The Five-Ways, GympieTin Can Bay Circa 2013
The passing of Esther Williams a few days ago at the age of 91 years rekindled memories of an era long gone; memories of a time of innocence.
Williams was one of a kind. Her MGM extravaganzas were very popular when I was a little girl. Williams remained glamorous even when wet; a remarkable accomplishment not easily or successfully achieved by many!
When I was a kid growing up in Gympie, I never missed Saturday matinees; and I never missed an Esther Williams picture.
Around noon on Saturdays, my brother and I met our mates, separately, of course, at the little milk bar adjoining Gympie’s Olympia Picture Theatre.
Within easy walking distance from home, we’d shortcut either through the Gas Works or past the old Tar Works to get there. The Gas Works was across the road and over a bit from where we lived; and the old Tar Works that regularly went up in flames in the middle of the night was just down a little dead-end street. The Tar Works was a great spot to play. Many childhood adventures and imaginary games were held there; more of which I will go into detail about at a later time. Both the Gasworks and the Tar Works no longer exist. A community park and a carpark have replaced them.
Actually, we had a choice of three shops from which to buy our matinee treats. Along with the theatre’s adjoining milk bar, there was Condie’s Café. Condie's sat on a corner diagonally across the Five-Ways from the picture theatre. The area was, and still is, called the Five-Ways because five streets merge into one at that area.
Mellor Street, Lawrence Street, Carlton Hill, Caledonian Hill and Mary Street all meet up for a chat at the Five-Ways.
Condie’s Café, amongst other tasty delights, sold milkshakes, malted milk and large glasses of icy-cold orange juice that made the roof of your mouth ache painfully, but that never deterred us. In joyous sufferance, we forged forth, sucking on our straws to the very last drop.
Opposite Condie’s, on the other side of Mary Street, was Webster’s Corner Store. Webster’s sold a limited variety of groceries, along with fruit, vegetables, pies, pasties, sausage rolls, drinks, ice cream and confectionery…lots and lots of confectionery; enough to get a child’s heart beating excitedly! The best goodies Webster’s sold other than Harry’s Bakery’s pies and pasties, crisp green apples and OK Potato Chips were their shop-made fresh fruit salad ice-blocks.
To digress for a moment, OK Potato Chips were the first potato chips I ever tried. Delving into my mind's memory bank, I can still see the green, red and white packaging bearing the crunchy crisps.
Back to the fruit salad ice blocks – individually wrapped, they were laden with chunks of fruit, and at times, whole grapes. The fruit salad ice blocks cost tuppence each. The price rose to the princely sum of threepence when inflation hit town.
Those were our choices of shops in which to spend our precious, hard-earned pocket money. Brazenly tempting young customers, packets of Fantails, Minties and Jaffas sat on the shelves alongside Maltesers, salted peanuts and chocolate-coated almonds. We succumbed without putting up a fight; which one to choose was the difficulty, but we somehow managed to shove indecision aside. Part of our pocket money was spent on a drink or maybe, two depending on our cash flow; and, of course, the ticket to get into the pictures. The balance of our pittance was spent at “half time” aka “interval” when refreshments were needed to see us through the rest of the afternoon.
Tom & Jerry, Mr. Magoo, Droopy or Heckle & Jeckle, along with an episode of the weekly serial, starring J. Carrol Naish as the “baddy” (of course) entertained the audience before the second feature began rolling. Extra sustenance was necessary to get us through the ensuing couple of hours; not to forget the energy needed to roll Jaffas down the aisles!
One weekend we went to Tin Can Bay, a small fishing village 53kms (33 miles) from Gympie. It wasn't an unusual occurrence for our little family unit. We visited Tin Can Bay often. Our mother loved fishing and crabbing; mud crabs. While she was occupied with those pleasures, Nana would take my brother, Graham and I oyster-collecting. We'd each be armed with oyster knives, a large container each; and off we'd go. I drool at the memory! Oysters straight off the rocks...there's little else more delicious. We ate as we went along; and always arrived back to where we were staying with our large jars filled to brim with fresh oysters. We may not have had a lot of money, but we certainly ate well on fresh fish, mud crabs and oysters!
Back in those days, Tin Can Bay's housing/accommodation wasn't flash by any shape or form. It was all very simple and humble. Most of the houses were either made out of fibro and/or corrugated galvanised iron. And in most of the places we stayed lighting was by means of hurricane lamps and kerosene lamps. Mosquito coils were a must!
On the particular weekend I'm discussing here, Mum went fishing as was her wont. Nana remained with my brother and me.
Tin Can Bay’s open-air picture venue was a few yards (and a couple of house yards) over the back from where we were staying for the weekend.
On the Saturday night Graham and I sat outside under the stars on a blanket. Beside us a 44-gallon drum filled with smouldering cow manure kept the mozzies and sandflies away while we watched Esther Williams in “Dangerous When Wet”.
Tin Can Bay's sandflies, in particular, were vicious little beggars; and they just loved me! The feeling wasn't mutual!
The next day in the Bay’s netted salt-water swimming enclosure that was then situated not far from where the dolphin feeding is conducted nowadays we emulated Esther Williams’ feats; perhaps not as gracefully!
Chive-Parmesan Potato Chips: Grab a large potato…a red-skin would be good. Scrub the spud. Using a mandoline slicer cut potato, lengthwise into very thin slices. Combine slices with 1tbs oil in bowl; add 3tbs each grated Parmesan and minced fresh chives and 3/4tsp salt; toss gently to coat. Arrange slices in single layer on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake in preheated 205C oven, 18-20mins, until golden. Some chips will cook quicker than others; just remove those as you go along.
Jaffa Fudge: Line a small brownie tin with baking paper. Place 300g dark chocolate and 395g condensed milk in glass bowl; microwave 1min. Stir mixture until chocolate dissolves; microwave again for 30secs, if necessary. Stir through 1 cup of Jaffas; pour into prepared tin; chill until set; slice; enjoy!
Jaffa Fudge Cake: Preheat oven to 160°C. Line two 25cm x 7cm bar tins with baking paper. Put 1/4c baking Cocoa, 1-1/4c S.R. flour and 125g butter in processor; process until combined. Add 1c sweetened condensed milk, 2 eggs, 2tbs orange rind and 1/2c orange juice; process until combined; spoon into prepared tins; sprinkle 1/2c chopped pecans over the top; bake 30mins until cooked. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Melt ½ c milk chocolate bits, 25g butter and 1/4c condensed milk until melted. Spread over cakes; cool a little; decorate with ½ packet of Jaffas (eat the rest or roll them over the kitchen floor)!
Spiked Coconut Milkshake: Blend until smooth, 3c caramel ice cream, 1c unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4tsp salt and 30ml dark rum; add 1/2c toasted shredded coconut; pulse briefly. Line glasses with chocolate syrup; divide milkshake between glasses; top with whipped cream, shaved dark chocolate and toasted coconut.