in Coolum for inspection.

Older Coolum men, such as Jack Morgan senior, Fred Stumer, Percy Hewitt and Victor Marsh, helped form a unit of the Volunteer Defence Corps, still remembered by a sign on Point Perry. The VDC unit was lucky, in that part-time Coolum residents [and full-time artists] loaned their holiday house on Scrub Road to the unit for the duration of the war, as a “lookout station”, as they were unable to travel to Coolum because of their active voluntary war work in Brisbane – especially because of limited availability of petrol vouchers.

Coolum children were invited to a wartime Christmas party at that house in December 1943, with the VDC unit attempting to brighten the lives of those who were undoubtedly living in quite straightened circumstances, and a photograph taken that day shows their happiness. We know that there were no cold drinks or ice creams because Coolum had no electricity. Butter and cream and eggs were limited, as was sugar, so it was possibly sandwiches, and un-iced cakes made with margarine. There is no record of Santa visiting, and no decorations, but the old photo shows the spirit of a simpler – joyful – time, 77 years ago!


It’s School Break-Up Time!

3rd Dec, 2020

Coolum State School Breakup in 1955. Photo: Windolf Collection

Although 2020 has been a very mixed-up year for Coolum and North Shore students and their parents, school break-up is an important feature in November and December. Consequently, I thought it worth reminiscing on Coolum school break-ups in past times.

In 1917, the first year of Coolum Provisional School – in the School of Arts near the corner of today’s South Coolum Road and Toolga Street – a break-up picnic was held on Thursday December 13th, not only for the eighteen students, but as a general holiday for all Coolum residents. The students and their parents gathered around noon for lunch, after which – we are told – “races, tug-of-war, jumping, etc., were indulged in by the children for prizes donated by parents and residents generally”. The fun included three adult tug-of-war competitions, with married men competing against single men and winning two out of three events.

At 3pm an impromptu concert was held in the school, with Mrs Perry-Keene playing her portable organ, and Mrs Morgan, Mrs Wintzloff, Miss Cook, Mr Cameron and Mr Short singing songs. After that, Mr Short presented one book to each child and extra book prizes to six of them, as well as a handbag to the teacher, Miss Chapman. After singing ‘God save the King’, everyone shared a meal, and at 8pm dancing, interspersed with more songs, commenced – and the celebrations continued until 11.30 pm!

In December 1955 Coolum State School, on the corner of South Coolum Road and Warrack Street, had a total of 23 students, from Years 1 to 9. Their break-up celebration was held at the shelter-shed which stood opposite today’s Coolum Caprice, and every child attended, as well as several parents … some parents were still involved in harvesting their cane and small crops.

Once everyone had arrived, the most senior boy and girl were sent across to Bob Tickle’s hut to invite him to join the adults sitting on the benches around the shelter shed – he would never attend without this invitation. The mothers then passed food around – egg or meat with pickle sandwiches, iced patty cakes, cream sponges, jam drops and lamingtons, washed down with bottles of Wimmers lemonade and creaming soda. Then games – egg and spoon races, three-legged races, and sack races – filled the time until lunch, and the rare treat of tubs of Peter’s ice cream, brought from Nambour in a green canvas container holding ‘dry ice’.

Every child received a book, presented by the school principal, Ted Chapman, and after that, students played on the beach until home time. This day was particularly poignant, as it was the last day for that school … 1956 was to see yet another start in Coolum education.