Tag Archives: Queanbeyan

Christmas shopping in Canberra in 1935

An article on Christmas shopping in the Canberra Times of 12 December 1935 encourages readers to buy early ‘to save undue strain right on Christmas to those who are at your service’, and so that everyone can approach Christmas ‘in more tranquil and befitting fashion.’

Readers are also advised that ‘giving is not the only thing that matters’, as there is ‘much scope for Christmas feeling’ in how you select and acquire your gifts. In particular, it is ‘more in keeping with Christmas’ to buy from fellow townsmen rather than deal with strangers.

Details are given of a selection of twenty-one Canberra businesses ‘who invite you to visit their premises this Christmas.’

FOOD. E.C. Harris and Co. has first class quality groceries and other foodstuffs at Manuka, City, Kingston and Queanbeyan. ‘Prices are at bedrock’ and goods are delivered free of charge. There are cakes and puddings, ‘Allowrie’ and ‘Norco’ hams, nuts, fruit mincemeats, and all kinds of ingredients for making Christmas puddings and cakes. There is also boxed confectionery, from 1/- to 5/6.

The Capitol Cafe, in the Civic Centre, has a ‘full range of Miss Daveney’s sweets.’ Cool drinks, ice cream, and fruit and fancy sundaes are served ‘in the modern refreshment parlour.’ The Cafe also has a large stock of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. Leo’s White Gate Cafe has sweets and fancy boxed chocolates, and fruit and fountain drinks. There will be special 3/- dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, between noon and 2 p.m., with poultry, pork, lamb and beef. The Cosy Dell tea rooms in Manuka always has sweets and cakes at keen prices and is the sole Canberra agency for Marchant’s soft drinks, for which orders are being taken for Christmas. The Cosy Dell is proving ‘a popular rendezvous for tasty morning and afternoon teas.’

VARIOUS GIFTS. Christmas cards are mentioned only once. J.W. Prowse at Civic Centre has art chinaware, ladies’ toilet and manicure sets, gift books, writing materials, fountain pens and propelling pencils, and many other useful items, and ‘a splendid range of Christmas cards in pretty designs and colours.’ Riley’s Newsagencies, at Kingston and Manuka, have in stock the ‘leading Christmas annuals’, which ‘make excellent gifts to send to friends in other lands.’ Other gifts include calendars, fancy stationery, books, magazines, writing materials, children’s picture books and a great array of toys, and ‘presentation boxes of cigarettes.’ Miss Yellands, at Manuka, has gifts and novelties for all tastes – books, pottery, craft-work, toys and other things ‘too numerous to mention.’ The June Baby Shop (noted under the heading of Yellands) has all baby’s requirements. Arbuckle’s in Manuka has presentation boxes of cigarettes, and ‘many Christmas novelties in smokers’ requirements, shaving sets, and many other lines.’

PHARMACIES. Thomson’s Pharmacy, at Civic Centre, has ‘Attractive presents at attractive prices.’ No mention is made of pharmaceutical items. There are cut glass articles ‘of neat design’, perfumes, flap jacks, dusting powders, puffs, eau de Cologne (‘Yardley’s favourite lines’), brushes, bath salts, manicure sets (‘Cutex’ brand), and art pottery. There are also Baby Brownie cameras for 6/-. The Manuka Pharmacy has a ‘host of articles eminently suited for Christmas gifts’, including perfumes, soaps, Atkinson’s toilet sets (powder, perfume, face cream), Yardley’s Old English lavender sets, Roger and Galet’s 10-10 sets, Potter and Moore’s lavender “Evening in Paris” sets, and hundreds of novelties.

ART AND FRAMING. C. Tobler’s at Manuka has newly imported reproductions of works by famous artists, ‘framed in modern style to please those of discriminating taste’, and at prices to ‘suit every pocket.’ Other articles include fancy mirrors.

CLOTHING. Peterson Bros. sell men’s wear and Chinese hand-worked napery (everything from d’oyleys to bedspreads). Customers can lay-by, and the prices ‘are equal to those ruling in the other capital cities.’ Their watchword is ‘give something useful’, and they have displays in six new ‘special display windows.’ Hughes’ Service Store at Kingston, selling clothes for men and women, has been trading for nearly ten years, and is now opening another branch at Manuka. There is a host of ‘seasonable gifts’ including lingerie, hosiery, gloves and handbags for the ladies, and half hose, shirts, ties and handkerchiefs for men. The store has a reputation for ‘honest trading, value, and keen prices.’ The long-established Adelaide Tailoring Company, with branches all over the Commonwealth and a reputation for value, quality and style, has suits ‘at unprecedented value’ for ‘the man who wishes to be well dressed.’

