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FOND MEMORIES OF COTTON TREE By GARY RATCLIFFE (3 August 2014)
contributed by GRatcliffe
(contact GRatcliffe about this story)
COTTON TREE HOW IT WAS
28 YEARS AGO
In the 1960’s and 1970’s most vehicle traffic used to go along Cotton Tree Parade and turn into King Street and then into Sixth Avenue before proceeding to Alexandra Headlands and Mooloolaba, this was before Aerodrome Road became the main arterial road.
Cotton Tree has long been a place for families and people of all ages to go for relaxation a bite to eat and for their entertainment.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s people use to go to the picnic areas and swimming area where the Cotton Tree pool now stands and spend their weekends and holidays just soaking up the sun and swimming in the river to cool off and having a nice picnic lunch and in the 1960’s while picnicking they were able to listen to their favourite music on Radio 4NA the local radio station that opened in Nambour in 1964 on the transistor radio. Before eating at café’s and snack bar’s became popular most people took along a thermos flask or bought their hot water from the local shops at Cotton Tree and made their own tea. If they preferred to buy their meals they could eat at the Cool Corner Café on the corner of King Street and Cotton Tree Parade or buy something from the Cotton Tree Store next to Jazzland dance hall.
During the night, big crowds used to go and dance the night away at Jazzland or go to the Beach Theatre and watch all the latest movies.
Before they went to the Picture Show or Dancing they could dine at Las Vegas Bar B Q and enjoy a juicy steak, Las Vegas was located next to Cotton Tree Inn opposite the caravan park.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s things changed a little, The Cool Corner Café was taken over by Doug and Doris MacLeod in 1962 and they extensively renovated the building and designed it based on an American style Diner and opened under the new banner of Cotton Tree Inn, this was a very large premises that housed a fish and chip shop, in holiday periods they used to sell 8 large bags of potatoes as cooked chips and for those days that was a lot of potato chips the potatoes were peeled and chipped on the premises, most shops wouldn’t sell that amount of cooked chips these days, they also sold fresh sea foods, had an eat in snack bar, eat inn café and separate restaurant the “Nautilus Room” The customers were able to treat themselves to hamburgers which were relatively new to Australia at this time(another American icon). Coca Cola came in bottles not cans and a small coca cola cost 7 pence (6 cents) and a medium coke was 10 pence (9 cents) and who could forget our great tasting local soft drinks “Wimmers” bottled in Nambour since 1910. Doug and Doris also started the first smorgasbord (buffet) in the coastal area in the Nautilus Room and this proved to be popular also, many people having their Xmas Day lunch prepared for them which was very new to the area in those early days. If you wanted to have a burger or a meal you could sit at the snack bar area which was fitted out with swivel chairs which was a new experience for the coast patrons also and while dining you could listen to the music of the Beach Boys or the Beatles playing on the juke box.
During the day if the kids pocket money was running short, the kids used to climb the cotton trees opposite the Cotton Tree Inn and spend many hours there making their own fun.
In the early sixties Jazzland was destroyed by fire and the land was purchased by Chas and Hazel Lee who opened the Rollerdrome in 1965, this proved to be a popular venue and drew crowds from all of the coastal strip and hinterland areas and was a great asset to the area to entertain people of all ages, It was about 40cents admission plus 20cents skate hire to spend a two hour session on the skating rink floor. In those days the kids could leave their bikes outside the Skating Rink and go skating for 2 hours and when they came out of the skating session, the bike would still be there, I wonder if that could happen now? A Slot Car track was also in the same complex and was owned by Pat and Ron Fuller. Bob Harris operated the Takeaway in the Rollerdrome building and the takeaway was later sold to Gary Ratcliffe. These were the days when Gary used to sell hamburgers for 20 cents a steak sandwich was 25 cents and a milkshake cost 13 cents and was served in an aluminium canister not a cardboard container hot cinnamon doughnuts were 5 cents, which were the first doughnuts sold on the coast. A meat pie was 13 cents. Pauls Have a Heart (ice cream) was 10cents and an Ice Cream Soda was 12 cents.
