A near miss in Coolangatta: Sepia Saturday 243


Sepia Saturday 243This week’s Sepia Saturday 243 is one of those topics where a personal theme leaps to mind. Every family has its story traditions and family anecdotes, perhaps even about get-rich schemes and near misses.

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

All my life Dad used to tell the story of “the one that got away” in our family. My grandfather who I’ve written about before, worked for the railway all his working life. At one stage, perhaps around 1900-1910, he worked on the rail line that went from Brisbane city to the interstate border at Coolangatta. I don’t know about other countries, but here in Oz, a twin town (as opposed to towns twinned with overseas), is one that has a matching town on the opposite side of the (state) border. Coolangatta is one such town, sitting right on the border of Queensland while across the Tweed River sits its twin, Tweed Heads. One of the quirks of these twin towns becomes obvious with the start of daylight saving each year. Queensland doesn’t “do” daylight saving (no, I’m not going there with that topic!) so for six months or so, Coolangatta is 30 minutes behind Tweed Head. Could be handy if you urgently need shops which close promptly at 5pm.

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Dad told me that while Grandad was working on the Gold Coast railway line they used to fish for stingrays in the river using star pickets…those long metals poles with three sides. Personally I think that was a bit unfair on the fish, to say the least, but it is still a part of local lore.

But the one that got away wasn’t a monster fish, rather the real estate deal that might have made the family fortune. The story goes that he was offered a beach front block of land at Coolangatta for a tiny sum, £100 springs to mind. Given that property on the Gold Coast now sells for seven figure amounts, we were dazzled by what might have been, not to mention the sheer bliss of living within sight and sound of the surf and the ocean. But it was not to be, and perhaps even if it had, Grandad would no longer have had the money to buy the land that our family lived on for 96 years….the turn of the fate wheel.

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Coolangatta has never been the glitzy, glamour (tarty?) queen of the Gold Coast, that role was left to Surfers Paradise. That didn’t stop Coolangatta’s nearby beach, Greenmount, being a big hit with families as a holiday destination. I recall that we had only one holiday at Greenmount, compared with the several we took up the coast a little at sedate but beautiful Currumbin.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Apart from the attraction of sun, sand and surf at Greenmount, one of the big “pulls” during the 1960s was the Porpoise Pool run by Jack Evans at nearby Snapper Rock. It was de rigeur to visit the attraction and see the trained dolphins leap from the pool to catch their fish. (You can see a video here). Afterwards it was almost inevitable to have a photo taken with Sammy the Seal, another feature of the attraction. In this photo of me I would have been about 12.  I remember that rainbow top, which Mum sewed, very vividly especially the texture of the fabric.

Part of the reason our family was able to visit the border towns was because of the railway line. Dad’s annual railway pass made it possible for us to travel close to our destination – an important factor as we had no family car. The lack of a car was unfortunate also because, dare I say it as a loyal Queenslander, there’s some spectacular scenery and beaches just south of the border….an area our own family grew very fond of in later decades… I wrote this story about it a while ago.

It’s always good to know that families aren’t the only ones to have near-misses…Queensland Rail closed the line to Tweed Heads in 1961 and to Southport in 1964, no doubt due in part to the increased numbers of people who owned their own cars. Decades later they had to rebuild the same line to cope with just some of the burgeoning commuter traffic. The one that got away indeed.

Don’t forget to visit the other Sepians to see which beaches they’ve visited or how they interpreted the image.

PS: I’ve just noticed something my sub-conscious may have latched on to earlier. The man in the suit in the foreground reminds me of a photo I have of my grandfather.

 

16 thoughts on “A near miss in Coolangatta: Sepia Saturday 243

  1. I can remember a childhood family holiday (probably a one and only) visiting old family friends (McVeighs) in Tweed Heads and going to the Currumbin bird sanctuary where all the rainbow lorikeets flew down and ate bread and honey from tin plates we held in our hands. I think I have a photo of the Lorikeets sitting, yes sitting, all over my brothers head.

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  2. I was taken by your mention of Tweeds Head, as my SS post this week featured the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders. It was interesting to read of a very different life-style in Tweeds Head, Queensland. A second coincidence was your reference to Southport. I lived as a child near Southport, on the Lancashire coast and remember going on a Sunday School trip there. it was famous for the way the tide went far out, so you had to walk what seemed like a mile to actually reach the water.

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    • We had some coincidences this week Sue…Loved your old train stations. Darwin has huge tidal changes but overall we’d probably go on strike if we had to walk for miles to get to the water! And as for pebbles and black sand….well!

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  3. As you say, nearly everyone has a ‘what if ‘ tale they can relate. Who knows what might have happened if your grandfather had bought that beach-front property? If might have made the family rich. Then again, the temptation to try to develop it into something big might have drained his resources ? Y’never know. That’s funny about the two towns being 30 minutes off during daylight savings time, but I can see where it could be of benefit sometimes. Love your ruffled top in the pic at the Porpoise Pool. My sister had one almost exactly like it in design & I used to borrow it a lot.

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  4. An enjoyable post and some interesting pictures. The story of the twin towns with different times is very amusing, and I like the idea of popping over the border for a forgotten grocery item.

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  5. We once went to a wedding held in Tweed Heads in about 1979 at 6 pm, with the reception to follow in Coolangatta at the same time (6 pm), and funnily enough we were actually up at Tweed Heads just a couple of weekends ago and stayed with the couple whose wedding it had been.

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    • I knew there had to be another reason to have split time zones, and there it is! What a coincidence about being there so recently…it’s a lovely area from there south to Byron….but they need to drop the border so it can all be Qld! 🙂

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  6. Reading about the more popular beaches and the ones you visited makes me think about the pecking order of beaches here in Virginia and along the east coast in general. Those “other” places always sound more exotic or more grand than the comfortable local one. It’s good to be able to appreciate the experience for what it was.

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    • you’re right Wendy, it’s a case of the grass is greener…or the sea is bluer… but I think we have some pretty amazing beaches here. Would be happy to check out Virginia’s and East (or west) coast USA 😉

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