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Bill Reminiscing About the 'Good Ole' Days.

The rangers of Girraween National Park have collected together many of Bill Goebel's memories of his time in Girraween. With their permission, we have reproduced some of them here and have attempted to put them into chronological order.

In 1964, when Bill was cutting cordwood near Underground Creek for the meat works, a land ranger drove up and introduced himself. He told Bill that somebody wanted to put a shooting lodge on the 200 block, but he would prefer it be made into national park. He thought that Bill may be able to help him out. Bill thought he would contact the National Park Association and see if they could do anything about this. A few weeks later, he was contacted by the Head Ranger - Herb Hausknecht. Herb made a trip out to the park via Cunningham's Gap, where he picked up the Overseer Lloyd Walker, and then met up with Bill who showed them where the 200 block was. They went to the block and it was decided that they would make it a national park. (It was PLS - government land, so rather than making it available for selection by a private owner, they could make it national park). They then asked Bill if he would like to become an honorary ranger. He accepted, given that he pretty much had been doing this already. Bill suggested that signs were needed, which were duly sent out.

In 1965, Bald Rock Creek National Park and Castle Rock National Park had a huge fire. (Bill suspects it was deliberately lit.) Bill was out at the time with a Queensland Museum representative looking at Leichardt Trees in Rollisten. When they dropped Bill off home they took photos of the fire, which they then took back to Brisbane and showed Bill Wilkes (the Secretary of the Forestry Department). Bill Wilkes then contacted Bill and asked if he would get some people together and try to put the fire out. By this time, the fire was too far gone to fight. They decided to just let it burn out, except for a small section behind Bill's home which he put out by using a branch to protect a lyrebird habitat.

Also in 1965, Bill was visited again by Herb Hausknecht who told Bill that the government was planning to buy a property to join the two national parks together. This land was Peter Delanty's - which was in the area near Girraween's existing pump shed. Together, Herb and Bill worked out where they would put the camping area and where they would put in bridges to cross the creek (between the pump shed and the turn in the creek) and some other infrastructure (along the existing Granite Arch track, opposite the pump shed). However, Boy Gunn decided that he would sell his property for 100 pounds less than Delanty, so attention was drawn to purchasing the Gunn's property instead. The total purchase was 3,900 pounds. The two parks were merged into one and became Girraween National Park.

The first park Overseer started in 1966 on the 14th February - Tom Ryan.

Bill commenced employment within a couple days of Tom starting work. His first task was to remove the apple trees which were growing in the existing day-use area. He was employed for three days a week as a casual, but he still worked a five or seven day week.

Bill and Tom built the first toilet block, as well as put in a water pump. The toilets were for both male and female. Bill and Tom also levelled the existing day-use area, making it ready for a camping area. At the same time, Tom's house (Gunn's Cottage) was being done up - adding water tanks, etc.. Before the first toilet opened, there was a "First Apple-blossom Carnival" held in the park. People used thunderboxes with holes in ground. There were tanks set up on stands to gravity feed the cisterns.

Girraween's first public toilets were opened on Christmas Day, 1966. Tom Ryan christened them.

In 1967, the second block of toilets were built. These became the Ladies' and the original block became the Men's.

Bill's brother, Hock, commenced work and was employed fulltime to help.

Track work also commenced during this time - worked on when Bill, Hock and Tom had spare days. The first track ran from the second toilet block, around to the where the existing Bald Rock Creek camping area absorption trenches are and then back to day use area. It was called the Circuit track. Bill had to work on Christmas day on the Pyramids track, so it could be used by park visitors. The next track to be built was the Castle Rock track (1967/8).

Bill and his brother Hock.
© Tom Ryan, 2012.

Bill (left) and his brother Hock (right).

1969 was a busy year. The trees in the day-use area were planted and the third toilet block went in - for both Ladies and Men. Over the Easter period, the park had 700 campers and over 100 day-use visitors - all crowded into the same area. It was chaos!

Bill went to work at Carnarvon Gorge in 1969 for seven weeks, while Charlie the Overseer was away on holidays. While he was there, Bill did general maintenance and a bit of track work. He was promised three months fulltime work at Girraween when he got back. Bill returned to Girraween and then was sent off to the Bunya Mountains to build toilets. Again, he was promised three months at Girraween when he got back. After that, he went to assist for a while at Main Range and Queen Mary Falls. Bill was then sent back to Carnarvon to build some toilets. This time Herb promised him a job when he got back - which again Bill didn't get because by the time he got back Herb was no longer in charge. Mal Wilson had taken over from Passchendaele. Bill went to Main Range again, then finally back to Girraween to build the Bald Rock Creek camping area toilets. (When Hock and Tom dug the septic tank pit for these toilets, a wombat fell into it. It managed to get out.)

In 1970, there was talk about extending the park. South Bald Rock was on offer for $8 an acre. Bill took Sid Curtis to have a look at the land and, after seeing the caves, tree ferns and tassel ferns, Sid wanted it to become national park.

John Churchwood, from Brisbane, was in charge of land purchases. John came out and offered the land owners a price - $20,000 more than it was worth through the Lands Department. If the owner contested, they would get less. If they disputed, he would tell them to go to the Lands Department to see what it was worth. Bill told John that many blocks of land were available, including Bill's and Hock's own. John and Graeme Saunders made arrangements so that Bill and Hock could still live in the park, even though they wouldn't own the land. Hock ended up leaving, but Bill stayed. Bill also helped in acquiring land for Sundown National Park.

In 1971, the Bald Rock Creek camping ground was opened, so that the campers could be separated from the day users.

In Easter 1973, Park Overseer Paul Grimshaw had to cope with 930 campers. Even though the Bald Rock Creek camping area was now open, Paul had to spread the campers out around the day-use area as well. It was after this weekend that a limit of 500 campers at a time was put into place.

Four years later (1975), Bill was again employed at Girraween, while Paul was away on holidays. Bill stayed on after Paul got back. The department they worked for changed from Forestry to the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service and Bill received a letter stating that he was to help maintain the park, including fire management - under Paul's supervision.

Castle Rock camping ground was opened in 1977. Bill built those toilets as well.

The Information Centre was built in 1978 by Public works, but Bill supplied the rocks. The rocks were collected from near Underground Creek.

Bill retired Easter 1986, but continued to take visitors on walks and give talks for many years afterwards.

A typical day for Bill was spent maintaining camping areas, doing track work, removing rubbish, undertaking fire management and pulling down fences and old houses...
  • Bill had to wheelbarrow the rubbish away and dig holes to bury it until an incinerator was eventually built.

  • They used to put fires out with rakehoes only. They didn't have fire units until the 1980's - a home-made tank with a fire fighting pump and a suction pipe.

  • They used to work out of the nursery shed.

  • They made their own signs, using wood and chisels.

  • They used their own vehicles, until about 1972 when Tom Ryan finally got an old Forestry vehicle.

  • Bill used to privately take out walkers in his green Fargo truck to Underground Creek and South Bald Rock - crossing private property to do so.

© Vanessa and Chris Ryan, 2009 | Copyright Details and Disclaimer
Last updated: 28th May 2014