Like most kids growing up in the 20s, Dad was expected to pull his weight from a young age. He would always remind us that, from the age of 8, he had to milk the cows and turn it into cream and butter before running barefoot off to school. Forced to work hard from a young age instilled a strong work ethic within him, and helped create the success and drive he had in life.
During the depression, finding work as a young lad was not easy and he
had a variety of jobs.
At 15, he worked for Neville Bros assisting the mechanics, and cleaning up the machinery
and floor, but after an altercation with an apprentice he was sacked and went to work in the laboratory at Goondi Mill helping the Chemist to collect and analyse cane samples. He would also deliver buns with Tommy Clarke while the delivery boy was on holidays, and was paid 2 bob a day plus all the buns he could eat.
From 15 to 18 years of age, he sometimes went to Ella Bay during the slack season to live, but also to the Atherton Tablelands where he worked for Fred McLeans to help plant corn, milk 60 cows, feed 200 pigs and drive ploughs with 6 horses. While on the Tablelands, he also worked with a butcher at Kauri making sausages and serving customers.
At 18, he worked with Uncle Bert as an assistant sugar boiler. During WWII he helped Jean Beck and Dick Clarke paint the water tower with camouflage paint.
He worked at Chillagoe during the slack season from ages 19 to 20, and on the weekends,
he would help herd cattle, and break in brumbies on properties owned by other workers.
When Chillagoe shut down, he worked at Rotherine Park Station for 2 weeks, until he
became sick of living on corn beef and damper, and left to work for the Main Roads around
Almerdin, Herberton, and Hot Springs where he filled potholes with white ant nests, and
helped build bridges.
He eventually returned to Goondi Mill to work full time as a Boiler Hand, and, during the
slack season, he dived in the North Johnstone River to retrieve pulleys, and wagons etc
that were lost off the ferry during the crushing season.
After working on the boiler floor for 6 months, he obtained his 3 class ticket, and became
the winch driver for the carrier. He worked during the slack season to clean and paint the
boilers. Once he completed his time with the carrier, he switched to driving the knives for
two seasons (years). This was a 2nd class job and after 12 months and 1 day, he took on
the job of driving the Shredder. After another 12 months ½ day he sat for first class ticket
qualifying at 26 as the youngest First Class ticket holder in Australia. During this period, he
also worked overtime loading bags of sugar.
Some time after Mum and Dad married, Dad left Goondi Mill to take over pop’s cane farm on the Palmerston Highway. Here, he earned extra money by cutting wood for use in the boilers and by providing logs for the sawmill. He cut the logs by attaching the other end of a cross cut saw to a bicycle tube and this helped with the return stroke.
Due to his hard work, the cane farm proved to be one of the best in Innisfail and produced 52 tons per acre, and due to his high CCS he received 15 shillings per ton more than his neighbours.
After Nan and Pop sold the farm in the early 50s, Dad returned to permanent work at Goondi Mill on the boilers during the crushing, and crane driver/rigger during the slack. In January 1974 Dad left Goondi Mill to work in QAL where he worked his way up to be the top Panel Operator by the time he retired.
His story telling of numerous jobs led Marc to ask him “Poppa why couldn’t you hold down a job?” which gave him a good laugh.
While he was younger, he helped his father build a couple of houses, improved the houses
on the Palmerston Highway and Kurramine Beach, and built a house in Pine St.
In Innisfail, all the Wright’s were known as keen fisherman, and Dad really loved to fish.
He built a plywood boat on the enclosed back verandah while we lived in Pine Street, and
took the louvre frame out to shift it outside. He later purchased a fibreglass boat, and his
most recent one was a tinnie. While we were growing up, most of our holidays were spent
at Kurramine and Mission Beach, where he loved to fish with his family and friends. Later,
after moving to Gladstone, Elliott Heads and back to Gladstone, he continued to enjoy his
Dad was always good for a yarn with many stories of the old days. In later years, with
failing memory, meant we heard the same stories regularly enough to almost commit them
to memory ourselves.
Dad took up playing bowls when he moved to Gladstone, and continued playing after he
retired to Elliott Heads, and on his return to Gladstone. He loved his bowls, and when he
experienced difficulty playing he continued to play with a bowling arm. He won several
trophies, and one of his wishes was to be buried with them.
When asked a few years ago about what he wanted on his memorial, Dad replied “At least
I tried”by Darryl