CURIOUSER & CURIOUSER

WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT THE GOLD COAST RE­GION COULD HAR­BOUR SO MANY MYS­TER­IES. WE LOOK INTO A FEW LO­CAL LE­GENDS

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - FEATURE EYE - WORDS: DENISE RAWARD

BURLEIGH PAVIL­ION GRAF­FITI

Many will have seen the art­work on the eastern wall of the beach­front Burleigh Pavil­ion – a lean fig­ure in retro board­ies seem­ingly propped against the ameni­ties block. It is widely recog­nised as a com­mem­o­ra­tion of a mo­ment in surf­ing his­tory, the fa­bled stum­ble of Gold Coast surfer Michael Peter­son af­ter win­ning the first Stub­bies Pro con­test at Burleigh in 1977.

The event has be­come the stuff of le­gend in surf­ing sub­cul­ture, the last stand of MP, as he was known, a cult hero mythol­o­gised as much for his freak­ish tal­ent as his enig­matic life. The in­au­gu­ral Stub­bies Pro her­alded the in­tro­duc­tion of the man-on-man con­test for­mat still used in pro-surf­ing to­day.

Peter­son, who’d won a string of surf­ing ti­tles in the early to mid-1970s, had fallen from grace, plagued by a series of no-shows, his no­to­ri­ous drug use and what was later di­ag­nosed as para­noid schizophre­nia.

He de­scended on the 1977 Stub­bies a men­ac­ing fig­ure, star­ing down his op­po­nents and spec­tac­u­larly out­surf­ing them to win the ti­tle and the $5000 prize money, a per­fect swan song for a cham­pion who was set to dis­ap­pear from the emerg­ing pro-cir­cuit.

The mu­ral de­picts MP clutch­ing at the wall for sup­port af­ter stag­ger­ing min­utes af­ter he won the event. The mo­ment was cap­tured in an iconic pho­to­graph that the mu­ral’s artist re­pro­duced in what ap­pears to be a spray-painted sten­cil.

As is the way with un­of­fi­cial works of pub­lic art, no one is en­tirely cer­tain when the mu­ral ap­peared on the very wall that propped Peter­son up that day.

Over the years, MP him­self has been pho­tographed stand­ing be­side it, be­fore his un­timely death by heart at­tack in 2012 at the age of 59.

Over time, the el­e­ments have eroded the red of the board­shorts and the mu­ral’s finer de­tail, but the fig­ure re­mains, as much a part of the Gold Coast’s surf­ing sub­cul­ture as Michael Peter­son’s of­fi­cial memo­rial at the end of Kirra groyne.

It goes with­out say­ing a mu­ral of a man steeped in so much mys­tery would gen­er­ate some mys­tery of its own. The Burleigh Pavil­ion is now un­der­go­ing a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar facelift and many lo­cals and vis­i­tors have won­dered what will be­come of the un­of­fi­cial art­work.

The Pavil­ion’s new owner and re­de­vel­oper Ben May says the plan is to pre­serve it.

“I’m a surfer so I’m fully aware of who and what MP was,” he says. “He was a bit of an enigma, pretty spe­cial, they reckon the most ta­lented ever re­ally.”

So word got out – they were look­ing for the mys­tery artist who’d cre­ated the MP mu­ral to re­turn to the scene for some touch ups. Who do you turn to in the mod­ern world to learn the word on the street? Who else but the lo­cal barista.

Mar­cus Wilkins from Nook, Burleigh’s well­pa­tro­n­ised cof­fee hole in the wall but a stone’s throw from the art­work, started ask­ing ques­tions.

The mys­tery artist has since been iden­ti­fied, a for­mer sign-writer turned health worker who we won’t name here. But, as with all great mys­ter­ies, even when it seems they might be solved, an­other mys­tery un­folds.

The ini­tials that now ap­pear with the mu­ral are “MH” and “AB”, not the ini­tials of the artist and not the ini­tials of Michael Peter­son. Ear­lier pho­to­graphs of the mu­ral show the let­ters were not there orig­i­nally but, again, no one is quite sure when they ap­peared. Ben is in­trigued. “I want to know what the MH and AB ini­tials stand for,” he says. “I’d un­der­stand if it was MP but I don’t know who the oth­ers are.”

And that’s no doubt how the enig­matic MP would have wanted it.

PI­ANO ROCK, TAMBORINE MOUN­TAIN ROAD

Many a passer-by has been struck by the dis­cor­dant sight of a pi­ano perched pre­car­i­ously on the side of a hill on the road be­tween Mount Tamborine and Been­leigh.

The nat­u­ral rock no doubt looked un­can­nily like an up­right pi­ano for hun­dreds of years be­fore a lo­cal wag (or wags) de­cided to un­der­score the phe­nom­e­non with a pot of white paint and some strate­gic black lines.

