Frewena - Wonarah- Soudan Station NT

Submitted: Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 11:25
ThreadID: 89354 Views:4089 Replies:6 FollowUps:6
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Hi I stumbled across this site while looking for details on Frewena Roadhouse (extinct) Found a blog that has been archived, I have some info as I worked at Frewena 1962 (How old am I??) Kerry W was one of the participants, I would love to ear from him or anyone else regarding Frewena, Wonarah repeater station, Soudan Station, Alroy Downs, Cresswell or Brunette Downs as I have been to all of them as part of my job. I am in the process of looking out photos from inside and outside Frewena taken with a brownie box camera some in colour and some I developed myself, I have also written some detail of my time there as am collating info for my autobiography. I also worked with Bubba Darcy of the Darcys of Mallapunya. Love to hear from anyone with info or needs info. Another member in this discussion was grant t 1

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Reply By: Member - blackbird1937 - Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 13:58

Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 13:58
Hello Merlene , you have a interesting bit of history working in that area at that time . It may not be 100 years ago but it was still harder than these days . I think you may be a little younger than I am . The photos may be old but interesting . I am interested on the location of where the Frewena R H was . Also where Mallapunya is or was as I cannot find it on my map . In 05 I rode my m/bike around OZZ , fuelled at Camooweal , Barkly and 3 Ways , 06 rode to Darwin , turned North at Barkly past Alroy , Brunette camped at Cape Crawford to Bing Bong camped at Daly Waters . Thanks for the info and I am glad to see that you are writing of your experiences . I am sorry that I never got my father or grandfather to put their lives on paper and I can only remember some of what they told me .
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 14:18

Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 14:18

Spent a bit of time in that area, first visiting Frewena in August, '64. Also knew Bubba, when she was living up at the "Golden Gates", near Kununurra. That was in late '60's & early '70's.

Nothing much left at either Frewena, or Wonarah these days. The trees at Frewena struggled on for some years, but think there's only a few Athel Pines left there now. Wonarah is only a few cement slabs, and piles of dirt now, but is still visible from the highway.

Do you remember the "In case of fire, lift flap" sign, Merlene?

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Reply By: smerl1 - Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 16:24

Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 16:24
Great to get some replies Frewena Rest area is detailed here
From the picture it is in the same place the bore and windmill are still visible and I am sure it is the original. Mallapunyah is near Borroloola this may help you its on the coastal plain between the Barkley Tablelands and the Gulf.

Hi Bob
I have some wonderful memories of Bubba, received an email from the library of NT this morning and she actually was living with a man "Shock Horror" didn't think she would ever have a relationship am so please she did, this is an exerpt from the email

Quote: "She worked as a station cook and later had a truck for hawking goods around stations and communities. Bubba had a small roadhouse near Kununurra where she lived with Klaus Weinecke from some time in the 1960s – obviously after 1962 which is when you ran into her at Frewena. She died just before Christmas 1984 and is buried in Katherine". end Quote

Where they say she worked as a station cook must have included Frewena as she had bought her truck (a gun and 2 bull terriors) and went hawking the last time I saw her. Great to hear of someone who also knew her.

No Bob I don't remember the "In case of fire, lift flap" sign, where was it??

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Follow Up By: Member - blackbird1937 - Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 21:17

Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 21:17
Thanks . Found both places on map when told where to look . Regards .
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 22:48

Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 22:48
Hello Merlene,

Don't have much more info, but do remember that Bubba was relieving cook at Rockhampton Downs, probably early 64. That was the first I'd heard of her, though had heard mention of the family prior to that. Probably in old "Walkabout" magazine.

Also when the bar got "shrunk" to its later size, they also moved that gauze wall out about 15' - 20', towards the bowsers., so the bar area was about same size, though the bar was much shorter.

A bloke i worked for in '64 used to be good mates with some of the Wonarah technicians/linesmen. Suppose they all worked for the old PMG? Think they used to play up a bit at Frewena, but then who didn't? Half a dozen of us young blokes went down one arvo, for a session, and after a productive evening (for Frewena, anyway), the ute driver got lost on way home, at one of the bores, and we ended up on the Brunette Downs boundary fence. They then needed to revive me so I could direct them in the right direction. Pretty easy to get lost at night, on that downs country. More so when one is under the influence.

