Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Book of Me - My Childhood Home part 1

My Fourth Birthday at Enoggera. Image held by author.

My Childhood Home as a prompt will unavoidably elicit a long response from me, since, by the age of 14 years, I had lived in five homes in Brisbane, at Enoggera, The Gap, Kenmore, Pullenvale and Jindalee.  Each home holds unique and special memories for me. In addition to these homes, my family spent one year living with my paternal grandparents in Garfield Drive Paddington Heights, while we built a new home. For me personally, my earliest memories are my most evocative. Of my early formative years, before my reminiscences of home life become interwoven with school, friends, sports and hobbies, my memories are affectionately of my home and my family.

Enoggera (marked red) and other suburbs of Brisbane, Google Maps

My first childhood home was in Crescent Avenue Enoggera, a suburb of Brisbane. Enoggera was an area of Brisbane first settled in the 1840's as farming land. The name Enogerra is believed to have been derived from an Aboriginal word Euoggera, which meant a 'place of water' or 'a place of breeze', Euoggera. It is thought that a simple clerical error afforded the suburb the name Enogerra. One of the prominent pioneer families in this area was the Pullen family who I believe a place I later lived called Pullenvale was named after. 

Photo: [State Library of Qld] Enoggera Creek 1906

My father and myself at my Enoggera home. Image in possession of author.

The house,  pictured above, is where I lived until I was 7 years old. To this day, I have strong recollections of my first childhood home. The house, although not old enough to be considered a 'Queenslander' in style was typical of a Queensland 1950's home. Like so many homes in Queensland, ours was  timber constructed. It had a brick base at the front and at the back of the house which was slightly higher, as the yard sloped away, timber slats filled the gaps between concrete stumps. 

My fourth birthday party at Crescent Avenue. Image in possesssion of author.

Although I only lived in the house at Enoggera until I was seven years old, I can still vividly recall the first house that I called home. My parents owned the house and so it reflected them both very much. My mother, Alwynne Jean MacDade ( Reece-Hoyes) was a talented interior decorator so her style was reflected inside the home and in the garden. My mother was well known for her creative gardens and it was a familiar sight for neighbours to see us pull up outside our home with a car full of plants and barely room for we children.  My father, Colin John MacDade (McDade) who would very much today be referred to as a D.I.Y man, built a booth style table with padded bench seats in our kitchen. The kitchen, which was on the right hand side of the house at the rear, was a place in my home where I spent a lot of time helping my mother to bake. Our piano had pride of place in the open plan lounge dining area, which was entered directly from the front door. I don't recall having a formal dining table until our next house which we built new in the leafy suburb of The Gap when my mother splashed out on purple leather Grant Featherstone designer lounge and dining furniture. 

The Grant Featherstone lounge chairs my mother bought in purple

My Enoggera home was a two bedroom house, so my younger sister and I shared a bedroom.  My father painted my pink bedroom walls a pretty pale lemon colour just before my sister was born so I am guessing that he was expecting a son. Lemon walls with lemon and lilac bedspreads were the colours I think about in my bedroom in my first home. Whenever I see the lilac flowers of Jacaranda trees and the yellow of Silky Oaks which grow abundantly in Queensland and which often flower together, I nostalgically think of my bedroom at Enoggera. My father, who was very clever with his hands, built my first bed. I was extremely proud of that bed because it had a blackboard and shelf as a bed head and I was the envy of all of my friends. I wonder now, looking back, if the inevitable chalk dust on my bed was perhaps not quite as popular with my mother.

I have a very clear recollection of the bathroom in our Enoggera home. This memory has most likely remained with me because of one distinctly happy event. I recall my mother standing beside the bathtub in which I was bathing, teaching me to do a dance called the Twist. While my sister and I were sharing a bath,  the 1960's Beatle's hit, 'Twist and Shout', (originally known as 'Shake it up Baby') began to play on the radio. Singing along to this song, my mother  began to show us a dance known as The Twist. Possibly whilst I was in the bath was not the safest place for me to attempt my first ever twist and shake - dance in the bathtub I did. I can still recall the shrieks of laughter coming from that small bathroom. This was the first time I heard of the group known as the Beatles and although I was too young at the time to understand the impact their music was to have upon the world, their music and the memory of my mother dancing, prompts a flashback to my childhood home. I only have to hear the song Twist and Shout  to recollect a happy memory.

