The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - FRONT PAGE -

DECADES be­fore Ci­tyCats, Queen­sPlaza, Ca­role Had­dad coif­fure, South Bank, the Go Be­tween Bridge, Eat Street, Expo 88 and the air­port tun­nel speed­way, there was sunny laid-back Brissie, the swellest coun­try town in all Aus­tralia.

If you were a lo­cal back then and you got the urge to visit the Big Smoke (Syd­ney), do­mes­tic flights were in the kinder­garten. In­stead, you took a tram to the old in­ter­state train sta­tion at South Bris­bane, jumped on the rat­tler, rocked and rolled down the eastern se­aboard for 19 hours – and then you copped it.

Big Smok­ers treated you like ET- want­ing to know where you kept your other head, if you’d seen talk­ing pic­tures yet, if your milk came in bot­tles and if f you still had to ride your push­bike to work. Bris­bane meant cul­tural limbo, some­where to go if you wanted a gig­gle or a beer af­ter 6pm. Brissie pubs closed at 10, Syd­ney’s locked off at six o’clock and they hated us for it.

Big Smok­ers had Brissie pegged as fol­lows: no proper shops, no proper tucker, no proper peo­ple. Just a silly lit­tle river that didn’t know where it was go­ing. Syd­ney had The Har­bour, The Bridge, Luna Park, Manly fer­ries and Bondi Beach. What did we have? Back­yard thun­der boxes (with red­back spi­ders). Vis­it­ing Big Smok­ers trekking up back­yards on rainy morn­ings shook their eir heads. Good old Clem Jones fi­nally put a rocket un­der our t-boxes in the 1950s and porce­lain dun­nies went big.

Although rusted-on Brissie-philes chose not to dwell on it, the old town’s his­tory was far from fancy. Many of the town’s for­ward-thinkers were first cousins of the Dodgy Broth­ers but no­body took any no­tice. Brissie in the ’30s was easy liv­ing, and easy liv­ing didn’t gel with dodgy do­ings. Syd­ney had long turned a jaun­diced eye. “It’s Dodge City up there. Cross the bor­der and take your chances”.

Things haven’t changed. Hit the Big Smoke and tell them you comeme from Sin­ga­pore, LA, Barcelona or Reyk­javikey and you’ll score a glass of Veuve, a Bel­uga sand­wich, and some­one will chatt you up. Tell them you come from Bris­bane and you’ll score a meat pie, a porno movie, and a funny look!

Walk into any bash in Syd­ney and say these two magic words: Clive Palmer. The room clears in a flash. If you’d said “Joh” (in the old days) it would have been the last say you were likely to get. Ever.

Still, as the ’ 30s rolled away, Brissie rocked on. Di­ver­sions were leg­endary.

Just about ev­ery sub­urb sported a pic­ture the­atre. There were scores ofof them; some fancy, some plain (with com­mu­nity can­vas seats). Busi­ness was big through the week, block­buster on week­ends.

There were more thrills – the Break­fast Creek Pub (beer off the wood, fat T-bones and Idaho spuds) Hayles River Cruises, Bax­ter’s Crabs at Sandgate (yum), Drop Cen­tre trams (‘two to The Val­ley’), rag­ing at the O’Con­nor Boathouse (kiss-kiss), curvy sheilas on Sut­tons Beach (yeah, baby), The Fig Tree dun­nies (hello, sailor) and Child’s Wine Vine­yard at Nudgee (proper Brissie plonk for the right price).

And for good mea­sure, how about this lot: Barnes Auto (We Never Sleep), Gla­dys Mon­crief (Our Glad) at His Majesty’s, the bad houses of Mar­garet Street, the Val­ley and Stan­ley Street (come in, spin­ner), the Black and White Milk Bar (ec­stasy), Lit­tle Mis­ter Fourex, the Shin­gle Inn (but­ter­scotch ice creamm cake), the Val­ley Baths (hot bods), pubs on ev­ery city cor­ner, the Re­gent The­atre or­gan, the mys­ter­ies of Mar­jorie Nor­val and the Mayne In­her­i­tance, Roma Street mar­kets (fresh and cheap), SS Koopa cruises to Bri­bie (way cooler than Syd­ney’s clapped-out fer­ries) and our very own Paul’s ice cream and icy poles. Hey there, Syd­ney, suck ’em up, mate. On the good­time scene, volup­tuous sheilas roamed the streets of Spring Hill, and there was so much boom-boom in the Val­ley it was like the 1812 Over­ture with overkill on week­ends. Fifty Shades of Grey? Kids’ stuff.

Crafty journos prowled dark cor­ners of the Val­ley and Spring Hill for saucy sto­ries an­dan gave out with the thrills in the Sun­daySu Truth ev­ery week.

Diehard read­ers went ape. They set theth alarm, grabbed the pa­per as soon as it hit the front steps, turned the pagespa while their eye­brows bounced an­dan al­lowed bowls of rolled oats to sit un­touchedun on the ta­ble while the kids read­rea Dick Tracy and the Katzen­jam­merme Kids. When that raunchy rag waswa cleaned up, Brissie Sun­days went dead-setde limp.

By De­cem­ber 1939, Bris­bane was set to farewell the easy-liv­ing ’30s, un­awareun of what the new world war hadha in store for it.

With the speed of light, it would soon grow­gro into a boom town and its cul­tural desert tag was about to be­come a myth.

The fu­ture would come loaded with treats – nudie-cuties at the Cre­morne The­atre (The Atomic Blondes), Ge­orge Wal­lace Jnr at the The­atre Royal, Billo Smith at Cloud­land Ball­room, strut­ting sailors at the Val­ley Baths, Evie Hayes at His Majesty’s and the first post-war Miss Aus­tralia (Rhonda Kelly from Vir­ginia).

You could get a thrill un­der the Vic­to­ria Bridge, a good time on the river­side bal­cony of the Blue Moon skat­ing rink and a re­ally good time in the back row of the St James The­atre dress cir­cle. So much for the talk of a cul­tural desert.

Then, on De­cem­ber 7, 1941, the Ja­panese bombed Pearl Har­bor and Bris­bane rode straight into the slip­stream and the ride was un­for­get­table.

It is a com­mon mis­be­lief that Expo 88 was the mir­a­cle that gave Bris­bane its long-awaited emer­gence as a hap­pen­ing place. Not by a long shot, mate; not by a long shot.

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