Gold Coast - Burleigh Heads
'THE DUCKIEST SURFING BEACH ON THE COAST'
The First World War had, in spite of its great human losses, been a period of rapid economic progress in Australia, with good prices being obtained for primary produce and minerals and the development of many local manufacturing industries. An increasingly affluent middle class, with more money in pocket and more leisure time, was eager to adopt much of the Californian lifestyle promoted by the cinema. Comparatively cheap seaside land, accessible by motor or train and within a few hours of a large city became a popular form of investment.
On the rocks at Burleigh Heads, 1916
When Brake's second 'Burleigh Heads Estate' was offered for auction on Boxing Day 1919, allotments which were described as absolutely 'the pick' of the town were available from 10 pounds, at 1 pound deposit and 1 pound per month, at 5 per cent. A 5 per cent discount was allowed for cash with War Bonds and War Savings Certificates accepted. An increasing number of motor vehicles were now reaching Burleigh, with the Shire Council using Automobile Club subsidies for road works. In 1918 the Club provided 75 pounds to match a 225 pounds Nerang Shire vote for he improvement of the 'black soil flat' between Reedy Creek and the Burleigh - West Burleigh Road. Railway figures also reveal a distinct increase in visitors:
|1 July 1917-30 June 1918||5817|
|1 July 1918-30 June 1919||6466|
|1 July 1919-30 June 1920||7888|
|1 July 1920-30 June 1921||9572|
|1 July 1921-30 June 1922||11829|
|1 July 1922-30 June 1923||11871|
|1 July 1923-30 June 1924||11349|
|1 July 1914-30 June 1925||12474|
The latter figure was the peak of traffic arriving at West Burleigh, prior to the opening of the Jubilee Bridge at Southport and the South coast Head. Indeed, the increasing traffic justified the extension of the railway station platform by 40 per cent in 1922. Wherein in 1917, one regular passenger service existed from West Burleigh station to Burleigh Head, operated by Ernest Lohmann, by 1925 a number of carriers were dependent upon the tourist traffic, providing motor services across the Big Hill. One such was operated by Thomas Duncan, son of the pioneer timber grazier, William Duncan. He returned to reside at Burleigh in 1921. Another operator was Lou Symonds.
James Street, Burleigh Heads in 1927 showing at left the Imperial Refreshment Room
West Burleigh reached new heights of prosperity as well at this time. 'Two banks, the Commercial Bank of Australia and the English Scottish and Australian, established branches there in 1917; and a sawmill was established by W. J. Dennis in 1921 to cope with the new local building boom. The Oyster Bed Hotel also survived throughout these years, obviously benefiting from the growing railway traffic.
Several regular visitors now settled in the Heads, amongst them William Fradgley, builder, and Charles Justins, who in late 1919 erected his first permanent store at the Connor Street corner.
The opening ceremony of the Tallebudgera Creek bridge, 1926
Joseph Shaw, Daddy or 'Pop' Shaw to future generations, established his store facing the beach in late 1918, taking over the role of postmaster from W. Pearce. Shaw was to construct a substantial cement building as his new store in 1925. Another storekeeper was William Lawty, who also commenced business in 1918.
Frank J. Smith, registered in early directories as a 'dealer' - came to Burleigh Heads in approximately 1917 and in 1919 erected a boarding house which he named 'Burleigh Lodge'. Another boarding house was operated by Mrs. H. Finnemore.
West Burleigh Railway Station with the Oyster Beds Hotel at left, 1908
The first surf life saving patrols operated on Burleigh beach in the Christmas season of 1918/19, the result of an application to the Nerang Shire Council by the Royal Life Saving Society. The Council provided the two patrols with a tent, and in recognition of their presence, which 'meant safety to the bathers' donated 5 pounds to the Society in February 1919. They again patrolled the beaches in 1919 and 1920, however, in late 1921 the Shire Chairman, W. J. Brake, advised the Council that 'local men were willing to act in the capacity and suggested that patrols be appointed'. The Burleigh Heads Surf Life Saving Club, was established at a rudimentary level in late 1921, one of their first noteworthy efforts being a vain attempt to rescue Mrs. Emily West and her two young sons, who were drowned in a boating incident at the mouth of Tallebudtgera Creek on 16 March 1922. In November 1922 the Club was provided with a site adjacent to the public bathing boxes to erect a shed for their equipment, 20' x 14'. Demands upon the Club's services saw the Shire Council appointing the first 'paid beach patrol' by Christmas 1925 by which time a permanent patrol tower had been erected. The Club's captain at that time was Jack Shaw, chairman was estate agent Harold Smith, Secretary W. Godfrey.
There were other district signs of progress. William Fradgley requested permission in April 1920 to run an open-air picture show at Burleigh Heads by 1923 the building was partly roofed and floored, and by late 1924 was fully enclosed. Another application for a picture show was tendered by James Jarvis in 1923, but was withdrawn as the result of petition of local residents satisfied with Fradgley's operation. Jarvis, a farmer from Nobby's Creek near Murwillumbah, had acquired a good deal of land in the vicinity of the present Burleigh business centre. In 1923 he constructed the Jarvis Hall upon one of his allotments in James Street, a much needed venue for dances, social functions and religious services. By 1925 regular Anglican , Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic services were held at Burleigh Heads.
The first life saving team at Burleigh in 1918
The first town sports club, the Burleigh Heads Football Club, was established in 1924, the captain being Neville Mulcahy, son of the licensee of the Bluff Hotel, P. Mulcahy. In 1922 the Brisbane Daily Mail sand castle competitions were extended to Burleigh, and were for many years a feature of Christmas holidays at the town.
Most significantly, in 1920 a Burleigh Heads Progress Association was established to promote the development of the resort and to lobby local and State governments for improvements. Its membership was representative of the new businessmen of the town, and its deliberations reveal a particular concern in protecting their commercial interests, as well as improving tourist facilities. For example, submissions to the Nerang Shire Council included:
|29 January 1921||complaints regarding Council allowing additional motor vehicles to ply from West Burleigh Station during Christmas|
|26 February 1921||urging formation of Esplanade Road|
|29 October 1921||urging work on Bill Hill|
|24 December 1921||suggesting new road to West Burleigh along banks of Tallebudgera|
|28 October 1922||complaints regarding a licence for a temporary fruit stall|
The Association's secretary, Joseph Shaw, approached the Council in July 1922, successfully urging the naming of streets throughout Sections 15 to 22 along the beach towards North Burleigh, first Avenue, Second Avenue, and so on. Perhaps their finest early work was in the erection of shelter sheds for visitors, and in urging an improved sanitation service.
The first club house of the Burleigh Heads Surf Life Saving Club, 1923
The Shire Council was especially slow in this respect. Whereas bathing bylaws establishing 'neck to knee' costume regulations had been rushed through as early as 1910, it was only in late 1922 that camping regulations permitting only 6 tents per chain were enforced and any suggestion of building regulations. In 1922, a 16-perch block at Burleigh Heads was reported to have contained two houses with one sanitary convenience only ten feet from the buildings. Also in 1924, one brave councillor benefiting from the recent departure of W. J. Brake on a six months' vacation to Europe referred to the fact that Brake's early estate developments had included several 14.5 perch allotments, under the prescribed limit for urban areas.
There was no regular sanitation service in 1921 and only in 1922 was a permanent sanitary reserve established on L. Symond's land. William Fradgley obtained the first contract to attend permanently the few public sanitary conveniences at Burleigh Heads, but a sanitation service to premises was only commenced in late 1923.
The Miami Hotel under construction in 1923
The arrival of the motor vehicle only compounded the problems increasingly by 1925 day trippers were using the beach and its facilities. The royal Automobile Club was urging in 1921 an improvement of the old road from Meyer's Ferry to Burleigh Heads.
Early in 1922 a Coastal Road Association was formed, including the three coastal local authorities, which negotiated successfully with the State Government for the commercial sub-division of land between Meyers's Ferry and Burleigh Heads, with resultant revenue contributing towards a motor road. This was effectively under construction by 1923 and would provide a perfect road surface to Burleigh by 1926. The Jubilee Bridge, opened in November 1925, bridging the Broadwater at Southport, was to be the first of the major traffic bridges allowing easier access to the South Coast from Brisbane. The promise of such a boon led to estate development along the coast, including B. F. Canniffe's development of the 'Miami Shore' estate at North Burleigh in 1923-24 -
'The new Ocean Motor Road from Southport, now in the final stages of completion, will pass right in front of the Estate. This road, which will be the finest of its kind in Australia, will carry a 15 minute Motor Car Service from the new Southport Bridge. Think of the value this new Ocean Motor Road will give to Miami Shore! Property values will treble in an incredibly short space of time.'
