Backward Glance: Work breaks, no school and bare feet – it’s the holiday season
  • Wednesday 13 December 2017
School holidays are here once more and friends and families will be visiting us to celebrate this special season here on the Sunshine Coast.

Due to the early experiences of their own happy holidays as children, many friends and families return to this region with their children and grandchildren.

In times gone by on the Sunshine Coast, holiday makers pitched their tents side by side or stayed in a guest house.

Later on, flats or holiday houses became available, with kids often on the floor or all in together, with some even sleeping in the garage if room was scarce.

The Sunshine Coast has always been known for its friendliness, picturesque mountain scenery, wilderness parks, great family beaches and relaxed lifestyle.

In earlier times, holiday makers arrived by train or bus.

As they do today, many drove to the region, all crammed in the family station wagon for their long anticipated holiday adventure.

The excitement of Christmas approaching was an added bonus for youngsters as they cleaned out their desks on the last day of school.

The chanting ‘no more pencils nor more books’ was heard often as kids walked home from school ecstatic that school was over for another year.

Finishing off the year with a break-up party at school was always something to look forward to.

Special treats and prizes were handed out to all and those who had achieved good marks on their report card could expect a book prize and special accolades.

Fun was free and you could find it everywhere you looked.

Local newspapers reported who was visiting who and what entertainment and news was occurring in each beachside town.

The holidays allowed time for long walks along the beach looking for shells or playing in rock pools, fishing, splashing in the surf under the watchful eye of parents and life savers.

People might go exploring the hinterland waterfalls and parks or simply meeting up with a favourite cousin or friend perhaps to climb a tree and make a cubby or ride long distances if you were lucky enough to own a bicycle.

Shopping was done at places like Butts in Maroochydore. In the December 1954 edition of the Maroochy Advertiser, old styled boiled sweets for Christmas were advertised at 20 cents a pound which in today’s metric measurements is approximately half a kilo.

Also in Maroochydore you might visit Mrs Hood at the side of the Maroochydore Arcade, advertising “Don’t wait until the last moment for your Xmas sewing see us today to get that special outfit made”.

There are many stories and memories of endless sunshine and sparkling water, but the weather can’t always be perfect.

Wet weather sometimes visited for extended periods around the summer holiday season and caused children to become a little bored when they were cooped up inside.

Old magazines or drawing paper scrounged from the butcher shops were ideal for drawing on or to make a pirate’s treasure map with clues to be used when the sun came out.

Children were often enlisted to cut out paper dolls or paper chains to make pretty Christmas decorations.

Mothers made glue from flour and water to assist with the very special job of making the decorations to decorate the Christmas tree and hang around the walls. Foil milk bottle tops made pretty bells when threaded on string for the Christmas tree too.

On wet days playing games such as pick-up sticks or tiddlywinks could create a few problems.

If squabbling started amongst siblings when someone saw a pick up stick touched or moved, the game had to be packed up and you may be sent to have a rest on your bed till the feud subsided.

Another source of fun when it rained was the making of indoor cubbies when the chenille bedspreads or sheets were pulled off the beds and used as tents. The kids all piled in.

Generally the littlest cousin or sibling did not get the best spot in the cubby.

You had to behave or Santa would not come, so you accepted your status in the game. The bigger kids made the rules.

When the rain stayed away and the sun shone brightly, the beach was the place to be.

Towel flicking by teenage boys was a popular pastime and if you were on the receiving end of a flick it stung.

Generally a boy doing the flicking towards a certain young lady usually meant he had a crush and he would perhaps give her a bashful slight slap of the towel never a flick.

Bombing or jumping into deep water from the diving boards at beaches like Cotton Tree or Bulcock Beach was a great experience too. All innocent fun. No pushing in. Everyone waited their turn.

If summer brought with it a prolonged dry spell, water was always a precious commodity. Bath water was shared and there was always the call, “Did you turn off the tap properly?”.

At night after dinner, a game of Old Maid or Snap or perhaps a children’s program on the His Masters Voice Radio was allowed and then it was off to bed for the kids with their favourite book before lights out.

The adults could then get into the serious business of card games such as poker, euchre, canasta or a bit of a sing song around the piano after a shandy for the ladies and a beer for the gents.

Simple times and simple pleasures with everyone around and the friendliness and camaraderie that developed during such a special time.

Some of the less memorable experiences at Christmas time were Bindi-eyes, small spikey burrs that hid in the grass.

When youngsters had forgotten their thongs or sandals they might find themselves caught in the middle of the Bindi-eye patch or even on hot sand.

Kindly big brothers or sisters or a favourite cousin with tough feet, from wearing no shoes, would piggy-back the crying little ones because they had Bindies in their feet.

Washing up duties, before dishwashers became common appliances, produced tea towel flickers who could be banned in households due to the uproar that caused.

Fathers or young uncles were sometimes the best at the art, principally so they could get out of drying the dishes whilst they enjoyed their holiday time with other pursuits.

Bluebottle stings were another test of endurance at Christmas time and Reckitts “blue bag” apparently soothed the sting.

Most of us here in Australia, perhaps the more mature amongst readers, would remember a parent wetting a blue bag and dabbing it on a bee sting or blue bottle sting.

For those who don’t recall this marvellous all-rounder, the Reckitt’s Blue Bag.

After clothes washing, a blue bag was used to keep the washing whiter and brighter.

Each piece of clothing was turned inside out and plunged into the blued water, then rinsed again.

Blue bags were great. They stopped tears when stung and could also be used to draw on walls when parents were not looking, and easily washed off.

Still today we enjoy our holiday time and locals don’t have to go far to explore the Sunshine Coast.

Our beaches and parks are free and if you would like something to read, Sunshine Coast Libraries provides wonderful resources for residents and visitors alike.

It is free and everyone is welcome.

Enjoy the holiday season but wear your thongs in case of Bindi eyes and don’t waste water.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

In 2017, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast. For more information on this milestone anniversary

Image captions:

Hero image: Day trippers gathered on the foreshore, Mooloolaba, ca 1930.

Carousel image:
Image 1: Break-up day at Coolum School, ca 1913. Eating apples on a string - left to right: Mollie Mealing, Pat Ross, unknown, Les Morgan, Geoff Dawson, Audrey Ross, Pop Morgan, (supervising), Jack Morgan.
Image 2: Holiday makers on an excursion from Brisbane to Coolum changing from train to tram at Nambour, ca 1923.
Image 3: Passenger train on the line between Coolum and Nambour, ca 1925.