Friday, 19 February 2016

Nostalgia - Trip to Bribie by Ken Blanch 1988

When a trip to Bribie Island was a big adventure by sea
By Ken Blanch

Published in The Sunday Mail Magazine, Sep 11, 1988, page 37.

Today [1988] a visit to Bribie Island is little more than a comfortable suburban run north from Brisbane; but 25 years ago [1963] a Bribie outing was an adventure.

Those were the days before bitumen roads and a bridge, when access to the quiet, bushland Moreton Bay island was by cruise boat from Brisbane or barge from Toorbul Point.

You had to be a real Bribie-lover to make the trip in those days.

Back in the 1950s you could still go by the old steamship Koopa, which took about three hours - including a stop at the Redcliffe Jetty if the weather permitted.
Published in The Sunday Mail Magazine, Sep 11, 1988, page 37

The Koopa, with its outmoded, smoke-belching coal furnaces, could fill your eyes with cinders and blacken you crisp summer clothes when the wind was contrary.

But she was an institution beloved by Brisbaneites and most other Queenslanders who knew her, and there was hardly a dry eye among Bribie addicts when they took her off the island run.

Who could forget the old steamer's grand staircase, leading to the saloon where cool salads were available in summer and hot snacks of soup and stews in winter?

Then there was the homely old weatherboard kiosk that stood by the island jetty, where you could sit down to strong tea and a home-cooked square meal before tackling the bone-shaking trip across the unsealed road to the surf side.

The cross-island journey was made on the back of a truck fitted with hard wooden seats, and covered by a galvanised iron canopy. Dust swirled around you in dense clouds, and, if it rained, you got wet. But, despite those small discomforts, a trip to Bribie was fun.

All that changed dramatically 25 years ago [1963] when a bridge was built across Pumicestone Passage and overnight Bribie was no longer either an island or remote. Sealed roads and endless streets of houses and businesses are now the order where peace and solitude once reigned.

In the old days you really wanted to go to Bribie. Now people do it without a second thought.

Anyhow, resident Bribie Nostalger Denny Field tells me the silver anniversary of the bridge that changed all that will be celebrated with the island's biggest carnival from October 5 to 10 this year [1988].  The festivities start on Wednesday, October 5 [1988], with a wine festival.  There are a celebrity golf event and a beer fest on October 7 [1988].  And the big week-end starts with aquatic events, birdman contest, Freeps concert, race meeting, fireworks, disco and ball on the Saturday.
Festivities on the Sunday provide the whole works from recovery breakfast through a bridge opening re-enactment, procession, raft race and Wickety Wak floor shows to a rock 'n' roll concert. And there's more on the following and final day.

A far cry from the trip a Sunday Mail colleague made by barge from Toorbul Point in 1955 when she wrote about getting mudbound for one and a half hours before she reached "Bribie Island, picturesque, its deep waters full of fish, its sloping beaches looking across to the dramatic contours of the Glass House Mountains, which should be an asset to Queensland".

They were talking about building a bridge in those days; but, then, they had been talking about building a bridge for 40 years, hadn't they?

"In the meantime," our intrepid reporter wrote, "the emus chase the visitors, the barge gets stuck in the mud, the old man kangaroos come and nibble in your backyard of an early morning and the road across the island does its best to dislocate your spine."

I hope all those revellers at the silver anniversary celebrations spare a minute or two to think about that.

Ken Blanch

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