In April 1924 Justins Brothers opened the first motor garage in the town proudly announcing 'a bowser petrol pump now installed', and in late 1924 a new hotel, the Miami Hotel, was being erected facing the new road at North Burleigh. The question of contributing to the coast of extending the road to the south originally confounded Nerang Shire; in 1922 it was seen as only furthering the prospects of Burleigh's rival, Coolangatta. Saner counsel prevailed b 1925, when both Coolangatta Town council and Nerang Shire cooperated in the construction of bridges over Tallebudgera and Currumbin creeks.
By 1925 it could be reported that Burleigh Heads boasted some 300 residences. In that year both the Miami Hotel and F. J. Smith's new Burleigh Hotel were opened. A branchy of the Commonwealth Bank became the town's first banking facility, quickly followed by two other agencies and a cafe, bearing the grand title of the 'Imperial Refreshment rooms' opened in 1923. the increasing population led to calls for the school to be moved closer to Burleigh Heads, as early as June 1924.
Possibly the best prophet of Burleigh's future was 'Friend John' who arrived as a southern visitor in 1923, pitched camp and remained - the first of so many others who in more recent years fell under the town's charm. A 'hospitable soul' he became a local identity, dispensing olives and asparagus in lavish suppers in his tent, and drinking champagne out of a pannikin. Such were the characters of future Gold Coast history.
The completion of the Currumbin Creek and Tallebudgera Creek bridges in 1926 meant that the coastal road scheme from Southport to Coolangatta had become a reality in little over four years, proof indeed of the economic and political influence of the motor vehicle. the completion of the Coomera to Southport motor road in 1928-29 and of road bridges over the Coomera and Logan rivers (in 1930 and 1931 respectively) meant that all the coastal resorts were available to Brisbane day trippers. In 1930-31 fewer than 2,300 travellers arrived at West Burleigh station and the figures progressively decreased. Most visitors arrived by private car or bus service and whereas Burleigh had suffered for many years because of the distance from railway station to beach, by 1930 she was competing upon an equal footing with Coolangatta, Currumbin and Southport.
Aerial view over north Burleigh looking towards Nobby Beach in 1928
The next 15 years of the resort's history were ones of spectacular growth, given the many years in which Burleigh had remained a 'sleepy hollow' whilst Tweed heads and Coolangatta had flourished.
Christmas camping figures are especially interesting in detailing Burleigh's growing popularity; by 1930 14,000 were estimated to be holidaying at Big and Little Burleigh; 1932 18,000, 1936 20,000. Such numbers strained Council services to the limit, encouraged local business and brought distinct social change.
Nerang Shire Council was unprepared for such change. The council remained essentially governed by stolid, conservative rural interests, since 1880 blind to the resort potential of the coastal area, and resentful of the influence of absentee landowners in the siting of the coastal railway.
The provision of sanitary services in 1923 and a regular garbage collection in 1926 were increasing signs that the Council realized the need for improving services to the growing number of Burleigh ratepayers. this was especially urgent given the cash of estate developments along the coast, with such estates as 'Burleigh Beach' at Miami being promoted nationally as 'Australia's finest beach playground'. Obviously, the influence of Brake, had been such as to cause the Council to realize the potential financial benefits of a growing rate base. The Brake family's influence passed with W. J. Brake's death in March 1928 and that of his father in March 1931, both at a time of new social pressures. The South Coast bulletin first gives an indication of these in 1929, when a headline screamed 'Flappers rule'. Moral decay had never previously been an issue in council discussions; indeed it had been the Surf Life Saving Association which had first drawn the Shire's attention to the need for bathing costume regulations. Prior to 1914 there is every indication that men mostly bathed in the nude, separately from women who changed costume on the beach. Worse besides, at Burleigh these were mainly picnic beach parties from the Tallebudgera and Mudgeeraba districts, all strictly Church-goers,. With the enormity of such behaviour bought to the Nerang Shire's attention, a 'neck to knees' costume ruling was submitted to government for incorporation in the by-laws, and returned for amendment as being so strict as to be unenforceable. If this over-reaction created mirth in Brisbane, the question of Christmas and Easter entertainment was the national gaze in 1934. As early as 1923 William Fradgley had approached the Council for permission to 'hold entertainments at Burleigh Heads at Christmas', with permission being given, 'provided that the film show was a sacred one'. Side-shows were also allowed to operate during the holidays by 1927. All-night dancing, however, raised a particular concern, possibly emphasized by the strong local influence of the Methodist Church.
Burleigh Beach scene, 1948
To take advantage of Christmas and Easter holiday crowds, James Jarvis applied to the Council in February 1929 for permission to hold dances at his hall 'from 12.05 on the morning of Saturday, March 29 and on Saturday night until midnight'. the bulletin remarked that Jarvis dodged Good Friday and Easter Sunday 'in each instance by five minutes, thus saving his soul from sin by a precariously narrow margin'. Coolangatta Town Council was taking a far more liberal approach and Jarvis warned that Burleigh would 'look on and see the procession go by to Coolangatta', especially so as the Nerang Shire prohibited dancing on every Sunday of the year -
'Some people said it was only the flappers, but he reminded the councillors that flapper had young men and even mothers and fathers. these mothers and fathers had to please their daughters they could only do this by letting them go where night lights glittered and the music charmed.'
Jarvis had his way in this instance, however a far greater battle between the Council and young moderns loomed in the near distance.
Miami looking north to Mermaid Beach, 1949
The Burleigh Heads Progress Association had dissolved in 1928 after an important seven years record of actively promoting the town. It had, however, increasingly clashed swords with the Shire Council which it accused of neglect. In January 1927, for example, a letter with the Shire council which it accused of neglect. In January 1927, for example, a letter from the Association was returned with the request that it be worded respectfully. A new "ratepayer's association" carrying the old title was formed in June 1929 with I. C. Symonds" as President. Other prominent early members were W. Fradgley. C. Justins, W. Brake (senior), S. S. Pegg, and J. M. Goodwin (the local representative for he South Coast bulletin). Its principal aim upon establishment was to lobby for the removal of Burleigh Heads and its neighbouring coastal areas from Nerang Shire, to be annexed to the Coolangatta Town Council. the benefit to both areas would be the 'modernization of the area', especially for visitors from the South, 'who were accustomed to modern conveniences at home, and expected same when on holiday'. given the fact that Burleigh was still without electricity (which had been enjoyed at Coolangatta since the early 1920s) and was cursed with smells from the local sanitary depot, there was logic to this argument. Indeed, the only major capital tourist expenditure at Burleigh had been the erection of a concrete and brick toilet block in late 1927.
Aerial view of Burleigh Heads showing the extent of camping on the foreshore in 1950
A delegation of Burleigh ratepayers approached the Home Secretary to urge amalgamation with Coolangatta in late 1929, with Symonds stressing the point 'that it was the farming area that they desired to rid themselves of. The result was the Government's approval in January 1930 for the creation of a new Division 4 of Nerang Shire, effectively removing Burleigh from the hinterland and tying its future to the coastal strip as far as Surfers Paradise. The Progress Association expressed its disapproval of this result, but quickly moved to place its own candidates for the positions created by the new Division. These were L. C. Symonds (the president) and S. S. Pegg, who were both successful at the elections, giving the new Association a major influence within the Shire Council. the effect was immediate. 1930 proved to be a year of major development, spurr3ed by the arrival of day-tripping motorists after the opening of the Coomera bridge. Electric light was switched on at a ceremony in Jarvis' Hall on 12 December, street lighting followed, the road through the town was bitumenized, car parking areas developed, the sports ground improved an fenced, a new brick and concrete toilet block was erected on the beachfront opposite the Hotel Burleigh, and temporary dressing sheds and earth closets provided at Little Burleigh. Perhaps of most importance, a new sanitary reserve at the back of Miami had been secured, following the resumption of part of the 'Miami Shore Estate'. The Progress Association was also successful in urging the removal of the police station from Tallebudgera to Burleigh Heads in late 1930. An increasing number of robberies and reports of vandalism had highlighted the problem of relying upon a country constable without a motor vehicle, and lacking a telephone. In March 1931, Councillor Symonds even moved the Nerang Shire office be relocated from Mudgeeraba to Burleigh, much to his Association's delight. When this failed, a suggestion was mooted for the creation of a new coastal shire from Main Beach to Tallebudgera Creek - the first hint of what would later emerge as a coastal municipality.
Camp site on the Burleigh Heads foreshore, 1931. The De Luxe theatre at right opened in 1930
Progress was evident in other areas. The erection of St. John 's Church of England in 1926 allowed for the removal of the Burleigh State School to the new church hall, where it would remain for some eight years. In December 1928 the new Methodist Church was opened for public worship and in 1926 the Southport Ambulance Centre successfully applied for permission to erect a building as a temporary sub-centre on the esplanade reserve. this permission to erect a building as a temporary sub-centre on the esplanade reserve. This would serve as Burleigh's ambulance building until 1955. A large new motion picture theatre, the DeLuxe, was opened by William Fradgley on the site of Shaw's first store in 1930 with a Western Electric sound plant being installed in 1931, and a new Post Office building opened on the corner of James and Connor streets in December 1931.