Think some of those roadhouses suffered a bit during the '74 Wet, because there was no transport along the Barkly H'way for many weeks, and food supplies were getting short. We often ran out of beef on the station, because it was to wet to get another killer, and it was a pretty ordinary menu, living on tinned beef!!! Only so much the cook could do with that stuff.

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Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: kevmac....(WA) - Wednesday, Oct 05, 2011 at 17:12

Wednesday, Oct 05, 2011 at 17:12
I wasnt around up there until mid to late seventies, but worked for telstra doing the so called "barkley run". We were always looked after by all the stations and even the police at Avon Downs, for meals and accommodation. And yes used to spend many a night at the bar of frewena roadhouse...unfortunately cant remember too many of the station people
Our diesel mechanic was a Cathcart, and often helped the stations out as well
Would be interested to know when both Frewena and wonarah bit the dust
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Reply By: smerl1 - Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 21:24

Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 21:24
Hi Bob
Found in another area a reference to the Open in case of Fire sign, Must have been after my time definitely wasn't there when I was. I have been searching and finding heaps of info also I am remembering stuff as well.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 23:15

Monday, Oct 03, 2011 at 23:15
Wondered if it may have been after your time, Merlene.

It was on an upright, on the gauzed southern wall of the bar. While I admit to being a naive teenager, I wasn't gullible enough to "lift the flap". Did see someone lift it, and was well paid out by the few in the bar. Underneath it said: "Not now case of fire".

The bloke who owned the roadhouse then (his name escapes me) owned a Mercedes Benz, and it was said he could go to Tennant Ck in about an hour, and to the Alice in 4 or 5 hours. A trip from Alice to Darwin was only 10 or 12 hours for the Merc. Pretty brave on those roads back then.

Later on the Griffiths Family ran the place, for a while, but don't know who had it when it was closed down, I was back in Qld. The long "S" shaped bar had shrunk to a much shorter "J" shaped one, no doubt giving them more room out the back for cooking, storage etc. One of the Griffiths daughters, Denise, married Chris Edwards, and Denise did a lot of work for ICPA, and also did up a register of girls who wanted to be governess on stations. The Edwards were also on Legune Station for a number of years, back in the '90's.

Bubba & Klaus were trying to set up a roadhouse at the"Golden Gates", on WA/NT border, but when I was up there, from '68 to 73, they were having difficulties with getting land, and no doubt finance. That "highway" from Katherine, was still gravel from Willeroo to the WA border, and a lot of it was pretty hard gravel too.

In the 1974 wet, can vaguely recollect that the swamp to the north of Frewena, came up so high, they had to construct a levy bank to stop water coming into the building. You would probably know the building was an old army building left there after the War. The name " Frewena" was supposed to a combination of some blokes names, but i stand to be corrected on this point. Talking of the War, the next campsite, to the west, was near No.3 bore on Rockhampton Dpwns.

Will let you know if I think of anymore "goss" tomorrow, Merlene.

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Can't remember most of it.

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Reply By: smerl1 - Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 00:51

Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 00:51
Hi Bob The memories are coming back, the "Fire" sign was definitely not there in my time.

The owner of Frewena was Arthur (surname on the tip of my tongue) we had a Manageress called Dale, she had a little girl Naomi and a pekinese who would bark in the night we compared notes in the morning as to the time he barked(figured she had a visitor) a full time carpenter can't remember his name but it may come to me, also a guy about my age called Bill Newcombe who did lots of stuff around the place and also delivered orders to the surrounding stations in a big old truck, there was a mini supermarket out back (had canned food, (rice, barley, flour etc with weevils)and lots of grocery lines) and we supplied foodstuffs to the surrounding stations, Bill would make sure he did a delivery on my day off so I saw some of the country, we would have smoko on the way to wherever, it was black tea, (no milk except powdered there) and a can of meat (Corned beef) we had slabs on scotch finger biscuits.... Sounds disgusting but was actually great, we would sit under the truck in the shade, birds would turn up don't know where they came from it was pretty desolate.

