Memoirs of Kenneth Claude Johnson<
Edited by Connie Johnson
The earliest memories I have of life at "Pinehaven" Maudsley Hill Gracemere include the following:‹Going around the hill to Dad's other property along side Scrubby Creek and watching Dad start the engine after he got bottles of "Benzine" (Petrol) from Uncle Arthur's down on the flat black soil farm just over the creek. The engine was used to pump water from the well into a small tank to water the horse (or horses) which were used to pull the mould board single furrowed ploughs and also to pull the spring cart for trips to town (Rockhampton or the township of Gracemere).
I can remember the white Jasmine bush which grew around the well and also down into the top of the well coming out of the spaces between the spaces of the well.I can just remember the Pepperina tree (or trees) which grew on the hill-side up above the well and what was left at that time of hanging basket plants in such trees. Also the pesky lambs tail vines which grew where our grandparents (Johnsons) cottage had been situated on a small terrace. Also was such evidence was that also pesky "mother of millions" plant with bell shaped flowers. Also plentiful on that part of the hill was the blue bonnet and white bonnet vines. All these garden plants were attributed by our father to his only sister, our own Aunty Laura Newman (Mrs Eddie Newman).
Very well remembered are the date palms, one of which bore a yearly crop of bunches of dates. The other one further up the hill was a male which also each year bore bunches of sweet smelling flowers which greatly attracted the attention of bees especially the small native bees which no doubt also visited the fruiting tree and pollinated its flowers. On one occasion dad cut down some bunches but they failed to ripen as he had hoped. It was found that dates had to be picked from the bunches on the tree as they ripened individually, and then the ripening could be finished off in a box under glass in the sun. They were then as nice as any dates one has ever eaten. We also used to "dry pineapple" under glass and this was quite nice eating. As dads main occupation at the time was pineapple growing on the "Pinehaven" property where our house was, we were able to use up the rejects which had been sunburnt or damaged by the crows in the above mentioned way as well as eat many as fresh fruit.
The variety mostly grown for the local market or selling from the pineapple carts around the streets of "Rocky" were the well known Roughleaf variety. There were several kinds of "roughs" such as "King pines" and "Ripley Queens", the latter being larger than the common "roughs" but unfortunately subject to a black heart disease which failed to recommend it to the user (consumer). As children on a pineapple farm we had very good reason to remember "the roughs" as we were often put to work pulling weeds out from among these prickly plants, and that without gloves. Many a time comes to mind of having rows of prickles in ones hands and arms as these prickles often became detached from the leaf edges on contact!
Our mother was kept very busy having eight children eventually, ranging in ages from the latest "arrival" to the eldest girl of about eleven and a half years or thereabouts. Mother did all the washing with the aid of the old wood fired copper boiler and the round galvanised wash tubs on a wash bench. I just have to mention also that the four gallon kerosene tins were made great use of on washing days as well as for the water carrying and fruit or vegetable picking purposes. Mother later told me that on one washing day she found me upside down in one of these tins which was half full of water. Maybe I shouldn't be here to write my memoirs.
The round zinc tubs did double duty on Saturdays for the weekly bath, with warm water from the copper boiler. In the winter time these ablutions were carried out in the kitchen in front of the wood stove, so we boys were shunted off to the shed to help father while the girls (all three of them) had their baths first: No doubt in the interests of the modesty of those days!? Of course it wouldn't have had anything to do with us boys getting to use the second hand water warmed up and diluted a little with some more from the copper boiler, would it? Speaking of modesty hasn't the pendulum swung too far the other way in these so called enlightened days? Where is modesty or decency today? It must have "flown the coup" per hollywood or television. Couldn't we do to back peddle a little bit! (or a lot) I'll say we could!
To get back to the prickly pineapple plants I should have mentioned that there were also the so called smooth leaf variety which bore much larger and juicier fruit. The leaves of these are not completely devoid of prickles however and although easier to weed amongst, could still inflict painful injuries to hands and arms with the occasional prickles and also the sharp pointed tips of the leaves. It is these smooth leaf pineapples which today are processed and canned to make delicious dessert for the table. They have been developed into more a uniform and smaller sized fruit to make them more suitable for canning purposes.
Our Uncle Cecil Johnson after returning from the Great War (World War 1) specialised in growing the smooth leaf Cayenne pineapples on his Gracemere property which he named "Telmansa". It was over the railway line from Maudsley Hill and closer to Gracemere township. Uncle Cecil is also remembered for his interest in cultivating vegetable crops in between the rows of pineapples. He grew such crops as "long" or "snake" beans in this way. Also I remember one occasion on which he left some silverbeet at our gate! We children were somewhat taken in as we thought it was Rhubarb and we did so like Rhubarb Pie which mother sometimes made when Rhubarb was available, alas no Rhubarb Pie on this occasion! Uncle Cecil had an almost military discipline method of cultivation of his crops which our father didn't seem quite able to emulate somehow, and became well known for his success in these farming pursuits.
However back to Maudsley Hill. Firewood was an ever pressing need and I remember dad setting me to work with a small metal handled crosscut saw and saying "Ken you will be able to say that you sawed firewood when only eight years old this was in 1926. Oh for a chainsaw hah what! Some of our firewood grew on the hill and was often dragged home somewhat laboriously by hand. Oh well at least it was down hill wasn't it?
Dad used to burn cork wood which grew on the hill, to keep the mosquitoes at bay at night, as he entertained us all by playing his mouth organ (harmonica) to you. He also played several wooden piccolos and or flutes. When he tired of entertaining us musically.he would tell "Pat and Mick" stories. Sometimes "Pat and Mick" were accused of coming home somewhat the worse for liquor and seeing the moons reflection in the water they imagined it was a nice big cheese, so dad's story went that they all but drowned trying to recover this cheese! Dad did have a great imagination and could tell these "Jokes on the Irish" with gusto! He used to tell us little verses such as the following. "The Irish miners wife says to husband who often came home drunk" "You ought to be hung, to be hung to a rope! You dirty old rascal! You've eaten all of the soap".
Also of the miner coming home after a hard all night shift, calling out at the door. "Fire! Fire!. His frightened wife runs to the door asking Where? Where? So he says pointedly "In everybodies house but ours!" Yes! We were well entertained before the advent of movies, radio or T.V. There was of course the magic lantern (or lecture lantern) pictures some of these used coloured glass slides with moving parts to depict such scenes as a lady walking with umbrella when all of a sudden a gust of wind blows her wig off (she is bald) and her umbrella inside out. Oh yes we loved the magic lantern slides!
Dad also had slides which he produced himself as part of his photographic hobby. On one occasion dad had us blacken our faces with charcoal and he then formed us into a native clan and took photos of us coming around the hillside. Much of dads photography was done with his Thornton Pickard "Half Plate" camera which came complete with a classy wooden tripod. A red and black cloth was used to shade external light off the focussing ground glass plates during the process of composition and focussing. The sensitive plates were enclosed in wooden cassettes. A dark room was used when fitting plates into the cassettes. When focussing and composition was complete the ground glass screen was hinged away and a cassette fitted in place, after which a sliding panel of the cassette was removed thus allowing light from the lens to "expose" the sensitive film on the glass plate when the shutter was opened. Many of the glass plates negatives which our father took on this camera still exist and have created considerable interest at the "Morning Bulletin" office recently. Our cousin Eric and my brother Irwin have been instrumental in making the existence of these historic pictures more widely known. Irwin has shown an interest in printing from some of the glass plates. Many of these pictures date back to the 1918 flood and the early twenties and thirties.
The Edison cylinder phonograph figured quite largely in our entertainment as children. This machine had a large wooden flare (or horn) supported by a bracket and chain. The horn had to move along the cylinder record from left to right. This movement did not depend on the record but a screw threaded rod moved the speaker assembly along to suit the record groove. The impression on the record cylinders consisted of hills and dales (up and down), not like the wavy tracks on later disc records.
School days at Gracemere. It didn't take me long to disgrace myself after starting school at about five and a half years of age. I was "taken very short" in class one morning and poor sister Beryl fell for the unenviable task of cleaning me up "Nuff Sed!" My impression of a school toilet was that it should look like one at home. How wrong can a poor chap be? The only ones that looked like the one at home were for the girls. The boys place of relief was a larger building (shed) complete with a trough as well as sit me down upons. After the above mentioned "tragedy" school gradually became a little more bearable? not to say enjoyable! But it had its time for a shy and timid lad who little knew just how tough life could be and was sure to become.
I didn't like the "rough and tumble" of the playground and took a dim view of things when one boy would bend down behind you and his mate would send you sprawling over him! This sort of tactics increased and increased until some of the boys decided to really try me out:‹So they arranged for a younger boy who was quite a fighter to fight me over near the railway bridge outside the school ground. Now the last thing I wanted to do was to fight any one at all let alone a younger lad. However fight it was and there was no way of getting out of it. Miss Green walked past during the tussle and blamed me for the fight as I was the older one. How wrong can a teacher be?
The outcome for me a blooded nose and very upset feelings. Anyhow neither of us were at school next day so I must have packed a bit of a punch too and as far as I can recall no further action was taken by teachers or head master.
I did get into an occasional scrape of course! On one occasion mother had given Reg and I a couple of pence to buy pencils at Zimitats shop. Knowing what happened to new pencils we carved a flat place on each one and wrote our names there. However tragedy struck after school when Reg came to me crying that a certain girl had taken his pencil. So in I bowls to head teacher Colin Douglas, who objected to the interruption to his scholar-ship class, being conducted after ordinary schooling was over. Mr Douglas wildly and strongly objected to my accusation that this certain girl had taken the pencil and raced me out for his cane stick to cane me but must have had a sudden second thought for he stopped in his rage and let me off. Next day Reg's pencil was replaced by the school and the incident closed.
Mr Douglas was a fiery head and didn't believe in sparing the cane. He got off to a bad start with the case of the Milne twins Stan and Les. During the school holidays when Mr Douglas had arrived to take charge of the school in the new year, the twins were carting water past the school house during a drought. Now these hapless boys had somehow found out that Mr Douglas first name was "Colin" and loudly and cheekily proclaimed this fact when going past his place. So came the very first school day of the new year and Mr Douglas was quite determined to make a lasting example of the miscreants. Out in front of the whole assembled school were called the unfortunate twins and six hard cuts for each was the punishment delivered. So of course as news of this was spread around Mr Douglas's reputation was looked into and from many different points of view and I venture to say that it took him longer to live the whole matter down than it did the culprits. The twins grew up to be business men in Rockhampton running a quite large machinery workshop business.
Mr Douglas only caned me once and that was being too slow to learn how to do "square root" sums. Strangely enough I did learn to do such sums after one cut with the cane. I wonder why? I can still do square roots! Like this:‹
2)576 2) 576 (24 50) 576 = 24 Very good! Go up top! 400 44 176 176 .576
Cousin Eric, was in the same class (though several months younger than me). He also got into some strife with Mr Douglas, this time with music theory. Eric didn't know the difference between a crotchet and a quaver? So a cut with the cane stick and we all knew who the crotchet was and Eric was all a quaver.
Mr Douglas was a hard man though I don't doubt that he meant well in his own way! A returned soldier of World War one and a strict Presbyterian too. He was reputed to be suffering what was called "Shell Shock" from his war experiences. He sure shocked some of his pupils and made them learn the hard way!
Our people were very hard up financially in the 30's and to eke out a very small income from the farm dad used to attend auction sales to buy essential items for us all. And so it was when a "certain corner store" in Rocky was sold up (having "gone broke") dad came home with an everlasting supply of unused docket books. We children were sentenced to using these complete with "tear off invoices" as school pads in place of the normal more expensive pads which other parents somehow provided. Of course our "pads"? soon became a little more than a heap of loose pages! What a mess! One teacher become so frustrated trying to sort out my "Arithmetic" that he then threw my whole mess of a ŒPad"? up in the air saying "What goes up must come down"! Come down it did for sure in a bigger mess than ever all over that area of the school room floor very much to the amusement of my fellow pupils! How embarrassing! How belittling! Any wonder that I wanted to leave school and the time for this couldn't come soon enough!