The winding road from Tallebudtgera Creek bridge, 1929
The Surf Life Saving club had not, however, proved a success. Unlike others along the coast, the Burleigh Heads Club found it increasingly difficult by 1926 to whip up local enthusiasm and provide regular patrols. Paid beach patrols were first initiated in 1925, for example over Christmas-New Year of 1926-27, C. rose and P. Hohnke provided a seven days' patrol. The 1927-28 Christmas season saw voluntary patrols provided by a dynamic Brisbane Club, the Mowbray Park Surf Life Saving club, established in 1923 to provide a patrol at the Mowbrtay Park baths at East Brisbane. Expanding its operation to Redcliffe, it then commenced voluntary beach patrols during high-peak holiday periods at popular beaches along the south Coast.
Koala Park estate as it looked in 1932
In April 1928 the club amalgamated and indeed absorbed the remnant of the old Burleigh Club, making Burleigh Heads 'their official beach for displays, practice, etc.' The Nerang Shire council accepted their offer to patrol the beach, a contract which was to be renewed annually. they also provided a regular patrol of Little Burleigh during the high season.
Little Burleigh and Miami had shared in the building boom which stretched northwards from Burleigh as estate developments took off from 1924-26. The Miami Hotel was an immediate attraction, especially for motorists and campers who were appearing in fair numbers at the headland by 1930. A number of homes were by that date appearing on the headland and along North Burleigh.
Tallebudgera Creek bridge and kiosk, 1930
The name 'Miami' had superseded that of Little Burleigh by 1932. Two public wells were sunk there by the 1931-32 Christmas season, by which time the council was becoming anxious as to the effect campers were having upon the area. Councillor Pegg, in a debate on the issue stated -
'They destroy the brush and undergrowth. We desire to protect the people who have purchased property from the drift of the sand and if the scrub is not protected, we will have to put up brush fences. We have a natural protection now, and we would be fools if we allow it to be destroyed. Campers do no good and leave the place in a filthy state.'
Although such sentiments were in the minority, with most councillors wishing to encourage campers to visit, such environmental issues were becoming of serious concern. The initial plan of the Burleigh Esplanade had reserved native bush areas fronting the beaches to the north and south. By 1930 concern was being expressed as to 'the wanton destruction of many of our native shade trees on the beach front. ...From the Hotel Burleigh the Esplanade runs parallel with the beach as far as Little Burleigh, and on the beach side clumps of honey suckle, ti-tree and young gums flourish and act as barriers to the ever-drifting sand. Home owners were accused of removing trees to improve their sea views, or fuelling the kitchen stove. In 1932 the council was urged to fence the entire North Burleigh to Burleigh foreshore and prohibit camping therein.
Looking south towards Burleigh Heads, 1928
As early as 1927 the Progress Association had urged a tree planting scheme upon the council and two years later Councillor A. Black had first promoted the ideal of a 'sea front improvement scheme' involving beach walls and tree planting. Five years passed before such systematic tree planting commenced, an initiative of the Progress Association, although some Norfolk Island pines had been planted on the knoll at Big Burleigh by schoolchildren on Arbor Day 1930.
An aerial view showing the first high-rise development on Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads, 1967
The tourist boom had another sad impact. At first encouraged, motorists were parked by the dozen along the coastal road during the spring and summer wildflower season, loading their cars with boronia and Christmas bells which grew in profusion throughout the Miami Swamp. Described in 1929 as an 'army of wild-flower gathers', they included Brisbane florists eager to profit from such available bounty -
'By the way, we would suggest to all flower gatherers to use a knife or large snips when gathering flowers and thus give our beloved flowering shrubs a chance to continue their silent duty of natural beautification.' (South Coast bulletin, 29 August 1930)
By 1931 an element of concern appeared in the press -
'Perhaps it would not be amiss to state that the ruthless picking of boronia is now prohibited, unless it is taken from private land, with the permission of the owner. The flowers will need to be heeded otherwise many of our sweet-scented flowering shrubs and ferns which adorn many miles of out roadways will gradually disappear.' (South Coast bulletin, 25 September 1931)
Sadly, very little more was heard of this profusion of wildflowers. Burleigh's popularity proved their destruction.
Big Burleigh reserve, placed under the management of the shire council in 1918, appears to have suffered equally from wholesale removal of plants and ferns; indeed in 1926 a part of the reserve near the new Tallebudgera Bridge was leased for a kiosk and late in 1925 approval was given for H. B. rose to clear an area on the headland at Big Burleigh for a 'refreshment shed for the sale of teas and soft drinks'. A ten shillings annual rental was levied, and in 1929 this 'Roof Garden' was described as follows -
'Though the ascent is steep, it fully repays lovers of seascape and natural beauty to undertake the climb. The proprietor (Mr. rose) had, with artistic taste, made ample provision for refreshments, and also laid a dance floor with ideal natural surroundings. At a nominal charge a huge telescope enables the visitor to have a close up view of Point Danger, Coolangatta, Tweed and the many bold headlands towards Murwillumbah.'
Aerial view of Burleigh Heads today
The 1927 petition from the Progress Association for 'a hand rail to be erected on Big Burleigh to assist persons climbing' may have been more aimed at those wishing to Charleston on Big Burleigh than for ardent bush-walkers. The Association first approached the subject of an improved walking track in the reserve in July 1932; by November the Shire council had built a 3 to 4 foot wide track with railings as far as Pinnacle rock at a total cost of 25 pounds. By June 1933 another major Council works was underway, the filling in of the Burleigh waterholes to provide more camping area. this was undertaken with relief workers during he Depression, top-dressed and made ready for the 1933-34 camping season 'Seen by most as a major improvement to the town, especially a few lone voices of protest. Once of these was Frederick Walker's son, S. F. Walker, who could recall the beauty of the area at the turn of the century. Reminiscent of 'Special Tourist's article in 1876, Walker wrote from his Coomera property in 1932, criticizing the decision to reclaim the swamp -
'If the council, progress association, or any other intelligent bodies were to awaken the powers of observation situated in the gray matter of their fertile brains, they would notice that they had an ideal spot placed right in the centre of their growing town by the Great Designer of things for a central pond which could be made into one of the liveliest places in any town in the world...'
Progress, of course, meant that such sentiments were more pipedreams. The hundreds of cars that roared into Burleigh each weekend, and the tens of thousands of campers who arrived at holiday time were the lifeblood of a town and district, struggling like all others in those difficult years to keep bread on the table.
The locals were not without sentiment for the flora and fauna which they saw as endangered by the waves of visitors. These were amongst the chief attraction of Burleigh and deserved protection which came with the 1931 declaration of the coastal strip as a native bird sanctuary. the visiting whales which regularly passed Big Burleigh, providing spectacular displays for visitors were one form of wildlife safe from the tourist boom. the death of a whale on Burleigh beach at the height of the 1926 Christmas and the wholesale souveniring which followed, showed what there was to be feared in the public spirit of the age.
The odour was such that the Council attempted to dispose of the carcass by dynamite explosions, the only result of which was an action for damages from a Mrs. M. Smith whose house lost one sheet of roof iron and one piece of 3" x 2" timber. Fortunately the Queensland Museum accepted what remained of the whale, which meant that the governor's (Sir John Goodwin) visit to Burleigh Heads in 1927 was a very pleasant affair, memorialized by the renaming of The Terrace as Goodwin Terrace.
As estate development grew in the North Burleigh-Miami area in the 1920s, public curiosity equally grew in the story of the Miami Bunyip. the erection of the Miami Hotel in 1925 and the opening of the sanitary depot in the swamp area in 1930 led to numerous reports of the triple 'boom-boom-boom' which sounded nightly from the swamp, and yet, occasionally was not heard for twelve months, only to return in full voice and vigour.
Frederick Fowler's daughter reminisced that when she was young, local Aborigines caped on the old Racecourse flat midway between Burleigh and West Burleigh would pull up camp when the booming noises came from the swamp, referring to the 'Debil Debil'. Another recollection was that of Walter Lawty who recalled an incident in the Merrimac Swamp at the turn of the century when 'something in the long grass gave a weird howl' causing a horse to bolt. There were also reports of cattle disappearing mysteriously at a waterhole near Mudgeeraba.
In 1938 Charles Finamore, sanitary contractor, reportedly encountered a ten foot long crocodile at the northern end of the Miami Swamp, close to the rubbish tip. He followed it for about a quarter of a mile 'and came upon the remains of a cow, the bones of which were scattered in all directions'. He then followed the tracks into the Miami Swamp.
A similar large crocodile was shot in the Logan River not far from Logan Village in 1905, proving that it was not impossible for such creatures to survive so far south.