Mount Tamborine his­to­rian and ar­chiv­ist Paul Lyons says it seems the pi­ano first ap­peared in the 1950s and there are a few lo­cal the­o­ries on who the orig­i­nal artists were, most likely linked to some of the orig­i­nal fam­i­lies who set­tled on the moun­tain.

In ear­lier times au­thor­i­ties took to the rock with black paint to oblit­er­ate the folk art but the white keys, com­plete with black sharps and flats, reg­u­larly reap­peared. Last year ABC Ra­dio pre­sen­ter Peter Gooch claimed to have spo­ken to a man, who de­clined to go pub­lic, but said he and his mates in­dulged in a spot of pub­lic artistry one dark night in 1966 but it was a one-off ef­fort.

Art his­to­ri­ans would no doubt find there have been any num­ber of artists who’ve done their bit in re­in­stat­ing and main­tain­ing the Pi­ano Rock paint­work over the past sixty odd years, some more tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient than oth­ers and some adding their own flour­ishes. Pi­ano-play­ing scare­crows have also been known to make an ap­pear­ance, not sur­pris­ingly around the time of Tamborine Moun­tain’s an­nual scare­crow fes­ti­val, but they too are in­ter­mit­tent per­form­ers.

To­day Pi­ano Rock is a land­mark on the road, still catch­ing out unini­ti­ated mo­torists, and seem­ingly main­tained by artists un­known.

JA­COBS WELL

We’ve all seen the stick­ers: Where the hell is Ja­cobs Well? In case you’re not up with the big news, lo­cals are al­most cer­tain they’ve found the lo­ca­tion of the mys­tery land­mark the set­tle­ment is named af­ter.

Two years ago, Ja­cobs Well res­i­dents Chas Watt and Dave Mayo un­der­took their own in­ves­ti­ga­tions, un­cov­er­ing a gov­ern­ment map from the late 1880s where, through com­puter mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, they found a de­fin­i­tive dot with two words: Ja­cobs Well.

It was a eu­reka mo­ment that di­rected sur­vey­ors to pin­point the site, the Lion’s Park next to the boat ramp car park on Ja­cobs Well Road.

“We were pretty happy to solve the mys­tery,” Dave says. “The orig­i­nal well mightn’t be there any­more but Ja­cobs Well has an abun­dance of ground­wa­ter so it makes sense.”

His­tor­i­cal ac­counts record sea­far­ers, trav­ellers and drovers call­ing at the well since the mid-1800s. But, of course, un­cov­er­ing the fa­bled well’s lo­ca­tion only

solves half the mys­tery. Up­dated stick­ers should now be ask­ing: Who the hell is Ja­cob?

Fram­ing the ques­tion in such a man­ner would be highly un­suit­able if one the­ory is cor­rect: that the name is taken from the bi­b­li­cal ref­er­ence to Ja­cob’s Well.

An­other the­ory is it was named af­ter Ja­cob, the old­est son of an early set­tler at Pim­pama Is­land, who dis­cov­ered the well when he was out hunt­ing and fish­ing. Dave says the on­go­ing lo­cal re­search has found there were ac­tu­ally a num­ber of Ja­cobs in the area at the time and, as is bound to hap­pen when you go dig­ging around in his­tory, at least one of them was not a nice char­ac­ter.

“You wouldn’t want to know him,” Dave says. “By all ac­counts, he was a bit of a nasty old fella, not kind to the indige­nous peo­ple or any­one else.”

The Ja­cobs Well Progress As­so­ci­a­tion is now try­ing to get the well site her­itage-listed and is push­ing for a “sig­nif­i­cant land­mark” to be erected there – “a bit more than a rock and a plaque any­way,” Dave reck­ons.

FROGGY’S BEACH

There is some­thing of the chicken and egg here – or, in this case, the frog and spawn. Did Froggy’s Beach be­come Froggy’s be­fore or af­ter the beach’s sen­try, a frog-shaped rock, was painted bright green?

It’s thought the iri­des­cent Froggy has been over­look­ing the surf at Snap­per Rocks since at least the early 1960s, pos­si­bly ear­lier.

Le­gend has it the rock was first painted by two brothers Harry and Frank Dor­rough. Frank was a handy­man who worked for Jack Evans, the man who ran the nearby shark and dol­phin en­clo­sures at Snap­per Rocks in the mid-1950s, one of the area’s ear­li­est tourist at­trac­tions.

The out­line of the old ocean en­clo­sures can still be seen to­day, as can Froggy who’s had many a sur­rep­ti­tious coat of paint since then.

In the in­ter­ests of pub­lic sen­ti­ment, the Gold Coast City Coun­cil knows well enough to leave Froggy green and when there are re­ports of van­dal­ism – Froggy has been known to sport spots, stripes and as­sorted tags over the years – Coun­cil work­ers come to the res­cue.

It’s not known what par­tic­u­lar shade of green Coun­cil stocks for the pur­pose, and cer­tainly the Coun­cil is not en­cour­ag­ing such unau­tho­rised pub­lic art projects, but it seems Froggy has at­tained pro­tected species sta­tus.

