May 27th 2012
Horseshoe Bay School reunion memories
Despite Magnetic Island’s overcast and cool weather, the Horseshoe Bay School Reunion gathering at the old school house was as warm as ever when 37 former students gathered to reminisce their happy times at the little school which opened in 1949 and was closed after Cyclone Althea in 1972.
With fond memories, former state government member for Townsville and Speaker of the house, Mike Reynolds and his brother Darryl, who had come from England for the reunion as well as a family reunion, were keen to share their reflections of the time when they attended the school for 3 months in 1956.
Their father was recuperating from war related illness at the RSL flats where the present Maggies Beachfront Apartments are located. Mike and Darryl, older brother Rick, who also attended the reunion, and their sister Dianne all attended the school. “I remember crossing the wooden bridge and walking through hundreds of yellow butterflies. It was a really great part of our childhood,” said Mike.
Darryl recalled the old record player the kids loved at the Island flat. “Every time I hear the Rose of Tralee, I am immediately transported back to Magnetic Island,” he said.
Darryl also recalled the swimming enclosure at Nelly Bay. It was easy to understand just how things have changed in the Island’s surrounding waters since that time when Darryl told of how his parents warned that the kids should never go swimming outside the enclosure. “I went diving with googles on by the edge of the enclosure. Looking out through the bars I could see 20 or 30 hammerhead sharks,” said Darryl.
But while the fear of sharks in those days was great - and for good reasons - there was no recollection of box jellyfish being a problem.
Another old boy was Errol Pollard who hadn’t been back to Magnetic since 1956. Errol was with his wife Rosa and reflected on times when expectations were simpler. Errol attended for two weeks in 1953 and spoke affectionately of those days. “(brother) Doug and I patched together an old tin canoe and would go paddling in Horseshoe Bay. I had a fantastic time getting up in the morning and going for a swim at the beach before school.”
“I remember the old timber ferries that would take 45 minutes to an hour to get here. We came all the time as kids - for a picnic at Picnic Bay on Sundays. There were donkey or shetland pony rides and it was a real treat to have an ice cream. Australia was still suffering post war privations then but they were carefree days. We didn’t expect so much.”
The Brown family, which includes Heidi, Darryl, Janelle and Wayne, were among the last students to attend the school. Darryl and Heidi were part of the main organising group for the reunion. Between them they tracked down 110 former students through the electoral roll then cold calling lots of names out of the white pages.
Darryl has vivid memories of Cyclone Althea. “We had an EJ Holden in the front yard and some corrugated iron sheet lodged under the tire. It was flapping there when somebody’s thunderbox came rolling down the street emptying its contents on the way to land on top of the iron,” Jimmy Moore’s roof came off and dropped in our front yard. “The concrete roof of the Weemalah Flats was turned up and dropped, upside down, on the other side of the lagoon. The fluro lights were still intact - it seemed to come down so gently!” he said.
The Browns had a laugh about a cockatoo which belonged to neighbours. It had lost all of its feathers due to disease but when visitors saw the bird after the cyclone they locals were happy to explain that the poor cocky had had its feathers blown off by Althea.
There were clearly lots of fun times for the Brown kids too. It was a like of, as Darryl puts it, “Speedos and t-shirts were all we wore. We ran wild so long as we were home by dark”.
Darryl also recalls the music they loved to play including the rock opera, “Hair”, “Smoke on the water”, “Hits of the seventies” and even a song written about Cyclone Althea.
Darryl’s father owned a trawler and was able to get it out of Horseshoe just before Althea struck. “It chased him into to Townsville. He stayed on board at Ross River and kept the boat idling so he could manoeuver it around the debris coming downstream towards him.”
This successful tactic enabled him to get the boat back to Horseshoe after the blow where its onboard freezers served much of the Bay’s population as a fridge they could row out to until power was restored.
Darryl’s sister Janelle remembers a fascinating time from 1964 when the family were waiting for their house to be built at Horseshoe. “We lived at White Lady Bay with Clarrie Scrivener. “He had been there a long time and would paddle me to school each morning. He talked all the way. He was very wise - an educator. He was a very genteel and passionate and knew the names of the corals and the shells we saw.”
“Keith Bryson was also living there - always in his “Y” fronts - covered in tar, painting metal plates for his oysters. It was pretty open communal living and often a beautiful big koala would walk right through the middle. One day we saw him with green ants around his eyes. Dad grabbed him so we could pull the ants off but was slashed by the koala’s large claws. He was the biggest I’ve ever seen.”
It is memories such as these which will no doubt be traded throughout this weekend and beyond as old friends relive their happy childhood on Magnetic. This is just part of the achievement of the organisers who have worked so hard to make the weekend a success. Special acknowledgement should be made of the efforts of Rosie Eve, Katie Kearns, Kath Munroe, Ernie Jones, Darryl and Heidi Brown.
For more photos of The Horseshoe Bay School Reunion as well as a a big collection of Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea snaps from last week, as well as times past, we recommend you visit Magnetic Times on facebook (Click here)
Story and photo: George Hirst
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