By Conal Healy
WHAT do the names Amiens, Messines, Passchendaele, Bullecourt and Pozieres have in common? They were the names of train stops on the outskirts of Stanthorpe, Qld.
Of course, they were also some of the deadliest battlefields of World War I and half-a-world away from the sleepy city that nestles high on the Granite Belt of South-East Queensland.
The train line that serviced the “battlefield stations” is long gone, so are the stations, and sadly so are the diggers who fought in that war to end all wars.
Around 100 years ago, WWI returning soldiers were offered selections on the outskirts of Stanthorpe as a thanks for their military service. The train stops to service this suburb were named after the European towns that a lot of war veterans must have tried to forget, or to mentally move on from.
At the time (1920) The Amiens Branch Line would have been big news, it was opened in 1920 by HRH Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward).
Today most of the diggers’ land selections are covered in orchards, or in vineyards.
A POIGNANT reminder of the settlements can be found in the station signs which survive at the Stanthorpe Heritage Museum.
Stepping inside the museum is like stepping back in time, if you are over 40 years of age. It’s like stepping into another world – if you are under 40.
To the touch-screen generation the 22,000 contents must seem from outer space, or to have come off one of the First Fleet ships.
For example, there are big, black heavy telephones which had to be hand-cranked. There were phones where the numbers had to be turned on a dial using your index finger, rather than being prodded by a stylus, or tapped on a smart phone.
On display were the latest – in the 1950s and 1960s – multi-media Home Entertainment Centres which played vinyl records (at 33rpms and at 45rpms) and the wireless too. It wasn’t exactly portable – more of a piece of furniture. In the same display were the first portable record players, about the size of a small suitcase, and which could play music in Hi-Fidelity Stereo, or in Mono (at a pinch).
For younger members of Spotify generation, in the middle of the last century music came on plastic disks, called records. This is getting technical, I know, but a diamond tipped “needle” would run along the “etched grooves” in the plastic disk and the resulting scratches – ie the music – would be “amplified” and transferred to a “Loudspeaker”.
There were no such features as “repeat” or “skip” but you did have a choice between a “single” (about three minutes worth of music on EACH side of the disk), a Long Playing record (LPs tended to last for 20minutes, but you could flip it over for a second 20-minute) record or the inbetween mode, the Extra Play (EP) which usually had enough music for around eight minutes, about three or four songs.
Moving into the SoHo exhibits, there are wonderful range of typewriters. Again – for younger readers – a typewriter was an early communication device. Similar to a laptop, a typewriter had features that included “instant save” and “print” functions, most were extremely durable (could be dropped or on occasions flung across the room and still continue to work). The email function was slow in typewriters, sending a letter usually involved the use of – pardon the technical expressions – envelopes, stamps, bodily fluids from your tongue and possibly a trip to the nearest Post Office by car, bike, horse and buggy, or by walking.
For the generations of children who believe that bread, milk, butter and jam comes from the fridge (or maybe the Local Supermarket), the kitchen in the Stanthorpe Heritage Museum must seem like an industrial zone. In many ways it was. In most 20th Century households it was the place where meals were “made”, as in produced and constructed (and not simply a place where a “packaged something” is reheated).
This museum kitchen reflects the industrial side of cooking: Bench-top mincers, meat safes, ice-boxes, rolling pins, metal sieves, butter pats, jaffle irons and metal counter-balance weighing scales with accompanying measuring weights (in pounds and ounces, naturally). This was a kitchen were families (or if you were lucky, servants) actually worked, this wasn’t a place for a touch of “recreational cooking”.
Back in the 20th Century, life was a lot less convenient, compared to today. And this is reflected repeatedly in the museum’s 22,000 exhibits spread across eight rooms/buildings.
As you would expect, there are the early pioneer era wooden hut structures (and their furniture and household necessities) – these would look “ancient” to most 20th Century parents, but in the other buildings are the donated items (from the middle half of the century) that really catch the eye.
I dare anybody to walk through the museum and not say “My mother had one of those …” or “My Gran had one of those in her house”. Items that would have end-up up in a rubbish dump 30 years ago are nicely displayed, ready to generate a long-forgotten memory from a by-gone age.
In the space given over to the school exhibits, there are stern wooden desks (complete with inkwells), a picture of a young Queen Elizabeth, as well as blackboards, counting frames, an oil heater, a pair of wooden dividers, and a large wall map of Australia which illustrated the wealth and features of this vast brown land. It stands in almost glorious isolation from its Asian neighbours.
I’m sure if I looked hard enough there would find a map of the globe where most of the continents (including Australia) were shaded pink, indicating that the Great Britain and her young Queen still held sway over vast portions of Planet Earth.
Yet another relic from a different age.
The Stanthorpe Heritage Museum is at 12 High Street, Stanthorpe. Opening hours: Wednesday to Friday, 10am-4pm; Saturday, 1pm-4pm; Sunday, 9am-1pm. Groups by appointment. Entry cost: $7
Where is Stanthorpe?
An hour and a half from Brisbane, two hours from the Gold Coast and a two hour drive from the Sunshine Cost. The region is well connected via highways and road networks including the Cunningham, New England, Warrego, Leichhardt, D’Aguilar, Brisbane Valley and Gore Highways and the Great Inland Way and the Adventure Way.
Want to know more?
Department stores: Target County.
Food Stores: IGA, Woolworth and Aldi.
Winter: Owing to its elevation, Stanthorpe features a subtropical highland climate. At an altitude of 811 metres (2,661 ft), Stanthorpe holds the record for the lowest temperature recorded in Queensland at −10.6 °C (12.9 °F) on June 23, 1961. Sleet and light snowfalls are occasionally recorded, with the most significant snowfall in over 30 years occurring on July 17, 2015.
Summer: December – 15/27 (Eight rain days); January – 16/28 (Eight rain days). February – 16/26 (Seven rain days).
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