Tronson Australia

Walter Vivian (1881 - 1965)

Tronson Family Crest





Walter and Jessie Tronson


Written by Seymour Tronson, with the help of hand-written documents from Jessie Tronson and sister Illma Jeffs 1985.


2006 transcribed by Mark Tronson and re-edited by Deidre Tronson.




The move to Long Island


While Viva and Cyril were away on their honeymoon, Dad and the carpenter George Burger were busy taking apart the share farmer’s house from the farm at Ringwood and marking each board ready for transport to the Island.


We realise now that Dad and Mum were very capable as well as being able to turn their hands to anything. For weeks we had been packing up tools, goods, household furniture. Besides  this, there were 6 cows, 1 bull, 1 draught horse, 5 beehives, 1 dog (Spot). All this was to be trucked to Pomona Railway station, then railed to the wharf at Brisbane and finally loaded onto the S. S. Wandana. While in Brisbane Dad also bought a crate of young laying R I hens.


The time scheduled from Brisbane to Long Island was 3 nights and 3 days. Mackay was our first stop. The Wandana left of the rising tide from Mackay so as to arrive at Long Island on high tide. They bundled all the gear into the hold and measured its volume, and that is how the cost was arrived at.


When Dad bought the Island he also bought the Reita, a 36 foot launch. We used the Reita, towing one barge and dingy pulled along side, for the final leg to our new home. Everything was loaded on, including the horse, which lowered into the water and swam in led by Dad in the dingy with George rowing.


The people that came to help set up were Mr and Mrs Lake and Davis, who had all gone on ahead some weeks earlier and prepared things as best they could, including cleaning out a well for water for us and the stock. The old tin house was just a shell. Davis had pulled up the flooring and replaced it with sand to clean out some of the cockroaches.





On the Wandana came Dad, Mum, Hepsy, Illma, George Burger and myself (Seymour). Within a week of us arriving, with poison bait standing on them and Dad burning them out with a blow lamp to get to places they couldn’t, we had them, finally under control.


Jessie Tronson recalls:

“We all set to work to get established for the night, we all had stretcher beds, the shed was large and portioned off roughly, so the men in one room, the girls and self in another. We had just got into bed trying to sleep and heard a funny noise. I said what is that and one of the girls said, ‘Oh mum, only cockroaches on the tin roof’. I knew I’d never sleep in this shed, so grabbed a pillow and blanked and went onto the beach where there was a rocking chair, it was a beautiful night, the moon shone on the water, it was a picture”.


Our first major job was to find a site and re-build the share-farmer’s house. It was built on 7 foot cement posts, along with another tank for water. When the house was finished, George then built first the Swan a 12 foot by 5 foot beam bottom boat, then an 8 foot dingy to take with the Reita, then a round bottom sailing boat. The sailing boat was a failure as it was too narrow and floated on its side. At a later date Dad cut the bottom off it and put on a flat bottom, and we could use it then. George went on to Bowen with his work being finished with us. We used the old tin house as out tool shed.


We soon had water in a trough and a pump at the well for the stock; cow bails built; beehives in place – generally everything was getting into shape. Shortly after this Mr and Mrs Lake left us for the mainland.


The next major work was to build some Units for guests. By this time we had a garden going with plenty of paw-paw trees, and we had made a wire netting fish trap.



Establishment of Happy Bay Resort


We named it “Happy Bay”.


Jessie Tronson comments:

“The units were erected one by one. A man came along in his own boat and said he would take a unit for his Christmas holiday. That was the start. We would go to Proserpine and Walter soon became known and advertised, it was surprising how quickly we became established”.


From the ‘Prosperpine Guardian’ 1936


The Happy Bay Resort on Long Island, which has been established by Mr Tronson, now is catering for the tourist trade from Proserpine, at the modest rate £2.10/0 per week. Mr Tronson also has huts which he lets at 12/6 per week. There is fish, fruit, milk and cream in unlimited quantities.”


