Asbestos Manor on the Market!

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity to own this amazing Hervey Bay seafront property!!!

Rockhampton's Infamous Sexy Rexy

Australia's Best Ever Mayor.

Sir William McMahon, Silly Billy.

Australia's 20th PM was a bit suss...

A (near) Royal Visit.

Prince Charles upstaged by an elephant out back of the Black Stump

TV's Original Nasty Judge.

Australia's Bernard King - The Original and the Best.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Boat People

Friday, 1 February 2013

Before and After The Election.

The Brisbane Worker in 1901 in commenting on our very first federal election.

Page 1, Before The Election

Page 4, And After

Monday, 31 December 2012

Notorious, Infamous, Controversial, Scandalous: Rex Pilbeam 1

In the seventies Rex Pilbeam provided constant fodder for regular 'latest redneck outrage from the Rockhampton Mayor' newspaper articles. In one article he'd defend anatomical correctness against wowsers who thought that Rockhampton's roadside statues of bulls had sinfully large and prominent testicles. In another he'd announce the punishment for vandalising his statues. “Castrate my bulls, I'll castrate you!” He scratched his own balls in public and picked his nose, while threatening to punch other people's noses. Despite everything he said, and did, Rockhampton kept electing him... for three decades!
If you have trouble reading the old
newsprint - go get your glasses,
or click the image sensually with
your mouse and it will grow.

I visit Rocky often and love the place. It's a beautiful town. The majestic Fitzroy River sweeps past grand old buildings and immaculate parks and gardens. The people are generally well educated, fun, friendly and tolerant. They do tend to worry that Rocky is seen as a hick cow town. In fact they're a bit sensitive about that - yet they elected an archetypal hick as First Citizen for 30 years.

My best friend grew up in Rocky, and did his schooling there. He's an intelligent, well educated guy. One day I made a joke about the long dead Mayor, expecting a laugh. Instead, my friend was surprised I thought Pilbeam was a redneck. I was surprised that he was surprised. I told him what Rex was like. After all, I knew! I was around when Rex was alive. I'd read about him in the paper. My friend, on the other hand, was born after Rex died. What would he know?
Click to Enlarge.

I was invited to come for a drive, and we headed up Pilbeam Drive to the top of Mt Archer and while we looked out over the city lights, I listened to a catalogue of the old boy's achievements and got a formidable reminder that people are often very different to their public image, and far removed from what you read about them in the paper.

Difficult as it is to change my obstinate mind, I'm glad it's still possible.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Bull at a Gate: Rex Pilbeam 2

Reginald Byron Jarvis Pilbeam (Rex), and his wife Barbara, arrived in Rockhampton in 1949 from Warwick. An accountant, he'd been hired as Secretary of the debt ridden Rockhampton Agricultural (Show) Society.

They arrived in a town that was once a bustling inland port exporting gold, wool and beef down the Fitzroy River. Grand stone civic buildings had been erected in anticipation of Rockhampton being proclaimed capital of the state of North Queensland, but political power had consolidated in Brisbane and the new state never eventuated. The Mt Morgan gold reserves dwindled and Rocky was allowed to decline. By the time Rex arrived it was known as a 'dusty cow town'. Little did Rocky know it, but they were about to unearth a new nugget – Rex would be pure gold for the town.

During his first 3 years in Rocky, Central Queensland suffered a record drought which was only broken by a record wet season, and if that wasn't enough – two cyclones. Undeterred Rex successfully conducted both the regular annual show and rodeo, and added new events. Even with droughts and flooding rains he reduced the Society's mortgage by £4,500, the equivalent of over $200,000 today. Prior to his appointment the Society had paid off only £1,500 – over 30 years!

One of the new attractions Rex introduced to the show.
The Billy Goat Derby

The local Morning Bulletin newspaper took to calling him a 'live-wire' and not only because of his day job. He was the original Mr Everywhere. One night singing in an eisteddfod, then on the weekend winning an 'old boys' foot race at a community picnic. He was the regular guest of honour out in the bush at nearby country shows and rodeos, lending his expertise to help small towns like Duaringa hold successful events. His wife (Mrs R. Pilbeam, never Barbara) was pressed into service at these events, judging the needlework and other genteel crafts in places like Mt Morgan.