BURLEIGH FORE­SHORE PINE TREES

It seems the rain­bow lori­keets have been screech­ing on sun­set in Burleigh’s iconic Nor­folk pines since time im­memo­rial. But, of course, the her­itage-listed pines are not na­tive and al­most didn’t get be­yond sapling stage af­ter they were planted by a lo­cal fam­ily in 1934.

Around 100 pines were put in along the shore­line and in what’s now known as Justins Park, named af­ter the Justins fam­ily who were lo­cal shop­keep­ers in Burleigh dur­ing the 1930s.

It was the Justins brothers who bought the saplings that were trans­ported from Syd­ney and planted them near the beach, only to find when they went back to tend them, around 60 trees had been re­moved.

Ini­tial re­ports blamed van­dals but it turned out the lo­cal coun­cil at the time had de­cided, in their wis­dom, to de­stroy the trees. It sparked a pub­lic outcry and the coun­cil re­in­stated the pines run­ning along the fore­shore up the na­tional park, where they re­main to this day.

MATEY THE DOG

The memo­rial statue of Matey the dog in Surfers Par­adise was struck in 1957 to com­mem­o­rate a stray, much loved for his habit of ac­com­pa­ny­ing pa­trons home from the Surfers Par­adise Ho­tel in the 1940s and 50s. Matey, the kelpie-cross, was an iden­tity among lo­cals and tourists and lived on the streets of Surfers Par­adise for 12 years. In all tributes to Matey, he is re­ferred to as home­less but it seems new ev­i­dence could turn pop­u­lar folk­lore on its head.

Could it be Matey, much like his com­pan­ions, had a home but pre­ferred to spend his time at the lo­cal pub?

Long-time Gold Coast res­i­dent Linda Duck­worth, who was Linda Cum­mins, says her par­ents al­ways told them the famed Matey was their fam­ily dog when they lived at Broad­beach.

“Mum said he was con­stantly nick­ing off to Surfers Par­adise Ho­tel and would spend days away from home. Mum used to go and pick him up and bring him home but he kept go­ing wan­der­ing. She told us she once found him asleep in the mid­dle of the Cav­ill Av­enue and Pa­cific High­way in­ter­sec­tion.”

Linda has pho­tos of the dog she be­lieves was Matey when she and her older sis­ter were very young chil­dren, prob­a­bly taken in 1953-54. But it seems no lo­cal mys­tery could be quite so clear-cut.

“My aunt (who’s still alive) reck­ons we didn’t move to Broad­beach any ear­lier than 1952 and the old blokes who re­mem­ber him (Matey) say he was there in the late 40s,” Linda says. “So I guess that part of the fam­ily folk­lore could be a fur­phy.”

Per­haps, but what’s a lo­cal mys­tery with­out a good red her­ring or two. The bronze statue of Matey orig­i­nally stood on the busy cor­ner of Cav­ill Av­enue and the Gold Coast High­way but was re­lo­cated to the more se­date Cav­ill Park some years later where he re­mains to­day — a move it seems the real Matey (who­ever he was) might not have en­tirely ap­proved of.

DO IT YOUR­SELF ROAD, TAMBORINE MOUN­TAIN

Ah, the pi­o­neer­ing spirit. When lo­cals’ re­quests for a road link­ing Tamborine Vil­lage with the coast re­peat­edly fell on deaf ears, they de­cided they’d build one them­selves. In the mid-1950s, four men set to work clear­ing a path along a ridge, en­list­ing the as­sis­tance of trucks and bull­doz­ers from the lo­cal tim­ber mill.

When a rough track emerged, the Tamborine Moun­tain Progress As­so­ci­a­tion took over the project, co-or­di­nat­ing vol­un­teer work­ers and rais­ing funds through sell­ing pro­duce at a stall at Cur­tis Falls for more than two years. By the end of 1959, traf­fic was able to travel on a nar­row gravel road to the bot­tom of the moun­tain and a bus ser­vice be­gan to and from the high school at South­port, giv­ing lo­cal fam­i­lies an al­ter­na­tive to send­ing their chil­dren to board­ing school. Through a state gov­ern­ment grant, the Al­bert and Beaudesert coun­cils were able to seal their sec­tions of the road and in 1964, the Tamborine-Ox­en­ford Road was gazetted a main road.

The of­fi­cial name was not widely used, how­ever. Lo­cals had al­ready dubbed the car­riage­way the Do It Your­self Road, a name that stuck for many years on the moun­tain and is still used by old timers to­day.

Clock­wise from main: Burleigh Pavil­ion mu­ral; Froggy’s; Matey the dog im­mor­talised in Surfers Par­adise and the statue’s ru­moured in­spi­ra­tion; Burleigh’s iconic pine trees; and Mt Tamborine’s pre­car­i­ous painted pi­ano.

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