Dad and I cemented under the house so we could use that as the kitchen and dining room.  We had anticipaed this in the building of the house, we had left out one row of posts by putting heavy round hardwood logs on top of the posts. Fresh water was a little problem but we managed with the 2,000 gallon tank at the house and the 1,000 gallon tank at the shed.


The stock had water from the well. As time went on we bought 100 half grown chickens. The hens we bought with us were laying well. It was my job to attend the fish traps. There always seemed to be abundant fish; plenty of 10 and 12 lbs. I could prepare the fillets for cooking for the table, putting all the rubbish in a tin and boiling it for the fowls. W always had plenty of milk and butter and cream.


We grew as much as could in the way of vegetables. There was an abundance of paw paws, besides an old batch of bananas where the regrowth was coming up between the trees, but still provided plenty of bananas for our use,  and the sweetest rough leaf pineapples you’ve ever tasted. One didn’t realise how much difference in flavour that you could get amongst the different paw paws.


After one year we cleared ½ acre to put in an orchard. When we first got there, there were plenty of oysters. It did upset us to see some people being greedy at the oyster patch.


The beach at Happy Bay was 500 metres long by 200 metres from high water mark to low water mark. It was good firm sand. From high water mark back was 100 metres back to the first timber that was level, and had been built up naturally with sand and coral through the years. From there across to the back beach was another 600 metres that was ordinary soil with a few native trees growing. The back beach was a gravel slope, then coral reef out to deep water.


The hills to the north were about 150 metres high with a reasonable slope. The eastern side was covered in long grass, the western side in scrub right up to high tide. In the scrub there were scrub hens, about half the size of the ordinary hen, and across on the mainland abundance of scrub turkeys, which we would get sometimes, asking mum how many she wanted.


To make walking tracks, Dad would walk or scramble first, then I would follow driving Rose (the horse) with a tree being pulled behind her.  We would all also help by throwing off the loose stones. Coconut trees were natural there.


Then the Islanders got a mail run going, coming up every Sunday with a trip for passengers. Our stop would be the second last stop, so while the mail boat went around to Palm Beach, Dad would get to answer as much mail as he could.


Later on M. V. Bingera bought the goods up from Brisbane, along with the tourists who were coming that way. One party got on board and left it to the Captain to put them off where he thought best, and he brought them to Happy Bay. By this time we were getting known.


We would take the tourists around the Islands. ‘What say, Hook Island or Whitsunday Island? What about such and such a bay?’  No one has ever been there before. By this way we ourselves saw most of the inlets and islands. They were great days. Another popular spot was the Dent Light House. Hepsy and Illma would always come on those trips. They would look after the food and the comfort of the people.


We had one nicely dressed charming lady who talked her way to two three holidays.  On the next trip she had to pay; we never saw her again.





I remember Dwight Long calling on us as he was doing a trip around the world in his 28 foot boat  ‘Idle Hour’.  He had on board a Tiatian boy Timy who showed us how to grate the coconuts. Timy really enjoyed that stay, said it reminded him of home. They stayed with us for a few days.


Another time when there was a cyclone further north, a Norwegian steamer sheltered in our bay waiting for the cyclone to pass. We went out to them in the Reita and asked the Captain to comer ashore. The Captain didn’t, but the First and Second Mate did. They enjoyed the afternoon tea made with tank water. On board, they said, they only drank coffee. Afterwards they asked all of us to go for dinner. The cooks and stewards were all little dark men, I think from the Dutch East Indies. They seemed to be all around us and as soon as your plate was emptied they would pop another dish of food past your shoulder for you to help yourself. That was most enjoyable. The word came down from the Bridge that the cyclone had passed. Everything moved fast, the Captain was up on the Bridge, we hurried into our boat, and as soon as they got underway, they gave three blasts on their horn.


