Fifty years ago in Biloela: January 1972

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By Jen Gourley

Did you know you can travel back in time in Biloela? You can! You just need to walk through the doors of the Biloela Library. Within the yellowing pages of our district’s former newspaper, The Central Telegraph, there’s decades and decades of information that can give you a glimpse into the past.

I spent yesterday travelling back in time to Biloela 50 years ago, to January 1972.

It’s amazing what our thriving town was up to! There was so much going on with business and agriculture. Movies were showing at the local cinema and seat belts had just been mandated (much to the horror of some!).

Here are just some of the things I discovered time travelling through the pages of the CT. Let me know if you recognise some familiar names and places.

Wednesday, January 12, 1972



“The Central Telegraph is pleased to be able to record that one of the Banana Shire’s most prominent citizens, Mr A.W. O’Rourke has been made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

The citation states the award has been given for long and outstanding service in local government and public affairs.

Cr O’Rourke has been Chairman of the Banana Shire Council since 1955, served as a member of the Capricornia Regional Electricity Board from 1961 to 1967, and as Deputy Chairman of the Gladstone Harbour since 1967. He is a member of the Brigalow Development Scheme Committee of Review, a member of the Biloela Branch of the Australian Red Cross Society, and also a member of the Santa Gertrudis Cattle Breeders’ Association.”

Cr Alf O’ Rourke. (CT, January 12, 1972)


“If the present weather holds good for another week, the cotton crop in the two Valleys should be assured of a good harvest. Over the whole of Queensland, the Cotton Marketing Board is expecting a return of 24,000 bales for 1972.

A quick drive round the Valleys has shown some very fine crops, well into the squaring stage, and very clean in most cases. Theodore has been subjected to flooding in places and this will probably cause weeds to grow, with the ground too soft to take machinery.

But all in all the Chairman of the Cotton Marketing Board, Mr A.C. Shepherdson, says it will be a  good crop this season.”

“An immediate start is to be made on the new ginnery at Biloela, with the installation of a railway siding and level crossing about two miles from Biloela on the Amagraze Road.

Tenders are shortly to be called for the erection of buildings for the ginnery.”


Legs of mutton were 40 cents for 1b (one pound) at the Biloela Butchery in Washpool Street.


“Doctor Doolittle”, starring Rex Harrison, was screening at the Broadway Theatre in Biloela.

Wednesday, January 19, 1972



“The steel wall being erected on the spillway of the Callide Dam is completed except for some sealing strips which are on rail somewhere between Biloela and the South.

The wall, which is expected to be a temporary installation, is five feet high, the top being level with the concrete partitions on the spillway, and will increase the holding capacity of the dam by 6900 acre feet, which should bring the water level to about where it was during the flood early this year.

The steel wall is constructed on a number of places each weighing 400 lb, which are joined together and bolted to the concrete.”

“The construction is A-shaped, with a long arm running into the dam, and will be quite capable of handling any flash floods that could occur at any time during the present weather pattern.

The erection of the wall which is expected to cost $12,000 was carried out for the purpose of providing extra storage which will be used for replenishing ground water in the Callide Creek below the dam.

Under the control of the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, this water will be released as required, and slowly so that it may be absorbed into the groundwater beds.”

“When the 30 ft gates go in, this wall will be removed, but in the meantime it will hold back a reserve supply which will guarantee a non-return of waterless conditions as experienced by irrigators and Biloela township in the years prior to the 1971 flood rains.”

Callide Dam. (CT, January 19, 1972)


“Twenty-five years ago on January 20, 1947, the store now known as Montgomery’s Four Square (or ‘Monty’s’) opened its doors for the first time, on the spot it now occupies in Gladstone Road, Biloela.

The idea of a store came to Mr Roy Montgomery during a visit to his brother-in-law, the late Mr Jack Johnston, in 1946, when he noticed the potential for such a business in Biloela, and today he is pleased to know that his faith in the district has not been unwarranted.

His first impression of the District, was that it could become another Kingaroy area, with that town’s record of progress, and his prophesy has been borne out over the years with the development of the coal mines at Callide and Moura, the Amagraze Meatworks, the Callide Power House and Dam, the wheat silos, the High School and Swimming Pool, and now the Cotton Ginnery.

He also forecasts today that if the district could only enjoy at least two good seasons, the difference to the town would be remarkable; extending It to half as big again as it is now. Present population is between 4000 and 5000, and to some that forecast may seem a bit much, but when comparing today’s population to that of the 900 when he first began business, the increase seems small.”

“During the 25 years, Mr Montgomery has had his ups and downs, as well all other business in town, but ten years ago he joined the National Group of Four Square, and has never looked back.

Business has increased to such an extent that he found it necessary to take over the premises on each side of his original store, and to extend the rear of the building, trebling the size of the first store.

He is also proud and very pleased of the fact that some of his original customers are still patronising his store after 25 years.”

Montgomery’s store on Gladstone Rd, Biloela. (CT, January 19, 1972.)
Roy Montgomery and his wife “Johnny”. (CT, January 19, 1972)


  • Kay’s Cakes at 50 Callide St, Biloela was advertising for a Junior Girl 15-16 years.
  • “Benefit Disco in aid of Townsville Cyclone Appeal featuring Biloela’s No.1 Band ‘Bathurst Junction’. Jambin Hall, Jan 21st, 1972.”


“Airport”, starring Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin, was screening at the Broadway Theatre in Biloela.

Wednesday, January 26, 1972



Enrolments were strong in schools across the Banana Shire. “A number of them have received new staffs [sic] or a new Principal, and some schools are enjoying new accommodation, or about to, this allowing a little more elbow-room for other projects.

Biloela High School seems to have had a complete replacement of teaching staff this year.

The Principal, Mr K. Goodwin, replaces Mr Lawley who has been transferred… Biloela Primary also has staff changes. Mr Healey has been transferred, and new Principal is now Mr N.E. Hughes.”

“Enrolments at Biloela High by Monday reached 450, but this is expected to expand to about 500 early next week.”

“Thangool received 26 new pupils in Grade 1, and total enrolment is same as last year, 134. Mr B. Botham, who arrived last year to take over the Headmastership, will be controlling the school in 1972.

Mt Murchison school’s Headmaster, Mr Trevor Shaw, reported an enrolment of 27 pupils, with two new pupils in Grade 1, plus one more to come.”

Construction work at Biloela State High School. (CT, January 26, 1972)


“With the new seat belt legislation now in force, many motorists can still be heard grumbling about having to wear these life-saving accessories when they are fitted to their vehicles.

These motorists base their resistance to seat belts on the uninformed opinions of laymen who themselves are neither qualified nor knowledgeable enough to expound on such a subject, the Rockhampton Manager of the RACQ, Mr R.W. Schmidtchen, states.”

“It is unfortunate that people still believe that in automobile accidents it is ‘safer to be thrown clear’.”


“Miss Gail Courtman, of Biloela, has received her certificate as a Swimming Referee.

Gail is probably the youngest (17), and the second woman in Queensland to gain this certificate, which enables her to officiate as a referee, referee steward, timekeeper, judge, starter, check starter, turning judge, and a costume steward.”

Gail Courtman. (CT, January 26, 1972)


“Carry On Again Doctor” was screening at the Broadway Theatre in Biloela. “The ‘Carry On Gang’ are back, poking their diag-noses into other people’s business.”

An ad for National Service in the Central Telegraph, January 26, 1972.
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