FOOTWEAR AND LEATHER GOODS. The skilled workers at W.H. Morris, bootmaker and repairer, use only the best materials and the workmanship is first class and guaranteed. Customers can also buy leather goods, including suit cases and ports.

SPORTS. Keith Carnall’s sports depot in Manuka Arcade has requirements for all sports – cricket, tennis and angling are mentioned – and also sells radios (Univox Sherwood and Sterling) and vacuum cleaners (Eureka).

HOME AND ELECTRICAL. The Canberra Furnishing Company has an emporium at Kingston with ‘Everything for the home’, including linos, carpets, glassware, crockery and kitchenware; radios and sewing machines; and for ‘the ardent gardener’ tools and lawn mowers. There are also toys for children. Strangman Bros., at the Civic Centre, sells electrical goods and radios. ‘Nothing will gladden the heart of the housewife more than labour-saving electrical appliances’ such as grillers, jugs, toasters, kettles, irons and immersion heaters. The electrical store Harris and Freeman in Manuka is the ‘home of the famous “Tasma” radio.’ This is one of the ‘leading radios of to-day’, a ‘wonder set that has established a record of achievement and progress’, priced from £19/19/-. ‘Its appearance, modernity, tone, rugged construction and reliability all defy competition.’ Customers are offered free demonstrations.

BICYCLES AND CARS. Williams’ Cycle Shop encourages customers to ‘Pedal along through a prosperous new year on a popular ‘Malvern Star’ cycle.’ Cycling offers ‘cheap and healthy transport’, and there is no better gift for a boy or girl. Rayment’s Garage at Braddon is ‘equipped with modern plant’, including ‘the famous Stubley re-boring machine’, and offers a ‘car repair service equal to any in the district’ and at prices ‘comparable with those charged in metropolitan repair depots.’

In this last reference it appears that Canberra was not yet regarded as a full metropolis. Rather, it seems to have had the character of a large country town, where some of the latest technology had infiltrated but aspects of availability and price had still to be judged in comparison with what was usual in the major cities. Three shopping centres are represented, Manuka, Civic Centre (City) and Kingston, and the suburb of Braddon; Queanbeyan also features. It is noticeable that pharmacies then as now supplemented their income by selling cosmetics and novelty items. Besides brand names now uncommon or extinct, one finds some old-fashioned expressions, including refreshment parlour, fountain drink, flap jack (a powder case or compact), half hose and ports; and immersion heaters are among the items desired by the housewife. A custom of sending Christmas annuals ‘to friends in other lands’ is notable. Christmas dinner at the White Gate Cafe seems cheap at 3/-. The most expensive confectionery from Harris and Co. is nearly twice that amount, while a Baby Brownie camera is 6/-. A good quality radio is over three times the price of the camera. Radios (here called radios and not wireless sets) are at the forefront of the wonders of the age.

‘Round the shopping centres’, Canberra Times 12/12/1935, p. 8. Keith Carnall: cf. ‘Keith Carnall: A short biography’, Canberra Photographic Society website; also ‘Looking back with pride’. Keith Carnall was admitted as a member of the ACT Sport Hall of Fame in 1996.

After the railways, the water problem

The work of extending a system of railways across New South Wales was spread over many years, largely because of the need to finance such a large scheme in stages. The line from Goulburn to Cooma, for example, cost well over a million pounds. Once such works were completed, there was the question of what should be done next.

It was obvious that climatic conditions presented the country with major challenges. The availability of water was very variable. Drought was frequent and severe. The persistent dryness of much of the land, and alternating patterns of drought and flood, were extremely frustrating. Given the magnitude of the problem, could successful responses be devised that would provide farmers and pastoralists with stable conditions from year to year?

In October 1886 the Queanbeyan Age reported a speech delivered in the NSW Legislative Assembly by Hon. Edward O’Sullivan, the member for Queanbeyan. Mr. O’Sullivan argued that, ‘we had already done our duty to the people in the matter of railway construction, and other public work, and the next great national work which would have to be undertaken would be that of the conservation of water and distribution of water.’ The entire community suffered, in inconvenience and expense, through not having a national scheme for these purposes. It was a case of human ingenuity against the forces of nature:

We must, in fact, show that human intelligence was superior to nature by initiating a comprehensive scheme of water conservation and irrigation.

This meant storing and diverting water, creating irrigation systems, and multiplying wells, tanks and dams. Mr. O’Sullivan was optimistic that this could be done. There were already natural features to assist. The snow in the Snowy Mountains provided water that could be diverted into the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, for example. There were natural reservoirs such as Lake George that could store flood-water. Private enterprise had already shown on a small scale that irrigation could increase yield and support stock. Other countries, such as India and Spain, had successfully employed irrigation systems with rainfall at similar or even lower levels.

