LOOK­ING BACK: RON SCHILD

Pineap­ples are iconic Queens­land pro­duce, and Ron Schild could be said to be the iconic pineap­ple grower, as Moya Stevens dis­cov­ers

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

Ron Schild’s ori­gins are as far away from a pineap­ple plan­ta­tion as one could imag­ine. He was born in 1932 to Otto and Hilda who were at that time, vine-grow­ers in the Barossa Val­ley, South Aus­tralia.

The fam­ily was large – 6 chil­dren in to­tal, and WWII saw their lives unsettled, and af­ter a cou­ple of bad years for grapes, their fa­ther had to move where work was avail­able and where earn­ings were enough to sup­port a large fam­ily.

Whilst do­ing stints in the South-East and Coorong of South Aus­tralia on sheep sta­tions, the Schilds had two un­cles visit. These men had done their Army train­ing in Ather­ton and spoke of this “won­der­ful place” – far north Queens­land.

Af­ter Otto ex­changed let­ters with the Ather­ton Coun­cil and a real es­tate agent, the fam­ily was packed into a truck and car­a­van for a 6 week trek to the table­land.

“The trip up was very ed­u­ca­tional – we vis­ited places few peo­ple had seen,” Ron said, “and we had to do it all on petrol coupons.

“The four boys slept in the back of the truck, and my Mum, Dad, sis­ter and lit­tle brother slept in the car­a­van.”

Upon ar­rival in Ma­landa, Ron got a job in the real es­tate of­fice but soon found him­self work­ing with his fa­ther in a dairy.

“I got 25 shillings a week and Dad earned £4,” he said, “but soon Dad heard of a job in Moss­man, milk­ing and de­liv­er­ing milk.”

So early in 1947, the Schild fam­ily moved to Moss­man, to do the milk run, even­tu­ally ‘camp­ing’ on the floor of Mel­lick’s shop.

“I had to get up at 3am, help milk 30 cows then de­liver milk to the houses in Moss­man, but we didn’t have a truck – we used a horse and cart.

“And then I would have to do it all again in the af­ter­noon, get­ting home for din­ner and then bed.”

“I did this seven days a week, so I was re­ally tired.”

“I got to know ev­ery­one in town, and af­ter the de­liv­ery was over, if there was any milk left, we used to take it up to the hos­pi­tal.”

Af­ter the war, there was a short­age of labour, so jobs weren’t hard to find. Otto started at the mill as a su­gar lumper and Ron soon de­cided that work­ing on a cane farm was more to his lik­ing.

“We would use a horse and plough to work the fields and I got to start the fires too,” he said.

“The wages were bet­ter and the hours not as long.”

Af­ter three years of work­ing on Doug Crees’ cane farm, Ron and his brother Ned de­cided to go out on their own.

By the mid ’50s, Ron and Ned were cut­ting cane on Howard Cecil’s and Bill Pringle’s prop­er­ties and dur­ing the slack, the broth­ers bought and started to clear 40 acres at Miallo.

The fam­ily had moved to a house in Miallo a few years pre­vi­ous and had put sev­eral dozen pineap­ple plants in around the home.

“They grew flam­ing well so we fig­ured we would clear a few acres and put in 10,000 pineap­ple plants,” Ron said, “and they grew won­der­fully.”

Their pro­duce was sent to the can­nery in Cairns un­til the can­nery went broke so the fruit was then sent to Bris­bane.

Ned left the prop­erty in 1956 to go min­ing and Ron ran the prop­erty on his own.

“Pineap­ples ripen at dif­fer­ent times with the ones at Cook­town com­ing first, then Moss­man and so on down the coast.

“Our pineap­ples ripened just in time for the Christ­mas sea­son, so I ended up send­ing fresh fruit to the mar­kets in Sydney and Mel­bourne.”

Be­ing a tra­di­tional man, Ron be­lieved that a man shouldn’t take a wife un­til he is fi­nan­cially set up, so it wasn’t un­til 1965 that he mar­ried Ida Rossi, a nurse at the lo­cal hos­pi­tal.

“I guess I mar­ried her be­cause she ac­cepted me,” Ron said, “and of course I loved her.”

Ron had built a house on the pineap­ple block at Miallo and within the next few years they had three chil­dren, Pauline (who sadly only lived un­til she was 20 years old), Bill and David.

As the chil­dren came along, Ron built a larger home on the prop­erty where David and fam­ily now live.

Ron kept up with new tech­niques in the pineap­ple grow­ing busi­ness, go­ing on an over­seas ed­u­ca­tional tour in the mid 80s to Malaysia, In­done­sia and Burma.

“It was so in­ter­est­ing see­ing how things are done in other places,’ he said, “but I was amazed to see that women did all the work in the fields.”

For most of his life, Ron has en­joyed bush walk­ing and hill climb­ing. In the 80s, his friend, John White, and he went search­ing for the re­mains of a DC3 that came down dur­ing the war.

“We even­tu­ally found the pro­pel­ler and then the rest of the plane at the far reaches of Ste­wart Creek,” he said.

Ron has climbed Thorn­ton Peak “at least 10 times” and has scaled Mt Demi, the Bluff and the Dev­ils Thumb.

He looks at food pro­duc­tion now and com­pares it to “his time”.

“The farms are too big now but it’s the only way to make any money,” he said, “and now they have $2m worth of ma­chin­ery which we didn’t have in my day.

“You just can’t start with noth­ing and build a busi­ness up, like I did.”

Ron “gave it away” about 6 years ago, leas­ing out his prop­erty.

He still sup­plies lo­cal shops and cafes with pineap­ples from his small, road­side plot and he grows ba­nanas for his own en­joy­ment.

“I try to do as lit­tle as pos­si­ble now,” he laughed.

“But I still love to eat pineap­ples – they taste nice and they’re re­ally good for you.”

I had to get up at 3am, help milk 30 cows then de­liver milk to the houses in Moss­man, but we didn’t have a truck – we used a horse and cart. And then I would have to do it all again in the af­ter­noon

Picture: MOYA STEVENS

MAIN PICTURE: Ron Schild. In­set: Marano ser­vice sta­tion, Miallo, in 1957. Above left: Ron with wreck­age of the DC3 in the 1980s. Above cen­tre: Sam El­liott, Ron Schild, Mick Vico in the Palmer Gold­fields 1983. Far right: Ron in 1956

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