Chapter 24 - The Move to Queensland
Getting ready to move to Queensland in January 1963 was a very hectic time for both Jean and me. Grandpa Pegler's house in which we had continued to live after his death had been sold and as we then had no idea that we might move to Queensland, or anywhere else for that matter, we went looking for another house to buy in the Sydney area. At first we were a bit keen to move to somewhere like Balgowlah or Roseville, but we eventually settled on one at Mays Hill, just behind Parramatta High School and overlooking the Park. It was a rather stately two-story old place with a spectacular view built on one half of a double block of land. The other half was a rose garden which we would have had to sell to help finance the house. We had arranged to call on the Estate Agent one morning in September 1962 to exchange contracts and pay the deposit. Fortunately, I had let it be known at work what I was proposing, because the day before this was to take place the Managing Director sent for me and after the usual pleasantries said, “I believe you are planning to buy a house?” When I confirmed that this was so he said, “Well, how would you like to buy one in Brisbane instead?”
That was the first inkling I had that I was being considered for the job of Queensland Manager, or even that the then incumbent, Eric Hardy, was soon to retire. So, after a family consultation in which we discussed the pro's and con's of moving to Queensland we decided in favour and stopped proceedings about the Mays Hill house (rather regretfully, because it would have made a lovely home and would have been a financial bonanza as things turned out). We then started to plan the move.
Jean's health had not been good for quite a while and after seeing a specialist he insisted that a hysterectomy was essential and urgent. So that was planned for early December. In the meantime we had several week-end trips to Brisbane looking for a place to live, and after a good deal of friendly and well-intentioned advice from several people and a host of Estate Agents we decided against the suburbs and the types of house they recommended and chose one we happened to see as we drove down a street in Aspley. That part of Aspley had only recently been developed with the types of house, in the main, you could have seen in any Australian City, brick veneer, split-level, single-storey or two-storey, tiled roof, etc. It turned out that most of the people who bought there were from either Sydney or Melbourne, with a few from Queensland country areas!
The place we chose at 50 Binowee Street had been on the market for a while but was only about 90% finished, so we were able to get the builder to make a few alterations like converting the rumpus room into a fourth bedroom for Philip while Judith, Ann and we parents took the three bedrooms upstairs.
While Jean was in hospital after her operation I was busy packing and disposing of furniture etc that we didn't plan to take to Queensland. Then the house was demolished by the new owners, Broadway Motors, who wanted to put second-hand cars on the lot before the Christmas period. So, as soon as school finished for the year Ann and Philip went to stay with my Mother and Sister Lois at North Avoca, Judith went to live with Jean's Mother and Sister Pat at Granville and I booked into the Automobile Club in the City until I formally finished up my old job at Babcocks on Christmas Eve. When Jean's health allowed we both joined the rest of the family at North Avoca for the Christmas Holidays.
In the meantime I bought my first “company car”, a Humber Super Snipe, as previously related, and we set ourselves the task of moving to Brisbane where I was due to start work on 1st February. Judith, however, had agreed to continue her job in Parramatta for a few weeks, so Jean, Ann, Philip and I set out in the Humber for Brisbane about 20th January. We drove in short. stages because Jean was hardly recovered from her operation, and in fact there was a complication to it that we were not aware of until two or three weeks later. The journey took us three days and we arrived, I think, on the hottest day of the year.
We were to get used to the Brisbane climate quite quickly, and in fact to enjoy it tremendously, but we did wonder at first just what we were letting ourselves in for! Inevitably, with the Christmas Holidays hardly over, the builder didn't have the house ready when promised. So we stored all our goods and chattels in the house, locked it up and moved to the Caravilla Motel at Chermside. We did, indeed, enjoy the air-conditioned room that we lived in for several days!
With Jean still weak and sore from her operation, we then set about choosing floor coverings, curtain materials, additional furniture, washing machine, etc etc. I wonder now how we managed so much in such a short time. But it wasn't long before we settled in to the new house, signed the children up at their new schools, were joined by Judith who arrived by plane dressed in a manner suitable for Sydney but rather inappropriate for Brisbane. I remember her walking down the aircraft steps in a voluminous skirt with layer after layer of frilly petticoats underneath. It had been the height of fashion where she came from but was never worn again in the city she was to now live in!
And, of course, I called at the office to report my arrival. Although I wasn't due to take over from Eric Hardy until 1st February, he was keen, in fact insistent, that I start straight away as there was much to do. What I didn't know at the time was that the poor fellow was terminally ill with cancer of the liver. The arrangement he had made with the Company was that he would retire when I took over, but would stay on as a Consultant and Adviser for twelve months. In fact he was unable to carry on for more than a few weeks as he entered St Martin's hospital during February and died soon afterwards. I shall never know whether I was better off being thrown into the deep end and getting to know the staff, the customers and the needs of the branch office the way I did, or whether it would have been better to learn from Eric Hardy with all his experience, and, of course, his prejudices.
One Saturday morning not long after we had moved into the house, Ann and I went over to Woolloongabba to choose a new bedroom suite for her. When we got home I found a strange man in our bedroom talking to Jean who was in bed! It turned out that soon after we had left on our shopping expedition Jean had experienced an excruciating pain in the abdomen, called the G.P. Dr Ray Anderson who we had only met socially until then, and put herself to bed. Dr Anderson fortunately realised that there was something quite serious wrong and called a specialist who was still there when I got home. He said there was only one course of action, that was to get her to hospital quickly where he would arrange an immediate operation. It turned out that he had to get theatre staff in specially so the operation could be carried out during the Saturday afternoon. One Nursing Sister was actually brought from the racetrack!