The Twist

The colour of our house changed every few years when my father painted it. He was somewhat of a perfectionist about the appearance of our home and garden. I remember the house as being a greyish green colour.  My father is pictured above holding me as a baby, when the house was a lighter colour than I recall.  I have a clear recollection of my parents painting samples of  colours on the back of our house, to choose from, when I was around four years old. My father and grandfather had built a cubby house for my sister and I, in our backyard which we called our 'Little House'. It was a beautifully constructed miniature of our own house and was even painted to match our home. I was permitted to paint colour samples on my cubby house whilst my father did so on the real house. My cubby, unlike our home, had colourful red, green and yellow timber louvre windows, which opened by means of a small hanging chain. My sister and I  spent many halcyon days playing in our 'Little House'.

 My backyard was a wonderful playground for my early years. I had a blue and red tandem swing which as you can see in the photograph below, fitted more than two young children on it.   

My sister, left, myself and my cousin on our swing. Image in possession of author.

Our back yard and fence adjoined land owned by the the Enoggera Army Barracks. Before I began attending  pre-School at the Ashgrove Memorial Kindergarten at the age of three, one of my favourite things to do was to picnic in our back garden. My mother would pack a picnic hamper filled with delicious tomato sandwiches, freshly baked cream buns, drinks and ... cake... but I daresay that I have spoiled that delightful image with my cake tin confession! After spreading a blanket  in the back yard my mother, my sister and I langorously enjoyed those pleasant picnics, and many a summer feast ended with sticky fingers from a home made ice-blocks. I recall that whenever I was in in backyard, I desperately wanted to see soldiers over the fence. Apart from the obstacle of a very high fence, the actual army barracks were quite a distance away and over a hill so I never did achieve my childhood dream of seeing soldiers marching.

My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade, built a huge sandpit underneath a large clump of banana trees which grew magnificently in the back yard of the home at Enoggera. Those trees yielded delicious fresh bananas and along with paw paws, cumquats, mulberries and fresh grapes picked straight from the vine growing against the side fence, we children feasted on fruit every day. I have one particularly painful memory of playing in our sandpit. It was a large sandpit with a low seat surrounding it for us to sit on. One warm summer's day, I was sitting on that seat and leaning into the sandpit to dig a tunnel, when I noticed a bee slowly walking in the sand. Thinking it hurt I picked it up and called to my mother, 'Look mummy, a poor bee. It's sick and can't fly. '. ' Put it down at once,' replied my mother calmly. 'It will sting you.' 'Oh no', said I, It's a nice bee!' Before my mother could reply, the bee stung me ... and flew away, leaving betrayed and in excruciating pain. Not learning my lesson that day, it was many bee stings later during the making of clover chain necklaces at my next home that I finally concluded that bees were not nice at all! 

I was fortunate as a young child to enjoy a great deal of freedom. As a four year old, I knew all of the children in my street and we played at will at each others' homes or at a large oval at the end of our street.  Bright yellow flowering cassia trees lined the fence between my neighbour's house and mine and these made perfect 'ladders' to climb to the top of the fence and to jump over into the next door yard. Whenever my father pruned the cassias I used to play in the big pile of branches pretending it was a forest. 

Cassia trees - cassia fistula

On weekends, teams of marching girls competed with their precision drills, on the oval and each Saturday,as soon as I heard the rythmic drums and music begin. I would hurry to the end of my street to watch.  At four years of age I wanted nothing more than to wear a white pleated skirt and white boots and to march  in uniform to the beat of drums. My mother had other plans for me, however. At four years of age I was enrolled in tennis lessons, making use of  my mother's own tennis racquet. I can clearly recall, on my first day of lessons, the tennis coach joking that the racquet was bigger than me. I also began ballet lessons at the age of four. These were both activities that I kept up until my late teenage years with dreams of marching and drills receding into my active routine of Brownies, Girl Guides, Gymnastics and other childhood activities. But I will say this - whenever there was an award for marching on the parade ground at my Primary school - I  won it!

I wanted to be a marching girl.