Of course Beryl left school first and then Herb and both were put to work on the farm for a time. Eventually Beryl was sent to help out at Uncle Arthurs for a few shillings a week to take home to mum and dad. I well remember when Herb left school that Uncle Cecil came to visit dad and said Herb leaving school eh? He'll be worth thirteen pounds a year to you Elmar? And so that I was then the oldest of our family attending school! Came the year 1930 and me about 12 years old and rumour had it that Gracemere was to have a radio transmitting station in the near future! My very first experience of the fascination of wireless (then so called) came when school teacher Claude Press (son-in-law of Uncle Arthur and Aunty Clara) visited their farm and demonstrated his newly acquired wireless set. A temporary aerial was erected and we were all invited to come down at night to hear this marvel of wireless reception. I can still remember seeing the valves in the back of the receiver all lit up like torch globes (no "dull emitters" in those days"). They came later! The valves were lit from wet cell batteries and the high tension voltage came from dry batteries and so it was we heard our first "radio".
The nearest transmitter was 4QG (now 4RN) the QG, I understand meant Queensland Government! and the figure 4 was the state number for Qld! We did hear some music and some speaking amidst the crashes and bangs of "Atmospherics" commonly called simply "Static'. This static was the limiting factor of radio reception making distant reception difficult especially in the summer time when storms were prevalent, but static was still a nuisance even in winter time when trying to listen to distant stations! Anyway thanks Claude!
However Gracemere was to have a station for the central district! Great! I was still attending school when I saw the transmitter masts being erected. They looked like tall windmill towers and we heard they were to be 128 feet high. They were assembled on the ground and then raised with a jib crane. The aerial wires were strung between the masts. I became quite fascinated with the prospect of this new marvel, but what hope had a shy, poor and not well educated country boy have (ask Douglas and would now have opted for the chances of some of his smart scholarship class lads with their algebra and trigonometry!)
Things scarcely improved between head teacher and myself and so it was that when I was about thirteen years of age dad began letting me stay home on the flimsiest of excuses, until one day a policeman arrived on horse back as the result of a report from said head teacher! The policeman said just write to the Department Mr Johnson and explain the situation "you won't have any trouble". And so it was that at about thirteen and a half years my school days (compulsory ones) were over! I had attended for eight years having as I said before commenced school at five and a half as my birthday was mid year!
"Medical emergencies" we had few of these considering the risks we took running through the tall Guinea Grass. We knew there were dangerous mostly "brown" snakes on the hill and black ones near the creek. I can recall one occasion when it was thought Beryl must have been bitten but she wasn't sure and no one else seemed to be sure either. She had been in the patch of pineapples near the "Pinehaven" house when something prickled or stung her as usual it fell to Uncle Arthurs lot to take the patient to town to see the doctor. I don't recall there being any sure and certain diagnosis, but for a long time after the incident Beryl was very easily scared and suffered a lot of very windy pains. She would lie on the bed and cry and cry and I remember dad coming in and saying get your bottom up on a pillow girl, you know wind rises!
Oh yes we did have the chicken pox, (a very welcome break from school for some of us). The common measles although more serious we all seemed to survive somehow! I do remember Aunty Clara (caring Aunty Clara that she was always) coming up to Pinehaven and telling mum to open all the doors and windows and thus give us all some healthy fresh air. The whooping cough did the rounds too of course and also the mumps‹which Herb missed out on till much later in life when he caught them from nieces and/or nephews.
The dreaded diphtheria we all escaped somehow but as children at school we were scared stiff by rumours of authorities coming to "swab" us all! I can't remember any swabs being taken while I was at school. There were always those worldly wise children at school who thought they "knew every thing!) and took advantage of their provisoess to scare the shy and less sophisticated of us! out of our wits!
I myself suffered rather copious nose bleeds which interfered with my school lessons and were an aggravating and sometimes embarrassing nuisance to say the least. I can also recall that youngest sister Iris had a bad nose bleed at home on one occasion.
I also remember mother being taken away by ambulance car for a stay in the "Tannachy" Hospital. We were told it was Duodenal Ulcer that was the trouble. I know dad was very worried at the time and he played the old Edison Phonograph to entertain us all and to take his mind off the possible outcome of mums troubles. Mum got over these troubles and survived to have a Hernia operation at 80 years old. When she told them then that she hadn't been in hospital for 40 years they couldn't believe it. She lived to be 96 years and a few months when heart failure ended her hope of living to be 100! This was in December 1984 just 34 years after dad had succumbed to a serious stroke.
At one time dad had a polyp growth on an inner thigh, so he took one of his cut throat razors into the bath with him intending to remove this growth. Mum told us later he started the "op" but she had to finish the job. Were they tough in those days or just plain, well you know! Stupid‹Silly crass, well none of these, but to try anything once‹sometimes once is too often! Just too often!
"Our births" most were born in Rockhampton at "Nurse Atkins place" and I can recall mum being brought home in a sulky with the new arrival and the nurse ringing the sulky bell at the gate to announce their being there on time! From what I read in dads diaries it seems Herb the second child was born at home! It being flood time and dad walked along the railway line to get medical help. Beryl was the oldest in the family followed by Herb, then myself (Ken) then Ellen, Reginald, Iris, Irwin and Frank. Ellen was the first to pass away‹then Herb and Beryl. The rest of us still survive so far! (March 1994). Frank was next to pass away at Nambour about October 1996.
Beginning Adulthood and so began the introduction of Herb and I to the serious business of trying to sell our garden produce to people in Rockhampton. Up until this time our part in dads trips to town amounted to little more than to holding the reins while dad was in the customers houses having cups of tea and talking to the house wives, ( sometimes for quite a long while). And then he would sell them a few pineapples or vegetables and move on to the next customer. One time we were in town with dad when it rained in torrents all day. The water seemed to be gushing up out of the manholes in places! On his way home from Depot Hill dad drove through the water which was up in the cart in places. He drove out to Balmoral and came back to the Yeppen. On his next trip to Depot Hill one of his customers said they had seen him drive into the water. They asked him what if there had been a current, his jocular answer was "What if it had been a raisin". This incident would have occurred about 1928.
I remember dad sending Herb and I into town with a load of cabbages. I believe this was our first venture into the game of selling direct to the users of fruit and vegetables. Now Herb hated the very thought of having to ask people to buy and I was little if any better. However off we went and thought to try our luck up "on the range" where we believed people had more money to spend! Herb went into a house up near the Botanical Gardens, the people offered him less for his cabbages than we had priced them at! (Our prices were probably what dad had told us to sell them for). So lo and behold Herb ups and tells them he'd be better off to feed them to the pigs than sell them to them, and didn't they give him a dressing down for his unwise remark! I don't think Herb meant it quite the way they took it‹simply that the cabbages would have more value as pig feed. They probably thought they were being compared to pigs! Strangely enough we had no pigs at the time. To round off this little episode, we drove the horse and cart home and much to dads disgust we had taken about 16/-. I can still hear dad saying two lads‹ a horse and cart-and a load of cabbages 16/-! It should in all fairness be said that we had in no real sense had any training in how to sell things, or how to apply a little tact when a customer became a little stroppy so to speak!
Our horse and cart days were marked by a couple of note worthy incidents which were or could have been some what tragic! On one occasion after harnessing Dobbin (the gray) into the cart ready for town we decided the winker blinkers were somewhat dilapidated so went about to change them. Dobbin saw a bit too much with winkers off and he suddenly "took off" around the track above the quarry bank towards Scrubby Creek. If he'd gone over the quarry bank the result would have been disastrous for all of us though no one was in the cart at the time. The total result was an axle bent a bit and a delayed start for the trip to town. When Dobbin found that the cart was not about to run over him he pulled up and awaited our attention.
The other cart incident happened when Herb and I were carting pineapple suckers (plants) in the low built (blue cart) we had loaded up,-up above the row of mango trees on the hill side and had old Biddy the mare in the shafts. When I suggested taking a short cut across the gutter or drain to where we were heading when one wheel went down first into the gutter and over went the cart.. Old Biddy must have been tired for she just lay there!
Dad hearing the commotion came and with a sharp knife, he cut the girth strap and got the old mare up on her feet. Result‹one broken shaft. Next day instead of us visiting our cousins (the Newmans of Fairy Bower) dad went alone and told them we were at home repairing our damages! Herb the victim again! As for me I always knew we should take Saturday off and go fishing or something! Ha! Ha! Ha!
"Floods" I myself have mostly been away somewhere else when Rockhampton has experienced its occasional floods. The most water I remember was in 1928 when I was 10 years old. We almost had a flood that year but nothing like 1918 or 1954.
1928 was just a year or so after the first concrete bridge was built over Scrubby Creek on what is now the "Old Capricorn Highway". Our father was involved with the bridge building in supplying water from his nearby well and also stone and road metal material from the hill used in the bridge approaches. Mr Charles Thorsen had the contract to cart this material with his horses and drays. I can remember seeing the reinforcement rods of steel being put into place for the base (Floor) the piers and decking. Photos which dad took show all this. The concrete was mixed on site with a machine situated on part of the old wooden (timber) bridge decking. The creek was completely dry at the time and cars were driven down the creek bank‹along the bed and then up the opposite bank. The concrete bridge itself was very well constructed and had stood the test of time and carried much heavy machinery on the way to coal mines etc. However the use of black soil filling (from the creek bed) in the approaches caused some problems over many years by sinking adjacent to the concrete decking and many of the older cars would have suffered broken springs as a result of the bumping caused by this. With the rerouting of the highway another bridge was built a half mile or so upstream from the old one. This new bridge (opened in 1983 I think) is of the pre-stressed concrete girder type.
One notable fact in the construction of the old bridge was the use in the concrete mix of barrels and barrels of red oxide powder, did this in some way make stronger concrete or reduce corrosion of the reinforcement steel rods? I don't claim to know about this.
"The aeroplane race" in the early 30's the first Rockhampton Aerial Pageant was staged from (or at) the Conner Park Aerodrome. We knew little about it before hand but on the Saturday morning we children were out picking green peas on "Pinehaven" when all of a sudden there was this very loud aeroplane noise and some navy planes known as "Wapitis" I think came roaring into sight from over the hill! We were quite taken by surprise and shaking with the excitement of this event. I understood these planes with their conspicuous radial engines came from a naval ship just off the coast.
The very next day some officials arrived at Pinehaven and asked permission to go up to the top of Maudsley Hill and set up a turning point marker for the air race. Permission granted we children and others went along with the Officials! A calico angle was laid out at the turning point‹a small sapling was stripped of leaves and branches and used to sight up at the competing planes as they made their turns, to see that they didn't turn short. A smoke signal fire was also lit and the green branches thrown onto the fire to make plenty of smoke.
We were all very excited as the planes came over and we were able to see the pilots with their leather head gear sitting at the controls. There were such planes as "Gypsy Moth", Puss Moths", etc. Some were Biplanes‹some were Monoplanes. Some pilots came over the hill and then swooped their planes very low, perhaps in order to gain speed. Others seemed to maintain their height and didn't swoop. they then headed for Egans Hill before returning to Connor Park! The naval planes were also in the races as one would expect; altogether a very exciting time especially for us children.
Incidentally the Gracemere Reservoir tanks now occupy the site of the Maudsley Hill "Turning Point". It is almost certain that cousin Eric Johnson later to become a World War 11 "Pilot Officer" in the RAAF would have been on the hill that day. Eric's younger brother Roy was also in the Air Force. Perhaps their interest in planes commenced that very day of the Air Race! For the next race a year or so later the turning point was in Gracemere Township much to our disappointment. Perhaps the officers were reluctant to climb Maudsley Hill again.
It could scarcely have been imagined in those early days of flying, just what impact the Aviation Industry would eventually have on our present day society. Many people for business or pleasure step on board the various types of Jet powered planes and alight in distant destinations within a few short hours and this has become as common place as is rail or car travel! As well as passenger travel the transport of goods "By air" has become a very big industry!
"Electric Power Supply" The coming into the Rockhampton district of the Radio Station 4RK did much more for the people of the immediate area especially for the people living on the farms between Rockhampton and Gracemere than simply for "News and Entertainment". It meant the possibility of having a supply of electric power to "light up" their homes and farm buildings and to drive the many irrigation pumps and milking machines and refrigerators! Insight, it meant the opportunity to replace the many and various types of oil engines with the simple and more reliable electric motors.
