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What’s Up Top?

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #7

It’s not the delicious cakes in the cabinet which first attract our attention when we enter the Gidgee Bean CafĂ© in Cunnamulla.

The old building is enjoying a new lease of life but the interior gives clues to its age. The pressed metal ceiling and broad high skylight immediately draw our gaze upwards. And right at the top is a tiny door, mysteriously leading nowhere.

Down at floor level, an eclectic collection of china sits in mismatched cupboards and old black and white photos of Cunnamulla’s past decorate the walls.

We’re distracted by the arrival of our almond and orange cake and we forget about the oddly placed door for a while.

It’s only as we’re leaving that I remember to ask about the building and that door. It turns out to be not so peculiar after all. The building used to be a haberdashery with a second floor, long since removed, used for storage.

The Up the Top Mystery is solved!

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Top Secret

Western Queensland Road Trip Square Tops Challenge #5

Do you know how close World War Two came to Australia?

Enemy ships and submarines cruised in Australian waters and engaged in several naval attacks. Two towns in the far north were repeatedly bombed in air raids. And one million American service personnel were stationed at bases around the country.

In 1942, the airport at Charleville was handed over to the United States Air Force and turned into a military base. Charleville was chosen as the site of the base because of its remote position; it was unreachable by Japanese bombers. 3,500 American servicemen lived and worked there but, after the war ended, almost everything was removed. Today only a few traces remain of the buildings on the base where top secret work took place.

To learn more about what happened here, we joined the Top Secret World War Two Tag Along Tour. In our own vehicle we joined a convoy and set off up a dusty track to explore several sites near the airport.

All that’s left of most buildings are the foundations but, with the help of information boards, it’s easy to imagine what once stood in each location. Local girls looked forward to joining the servicemen for regular social gatherings at the Dance Hall.

The open air shower block was a necessity for good personal hygiene.

These hollows in the ground were once lined with bitumen, creating rudimentary bathtubs where the men could enjoy a relaxing soak.

One surviving war time building is located at the airport. Hangar 104, one of five hangars constructed by the Americans, was returned to the RAAF after the war. It’s now the Charleville base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Another relic left still standing is this small concrete shed. During the war it was camouflaged with branches cut from the surrounding mulga trees so it couldn’t be detected by planes passing overhead.

What was inside that required such clandestine measures? I can’t tell you! It’s top secret and you’ll need to join a tag along tour to find out.

Or you could do some research online. Let me know if you find out.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Top Gear

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #4

Old trucks discarded on a farm – once someone’s “top gear”, now just old gear.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Top Marks for Innovation

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #3

At first glance this small hut outside the Morven Historical Village looks like any other old slab hut. Look closer and you’ll see it’s not made of timber – the shingles are tin.

During the Great Depression, thousand of Australians lost their jobs and their homes. For many families huts built out of flattened kerosene tins were a cheap alternative. Kerosene tins were plentiful and construction was simple.

With a dirt floor and no lining on the walls, daily living in a hut like this would have been hard but at least it gave a family shelter.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Top Notch

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #2

After travelling more than 740 km inland from Brisbane to Charleville by road, rail or plane, mid 20th century travellers would have revelled in the top notch accommodation at the Hotel Corones on Wills Street. In the 1930s and 1940s the hotel boasted opulent lounges, luxurious ensuite bedrooms and broad, sheltered verandahs where guests could escape the extreme heat of a western Queensland summer.

Many famous people have stayed in these rooms. The hotel lists top tier stars including Amy Johnson, Gracie Fields and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester among their patrons.

The public bar, once the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, is decorated in the Art Deco style found all through the building. Even now, 90 years after the hotel was built, those who’ve travelled far can quench their thirst with a top drop!

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Top of the Range

Western Queensland Road Trip – Square Tops Challenge #1

These top of the range household appliances would once have been the pride and joy of any housewife. Now on display at the Charleville Historic House Museum, they are a reminder of days gone by.

While our travels are on hold, I’m joining in every day with Becky’s April Square Tops Challenge over at The Life of B. The rules are simple: photos must be square and fit the theme word “top”.

Small Town, Big Walk!

Western Queensland Road Trip #13 Eulo

With a population of just 48, the outback town of Eulo might be small in numbers but it has plenty of personality. And you can easily explore all the sights on foot, from one end of town to the other.

On the corner where the Adventure Way enters town and becomes Leo Street, you’re greeted by a giant lizard who’s seen better days. It’s a relic of the famous Eulo Lizard Races, held annually for 30 years up to 2000.

Nearby stands a memorial connected to the lizard races which, at first glance, appears quite ordinary. But the dedication to champion racing cockroach “Destructo” tells of his unfortunate demise at the peak of his career.

While lizards and cockroaches might reside in Eulo now, huge diprotodons, ancestors of today’s wombats and koalas, lived here during the Pleistocene Epoch up to 2.5 million years ago. The largest of Australia’s megafauna, the plant-eating diprotodon weighed as much as 2.8 tonnes.

The historic Eulo Police Cells are a reminder of days not so long ago. Built in 1923 to replace the original jail cells, which were destroyed by termites, these tiny rooms would have been uncomfortable for those unlucky to be imprisoned in the heat of summer.

Opposite the old police cells on Leo Street is the Eulo Queen Hotel, named for Isabel Robinson who moved to the town with her second husband Richard Robinson in 1886. Together they owned a general store and a butcher’s shop as well as the local hotel, and Isabel added to her fortune by acquiring opals from local miners. Her reputation as the Eulo Queen was enhanced by her habit of “entertaining” the hotel’s patrons while her husband conveniently looked the other way.

No such entertainment is available at the hotel today but enjoying a cool drink while seated on one of the hotel’s unique bar stools is a refreshing alternative.

Further along the street is an unusual structure you wouldn’t expect to find in the outback – an Anderson air raid shelter, built during the second World War to protect residents in case of attack by Japanese forces. The decision to build an air raid shelter was made by the government of the time, as Eulo was a crucial communication link between Darwin and Sydney. It was made long enough to fit up to 50 people, but luckily the need to protect the townspeople never eventuated.

The Japanese may never have attacked but there have been other times when Eulo’s residents have needed protection. When flooding rains come the Paroo River quickly breaks its banks, closing the highway and isolating those on either side. A modified truck has long been used to negotiate floodwaters, carrying both people and goods. Five years ago when the old flood truck was replaced with a modern version, it took up residence in a place of honour next to the store in recognition of its service to the community.

There’s no chance of the bridge over the river going underwater during the current prolonged drought.

Past the bridge, Leo Street once again becomes the Adventure Way and heads further west – time to stop walking and get back in your car!

Join Jo for Monday Walks