Although many people were wary of Finamore's story, he carried a spear with him from that time on whenever he worked at the rubbish tip.
Reports of the bunyip gradually died, as the Miami-North Burleigh areas became more densely populated, and as land reclamation and drainage schemes changed the face of much of the Miami Swamp.
Bumbledom At Burleigh
Progress may have had its economic benefits, it also brought social change in its wake. As early as 1920 the local journalist (J. M. Goodwin) anticipated that the arrival of the Brisbane masses by road would bring a 'hoodlum' element, intent on vandalism and general mayhem. The city now came to Burleigh every weekend in the form of motorists, and in the surfing season tens of thousands thronged the town eager for amusement. the Church of England, with a somewhat more relaxed attitude to Christmas entertainment, allowed dances in their hall as early as the 1926-27 season, often competing with similar dances at Fradgley's and Jarvis's halls. the Shire Council appears to have taken a dim view of such use of a church building, with a motion passed that in future such dances would only be approved if they were held under chu7rch auspices with profits going to religious purposes. the Methodists distinctly voided any such Christmas activities, their major function being the annual Flower show, begun in October 1927 - an event which became a regular feature of Burleigh life.
Christmas boxing matches, wood chops, side shows and fun rides also became part of holiday life at the town. On boxing Day 1930, for instance, James Jarvis organized a wood chop with some fifty entrants, whilst Wave Geike became a local celebrity for his organizing boxing matches such as that on 18 January 1930 when Tommy Ford faced Claude Smith in the ring. Prominent in much of this burgeoning social life were the members of the Mowbray Park Surf Life Saving Club, a Brisbane-based club patrolling South Coast beaches, and generally regarded as somewhat more worldly-wise than many a local lad.
The Club's reputation for successful rescues and competition honours grew with every season; b the 1933-34 season some 226 rescues had been made at Burleigh beach and the club was proud to have achieved the position of premier club of Queensland since 1932. Captain W. Daley had held the title of Champion Queensland Life Saver since 1931 and the club was runner-up in the 1932 Australian R. R. Championships. Most importantly, no drowning had occurred at Burleigh since the club commenced patrols which were now maintained throughout the year at weekends. The club's surf boat 'Speedo' was acquired in April 1930. to finance equipment and travelling costs, the club held dances and other fund-raising activities such as chocolate wheels both at Burleigh and in Brisbane. A far smaller source of income came from donation and beach collections. In the Christmas season of 1931-32 the Club held 23 dances on an open-air floor.
At the November 1933 meeting of Nerang Shire council, the Club applied for a permit to hold 'midnight dances' on certain Sundays during the coming holidays, the application being unanimously refused. At midnight, on New Year's Eve, Sunday 31 December 1933, the Club held an open-air dance 'shortly after New Year was ushered in' and hundreds were in attendance. On 27 January 1934 the Council reacted by summarily withdrawing the Club's permit to patrol Burleigh beach. It also refused to grant a renewal of the dance floor licence, and demanded that Mowbray Park 'remove all its belongings from Council property'. A new local club was to be formed to be called the 'Burleigh Heads Surf Life Saving club'.
The ensuing events brought Burleigh Heads to national attention and did little to enhance the Shire Council's reputation for sane judgment. The most adamant of the councillors appears to have been A. C. black, who since 1924 had served as a Division 4 representative. He was a prominent Burleigh storekeeper, owner of the 'A. C. B. Store'.
A public meeting called by No. 4 Division representatives was held at Jarvis' Hall on 8 February to organize a local surf patrol. the crowd of 250 recorded a heavy majority against such a club being formed, the motion was lost, and public support for Mowbray park grew as the club refused to leave the b each and maintained its voluntary patrols.
The Brisbane Telegraph quickly supported the club, although being critical of the overt flouting of the Council by-law - 'with a membership of 50 and a following of possibly three times that number, a metropolitan club willing to give voluntary service on a beach 60 miles from the city and to provide its own gear and equipment to carry out that duty is without doubt an invaluable acquisition to any community and one not to be lightly discarded.'
By late February a new club had, however, been formed, its patron G. Rudd (Chairman of Nerang Shire); president Councillor L. C. Symonds; treasurer Councillor A. C. Black; trustee Councillor T. Page. The club committee quickly raised the mirth of many locals, one of whom wrote that 'during four years at Burleigh I have never once seen either of the four councillors in the surf'. Other suggestions were made that overtures were being made to unemployed qualified life savers, guaranteeing them Council jobs, if they agreed to volunteer as Club members. Whether such was true or not, the Burleigh Club attracted relief workers presently in the district.
The new club was, however, refused affiliation both by the State Association and the senior Point Danger Club, given the fact that the recognized club already patrolled the beach. The Mowbray Park Club also moved to galvanize public support by renaming itself the Progress Association. Open dissension now appeared at Council meetings. Councillors Schuster and Henman declaring Mowbray Park had 'acted as gentlemen' and were 'entitled to British justice' whilst Councillor Hack felt -
'even in the past they acted in a high handed manner and some of the club members were the worst offenders in the matter of beach costumes; they apparently thought they could do as they liked.'
A 'committee meeting of Burleigh residents' called a public protest meeting at the De Luxe Theatre on Friday 9 March 1934 and arranged for a mass petition of No. 4 Division ratepayers to demand the council rescind its decision and reinstate the club. Well over 200 attended and the petition was agreed to. Within a fortnight the document had been signed by 214 residents.
By now the metropolitan press headlined 'Bumbledom at Burleigh' and 'Beach Bungle'. With Easter coming the safety of bathers became the first consideration -
'The councillors have a queer idea of fitting a punishment to a 'crime' when they set out to penalise the whole of Burleigh Heads by ordering the culprits to relinquish watch and ward over bathers along the Nerang Shire's stretch of coast.'
The dispute now reached a further height. On 21 March the shire Chairman and three Division 4 representatives look possession of the surf shed, soon to be surrounded by a large crowd of residents and visitors. 'Blows were nearly struck.' None of the Mowbray Park Club's equipment was removed, presumably as the Club's solicitors (Morris, Fletcher and Cross) had warned that legal proceedings would ensue. An attempt the next day by Councillor Black to enter the boat shed by breaking the padlock saw the local constable threaten Black's arrest. Nerang Shire workers then cut a hole through the adjoining wall and transferred the club's property.
A public indignation meeting resulted, organized by the newly established Ratepayers and Electors Protest Committee. It was held on Burleigh beach on Sunday 25 March and was attended by nearly 1,000 people - one of the largest public demonstrations held in Queensland to that date, a brave Councillor Symonds warning that such a meeting was in itself a breach of the by-laws. A unanimous vote protested against the Council's action. The petition duly presented to the Council on 24 March was rejected, whilst the Shire voted 10 pounds to the new Burleigh club to patrol the beach at Easter. The weight of public pressure was beginning to take effect, however, with Councillor Page now voting for reinstatement of the Mowbray Park Club.
The ludicrous situation now emerged of two clubs competing to patrol the one beach, which only highlighted the superiority of the older club, with a chain of rescues being highlighted in the press -
'the sweeping statement by a councillor of No. 4 Division... that we don't want champion life savers on our beaches, was simply refused by the timely rescues effected by the Mowbray Park-Burleigh Heads Surf Club.'
The humiliation of the council and its club had other results, the worst of which was the discovery of a sabotaged Mowbray Park life line during the Easter holidays. Within a few weeks the new club had virtually ceased to exist; only Mowbray Park men strolled the beach. Reports even suggest that the new club members had been jeered at by the public.
The April council meeting now voted to give the Mowbray Park Club 14 days to quit the beach and remove all their goods, failing which an eviction order would be put into effect.
The Club's solicitors immediately acted, declaring the building the club's property and threatening to take legal action. On Sunday 13 May 1934, as the council's deadline was due to expire, the farce reached a climax. An attempt was made to burn down the Mowbray Park Surf Shed; methylated spirits had been poured over parts of the building and been set alight. The timber, however, had been damp from recent rains and the fire did not take hold. The padlock in the building also had been tampered with.
An inquiry into the attempted arson took place in July with an intermittent relief worker claiming that he was asked by Councillor A. C. Black to burn down the surf shed. Black denied the charge, despite evidence tendered that the Texaco oil can discovered at the scene had been left at his store several days previous to the fire. He suggested that a rival local businessman was behind the whole affair, trumping up evidence against him.
The inquiry was eventually to go no further, with no charges laid.