There was already in progress in New South Wales a Royal Commission on the Conservation of Water (10 May 1884 – 9 May 1887), set up ‘to make a full inquiry into the best method of conserving the rainfall, and of searching for and developing the underground reservoirs supposed to exist in the interior of the colony, and also the practicability, by a general system of water conservation and distribution, of averting the disastrous consequences of periodical droughts.’ Mr. O’Sullivan drew on some the findings of the Royal Commission to support his arguments.

These were some of the early efforts that eventually led in the twentieth century to the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the extensive use of irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin, and other water conservation and irrigation measures.

We are in a better position now to judge whether ‘human intelligence’ is ‘superior to nature.’

‘Water conservation and irrigation’, Queanbeyan Age 9/10/1886, pp. 2-3. ‘Royal Commission on the Conservation of Water’, NSW State Records. Bruce E. Mansfield, Australian Democrat: The Career of Edward William O’Sullivan, 1846 – 1910, Sydney, Sydney University Press, 1965; idem, ‘O’Sullivan, Edward William (1846-1910)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 11, 1988, pp. 106-108, and online. ‘Mr Edward William O’Sullivan (1846-1910)’, NSW Parliament website.

On the foreshores of Lake George

The first public railway line in Australia – twelve miles long – was opened in Sydney in 1855. The final stage of the Great Southern Railway between Sydney and Albury was opened in 1881. From Sydney the line goes south to Goulburn, then turns west, passing through Yass, Wagga Wagga and so on to the Victorian border.

The line from Sydney to Goulburn was completed in 1869. In 1881, the year that the Great Southern Line was completed, the NSW Government gave the go-ahead for a branch line from Goulburn to Cooma via Queanbeyan. The first stage, the Goulburn Bungendore Railway Extension, was constructed by Topham, Angus and Co. and completed in March 1885. The next stage, from Bungendore to Michelago, was constructed by Messrs. A. Johnston & Co. and completed to Queanbeyan by September 1887 and to Michelago by December of that year. Messrs. Walker and Swan began construction of the final extension, from Michelago to Cooma, in January 1886, and the line was opened on 30 May 1889.

The senior member of the firm Messrs. A. Johnston & Co., railway contractors, was Mr. Alexander Johnston. When the line for which he was responsible had been built from Bungendore as far the Molonglo River near Queanbeyan, he and his wife invited a party of ladies and gentlemen to accompany them on the first passenger journey along the completed portion of the line (‘No. 2 Section’), a distance of just over eleven miles.

Accordingly, on Monday 24 May 1886 a party of some thirty ladies and gentlemen arrived by horses and carriages and met the waiting train at the Molonglo Bridge, ‘back of Forrester’s Hotel.’ With his customary energy and forethought Mr. Johnston had made arrangements for the care of their horses and carriages while they were away for the day. The locomotive, the ‘Segenhoe’, with two trucks behind for passengers and provisions, was there ‘with steam at high pressure’, and with a cry of ‘All aboard’, a signal and a whistle, the party started off on their expedition.

Those on the train included Mr. and Mrs. A. Johnston and family, Mr. McNeilly and children, Mr. Parr and the two Misses Parr, the two Misses McLeod, Mr. and Miss Gale, Mr. and Mrs. J.J.M. Wright and Miss A. Wright, Mr. and Mrs. Little, Dr. Taylor, Mr. M.H. Kelly, Mr. E.E. Morgan, and Mr. Symons. Mr. Gale is presumably Mr. John Gale (1831-1929), proprietor of the Queanbeyan Age, to whom we may be indebted for the description of the day’s events. Meanwhile Mrs. McNeilly, Miss Johnston and Mr. Tovey proceeded on horseback.

The train covered the distance along the main line at a speed of over thirty miles an hour. There were several large cuttings and high embankments. Before the final run down to Bungendore the train stopped to allow passengers to inspect the beginning of a tunnel, one of three between Bungendore and Queanbeyan. At the other end of the tunnel were special earthworks designed to keep storm water from damaging the embankments and the line.

Then came the next stage of the adventure. Branching off from the main line was a rough line to the gravel pits on an old foreshore of Lake George, about a mile from the furthest extent of the lake at that time. Ballasting was needed for the railway line, and this was obtained by excavating several acres of gravel in this area, sometimes to a depth of 15 feet. There was still enough gravel left from this ‘inexhaustible supply’ for ballasting the whole of the line to Cooma, but it was expected that shingle from the bed of the Queanbeyan River, just as good if not better in quality, would be used later on.