Most of my memories from my first home are happy ones, however, one sad incident impacted heavily upon me at the age of five. I had made a friend at school who was coming to play at my home one afternoon. As I stood waiting for her for what seemed like hours, I heard my neighbour telling my mother that my firend had been hit by a car crossing the main road near my street and killed. A car that had stopped for her at the crossing and as she walked on to the road, a less patient driver, overtook the stationary car and hit her. I don't think that I fully understood what happened at the time, although I do remember walking to her house a few days later, to tell her mother how sorry I was. After my friend was killed, my mother became nervous about me walking to school and for some time after that, my grandfather drove me to and from school each day. 

The house painted a darker colour.

I started Primary School from my home at Enoggera, after two wonderful years attending pre-school/ Kindergarten, where my teacher, Miss Lightner was adored by all. I was very proud of the fact that my father and grandfather built an exciting playgound at my Kindergarten, complete with a tunnel made from a huge concrete pipe covered by a turf covered hill. I attended the same Primary school that my father had attended in 1936. The Oakleigh State School was quite a long walk from my home but at just five years of age I happily walked to and from school, sometimes accompanied by my neighbour Denise. 

As an adventurous five year old, by the end of my first year, I had discovered a number of alternate and interesting routes to school, several of which, only as an adult have I realised were quite unsafe for a five year old child. But my mother knew none of this and undeterred I continued to explore the areas and suburbs which surrounded my home. My favourite route to school took me through a bushland area and across a bridge over a creek. I thought this journey to be a most exciting adventure. One day I was an explorer and the next, a hunter! I found the bush to be a place of unlimited imagination. Another way home that I discovered, was along a busy main road,which in one section had no footpath, but instead ran right up to a steep cliff. I walked as close to the cliff as possible to avoid being hit by a car. After my friend was killed on this same road I stopped walking by this route. One would never think of allowing a young child so much liberty today and I have no doubt that my mother would have thoroughly disapproved of my excursions, having told me strictly to walk  to and from school according to her safe directions. 

Oakleigh State School

Our home at Enoggera had an outdoor toilet, since the suburb was not yet sewered. As a young child I hated using this toilet.  I recall it as being very dark when the door was closed and I never once ventured in there without a fear that a spider would bite me. I quite clearly remember the overpowering smell of tar which lined the tin under the timber seat, and which was replaced by men who arrived weekly in the sanitation truck to empty the pan. I loved to visit my paternal grandmother because she had an inside flushing toilet. Shortly after I moved from the Enoggera home, the area was sewered.

Thinking about my first childhood home, has stirred so many memories. Cracker night, as we children called Guy Fawks night was always anticipated with much excitement. The baker delivered fresh bread in his van daily and the milkman left bottles of milk on the doorstep early each morning. The fishman drove along our street once a week ringing a bell and selling fresh fish, although with my father a keen fisherman we usually had a plentiful supply of freshly caught bream or flathead. A truck delivered soft drinks and the Electrolux representative called regularly to provide service calls for my mother's vacuum cleaner. The highlight of the week for the children in my street, however, was the icecream truck. The driver rang a bell and children ran from every house in summer months to buy flavoured ices. Home delivery was a commonplace service when I was a small child.

My father constructed concrete garden edges around all of my mother's garden beds as well as car tracks in our driveway. I loved to watch him mix the cement in his cement mixer. Both my sister and I left our hand prints in the concrete driveway at the house in Crescent Avenue, Enoggera. My first childhood home was not without some memorable childhood accidents and my father's concrete was involved in at least one. I recall painfully, when aged only three, I dragged a heavy bench to the side fence to chat to neighbours, despite my mother's warning to not to climb up on the rickety bench.  The call to chat over the fence with the children who lived next door, lured me into disobedience and of course I did fall. Straight back onto the concrete, splitting my head open, acquiring concussion and requiring an ambulance ride to hospital for stitches.

My father had a workshop underneath the house where we made Mother's Day gifts such as a tea towel hanging rack, sanded and painted by my sister and myself, supervised by our father. My father also craftfully built a small table and two little chairs for my sister and I in his workshop beneath the house. Working for Massey Ferguson,  a large tractor firm, my father was often away on country business trips but he always found time to build wonderful things for me. From the age of four, I owned a progression of different sized stilts made by my father, and I became very proficient on them indeed. My stilts were a very popular attraction in my street.