Prior to the Rollerdrome opening there used to be an open air Skating Rink in Ocean Street, Maroochydore where the Maroochy Shire Council office now stands, this had a Penny Arcade with all penny coin in the slot machines in an arcade leading to the open air Skating Rink at the rear of the building. This was run by Vern Gilbert and family and the entrance admission price was 15 cents, including hire of skates. Some people may remember that the open air skating rink was later converted to Gilberts Nursery, selling plants and garden accessories.
In the 1960’s after the introduction of Television, most people stayed home to watch Tv and there was a rapid decline in people going to the Picture Theatre for entertainment and after Jazzland in Cotton Tree Parade was destroyed by fire Jimmy Comino decided to level the sloping floor of the Beach Theatre and the canvas seats were removed and the dancing continued there but was later reverted back to use as a Picture Theatre.
The Beach Theatre was built in the 1930’s by well known local identity “Nugget” Evans for around 2000 pounds and was sold to the Comino family about 1947.
In the daytime people used to go to the swimming area and hire canoe’s and paddle boats from Bob Attenborough who managed the Cotton Tree Council Caravan Park. In the afternoons they may have gone to the Beach Theatre and watched a matinee movie for around 30 cents admission or played mini golf at the Mini Golf in King Street operated by Doug and Doris MacLeod for about 15 cents a game or played Mini Golf at the Annex Mini Golf around the corner where Chateau Royale now stands. After playing mini golf at the Annex you could go into the Annex Snack Bar and enjoy a scrumptious burger cooked by Pat and Tom Graham.
In the early days there were only three taxi’s in Maroochydore and their base was in King Street next to the Pleasure Centre, this was owned and operated by John McNabb, this shop also housed a book exchange and a lot of the people holidaying at the Cotton Tree caravan park used to get their books and comic’s there.
In 1970 we got our first high rise building Maroochy Sands and every one thought this was a huge building, but as development has shown it wasn’t so big after all. Maroochy Sands was built on land previously owned by the Comino family, it was run as a caravan park called The Lazy J.
In 1970 Drive Inn Theatres were now starting to increase in popularity The Beach Theatre owned by the Comino family was now going to close. Jimmy Comino approached Gary Ratcliffe as Gary had just sold his snack bar at the Rollerdrome to see if he was interested in opening an amusement arcade to replace the Beach Theatre. The Comino family also owned the Pacific Theatre (Mooloolaba), the Star Theatre (Maroochydore and the Maroochydore Drive In Theatre ( Maud Street, Maroochydore). After the Beach Theatre closed it's doors for the last movie screening, no time was lost and council approval was given and the amusement arcade opened. Many patrons couldn’t wait for the arcade to open and for several weeks the locals were waiting out the front wanting to know when it would open the first patrons thru the front door on opening day were Wayne Renouf and David Byron. This proved to be a most popular entertainment arcade for both the locals and tourists alike. This was one of Australia’s largest amusement arcades (in floor area) pre Grundy’s opening in Surfers Paradise in the late 1970’s.The Pleasure Centre Cotton Tree was around 550sq.m. and housed 15 coin operated pool tables a slot car track and around 80 amusement games including pinballs, shooting galleries, coin operated bowling games, driving games and many other of the latest American and Japanese games that were available at the time. A game of pool cost 20cents and the pinballs and arcade games cost 5 cents to 10 cents to play and to hear the latest music on the jukebox was 10 cents and how the music had changed, Elvis the Beatles and The Beach Boys revolutionised the type of music we wanted to listen to and more and more exciting and interesting music artists were arriving on the scene and this music has entertained us for four decades since.
Towards the end of the sixties the clothing fashions were changing from flared Amco and Leisuremaster jeans to the more tighter fitting jeans and wearing paisley patterned shirts and t-shirts. Long hair was also very fashionable at the time.
