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


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