The operation was duly and successfully performed and, according to the Surgeon, in the nick of time as the one ovary left intact after Jean's operation in Sydney, had got twisted up somehow and was about to burst. Hence the terrible pain! Jean was up and about again in next to no time and didn't look back from that day on. Her health, energy and enthusiasm all improved spectacularly from the miserable time she had been experiencing since the birth of poor little Ian ten years previously.
The family all settled in to the life in Queensland very quickly. Philip and Ann enrolled at High School and Judith, after one unsatisfactory experience, soon found a position to suit her talents and expectations. We joined the Chermside Methodist Church, which we found very much to our liking, Jean soon got into the ways of living in suburban Brisbane, and I was immersed in the running of the office, including some trips to clients in Northern Queensland. Judith, who was not enjoying her separation from Don Carter with whom she had fallen in love relatively recently, took every opportunity to slip off to Sydney at week ends and holidays. Alternatively, Don would make a quick and short visit to Brisbane. Don lived at home with his Mother and Father (who was a Railway Inspector) at Guildford. This arrangement continued for a couple of years until Don decided to come to Brisbane to live to be nearer his Sweetheart. So he arranged board and lodgings nearby, transferred from the NSW Dept of Main Roads to the Queensland equivalent and enrolled at the Queensland institute of Technology in what finished up as a degree course.
Once the new house at Aspley was furnished we felt very comfortable there and proceeded to add a few things for our convenience such as a couple of ceiling fans, an awning over the back balcony and some very expensive (or so I thought) venetian blinds and insect screens. The grounds were overgrown with bladey-grass and paspalum but we soon had some garden beds going and lots of shrubs and trees started. We used to amuse ourselves at the expense of the people running plant nurseries. Have you ever noticed what an odd lot some of them are? We soon discovered that everything planted grew at a prodigious rate compared to the Sydney climate and it was no time before we had gum trees, papaws, roses and gladioli, Bribie pines and travellers palms, bougainvilleas and mango trees, and crotons without number! As the house was of the “split-level” design only half of it was two-storeys high. But I soon discovered that some extra space could be provided by digging out around the piers on the other half. l got the foreman bricklayer at work to knock a hole through the wall for a doorway into this area and then I proceeded to use pick, shovel and wheelbarrow. l did most of this in the evenings by lamplight. The spoil from this I used to build up a large flat terrace in the back yard, the terrace being retained by a rather nice wall of river boulders set in cement. In fact the front of the house already had a feature wall of these rounded granite-like stones each of which weighs from four to six kilograms.
In the double garage I set to work to build myself a workbench to the design given me years before by Grandpa Pegler. (When I sold the house one of the stipulations of the buyer was that the bench went with it!) l also bought a saw bench. Then l proceeded to make built-in furniture for Philip's bedroom (based on the Travelodge Motel design of single bed that converts to a sofa by pushing it under a long cupboard attached to the wall and fitted with a padded front which forms a hinged door which swings down to store pillows and blankets in during the day. The wardrobe with sliding doors was built to Philip's design and proved to be rather tricky, but l managed. Next was a wall unit for the lounge room, built of black-bean veneered chipboard. After serving well at Aspley it came with us to Drummoyne where it just fitted the space available and then was brought up here to Bateau Bay where, in two sections, it also just fits! It must have been an inspired design!
A good deal of our original furniture was old and worn by this time so we bought new bedroom suites for ourselves and the girls. Ann chose a modern design but Judith was keen on a reproduction of a canopied four-poster bed she had seen in Vaucluse House. So we had it made up for her by a local furniture craftsman who also made our bedroom suite. We got ourselves a new and more commodious refrigerator, a new washing machine and a new lawn-mower. But Jean kept her marvellous old Singer power-bench sewing machine with which she made up all the curtains, the bedspreads, the canopy for Judith's bed and, of course, the clothes that both the girls and Jean herself needed from time to time. When I think of the clothes made by Jean for Judith's wedding-the gowns themselves and a wardrobe or two of dresses, night-clothes and dressing gowns-I am amazed at the skill she displayed and the speed and perfection of the old Singer!
In due course we also had some feature walls and a fancy barbeque built, some concreting done, and an outdoor entertaining area resulted. On occasions such as Philip's 21st Birthday on a hot summer night we entertained, I suppose, at least thirty people there, young and older. We did love that place. It was comfortable, practical and convenient for our life-style. We had pretty good neighbours, although sometimes we were left wondering! One couple who lived down the back regularly put on a show on Saturday nights by shouting at each other, then throwing plates and other movable objects. We had a grandstand view of these proceedings which, after a while became more entertaining than worrying! Just up the road were our good friends the Hasties and our house was frequently visited by many of the young people from the Church who were friends of the children. And a lovely lot of young people they were. They are grown up now. Most of them are married and some have teenagers of their own, but we still count them as our own friends-some of them, like the Bishops and Hasties, with their Parents, are our best friends. Yes, we were sorry indeed to leave Aspley when the time eventually came.