52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 10 Disasters

9 March 2011

Gunderson young familyI’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

I’m fortunate that my immediate family have never suffered a big disaster – my mother’s family were continually flooded out when she was young and that is the reason why there are few family photos on her side of the family.

The only small scale disaster I can recall as a child relates to our Christmas camping adventures on the Gold Coast in the 1960s. We used to holiday in a tent, Mum, Dad, me and my younger brother and  it wasn’t that big a tent once you had four beds, a table and chairs in it. There was also a cupboard for foodstuffs which stood against one wall of the tent.

I clearly remember the last time we ever went camping in a tent. It was Christmas, maybe 1967 or 1968 and there was heavy rain and wind from a cyclone which had come too far south that year. We were in Rudd Park, near Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads.

We’d been out some where and had gone back to the tent because it was really raining and very windy from the tail end of what I think was a cyclone. We entered the tent and the cupboard with all the foodstuffs had been knocked over and glass jars and bottles smashed. It was a mess of sauce, honey and whatever else, which we had to start to clean up without getting cut by the glass.

A tent is not a big place in wet weather so tempers were a bit frayed to start with. At some point we noticed that the water was rising around us and the park was flooding, I still have images of the sauce bottle floating in the water. It became obvious that we were going to have to leave and I remember wading out in what was quite deep water but probably wasn’t given that I was still only about 10 or 11 years old.

I remember Dad saying something about we needed to take the tent too and Mum saying that the tent could stay there as she was never ever camping in a tent again. They bought a caravan in 1969 which is why I think this was 1967 or 1968. No doubt a search of newspapers will help me pin down the year.

By the way, I have never been in a tent since either. I don’t mind staying in caravans or cabins in caravan parks but I can’t bring myself to try a tent again.

Anyway that was my only personal experience of storm flooding and is quite minor when compared to what others have experienced in Queensland over the years.

The 1974 Brisbane flood had a tremendous impact on many people and it had a minor impact on me as I was due to start my first full time job in January 1974 in Albert Street in the CBD, down the river end. I spent the weekend in great excitement but as the rain came down, and the river rose, and the city submerged I knew I wasn’t going to be starting work that week. They rang and told me that given the building was underwater, they were delaying my start until it was safe.

I think it was about a week later they rang and said it was ok to turn up for work. Going into the building that first day it was hard to believe that it had been under water and anyone who hasn’t seen Brisbane in flood conditions must wonder how the city can become so submerged. The 2011 flood brought all these memories back as where my son now works also went under water and he had to have a few days off while the building was made clean and safe again.

As I said at the beginning I have been lucky (so far) with disasters but even small scale events can still leave lingering memories and destroy personal collections. Backup everything is probably a saying that we should repeat almost on a daily basis.

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