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Gold Coast history and heritage

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World War II audio recounts

During the second World War, Tweed Heads, Coolangatta, Kirra, Tallebudgera and Surfers Paradise became coastal locations for large numbers of American and Australian servicemen on 'rest and recreation' (R&R). Towards the end of the war, the British and the Dutch also visited. The Australian Army established its own club at Mermaid Beach and RAAF personnel were rested at St George's Hostel, Rainbow Bay, while officers were stationed at Surfers Paradise. Non-swimmers were taught to swim and surf bronze medallion courses were conducted at Kirra, training both Australian and American servicemen in Australian surf lifesaving procedures.

So far, the oral history collection includes interviews with war brides from the Gold Coast who married American servicemen and travelled to the United States. It also includes an interview with a nurse who worked at the convalescent camp at Tallebudgera and a WAAAF driver who worked at the 51 Radar station at Point Danger. A number of interviews are with men who were children on the coast when the Australian and allied forces were there. Others remember doing errands for the 'Yanks'. For more information about this time, download our fact sheets about the Gold Coast during World War II.

Do you have a story to tell about the Gold Coast during the war years? If so, we invite you to share your memories of this period. 

Please call the Office of City Architect on 07 5582 8875.  

Read and/or listen to the recounts of Deslie Doolan and Joyce Punch below:


Deslie Dolan

Deslie Dolan grew up in Coolangatta, where her family operated Skeltons milk bar in the main street. During World War II, American servicemen stayed in the area for rest and recreation. Desley recalls how her father got hold of extra milk for the many Americans staying in town.

Edited transcript
I was born in Coolangatta and my parents had a milk bar in Maclean Street. When the Americans came they wanted milk for their R&R, the navy and the army. Some took over the Grand Hotel and some took over the Coolangatta Hotel. Dad was on petrol tickets those days, and dad didn't have the tickets. They wanted a lot of milk, so dad said to them, "Well, I can't get it for you because I haven't got the petrol tickets", and they said they would provide a jeep and a driver and they took dad out every day and they'd get 10 gallons of milk and the famers were having a great time getting rid of their milk too and that was during the war years.

Download audio file  (Mp4 2.37mb, 2:37)


Joyce Punch

Joyce Punch visited the Gold Cost regularly as a child. On one family holiday Joyce's dad brought home an American Officer. (He was on rest and recreation at Surfers Paradise). He told Joyce he was desperate to see his 'gunner' – who he knew was on R & R in Coolangatta – but the US defence force didn't allow officers to visit soldiers of a lesser rank.

Edited transcript
I met this American, because the officers were at Surfers Paradise and the enlisted men were at Coolangatta, well Dad brought home this boy, Tom Redding, and he was really really yellow and he'd been up in New Guinea and he' been brought out of the jungle by 'fuzzie wuzzies'. Anyway they'd been sent out here for R&R so he said I'd love to go down to Coolangatta to see my gunner but we're not allowed to go down there and he's not allowed to come up here. I said to him, "I know what we can do, we can hire a couple of pushbikes and we could ride them down there". He said that was a pretty good idea. Their uniform had these gold bars on them, you know 1st Lieutenant, 2nd Lieutenant like that so he said I'll take the gold bars off and then he did that and then he just had a khaki shirt on. So we did that and that was pretty good. The only hard part was going up over Tallebudgera Hill - from Burleigh over to Tallebudgera Creek.

When we got as far as Burleigh I said, " We'll go up Goodwin Terrace and you'll get a lovely view . So we go up there and have a breather and something to eat and drink. John Patterson was just down in front of us with his old rolls Royce. He used to be known as the Vita tan man he used to sell this stuff that you slathered all over yourself. That was his caper going round spraying girls and boys on the beach with this Vita tan, well he happened to be there. This fellow Redding thought this was a great story and he was taking pictures of him with his mutton bird and his mutton bird oil. He had a huge stomach with his pants down under his stomach. Well anyway we had a few hours with the boy and his wasn't supposed to be up there and more than Redding was supposed to be down the coast. Anyway his saw his mate and that was a good day out.

Download audio file (Mp4 2.81mb, 2:47)

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