In our own situation our father soon was able to replace his petrol engine with a five horse power electric motor to drive the "five inch" plunger pump which delivered water from the well near Scrubby Creek to a 1000 gallon cemented tank up on the hillside. Many of the farmers on the flat land soon installed electric motors to drive their centrifugal pumps which delivered much more water to irrigate their Lucerne and vegetable crops than did our dads plunger type of pumps. Our cousins Arthur and Eric would have first hand knowledge of the uses the electric power was put to on their father's farm just over the creek. Theirs was one of the very first dairies to install a refrigeration plan for the purpose of "cooling milk down" before delivering to their customers.
However is seems that progress is nearly always accompanied by some unfortunate mishaps. The coming of the motor car brought us more and more accidents than did the horse drawn vehicles. So also with air travel, good as all these things are they sometimes are the means of tragedy and loss of life. Electric power also can bring about loss of life. A sagging power line during a storm at Gracemere, brought a sudden end to life for a well known local stockman in the person of Mr Bill West a neighbour of ours. He rode unawares into the live wire and both he and his horse were electrocuted. This happening was a great shock to us all and of course was a real concern to the Electric Power Authority. However for most people electricity has meant a lot of good. Who would want to be without it? In our homes, our industries, our hospitals, even in our churches, to name a "black out" almost puts us back into the dark ages! We just have to use the wonderful servant with care and respect as we also have to do with fire!
One evening we at home were printing some photos when suddenly all the lights went out. This was caused by the falling of a power pole on a corner outside dads property. Ironically it would seem the cause of the power failure was discovered by the late Bill West's son Harry. He soon stood on guard to warn motorists as the fallen pole was right across the roadway! This incident except for Harry's vigilance could easily have brought more tragedy to the story of electric power at Gracemere!
"Religion" I suppose we could claim to have been brought up with Christian Principles! At least both mother and father were very strict in regards to moral behaviour. We were expected to be absolutely decent in our treatment of each other. It seems we were just left to "grow up" naturally with very little help or education in regard to the so called "facts of life". At school we were taught that there were three genders. Male (boys and men) Female (girls and women) and neuter gender which was neither male or female usually applied to inanimate things. In hind sight one would have to conclude that our preparation for later life left quite a lot untold. However be that as it may it seems that "the facts of life" are pelted at children, young people and adults non stop, and with reckless abandon, day and night per newspaper‹magazines‹cinemas, radio and television. I believe our society would do well to take a few steps backwards to modesty and decency! But not to the denial of the facts and to ignorance!
Why have I included this matter of the facts of life under religion. Well the sacred scriptures speak of God as father and nowhere is God spoken of as "she". Jesus Christ the saviour was born a boy who grew up to be a man. This is not to decry the role of women. Jesus Christ had women friends, but instead of dragging them down as worldly men would do, he did everything to uplift them. But to speak of God as a woman is simply "not on" for God is the father in a very real sense spiritually and Jesus Christ is the son of God. Never in scripture spoken of as a daughter! Not that boys or men are any better in any way than girls or women, but simply that God chose to be referred to as "male".
I believe our mother was baptised in the Rockhampton Baptist Church by the Rev A. D. Shaw. I don't know that our father was ever baptised but I know that in his younger days he took religion and Christianity very seriously. His father and mother were strict Church of England people and grandfather Johnsons writings speak often of "the Lord Jesus" implying that he knew his lord and master! In a personal way which of course is the only way to know Jesus Christ who claims to be "the way‹the truth and the life".
Father and mother were married by the a fore mentioned Rev A. D Shaw Baptist Minister of Rockhampton. So you see the Johnsons connection with the Baptist Church did not commence with myself. As a matter of fact, cousins Isobel and Alan Maunder have also been Baptists for many years and Isobels late brother Clarence and his wife Phyllis were also Baptists after leaving the Methodist Church
As a family our Sunday school attendance was made possible when a Church of Christ Sunday School was commenced at Uncle Arthur and Aunty Claras Farm. This was begun while Pastor Vanham was Minister of Rockhampton Church of Christ and I can remember the said Pastor coming there sometimes to speak to us children. The school mostly comprised our cousins from "Blyth Farm" (which was Uncle Arthurs name for his farm) and ourselves from "Pinehaven" where we lived. The teachers were cousins Violet and Gladys Johnson. Violet later became Mrs Len Maycock Senior and Gladys became Mrs Tom Jones. Tom Jones came from "Moongan" near Mt Morgan and Mr Len Maycock Senior was a migrant from England. The latter gentleman was a farmer in the same area where the late Rev. Ralph Sayce was brought up as a boy on his parents farm!
The Rev Sayce who for many years was General Secretary of the Baptist Union; was one of the very first pastors of the Wondai Baptist Church, where I first entered a Baptist Church whilst I was a Craftsman with the 3rd Australian Armoured Division Workshop then stationed in the Wondai showgrounds. It was while I was in the army in Wondai that I met Elsie who was to become my wife. Elsie had friends in the Wondai Baptist Church and attended services there whilst she was home for a short time from Hervey Bay where she was doing domestic work for a doctor's wife.
Back to Gracemere on a Sunday evening I on occasions was asked to go into the Church of Christ with the Johnsons and Maycocks. Transport was in the back of a well sided utility truck and I well remember Len Maycock Senior leading the singing on the way to church with in particular "In my heart there rings a melody"‹ "There rings a melody of love". This was sung with much "Gusto" with the breeze for accompaniment! I also remember cousin Arthur grabbing my hat from my head as I walked into church. Obviously I was not schooled up in etiquette! or protocol or whatever! Just say manners!
Mr Len Maycock eked out a living as did most of the small crop farmers in the area by growing vegetables he could on the flat black soil farm and selling such produce around the streets of Rockhampton. His son known to us older ones as "young Lennie" used to walk past our place on school days on his way to Gracemere State School of course the same school which we had earlier attended.
I along with my brothers was also engaged in the work of "producing and selling" almost as soon as primary school days were over. We were sent to town with horse and cart to "sell things". Dad gave up doing this himself as soon as he could but when he had a surplus crop of tomatoes he would ride his bicycle from corner store to corner store seeking to sell them by the case lot. He then would meet up with us on our regular round and tell us where to delver them to. This wasn't always the happy end of the case lots however! Some storekeepers when they saw the lovely bush ripened fruit would say "Oh but they are too ripe"! We couldn't sell all of those before they became over ripe! So not all dads sales were "confirmed" but many were never the less.
Time went by as it always does‹The quiet old grey "Dobbin" was growing old, too old to pull the cart! So dad bought a smaller mare called "Ruby" she was nice looking and I believe was partly trained as a race horse. We also had a lighter spring cart for her to pull. It was my unhappy lot to have to take her and the cart to town for she had not been trained to stand. I would put the chain on the wheel and go into a customers place and come back to find she had pulled out square with the kerb instead of remaining parallel to the curb which was how we were required to park.
One thing I will never forget about the times I drove old Dobbin to town was the steam trams. These trams when finishing up a run would come down Canning Street releasing surplus steam in a white cloud from under the front of the tram. Old Dobbin seemed to think all the ghosts in Rockhampton were going to get him and wanted to bolt off out of it!
Drivers licence‹So we weren't sorry when Herb turned 17 years old, old enough for a driving licence. Dad bought a very 2nd hand Model T Ford utility truck for £15. Gladys Wests husband Harry Clark (another English migrant) with whom dad was quite friendly agreed to teach Herb to drive it! And so it was that we became a motorised family! One good thing was that mother was no longer "tied to the place" and was able to go and see her sister Daisy at Frenchville as well as on shopping trips to town. Also occasional trips to Emu Park were made where dad had built a sea side cottage. Herb became quite a good driver and home mechanic knowing just about all the works of the Ford.
But Herb still hated the selling trips and so it was that I (Ken) got my driving licence as soon as I was 17 years old. The police test was easy compared to todays tests. Many were given a licence without any special test at all. Some were told by police, you don't need a test we've seen you driving about for a long time and; a licence issued free each year if one obeyed the rules. My test consisted of answering a few questions and a short practical test. I had to reverse around a street corner which I did with some gusto so that the constable said "Hey steady up". Next I had to drive through the main street which is East Street and in spite of many saying that in Rockhampton, trains run through the main street that is not so. So simple that I had my licence in June 1935; just 58 years ago (in 1993). Mostly I have kept out of trouble during all these years. I did have a break from driving during my army days as I never went in for an army licence. However one still had ones certificate of competency and a new licence was issued when applied for.
Before the war our own Ford certainly "kept us mobile" until one day when almost half way home there developed a real loud knock in the engine. Reg was with me, we stopped this utility, switched off the engine and then restarted it. It did run but as soon as one tried to drive off the knocking was too much to drive with. So Reg walked on home and eventually Herb the mechanic came and on removing the sump plate he discovered alas that the crankshaft was broken in two. So it was a matter of getting towed home for repairs.
Later Uncle Harry Newman said we had probably been driving with the spark "too far advanced". Advancing the ignition spark in those days was not automatic but was controlled by a lever on the steering column and dad bought a second engine for £5 and the crankshaft from it was installed in the other engine. The spare engine was bought from the same garage man as was the Ford vehicle. The replacement crankshaft didn't make as good a fit in the main and big end bearings as did the original. However we covered many more miles since the repair job than we did before it Perhaps we took the hint from Uncle Harry Newman who was quite engineering minded and had built up his own metal turning lathe.
It was he who "converted" the old stationary gas engine which dad used to pump water. It was originally one of those engines which fired the gas fuel with contact breaker points inside the combustion chamber and these points were connected to a low tension magneto which was worked by a cam operated push rod. Uncle Harry Newman fitted a high tension magneto and spark plug arrangement instead, and it worked quite well. He made the sprockets to drive the high tension magneto and in order to make for easier starting the magneto was driven so as to fire every stroke thus wasting one spark as the engine was four stroke cycle‹not two stroke! I recall that dad used to remove the magneto when he didn't want to use the engine for a few months in case the creek rose up enough to flood the area, possibly also to avoid having the magneto stolen.
Uncle Harry's wife (nee Matilda Feddersen) was a very kind woman and as our Aunt Tilly she went to town just before Christmas on several occasions and bought toys for us all when she knew mum and dad couldn't afford to buy them. There were eight of us to buy for! I remember a wooden "Spinning Top" which spun by pulling a cord or string! It was their elder son Henry Newman who made our very first crystal radio set for us. Dad went to town and bought a pair of cheap earphones for the crystal set and that then was the first radio we owned. As dad would not or (could not) afford to buy a licence we at first were "receiver pirates" even going as far as rigging up aerials at night and taking them in during the day. The P.M.G.Department required that the same licence fee of about 17 shillings and sixpence per year be paid to use a crystal set as for a more expensive valve set. Later on dad did buy a licence and then helped us rig a more permanent aerial with pole and all!
Some time later we saw advertised some small horn speakers from David Jones of Sydney so we sent for one which was connected to the crystal set in place of the earphones! By sitting very quietly we used to hear the ABC Broadcasts of church services at 11am. on Sundays. The broadcasts were from Albert Street Methodist and some other church at Ithaca to my recall! Later on we did get a 2 valve plus rectifier console radio of the toned radio frequency design (T.R.F. for short). The design included a type 57 detector valve with "leaky grid" detection and fitted with "reaction" which fed back some of the R.F. signal to be amplified over and over again‹thus giving a build up in detector output. If the reaction control was turned up too much a critical point was reached where an oscillating whistle would be heard thus spoiling the reception. The clue was to use just enough reaction to build up the signal without causing oscillation! The audio output of the detector was then coupled to the output or speaker valve which was a type 47. The rectifier valve which only served to convert A.C.power to D.C. was a type 80. I on one occasion heard day time reception of a commercial station which had just commenced to transmit from the Kingaroy area. It was radio 4SB. Little did I know that I would one day about 30 years later work for that station. I also on occasions had reception of a New Zealand station.
