Sunday, November 13, 2011

Welcome to Noosa

ALTHOUGH I moved from Maryborough to Brisbane to join The Courier-Mail in 1956, I never visited Noosa until 1960. Sure my wife Jan and I had a couple of holidays on the  Sunshine Coast in a Caloundra flat before that, but we never travelled farther north.
By the way, it wasn't the Sunshine Coast in those days. It was the North Coast and  the Gold Coast was the South Coast.
In 1960 the editor, T.C.Bray, a tough but great bloke, moved me from Police Rounds reporting into the Sports Department to cover rugby league and tennis and a few other  sports and I wasn't too happy about it because I loved chasing crime, fires and accidents in Police Rounds.
Soon after the transfer I was asked to cover a surf lifesaving carnival at Noosa because the regular surf lifesaving writer, the late Frank O'Callaghan, was away. 
So off I went to Noosa for the first time. It was a bit different back then compared to today. Hastings Street had a caravan park at the southern end where the cop shop is today. At the other end was a very rough camping ground and the mouth of the Noosa River was only about 100 metres from the end of  Hastings Street.
On the beach side of Hastings Street were a couple of small shops and a row of old weatherboard  houses and huts and a couple of weatherboard guest houses. I stayed in an old boarding house on the beach that time and I think it cost five shillings for bed and breakfast. That's 50 cents today.
The only pub in town at the time was up Noosa Drive from Hastings Street on top of the hill. It had fantastic ocean views up towards Double Island Point.
But it had to be a certain time to be able to view it - like when you had a few beers and needed a wee-wee. You would leave the public bar, which had four walls and no windows, walk across the room to the toilet, step up to the urinal, and let fly while looking out the window.
And what did you see while having a pee? Fantastic views overlooking  the old houses and shops in Hastings Street, across the beautiful beach and  across the beautiful sea up north to Double Island Point. When you finished,  you left the beautiful views and walked back into the closed-in public bar.
It's all different today, of course, and if I had any luck I would be able to stay there for free today because my old surfing mate, former Courier-Mail reporter Ian Oliver, would have been the owner.
You see Ian's parents went close to buying the pub back in the late 1960s but preferred a pub out Warwick way.
There was some excellent  Main Beach surf that day in 1960 and a few board riders out around First Point at Johnson's Bay.
Remember back then there were very few boardriders around because surfboards with fins had only been introduced to Australia by some Yank athletes who were in Australia for the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
Seeing them got me interested in surfboards, and a couple of months later when Jan and I were holidaying at Caloundra, I decided to visit an old Maryborough swimming mate, a former Queensland Railway lad porter named Hayden Kenny.
Some time earlier Hayden had opened his board-making business at Mooloolaba. I borrowed a board, about 10-foot long, which was the normal thing back then, and drove back to Caloundra. That afternoon I launched it  into  six-foot surf at the southern end of Kings Beach and paddled out.
I paddled like fury onto the first swell that came along and took off like a rocket but before I could get up the board speared into the sand, shooting me off like a rocket and almost breaking my neck.
I took the board back to Hayden next day and told him I was retiring from surfing. But all that changed two years later when I met old surfer Ben "Pa" Bendall and his wife, Marg "Ma" (pictured above). But I'll tell you about that  another time.
Anyway after the Noosa lifesaving carnival ended, I phoned the story back to The Courier-Mail and decided to walk around to National Park.
When the old bush track to National climbed up over First Point I was astounded by the views from that fantastic rocky point. I sat down on the point for quite a while, watching the  sun go down ... and the great surf with about three or four boardriders out.
You must remember back then there were so few boardriders around that when you passed a car with a surfboard on top you waved at them frantically and they  did the same to you.
That spot at First Point became my favourite spot. I even camped there in my swag a few times.
Then one day driving  up to National all hell broke loose in my head - there were builders on First Point constructing  four bloody units. You can't, I told them. This is part of National Park.
Unfortunately all us surfers had believed that but it was not correct. So up went the four units, and I hated it. But if I had a couple of million bucks today I would buy one and move in. They have the best ocean views in the world.
Even though I hadn't started boardriding at that stage  I started spending holidays at Noosa, sometimes with Jan and sometimes with mates in old beach-side houses.
The best of those was in an old weatherboard house  named Rainbow's End, right on Johnson's Bay on a triangle of land where you turn off Park Road into  Little Cover Road, just across the road from where those bloody First Point units are today.
But I'll tell you more about Noosa and Rainbow's End and the whole North Coast in my surfing days in my next story, which I hope will be posted before Christmas. (Many thanks to Ian Oliver for the photos of Rainbow's End from the 1960s)


  1. Lawrie,
    Great story about Noosa's golden times which we were lucky to be part of, especially the uncrowded surf. By the way if I had inherited the Noosa pub I wouldn't have let you stay there for free, I would have charged you double and it would be a lot more than the five miserable shillings you paid at the guest house.
    Cheers Ian Oliver

  2. I decided to go to associate recent Maryborough swimming mate, a former Queensland Railway lad porter named Hayden Kenny.
    new homes warwick qld

  3. Yeah ,noosa so beautifully quite then.My friends and i all surfers used to spend every saturday night in winter at the reef public bar with only a few other fisherman in the very early 70s and after the pub closed we would roll our car down the hill to hastings st and up into an old wooden car garage that belonged to a house on the beach but faced into hastings st.We would always try to see if we could make it without starting the motor (no power steering in old holdens).Then we would argue as to whose turn it was to sleep on the concrete in front of the car while the lucky ones stay comfortably inside.One of my mates told me much later that he heard a girl call in to the abc radio telling about how her parents owned the house and how the surfies would sleep in their garage .Her mother wanted it stopped but her dad (must have been a good guy as we did not know them) said no there alright no harms being done.Thats the thing in those times we had a pretty wild time BUT WE DINT HARM ANY ONE OR THING as a general rule anyway.We also used to drive our station wagon onto the sand track from the top road at sunshine (which in those days had no houses at the end ) all the way through the park and come out about 50 metres from A bay beach.The tracks is still there but only for walkers and the rangers.Living at sunshine now myself i walk to that spot to surf and often think about those times but hey the surfs still as good ever and so is the crowd factor .Thank god some things change slowly

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. My family lived in Buderim in those days and we had a fruit and vegetable shop right next door to Hayden Kenny's boardshop. I remember it well and a couple of people who worked for Hayden (Candy Calhoun and Malcomb Pratt). I was 15 at the time 1965. We have since moved back to the USA. Loved our time in Australia!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.