On another occasion the launch from Lindeman Island called in. They had a native on board called Billy who asked us ‘ Are there were Dugong about?’  ‘Yes, just across the bay’. Billy set to work: he got a long pole for the spear, fixed up the wire barbs, got a long heavy cord – and we were ready. Just out from the bay, I was on the oars, very silently rowing; Billy  was up front of the dingy watching and ready. Soon we could see them feeding. The first try missed, and the dugong got away. Further around, Billy saw them all, I knew he was gone over the side with the spear, so I hurried to get ready to steer just as Billy was getting back into the boat. Well, for 100 metres no speed boat would have caught us!! Billy then held the dugong’s tail up and drowned it. We dressed it at home, and it was like port to eat; not one bit went to waste. Billy took his piece down on the rocks, cooked it the way he likes it.


No doubt the natives can teach us when it comes to living on the things around us. We made them all welcome.



Seymour’s Ocean Trip


Another day I got the opportunity of a trip in a ketch as a crew member, 145 foot Oimara, to Melbourne. Dr Bennell was on a health trip up north. That’s how I came to see Herron island, but that’s another story. I was away three months, it was February when I got home. While I was away a Nancy Horne had dropped a bottle in the sea at Seaforth and Illma picked that bottle up and wrote to her and Dad offered her a job at Happy Bay.


Jessie Tronson explains:

“One day a large boat arrived and paid us a visit. Seymour went out to it, they were a man short and asked Seymour if he would fill the position. So we consented and when they set sail again Seymour went with them. There was no money, but an opportunity to get loads of experience travelling to Melbourne. On their way a storm came up and they were blown off course, reported lost at sea. Anyway they found their way and when the weather improved and as Seymour knew Morse Code,he  let them know in Melbourne that they were OK. A crowd collected at the wharf to greet them”.

  (The St Kilda Yacht Club gave Seymour Honorary Membership)


I was away for three months. We had several lengthy stops along the way as Dr Bennell was very ill and was hospitalised in Maryborough. I was the cook and helped with the maintenance of the ketch. We came down the east coast of Australia without incident, but towards Melbourne a storm came up and only after three days the storm abated. I knew morse code and signalled we were safe. There was even a newspaper man and photographer at St Kilda Wharf when we eventually docked. Dr Bennell was a well known figure in the St Kilda Yacht Club. I stayed in Melbourne for two weeks with my uncle and aunt and cousins, Grant and Anne McIntyre, they lived in Toorak. Grant was at university, Anne was still at school. I then came back home by rail.





We were getting so busy we couldn’t keep up with the building up of the Resort. Dad offered a half share to Bill Thorough. Bill and his brothers had discovered the Ditma Gold Mine and had sold it for a good sum. So Bill was there when I got back from Melbourne, and Nancy soon after. Henry Breuer had a lot of allotments in Townsville and was down that way seeing all the timber and wanting to start a sawmill. He had been in touch with the Forestry Department. Dad agreed that Henry could build a saw mill at one end of the beach. Davis came back home and helped him saw the timber. Henry employed men to cut down the logs on the mainland. Soon after that, Hepsy and Henry were married and they moved to Proserpine, mill and all.


Jessie Tronson realised the importance of advertising:

“We had been on the Island over a year when I took a trip back to the Ringwood farm and also onto Brisbane. I called at the tourist office and asked about a Long Island pamphlet. They didn’t have any. I told them I knew that, just wanted to know whether they had any knowledge of Long Island. I introduced myself, ‘I am Mrs Tronson of the Island’, and he got excited, asked me inside the office the following day to speak to his boss, as they were having enquiries about the Island. Next day I had a long interview with the Queensland Tourist Officer in charge. He said he would go to Happy Bay himself, and actually was there before I returned home. He went by train, I went by boat. He was very impressed and stayed with us a week. He said he would make us a fortune as he said we’d made more progress than any of the other Islands”.


A wreck could be seen at Happy Bay at low tide. In those days according to a H.G. Lammond, there were all sorts of tales by locals of the origin of that wreck. There was another wreck also near the tip of South Mole Island, and a couple of others known to be around. These others could only be seen dimly when tides and other conditions were favourable. The one at Happy Bay was open to view every day at every tide. I would say roughly speaking, it had the dimensions of a modern pearling lugger. That would be about 60 foot long with a beam of 15 ft. If it was a lugger, and if it drew the same water, it would have a draught of 5 to 7 feet.


