Thursday, 8 September 2011


In an earlier post I shared an amusing quote about the mainland Australian capital cities. If you have read that blog, possibly you remember the statement that a citizen of Brisbane likely could make when meeting a stranger - "Come have a beer".

That syllogism summarizes my memories of the city and the people who live there - very friendly and laid back.

I lived in the same room in the same boardinghouse for most of the 2 1/2 years that I was there - and never had any cause to wish that I was elsewhere. There were a dozen or more lodgers (and when one left somebody else would take his bed almost immediately) . We all got along with each other.

Brisbane is a sub-tropical city and, therefore, the summers could be quite warm and humid while the winter days could be quite the opposite. In 1963 to 1965 there was no central air except in important buildings. Therefore, during the summer, one slept with no more than a sheet on top but winter was different. Then the prevailing winds seemed to be from over the hills and across the inland plain. The winds could be quite biting - and they brought the flies with them. The house was not insulated (beneath the window frame was a tiny gap through which I could see the outside).

The house at 81 Brookfield Road. Kedron was an older one. While it was a single story residence the land sloped from the road so that, while the front entrance (which was rarely used by anybody) was only one or two steps up from the ground level, the rear entrance was a story above the ground. Entering by the back door brought one into the kitchen. The dining table - a long rectangular piece of furniture - was around to the left. Oddly, at the back of the dining area was the bathroom with a shower and a sink. The toilet was directly below the shower at the foot of the outside stairs and backing on to the area where the cars were parked.

The driveway came into the east side of the yard and curved around to where drivers could park under the house and in rows. This arrangement, though odd to many of us from this side of the Pacific, was fairly common in that neighborhood.

Leaving the kitchen and walking past the dining area one passed bedrooms on the right. To the left was the living room and beyond it were more bedrooms. The Carroll's suite was on the right at the front of the house.

Being a warm climate, as well as the flies there were cockroaches and some of them made those found here seem awfully tiny! Every three months or so the exterminators came in - we boarders were warned in advance - and fumigated thoroughly. After they left there was quite a stench of chemicals but very few 'roaches. When they did begin to reappear it always seemed that they were sighted first in the downstairs toilet room.

The city - like all cities in the 'New World' - sprawled. While there were buses the main forms of transportation were streetcars and suburban trains. There was a streetcar stop about a block away and that streetcar passed right in front of the Dunlop Rubber building so it gave me easy access to work. The Dunlop building was on the north side of downtown and within walking distance of the major stores thereby making it easy for me to shop during my lunch hour.

Not long after I returned to Canada a major fire destroyed the streetcar barns. From photos that I have seen, it looks like Brisbane now has a very modern rail transit system.

The suburban trains were old as well and many still used steam power. The cars were not air conditioned so riders lowered the windows. Whenever the train passed beneath an over pass - or through a tunnel - the passengers would hastily raise the windows to prevent the engine smoke from entering the car.

One day the Beatles came to town and they were lodged in the 'premier hotel' near the river to the south of downtown. That was not that far from where I worked so, out of curiosity, I walked there at lunch and saw the usual gaggle of screaming teeny-boppers. Why I would have wanted to view that I don't remember!

Always I have loved theatrical productions and had seen some in Sydney and in Melbourne. Brisbane was to be no exception.

Two of the other boarders were a father (a widower) and a son, Brian. He - the son - was not really a theater kind of guy but he was curious so, when I purchased a ticket for a production of Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld", I bought one for him. His reaction was priceless. When the cast launched into the Can Can Brian was the first on his feet cheering and calling for an encore. There wasn't one encore - there were two.

I saw other productions - including the 'Farewell Concert' by Gracie Fields - as well as a production of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" performed by a Maori troupe from New Zealand which was pure magic. Like the Welsh, the Maori's are noted for their singing abilities. A group who are not noted for their singing abilities are the Australian Aborigines but an Aboriginal man from Victoria (State) gave a concert - he had a beautiful tenor voice.

Some Soviet Bloc performers came to Brisbane as well and, much to the horror of some of my workmates (the Cold War was still very present in world affairs), I bought a ticket to each. I saw a performance of the Georgian State Dancers (these were from the republic in the Caucasus - not the American state) and a circus from Omsk.

I went to sporting events - auto races at the Exhibition grounds (not my favorite form of entertainment), rugby, Aussie rules football and cricket matches. The Harlem Globetrotters came to town too and another boarder and I took in that entertainment. I have not heard of them for years so I wonder if they have folded?

Like most major capitol cities, Brisbane hosts an annual fair. The Methodist Church in Queensland rented a booth in order to sell costume jewelry created from the gem stones found in parts of the State. I volunteered to help in that booth when I wasn't working. That was one way to visit the "Ex" for free!

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