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Glorious yet little known hinterland gem

Residents and visitors gather to celebrate the hall centenary in 2017.


Glorious yet little known hinterland gem

Cooloolabin may not be one of the better-known  Sunshine Coast localities but, writes AUDIENNE BLYTH, it sits like a gem in the crown behind Yandina.

The views from Point Glorious extend to the Pacific Ocean, from Double Island Point to the Glasshouse Mountains and on a hot day, the air is always cooler at Cooloolabin than on the coast.

Visitors are impressed with the heavily-timbered forest, now Mapleton National Park, and the dam. There is evidence of use by First Nations people. The name Cooloolabin comes from Aboriginal words meaning place of native bears.

Centrepiece of the locality is the Cooloolabin Hall, first known as the School of Arts and officially opened in January 1917. And 107 years later, it is run by Cooloolabin Hall Association Incorporated, CHAI.

The Fraser family were the first settlers and gave land for the hall and a tennis court. Other early settler families who worked to establish the hall were Ivins, Grigor, Kennison, Humphreys, Hillier, Love, Smith, McBaron, Drummond, Morrison and Allendorf. Subscriptions funded a lending library and a piano and an accordion for dances and social occasions.

Some of the first groups to use the hall were church groups – Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and the Salvation Army which took one Sunday each month, generally arriving by horse.

A rifle club and farmers’ groups met there. Timber getting, dairying and growing bananas and citrus were the early industries. The Cooloolabin State School functioned as a one-teacher school from 1915-1962. Children were then taken by bus to nearby schools.

By 1919, a Lawn Tennis Club had been established. In an idyllic setting, families would gather to play tennis Saturday afternoons followed by a basket tea and a dance “‘til all hours” in the hall.

In the 1920s, “picture man” Mr Moskyn travelled to the hall once a month to show silent films with his own portable projector.

The Johnston family delivered cream three times a week to Yandina in a two-horse wagon. They returned with mail and groceries. In the 1930s they used an A-model Ford utility. This mail service continued into the 1950s. Facilities were gained by perseverance and lobbying.

Communication by 1938 was by public pay telephone which sat in a box on a fence outside Arthur and Gladys Johnston’s house. Later, a telephone exchange serving the four to six resident families was built in the Johnston’s house and looked after 24 hours a day by Gladys.

It closed in 1963 and was replaced by a direct line through to Yandina. Power came in 1965.

Residents depend on the condition of Cooloolabin Road and have always campaigned for improvements.

Cooloolabin’s vast timber resources have been used by various sawmills.

Jocumsen’s Sawmill operated there from 1919 to the mid 1920s. Fosters’ Sawmill operated from 1932-1945. During World War II, a US Navy team, the 55th Seabees, supplied large quantities of sawn timber and piles for wharves on bases in the Pacific.

Wilkinsons’ Yandina Sawmill was kept supplied with logs.

In February 1954, one of the worst cyclones to strike the Sunshine Coast demolished the hall. With community working bees and donations it was rebuilt using the salvaged timbers and was re-opened at a Grand Ball on August, 13, 1955.

During the 1950s and 1960s, catering for social functions meant hearty suppers of sandwiches and cakes. The hall had a reputation for good dances on an excellent floor.

The Image Flat-Cooloolabin Fire Brigade and the community have supported modernisation of the hall and it continues to provide a gathering point.

 Cooloolabin, Gem of the Hinterland, by Audienne Blyth and Elaine Ogilvie, can be purchased from the hall committee, call 0409 493 305.


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