Before we had the electric valve receiver and when the commercial radio station Rockhampton commenced to transport it from a building on the corner of William and East Streets we tried to tune our crystal set to this new station (4RO). Herb who was a bit interested in radio too at that time had some English Hobby Books which described the making of tuning coils for crystal receivers. What Herb didn't know was that these coils using many turns on a big former were designed to receiving "the long wave" (low frequency) transmission in use over there. Herb utterly failed to hear the new station 4RO. Somehow a thought came into my head! What and if the new station's frequency actually needed a coil with less turns than it took to tune to 4RK? I had a real win there because my "brain wave" to use a smaller coil for 4RO proved correct! I think Herbs interest in radio receivers then faded away and I became very keen on the technical principles which allowed radio receivers to operate as they did! However our chance of having the necessary money to buy bigger books to study were slim indeed.
Mum and dad and the eldest children tried hard to grow more fruit and vegetables to sell but we were hampered by having to do so much hand work on stony ground, for one thing and also by pesty caterpillars which attacked our cabbages, cauliflowers and tomatoes etc. We had to use pesticides to combat these pests and one poison commonly used in those days was "arsenate of lead" a white powder which was dusted on young cabbages and cauliflower plants In order to make the powder "go further" we often mixed it with sifted ashes from the wood stove. When the vegetables were nearing maturity we had to restrict the use of this poison or we could be in trouble if someone was poisoned. The arsenate of lead which we used was made by or sold by A.M.Bickfords the same firm which made the fizzy drink Sal Vital, we hoped they didn't get things mixed.
So a new insecticide came on the market! It contained pyrethrum which came from a plant of the chrysanthemum family. This insecticide contained a soap solution which helped it to wet the vegetable leaves. This preparation had to contact the insects in order to kill them and so provided a lasting control as the poison did. Our gardens were also raided by wallabies at night which did a lot of damage to bean and pea crops and in spite of us snaring them and/or shooting them still they came and so our hard earned crops suffered. We also suffered damage by neighbours cows which were hard to fence out of the attractive greens.
Then there was a problem which only a few vegetables succeeded and it was hardly worth making the trip to town with them. So they would be passed on to a neighbour to sell who then kept half of the selling price for himself. I remember dad complaining that he bought the seeds and fertilised and tended and watered some cabbages for three months and only got half the sale price, where as the seller only handled the goods for a few hours and he also got half the price. One man who sold for dad on this arrangement was Len Maycock Senior. Len Maycock was one of two English men who became "sons-in-law" to our Uncle Arthur. In other words they got to marry our cousins. Eric's sisters! I name Eric here because he is probably the most well known of our cousins of that Johnson family. I can remember being present at some of the wedding breakfasts held under the big old verandah of Uncle Arthur and Aunt Claras big house. Their house had high walls and square timber blocks or stumps like a wool store!
I recall one joke which was told by the officiating Pastor at one of the breakfasts which in practice has a possible ring of truth about it. It went like this‹The new husband said to his new wife on their wedding night. "Darling! Put your dear little tootsie wootsie near mine!" But a few years later it became. "Take your big ugly feet out of the middle of my back will you Mrs!" So it seems that sometimes familiarity does really bring out contempt!
One contribution which our dad liked to make on these grand occasions was to cut down some of his date palm fronds and erect them as an archway on the large gate posts at the entrance to Blyth Farm. As far as I know the date palms on Maudsley Hill would simply have come from seeds discarded from dates (Imported ones) (and most still are imported) from Arab countries. In those days dates were marketed with all the seeds intact. Nowadays only odd seeds are found in dates
Some of the names of our uncles farm properties are quite significant! Uncle Charles farm next to Uncle Arthurs "Blyth Farm" was called "Londesborough" Farm and Uncle Charlie also named one of his sons Londesborough Johnson (known as Lonnie for short). Uncle Ernie named his place (part of Maudsley Hill) "Nunburn Holme" which was the name of the village or area in Yorkshire where Grand-dad and Grandma Johnson lived prior to migrating to Rockhampton in Queensland.
Some of dads brothers made much of the fact that they had as their forebear the "Earl of Londesborough" hence the name "Londesborough Farm"! The Earls daughter Lady Mary Teasdale married a Johnson and so caused the Earl to become a part of our lineage! One of our cousins (of Uncle Arthurs Family) is named Norman Anzac Teasdale Johnson! Our own father took the view that the matter of the Earldom was best forgotten!
Speaking of palm trees as we were a while ago. The coconut tree near Scrubby Creek was given to dad as a sprouted seed which had washed up on the beach at Zilzie. It was given to dad by Mr Colls who lived in a seaside shack at Zilzie, "Emu Park". The other large palm tree near the coconut palm has a story to tell too! When the production of "Sago" from Sago Palms was a topic for discussion in our school class; class member Gracie Moore brought to class a black seed of a palm tree grown in the Rockhampton Botanical Gardens. The seed was claimed to be that of a sago palm, but this seemed to have been a mistake! The seed given to me by the class teacher. On arrival at home with this precious seed I met mum who was tending a bed of eschallots! Into the moist black soil I pressed the seed in a corner of this garden bed. The result is now a quite large palm tree of the fan type species. So I can rightfully if somewhat dubiously claim to have planted that large palm tree as a seed. It is now over sixty years old and bears large bunches of little black seeds which come up around the area.
The battle with the snakes of Maudsley Hill! Yes we did on occasions fight battles royal with some of the venomous snakes especially the larger browns!
It seems to be the idea of the "conservationists" of this present age that snakes will not harm you if you leave them well alone. But I do wonder if such reptiles are allowed to breed up without hindrance if the time will not come when they will again become just too plentiful for the good of we humans! Some tragic tales are told of the early days; such as a beautiful young girl innocently walking under a house and being struck from above by a deadly snake (perhaps a tiapan) and succumbering within minutes. Formy Book Venomous snakes will always be considered to be a deadly enemy and it will take more than the conservation laws to change this sensible old head. So put that in your pipe and smoke it you mugs! "Human Life" even of the least attractive persons will always remain far more precious "in my book" than the life of any snake in the grass! Oh you say God created them so they must be good eh? What then of all the bad viruses and germs? Did God create them? And therefore they are good you say? It seems significant to me that Satan is in scripture referred to as that old serpent (or snake).
At the old Pinehaven house older brother Herb and I had just retired to our stretcher beds one evening and after a spot of reading I tossed the magazine under the bed and stood up on the bed and switched off the light. A while later there was a rustling under the bed. I stood up upon the bed again and on went the light and there under the stretcher bed was this large brown snake! That snake was eventually dispatched and I'd rather it dead than alive any day!
While working at the radio station at Mooroolin (near Kingaroy) I was in the kitchen preparing a meal when on looking out the window I saw this large brown snake slithering towards the building. Well I thought this is company I could well do without. So out I went got hold of a length of discarded conduit, but the snake turned away. Back in the kitchen a few minutes later it appeared again from the same direction I got the conduit again and walloped this reptile. I have a colour slide of this snake; a better companion dead than alive I assure you‹ all six feet of it!
"Bike Riding" I first learned to peddle a bike down at Blyth Farm where there was a ladies bike which was easy to ride standing on the pedals. Later dad let me ride his bike minus the seat which was too high for me. Poor dad he should have said no! LAD! I was peddling outside Blyth Farm on a dirt side track when along came a car which turned on to the dirt track after crossing the built up road. I got out of the way but must have got mesmerised and turned back too soon. I hit the cars rear mudguard. Their mudguard was dented. The bike wheel buckled and a pedal caused a hole in my left thigh. So much for learning to ride a bike!
Dad liked cycling, but he didn't liked fixed wheel bikes. I can remember him saying after he'd had a buster that if he'd had a free wheeler he'd have just free wheeled out of trouble. He took Herb and I up to Mt Morgan by bike one Sunday. He would enter the Mt Morgan lease by some back way and we walked all over and spoke to some of the workers. Eventually we were spotted by office staff and it appears the order went out. "Get those men off the lease".
On going up there to Mt Morgan we walked up the old razor back pinch it sure was steep. However it is on record that a local man proved he could ride a fixed wheel bike both up and down it. On one other occasion dad, Herb and I rode to Emu Park. Quite a trip on the gravel road as it was then! I know I'd had enough before we got there (not used to such a long ride of course). Its often a matter what one is used to thats why the runners and swimmers train so hard for the competitive races! I have never been much for sport though I'm not against it as such. But it is wrong that it should be the pawn of the tobacco and liquor industries.
As I write this the clock says it is now past midnight and so at 1am on the 25-6-1993 and seeing as I was born on the 25-6-1918 it means I have just passed the 3/4 of a century mark. I suppose I never thought I would ever reach such an age. Grandfather Johnson who arrived in Rockhampton from Yorkshire England with a wife (Ellen) a family of five sons including our dad aged 3 years when leaving England but 4 years before arrival in this new country. He (grandfather) only lived to 55 years but he suffered from asthma and that is why he bought the Maudsley Hill (somewhere called Plews Hill) property as his doctor told him to leave off living on the swampy land. My dad just reached about 701/2 years. So I'm not doing too badly at 75! Then my mother (our mother bless her) reached the grand old age of 961/3 years! My doctor says I may yet see the year 2000 but who knows these things but God only. I'd be 82 years if I lasted that long!
Looking back over the years one has to smile at some things that happened. I well remember the old lady in Rockhampton to whom I sold some vegetables each week. After buying a few things she would make a cup of tea and spread a few eats on the table and then leave her daughter and I alone to talk and eat and drink tea! This happened quite regularly but I was too green or naive to think any thing unusual or strange about it! How dumb can one be at that age! Her daughter was probably looking like being on the shelf "so to speak"! They were both very kind to me that was all I thought about it! And then I left home and found myself in the army. You're in the army now was soon an often heard saying and of course the "you'll be sorry mate"! But mostly I wasn't sorry and after the 3 months at the Yeppoon camp I volunteered to go back into the army as a radio workshop trainee mechanic.
As I was about to leave home mother said. "Well Ken you're going out into the world now look after yourself and do what is right and you should be alright." I soon found I had a lot to learn if I was to keep out of trouble! I was given a send off in Rockhampton as I had volunteered (but not for the AIF at that time.) The fellows in the railway carriage on the way to Brisbane‹it seemed to me were drinking beer (too much). I soon found that such remarks of mine like "He's trying to make you drunk" were most unwelcome! Frowned upon in fact. Later in the YMCA. in Brisbane one digger was leading another one who was under the influence! The drunk says to me "I'm drunk" to whom I replied in the affirmative and he then wanted to punch me for agreeing with him and the other chap had to restrain him. It certainly looked like I had to learn fast if I was to survive! But survive I did obviously!
The first night in Brisbane was spent (24-6-1942) sleeping? On a palliasse of wheaten straw laid out on part of a seat on one of the grandstands at the Exhibition Grounds. The palliasse was like a large chaff bag and of course it was empty when given to you and you were told to fill it up from the heap of straw. But not too full or you would roll off it. It would be fairly comfortable if filled with just the right amount of the straw. We were of course issued with army blankets! There were no sheets and certainly no pillows. If one needed such a comfort, a kit bag full of clothes would have to serve the purpose!
Next morning we went for a march with our new army boots on! I can well remember the crunchy sound which echoed from the block wall along side of the hospital as we marched along the adjacent footpath. The hospital was known as Brisbane Base Hospital at that time I believe, now known as Royal Brisbane Hospital or RBH for short! The Exhibition Grounds had been taken over by the army authorities as a reception depot for those men and women who were leaving civilian life; mostly for the duration of the war (2nd world war of course) brought about by Hitler‹Mussolini and the Japanese war lords! The so called axis powers! Most likely if they had won the war they then would have vied with each other the ultimate supremacy in ruling over the world!
By the time I was in Brisbane the Japanese were already into New Guinea and the other islands to the north of Australia. It was the year 1942 and things sure looked grim for Queensland and the rest of Australia for that matter. Our allies the Americans (or yanks) were here in droves, commanded over by General MacArthur who had his head quarters in the old AMP Building in Queen Street and who was domiciled in the old Lennons Hotel in George Street (which is now no more of course). Yes the yanks were here both to defend Australia against the Japs and to make Australia the base for Allied operations aimed at defeating them everywhere in the Pacific area. Even though the yanks were here in such large numbers and were in charge of all operations of the war, we Aussies still had a role to play in it all.