At the height of these proceedings, some one hundred Norfolk Island pine seedlings were donated and planted along the Burleigh foreshore by the local storekeepers Justins Brothers, after consultation with the Shire engineer. this followed upon many resolutions of the Progress Association in favour of tree planting and the Justins were commended for 'their generous gifts and efforts to beautify Burleigh's shadeless foreshore' at the June meeting. Within a few weeks some 54 trees were uprooted and destroyed and a stormy meeting of the Association ensued -
|'It was a dastardly act and befitting a mantac... Such a dastardly act savours personal spleen and the action of an individual of low intellect similar to that employed in the attempted destruction by fire of the local surf shed.'|
The Division 4 members now replied that, if Justins Brothers wished to replant the trees, a proper approach to the Council would be required, fuelling further speculation as to how and why the trees were removed. The Justins subsequently declined to replant the trees under Councillor Symond's supervision -
'Residents and visitors appreciate Justins Bros' efforts to beautify Burleigh's beachfront, and are astounded at attitude of the Nerang Council in drastically marring an important step in the advancement of the district.'
Events came to a head in the months of September and October. A deputation of the local Protect Committee called on the Home Secretary (E. M. Hanlon) on 16 October, presenting a petition signed by 90 per cent of Division 4 ratepayers calling for the reinstatement of the Mowbray Park Club. the committee consisted of Messrs C. Justins, J. M. Goodwin and J. Shaw jnr and were introduced by the local member, T. Flood Plunkett MLA. This followed the Council's attempt to introduce a new by-law giving it total control over patrolling and used of the saving gear on its beaches.
The petition obviously succeeded, with the Department rejecting the by-law as ultra vires -
'...the council would be held up to ridicule and shame if it attempted to prevent life saving by anyone whether a member of the club or not.'
Meanwhile the Council's club which presumably would have patrolled the beaches if the by-law had succeeded, was in disarray. An 'annual meeting of the club was called on 24 September, deliberately stacked by Mowbray Park supporters, some 24 members of whom applied there and then to join. The existing committee voted on the issue and by the narrow margin of 6 votes to 4 decided against the motion. The bulletin reporter dryly noted -
'A few minutes after the meeting, two members of the club settled an old grievance by a willing fight in the body of the hall, but no serious damage was done, and the police who were notified that a brawl was likely to occur, found everything in order.'
By late November reports were current that most of the new Burleigh club members had resigned. The government's rejection of the by-law was the final straw. The Christmas holiday season was fast approaching and the threat that holiday makers might desert Burleigh beaches caused saner judgment to prevail. On 15 December a conference between the Nerang Shire council and the Mowbray Park Club confirmed that the club would be allowed to unofficially patrol the beach until February 1935 when further consideration of the patrols would take place.
A final compromise came in December 1935 when the club agreed to change its title to the Burleigh Heads-Mowbray Park Surf Club, (in effect an amalgamation with the virtually non-existent Council club) whilst the Council agreed to finance the construction of a modern club building, completed in 1936. The council also agreed to suspend the midnight dancing y-law as an experiment during the 1935 Christmas season, Sunday dancing would not, however, be considered.
The Protest Committee survived into 1935 as the 'Burleigh Surfers Committee' strongly supportive of the Mowbray Park Club, and, one suspects, eager to goad the main protagonists of the previous year's events. In April 1935 the Committee applied to the Council for permission to hold community singing sessions on Burleigh beach at Easter in aid of the surf club's funds. This was promptly refused, whilst the committee replied that the singing would take place in any case, whatever the consequences. The concert was indeed held on Easter Sunday at 7 p.m. and broadcast over loud speakers, interrupting some five religious services then underway in the town. The loud speakers could be heard three miles away.
Whilst the concert was planned as an obvious provocation, there was frustrated acceptance at the ensuing Council meeting. The club and its supports had obviously won the fight -
'in the eyes of some persons and some of the councillors these lads (Mowbray Park-Burleigh Heads Surf Club) were the only thing that mattered in the history of Burleigh Heads and to pursue the matter would only stimulate the appetite of those who do think so.'
Neck To Knee vs Trunks
Burleigh's progress was not blundered by the Depression; indeed camper numbers grew during the early thirties, whilst relief workers assisted in major public works, such as the beach rock wall (1935), footpaths (1935), the laying of water pipes (1933-1935) and swamp reclamation (1933-38), which included the first major drainage works into the Miami Swamp, and the laying of a full pedestrian track from Pinnacle Rock to the kiosk at Tallebudgtera Bridge in 1940. House building kept on space, and two sawmills operated at West Burleigh to meet the demand. Indeed the latter town saw new signs of growth, despite the fall in railway traffic, and some holiday makers preferred camping there, or staying at the Dunville Hotel (the renamed Oyster Beds), away from Burleigh's hustle. The town supported a sports club and cricket club and A. W. Fletcher's new store was the pride of the district when erected in 1934-35.
Quiet West Burleigh was not, however, without its own sensation, on 1 February 1934 Ernest March's bakery was blown up after gelignite was placed in the oven.
After some eight years of lobbying, Burleigh Heads finally obtained a new school building in 1935, the Anglican church hall was by that date quite insufficient for the town's needs and a number of parents daily sent their children north to Southport, whilst the Parents' Committee in 1934 even threatened to withdraw children from the school unless decisive action was taken. The school was officially opened by the Minister for Public Instruction (F. A. Cooper) on 30 august 1935. A convent school had also opened in the town in 1934.
Other town facilities, once only piper dreams, arrived in the 'thirties. The laying of a reticulated water supply, and construction of a reservoir at Burleigh in 1934-35, also meant an improvement in both public parks and private gardens, and allowed for the planting of shade trees, so long desired by the Progress Association. In November and December 1934 Councillor Symonds supervised the planting of trees by the local branch of the R.S.S.I.L.A. (which was formed in 1933), opposite the De Luxe Theatre, and in September 1935 Justins Brothers trees which had been destroyed the previous year were replaced by relief workers - from the De Luxe as far as the Hotel Burleigh. the Council would have a running battle with vandals for many years. In fact in 1941 it was reported that trees had been destroyed for the four4th time. It was also now possible to discuss the establishment of a bowling club, for long a much-felt need for such a tourist destination. In November 1935 a provisional committee was formed with G. E. Lambert as chairman. The Council offered the club a long term lease upon recently reclaimed land, part of Reserve 42 and the green was formed in 1936-37. Although not officially opened until 18 September 1937, a party of Victorian tourist bowlers played on the completed green in July. Lambert's role in the club's early formation would be marked upon his death in 1941 by the erection of a memorial within the club grounds. Another outcome of a water supply was the formation of a voluntary fire bridge in 1936.
An imposing modern roman Catholic Church, Infant Saviour, was erected in 1934-35 with a convent school staffed by nuns from Coolangatta. Burleigh was therefore served by four churches in 1936 - Infant Saviour, St. John's Church of England (1926); Presbyterian (1928) and Methodist (1928). both the Catholic and Presbyterian churches were extensions of Tallebudgera district ministries dating back some sixty years.
A wide range of stores also existed, by 1938 these included three bakers, two butcheries, two cafes, a chemist, a drapery, two general stores (Justins and Blacks), one motor garage (M.S. Masterman's) a barber and a hairdressing saloon. A bi-weekly motor transport service operated between Brisbane and Burleigh.
Jarvis' Hall was demolished about 1937, whilst a more spacious hall was opened in November 1936 - the 'Glideway'. This building served an additional purpose in January 1938 when a cyclone storm roared through the town, driving campers to seek refuge in the hall. A large amusement part on the foreshore below the Bluff was under serious consideration in 1935. Approved by Nerang Shire, the company involved planned to include a large swimming pool, cabaret, aquarium and pier in the complex. A forty year lease was obtained in February 1936, however by November the scheme had definitely been shelved. the possibility of a virtual Luna Park at the base of Big Burleigh appears not to have created any great public disquiet, beyond worries of the forms of modern entertainment a 'cabaret' might involve!
'Modernization' also meant better, up-to-date accommodation facilities, the lack of which at Burleigh was now emphasized by such hotels as the new Surfers Paradise Hotel, opened in 1937. The Miami Hotel underwent major renovation in 1938 and the next year the Burleigh Hotel acquired the first neon sign in the town -
'apart from serving its purpose of going publicity it will be a prominent land mark, similar to those at Surfers Paradise which can be seen as far south as Coolangatta.'
With the provision of a full bitumen road from Brisbane by 1936, Burleigh was now abuzz with motorists at weekends, indeed the roar of open motor cycle exhausts was becoming an increasing nuisance. Beach broadcasts also added to noise pollution, with residents regularly complaining to the shire Council Crowds, however, brought money to local businessmen; the impact of thousands of campers upon the town's few reserves was a nuisance, but it kept the cash registers ringing. Local business actively touted for custom as buses arrived carrying visitors, with men on horseback, bicycles, and on trucks advertising the benefits of shops, theatres and danced halls. Young boys would also be employed, jumping on to car running boards. Perhaps the most strident proof of the presence of Mammon was the public's victory over the Council's beach costume by-laws, unchanged since the first World War. By 1938, 'neck to knee' regulations were out-dated, as women's costumes became flimsier and body-hugging, whilst men's one piece trunks were now the vogue. Acceptable to Southport Town Council since 1934, as late as December 1937 the Nerang Shire voted overwhelmingly against trunks on its beaches. The beach inspector (G. Townsend) reported later to Council that on Christmas Day he had ordered twelve men off the beach as soon as he commenced duty. by 11 a.m. so many men were baring there chests in the surf that he gave up, concentrating solely on those who rolled down two piece costumes -
'and the wearing of trunks by unsuitable persons on the beach and foreshore. He had to ask nine men to get into two piece costumes as in his opinion they were offensive looking. He mentioned that the life savers did nothing whatever to help him in his duties.'
