As time moves through the 21st century, it is easy to lose the stories and recollections of eras long gone. In a little time capsule of its own, we bring you these recollections from Graeme Ware, one of our long-time locals, who has captured some pieces of our history. We hope you enjoy the read!
(Antique picture postcard from internet search)
By Graeme Ware
The Cedar Hotel and Cedar Theatre were built in 1911 entirely from Red Cedar, and were located down near the Ambulance station, approximately where the navvies’ shed is now.
The first Licence was issued to George Warburton on the 5th July, 1911. The School of Arts building was close by, where the Rural Fire shed currently stands. The last licensee was Fred Shaw and the hotel itself was owned in partnership by Fred Shaw and fellow local, Jim Barklay.
Because the hotel was situated out of the main part of town and there were two other pubs in Hatton, its business slowly declined until it became unprofitable and was shut down. My mother Grace Ware (nee Shaw) and her siblings were distraught at their father shutting the Cedar down as it had been their home for most of their lives. The one big attraction to the Shaw kids was that the Cedar had an attic, a great place for them to play.
After the Cedar Hotel closed down, Freddy took over the licence of the Royal Hotel which was on the western side of the General Store in Hatton. It was built by Dave Waters in 1904 and was called The Cattle Creek Hotel originally. The Royal had a hall beside it as well, with a projection room for showing pictures. It also had a balcony inside the hall. There was a general store on the eastern side of the hall.
The whole complex was destroyed by fire on the 25th October 1962, the same day Cattle Creek Mill caught on fire. It was lucky the Mackay fire brigade was out attending the mill fire and was able to go to the Royal fire; if it hadn’t been in Hatton at the time, the whole of the street would have been burnt out. At the time, the creek was running right in against the bank where you go through the flood wall onto the old Gorge road (Zarb’s Crossing), so the fire engine was able to pump directly from the creek to the fire.
After the Cedar closed down in 1938, the hotel was bought by Mrs Pomeroy in 1940 and moved into Mackay opposite the old railway station in Boddington Street. It was set up as a boarding house and was still in use into the ‘70s. The Cedar Theatre was moved from where it was built down near the Hot Water Gully , as we used to call it, up onto the corner going around to the old Post Office. It then underwent a bit of a revamp. The middle section of the verandah was removed and a brick projection room and entrance were added. The open verandah on either side was then closed in to make two rooms. The eastern room was used as a store room, kiosk and ticket office, while the western room was used for accommodation. Beverly Moule, widow of the late Duffy Moule, and their children, lived in the front room after Duffy was killed on River Hill near Broken River whilst clearing the power line to Crediton with Noel Patello in 1960. Pat and Pam Moule also lived in that room when they were first married. I fondly remember going to Junior Farmers’ concerts run by Peggy Shaw and Heather Langdon, with skits such as ‘Tie me Kangaroo Down, Sport’, ‘A strapping young stockman lay dying’, ‘The only man on the Island’, the Rick and Thel show, Enrico the hypnotist and of course, the pictures in the Cedar Theatre. Mattie O’Neill told me that they had a big ball in the Cedar in 1963 in honour of Tricia Reschke who was the current Miss Australia; it was the first time a Miss Australia had visited Mirani Shire. This was one of the rare occasions where the theatre was transformed into a ballroom, with the pictures cancelled for the occasion.
The Cedar was like all the old picture shows in the district, as we called them, with three rows of canvas seats and a stage up front under the screen. Pictures were screened Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Picture night usually started off with ‘God Save the Queen’ for which we all stood and sang, then the newsreel which started with a DC3 aeroplane looking as if it was going to fly out of the screen (which reminds me of the open-air theatre in Broome where the planes fly right over the top of the screen when taking off from the aerodrome). There would normally be a cartoon, then a picture, and half time where you could buy refreshments from the theatre itself or walk across the road to the café. Most of the men used to slip over to either one of the pubs for a quick beer, then conveniently forget to come back. In those days, a lot of farmers and people who lived out of town used to do their shopping at one of the shops before the pictures started, on Saturday night, that is.
Quite often around election time, the local politicians would be up on the verandah of the Criterion Hotel in front of Roy Jarman’s barber shop or the hall pushing their point. The QATB would also have their spinning wheel set up on the verandah, running raffles. Many a romance started in the old canvas seats of the Cedar Theatre and possibly a life or two as well.
