COMMONWEALTH HOUSING TRUST HOSTEL
50 BRISBANE STREET, BULIMBA, QLD
LATER KNOWN AS THE BULIMBA HOSTEL, 
DURING WWII

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Probably the largest project that took place in the Bulimba area was the building of the Cairncross Dry Dock. In early 1943 workmen began digging test holes to establish the type of material that they had to remove. When the project received the go-ahead, workmen came from everywhere. 

On the corner of Thynne and Lytton Roads, the Civil Construction Corps had a large camp where George Pickers had his showroom. The war workers required for the construction of the dry dock totalled nearly one thousand men. The CCC built about twenty dormitory blocks in Coutts Street, Bulimba for the main work force at the Cairncross Dry Dock. After the war these buildings became known as the Bulimba Hostel and provided cheap accommodation for low wage earners. All the original buildings were demolished in the early 1970's and The Clem Jones Home was built on the site over a number of years.

 


Plan:- NAA

Plan of the Commonwealth Housing Trust Hostel Area at Bulimba

 


Photo:- Mann Family Collection

Civil Constructional Corps men in the Bulimba district in 1944

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

Bulimba Hostel under construction

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 


Photo:- Bulimba District Historical Society via Norm Love

 

In December 2005, there were still some residents in The Clem Jones Home at 50 Brisbane Street, Bulimba, who had lived at the Bulimba Hostel after the war. The Clem Jones Home may be undergoing a major rebuild program in the next few years.

I was contacted by Mary Flesser on 12 June 2020. Mary told me that she had found this web page and had decided to write her memories of her time at the Bulimba Hostel from May 1958 through to September 1962. Here is her story:-

"The Hostel was made up of 3 blocks of 52 rooms on 2 levels. (26 rooms upstairs and 26 downstairs) The Blocks were identified as A, B and C. Each block had 1 single room, all the rest were share rooms for 2. Each block had community showers, toilets and a laundry facility. There was also a community room where people did their ironing, sewing (there was a treadle sewing machine.) or maybe read a book if they wanted to get out of their room. Then there was The Community Building of 2 levels. On the lower level we had the office, a linen storage and mending room, ladies and gents toilets, a large recreation room (with a stage), where weekly dances, table tennis and concerts etc were held, a library, a kiosk which sold toiletries, milk shakes, chocolates, ice cream and other bits and pieces and the main dining room and kitchen and dishwashing room. The top level had single accommodation for the office staff, ladies and gentís toilets, a small en-suited flat for the rare married couple (married couples werenít encouraged) and a couple of carefully selected Boarders in the 2 double rooms. There was also a share house near to C Block where kitchen and maintenance staff lived. A and B blocks were for men only and C block was for ladies. The share house had 1 older married couple in it as far as I can remember. (they probably kept their eye on the young staff of the place). ( C block and the share house were situated across the road from the community building)."

 


Photo:- Mary Flesser

The main entrance to the Community Centre

 

"The main occupants of the hostel were young people coming from country areas to work in Brisbane, Police Cadets, Studying Sugar Chemists, Railway workers, New Zealanders coming for seasonal work, migrants who had integrated into society via the migrant hostels (mostly poms), Government workers and a few older workers. At any one time there would be up to 400 people living there. We rarely had rooms vacant and there was a waiting list. The rooms were very basic, consisting of 2 single beds, a wardrobe each and a dividing dressing table with a mirror. (very similar to a cabin on a cruise ship). No ceiling fans in those days and only louvres for ventilation. All rooms opened to a hallway leading to the central shower/toilet block and exits at either end."

"You can imagine the need for us office people when booking people in to carefully consider who they would be sharing with. Mr. Leslie Rudolph Low, the Manager, was an expert at matching people and I learnt very well from him Ė I like to think."

 


Photo:- Mary Flesser

"A" Block can be seen in the background. At the left is Mary Broad
(later Mary Flesser) and her work mate at the hostel, Irene Hammond

 

"All accommodation provided was Full Board and Lodging. I canít remember how much it cost, but think when I started it was around 2 pound a week. All meals were provided including a cut lunch. The meals were good and served hot from bain maries. There was often the opportunity for seconds, but most people got enough in the first serve. Desserts were varied as well. I donít remember how many people the dining room seated, but do remember people lining up to go in. I donít think we had to have different times for seating."

