Here in History with Lyn Lee, Heritage Officer (1)
Electricity for Calliope
A major event in the lives of Calliope residents was the switching-on of electricity on the 2 October 1954. At the ceremony Chairman of Calliope Shire Council, Cr H. Neill-Ballantine extended a welcome to Minister for Lands and Irrigation, Mr T. Foley, Mr J.Burrows MLA, Mr O’Malley Chairman Capricornia Regional Electricity Board (CREB) , representatives from the Council, the CREB, and over 700 residents from the Calliope and Gladstone area. When asked to speak, Mr O’Malley paid tribute to the contractors and distribution staff and expressed the hope ‘that the people of Calliope would use to the fullest extent the electrical energy that was now available’. He noted that Nagoorin, Many Peaks, Ubobo and Builyan would be supplied electricity by the end of the month and power would be transmitted to Monto and district in late November. In addition, it was anticipated that power would be available at Mt. Larcom, Raglan, Bajool and Marmor in the first half of 1955.
A letter describing the switching-on of the electricity in Calliope was published in the Gladstone Observer 6 October 1954 from ‘Honest John;’ some extracts from his versions of the event are as follows:-
‘I had been toying with the idea all week. Would I go to Calliope on Saturday for the switching on of the electric light or not?.....I felt that I needed a break and that a trip out there would do me good. I filled up the radiator of the tilly, pumped the tyres and soon after dusk my mate and I set off at a brisk 40miles (80kms) an hour, but we were as a hearse compared with others on the road.
When we approached Calliope, my mate said it looks as if the show is on – electric light everywhere…. we passed Bill Wilson’s pub with its bright fluorescent lighting, its bar full to overflowing and about 50 cars outside…..We parked the tilly where the cows feed, which is almost anywhere… and moved on to the Diggers Arms Hotel where a bright light fixed to the corner of a verandah post indicated all too clearly that the current was on at this pub also.
What took our eye was Jim Lewola on the back of a lorry inviting all and sundry to invest “two bob and take your pick” – ( a lucky envelope raffle). One fellow did and got a hot water jug and an electric iron…
…The Chairman of the Calliope Shire Council was there to see what the town looked like under its four street lights provided by the shire and to extend a welcome to the Minister and the official party. Cr Neill-Ballantine, in course of his speech, said that Calliope people regarded Gladstone as a suburb of theirs. ….Then the chairman of the regional board (Mr O’Malley ) spoke.
Tom Foley, Senior Cabinet Minister in our State Parliament took over and quoted so many figures that even a robot would be excused for contracting a headache… Mr Foley concluded by saying it was his intention to use a Biblical quotation which was most suitable for the occasion and with the words “Let there be light” he pressed the switch which lit up rows of bulbs loaned for the occasion by Calliope’s suburb, Gladstone, and which were hung across the streets by regional board employees.
…The Calliope Progress Association had promised a dinner to celebrate the occasion and the time was now 8.30 pm so who would blame the guests if their thoughts were now centred on satisfying the inner man.
The night was still young and all the pretty girls of Calliope (and that is all of them) as well as some from Gladstone streamed into the hall to dance the light fantastic with their somber male friends.
The bars of both pubs were full and why not. It was an event in Calliope’s history which was worthy of a celebration.
As I passed down the long line of cars in search of my own bus for the journey home behind me sounded the raucous voice –‘pay two bob and take your pick!’ I needed a break and in Calliope I got it.…..
Yours etc. “HONEST JOHN”