Recently I went back to Brisbane and took a drive down memory lane to look at all of my childhood homes and schools. The house at Enoggera is now painted a bright yellow and the back yard seems so much smaller than I had recalled. The house hd been extended taking up more of the back yard,   however, just seeing it again evoked so many wonderful childhood memories. A deck has been added at the front of the house and and my parents' bedroom window is now a sliding glass door, but many of the windows remain original.

My first home in Enoggera, in 2011. painted yellow

I was pleased to see a new generation of parents and children enjoying my old home

When I was seven years of age, my parents bought a half acre block of land in a new, bushland suburb of Brisbane called The Gap. When I first saw the land at the Gap, on which my new home was to be built, I thought all my dreams had come true. We had a creek running through the back of our yard, with a sandy little beach to play on. While our new split- level home was under construction, I spent many weekends playing down by the creek, searching for a platypus and exploring the bush and mountain on the far side of it. As an adventurous 7 year old, this was a fairy-tale place to live and a huge adventure.

I don't really remember moving from the Enoggera house and as a young child I found everything new to be exciting. A new home and a new school was just a big adventure to me. We were to live with my paternal grandparents while our new home was built. Their Queenslander style home high on a hill at Paddington, was one of my favourite places to be with its huge mango tree in the backyard and dark spaces beneath the house on high stilts to explore. Here, at Paddington, I caught the tram to school and played with the many children who lived in the street, including the four children of policeman Terry Lewis, later Police Commissioner who lived next door to my grandparents. 

 Part 2 will cover my year at Paddington where I attended the Bardon State School (where I have now discovered that Shauna Hicks, was a year behind me) and my expeditions and adventures while I lived at The Gap from age 7 1/2 to 10 years. I will try to briefly cover my childhood home at Kenmore, where in a war with a wasps nest, I came out the worse for wear, and a 13 acre property at Pullenvale complete with cows, ducks, chickens, a fruit orchard, lots of snakes and a near drowning for my sister, plus our last move to Jindalee, will complete my childhood homes. Make a cup of tea folks... this could be a long blog!

My Grandparents home at Garfield Drive, Paddington Heights, Brisbane

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Musical family

The photograph above shows the White Heather Jazz Band which played in Brisbane in the 1920's and 30's. Pictured from right is my grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade seated at the piano; Seated front with Violin, his brother Robert McDade, Playing the drums, my grandmother's brother Andrew Thompson White, On trumpet, my great uncle Alexander McDade, two people are unknown in the photograph but seated beside my grandfather is another of his McDade brothers.

Both of my parents were musical. My mother and father, Alwynne Jean and Colin John McDade (pictured right on the day that they became engaged),learned to play the piano from the same piano teacher in Brisbane, Queensland as children. My father, Colin John MccDade was somewhat of a child prodigy, performing his first classical music concert at the age of four years and winning a scholarship to attend the Conservatorium in Sydney at the age of 15 years. 

At that time he was attending the Brisbane Boys Grammer School in Brisbane, on an academic scholarship, and his parents wished him to complete his education there. There was no Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane at the time, and my father's family did not want him to move to Sydney so he turned down the offer of a musical scholarship. As a young boy, Colin John won a television contest called Steps to Stardom. As anyone who ever heard him play, will testify, that my father was truly a gifted pianist. He did not make a career out of his talent, however, choosing to get a job when he left school to help his family.

Right: My father, Colin John MacDade as a young man playing the piano

Music was an important part of my life growing up. My father played in a band on Saturday nights and composed musical scores, including some for film tracks. My mother was a music teacher, giving lessons on the piano and electric organ. My uncle owned and operated a Music Academy in Brisbane which launched the careers of a number of well known Australian bands including, Savage Garden. He also played the saxophone and the clarinet in a jazz Big Band. 

As soon as I began school I played in the fife band and later played in a recorder band. My sister and I were both choristers in church choirs and I have fond memories of wearing chorister's robes and singing with the choir at church services and weddings. Piano lessons with my father were not a great success as he was a perfectionist, and not patient with my lack of practice. I decided to learn to play the guitar and discovered I had a passion for this instrument. I certainly inherited my father's love for music from him. 

From the age of three, my grandfather gave me lessons on a small button accordion which had come to Australia with the family from Scotland. Although I do not have the accordion, it is safely still in the hands of a family member. Later I went on to learn to play the flute, piano and organ. Just before he passed away, my grandfather, requested a family gathering to which every family member was to bring a musical instrument or their voice. The last memory I have of Colin Hamilton McDade is of him happily listening to all of his grandchildren, as well as his grown children and their partners entertaining him with the piano, guitars, a trumpet, drums, and other instruments and everyone else singing along to the music. It was a musical delight which I will never forget. My grandfather died the same week, however he had truly left a musical legacy in his family.