Some visitors, romantically minded, whispered that it was an old Spanish Galleon. They even dared think it was a treasure ship, and buried beneath it there may have been doubloons and pieces of eight. The fact that some iron balls each about 10 to 12 inches in diameter had been found on the Island from where the wreck lay added to the mystery and gave colour to any imagined romantic ending.


I remember one day I stood on what may have been the deck of that ship when she was afloat. I let my imagination off the chain. I returned to my own Island, South Mole and I wrote a story which had been prompted by these lines of oysters. It was perfectly safe top do so, that wreck predated Australian history, know one knows what it had been; even the most garrulous oldest inhabitant could not tell a thing about it – no more than any tourist from the south could see. The thing in a sense was all mine. I sold that story to an American magazine, I used it a couple of times as a radio story. I now for the first time tell how history is made in some instances.


Electricity had been connected throughout Townsville, so Dad went to Townsville and brought from the university their A.C. current, 100 volt direct-drive plant. It had enough current to light 40 lights at once. That came with an electric iron and other electric appliances. Mr Heron, an electrician from the Proserpine Sugar Mill, came over and installed it throughout the house and the units.


The S.S. Wandana was our supply ship for 18 months, then the M.V. Bingera took over. It did the costal run. One party of four businessmen complete with motor launch came from Brisbane on the Bingera. They said they were sorry they didn’t bring their wives, but promised to do so next trip.


Jessie Tronson explains:

“The Wandana came monthly and we got our provisions, we would go out in the Reita, and as it was night time when the Wandana arrived, we would light up the Island to let them know we would be soon with them. Sometimes they would be our guests and we would take them on shore. On one occasion a party arrived and a Mr White was the head of Seafome Flour and said that he had never had better bread. I made all my own bread on the Island. Mr White asked me for my recipe.



Time to move on


It was about August of 1937 that Bill said to Dad that he would either sell his half or buy our half. So with some consideration, with Dad and Mum wanting to retire and we  children ready to go out on our own, that we sold out.


Jesse Tronson continues:

“It was rather sad to leave but it was better. We went to friends in Mackay, Mr & Mrs Bath. Seymour found a second home there and they welcomed him as a family member over many years to come. Seymour eventually went to Eungella getting a farm by ballot and we returned to Noosa Heads to friends and then to Sydney for a holiday. Mr Erwin was a great friend of Walter’s, he was a wool buyer and visited different countries in this business. He lived at Darling Point and we were very welcomed there. He asked Walter if we would live in his lovely home while he went away, he would dismiss his staff and only keep his gardener. Soon after war broke out, so he didn’t go away, and asked us to look after him and his house until the war was over. We lived there for 3 years while Illma learned hairdressing. It was then time for us to go back home to Noosa Heads”. 


By November I had an application in the Lands Department for a scrub selection up on Eungella Range, I was the successful applicant and moved on the Selection in January 1938.


In the meantime Dad and Mum went to Sydney to take care of a house for a friend Mr Erwin at Darling Point, Sydney. Illma went along with them and then did a course in hairdressing. Davis was working for a Mr Dotle further up north Queensland as a rouseabout, digging wells or helping in the saw mill.


The Darling Point house had been rented to the Japanese Ambassador and his family. Just before the war started, his wife and daughter returned to Japan and when war commenced the Ambassador was interned.


After three years in Sydney they returned to Noosa Heads, brought a house in Hastings Street and built two blocks of flats front and back.


Jessie Tronson recalls:

“Illma had become engaged to Walter Jeffs, who could not rest, he had to do something, so he built three flats at the back of the house on our beach front road and another two flats on the front. We now had a busy life again and I made many friends”.


After a few years they moved back to Gympie, November 1960. They paid £3600 for Mr Washington’s property on River Road. After a short while Dad suffered a stroke, In 1963 Mum thought it would be best to return to Tewantin and the following year 1964 Dad died in Gympie hospital, he was 84. Mum still lives in Tewantin aged 98 (1985).


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