By Jen Gourley
Bagpipes and balls, toilet paper antics and trips to Tannum – these are just some of the stories that came up when I asked members of the Biloela: Remember When… Facebook group to share their New Year’s Eve memories.
2022 is just hours away as I write this, and no doubt quite a few of us have plans for tonight. Some are off to parties, community gatherings or family get-togethers. Some might be choosing to stay home out of concern about the current Covid-19 pandemic. However you are choosing to see in the New Year, let’s do a bit of local time travelling before the clock strikes 12.
Balls and dances on New Year’s Eve were all the rage for decades in Biloela, Jambin and Goovigen. The B&S (Bachelor and Spinster) balls were a hit in Bilo, but one B&S in Rocky in the 1990s also was pretty popular for a local teacher as that’s where she met her husband (thanks Cammi Donohoe!).
Janette Bussell remembered the B&S ball NYE in in ‘85/’86 and the recovery at the Thangool racecourse. “No photos, thankfully!” she commented.
The New Year’s Eve dances that people recalled the most fondly, though, were those held at Lawgi Hall. These old-time dances were very popular and loads of fun for the local community. A vivid memory shared was of a man called Pop Cruickshank playing in the New Year with his bagpipes.
Bevan Tompkins’s New Year’s Eve memories included “going to Kokotungo Hall for cabarets near Baralaba in the early days with my parents, then later years Lawgi Hall, then the RSL”.
Dance fever continued as old-time dances were replaced by discos. These jiving events were held at such places as the Biloela Civic Centre, the RSL, the Bowls Club, the Top Pub, and Bottoms pub (now Biloela Hotel).
It seems there were plenty of antics on New Year Eve around the ridges.
Laraine Webster shared this colourful memory: “New Year’s Eve Biloela Hotel was big event – no Civic Centre back then. No disco, real band music. Charlie Gordon, Gary Gordon on guitar and vocals. Ian Warry on the drums. Real Bilo Boys, wow, they could rock the roof down. Midnight, everyone formed a trail out the door of the pub up Callide Street, around the clock, down the other side, back into the pub. Not long after that someone that had a little too much said the wrong thing then look out – it was on for young and old! The sound of sirens, blue lights flashing but not disco blue lights. Those were the days.”
One NYE tradition was to go to the dance at Lawgi Hall and then spend New Year’s Day at the beach at Tannum Sands.
“We did Lawgi Hall dance, home, change clothes then off to Tannum Sands for the day. Thinking our parents would notice we were gone all night and a full day, only to return from the beach to find they slept right through our costume change with a crowd of friends in the house all going ‘keep the noise down, you will wake the oldies’,” recalled Marian Simmons.
Bronwyn Schultz remembers great nights at the Goovigen Hall. “Kids asleep under all the seats and sometimes we got home in time to change, and all head out to Lake Victoria for New Year’s Day. One year we had a themed dress up – “Come as you were when the boat went down”. Well, it seems that every other single person in the boat was at a ball, but I was in bed and came in my pyjamas (just a little embarrassed).
Liz Eggins remembered one rather soggy New Year’s Eve: “Dancing and drinking at Lawgi Hall then, going swimming in Clinker Creek, in our long ball gowns, on the way home, after a storm that had brought the creek up, so having to squish up with sisters in our wet dresses. Not sure what we were thinking!”
Someone else had a memory of a pitbike being ridden through the Biloela Bowls Club one New Year’s Eve but so far it’s not been confirmed (or denied!).
It could also get very noisy, with Diane Langens commenting about lots of tin kettling at midnight.
Remember the fears about the Millennium Bug and how technology might fail us? Bridget Bongers shared this story about one larrikin. “In 2000, we had NYE at the Jambin Hall. Come midnight someone (maybe Dougie Binzer? Geoff Maynard?) turned off the lights. Y2K!”
What else has happened over the years on New Year’s Eve? “There was a NYE rodeo at Showgrounds with a band playing through to early hours of the night,” shared Kelly Johnson. There was also an event at the Silo for NYE in 2000.
But you want to know how Biloela really rolled when it came to New Year’s celebrations?
They went to Toilet Paper Night (TPN) at the Skating Rink! This popular event was held every New Year’s Eve. Former skating rink owner Ellie Verschaeren unwrapped what went down on TPN: “Lots of fun for the kids. We had mummy wraps, toilet paper races, admission included a roll of toilet paper.”
Ellie also kindly shared some photos from these nights of light-hearted revelry with roller skates and toilet rolls.
Thanks everyone for sharing your wonderful memories with us. Happy New Year, everyone. May 2022 be kind to you and may there always be lots of toilet paper!