I worked 6 days a week and all my food and grog (I didn't drink in those days) and cigarettes were supplied, my wages were deposited directly into my bank account, didn't need any cash.

I have written heaps more (the bar as I remember it etc)but haven't posted it as it may be boring for other people.

Just a couple of funny things I remember
One day a chap came into the roadhouse and said his car was playing up, Arthur said he would have a look, he got in the drivers seat and revved the poor thing for several minutes, got out said it was OK now and sent the guy on his way. Several people between hysterics said if he had done that to their car they would have king hit him. What appalled me was we were 300 miles to Camooweal and 100 miles to Tennant Creek he probably broke down before getting to a town.
If you drove up to the petrol bowser Arthur would not serve you until you came inside and asked for service, we would often have a car (tourist) sitting at the bowser blowing his horn, a good way not to get service at Frewena.

Will finish up now
hope this has been of some interest to someone


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Follow Up By: Member - blackbird1937 - Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 07:36

Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 07:36
Hi , I enjoy reading about the memories of the people who worked in the different areas of OZZ and the conditions which are much different to these times . No air cons , most vehicles did not have a wireless or radio as they are called now . I remember driving petrol motored Morris Commercial trucks in summer in 59 in Vic and they would vaporise . Vehicles are much more reliable now . I don't know what the rest of the site think but I would enjoy reading more of your reports and seeing the photos . Box brownies were not a bad camera then as there were not very many cameras around . I agree that people sitting blowing the horn did not do much for me either . It is even worse now . Most times just too lazy to get out to go to the door . Your write up has been very enjoyable .
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Reply By: Member - Doug T (NT) - Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 23:52

Tuesday, Oct 04, 2011 at 23:52
G'day, I'm the one that added the photo to the Places section,
I use to drive a Roadtrain Car-Carrier Brisbane-Darwin back in 1981/82, stopped at Frewena Roadhouse every trip, they had a bloke working there called Lofty, he was a Dwarf, did you ever meet him, hell he was a tough little bugger, someone picked him one night and before the tall bloke knew what happened Lofty bounded up on a chair and decked him....

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Follow Up By: smerl1 - Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 17:26