Right: My father, Colin John MacDade

My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade ( it is another story as to how the name was changed to MacDade) taught me to sing songs in the Gaelic language. Only many years later did I discover that I had taken these ditties to school and sung songs full of quite rude words for show and tell. My father was horrified when he discovered I had been singing songs my grandfather had though to be hilarious. Fortunately my teacher didn't understand a word of the Gaelic language. Either that, or she had seen the humourous side to my innocent 5 year old singing. My grandfather had his own band in Brisbane. It was called 'The White Heather Band', ( pictured above top) named so because the McDade family were from Glasgow in Scotland. Recently a search of the Trove website and digitised newspapers from Australia revealed some interesting articles featuring this band and my talented piano playing grandfather.

Recently I discovered that my grandmother's family were also very musical, although I did not know this growing up. Jemima Florence White ( married Colin Hamilton McDade)had arrived in Australia at the age of 11 in 1913. The family lived in Kaimkillenbun on the Darling Downs in Queensland and articles from the Dalby Herald and other local newspapers tell of the beautiful singing voices of the White girls, Violet and Florence as my grandmother insisted on being called in Australia (she thought the name to be much more modern than Jemima). Her eldest brother, William Thomas White played a pump organ, which is still in the family.

I am now on a journey to discover more about my musical ancestry. My own children between four of them, play or have played the flute, piccolo, guitar, base guitar, banjo, mandolin, drums, piano, clarinet, violin and the saxaphone. One daughter has inherited a great aunt's singing voice. The same daughter, my youngest, kept us most entertained at the age of 6, being convinced that she had a stage career ahead of her playing the spoons! Talented as she may have been with two spoons clanging together, we were most relieved when she moved on to learn the flute.
Align Center
Musical talent, is something that seems to be inherited, although music excludes no-one. I am looking forward to discovering more of my musical ancestors.

Right: My daughter learning to play her tiny violin.

Note - The surname McDade and MacDade have been used by various branches of this family.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The 1974 Brisbane Flood - My Memories

Memories of my Suburb in the 1974 Brisbane Flood

Right: Jindalee after the January 2011 Flood.


In January, 2011, the Australian state of Queensland experienced disastrous flooding. I was holidaying on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane and watched on the television, as the city in which I had grown up, succumbed to muddy flood waters. A combination of water rushing from the flooded Lockyer Valley and overflow from the Wivenhoe Dam caused the city of Brisbane to be inundated with water just below the levels of a devastating earlier flood which occurred in 1974. Watching the flood waters rise brought back emotional memories for me. Jindalee, the suburb in which I had lived in 1974, had been devastated by the flood which occurred in that year. Although I had told my children the story of the '74 floods, they only fully comprehended my story as they watched the televised media coverage of the 2011 Brisbane flood.

The photograph, above right, was taken in Jindalee in January 2011, during the cleanup following the flood. In this blog, I am going to relate my memories of the 1974 Brisbane flood, as seen through the eyes of a teenager who was privileged to be a part of a team of volunteers who worked to help the suburb of Jindalee during a time of crisis.

The 1974 Brisbane Flood

In the latter months of 1973, South East Queensland experienced exceptionally heavy rainfall. In January of 1974 a cyclone named Wanda, moved toward the coast causing a deluge of rain for five days from the 24th. As always, the suburb in which I lived was quickly cut off from the Centenary Highway and the rest of Brisbane, as a creek flooded the only entry into and out of Jindalee. This was nothing new to the residents of the suburb who, unaware that dangerous water levels were building up in the Bremer and Lockyer Creeks, and that flood water was making its way towards Brisbane, regarded being 'cut off' as nothing more than an occasional inconvenience. I can recall being pleased that I had an excuse not to attend my part time job of music teaching, and I looked forward to a few days of leisure time.


