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Les Burger and Springbrook

Recollections of Les Burger:

It was around 1935 that my cousin, Eric Charnock from Springbrook, asked myself and my brother, Ron Burger, if we could come up to Springbrook to cut some big trees that were still standing on his father's property. West Burleigh Sawmill had recently installed a Canadian saw and was now equipped to cut big logs. So it was a viable proposition for all concerned to have these trees felled. The Charnocks had almost 400 acres stretching from the west branch of the Little Nerang Creek up to the access road along the ridge to Mount Wunburra. At the time, I was about 17 years and Ron was around 20 years of age. We were both living at the family home at Kunghar in New South Wales.

Terms of business

The West Burleigh Saw Mill would pay the Charnocks a royalty fee for their timber and pay us sixpence (five cents) per hundred super feet of timber felled. A superficial (super) foot measured timber for the purpose of payment. It referred to a section, 12 inches square and one (1) inch thick, and payment was based on value per 100 super feet. At first we thought the saw-miller's offer wasn't enough. We were getting one shilling and sixpence (15 cents) per hundred super feet at Standard and Sly's mills in Murwillumbah. I think wages were about two pounds ten shillings ($5) per week. The West Burleigh saw-miller assured us that we could earn just as much or more on this job, as he paid on solid measurement and would not deduct any money for hollow logs or sections. It also meant that we didn't have to travel far on the property to locate suitable logs. A good timberman learnt with experience how to hit the trunk of a tree with the back of an axe to determine whether the timber was too hollow or rotten for felling.

The work

In the long run we were lucky, because the big trees and solid measurement worked out to be a lot better proposition. We were young, strong and willing, and we made good money on this job. When we cut the logs we numbered them and recorded a measurement on the log with a thick wax crayon. Springbrook local, Jim Errington, had a big trawler tractor which was used to push the logs on the back of a timber truck for transport down to West Burleigh. Each numbered log was re-measured at the mill and we would receive a statement and, finally, a cheque for the work. The length of the cut logs was determined by the saw mill in order for them to fill orders for Brisbane builders and timber merchants. Most of the timber we cut on this job was used for floor joists and studs. Our tools for the job were axes, tape and barking bar, and a seven foot cross cut saw loaned to us by the mill owner. On Springbrook, we felled and barked one tree with a 25 feet eight inch girth. We cut it into four logs and it milled out at 13,800 super feet. Another tree was cut into five logs and milled out to approximately 11,600 super feet. The timber was all blackbutt and the work took us about six months to complete. Later on we went farther up the Springbrook Plateau and cut some softwood - I think they called it Pinkie.

Daily life

Ron and I travelled up to work up on Springbrook in an old Dodge truck. We lived in a tent, rose early and worked in mist which lasted till quite late in the day. We always worked from daylight to dark. We would take enough food for the week including potatoes, onions, a side of corn beef, homemade jam and bread. The bread however, was always a bit stale and mildew by Saturday. Our parents had moved from Kunghur to live in Kingscliff, so on Saturday afternoons we left our Springbrook camp to go and visit them, and to get some more provisions.

Travelling to Springbrook

The following Monday morning we would leave Kingscliff early to arrive for the drive up the one-way Springbrook Road. The Main Road Commission had proclaimed the times that traffic was allowed to travel up or down the narrow mountain road. In order to drive up early, we needed to arrive at Springbrook between 1am to 4am or between 7am and 9am. One night, Ron and I were coming down the one way and we noticed a back wheel was making a lot of noise. By the time we got off the road and were able to stop, we were horrified to see the nut was completely off the axle. We almost made the steep descent a lot quicker than we would have liked.

The One Way road

The One Way road timetable, Springbrook - Too much Gramma Pie: I remember another amusing incident when our young Springbrook cousin, Ken Charnock, came to stay with us at Kunghar. He found himself in a spirited discussion with a neighbour Barney, who commented on Ken's habit of saying "aint" and teased him about other ways he misused the English language. Barney said, "What's more Ken, you don't know your grammar". Ken didn't want to appear ignorant and making light of it all said, "Look here Barney, I've ate more bloody gramma than you have ever seen". Transport of a variety of foods to Springbrook was difficult but home-grown gramma (a type of pumpkin with orange flesh and skin) was obviously in plentiful supply on Springbrook. My brother Ron is now 87 and I am 84 and my recollections of our six months spent cutting timber on Springbrook are as vivid as ever. Finally, I wrote this story not to boast but in the interests of preserving history.

Les Burger
June 2002 

First photo is of the Burger family, second photo of a truck loaded with log and last photo is of a train timetable to Springbrook 
First photo is of the Burleigh Sawmill in the 1029s and second photo is of Jim and his baby daughter

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