After half time there would be another cartoon, then the main picture.
Vic also used to patrol the aisles in the theatre, keeping an eye on all us young fellas…. and our girls. Pat Moule also attended to anyone who was making a noise throughout the film.
In my early childhood, a lot of people didn’t have motor cars so they used to come to the pictures in their trucks with the cane bodies on the back that were built very low with steel hoops over the back wheels. This made it easier to load the cane by hand. So, the main street would be filled with trucks backed into the gutter of a Saturday night. It was also compulsory to drive up to the old Chestnut tree at the end of town and do a U turn then head back east and reverse park. Vic Abraham, the local Sergeant, was very strict in enforcing this rule; I still do that to this day … mostly.
We usually walked to the pictures because we didn’t own a car. If it was raining, we’d sometimes go in the Dodge truck Dad and Grandad had to cart cane with. One night when Dad, Mum, Gary and myself were walking to the pictures, I stepped over a taipan lying on the road at the Hot Water Gully. I don’t remember this happening but my brother Gary reminded me of it a couple of years ago when there was a big one dead in the same place; it’d been run over by a car.
When Gary went off to boarding school, Mrs Kate Ringuet was the ticket seller, and wouldn’t let Gary in for kids’ price anymore, so Mum told us that if she tried to charge him full price we weren’t allowed to go to the pictures. We went home, two unhappy boys that night.
Another night I walked to the pictures on my own and the film, ‘The Black Scorpion’ was the feature; anyway, it was pretty scary and on my way home under the mango trees in front of the railway station in the pitch dark (no street lights then), Frank Hutchinson, the plumber at the mill, staggered up behind me as full as a boot, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘How you going mate?’ We lived down in the second house coming into Hatton on the left-hand side and I reckon I took two steps and I was home in bed. (I wasn’t going; I was gone!)
The Moule family owned the Cedar Theatre and the Coronation Theatre in Gargett. They then built the Gargett Drive- In Theatre, closed the Gargett Theatre down, shifted the projectors from Gargett to Hatton and took the projectors from Hatton and installed them in the Drive In.
The reason for this was that the Cedar projectors were particularly good and showed nice and bright on the screen, whereas the Gargett projectors were a lot duller as we all found out when we went to the pictures after the swap.
During the crushing, you quite often had to dodge the steam trains and cane wagons bringing the stick cane down from Netherdale out the front of the Cedar, or they could be shunting railway wagons loaded with logs or sawn timber enroute from Netherdale to Mackay. We also had the sugar train to contend with every night, taking the raw sugar from the mill to the harbour. If it was now, with the crazy world we live in, the whole bloody place would have to be cordoned off. In those days we were all born with common sense and knew that if we stepped in front of the train, we would surely die…. and it would be our own fault, nobody else’s. On one occasion, the timber trucks got away from the Netherdale railway station and raced through Hatton. They hit a steam loco crossing the main line in front of the mill, tipping the loco over and tearing the wheels out from under the wagons. They pulled up between the line and the road in front of the Ambulance Station. I think this was shortly after everyone had gone home from the pictures; it would have been a real tragedy if the pictures were just coming out. The wagons would have come out of the darkness like a bullet and ploughed through the crowd.
Unfortunately, the Cedar Theatre burned to the ground one night after the pictures in 1969.
The Moule family owned it at the time. Glen and Marge Cameron owned the butcher shop and the house beside the picture show; they were very lucky not to have lost their house as well. Dad, Grandad and I were camped at Annandale Station west of Nebo building a dam, and Grandad heard on the early morning ABC news that the picture show had burned down the night before, a Saturday night. He told us when we came back to the camp for breakfast. Anyway, Mum and my fiancée, Robyn, brought tucker up to us that day and when they got out of the car they said, “Guess what happened last night?” and we said, “the Cedar burned down”. They weren’t impressed that we already knew. Mum and Rob heard the fire engine screaming past home and raced outside; they could see the glow in the sky so jumped in the car in their PJ’s and raced up to see the last of it disappear in flames.
It was the end of an era for Mum and the people of Finch Hatton and district. A lot of people had a lot of good times at the Cedar, including this little black duck.
I’ve written this article from memory as most of the information I had got burned when I was burnt out, so I stand to be corrected if I have names, dates and events wrong. I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane.