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FLASHBACK 1960s: "It was the simple life, the good life"

21st July 2017 12:00 AM
Wendy O'Hanlon (front) with her father Bill and brother Kerry on their cane farm on the Maroochy River in the 1960s. Wendy O'Hanlon (front) with her father Bill and brother Kerry on their cane farm on the Maroochy River in the 1960s.

WELCOME to the simple life. Out here, fun is best had barefoot and hanging off the side of a tractor.

The farm work is hard, but life is happy. Roads are mainly dirt and heading into town once a week, riding in the tray of Dad's ute, is as normal as going to a school with less than 30 kids.  

The closest thing to Google is the encyclopedia you convinced your parents to buy from the door-to-door salesman and you can remember everyone's home phone numbers because it was as simple as yours - 258.  

This is the simple life, the good life. This is the Sunshine Coast in the 1960s through the eyes of long-time resident Wendy O'Hanlon. To celebrate the region's 50th anniversary of its official naming, we're taking you back through the decades one-by-one.   

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This is part one of five, Flashback Through the Decades.

Born December 11, 1960, Wendy was, like many others growing up at this time, a farm kid. Her father Bill O'Hanlon and mother Beryl ran a 40-hectare cane farm on the river on Dunathin Rock Road, Maroochy, now Yandina-Bli Bli Road.   

Sugar cane was the lifeblood of the Sunshine Coast community and no complaints were had when Wendy and her brothers got their hands on the giant hessian bags of raw sugar that would come from the mill.   

"The Moreton Central Sugar Mill was the biggest employer in the region but there was also a lot of pineapple farms, dairy and mixed-crop farms," Wendy said.   

"It was all about farming back then. I remember going to the Nambour Show in the 60s and it was bursting with incredible produce grown from rich soil. In comparison there's hardly anything these days."  

Farming would dominate the front pages of the local newspapers, including August 24, 1962 when Wendy's father Bill made headlines in the Nambour Chronicle.   

"The headline was 'Goodbye to backaches' with a photo of my dad and his assistant Len Haddrell," Wendy said. 

The story was about Bill bringing the very first stick harvester to the Sunshine Coast from the north - changing farming forever.   

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The Nambour Chronicle, August 24, 1962 with Bill O'Hanlon making front page news.

Every year from July until Christmas, the region would swell with seasonal farmers looking for work.   

"They'd stay at the barracks - which was what most people had on their farms to host them, and we'd start seeing some strange kids at school that time of year," Wendy said.   

She attended Maroochy River Primary School which closed in 1972 with just eight students on the roll.   

"I used to love sports carnivals, that's when our school got to mix with other kids from around the region, but we were a tiny school and one year we couldn't even field a tunnel ball team which only needs 10 people," she said.  

"And we used to have swimming lessons at Nambour Blue Pacific Swimming Pool, and when it was my folks' turn to take the school, all the students would jump in the back of the ute and off we'd go."  

It was also 'normal' to ride all the way to Brisbane in the ute tray - something you can't even let your gumboots do today unless they're tied down.   Back then, farm kids learnt to drive as soon as they could see over the steering wheel and while most girls stayed inside with their mothers, Wendy had other plans.   

"I was one of the only girls really allowed to get out on the farm - my mum taught me all the girlie things like sewing and cooking as well - but I was more of a tomboy and would help plough the fields and do the hard farm work," she said.   

"To supplement the farm Dad was a second-hand dealer of farm machinery and cars and he bought my brothers and I a Mini Moke and we'd wrap around the farm.  

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Wendy O'Hanlon today.

"They were the best years growing up. It was the simple life, but the good-hearted life."  

As she drives around the Sunshine Coast today, Wendy remembers roads and turn-offs that no longer exist. She recalls being frightened of travelling into Caloundra on the skinny dirt road that is now Niklin Way.  

And even though the region is starkly different to what it was like in the 60s, Wendy loves that the community's passion for conservation and the environment has never waned.   

"And I don't think it ever will."  

This Flashback brought to you by Yaroomba Beach, a world-class destination for all.