Backward Glance – Thrills and excitement over the Christmas holidays
  • Monday 13 January 2020

Activities over the Christmas holiday period in years past have had more than their share of excitement and thrills.

Water festivals were very popular on the Maroochy River and on New Year’s Day in 1932 the river in front of the Club Hotel was filled with decorated motor and rowing boats providing a spectacular sight. It was reported that more than one thousand spectators were present at this Maroochydore Aquatic Carnival organised by the Maroochy Philharmonic Society in association with the Maroochy Amateur Swimming Club.

“One of the highlights of the program was aquaplaning from behind a speedboat, at a pace greater than road speed limits, providing many thrills for the crowd,” reported the Nambour Chronicle.

Swimming events and diving displays were also performed, where the well-known Suosaari and Petersen brothers and Miss Myrtle Betts distinguished themselves. Motor boat races created much excitement and were won by F McDermott and AH Butler. A sailing race which thrilled the crowd was won by Miss M Butt, in a 10ft skiff closely followed by Miss G Bartholomew in her 16ft skiff.

A “Fun of the Fair” was conducted in the Club Hotel grounds and in the evening the members of the Maroochy Philharmonic Society performed a concert on the lawn, illuminated by electric lights from the hotel balcony. Items and excerpts from the opera “Pirates of Penzance” were rendered and the audience enthusiastically joined in.

In 1924 the Mooloolaba Sports Club held their annual aquatic carnival in the Mooloolah River on Boxing Day, under perfect weather conditions. The Nambour Chronicle reported that the large crowd of spectators present were keenly interested in the events, especially the novelty events which included “chasing the duck”, “tilting”, “watermelon race” and a few others. The program was splendidly arranged and the officials congratulated in the very able manner in which they performed their duty.

A special prize donated by Mr T O’Connor for the highest number of points during the day was won by HD Foote with CA Blakey running a very close second. The “chasing the duck” race was won by W Mahoney, “tilting” by S Newberry and the “watermelon race” by J Howe.

A splendidly arranged concert given by the Sports Club on Boxing Day night was attended by a large crowd. One of the most interesting performances was a novel humorous boxing bout performed by the Mahoney brothers.

One unexpected exciting event occurred at Christmas time in the early 1920s when a party of holiday makers unwittingly hired both the “Tardorna Radja” and the “Lucy” to take them on a picnic party. When both vessels arrived neither skipper was willing to retire and leave the field to the other, so they both did the trip.

The passengers travelled on whichever they chose. Then, either in good holiday spirits or perhaps because of the chance both had been waiting for, the two skippers made a race of it down the river.

The boat races on the Mississippi had nothing on this race! With horns blaring and passengers wildly cheering or hurling abuse at the competitor, the boats really stirred things up on the normally sleepy Maroochy River that day.

The reports exclaim, “What excitement! What enthusiasm! What a wonderful and unexpected beginning to a picnic!” The report however does not reveal the winner of the race.

The excitement was not confined to the river. On Boxing Day 1930, the Maroochydore Aerial Pageant was held. A record crowd, estimated at over four thousand people, came to watch the first Aerial Pageant to be held there.

A great deal of preparation had been done to the airstrip which lay on either side of the present Aerodrome Road and extended almost to the beach. The ground was in excellent order and the planes had no difficulty in landing or taking off. 

Four biplanes, a Puss Moth and a German Junker were present. The airmen gave joy flights and took part in stunts and aerial exhibitions and at one time all planes were in the air together.

In 1931 at the Boxing Day Aerial Pageant, thousands of eyes turned to the sky when out of the blue at a height of 2000 or 3000 feet, a slim figure leapt from a silvery Moth plane and commenced a sensational parachute descent on to the aerodrome.

It was a nerve tingling, never to be forgotten moment – those few seconds of suspense awaiting the opening of the gigantic parachute which brought Mr JA Milne safely to earth.

The parachute jump was not the only attraction on that day with the Maroochydore Aerial Derby, a handicap race for Queensland trained pilots, thrilling the crowd.

Holiday makers were also enjoying more typical summer activities in 1937. In Maroochydore there were a bright array of dress parades on the beaches, sand gardens being constructed, and the homely joy of friends and family congregating at holiday parties, along with the other activities of boating, swimming and sporting activities.

Times have evolved but you can’t help but wish you were on the banks of the river during the riverboat race or in the crowd to witness the first parachute jump on the coast. Whatever activity you are doing over the holiday period, keep safe and have fun.

Thanks to the Heritage Library staff for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.