A frustrated Mr. ?Townsend argued that if the Council by-laws were to cont8inue in force, at least four beach inspectors would be required. Fashion dictated events and trunks were there to stay.
The Surf Life Saving club was by 1937 regarded even by the Shi8re Council as a district asset, especially so in that it now held national honours and had held the title of Premier club of Queensland since 1932. In the 1937-38 season club member Thor Long obtained the senior surf championship title and Allan Imrie was third in the Australian Junior Belt Title. Imrie was se3ledcgted as the only Queensland representative in the Australian team which visited Hawaii in 1939.
Burleigh community spirit now developed in new directions. The Burleigh Heads Progress Association held its last meeting on 20 July 1936 and then fell into abeyance. In March 1938 a new organization was formed - the Burleigh Heads Rate Payers and Business Proprietors Association. R. R. Hamilton served as Chairman of the society which held as its main aim the protection of ratepayers' interests. In this regard it successfully promoted the extension of a pedestrian track around Big Burleigh, demanded that the dressing pavilion (opened in 1937) be not leased as a retail premises, requested cheaper electricity rates, urged tourist promotion advertising, and a general programme of town improvements. The Association itself financed numerous park benches along the foreshore, which were in place for the Christmas 1939-40 season. Acrimony seems to have been comparatively absent from its meeting, unlike those of the previous Association, and had the war not intervened, it may have continued as an active and progressive force in the interests of Burleigh Heads. Like its predecessor, the association successfully nominated three candidates for local government elections.
Miami also developed apace in the late 1930s with house construction booming throughout North Burleigh and between 'Nobby' and Little Burleigh in the years 1938 to 1941. both water and electricity were available to residents and the beach was patrolled regularly by Burleigh Heads. Mowbray Park Life Savers during the holiday season. Brick conveniences and dressing sheds were erected in 1940 and the Nerang Shire Council acquired land on North Burleigh headland preliminary to constructing a fence and track along the crest. 'Improvement' included wholesale clearance of native scrub along the foreshore, another blow to the natural ecology of the district. by the late 1930s the wildflowers of the Miami Swamp were being seriously pillaged, in may cases uprooted and bushfires - often the result of motorists boiling the billy beside the road - roared through the area in 1932 and 1935.
Burleigh At War
The outbreak of war in September 1939 had little immediate effect upon the township; a Citizens Emergency Committee was established within the first few days, R. Hamilton being elected chairman. A group of local women volunteered their services as tutors in nursing and first aid, and training courses were subsequently held at the State School. A Burleigh Military Ball raised funds for the local platoon. A Company, 15th Battalion, prior to its encampment and a Burleigh Welfare Fund was also established by the C.E.C. holding such fund raising activities as dances and bridge and euchre parties. Farewells were arranged for district boys and special functions arranged for London Blitz victims and Greek refugees. A local branch of the Red Cross was to be founded in 1943.
The war also gave impetus for the local returned servicemen's organization to discuss the need for a Solders' Memorial Park, a move strongly supported by the Ratepayers and business Proprietors Association. Eventually the balanced of Reserve 42 was allocated as a park in August 1940 and the site was fenced by Christmas. The memorial flagstaff was removed from its earlier site opposite Justins' store in time for the 1941 Anzac Day service.
An air raid precaution patrol was instigated in 1946 and a trial black-out was voted a success in September 1941.
Perhaps the most hi8storic impact of the first years of the war was the successful application in March 1941by the Mineral deposits Syndicate to mine some 8 acres of foreshore south of the Nobbys. the sand minerals rutile and ilmenite, were now in high demand in the United States and Canada in wartime shipbuilding and munition industries. Immediate concern was expressed by locals -
|'The beach is Burleigh Heads' shop window and they should not risk it being destroyed.'|
The issue soon became one of patriotism, as well as question of local employment the Company assured that the Council and the local Association that the beach would be restored as mining progressed and that questions of ecological damage were overridden by war necessity. Local men were promised employment, especially attractive in mid-1941 as fewer visitors came to Burleigh. Ironically, what would later become a major environmental issue, was at first greeted with a good level of public support. By early 1944, however, serious misgivings were developing especially on the part of local property owners who found san drifting onto their land as vegetation was removed, whilst the Councillors expressed concern that the Syndicate was not fully operating within terms of their agreement.
The outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941 had an immediate effect upon holiday resorts; travel and the use of private motor vehicles was restricted, public holidays limited, petrol rationed. Railway services were severely cut, and old riding stock placed on the south coast line. As Queensland's coast was now a potential front line, residents were encouraged to train in first aid, dig trenches in their yards and learn how to extinguish incendiary bombs. A local request that shelters be constructed at Burleigh was rejected by the Shire Council, as were fire hydrants and hoses - the onus for protection was placed upon individuals. Householders on Burleigh's hills were warned that 'the glare of there lights through unveiled windows are excellent beacons to attract the attention of the enemy'. Reg Roberts (Principal), parents and pupils of the State School dug slit tr5enches capable of accommodating one hundred children. When the school reopened late in February, classes were bolstered by many children evacuated from Brisbane.
Coast guard stations were established at strategic pints, for example Little Burleigh, diligently patrolling the beach and ready to apprehend any angler found using a torch at night, or even lighting a cigarette. The A.R.P., with William Fradgley snr at Chief Warden, took over the defunct fire brigade's equipment in late 1942, as so many permanent residents left the town and as local young men enlisted.
The Surf Club was especially hit as boys joined the colours with the Club's boat captain. Pilot Officer Hugh McMaster, killed in action. It was forced to withdraw from competitions and concentrate solely upon beach duty.
Surfer numbers on the beach were, however, severely diminished during 1941-42 and 1942-43 summers, although numerous American and southern servicemen discovered the beauty of Burleigh and vicinity. Club reels were loaned to the Military Convalescent Camp established at the mouth of Tallebudgera Creek and the military camp at Nobbys. The club's record of no drownings on its patrolled beaches was, however, broken with a death outside a patrolled area at Miami in 1944 and at Burleigh beach on 14 February 1945 when Col Imrie single-handedly saved four of a party of five who got into difficulties.
As the war progressed, the South Coast developed a new role as a rest and recreation centre; and in 1943 a Y.M.C.A. leave house for servicewomen was established at Burleigh Heads. The presence of so many service personnel in the district brought with it a relaxation of many of the stricter attitudes of the Nerang Shire Council. Trunks were regulation U.S. Army issue so by 1945 there was little point in policing beaches in the spirit of the mid-1930s. Dancing, also, was now allowed on Sundays, with the relevant by-law being suspended in late 1943. by 1945 permission was granted for Justins Brothers to hold dances on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Only one councillor now voted against the proposal. Permission was also granted for the De Luxe Theatre to show films on good Friday, provided a percentage of profits went to patriotic purposes. Thama Brothers operating cinemas on the coast since 1912, took possession of the De Luxe from William Fradgley in February 1945. Next door was Mageros' Pacific Cafe and Milk Bar, a popular after-movie rendezvous.
Night side shows operating for patriotic funds became part of Burleigh life in those years, even 'move-along' pie stalls operated after 9 p.m. War-time conditions and the prevailing lack of accommodation also saw an increasing number of long-term tents - and caravans - develop into virtual permanent residences along the Burleigh foreshore. A conference of the three coastal councils in September decided upon a limit of eight weeks' occupation of camping sites, but little action was taken to remove the squatters. The relaxation of building regulations had also led to numerous shacks being erected, both on private and council land.
The holding of the first post-war South coast Surf Carnival at Burleigh on 9 December 1945, symbolized a return to the old prosperity; Burleigh was once again full of holiday-makers in spite of rationing and lack of accommodation, all the more joyful in that many families were reunited after so many years. A good number, including the members of the Surf Club, convalesced at the beach after almost four years life as prisoners-of-war.
As in so many aspects of Australian life, six years of war conditions created a great sense of change on the South Coast. New men arrived, with fresh visions of the resorts' potential and a new idealism regarding planning and development. Within fifteen years what had been a string of small beach towns dependent upon Brisbane holiday-makers, had grown into a burgeoning resort city of international repute. Burleigh and Miami shred in this massive development, which saw population numbers quadruple, mostly as a result of southern 'immigration'.
