When bigger was considered much better
Big was the mark of successful tourism on the Sunshine Coast in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
The Big Pineapple, the Big Cow, the Big Shell and the Big Stubby are among the icons that are still fondly recalled by residents and visitors. In 2016, there is real nostalgia.
Children who enjoyed visits to all things big now bring their children and grandchildren, even if they wonder what all the fuss is about. What’s big compared to a theme park with lots of action?
The opening of the Big Pineapple at Woombye on August 15, 1971, brought great publicity for the Sunshine Coast.
The Bruce Highway went right past its front door, so you couldn’t miss it even if you wanted to, and visitors came from miles around just to gaze upon it.
Little wonder it was to become Australian’s most visited tourist attraction during the 1970s.
The Big Pineapple and Sunshine Plantation was established by Bill and Lyn Taylor and was visited by royalty, celebrities and political leaders. At the top of the list was Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1983.
Admission was free so visitors could have a good look around without spending a cent.
They could climb the steps inside the 16m high fibreglass pineapple to take pictures from the little balcony and to admire the view of the pineapple plantation.
An educational display showed how pineapples were grown, picked and processed at the Golden Circle Cannery.
Remember the train ride around the plantation with a commentary about the fruit industry? The animal nursery? The rainforest? The tow rope which helped walkers up the hill?
And nobody could forget the pineapple parfaits and fruit sundaes served with lashings of whipped cream.
Many would recall dinners and parties, weddings, school graduations and pleasant afternoons spent in the big Polynesian room.
Tragedy hit in 1978 when a fire destroyed the market and restaurant but these were later rebuilt.
The Taylors sold out in 1981 and since then there have been several different owners, but its glory days are long since over.
The Big Cow at Kulangoor, halfway between Nambour and Yandina was another “big” achievement.
The late Hugh Anderson, who also crafted Rockhampton’s big bulls, built it for Des and Barbara Scanlan and it opened in 1976, when the dairy industry was still prominent on the Sunshine Coast.
Staff dressed as milk maids and, in the restaurant, sold chocolate or strawberry milk from simulated teats.
Trips around the farm were by trolley behind a tractor with a horn that sounded “moo”.
Visitors could watch a cow being milked, visit the animal nursery or go for a bush walk.
Steam trains brought tourists from Brisbane who would get off at Kulangoor for a day at the Big Cow. Local school groups arrived in buses.
Des Scanlan was himself a big and big-hearted man.
He founded a full-time rescue service called “the Milky Way” which operated from the Big Cow.
In 1983 it was relocated to Maroochy Airport.
In Tewantin, The Big Stubby was established at the House of Bottles in 1966 and was Queensland’s first “big” thing.
The house was built from 35,000 bottles. An advertisement on the outside of the stubby first advertised XXXX although this was later changed to ginger beer.
Children delighted in climbing the spiral stairs inside and coming down the slippery slide which was on the outside.
The building included a museum of 5000 bottles and a history of bottles. It closed in 2003 so only memories remain.
The Big Shell was originally built as a focal point for a coloured sand museum in Tewantin. It opened in the 1960s and is still open.
A 6m concrete baler shell stands at the entrance to the shop featuring a wonderful collection of shells from around the world or, as the owner says, the “tropical lifestyle store” where you can buy collectables.
Older postcards show the big shell painted in triton colours but it is now back to its true baler colours. It remains a shell collector’s heaven.
There was also the Super Bee at Tanawha, the Big Mower at Beerwah and the Big Strawberry at Doonan, and that’s without even travelling interstate to the Big Banana or the Big Prawn.
We may well wonder if our part of the world is obsessed with “big”.
We are sentimental about those still standing and we certainly lament those we have lost.
We recall good times taking our children to all the big things and we would wish that on our children’s children.
Tourism needs to equate with good times.