Trove Tuesday: Let’s go ice skating

Image from Microsoft Images online

Image from Microsoft Images online. Just seeing this photo makes my heart beat faster.

A year or so ago I wrote how ice skating was one of my teenage pleasures. At the time I could find little about the origins of an ice rink that existed at Mowbray Park, South Brisbane in the 1960s. Those searches had left me unsatisfied so with today being Trove Tuesday it seemed only logical to have another trawl of Trove.

Brisbane is of course a sub-tropical city, so one might wonder when someone took on the challenge of building an ice rink. I personally knew of the Mowbray Park one which was definitely open in the 1960s, but when did it start and how long did it last? Thanks to Ice Skating Queensland I now know this rink closed in 1967.

Trove is silent on this rink other than a couple of photos here and here (copyright and reproduction rights apply) because of course the digitised papers don’t go that far forward. The images reveal that Brian Crossland, then a recent immigrant from Blackpool, was the manager of the rink in Brisbane while fellow English immigrant, Terrance Wright, maintained over 500 pairs of skates. That’s a lot of skates so it suggests they must have been doing a reasonable business while it lasted.

Sadly the reality of my skating never matched my imaginings. Image from Microsoft images online

Sadly the reality of my skating never matched my imaginings. Image from Microsoft images online

I did wonder if perhaps the Mowbray Park ice rink was built on the site of a former roller skating rink that had also been in Melbourne St, South Brisbane. It could be a pretty dodgy rink at times, with strips where the ice melted regularly –rather like skating on icy corrugated iron at times.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/153922643http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/153922643

Architectural drawing of a proposed ice skating rink in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland  http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/153922643

Had Brisbane ever had an ice rink before Mowbray Park I wondered? Trove was more helpful with this query revealing there had been grand plans for an Ice Palais in Wickham St, Fortitude Valley opposite McWhirters in 1938. Trove gave me the proposed building design (above), Council approval, and an advertisement. Sydney had its Glaciarium and Brisbane obviously thought it was time to get in on the fun (or more likely the profits).

The Courier-Mail 10 August 1938. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41006705

The Courier-Mail 10 August 1938.  ttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41006705

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938.http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731079

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938.
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731079

So why was Brisbane suddenly so keen on ice skating? Turns out the whole country had gone ice-mad in response to the popularity of Sonja Henie (as per this larger Trove article). Sonja was a beautiful Norwegian ice skater turned movie star. It was interesting to see her skate in this YouTube video but also surprising to see the dependence on spins and relative absence of jumps, revealing just how much more athletic figure skating has become over the years.

Sonja Henie made the cover of Time Magazine in 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Sonja Henie made the cover of Time Magazine in 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

With Brisbane’s Ice Palais scheduled to open in April 1939, it seemed logical that the rink might have been still around when my mother arrived from North Queensland a few years later. I gave her a call, and no, it wasn’t something she could recall either. I’d been pretty astonished to read about this proposed ice rink near my old stomping ground in the Valley where we shopped regularly. If it had survived it might have been there when I was a child, which it surely wasn’t. It’s possible that the sheer cost of such an ice rink meant its construction was delayed. From this story in The Courier Mail it’s clear to see that it was a very expensive investment.

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731156

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731156

The public were still keen to get out skating and a clue in The Courier Mail’s Answers to Correspondents column gives the next clue to the Palais. (17 February 1939)

The Courier Mail 17 February 1939

The Courier Mail 17 February 1939

Trawling Trove month by month through 1939, I could find no further evidence of this grand plan. What happened? Could they not raise sufficient funds? If so then the declaration of war in September 1939 would likely have hammered the final nail in their plans…there’d have been no capital investment money for frivolities like ice skating rinks or Palais.

Instead the focus seems to have turned to entertainment, as it sometimes does during war-time to keep the spirits up. And one of the promotional stories provides the first confirmation that the Palais had not (yet) been built.

The Courier-Mail 18 November 1939 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40887629

The Courier-Mail 18 November 1939 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40887629

Ice revues were popular and just as entertainment events like Disney on Ice have especially set-up ice rinks, so did these revues held at the old His/Her Majesty’s Theatre. I thought it was interesting that the revue was timed to coincide with the annual Ekka when all the country people were in town, thereby maximising the potential audience.

The Courier Mail 16 November 1939.

The Courier Mail 16 November 1939.

The Courier Mail 8 August 1940, page 15http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40926899

The Courier Mail 8 August 1940, page 15
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40926899

And so it seems Brisbane’s hopes for an ice rink, or Ice Palais, expired for another twenty years until the Mowbray Park rink seems to have opened.  In the interim, there were two proposals to combine ice skating with other sporting facilities.

The Courier-Mail 18 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49312310

The Courier-Mail 18 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49312310

Then in 1953, there was a bid for a combined swimming pool and ice rink complex at Mt Gravatt. I’m reasonably sure this never went ahead but would be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong.