I soon found myself camped at Kedron in the old race course grounds (which has in more recent years become the site of the Teachers Training College). While I was there I met my cousin Joe Newman who was also in the army and in the radio side of things too! After a while I was eventually assigned to a class at Victoria Barracks (the Barracks still exist). The course I was to do was called an advanced course for army radio mechanics! Actually the course was already under way while I "cooled my heels" at Kedron Park awaiting the army to complete my papers and send me to the class. I was put on to operate an army telephone switchboard one night at Kedron and after very little instruction how to work this terribly complicated apparatus, I was left to it alone. I just didn't know enough about it all! But being radio trainee seemed to imply that one would be experienced with the phones and all such things.
This was just one more disaster that I was to endure in my effort to voluntarily serve my country in the time of need. Soon the army officers were ringing me up at the switchboard wanting to know when I was going to get their calls through for them! It needed an experienced switch operator to work this, not a green (but hopeful) country bumpkin who's scarcely ever spoken on a phone let alone used a switchboard. Oh well I was soon out of that job and just as well for the war effort! I'll say! Anyway they eventually woke up to the fact that I was to do the course which was already under way. Then it was, can't you write any faster? Or you'll just have to catch up in your spare time! In some ways it was "trials and disappointments" one after another but you're in the army now and will just have to make the best you can of it even though its not quite what you thought it would be!
Having had a late start through no fault of mine was bad enough! But worse was yet to come with the examination to follow. I quite misunderstood the meaning of the wording in the test papers which said "answer three of the following questions! I answered all the questions I could in the time allowed not realising that three underlined meant that and no more than that. If the wording had been three only, a green country bumpkin would not have been caught out. My results were not real good because as I was told afterwards, if you did more than was asked for, the examiner simply struck out some of your best efforts and marked you on some of your best and some of your worst answers. I felt terribly let down! After all weren't we in a war situation and wasn't everyone expected to make a maximum effort and do their uttermost to train themselves for the job ahead? Not so it seemed! You thought you would gain an unfair advantage over your class mates by putting in an extra effort! I misunderstood their intention in the wording and they misunderstood me!
After all the recruiting adds in the news papers had said keen recruits for army radio workshop training were so badly needed hadn't they? Oh well what it seems is needed in advertisements is somehow different when you get there! To shorten a longer story I asked if under the circumstances of my late start and the misunderstanding I might be allowed to do the course over again. The Captain in charge said No! And that was that! I just had to wear it, so to speak! And accept a rather poor pass result!
Then it was over to East Brisbane school next to the Gabba cricket ground for workshop practice and we camped in the cricket grounds and there I met up with cousin Eric who had been called up into the army even though he had volunteered for the air force. He was very crooked on this and fought the army for his transfer to the air force. He won out eventually and so our ways parted.
At the East Brisbane school the army employed civilian manual training instructors! And I quite unintentionally fell foul of one such electrical engineer. It was like this! He was instructing a class which I attended when he brought up the matter of an OHM meter they had been constructing out of bits and pieces. But he said they had not been able to get the OHMS scale to conform or to work out correct even though they had tried using various battery voltages and series resistors. You will understand that they had a meter of the moving coil type with an existing OHMS scale already. All the problem consisted in attempts to get it to read correctly. Now while still at home I had built up a multimeter with both a series and a shunt type of OHMS scales so I had the temerity to suggest that they may need a shunt across the meter terminals to bring the OHMS scale into line! "Oh no it couldn't possibly be that, that was the answer" said the instructor with some annoyance that an uneducated country bumpkin could have the the hide to make any suggestions to a qualified engineer‹no doubt university trained and all! However to my simple mind here was a meter with an existing scale which just had to read correctly if they had got it all right. Anyway he obviously could not afford any loss of face should my suggestion prove correct and he nipped my suggestion in the bud and I was never given the chance to try out my theory. He shunned me from then on‹didn't want to know me at all! Was I possibly right? I will never know!
However another civilian instructor took me under his wing so to speak and we got along famously. He had me build up a water rheostat to load generators (dynamos) which fitted to motor transport vehicles for battery charging. He was very satisfied with my work and complimented me on it. The rheostat consisted of a drum to hold a brine solution. A wooden frame across the top which held a sliding vertical piece of wood at the lower end of which was a metal spade. A wire connected to the spade and another to the drum. The whole idea was to test dynamos at various loads by raising or lowering the spade in or out of the solution.
One other incident at this school is probably worth a mention. A Transport Corporal Mechanic was attempting to sweat solder two pieces of brass together with little or no success. I suggested to him that if he put some wood between the brass and the vice jaws he should succeed with the soldering. He did too and was pleased with my suggestion!
My time on the workshop practice soon came to an end and so also did my stay at the Gabba cricket ground camp. I can plainly remember how the Sergeant Major used the cricket scoring stand when commanding so many of us on parade ground. He had to give orders to so many men who were coming and going to and from many different places! While we were there, there was an air raid alert, albeit a false alarm. We were ordered to get down into trenches for the duration of the alert. A soldier nearby had a 303 rifle and a little further away another soldier had a world war one Lewis gun. Although this alert was a false alarm I think it was around this time that Townsville had a couple of bombs dropped nearby. The prospect of our state and country being invaded was very real indeed!
Some of us soon found ourselves in an anti-aircraft and search-light workshop. The 72nd so named, which was located in a horse racing stables in Lilley Street Hendra (in the Ascot Doomben area). It was while there that I came face to face with one of the problems of army service. It was like this when on guard duty we were ordered not to let anyone take the motor cycles away from the camp, but what do you do when a fellow soldier is determined to do just that against orders?
If you report him you have an enemy in the camp! If you don't report him you could find yourself charged with neglect of duty! I don't really remember what the outcome of this was! While at this camp we went on route marches in the Clayfield and Kalinga areas. On one occasion we had a game of cricket in Kalinga Park I think my score was nil!.
Some of us became rather bored with things at Hendra! Though we were taken to see demonstration of search lights and predictors on one night occasion, we just didn't seem to be doing anything much. So we decided to transfer to the A.I.F. If accepted this meant that we could be sent to any theatre of the war. We were soon in at the Exhibition Grounds for medical checkups. They passed me O.K even though I had hypertension evident. One doctor said to another, what will we do with him? The other said "Let him go"! I think he knew it was nerves!
I was soon sent up to join the 3rd Aust. Armoured Division workshop which was camped in the showgrounds at Wondai in the South Burnett District. I can well remember being taken there in a heavy army utility and having a cut lunch to eat on the way! I remember that the driver was hard up to negotiate some of the sharp bends in the Tingoora area at the speed he was doing. I also remember the lush corn crops up over the fences in the area. It was January 1943 and there had been good rains.
The 3rd Aust. Armoured Division was spread throughout the Burnett District and although we didn't know it then we were part of the famous (or infamous) Brisbane line. It seems that if the Japs had been able to invade the north, a "scorched earth" policy was to be implemented where in nothing of use to the enemy was to be left standing. Crops which couldn't be harvested‹bridges blown up and so on. When later I worked for the radio station at Wooroolin I found there an instruction on how to go about felling the aerial masts, so I know the intended plans of destruction was no idle rumour.
Soon after arriving at Wondai Show grounds I was once again put onto the telephone exchange (army type) but too little instruction was given and I requested that I be allowed to do the radio work for which I had volunteered and so I was not kept on the switchboard!
At Wondai there was a lot of batteries to be recharged, so two of us (the other chaps name was Shorty Wright) were given the job of looking after this. There were a lot of motor cycle batteries to charge, some of which had been neglected for too long and simply would not charge up. The charging was done in a trailer which had lead lined shelves or troughs to hold the batteries. The charging current came from a generator which was driven by a 4 cylinder car engine which was on the ground near the trailer.
The radio section also had a trailer in which I did spend some time. This section was sent a piece of equipment from the motor transport section, the complaint being that a meter on the panel read full scale as soon at the unit was powered by a battery and that this should not happen! Others had tried to find the trouble but failed to do so. They were about to return it to the motor transport when I asked if I might have a go at it. What I found was that high tension voltage had traced some paths across an insulation panel! So I scraped away the carbonised tracks and this cured the fault. Of course if any credit was given it was to the radio section! I don't think anyone thanked me!
One chap in the radio section was Arthur Norton (a decent chap). He had worked for the Music Masters Radio Co. of South Brisbane. He used to go to Wondai post office each Sunday evening and ring his father who was chief of police in Brisbane.
The Co. of the workshop was Major Turner who became friendly with the Matron of the Wondai Hospital. Agent named Douglas (no relation to Colin Douglas as far as I know) of Proston had built a timber castle known as Sidcup castle at Proston. It is a tourist attraction today. He also built a model of this castle for the childrens ward in the old Wondai Hospital. The matron had asked Major Turner if someone from his workshop could rig some battery powered lights in the childrens Castle. So I fell for the job of making some up with torch bulbs and going up to the hospital and fitting them. What a help to the war effort! I'm sure!
One job given to me was to refit a radio in the turret of a general grant tank. When I was doing that I found that someone had obviously shorted a live battery lead against the brass shell of a large cartridge and burnt a hole in it so that some of the material was leaking out. So I was in a quandary? If I reported it the authority could likely think that I had caused this myself. I don't think any thing was ever brought up about it! And just as well eh!
One of the first "little" jobs I was asked to do at Wondai was to climb a springy wooden extension ladder leaning against a big gum tree and put a canvas cover back on a loud speaker which was used as the start work‹stop work siren‹or for a parade assembly. I wasn't used to climbing such ladders so it was a bit of a trial hanging on with one hand while I refitted the canvas cover and tied it in place. I think it was a case of giving such tasks to the "new boy".
One thing I remember some bright "sparks" doing at Wondai was to get a long piece of timber (probably from the sawmill) rig a couple of wire hooks at one end from which a pair of wires were run to a light socket in their nearby tent. At night time they would hoist this pole and place the hooks over the electric wire which ran past to light up the nearby toilets (latrines in army language). So one tent was brightly lit at night! Of course it didn't take the fellows in the next tent long to also hook on to this "bright" idea, so soon there was a whole row of brightly lit tents at night! However some wide awake officer spotted what was going on and soon put a stop to the "bright' idea.
One morning during the winter I was really feeling cold. I went up to the wash benches to wash my face and hands and there was ice on the benches, so then I knew why it felt so cold! One evening a rather nasty little fellow came to our tent and wanted to have a go at me with a knife! The other tent mates soon shunted him off. I don't know what he could had against me excepting perhaps that I didn't drink with him or associate with him.
On another evening one of our tent mates came back to camp some what "tiddley"! He picked up his rifle which had the bayonet attached! He pulled the rifle towards himself so that the scabbard came off the bayonet leaving it bare, then he struck it through the tent roof making a great rip in it. This chap was the only other one who later married a Wondai girl as far as I know but there could have been others!
Some Sunday mornings we were taken on Church Parade to the local Church of England. The sermon would sure have taken a prize for the driest one ever delivered. One Sunday morning I went looking for the Methodist Church as that was where I went or was taken to in Brisbane on occasions. Well I walked up Scott Street, never saw the Methodist Church (in the side street) and I came to the Baptist Church where there was some singing in progress, so plucking up what little courage I could muster I sneaked into a back seat! My first impression was "Boy don't they sing fast".
My later friend at the camp, Charley Albury who was attending services at the Baptist Church was no doubt requested to seek me out at the camp which of course he did. This little brethren friend pointed out to me that it wasn't enough in Gods sight to just try to live a good life. And that I really needed to accept Jesus Christ as my personal saviour. To be honest I suppose I only half understood what God required of me at the time and it did take some more time for it all to sink into my brain, or thick skull.
We met good Christian friends during the nine months or so that we camped in the Wondai show grounds. The Clark family who lived near the church invited several of us into their homes to play board games etc and for fellowship. Their daughter Marjorie later became the first wife of the Rev J.T.Probert. Sadly Marjorie passed away at quite a young age.
While we were in Wondai it seemed likely that Australia would be invaded and so we were put onto rifle and bayonet drill but fortunately the danger passed. We only found out later that we were a part of the famous or infamous Brisbane line, but I've mentioned that before so enough said about it!
The turning points in life are some what inexplicable, you see I may have been able to stay home on the farm and not gone back into the army at all. but I liked the idea of being in the army radio workshops and so I volunteered for that. Later I volunteered for the A.I.F and was sent to Wondai. It was then that I met my wife to be who was also a friend of Clarks.