On the morning of the 27 th of January, three days after the deluge of rain began, a gravel barge broke it's mooring up river from Jindalee. My sister and I were listening to the radio and heard the news. We rushed down to the riverbank near the high bridge which crosses the riv
er on the Centenary Highway, and watched in horror as the huge barge slammed into the side of the bridge. We felt the ground beneath our feet shudder as the barge collided with the two lane bridge and the extent of the structural damage was immediately obvious. With the barge lodged firmly beneath the upstream side of the bridge there was no choice for emergency workers but to dynamite and sink it before it demolished the bridge altogether. As teenagers, my sister and I watched all of this with the excitement of youth. We had no idea that a disaster was to befall Jindalee in only a matter of days.

Right: Photograph, Courtesy of the Qld State Library. My own photograph, taken at the moment of impact has been lost along with others that I took during the 1974 flood.

In the early hours of January, 29th, 1974, I was roused from sleep, by the sound of large trucks in the street outside my home. Wondering what was happening, I went outside into my front yard. I can still recall my disbelief as I gazed upon Bangalee Street filled with large army trucks and it seemed, hundreds of men in army uniforms. An officer shone a torch for me to enable me to look down my street and what befell my wide eyed stare, defied belief. I could simply not believe my eyes. Water covered what had been, only the evening before, many homes some of whose occupants I knew well. 

The officer explained to me that the flood had been caused by the creek and not the river and that they had been summoned to assist in rescuing people whose homes had flooded while they were sleeping. I don't think, looking back that anyone had any idea of the magnitude or sheer amount of water which was rushing toward Brisbane, or that it would bring with it a disaster on a scale which the residents of Jindalee had never known. There was a row of homes on the river bank which were not yet flooded but were cut off and left standing isolated between the raging river and the heavily flooded creek. With water on both sides of them, these home owners, many still asleep and unaware of any danger, needed to be rescued by members of the army. The Post Office gauge recorded that the flood waters peaked at 6.6 metres (22 feet) at 2.15 am on January 29th.

With the river rapidly rising and by now, water only several houses from my home, my family was instructed to gather a few valuables, to place everything in the home as high as possible and to prepare to be evacuated. Army trucks were evacuating as many people as possible. My father was away from home at the time and I recall my mother asking an army officer to help her to lift her precious Yamaha Organ onto our dining room table. My mother was a music teacher and the instrument was her pride and joy. My home was at the highest point on a ridge in Jindalee and by daylight the water was in the home below mine. The army was forced to abandon any more attempts to evacuate people since by morning the water was too deep for the trucks to re-enter the suburb. Help was gone and for the people of Jindalee, it was clear, we were now going to face the flood on our own.

 The scene which greeted me on the morning of January, 29, 1974. My home was on the left above the water level. The tyre marks on the road were left by Army Vehicles. The flood from the river was yet to arrive.

When my family moved to our home at Jindalee, we had not bought a house that my mother liked. My father had stubbornly refused to live in any house but one which he believed, would be high enough to survive a 100 year flood. At the time, my mother was not very happy with this decision. But my father was aware of something which was to stand our family in good stead.

 My great grandparents, Hugh and Sarah White, had owned a number of parcels of farmland which included the riverbank which is now the suburb of Jindalee. They had known well, the danger that the Brisbane River afforded the area. The land at what was known as Seventeen Mile Rocks had been severely flooded in 1930 and in 1841. Although my mother had not really wanted to buy that particular house, she was to thank my father for his decision, during this time of devastation in Jindalee. As the flood level rose perilously, the muddy waters only entered the rear of our property and my father, to his relief, was proven right. My family was one of the few fortunate ones in Jindalee, however, as much of the suburb quickly succumbed to flood water.

Right: A Map showing the parcels of farmland owned by my great grandfather, Hugh Eston White (marked in red). Map courtesy of The Centenary Historical Society.

In 1974, there was not the extensive media coverage that beseiged our television sets, radios, newspapers, twitter and facebook and which infectiously spread the word about flooding, as it did in 2011. Word of impending disaster did not reach the ears of Brisbane residents in 1974, in time for them to prepare for a flood of devastating proportions. Nor was there an army of helpers available to help families to remove furniture and possessions from their homes. 

As in the terrible 2011 Grantham disaster, a raging sinister menace, that was flood water, slipped into homes, in this case, in the dark middle of the night, taking families by surprise. 14 people lost their lives in nearby Brisbane suburbs and in the city of Ipswich. Jindalee at least was spared a death toll, because the creek had risen first, alerting residents of the suburb to possible danger. Because no one in Brisbane, realised the extent of the damage caused by floodwater in the outer suburb of Jindalee, for several days, there was no help from outside the suburb. Those families unaffected by the muddy river water, took it upon themselves to help others less fortunate.