Rex bought new events to the show grounds – a push bike racing carnival, motor bike racing, professional wrestling and more. He organised free entertainment at the grounds for local children including those from the orphanages and he ensured there were special arrangements so crippled children could attend and participate. He was involved in harness racing, was president of the North Rockhampton Football Club, on the town band committee, and organised Rockhampton's Jubilee celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Federation.
A rider from Monto takes a fall at the
1949 Rocky Round-Up.
He organised fund raising balls that were unlike anything the town had seen before - and which returned record profits. The Morning Bulletin in October 1951 described one event. Miniature rough-riders, bullock horns and ten gallon hats hung from the ceiling among green, gold and brown pennants. The stage was beautified with glorious floral displays. Another article described the planned entertainment for the 'gay proceedings'. “The guests will be entertained with exhibitions of whip cracking, tight rope walking, knife throwing, square dancing and in one of the acts Mr Dan Crotty's horse Silver will appear on the stage. A humorous feature will be ballet dancing by members of the North Rockhampton Football club.” (Drag shows haven't changed much in Rocky since.)

Dan Crotty with son Buddy on  Silver entertaining
kids at the showgrounds.

Rex knew how to put on a show!

Rocky may have been an old girl, but Rex showed the old girl how to kick up her heels!

In 1952 the council election was announced and Rex stood for Mayor. To stand for council after only 3 years in a parochial Queensland town was incredibly presumptuous. Present day Cairns Mayor Val Schier who moved to North Queensland in 1982, still has opponents declaring she's a blow-in who should 'go back to Tasmania'.

While the Morning Bulletin pondered if being better known than the Post Office clock would help Pilbeam win election to a council traditionally dominated by well established teams, Rex piled steel rods onto the floor of his car and hooked up a bullhorn. He drove round the bumpy, pot holed, gravel streets announcing over the loudspeaker, above the din of clanking steel, that if he was elected Mayor he would pave those streets.

Rex was elected, and he paved those streets.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Taking the Bull by the Horns: Rex Pilbeam 3

Historian Doug Tucker wrote that when Rex was elected, Rockhampton was a large sprawling country town with... few sealed roads, a costly, inadequate water supply, some sewerage, few amenities, high rates, and a huge debt ... Thirty years later... Rockhampton had become an attractive, well-serviced, efficiently administrated city with excellent amenities and relatively little debt.”

His Worship, Alderman Pilbeam, Mayor of Rockhampton kept his day job with the Show Society and was as tireless there as ever. In his new position he leapt to work as Mayor, paving the streets, reducing council debt and planning a resurgence of this once thriving town. He never slowed his social schedule, still singing in eisteddfods and participating in social sporting fixtures. As the Mayor he would arrange the use of council land by sporting groups. As a private citizen he would turn up to their weekend working bees, grab a shovel, and help clear the land.

He also had a dream. Rex dreamt that one day soon the men, women and children of this hot dusty town would have a decent swimming pool – an Olympic Swimming Pool. He declared that the towns aquatic athletes should not need to travel to a 'suburban quarry' like Brisbane to train. The pool would cost £60,000, and Rex had a secret plan to build that pool without spending a cent of council money. If his plan did not work, he would forgo the next 3 years of mayoral pay as penance. Rates, he decreed, were already too high.

Ever the showman, when the new bridge opened
Mayor Pilbeam organised a free concert - Rocky welcomed
the important new infrastructure with a party - and mades some money
for local charities - Rex never missed a trick!

If you want something done, ask a busy person. The more things you do, the more things you can do.” Lucille Ball

Rex worked hard, and effectively. His political opponents in the long established Labour and non-Labour Civic Advancement teams accused him of being a dreamer. He dreamed of doing things councils they had dominated for years had talked about, wondered and pondered upon, and always eventually thrown in the too hard basket. The problem for the establishment politicians was that the voters of Rockhampton saw that Rex was delivering on his dreams. He was a 'live-wire', but when did the man sleep?

He was not sleeping at 9pm on the 8th June 1953 when he was shot.

Quiz - Who shot Rex Pilbeam?

A) Political opponent

B) Disgruntled ratepayer

C) Hunting accident

Page 5: Greener Pastures