When the likelihood of invasion was passed, the units in the Burnett area were gradually disbanded and so it was back to Brisbane for me, but later to be sent north to Townsville on a troop train. It was around about this time in 1943 that Elsies father died. I was not allowed leave to go up as being on draft for Townsville!
The order to join the troop train came rather suddenly and I was caught with too much gear on hand. We boarded the train at Exhibition Station and I had to make two trips from the No2 oval to the train. When we were at Rockhampton Station I took some gear to a relatives shop and left it with them.
Later on we stopped for a while at a little place called Mt Christian where people were selling watermelons. so silly me I bought a couple (the weather was so hot and melons very tempting). But when we left the train at Oonoonba near Townsville I just had to leave them on the platform as I couldn't possibly carry them to camp. Maybe some railway chaps had some free melon?
While camped at Oonoonba I was asked to install lights and a power point in the Red Shield Recreation Hut. So the army put a Corporal in charge of the job but I had to supply the know how and ability. The army procured the wiring and fittings which were very basic. Conduit was supplied but no tee pieces or sockets to join it together, so we simply put the wood blocks over the conduit ends. Later we were advised to bridge across the blocks with wire and clips so making the conduit electrically continuous. All went well till the inspector came to connect our installation and he asked me if I had made it M.E.N? This term meant nothing to me at the time, but all he wanted us to do was to earth the neutral so this we had to do at the switchboard. To my knowledge the neutrals were earthed at the pole transformer!
After this the Red Shield Officer kept me on as his orderly. I mainly had to book the electric iron in and out to those who wanted to iron their shirts and trousers etc. The officer would have liked to have kept me there permanently but the army said "NO‹craftsman Johnson is on draft to New Guinea!" Around the same time I was sent for because some bodgy installation on a tent near the orderly room was faulty and no wonder. It was hooked up with army signal wire. I declined to meddle with it as it was downright dangerous.
After sometime it was off down to the wharf and on board the old Katoomba, coal burning steamer. They were coaling it when we went aboard, so we watched this rather inefficient process. There was a coal barge along side.
The coal was shovelled into large baskets which were then lifted by a donkey engine and tipped into a chute which was hinged out from the ship side. Quite a lot of coal simply fell into the water, what a war effort! Eventually we moved off and headed out across the Coral Sea up around the eastern tip of New Guinea. Soon we were given drill and shown how to wear a Mae West Life Jacket and we were shown the deck to which we had to go if the order was given to "abandon ship".
The first night at sea was not pleasant at all. We had to sleep on bunks down in a hold. There was metal ducting to supply us with air but I was shoved right at the far end of a duct where very little air was being supplied because someone in the past or present had cut large holes in the ducting with their army tin openers, so they were getting most of the air. In the morning I was so sick from the stench of body odour etc. There was no wonder I was so sick. After a time I was given some tablets and was soon a lot better. I had another three boat trips and no seasickness on those occasions.
When we arrived at Lae it was a case of over the side with our gear plus rifle and down a rope ladder into a barge. I don't know if this was just a stunt or if there really was no room at the wharf for our ship. When the barge grounded on the beach it was jump out and wade ashore. We were taken by truck to Lae Base where we had a mug of tea and some sandwiches before being taken to our respective units. I should have mentioned that on board the Katoomba was a young lad, a committed Christian named Norman Mergard later to become the Rev. Norman Mergard a well known Church Planter for the Baptist Union. He was active on board ship in organising prayer meetings.
My new unit was the 2nd 7th Aust Advanced Workshop, most of the personnel for which were still down at Buna, and it was the advance party only which was then at Lae and it was to this party to which I was sent. For a time there was very little for some of us to do. The Captain asked another chap and myself to try to grow some tomatoes over in the side of the jungle, but it was hopeless, we would have needed an open situation to have succeeded. Quite a number of buildings were being constructed of sawn jungle timber, roofed over in most cases with tarred felt called Malthoid I think. The floors were of concrete. We had tents at first for sleeping quarters but later had huts instead. When all was ready the rest of the unit was brought up from Buna. It was then that I began to work in the Radio Workshop. 240 Volt AC power was supplied by diesel driven alternators. The workshop was quite comprehensive and had an armoury and general machine shops and Carpenters and Blacksmiths shop and Electricians etc.
It was a fairly peaceful existence but on one occasion a soldier from our unit took a bulldozer and ran it through a fence of the Boob (slang name for Jail) where army deserters and other offenders were detained. He also bowled the watch tower over. As a result of all this each unit in the area had to take some of the prisoners and guard them so we all fell for some guard duty with our rifle and live ammunition. On another occasion we had to do guard duty at the Busu River Hospital where some Japanese prisoners were held in a chain wire compound. Fortunately they were on the inside of the wire and we were on the outside!
While at the Lae Workshop I went for a short roam in the jungle on a Sunday afternoon not far away I came across a trench dug in the ground and almost covered with straw excepting for a narrow slit at the top. I thought how terrible to squat down in there waiting to shoot at someone or to be shot themselves so little chance for them to get away.
Some of us used to go into Lae Base some Sundays to Church services conducted by a Baptist Padre. One Sunday evening the Padre would take a mob of us home in his jeep. We got about half way home to camp when he was stopped by military Police who really dressed him down for having too many passengers on board. I think there were thirteen of us. He was allowed to continue his journey!
Sometimes some of us went just over the road to the convalescent Depot Chapel where there was a Church of Christ Padre. One Sunday morning Harry Kleinschmidt and I were taking a short cut across to the Chapel when I kicked up a clip of cartridges out of the leaf litter they were Jap cartridges. I was soon able to give several of them away in exchange for instructions as to how to make souvenirs out of them. First you removed the bullet, then you fired them off in your 303 rifle, then you slotted the bullet with a thin saw and soldered a blade in place, then you had a butter knife (but no butter).
Harry Kleinsmidt later became an A.I.M.Missionary to the Aborigines at Woorabinda and Townsville etc. Harry and I and two other soldiers were baptised in a swimming pool at Lae, by the late Baptist Chaplain the Rev. Harry Orr (of Sydney I think).
Some of us didn't get around much up there but on Christmas afternoon a driver was allowed to take a 4x4 on a trip to the big American Base at Nadzab, so Harry and I went along for the trip. Unfortunately our driver consumed some American wine whilst there and was rather too much under the weather to drive home safely but of course he would drive. He swerved to left and right on the gravel track. He'd be almost into the gutter at the road side when he would swerve back to the centre of the road. Later he did sober up a bit and we got back to camp o.k.
When Japan was bombed with the atom bombs and were forced to sue for peace, there was of course much rejoicing in the camp as it had looked like we were to go further north. This was indicated by the fact that we were given Cholera needles. When the news that Japan had surrended and was confirmed some of the fellows started a little war of their own by shooting towards other units further along the road. I don't know where they got the ammunition from because they weren't supposed to have any! Our officers came up and told the men that they didn't care what they did but to put the rifles away as other camps were returning the fire and someone could be hurt or killed.
I had been home on leave once while stationed at Lae. The trip back to Brisbane was also on the old Katoomba, but this time another chap and myself had a cabin to ourselves and the trip was quite enjoyable. It was probably on this leave that I took Elsie up to Gracemere and dad told me where to buy "the ring"! When leave was nearly over I went back to Lae on the Duntroon. During this trip they fired the gun up on deck what a noise! A bit louder than a 22 or 12 gauge shot gun or even a 303. As mentioned before war came to an end. So it was soon a trip home to Brisbane again‹this time on the Kanimbla. While I was still at Lae younger brother Irwin paid me a visit. I had forgotten this but he has reminded me about it.
As we entered Moreton Bay I remember that the Kanimbla swung up and down like a see-saw. I also remember the huge jelly fish that floated in the bay. As we left the wharf in trucks women lined the route calling welcome home boys!
So it was more leave and a wedding on Saturday 13th October 1945. We had the breakfast in Elsies mothers house with a few friends attending. The ceremony was in the Baptist Church just down the road. The minister being the Rev Bob McAllister who was also a captain in the Volunteer Defence Corps V.D.C. A friend of the Turner family took us by car to Murgon for photos and then to a hotel for the night. Mr Charles Albury was best man and we had a wash in the laundry of Mrs Eupene's house next to the soft drink factory. Next morning we went to the Murgon Baptist Church and either Sunday night or next day we went north by train. Elsies brother Perce was also on the train. I think he was going to Maryborough. We were going to Gracemere and then down to Emu Park for a week or two. We stayed in dads cottage and had to walk everywhere. I remember some lady called out to us as we walked past, that we were on our honeymoon! Don't know who told her!?
Soon it was back to Brisbane and of course I was still in the army. Charlie Albury knew of an old lady (Mrs Osmond) who lived behind them at Gaythorne in Mott Street, and who let part of her house to home seekers and so we stayed there until I was discharged from the army. I used to go into Mayne Junction on the train (Bowen Hills now) and then walk along a railway line to Wickham Street and catch a bus to Hamilton. It was a matter of crossing the river by Apollo Ferry to the army small ships base. Many men slept in big huts there but I was in a small hut until I "lived out" at Gaythorne. One noteworthy incident I remember was that bed bugs infested the big huts, so the sergeant Major was so mad with the careless fellows who never made their beds from one week to another‹that he had all their spring wire and timber mattresses hauled out into the open and burnt the lot.
I wasn't in camp there for long, as I said I went to live out at Mott Street with Elsie. About all I got to do at Bulimba was hygiene duties or wood chopping but if you were not on any such duties, it was made known that you could take French leave after roll call but you didn't go out the front gate because there was a convenient hole in the back fence. I used the back exit a number of times and caught a tram or two out to Annerley where Joe and Grace Newman had a general store. Joe was building up radio sets with what parts he could get hold of and I helped him with some of this project. He doesn't seem to remember this but I do!
Eventually came my turn to be discharged so we were taken out to Redbank for this procedure. We were given a returned from active service badge and some ribbons and allowed to keep uniform and other clothes and hat. Mrs Osmond told Elsie that when other young wives left her place they were expecting an infant and so it turned out to be. Yes! There was to be little Shirley later on. And so it was up to Wondai to live at Turners for a while. We bought a half acre of ground from Mr Andersen for £5 plus the transfer fee etc.
Then we bought part of an air force hut and set it up towards the rear of our land and we lived in it while our house was being built. I walked into the local radio shop to see if perhaps to get a job there. Mr Vic Monteith said I could hang my hat up there for a while which was very good of him. Of course there was quite a lot that I didn't know about domestic radios and for a time it was anything but easy but Mr Monteith was long suffering and I gradually became more proficient at the servicing and repairs.
We were still at Mrs Turners when Shirley decided it was time to be born, this was 27-2-1947. I can't remember how Elsie went up to the hospital but I think it must have been by a kind neighbour. Elsie had a terrible time for a while as Shirley was very windy and couldn't take to the bottle. They took Shirley back into the hospital to get her settled down on to her feeds. It was a big worry for Elsie and Mrs Turner at the time.
After a while we moved down into the hut. I know we were in the hut when we heard the broadcast of the Royal Wedding of Phillip and Elizabeth. (N.B Graham was born on the 3-1-1952) (Elsie had high blood pressure).
Many and varied were the repair jobs we were expected to do‹everything from jugs to irons, toasters, fans, heaters in fact anything electrical. Radios oh yes them too and car radio installations. We also did installations of home lighting plants. It was rather a shock after I had been out on one such job one day to be told early the next morning that Vic Monteith has passed away suddenly. One of his neighbours came down to break this sad news to us. Of course my first duty was to call on his widow and express our sympathy and sorrow at this sad happening and to assure her that I was willing to do anything I could do to help. After the funeral Vics brothers came to see me and said "Well it looks like its your turn now". That may have been fairly obvious but not so easy to arrange. For one thing there was far too much stock on hand for me to be able to buy it all! So I had to go to Brisbane and ask some of the firms to take some items back off our hands. Some did this for us rather reluctantly. Mrs Monteith wanted us to purchase the business but we heard that there was someone else in the running for it. Next thing I struck trouble with the bank through which we had financed our house. The manager obviously was backing someone else and he did everything he could to get me not to go ahead with the purchase of the business, even telling me that the other business men in the town would not suffer me to be one of them.