The Pleasure Centre amusement arcade was especially popular with the holiday makers that used to come and stay at the caravan park and from all the holiday flats in the area and they used to come back every year. As soon as the caravan or tent was set up in the caravan park the kids were off to the Pleasure Centre to see what new games were there from when they were there last holiday season.
In the 1960’s 1970’s and 1980’s there wasn’t a lot of entertainment venue’s on the coast so at night time during holiday periods it was not uncommon to have 300 people in the Pleasure Centre at any one time and customers had to wait up to two hours to get a game of pool.
The Rollerdrome and Pleasure Centre were especially popular on rainy days during the holidays as it was too wet to go to the beach and they didn’t want to stay in the tent or caravan all day.
Both the Pleasure Centre and the Rollerdrome used to run at capacity crowds during holiday periods, drawing patrons from all areas of the coastal strip. Many lasting friendships were made at both of these venues, some married and their kids also went to these two popular venues for their entertainment.
Also at night very large crowds were attracted to the Carnival at Cotton Tree (where the Council Library now stands) this was a very popular venue. Every holiday John Giesman and his family would come and set up all their amusement rides and Fairy Floss and Dagwood Dog stands together with the different charities manned by dedicated volunteers that would have their lucky numbers stands and chook wheels there to raise revenue for their important work they did in the community.
On Cotton Tree Parade there was the Bandstand where bands used to play and other community functions were held to entertain the locals and tourists; this was replaced by The Cotton Tree Pool complex.
Every New Year’s Eve huge crowds used to gather at Cotton Tree to see the old year out and the new year in, people were everywhere, after the Wharf complex at Mooloolaba opened this began to change and the New Year’s Eve crowds started to gather at Mooloolabah and Cotton Tree lost a bit more of it’s history.
In the early 1970,s things slowly started to change, the Mini Golf in King Street was closed to make way for development of new modern shops on the site.
The Annex Mini Golf and Snack Bar also gave way to development of the Chateau Royal complex.
The night time Carnival at Cotton Tree came to an end for the development of the Library and the holidays at Cotton Tree now started to loose some of it's favourite attractions.
In 1977 the popular Cotton Tree Inn was destroyed by fire and Doug MacLeod decided to replace the iconic Café with a modern block of shops.
On the 12th. October 1986 (28 years ago) the Pleasure Centre Amusement Arcade was destroyed by fire. This devastated many of the former patrons as they grew up with this entertainment as part of their lives and for those who married and had offspring that were going there for the same fun that their parents had, it was now all over and only fond memories remain. The size of the land and the car parking requirements at the time made it unviable for the building to be replaced on that block of land without adjoining land being amalgamated to the site.
The Rollerdrome has since been demolished and the site from the Pleasure Centre along King Street and around the corner to where the Rollerdrome stood now houses the new complex the Rovera.
As progress happens most of the Amusement Games manufacturers have now disappeared and very little new commercial amusement games are now produced.
It is unfortunate all of this has now gone and is now part of history as there aren’t many venues left where families can be entertained for very little cost. These venues provided a safe place for people to go and enjoy themselves. Now with the change of technology people now play video games on their computers and most Skating Rinks have gone by the way as it has all been replaced with inline skates and skateboards and now the skating is done on open air skate bowls or on the footpath.
The youth of these days have very little adult supervised venue’s to meet and socialise. In the 1960’s, 1970’s & 80’s graffiti was unheard of as the youth had things they could do without being bored it’s a shame this is all long gone.
Good times were had with very little financial outlay, people made their own fun and commercial entertainment was within everyone’s reach, life was simple and easy back then, not much pressure and plenty of time to enjoy life. Life is moving at a very fast pace now days and there doesn’t seem to be much time to enjoy life as we did back then.
OH! WHAT FOND MEMORIES OF OLD COTTON TREE
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