Australian Short Stories – Back to Imbil

It was a busy time after we moved to Imbil. Beat had to get Glenda and Jill settled in their new school as well as organize our new home. It was a whole new experience for us to be living in a house with someone else even if it was my Mum. However we needn’t have worried, it all worked out well and Mum was pleased to have our company. We moved about the middle of February 1955, and I was able to bring the David Brown to Imbil soon after and do the poughing for our new enterprise. We reckoned we had earned a holiday, so we splashed out and did something different by booking a house at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast and after getting settled in to our home in Imbil, we set off on the holiday and the start of another new and interesting chapter in our lives.

We had a wonderful time with the kids, the house we rented was a beauty that belonged to a western grazier, and was right on the beach near the new Broadbeach Hotel. It had a big yard fronting the ocean, which was a great place for the kids to play. We could literally fall out of bed into the sea, and I think that because of this a few years down the track the house had to be moved, as the beach badly eroded and almost washed the house away.

We had a great time, but we have since thought how lucky we were as there were plenty of rips in the surf. However ignorance is bliss and all went well. The Gold Coast then is nothing like it is now. The boom was just beginning, and the Broadbeach Hotel quite near us was new and right up with the times and was a symbol of the boom. About thirty years later this beautiful building was considered to be out of date and was razed to make way for a bigger and better one.

We came home on Saturday March 26, 1955 during what turned out to be a very big and very wet cyclone, particularly for the Mary River and its tributaries. When we crossed the Hornibrook Highway huge waves were hitting the side of the bridge and almost breaking on the road, and the spray from them was all over the car. We got home OK but Yabba creek was rising quickly and rain was pouring down so the best place was in the house.

About seven o’clock that night there was a power failure which we thought was a normal happening considering the conditions. About an hour later I decided to take a walk outside, and when I went out the back gate was walking in water up to my ankles. As the creek was at least two hundred yards (about 200 meters) away creek water was the last thing I expected. The annual floods usually came up a bit above the handrails on the traffic bridge but never any thing like this. We had checked the water height at dark and there was no need for concern then. The house was on high stumps but after paddling in water just outside (it was still raining cats and dogs) we decided to evacuate the house. We knew this was no ordinary flood because of the smell and the noise from the rising water.

I walked to the fowl house in water above my knees and grabbed the chooks off their roost and put them on the roof thinking they would at least have a chance if the creek kept rising which it did. We found out later that the last ten feet (3 meters) of rise came on the creek in less than an hour due to the torrential rain in the catchment area. There were no lights anywhere and Beat and I decided to go to the Methodist Church Hall which was on a hill with no chance of flooding, and stay there for the night or for as long as was necessary.

We didn’t worry about possessions but got my Mum, the kids and a few blankets, and headed out. Glenda, Jill, and Pam thought it was great fun, and to get to the road we drove through about eighteen inches of water. Before we left we alerted our neighbours, none of whom were yet aware they were in the middle of a big flood. The street soon became a flurry of activity. After settling the family in the hall, I returned to help other families to move.

There was no time to think of moving belongings as the creek was still rising at an alarming rate and the idea was to get everyone out without anyone drowning. I remember floating cars along the street to higher ground through four or five feet of water. It was still raining heavily and we didn’t know when the flood would ease, although common sense told us that as the water spread the rise should be slower. After all were out of danger I went to the church to Beat and the kids about ten o’clock..

The rain eased, and about two o’clock in the morning and I decided to go for a drive and see what was happening. To my amazement I was able to drive to the house with no sign of any water. The chooks were still on the fowl house roof and I put them back on their perches without loss. The damage was evident next morning. All the fences were washed over and covered with weed and an electric light pole in our paddock which brought power to the town had been washed out, and it was more than a week before it could be replaced.

The remarkable thing was, because it had rained heavily after the flood had receded there was no silt covering the ground, nor was there any wash on the ground I had ploughed several weeks before. If it hadn’t been for the fences a casual observer would not have known there had been a flood. The full extent of the damage became evident as the creek returned to normal.

The traffic bridge had disappeared, except for the piles and we also found out that the other bridge over the creek at Yabbavale had also been washed away, which completely isolated the town by road. The bridge had been constructed at the original creek crossing to the town, but a weir built on the creek about a kilometer down stream a few years previously, made the old crossing too deep for safe use..

The rail line to Gympie was unharmed and was usable within a week. All telephone communication out of the town had been destroyed, and this was a concern to the Council and State Government. The first contact from Gympie came from an Army Duck and crew who brought with them the council engineer to survey and report the damage. The kids were happy with this as many of them including Glenda and Jill got to have a ride up the main street in the Duck. The Shire Council moved quickly to repair the damaged bridge and with the help of local timber contractor Ollie Dwyer and his bulldozer began work to construct a temporary bridge. Even so it was more than two months before the bridge was trafficable.

We settled down after the flood and I got a job in Luttons Mill in town and renewed acquaintances with my old work mates. There was also a lot of work to restore all the fences and I had little or no spare time for several weeks. We were lucky we had no cattle at the time of the flood the whole property had been covered with water. The house which was on high stumps had suffered no damage, even though there had been five or six feet of water under it, nor was there any damage to the fowl house or toilet. Unlike today’s toilets this one was about fifty yards from the house, but at least it was serviced by the council, unlike the one at Kandanga.

Source by Lindsay Harris

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