I walked out on him and went straight over to the other bank and they financed us even though I still had to get guarantors. John Johannessen was one of those who went guarantor for us. We did well for a time after taking things over in March 1953. Later however things became more difficult because discount shops and garages were also selling radios and electrical appliances. Some of these firms expected me to do their repairs while they made good profits by selling the goods. We also had interference trouble from an arc welder next door and some time when they were welding we couldn't even hear the local station 4SB through the noise. So it was difficult or impossible to demonstrate a radio set or test one!
At one time we had an office girl employed and at other times Elsie looked after the shop and did the books.
Then came television (black and white). This had its problems as the signal in the Wondai area was some what weak. On the opening night we had a set operating in the shop and a number of people viewing it. We sold quite a number of sets but people expected and got discounts in the form of free antennas etc so that we didn't make a lot of money.
I should have mentioned that Graham was born on the 3rd of January 1952. Then there was mums and dads visit in 1952 and that dad had a serious stroke whilst at our place and we had to get him to sign a will with a cross as he couldn't write. We also had to ring the railway and arrange for a sleeper from Gympie and also to get the Murgon Ambulance to take mum and dad over to Gympie and put them on the train for Rockhampton. It was regrettable that dad didn't get on to treatment for his high blood pressure for it was very high. Stan Andersen our next door neighbour who had sold us the land carried dad inside and on to a bed from where he had collapsed in the back yard on his way back from "the little house" (toilet) you most likely know the rest! Mum and Aunt Daisy visited us once and stayed for a while.
To back track a little Reg brought dad to us via T Model Ford while we were still in the hut. It was about 1am when dad knocked on the door and called out that it was the police "all out" so much for his jokes eh?
We battled on at the shop through thick and thin and especially during some droughts times business was very thin. I remember at Christmas when we had hardly sold anything but someone had ordered a mixmaster only to tell us on Christmas that they didn't want it! Anyhow we battled on at the shop through black and white TV and I learned to fix a few of them and I became quite adept at installing antennas on roofs etc.
Came 1963 and the then chief Technician at 4SB left to go into the United Ministry, so then Charlie Albury's wifes brother became the Chief Technician. I was offered a job as assistant Technician, with the proviso that I sit for exams for a broadcast operators certificate. I went through four exams before I got the required pass. I remember one occasion when I had remained back at the studio because someone was to come in to record some message‹ when they hadn't shown up I thought I had better inform the manager before I left for home. So he took the opportunity to blow the socks off me because till then I had not passed the exam and obtained the ticket. You see they had been given a limited permit for me to operate and maintain the transmitters. That manager could be a real pig of a man when he liked to be. Another time when I went in for my pay he would keep me talking for some time and I'm sure others wondered why I was in the managers office for so long! But he could be impossible at times. Once when the painters were painting the transmitter building he said! "What he would do to me if I let so much as one speck of dust get into the transmitter?" How ridiculous! The place was made of dust‹with ploughed ground on three sides and a dusty road at the front!
The manager was far from well some of the time and eventually Mr Ben Whitnall became manager as well as Chief Tech. I was there for eleven years till we decided to come to Brisbane seeing both Shirley and Graham were down here. I was advised by the Chief Engineer of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Network to try for a job at 4BH as he knew that they needed a Tech with experience on the same transmitter as 4SB had. So I had a job to go to in Brisbane. For a time we lived in our caravan at Newmarket Caravan Park‹ then while Elsie was away overseas I had the caravan down at the transmitter at Landers Pocket (where the new Brisbane Airport is now). Soon after I started at 4BH transmitter I found that the belt of the cooling blower for the main transmitter was only hanging on by a thread and if that gave way that transmitter would go off the air! So I had to go driving to get some belts. So much was new to me I didn't know the area very well, but I managed the Chief Techs instruction and found Goodyears wholesale and obtained the belts. While the main transmitter at Landers Pocket was basically the same as the one at 4SB, they had made some modifications at 4BH which took a bit of getting used to. A new job always takes a bit of getting used to anyway doesn't it?
I was living on my own at the time as Elsie had gone on a boat trip across the Pacific and through the Panama Canal. John Johannessen also went on that trip! I had considered it too but realised that we needed the money for other things (such as a house etc) and if I stayed put I would be earning money instead of spending it! Mostly I got along well at both 4SB and 4BH and when I left them I left of my own accord‹I was never sacked.
Came the time when 4BH had to vacate the site at Landers Pocket, so they bought swampy land at Wynnum West on the south side of the river and a new transmitter was built there. I had extra work to do in relation to this shift. A new American 5kilowatt transmitter was purchased and the newer of the two transmitters at Landers Point was taken to Wynnum West to be used as the standby. It was left to me to decide what timber etc we would take with us for shelving etc. It wasn't easy to foresee what would be needed at the new site! I made several trips with the Holden across the then River Ferry (where the gateway bridge is now).
When the new station was ready to operate (it was on a different frequency to what the old one was), 4BH was allowed to use both transmitters for sometime so as to tell listeners where on the dial to find the new 4BH. The new transmitter was at first on 800 kilocycles (800 kilo hertz) but later had to change to 882 KHZ. which was simply a matter of changing a frequency control crystal and a slight retuning. Many Broadcasting Stations were obliged to change their frequency so that more stations could be fitted in the AM Broadcast Band, one of the nastiest things that happened shortly after going on the air from Wynnum was that just about everything went haywire one very wet night when I was on duty. I was obliged to go down to the tuning box at the far aerial mast and the water was up to my waist. I had to keep meters etc very dry and to put them in my coolite food box. I couldn't find anything amiss down there, so the problem had to wait for daylight. When daylight came and the chief tech arrived they found that the wind had torn away bonding wires which had been fixed up and down the masts and these wires were floating out onto the guy wires (or stays). Obviously heavier and stronger wires had to be used on the masts and of course that was done.
As I worked some time at the studio and some time at the transmitter, there were times when I had to drive the 4BH vehicle from the city to the transmitter. It was fitted with two way radio and I had to be able to answer calls and talk back to the studio while driving in the city traffic. On one occasion I was turning out of Adelaide Street into Albert Street in order to go into Burnett Lane. I had a green light and commenced the turn when the light changed against me and the taxis prevented me from proceeding. A young policeman came out to me and told me to proceed as soon as you can! Which I did!
Later 4BH bought a new car an automatic, so the chief tech took me over to a quiet area to give me a practice run I did ok with it. A little later I had to take it over to AWA to have two way radio fitted. I managed to get there and back ok but certainly wasn't over confident. It's hard to change after driving manuals for so long (since 1935). Don't you agree?
One incident which occurred while I was working down at Wynnum happened because we were required to eradicate the groundsel bush from the transmitter paddock. We did cut a lot of bushes down but next day found that they were not as we had left them which looked a bit suspicious as there were talk of drugs being hidden in the area and also the spoils of burglaries could have been stashed in the area. The bushes had been heaped up in a way which we certainly had not done. The chief tech left it to me to get in touch with the Wynnum police which I did. Two of them came borrowed some of our gum boots and went to investigate where I showed them. They shifted the heap and probed down into the earth and decided there was nothing there. I quite innocently remarked that the pigs must have done it after all. They grinned sheepishly at each other and left without comment. It was true that pigs were known to be in the area!
On the technical side the engineer and his offsider spent night after night trying to make one of their elaborate plans work. In order to change from one transmitter to the other this operative one has to be shut down before the other one can be put to air. They were working on an idea they had of sensing the presence or otherwise of radio frequency in the aerial system and when this was not present the other transmitter could go to air. But they couldn't make it work and I wonder if there never was a time when there was no signal present in the aerial because of the other station just up the road which would induce a signal into our aerial so that it was never really dead at all.
Things seemed to be at an impasse when I asked the engineer why we didn't just use the high tension interlocking system which was already provided on the transmitters. He said "Good thinking Ken" and this was what was done and should have been done in the first place.
One other win which I had concerned the battery charged up so that the diesel alternator would start up automatically in the event of mainspower failure. The engineer said it was faulty and wouldn't charge and he sent up new parts to fix it all to no avail. I tried it with the battery connected and it worked. Voltage from the battery was needed to "turn on" a solid state device in the charger. The engineer had simply tried to measure the chargers out put with a meter and found nothing there.
I decided to retire at 61 as I was eligible for the service pension‹that is about 18 years ago as I write this section of my history in 1998! The house we live in at Keperra was signed up while Elsie was away overseas which made things awkward as some of the papers had to be sent over for her to sign as joint tenant, what a headache! As I had signed first the stamp duties office tried to make it a double transfer with double fee but later reneged when they were convinced that both of us were intended to sign in the first place! We have now been here for 22 years and it has suited us quiet alright. Of course it is not dress circle but who wants dirty flashiness any way?
We are near our church‹walking distance‹we were near to daughter Shirley and Ken at Ferny Grove. The soil here is fairly good for gardening but being quite sandy it does dry out rather quickly after good rain. Beans and tomatoes do quite well‹mangoes and citrus grow well but are subject to the disease problems we all know about. Pineapples also do well and are not much trouble to care for. I have not resorted to the carbide treatment to make them fruit so far! but some have had some fairly good fruit.
You may ask why do we adhere to the Christian faith, well frankly there is nothing else that comes any where near it as a code for life‹something to live by! We believe God created the whole universe and everything in it. Some say but who created God? The best answer to that is nobody made God! And that God always existed‹there never was a time when there was no God! This may not be easy to understand‹there are some things we are not able to understand! That is where faith comes in. We have faith in many ordinary things. We plant seed in the garden believing they will come up and grow! If we didn't believe this we most likely wouldn't bother to plant them.
In the old testament days it seems that God required the Israelites to make sacrifices for their sins but it was prophesied that Jesus Christ would eventually come into the world‹born of a virgin and that when he grew up he would die on the cross to pay the price of the sins of all those who would believe in his substitutionary death. In other words that he died for their sins!
Of course many will say but I've lived a good life I don't need a saviour! God says all have sinned in one way or another! Only one person ever lived a perfect life, a sinless life‹the Godman Jesus Christ and we are required to accept him as our saviour!
Excuse the sermon! But its hardly a true record of ones life unless one includes ones faith and I have tried hard to be true and correct in what I have written. One other thing just think if there were no judgment day at the end of life‹then the likes of Hitler and his Henchmen and Mussolini and his Cohorts get no more punishment for all the suffering and death that they caused than any of the rest of us! If we say that their punishment is no more than ours then we are saying that God is very unfair in his judgment. Surely that can never be! Whether or not any special punishment is to be meted out to the souls of Hitler‹Mussolini‹Tojo and so on is of course in Gods hands not mine! So be it!
Supplement No 1Yeppoon Camp 1
Sometime in 1941 I was called up for three months army camp at Cooee Bay, Yeppoon. Just prior to that I was required to be at the Rockhampton Drill Hall for medical examination. It was all somewhat of a trauma it was all so new to ones experience.
I can't recall the actual date of going into the Yeppoon camp but we went down by train to the Yeppoon Station and marched from there to Cooee Bay which is on the road to Emu Park. Some of the lads were talking and joking during this march and were smartly ordered to be quiet! And so we soon were required to do rifle drill with a 303. I couldn't quite get the hang of it for a while and so I found myself in the awkward squad. Somehow it was decided that I wasn't quite up to the hard training and so I was given the job of offsider to the Company Quarter Master Sergeant. His name was Bob Sharples and I believe his people were grocers in Rockhampton. He treated me ok. One thing I had to do was prepare Condys Crystal foot baths ready for the men when they returned from route marches. The Condys bath was supposed to toughen up their feet and some had terribly sore feet not being used to the heavy army boots.
One thing I remember was being taken to a position under trees at night and being shown how the striking of just one match would light up the trees and give away our position to an enemy.
Another thing I remember was having bad teeth extracted sitting in a chair with other men milling all around! No privacy‹no fun at all. Most embarrassing for sure!
I wanted to be in the signallers and tried to learn Morse code but was too slow at it. Morse code was used over army telephones as well as radio and signal lamps and heliographs. The signal lamp was used at night and the heliograph (which used movable mirrors) only during sunshine. Telephones and radio of course were used at any time of day.