The Courier-Mail 17 September 1953. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51079376

The Courier-Mail 17 September 1953. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51079376

After the Mowbray Park rink closed in 1967, another rink opened in the north-eastern suburb of Toombul in 1971. I did know of this rink though I never skated there (these were my PNG years), but I had completely forgotten about it until reminded by Ice Skating Queensland. My recollection now is that many (all?) of the professionals at the later rink at Acacia Ridge came from there.

Perhaps it was thanks to improved technology that made it viable to open an Olympic standard rink in the sub-tropics with Iceworld at Acacia Ridge. We had not long returned from Papua New Guinea and we embraced this different and fun activity, making Iceworld our home away from home. It also has fond extended family memories as my cousin and his family joined us in our devotion to the sport. Our smallest bear spent lots of time as a toddler at the rink –she’d sit in her pram on the sidelines while I attended women’s classes, and as each woman reached that side of the rink they’d talk to her. And then there were the dawn training sessions with our older daughters until the constant recurrence of their ear infections meant we gave it up. Lots of happy memories!

And then there were costumes to make as well.

The two eldest at Acacia Ridge c1981. And then there were costumes to make as well.

As we found during a Brisbane visit, outdoor rink is set up in King George Square in June each year for their new Winter Festival. It seems to be proving very popular with lots of people having a ton of fun. (By the way, cold in Brisbane doesn’t mean much below 10C)

I still say if Jakarta, Singapore and Dubai can have indoor ice rinks, there’s no reason (other than that pesky money) why Darwin can’t! The fact that I’d probably break my neck these days is beside the point.

The ice rink in Jakarta's Mall Taman Anggrek. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The ice rink in Jakarta’s Mall Taman Anggrek. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn about your home city from Trove? I picked up all sorts of clues about Brisbane’s roller skating rinks, but that’s a story for another Trove Tuesday.

Trove Tuesday is an innovative idea by Amy at Branches, Leaves and Pollen.

Sharing memories: New Friends

OliveTree Genealogy is celebrating the 3rd year of Sharing Memories - A Genealogy Journey with the goal of writing our memoirs and childhood memories for our descendants. The topic for week 19 was New Friends.

My life as a young child was very socially homogenous in a way that was more traditional, and old-fashioned if you like, than today when it’s usual for children’s horizons to potentially be international. I, on the other hand, saw the same children in the neighbourhood, at church or at school. The only difference was that there were two streams of school: those who went to the Catholic school and those who went to the state (public) school. Girl Guides added a little leavening to the mix, but even many of those lived not too far away.

Penpals were the new friends who opened a window into the wider world: a couple in the States and one in the Netherlands. I often wonder what happened to Ria from Hilversum or Patsy from Arkansas or Carole from….. In turn this reminds me of a book by Geraldine Brooks called Foreign Correspondence, a double entendre on her occupation as a foreign correspondent when she sets out to trace what had happened to her penpals in the intervening 20 years.

The transition to high school, aged 14, was a significant turning point in my life. For me it was like throwing open the doors, largely through books and learning, but also through exposure to different people and classes of society. It was quite daunting to go to a new school of about 1000 students after my little primary school of under 200. Only two of my primary school colleagues went to the same school and neither was in my class and we had never been close friends anyway.

The order of nuns who ran my high school were also a different “brand” and had their own particular ways so it was a bit fraught learning all the new protocols: a curtsy as each nun passed, calling each one Sr Mary XXX rather than just Sr XXX.

View over All Hallows’ from nearby rental accommodation.

The school was also in Fortitude Valley, an offshoot of the Brisbane CBD, so I travelled by bus each day along with boys going to Church of England Grammar (Churchie), St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace, Grammar or St James in the Valley. Not that they were among the friends we were allowed to cultivate, since it was forbidden to speak to boys at all, even if they were relatives, so we had to settle for covertly eyeing them off (the Churchie boys were our favourites).

It suddenly occurs to me that I’ve made an assumption but readers won’t know that my high school was an all girls one.

In the first week of school, one of my classmates came up to me and to my surprise, announced we were cousins. She had recognised my surname as being her grandmother’s maiden name and gone home to verify we were related. We didn’t really become mates though we were friendly and swapped notes and cards as teenage girls do, and she was a link to a family history that at the time I knew nothing whatsoever about.

It didn’t take long before I made a few friends with whom I stayed best mates over the course of high school and on into university, or for a couple, through their nursing training. We had sleep-overs, went to the movies or occasional concerts, supported each other through early romances and generally did lots of girl talk.

Over the decades the friendships diluted as we married, got jobs or moved around.  A couple of us still keep up loose links and when in the same city, which is rare, we catch up. The long links of our experience make it easy to pick up the threads of our friendship and two of our daughters have become friends, despite distance.  But I still treasure the memory of my new teenage friendships with Maria, Sue L, Sue B and Margaret.