The Sunseeker Motel, Surfers Paradise, 1969
The area managed, however, to retain its tradition as a family holiday centre, whilst Surfers Paradise developed in the early 1950s as a cosmopolitan centre of restaurants, boutiques and international-class hotels. Until 1959, when campers were finally removed from the foreshore, Burleigh Heads was a town under canvas, much as it would have been at Christmas or Easter forty years before. Now campers and caravans arrived throughout the year, especially in winter when the town attracted southern retirees to its renowned bowling green. perhaps the Coast's most famous private caravan park was redeveloped in 1954 by Mr. and Mrs. A.G. Haddrill to the standard of contemporary American 'trailer parks'. Signs to 'Paradise Caravan Park' peppered the highways in New South Wales, possibly the most successful advertising campaign for Burleigh Heads ever devised. Whilst the Progress Association and the Chamber of Commerce (established in 1954) longed for an entrepreneur of the likes of Stanley Korman to look at Burleigh for an international-standard hotel, such development did not occur. The Burleigh Hotel underwent renovations in 1951 and the old Bluff Hotel was reconstructed in 1957 as the Gold Coast Hotel. Neither, however, compared with the Lennons or Chevron developments to the north.
Motel development was also slow in coming to this 'camper's paradise'; the first Moomba Motor Court was erected in 1958; three years later a small motel boom came to Miami with Rancho Restel, Pineapple Motel and Florida Car-o-tel.
Post-war plans were frustrated for many years by rationing and building restrictions. the latter were applied by the State Government in particularly draconian fashion, more rigorously than in other States, and with a particular contempt for holiday home construction. They lasted until 1952, their chief opponent being V. C. Gair, Minister for Labour and later Premier. In 1947 he branded 'professional and commercial men' who had constructed such homes often by finding loopholes in the legislation as 'nothing less than common liars, mean and selfish and individuals, and directed hic local building inspectors rigorously to prevent such development. The more dynamic of newcomers, such as Keith Dudman, were forced to work within such restrictions and a general lack of building materials. Dudman constructed a 'Rollerdrome', an outdoor skating rink on a leased site on the Burleigh foreshore in 1947, which quickly became a popular feature of the resort. He also initiated the first estate development on the western side of the Gold coast Highway in Burleigh, undertaking a major private drainage scheme. Others tried to circumvent the former military camp at Nobbys. The Shire Council attempted to present outright reconstruction of army huts as residential structures, however a great deal of ex-army buildings were used for building materials. The Miami iceworks, for example, were constructed by Eastern Ice Pty. Ltd. from two former military huts.
The Council itself was severely effected by shortages of materials. In June 1945 Messrs Cardno and Davies presented a preliminary report for a Burleigh Heads sewerage scheme which would have been a first for the South Coast. Approved, the scheme was held up for so long by a shortage of pipes that unpredicted population growth caused the scheme to be shelved. Others attempted to improvise. the post-war flush of 'cabaret' life on the Coast saws Jack Mortimer and his Frisco Six playing at the golden Gate Cabaret, a large marquee on Burleigh Beach in an 'atmosphere of refinement'. As if to suggest that such developments were not to be encouraged at Burleigh the opening night was marred by a storm, and in late January 1947 a cyclonic storm hi8t the district and the Golden Gate marquee was literally blown into history, with furnishings, seating and piano exposed to the storm.
Dudman's rink also was to fall victim to the series of cyclone blasts which hit the coast in the years from 1945 to 1956. On Friday 19 and Saturday 20 February 1954, Burleigh bore the brunt of a full cyclone, with caravans destroyed and the Hotel Burleigh and De Luxe theatre severely damaged. The Rollerdrome was undermined by the tremendous seas and was completely destroyed. One4 structure which survived the 'blow' was Jack Evan's swimming pool on the Burleigh sea front. As early as 1935 such a 'rock pool' had been proposed; in 1950 serious plants sere under discussion by the new south coast Town Council. However in 1953 Jack Evans, lessee of the Burleigh dressing pavilion, built the first Burleigh swimming pool. The 1954 cyclone was proof of the pool's sturdiness, with seas breaking over the pool, across Goodwin Terrace, and into Rudd Park. Evans took eight days to remove sand from the pool. Another structure which survived was much of the foreshore wall, reconstructed in 1949.
The popularity of both the Rollerdrome and the De Luxe led to their rapid reconstruction. Dudman was unable to renew his leased of a beachfront site - long an issue of local controversy, and chose to construct a new rink on his land at the back of Miami. the 'Burleigh Heads-Miami Rollerdrome' was opened in October 1954 and faced Christine Avenue, named by Dudman for a young skater who presented him with two pennies to rebuild. the coins were cemented into the floor of the new Rollerdrome. A new brick De Luxe Theatre was constructed by Thams Brothers in 1955.
Another enterprising newcomer was Dr. David Fleay, who from 1937 to 1950 had developed and ;man aged a renowned fauna sanctuary at Healesville near Melbourne. In 1952 he established a similar sanctuary beside Tallebudgerra Creek at West Burleigh, where he continued his internationally acclaimed platypus research. Many young Australians would acquire here a first heritage over the next thirty years and Dr. Fleay's initial vision has been preserved by the State Government's acquisition of the Fleay Fauna Centre in 1982-85.
That such a sanctuary was regarded by locals as a maybe asset and a tourism drawcard in testament to growing post-wart concern for environmental issues. Heritage was not, however, an issue of any matter. Indeed many newcomers remained oblivious to the fact that Burleigh had a history at all, apart from the naming of Rudd Park in memory of Shire Chairman W. G. H. Rudd. As for any interest in the original inhabitants, a brief discussion took place in 1954, when the R.S. LO. applied successfully for a portion of Appel's 1913 bora ring reserve, upon which to construct a Soldiers' Memorial Hall. By this date the rail fence protecting the reserve had almost decayed, and discussion had fluctuated between using the area as a war-time cattle pound and a post-war children's playground. The south Coast town council was somewhat startled when the Anthropological Society, the Queensland Naturalists Club and the State repr3esentattive for UNESCO (Associate Professor F. W. Robinson) called in May 1954 for earnest steps to preserve the site, refuting Lands Department claims that all traces of the bora ring had disappeared. The RSL Hall was constructed in 1955 and what remained of the bora ring was referenced.
The principal local issue was, however, the environment and specifically the effects of sand mining. By 1945 initial patriotic enthusiasm for the industry had evaporated as an increasing number of leases were applied for and as drifting sand from recently-mined foreshore dunes drifted onto roads and private property. Some of the foreshore pine trees had been killed by the encroaching sand. The Mineral Deposits Syndicate excused its inability to fulfill the restoration provisions of th4e initial contract as a result of the post-war lack of equipment. Temporary brush fences were erected in 1946 in a desperate attempt to stop sandrifts. Apart from these mining activities, other leases had been obtained to extract retile, zircon, etc from private allotments in the North Burleigh area, and in November 1948. Associated Minerals Pty. Ltd. applied t the Mines Department to dredge the mouth of Tallebudgera Creek.
A protest meeting of eighty local residents met the local member, Eric Gaven, on 1 September 1951 to protest regarding the effects of mining at Burleigh, not only to dunes, but also to roads and b ridges by heavily-laden trucks. Dissatisfaction increased as the syndicate gave no indication of ceasing its operations although Council pressure had seen a more concerted effort to rehabilitate mined areas along the Esplanade. Mining operations had moved north again to the Miami foreshore in 1958; and for the next seven years the controversy would centre on beaches to the north. Burleigh's Esplanade was, however, cleared, planted with trees and established as a picturesque frontage to the town, effectively completed by the removal of campers to the Tallebudgera Creek damping Ground after 1959.
An environmental victory came in 1947 with the gazettal of Big Burleigh Reserve as a National Park. Over the next three years, the Forestry Department constructed new pedestrian tracks, designed to enable elderly walkers to explore the new 'Koala National Park', which was officially opened on 3 December 1950.
Burleigh itself now gr3w into a sizeable commercial centre, which by 1960 boasted most facilities along James and Connor streets. The decision to erect a new Penny's chain store, which opened on 24 November 1955, testified to the progress of the town as did the development of the Burleigh Drive-In Theatre, with spaces for 500 cars, which opened in December 1957. Charles Justins said his business interests after thirty-five years of trading in 1954, and in late 1957 the family's Glideway Hall was sold for demolition. Burleigh Heads State School was enlarged in 1956 to cope with the growth in pupil numbers. New sporting facilities were the Croquet Club (1950), the Burleigh Heads Golf Course (which opened in 1955) and the Miami Tennis Courts (1956).