On one occasion the troops were marched to a site along the road towards Emu Park where they had to fire the rifles into a sand bank. I was required to ride an army bike (somewhat heavier than ordinary bikes) out to this site and there to light up some copper boilers and boil water to pour through the rifle barrels after firing. I had to chop up blocks of wood (which was nothing to me) and keep the water boiling. I remember one of the officers came to me and told me to let him know if the sergeant expected too much of me! Which was good of him!
One thing I remember about the portable radios which were somewhat bulky, but were carried on the users back was that their speech transmission would break through on ordinary radios when they were operated in the vicinity! I had a home built battery radio at Yeppoon Camp myself some of the time. I think the sergeant allowed me to have it in his quarter master tent!
The time came when the three months camp was over and it was back to Rockhampton on the train. I did ask if I might stay in camp but was told NO.
One night in the camp they did stage an alarm and it was "everybody out".
The Japs were said to be landing at Mulambin Beach or some such place. Nothing much happened of course, so it was soon called off. It was probably staged to see how long it would take to repel the enemy!
Supplement No 2
Diary of my first experiences in the Army in Brisbane. 23-06-1942 I reported to the Drill Hall in Rockhampton, was given a send off by the Patriotic Committee along with the A.I.F Volunteers (although I had not at that time volunteered for the A.I.F‹that came later). A dinner in the city was part of the send off and a Bishop (Church of England) spoke on the railway platform. 24-06-1942 Arrived Brisbane Exhibition Grounds and slept on a seat in one of the grandstands. Xrayed and blood grouped (A2). 25-06-1942 A Thursday my 24th Birthday! Sent to help in the mess. 26-06-1942 Left for Kedron Park in the evening via a round trip over Gray Street and Storey Bridges. Had tea and went to bed. 27-06-1942 Did some drill and was trade tested by Staff Sergeant Bashford. 28-06-1942 Had 12 hours leave and went out to Neville and Clarence's farm at Beckett Road Aspley. Neville took me to church at Albert Street Methodist Church and then to Kedron. That was the first of my visits to my Johnson cousins. 29-06-1942 Today I was told to be ready next morning to leave by truck for the wireless course (which I soon found was already underway at Victoria Barracks near Countess Street). 30-06-1942 (Mums birthday) Left by truck for Wireless School. The instructor Corporal Hancox gave me a book to write in as I had not been told to bring one. 03-07-1942 Was paid £3. 06-07-1942 Bought books at Woolworths for about 6/-. 16-07-1942 Now have almost 100 pages of notes from the school. 18-07-1942 Was paid £4. 19-07-1942 Went out to Aspley and rode a bike to Bald Hills to meet Uncle Ted and Aunt Martha and cousin Teddy. 26-07-1942 I went out to Bald Hills and spent the day with cousin Teddy he lectured me on British Israelism. I went out and back by tram and bus. 31-07-1942 Was paid £4. 01-08-1942 Walked over the Storey Bridge and back. Then went to the City Gardens where I saw the monkeys strike matches and after snuffing them out proceed to eat them. Met a young American who seemed a decent fellow. He was so pleased when I helped him to find a stamp machine. He shouted me some malted milk and ice cream and to the pictures and wouldn't let me pay any of it. Said he'd had a job in San Francisco where he earned £45 a week. No doubt that was good pay before the war. 03-08-1942 Exam Day at the radio school. 04-08-1942 Exam results out and found out I had fallen into a trap with the instructions and so didn't' do as well as I should have. 05-08-1942 Went to Howards Ltd Building in South Brisbane to be further trade tested. I calibrated, traced and lined up a No 101 set. Tested by Sergeant L. Davidson. 06-08-1942 Exam results put into note book. I got leave to go to the city. I went to Turbot Street to look for cousin Neville. Neville showed me around the fruit and vegetable markets. 07-08-1942 I helped Ron Gilson to dismantle the electric wiring of the old sigs workshop and then helped to dismantle the screened room. 09-08-1942 Left camp at about 10am to go to Mt Cootha. Took the tram to Toowong Cemetery and then walked up. I came to a shelter shed and had a drink out of a tank. Some Americans came along on horses and I gave them a drink each out of my cup. 10-08-1942 Home leave was granted from 5pm on the 10th till 8am on the 14th. I left Roma Street at 9pm on the 10th and arrived in Rockhampton at 4.30pm the following day. 13-08-1942 Herb took me in to the station in the truck. 14-08-1942 Arrived at Roma Street absolutely sick of the trip (arrived late). I was told to get ready to go to Wooloongabba Camp the next day. 15-08-1942 In camp at the Gabba Cricket Ground. I shifted camp by tram but I can't remember why I wasn't taken in an army vehicle. 16-08-1942 Sunday washed my clothes. 17-08-1942 Got my pay. Bailed the water out of an air raid shelter. Started physical training. 18-08-1942 Sent to Exhibition Grounds for trade testing by Lieutenant Downing. 19-08-1942 Worked at the incinerator all day burning rubbish. 20-08-1942 Cleaning up the recreation room and in the Sergeants mess. 21-08-1942 Working at Ration Store. 22-08-1942 Did picket duty on the fence. 23-08-1942 Sunday Pioneer duty till 11am then washed my clothes. Went to St. Georges Club and then to Wesley House for fellowship and later to church. Some rain during the evening. 24-08-1942 Wet weather and kit inspection. 25-08-1942 Rifle Drill in morning. Letter from home. Iris said a friend of hers had said that Lieut. Homewood had mentioned my name while they were out on manoeuvres I wonder why? 26-08-1942 On picket duty on the gate I wasn't popular with some of the men who wanted to go out without leave. An raid alert sounded, we were down in the trenches for about half an hour till the all clear was given. 27-08-1942 Got my name put on the dental report so that I could go over to the Exhibition Grounds to make arrangements to have my teeth fixed up. Went to the Exhibition Grounds and had my teeth examination and was told to come back at 2pm, then I had impressions taken. 28-08-1942 Had the "bight" trial at dentist's. 29-08-1942 Went out to Enoggera Rifle Range and spent the day at the butts. On leave at 5.30pm and went out to Aspley by tram and bus and walking. 30-08-1942 Worked on Teddies old T Model Ford. Pumped up three tyres and stuffed up the other one with cotton flock out of the seat. Cleaned up the coil points. Put some petrol in the vacuum tank. Then I managed to start the engine. (Note the vacuum tank was a strange addition to a A Model Ford). 31-08-1942 Went to the dentists again. 01-09-1942 I collected my teeth on the way there posted a parcel for dad. 02-09-1942 Finding the dentures a bit awkward (more than a bit). 03-09-1942 In the evening I went out to Red Hill to visit the Bailey relations. 05-09-1942 I worked in the Ration Store this morning (seems to be coming a habit). Then I went over to HQ to see Sgt Wallace about my starting some course. He told me I would be starting an Instrument Mechanics Course the next week. I found cousin Eric here this morning. 06-09-1942 Worked in the Mess Hut. I went out to Fellowship and Church in the evening, Neville was present. 07-09-1942 I went to the Technical College at East Brisbane School with Ray Callow and spent the day helping him with an ohm meter on which he was working. 08-09-1942 I was put on to building up a Multi meter myself, had to make the terminals all six of then on a lathe. First time I had used a metal turning lathe 09-09-1942 I finished making the terminals and then cut out the panel. Put the meter in to position and also the switches. 10-09-1942 Made solder lugs and continued with the meter job. 11-09-1942 Still working on the meter. 12-09-1942 Went to Cooparoo on the march and then on the weekend leave from about 1pm helped to plant out a few hundred tomato plants. 13-09-1942 Worked a bit on the old Ford T. Went to Sandgate in Isobels car. spent some time on the Promenade Beach. 14-09-1942 More work on the meter. I had to figure out what length of wire I needed for the shunts. 15-09-1942 Still working on the meter. My watch arrived today, a week later than the letter which was posted same day. 16-09-1942 Finished wiring the meter. Not a bad job considering it was done without special tools and no resin cured solder. The Manual Training Instructor Mr Comrie Smith was happy with it. 17-09-1942 I wound a coil bobbin for an experimental transformer device. 18-09-1942 Finished off the repairs to the experimental device and then played around with it for a while. Rewound a Rheostat. 19-09-1942 We went for a march to the Story Bridge where we broke off. We had a look unofficially through a cast iron pipe factory. On the march back the men got about six small boys to march with us for half a mile or so. I went out to Aspley and managed to drive the old Ford T over to Bald Hills (unregistered and all). It ran out of petrol in Beams Road and some people at a farm house helped me out with some and would take no money for it (very generous of them as it was of course rationed). I must have had a spirit of adventure then eh? 20-09-1942 I went down to Wellington Point with Uncle Ted. We went to the Methodist Church there with Edna Smith (a cousin). I went out and saw Uncle Ted safely to the bus before returning to Wooloongabba. 21-09-1942 I was put to work overhauling the motor which drives the polishing buff. 22-09-1942 I finished the motor job and started on the job of repairing the Tachometer for the motor. The broken parts were of die cast metal so it was a rather chancy job to begin with. 23-09-1942 I broke a small drill bit and also another crack developed in the Tachometer. 25-09-1942 Went to Hamilton Wharf to load army biscuits and tinned fruit on to the army trucks. The wharfies were each coming out of a building with one case of army biscuits on each mans trolley when all of a sudden out came one conscientious wharfie with two cases of biscuits on his trolley. Well did the soldiers gig him and call him a scab! 26-09-1942 Went out to Aspley and washed my clothes while out there. 30-09-1942 I received a letter from Reg telling me of Ellen and Cecil Sharrocks whereabouts. So I went to visit them this evening and also went to visit Beryl. 01-10-1942 I started on a new job building a liquid rheostat. 02-10-1942 Continued with the same job today. 03-10-1942 Tried to get Beryl, Cecil and Ellen out to Bald Hills but missed the bus. 04-10-1942 Sunday we all spent our spare time in the city gardens. I also took them out to the Gabba Camp. 05-10-1942 Still on the rheostat job which is well under way now. 06-10-1942 Turned the terminals for the water rheostat. 10-10-1942 I went up to Victoria Barracks to see about getting shifted to ordnance workshops. 12-10-1942 Left the Gabba camp and started work at Hope Street Workshop (now part of Southbank). 19-10-1942 I reported sick about mid-day today as I had a rash on my arms and chest. I was sent to the Gabba RAP and from there to No3 AGH Enoggera, it was Rubella. 26-10-1942 Discharged from Hospital and back to Hope Street. 11-11-1942 Left Hope Street for Kedron Park. 12-11-1942 Home leave granted from 12th to 19th November. When I "pass on" people may say who was he? What did he do? He attained no rank! His life was a blank! But oh yes please let it be said That he tried!
As a family we had very little medical or dental treatment at any time. I had one or two teeth taken out by the school dentist. Beryl had all her teeth removed under anaesthetic. I was running into trouble with some of my teeth and my face was swelling up as a result when we had finished the fruit and vege run. I went to the dentist whom I knew had attended to Beryl. He took two of my teeth out and my how it hurt. I have since been told that when there is inflammation the anaesthetic doesn't work the same. He let me go home but he had made no attempt to stop the bleeding. I was taken back in at night but could not get in touch with the dentist. So then we went to the Ambulance who took me up to the General Hospital when I was given an injection and a doctor plugged and stitched up the gums. I was told to go back to the dentist in about two days and have the plugs removed. I did this but he was annoyed because I didn't come back to him (as he said). "I said we did but couldn't arouse anyone!"
All other hurts such as splinters and thorns and cuts and bruises were given home treatments‹ colds and flu got the Aspro treatment and maybe some cough medicine. The Eucalyptus Bottle and the Boric acid powder were often resorted to. Dad liked Curem Quick and Hudsons Eumenthol Jubes as his standby for sore throats etc.
After having some teeth removed at Yeppoon Camp I had wisdom teeth taken out at the Dental Clinic at Rockhampton Hospital. That was not the end of the teeth trouble as I had more teeth taken out in the army in Brisbane and more again in Wondai. Eventually I was supplied with full upper and lower plates at Ferny Grove Dental Clinic and a complete new set of teeth per Veterans Affairs provision.
This material has been provided by Connie Johnson, of Bundaberg; on the condition that any further copying and distribution of the material is allowed only for noncommercial purposes, and includes this statement in its entirety.
Any references to, or quotations from, this material should give credit to the original author(s) or editors.