A few weeks ago, my father, my sister and I went for a holiday to Coolangatta, at the southern end of the Gold Coast. This holiday turned out to be a lovely trip down memory lane for my father who will turn 90 in two months time. It was there in the twin towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads that my father and mother met, courted and were married.
Coolangatta and Tweed Heads are situated on the Queensland, New South Wales border. Coolangatta is in Queensland and Tweed Heads is in New South Wales. My mother lived in Coolangatta and my father came from Lismore in Northern New South Wales. They both worked for the Post Master General’s Department (PMG), which we now know as Telecom. My mother worked as a telephonist and my father was a trainee telephone technician and had been sent from Lismore to Tweed Heads to do his training. They met at the end of 1947, only a few weeks after Dad had arrived in Tweed Heads and they immediately began courting.
As you can imagine the two towns have changed significantly in the almost 70 years since then. Now they are busy tourist areas and are part of the long tourist strip that is known as the Gold Coast. However, back in 1947 they were popular beach side holiday villages, quiet and sleepy by today’s standards, and the term ‘Gold Coast’ was not in use. The booming tourist industry has resulted in many changes and consequently many of the landmarks of my parents’ history are no longer there. Nevertheless, we drove around to all the sites and Dad told us stories as we went along.
At the site where the Post Office and telephone exchange used to be there is now a substantial development project under way. However, Dad remembers the building well and he told us the story of how he first met my mother. He noticed through the doorway into the telephone exchange a pair of lovely long legs and he went into the telephonist’s room to see who they belonged to. They belonged to my mother and he struck up a conversation with her. He was promptly told to leave the room and not interrupt the girls while they were working. This did not deter my father. They began going out together, were engaged in May 1948, and married on 20thNovember of the same year.
The house where my mother lived with her parents and sister has gone now too but Dad was able to direct us to where it used to be and show us the short walk up the hill to “Kirra Hill” where he proposed to my mother. “Kirra Hill” is a well known landmark in that area. This “lookout” has spectacular views up and down the coast and out over the Pacific Ocean. He said going there brought back many happy memories of the times he and my mother would sit on this hill talking and making plans and “canoodling” as he called it.
The church where they were married still stands proudly on another hill nearby, its tall 110 foot bell tower is also a landmark in the area. This is St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Coolangatta and by happenstance it’s foundation stone was laid in 1925, the year my mother was born.
|St. Augustine’s Church, Coolangatta|
The wedding was reported in the The Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW: 1914 – 1949) on 25 November 1948 and stated that “following a nuptial mass at 8 a.m the wedding breakfast was held at Sands and Gill’s Banqueting Hall where 40 guests were received by Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Burgett” (my parent’s mothers). This venue was directly across the road from the Post Office and Dad referred to it in his commentary as the Sands Cafe. Apparently it was a popular venue and he said that there was a reception hall upstairs. This was where the wedding breakfast was held. It is no longer there and a multi storey office block now sits on the site.
Dad also remembers where he and Mum first lived after their wedding. Sadly, this building, too, is no longer in existence but the park opposite is still there and this is the park Dad walked through on his way to work each morning.
I could tell that my father loved visiting these places and recalling his memories of that time. It was a wonderful experience for me and my sister to be with him. As we drove around listening to Dad and looking at the sights I felt the presence of my parents’ younger selves. When Dad showed us the place on Kirra Hill where he proposed to my mother I felt that I could see them sitting there, two very young, very beautiful people with a life time of dreams and plans ahead of them.
However, as anyone who delves into their family history knows, just one story can open up a whole new set of questions. Reading through the words I have written I am struck by how much more I want to know. So, look out Dad here I come with my pen and paper.