Community life was especially strong in these years of growth and changes. The Progress Association re-emerged in 1948, one of its first concerns being a call for police to prevent motorcycle speedway races along Burleigh Beach. It was to develop as a major forum for such issues as foreshore camping and beach mining, and as a member of the 'United Council of Progress Associations (UIPS)' fielded the successful Burleigh candidate, C. H. Williams, in the first South Coast elections under local government amalgamation in 1949. The Progress Association had also merged at West Burlei8gh in 1946 and at Miami in 1947, the latter being an active force over many years. Other local organizations emerged including the Burleigh Heads Chamber of Commerce (1954) and the Miami Property Owners Association (1957).
Apart from active lobbying for civic improvement these groups assisted with such activities as the commonwealth Jubilee Tree Plantings in 1951 and the Coronation Day celebrations, when some 300 people watched a procession of floats and marches pass through Burleigh where the Oath of Allegiance was proclaimed in Rudd Park. Scouts lit a beacon on Goodwin Terrace to proclaim the districts' joy at the Royal event.
Perhaps the most significant local community development, however, was the formation in 1949 of the South Coast Women's Organization, with the aim to construct women's rest rooms, a hall, and to promote such aims as child care centres, kindergartens , a full ambulance centre for Burleigh (which came in 1957), music scholarships, free public libraries and a district public hospital. Burleigh was seen as the logical centre of the Coast so many SCWO activities occurred there. Ironically a proposal to develop a South Coast Civic Centre at Burleigh in 1950 for the same reason had been rejected out of hand. In July 1953 a SCWO Rest Room was opened on the corner of the Highway and Connor Street. Prominent amongst the early members was Mrs. Marjorie St. Henry, who served two terms as President, in January 1954, following the resignation of Alderman J. L. Shea, Mrs. St. Henry was elected as the local representative on the South Coast Town Council, the first female councillor after seventy-four years of local government. Mrs. St. Henry would serve thirteen years on the council and prove to be a popular choice by the UIPA, being particularly concerned in improving the image of the town as the new 'Gold Coast' emerged in the late 1950s. In this respect she was concerned to remove campers from all foreshore sites. The South Coast Women's Organization in which Mrs. St. Henry played an important role, survived until 1984 and its achievements justify an important place in Gold Coast history.
The affluent 'fifties brought thousands by car each weekend in Burleigh and Miami during the season and in a competitive resort area the safety of swimmers became increasingly an important 'drawcard'. Surf Life Saving clubs were established at Miami in 1947 (with a modern clubhouse erected in 1953) and North Burleigh in 1949, whilst at Burleigh an electric shark warning system was introduce4d in 1953 and a permanent beach inspector employed in 1957. Extensions to the Burleigh Heads-Mowbray Park club House were undertaken in 1957-58. the club achieved the title of Premier club of Australia in 1949-50, during which season the first recorded shark attack at Burleigh occurred when club member, Leo Ryan, was mauled. Gavan Horsley, who came to his rescue, was subsequently awarded the Clark Medal by the Royal Humane Society and the Silver Medallion by the National Council.
Burleigh beach, however, continued to be known as one of the safest on the Coast, especially as a 'family beach' - the Progress Association continued for many years the sand castle competitions initiated by the Daily mail and fundraising bathing beauty competitions became a regular feature of holiday life.
By July 1961, when the Tweed rail line finally closed, only a handful of visitors arrived at West Burleigh by train. the car, which had been the key to Burleigh's prosperity was universal - dictating the pattern of future development and demanding increased parking areas. The stretch between Miami and Burleigh Heads was now known as the 'Mad Mile', with local residents complaining of ceaseless din and sleepless nights. Ten years on, the four lane Gold coast Highway carried even more daily traffic.
The decision to establish the Coast's second State High School at Miami, opening in 1963, was a further indication of the area's strategic important at the heart of a growing city dependent upon motor transport. Students from Main B each to Coolangatta and from the hinterland were bussed daily to the new school. a year earlier the first proposal for a massive urban and industrial development tot he west of Burleigh., in Albert Shire, had been unveiled, designed a s a 'city for the motor age,' and emphasizing the locality's central position. such a concept may have been a pipe-dream in 1962, today it can only be described as prophetic.
One hundred and seventy years after the first sales of Burleigh town land, what was the many years an inaccessible and forgotten beach, is now the central hub of a major conurbation, including gold Coast City and parts of Albert and Tweed shires, the sixth largest city in Australia. by the turn of the century, no doubt, dense urban growth will stretch to the coastal ranges. Ironically, the rural districts which tended to ignore and even stunt Burleigh's early growth, once again hold the key to much of the area's future development.
Burleigh Heads'today' - 15th December 2005
Burleigh has not, however, lost its mystique. The dramatic Bluff remains the dominant feature of the landscape, despite high-rise development, which first commenced in 1965. preserved for future generations as National park, it gives a sense of permanence which is perhaps lacking in other parts of a rapidly changing city. the initial foresight of Nerang Shire in preserving the foreshore from subdivision also provided permanent public areas set apart from the tower blocks which now stand along the Esplanade. Families still picnic beneath the Norfolk Island pines as their parents and grandparents did. Perhaps it is a romanticized notion, but Burleigh still had kept the atmosphere of a 'family' resort away from the glitz of five-star hotels and boutiques. the previous days' bowling, the fish running and the weather are still the kernel of sidewalk debate, just as they would have been in 1939. Burleigh is not free of crime and the multitude of social problems that are part of any growing metropolitan area, but somehow these are not the daily overriding concerns they may be elsewhere.
Perhaps most importantly a sense of heritage is emerging. This book is evidence enough that the spirit of a community is heavily in debt to the past and that an understanding of that past is a vital component of civic pride. The naming of Justins Park in 1968 in recognition of that family's contribution to the town, the creation of the Marjorie St. Henry Park off Tabilban Street and the A. C. Black Memorial Car Park are all examples of the growing recognition of past achievements. In 1981 the Gold Coast City Council granted a twenty year lease on the surviving bora ring reserve to the Gold coast Aboriginal and Housing Cooperative Society, with the object to protect and maintain the Jebbribillum Bora. The Yugambeh Aboriginal War Memorial now stands near the RSL Hall as a permanent reminder of the wartime contribution of indigenous Australians serving in the armed force4s. both Burleigh Heads National Park, and the Fleay Fauna Centre increasingly emphasize the Kombumerri people's use and maintenance of their environment and their names for animals and plants as part of public education programmes.
Burleigh itself has, of course, changed with the years, with new churches, post office, public library, bowls club and improved council camping facilities which included full time camp managers being appointed to Rudd Park and Tallebudgtera Creek in 1969. Sewerage finally arrived some quarter of a century after the first scheme was drawn up. The off-highway village atmosphere of the Connor-James street shopping precinct survives as a flourishing commercial area little changed in overall appearance since 1960, however, a new large drive-in shopping centre off West Burleigh Road emerged in the early 1980s. The development of the Burleigh Waters-Stephens residential areas, the opening of Bond University in 1989 and the Bermuda Street extension in 1990 - a direct route from Reedy Creek Road to Southport - are all stimuli to the growth of the western areas, once the haunt of the Burleigh bunyip.
The development of new schools such as Marymount College, Miami State School, and Merrimac High School has increasingly lessened the pressures upon Burleigh Heads State School and Miami High School as the residential population moves westwards. Burleigh State now stands in a superb setting of shade trees, the envy of many new schools created upon reclaimed canal estate land, and is in itself a testament to the peaceful life which once pervaded the town. Miami High, born in the booming 'sixties, is now regarded as one of the State's more dynamic secondary schools with a wide range of courses designed to met the career challenges of a large tourism city. As other secondary schools have emerged on the gold Coast over the last twenty years, Miami has become truly a Burleigh district school.
If Burleigh was renowned as a safe swimming beach, surf board riders discovered the now-famous Burleigh surf in the 1960s. by 1968 the beach and Bluff attracted a multitude of surfers; cars with roof-racks multiplied and even local bank tellers dashed to the surf with their boards during lunch hours. Miami High School introduced surfing as a regular sport as early as 1969.
Burleigh now stands as an internationally acclaimed surf break -
'On its day Burleigh Heads is almost flawless and its perfect cylindrical form, long barrels and guillotine lip have earned respect worldwide.'
The beach also achieved national prominence in 1973 and 1989 as the venue for the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, in the first instance a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the local surf club. Burleigh beach has also seen change with a new surf club building and the replacement of the 1953 swimming pool in 1987-88 by a new swimming centre 'more in keeping with the Gold Coast's new era of international tourism'. Such a role was scarcely conceivable to the visionary of 1876 who dreamt of 'marine villas', ornamental lakes and band stands, and 'the most distinguished-looking sanatorium in Australia', attracting visitors from as far afield as Cloncurry and Cooper's Creek.
Tour buses regularly throughout the day now take visitors from Nagoya and Osaka to view the immensity of the Pacific from the Bluff car park, looking over the rocks where once the cedar logs from broken timber-rafts were scattered and along the beaches where the Kombumerri had patiently dug for the delicious yugarie.
Gold Coast (Australia) Home Page
Australia Home Page