 


Photo:- Mary Flesser

Outside the lower level of "C" Block
Val Kearsley, Gwen unknown, unknown,
Mary Broad (later Mary Flesser), & unknown

 

"Being a country girl growing up as the eldest of a large family, I loved food ( still do to this day) and consequently I put on weight very quickly in my first few months there. I also discovered milk shakes which didnít help. The fact that I was no longer racing around the paddocks and riding my bike everywhere didnít help either. Thankfully I realised after a while, that it was not a good thing and got active and reduced my milk shake and dessert intake pretty quickly."

"When I started at the hostel, there was no TV. When we did eventually get TV one was installed in the dining room and Mr Low would switch it on at around 7.00 each night and wait up to turn it off . He chose the show and people would gather around the small screen. I donít recall watching much as I loved my radio too much at that time."

"There were many little incidents during my time there and we often said one could write a book about the place. These are some of my memories:- The lady doing the dishes every day would sing at the top of her voice all the time ( thankfully she was a very good singer and made everybodyís day start off well ). Mr Low had to declare a man dead one day. The housekeeper called him down and sure enough the police had to be called. I remember asking him how he knew he was dead and he said ď He was stone coldĒ. We had a young man working for a while with us who was an epileptic, his name was Ernie and I often wonder how he got on in life. Mr Low always knew what to do when he had a fit. I just went into a panic and would call him on the Public Address. A young girl took an overdose one day, again Mr Low knew how to handle it. An older couple in their 80ís met at the hostel and got married, the darlings. I often think of them even though they would be long gone by now."

"One of my office 'juniors' was a lady who was twice my age, Irene was her name and she was lovely. Anyway one of the boarders took a shine to her and would give her presents every day. Me being 16/17 thought it was so romantic, but I later learned she was escaping an abusive relationship. The ever resourceful Mr Low had to help her sort him out."

"One day I started running the bath and was side tracked doing some sewing in the room where the machine was and let the bath run over. It ran down the stairs into the hallway and toilets below, all while people were lined up to go into the dining room. I didnít live that one down for a long time."

"One night I got home late from going skating at South Brisbane because my girlfriend and I decided to walk all the way to the ferry instead of catching the tram. I hadnít shut my door before I went out. Poor Mr Low was pacing the hallway worrying about me. I always shut my door after that."

"We always laughed a lot at the hostel and it was a wonderful place for a country girl to live and learn. I do think I was very fortunate to have had that job."

"My sisters Bev, Lou and Pam eventually had work at the hostel too for a while and I think my brother John was also there. Mr. Herbert George Lamble, the lessee, was very good to our family and he always took time out to provide and have lunch with Mum and Dad whenever they delivered another one of their kids to him."

"Around 2016 Bev and I took a nostalgic trip on the ferry and went back to the hostel. It is now an aged residence and there was absolutely nothing familiar about it."

"My years at the hostel were happy and care free. I travelled to Brisbane City by ferry and tram and home to Caboolture on weekends by train. We walked to the movies in Bulimba and anywhere else around there. I had happy company and life was good. Most of the girls and boys I spent my time with at the Hostel were country kids so we always had a good time together. I formed a nice friendship with a Val Inwood around the second year I was there. She lived at the hostel for a while and then moved to a suburb somewhere near Bulimba. We would go roller skating and to the movies together. She would go with me on weekends when I went home on the train and fitted in with my family well. To my regret, we lost touch after we both got boyfriends and married. She probably doesnít know my married name and I donít know hers. I have put her photo on Facebook a couple of times, just in case, but havenít been able to find her."

 

NOTE:- Mr Lamble and his wife and family lived at a suburb not too far from Bulimba (possibly Norman Park). Mr Low lived in at the Hostel Monday to Friday and went home to his family at Red Hill on weekends.

 


 


Photo:- via Norm Love BDHS

The Clem Jones Home was built on the site of the former Bulimba Hostel

 


 

 

The following files are available in the Australian National Archives:-

Title: Bulimba - hostel area
Series number: J1108 
Control symbol: SB53/2 
Contents date range: circa 1940 - circa 1980
Access status: Open with exception 
Location: Brisbane 
Barcode no: 892089

 

Title: -Australian Valuation Office - reports and valuations on Bulimba Hostel and
accommodation for Rheems project [including Hotel financial statements]
Series number: J1519 
Control symbol: SP 72 
Contents date range: 1944 - 1978
Access status: Not yet examined 
Location: Brisbane 
Barcode no: 5072819

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Catherine Beverly,  Manager of Care Services at The Clem Jones Home, for her assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Norman Love and Mary Flesser (nee Broad) for their assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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©  Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 26 December 2006

This page last updated 18 June 2020