Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Rooney's Bridge

A long awaited bridge that connected the suburbs of Oonoonba and Railway Estate opened in Townsville with the usual ribbon-cutting fanfare in December 1954 and was duly named in honour of a pioneering Townsville family – the Rooney family.

Rooney’s Bridge, Abbott Street, under construction in June 1953. The sawmill in the background (formerly Rooney’s sawmill) was by that time owned by the Stanply Timber Corporation, Pty Ltd.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
The proposal for the bridge was first put forward in the 1930s, and a loan was approved by the Treasury Department in 1939, but the Second World War interrupted any plans to start work on the bridge and the project was placed on hold.

It was originally planned to construct the bridge of concrete and timber, but shortages of materials after the war prompted the Council to consider constructing the bridge from steel.

Unfortunately, when it came time to make a start on the bridge in 1949, no girder steel could be obtained in Australia and the Council reluctantly had to resort to importing the steel from Britain. The steel for the bridge did not arrive until late 1952.

Another bridge project affected by the national steel shortage was the Burdekin River Bridge, between Ayr and Home Hill, which had commenced construction in 1947.

The bridge between Railway Estate and Oonoonba represented a significant investment by the Council, as it was expected to cost £50,000. It was hoped that it would not only be of great benefit to residents living in Oonoonba, but also a catalyst for industrial development in the Stuart area.

Strangely, no provision was made for pedestrians, as it was expected that pedestrians would continue to use the existing footway on the railway bridge.

One resident wrote to the Townsville Daily Bulletin about this, saying that he felt the bridge design lacked vision. He suggested, rather hopefully, that since the old railway bridge and footbridge was in such a “parlous state” it should be pulled down, and the new road bridge built to accommodate rail and pedestrians as well.

Aerial view of Rooney's Bridge at Ross River, connecting Railway Avenue with Abbott Street, 1969.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
Once complete, the new bridge meant that Oonoonba was only minutes away from the city by road, whereas the journey had previously taken half an hour via the bridge next to the Ross River Meatworks. Although it was soon discovered that the route from the General Post Office in Flinders Street to the Fairfield Hotel in Oonoonba using the new bridge, was only two miles shorter than the old route.

Early in the planning stages, the bridge was simply referred to as the Oonoonba Traffic Bridge, but in late 1954 the council announced that it had chosen to name the bridge Rooney’s – after the Rooney family – who had been associated with the development of Townsville from around the mid 1870s.

Brothers John and Matthew Rooney established the firms Rooney Bros. (architects, builders and contractors) and Rooney and Co. (timber merchants, sawmillers and joiners) in Townsville in the 1880s, obtaining red cedar, silky oak and other timbers from throughout north Queensland.

Staff of Rooney & Co.'s Steam Saw Mills & Joinery Works, Townsville, 1934.
Photo: City Libraries Townsville.
Rooney’s built a number of buildings in Townsville, and supplied prefabricated buildings to western Queensland mining towns. To accommodate their expanding business empire, the Rooney’s built a new sawmill on banks of the Ross River, near the site of the future bridge that would bear their name.

Employing 100 men by 1897, the North Queensland Register described Rooney and Co. as “the biggest timber business in North Queensland”.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Hollywood Miniature Golf Links Cause a Stir

A miniature golf craze gripped the city of Townsville in 1930, when two indoor facilities opened only a week apart. The first miniature golf links – reportedly the first of its kind in Queensland - opened in the Paramount Theatre in Flinders Street in December 1930 and was expected to “exert a fascination over every man, woman and child”.

1920s Flinders Street, showing Don McInnes’ Tattersalls Building, where the Hollywood Miniature Golf Links opened in 1930.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
The second facility, the Hollywood Miniature Golf links in Mr Don McInnes’ Tattersalls Building in Flinders Street, was soon embroiled in controversy.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported enthusiastically on the opening of the new attraction:

“This new and charming rendezvous is to be managed by two well known and popular young ladies, the Misses Jean and Doris McInnes, while Miss Edna Linton, herself a golf enthusiast, is to act as instructor.

There is no doubt at all that this course introduces something entirely novel in the way of miniature golf. The floor space in these premises is very large, and no difficulty has been experienced in laying out with the utmost convenience the 18 large holes.

The greens themselves are made of the best felt procurable, and when playing on them, there is nothing of the billiard table feeling - it is like putting on real luxurious turf. The hazards are novel and extraordinarily interesting, and full of surprises.

The 19th hole… takes the shape of a complete cafe and soda fountain, arranged in the middle of the course.”

The writer predicted the new venue would “become the Mecca of pleasure loving Townsville, young and old.”

But the new and charming rendezvous quickly attracted the wrath of Anthony Ogden, an Alderman of the Townsville City Council, who was well known for his passionate religious convictions and his opposition to all forms of gambling.

It is probable that Ogden, who had served as Mayor of Townsville from 1924 to 1927, took exception to the new game because there was prize money being offered for tournaments, which he considered to be a form of gambling. The Hollywood Miniature Golf Links even advertised games called “Putt for Profit” and “Putt-it-Poker”.
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 4 March 1931.
Source: Trove.
In a letter to the Editor of the Bulletin in March 1931, Don McInnes, whose daughters were running the miniature golf links next door to his tobacconist shop, took a swipe at Alderman Ogden and the Mayor, Alderman J.S. Gill, calling them the “guardians of public morality”.

Mr McInnes accused the pair of becoming hysterical over the miniature golf links because it was operating on Sundays.

“Alderman Gill actually came in after church and was horrified to find the place full. Empty churches and full golf links cannot be tolerated in Townsville,” Mr McInnes said.

By May 1931, the Hollywood Miniature Golf links was being sued by the City Council, because they had not applied to the council for a license to operate the premises. The case was thrown out of court, and the Council was ordered to pay costs of £5, 5 shillings.

In November that year, Mr McInnes sued Alderman Ogden for defamation, claiming damages of £1,000. McInnes claimed that at a council meeting in March, Ogden had called him a “systematic law breaker”, and had implied that he had bribed police in order to conduct illegal gambling behind his business premises.

Alderman Ogden managed to defeat the defamation suit.