Been­leigh will soon cel­e­brate 150 years and, though it’s no longer a Gold Coast town­ship, its com­mu­nity spirit lives on

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

THE Gold Coast lost a town­ship. This place was once proudly all fire and cane, renowned for its rum. Been­leigh, you could be for­given for think­ing, is bug­gered, but you’re wrong.

Fam­i­lies are about to cel­e­brate 150 years of pi­o­neer­ing spirit.

Com­mu­nity worker June Hintz called your colum­nist, des­per­ate to get the word out that or­gan­is­ers of the cel­e­bra­tions pro­moted by the Been­leigh His­tor­i­cal Village and Mu­seum were try­ing to track down the town’s old­est pro­mo­tional mod­els.

The Glit­ter Strip has its glo­ri­ous his­tory of meter maids but Been­leigh had Cane Queens and an an­nual street pa­rade which in the 1960s at­tracted more than 20,000.

“We have spent months look­ing around town with lit­tle suc­cess. What we learnt talk­ing to peo­ple is most have ei­ther moved to the Gold Coast or gone else­where,” Ms Hintz wrote.

The Cane Queens quest con­tin­ued un­til a few years ago. One of the last en­trants was a bloke.

“We as a town where the post­code at­tacks snob­bery – well, this sin­gle event gave our kids hope,” Ms Hintz said.

The signs of strug­gle are al­ways there now. Nearby fac­to­ries close, farms on the Lo­gan River fight the prawn white spot dis­ease.

A gi­ant shop­ping mall pro­ject – you can see it at the Been­leigh exit on the east­ern side of the Pa­cific Mo­tor­way – is aban­doned. The only visitors are bud­ding graf­fiti artists.

How did a mate, an un­der­dog with com­mu­nity spirit, get re­moved from the Coast, shoved around be­tween au­thor­i­ties like an or­phan?

Been­leigh was the thriv­ing north­ern civic cen­tre when the Coast had two coun­cils – Al­bert look­ing after the farm­ing and growth com­mu­ni­ties in the north and Gold Coast City cov­er­ing the Glit­ter Strip and canal es­tates. Al­bert be­came part of the new Gold Coast City Coun­cil in 1995 but Been­leigh a decade later drafted into Lo­gan City. Imag­ine going from the Coast to Lo­gan?

Anne Hack­wood, who or- gan­ised the Cane Queen Quest, knows the his­tory bet­ter than any­one. Her hus­band Ray, a straight shooter, was elected to all three coun­cils.

“I can tell you that most of the peo­ple in Been­leigh would still rather be in the Gold Coast. We’re on the south side of the Lo­gan River,” Mrs Hack­wood told your colum­nist.

“There was a sign – Welcome to the Gold Coast. We used to like hav­ing it up. I think we al­ways should be part of it.”

The Pa­cific Mo­tor­way by­pass­ing Been­leigh, the trans­port links like rail opening and clos­ing across the decades, none of this helped.

When June Hintz thinks about the fu­ture week­end cel­e­bra­tions planned from Novem­ber 3, her thoughts turn to the past and writer Mark Twain trav­el­ling in Lon­don in the late 1890s.

Gold Coast peo­ple, you’ve heard the ru­mours of your lost brother Been­leigh’s death. They are greatly ex­ag­ger­ated.

Ge­orge St, Been­leigh in 1895, when it was still a Gold Coast town­ship.

A car cross­ing the Lo­gan River Bridge at Been­leigh circa 1930; and for­mer coun­cil­lor Ray Hack­wood with his wife Anne.

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