Graham and Joan Nimmo, both primary school teachers at the Jindalee Primary School and leaders of the Uniting Church Youth Group remain among a group of unsung heroes for their untiring efforts to assist the people of Jindalee during and after the 1974 flood. 

On many occasions, the members of the Jindalee Youth Group, myself included, went on fishing or crabbing excursions in Graham's boat. We were frequent visitors to the Jindalee boat ramp, launching the boat for a day of water skiing or tobogganing. During the 1974 flood, Graham gathered a team of teenagers to go out every day in the boat with him to help the people of Jindalee (pictured above right).

I will never forget the shock of boating alongside power lines. That flood water could reach the height of the top of telegraph poles had never occurred to me. As we approached home after home to assist people 
stranded on verandahs and roofs, the full magnitude of what had happened to my suburb struck me. One photograph, which I took from the boat and which I have unfortunately lost showed a telegraph pole which had been washed high onto a roof and left there as the waters slowly receded. I watched from that boat as items of furniture which had been placed on roofs of homes on the riverbank, were taken away with the raging torrent. I recall vividly that we had to avoid being hit by a fast moving lounge as it went with the flood water. I couldn't help but feel for people who had lost everything in that murky, swirling current.

The owners of the local nursery in Jindalee set up a 'shop', a centre to provide food to residents of the suburb. Both of the shopping centres in the suburb were well under water so Graham took his boat out and we dived into that filthy muddy water to remove louver windows from a supermarket and swam inside to retrieve canned foods. Baby food was a high priority as in 1974 Jindalee had a young population. Looking back, I find myself shuddering at the thought of entering such sinister looking water, but young people have a high sense of adventure and I think that adventurous spirit, allowed us to ignore any danger. Graham and Joan were always mindful of all of their young charges and a were an inspiration to us all during that difficult time.

My mother contributed to the flood relief by cooking meals for many people. We had a gas stove and as there was no power, she had quite a heavy workload. We also had nine kittens born during the 1974 flood. Our cat, Hortense decided to give birth in my mother's wardrobe, however, she was so busy that she didn't mind at all. She placed a nice warm blanket in alongside her clothes for the 10 cats.

The Sinnamon family were pioneers of the 17 Mile Rocks area. Herc Sinnamon who still lived in one of the original farm houses which remained on dry land (only just) on the other side of the Centenary Highway, milked his cows daily and a group of us went with Graham by boat to collect the milk in buckets. With quite a few babies in Jindalee, Herc's fresh milk was much appreciated. Who would have thought that I would watch my first cow being milked during a flood.

Once word reached authorities about the extent of the flooding in Jindalee, we began to receive air drops of food and other essential supplies. Army helicopters made their drops on a small area of dry land. Graham took his boat to meet them and we carried the food to the nursery where it was distributed.

Joan Nimmo also played an important part in keeping the children of Jindalee busy during the 1974 flood, for which she later received a letter of praise from the Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Joan setting up a school in her backyard and providing fun activities such as painting and craft, not only entertaining the children but allowing flood affected parents the freedom to concentrate on cleaning up the badly damaged suburb. 

As the flood waters receded and the cleanup began, many people rallied together to clean metres of thick mud from inside homes. Because the Jindalee was a newer Brisbane suburb, the houses did not fare well after a week of flooding and relentless rain. Plasterboard walls and ceilings disintegrated and the damage was seen to be extensive. Every day people who did not know each other arrived at homes to help in the seemingly impossible cleanup. Jindalee buzzed with a spirit of generousity as everyone worked side by side to repair the damage caused by floodwater and mud.

When I visited Jindalee, this year, after the 2011 flood, I was overwhelmed by the familiarity of the smell of mud. I recognised that smell from 1974. Memories are often triggered by smells as well as sights and sounds. I don't think that I will ever forget the smell of mud in the homes in Jindalee following the 1974 flood.

Right: Burrendah Road as the flood waters receded and Graham's boat. 1974. Image Sharn White

Many people helped generously helped each other in Jindalee during the 1974 floods. My story is just one of many stories.