The train proceeded more slowly along the rough branch line, which had been constructed for the purpose of conveying the gravel. After safe arrival at the projected destination, the entire journey having taken twenty-seven minutes (including stopping to inspect the tunnel), ‘About six hours were spent at the Lake in a very pleasant manner.’ Members of the party amused themselves in boating, rambling, cricket, rifle-shooting and other activities. Luncheon was at two o’clock. A long table was improvised, covered with ‘snow-white linen,’ and the guests with appetites whetted by their exercise ‘fell to in their heartiest fashion,’ partaking of a meal which, compared with ordinary picnicking, was quite exceptional in its scale and style. There was an abundance of food and an abundance to spare.

Just before 5 o’clock the train whistle sounded for all passengers to climb on board for the return journey. But before they started off it was a moment for speeches. Mr. Parr was Master of Ceremonies, and Mr. Gale gave a speech of thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Johnston for their hospitality. On the Royal Birthday they had given a splendid ball, and now they had made possible this singular trip, the first passenger train journey to the shores of picturesque Lake George. In his thirty-two years of knowing the lake, he had seen it a dry bed and an inland sea; he never dreamt he would live to come by train to the shores of what was now a sanatorium that thousands would surely visit. Thanking Mr. Johnston for this privilege and Mrs. Johnston for the excellent meal, he led the group in three hearty cheers.

Mr. Johnston gave a speech of thanks in reply, in the course of which he let out a secret: the idea had been his wife’s – ‘the conception and carrying out of the entire project’ were attributable to Mrs. Johnston.

After three cheers for the Queen and a verse of the National Anthem, the train departed and a journey of twenty-three minutes brought the party back at last to the Molonglo Bridge about dusk.

‘To Lake George by rail: Progress report on contract for No. 2 Section Goulburn to Cooma Railway’, Queanbeyan Age 29/5/1886, p. 2. Gravel near the Queanbeyan River: Queanbeyan Age 25/9/1886, p. 2.

Pure luck and pure water

Mr Alex Johnston, senior member of the firm of railway contractors Johnston and Co., was necessarily a man of energy and resourcefulness. In May 1886 the Queanbeyan Age had occasion to report on two unusual incidents in his career, which incidentally throw light on the challenges of travel in New South Wales in the 1880s, progress in railway construction, and the difficulties of an exasperating climate.

The first incident concerned his recent adventures in trying to get from Sydney to Queanbeyan for an urgent meeting which he could hardly afford to miss. He had started off from Redfern in a sleeping car, expecting to be woken to get off at Goulburn, from where he needed to take a different train for the following stage of his journey. Next morning he awoke to find himself out at Bowning, the other side of Yass, some distance from Goulburn. Fortunately an up-train was about to go through, and he was able to signal this down and return to Goulburn. At that point his good fortune continued: a goods train was about to leave for Bungendore, which was on the way to Queanbeyan, carrying materials to be used by his own company in railway construction. From Bungendore the firm’s ballast engine took him to the Molonglo River, six miles from Queanbeyan, and he was able to travel the rest of the distance by buggy and arrive in good time for his meeting.

If that experience was heart-stopping, the other incident was distinctly odd. The countryside around Queanbeyan was extremely parched. The Queanbeyan River was almost dry. The water had ceased to flow and in the vicinity of Queanbeyan the river was a bed of mud and rubbish. People were getting their water from dirty puddles. Mr Johnston came to the rescue in a curious way. The piers of the new railway bridge were hollow, and were found to contain an ‘inexhaustible supply’ of pure water. How this could be, the article does not explain. Presumably excavations had tapped into an underground water-source. If people were willing to use this water, Mr Johnston was willing to instal a temporary pump for their benefit. The newspaper comments: ‘This generous act of Mr. Johnston’s is worthy of public commendation and gratitude.’

The praise for Mr Johnston was no doubt genuine. Two months later we find him being praised very fulsomely, at a farewell party for some of his staff, for his qualities as an employer and for his public-spiritedness.

Another month went by and the newspaper was reporting heavy rains in the area and significant catches of fish in the river. By December of that year the Molonglo River, into which the Queanbeyan River flows, was above the high flood marks. At Queanbeyan a man attempting to cross the flooded river on horse-back was swept away a considerable distance and had to be rescued.

Two incidents: Queanbeyan Age 18/5/1886, p. 2. Farewell party: Queanbeyan Age 29/7/1886, p. 2. Rain and fish: Queanbeyan Age 10/8/1886, p. 2;  2/9/1886, p. 2. Horse and rider: Queanbeyan Age 9/12/1886, p. 2.

The Molonglo River flows into the Murrumbidgee River on the western edge of Canberra.