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011 at 17:26
Hi Doug T (NT) You went through there long after my time, I didn’t know Lofty sounds like he would fit in well. I was there early to mid-1960s
Thank you for your kind words blackbird 1937
Some more stuff I remember hope it’s of interest so sad to think it’s all gone and I am unable to visit and see how accurate my memory is.
As I remember Frewena Roadhouse inside and out (sometimes memory is not all that accurate) hope the following description is clear
When facing the roadhouse on your far left was a large building that was what was left of the American base, it was used as public toilets used by tourists, then on the left end of the roadhouse there was a window where the Aborigines would come to buy stuff but mostly to ask us to call the welfare officers in Tennant Creek to come and get them and take them to Tennant Creek, they (the Aborigines) were not allowed into the roadhouse as we sold alcohol. A petrol bowser in front. The door (can't picture it at present) led into a veranda (I think!) then another door to the bar area The bar was directly in front of you as you walked in, on the left was a small return with the cash register then a very long bar that went around in a horseshoe so that when we were serving had a bar in front of us to the left and behind, then a section of bar/counter going back to the back wall there were shelves on the wall behind this section with clothing for sale then another counter heading for the right hand wall across the complete back of the room, this was where we served food you sat on stools and we served you from behind the counter (wish I could do a diagram) we were told this was the longest bar in Australia!! We got quite a few buses and also tourists came for meals and of course the truck drivers and Welfare Offices, I just loved the road trains, I remember one driver had a new rig, he was so proud of it and asked me if I wanted to see in the cab as I was getting in I stood on the starter (or something) and the motor roared into live, frightened hell out of me and I got out real quick. The young guy who worked at Frewena told me I was a complete idiot as his intentions were not pure!!!! Can’t believe that of a big rig driver! At 70 I probably have a slightly different view….
Behind the back wall was the kitchen it was huge with a very large wood stove and another section where we ate and a large cool room. The generator was out back, (no swimming pool as I remember it) There were chooks down the back also, one day the Manageress told me to catch a chook as she said it didn’t look to good, she then cut its head off, she knew if she told me what she wanted it for I wouldn’t catch it, I hightailed it back to the kitchen with her little girl so I didn’t have to see it, she only caught me once, from then on she had to catch them herself or get someone else… After Bubba left I was cook for probably about a month then the new cook arrived he had an eye for the lads on the work crews, the bridges/causeways on the beef road were being built by I think John Holland at that time and the boys would come in periodically and go on a bender. There was also a mob of aborigines living out the back the women lit the wood fire stove every morning at 5am and did the washing for the roadhouse. They went walkabout at one stage so we had a very heavy workload with a few people staying in the rooms. To the right of the bar area was the accommodation area and staff bedrooms, my bedroom was an internal room and had a single bed, a small chest of drawers and small dressing table a concrete floor, the walls were timber and started about 12 inches above the floor and only went about 7 foot high, above was the roof no ceiling it was vaulted, the room behind mine went for about the length of 3 single rooms and was open to the outside with a wall about 3ft high then insect wire, this building was built to deal with the climate and allow as much breeze as possible, although I am talking about nearly 50 years ago this building was in good nick then and with a resident carpenter was well maintained. Seems a terrible shame that the whole area was bulldozed obliterating all the history, some of it went back to WW2.
My room was next to the cook’s room, one night I sat on my bed frozen in horror as he tried to convince a young lad from the road gang to get into bed with him (no privacy you could hear anything going on) The lad decided to go to his own room thank goodness can’t imagine how I would have coped…… As it was I grew up pretty quickly.
Out the back at the roadhouse was an old FJ (I think) Holden, the top had been cut off and Bill and I would go out shooting, I am ashamed to say I was there when Bill shot a bush turkey we took it back to the roadhouse and the cook had fricassee of turkey on the menu that night, was rather interesting when rangers?? Or someone similar came in and said it was illegal to kill bush turkeys we pleaded innocence had no idea where said turkeys came from, the turkeys were safe after that gave us a bit of a shock.
Turns out the FJ was owned by a young guy from Brunette Downs, he wanted the vehicle back and came in with 2 others to pick it up, of course they arrived in the afternoon and got a skin full (it was Frewena so was only to be expected) they left fairly late in the evening from memory, to drive the FJ back to Brunette Downs, the following morning a tourist came in with two of the guys, both in shock, one was older the other was only a lad who was traumatised, apparently they were both asleep with the other lad driving (no seat belts of course in those days) the young lad was on the back seat and the older in the passenger seat nobody knows what happened but when these two woke up the car was upside down and the driver was dead apparently the other two had been thrown out and the driver was under the car. They didn’t know where they were so decided to each go in a different direction, one was picked up by a tourist and they picked up the other and arrived at Frewena about 9amand we called the police, I was pretty upset having been talking to the dead lad the night before but the worst thing was the police took till about 3pm to arrive here then went to get the body, it was dreadful thinking of him lying there all that time with flies, dingos etc. They arrived back at Frewena just after dark and parked the police wagon at the side of the main building, I had made up an order of groceries to be picked up by one of the stations that night. I opened the roller? Door so they could load the order on a vehicle and there was the police wagon with a foot in sticking up at the window, I was really upset as the police were drinking and laughing in the bar and I considered they didn’t show this lad the respect he deserved. Of course, on reflection, they were probably traumatised as they had had a terrible job to do. Several smart arses told me they were going to put the body in our cool room so this freaked me out even more, remember although I was 21 I had always lived in Melbourne and in those days it was a fairly quiet city, I was actually very naïve.
(It was quite remarkable that not more people were killed, as, as in this instance, if an order was to be picked up they would arrive early afternoon and drink until they left).
Don’t know how long posts are accepted this is very long…….
In keeping with reliving my past I have just bought a 1976 Datsun 180B had one for over 25 years, we are in the classic car club at Pambula and also have a 1977 Prem and 1954 FJ much excitement picking Datto up next weekend.
Thank you for reading my musings
Keep safe
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