Identity of stookers discovered
A KEPNOCK man has helped solved the mystery of the identity of three men peanut stooking in the South Burnett.
Jack Davies was shocked when reading the NewsMail last week to see his brother, Royce Davies, and himself in a photograph.
The photograph was published in the paper after Peanut Van owner Rob Patch had been searching for the identity of the men for weeks and had come to believe the men were cane cutters from Bundaberg or Childers.
“I rang him and he was thrilled to find out who the people were,” Mr Davies said.
The identity of the third man is still unconfirmed, but Mr Davies thinks it may be Italian-born Childers man John Sylvester.
The photograph, taken on a Tingoora peanut farm, was snapped for the Post Magazine’s Pix for People section when Mr Davies was in the area peanut stooking in 1961.
Mr Davies and his brother would travel to the area in March after completing the cane cutting season in Bundaberg in November or December.
“It was pretty good money but long hours — daylight to dark,” Mr Davies said.
“It was hard. It was dirty and freezing cold in those days. You had to bend low all day and it was tough — terrible, but that was our living in those days.
The work didn’t bother us because we had to do it.”
Mr Patch received a number of phone calls suggesting the identity for the farmers, and was surprised at the interest the story stoked.
“It was their moment in the sun and they never got much recognition,” he said.
“They’re great people to talk to and Jack was a great bloke. He stooked peanuts for Sir Joh; they’d sleep in old sheds in the winter with three-inch gaps in the walls and in the day they wore big old army coats, hands covered in plasters and no boots.”
Mr Patch was awed by the harsh conditions and hard work the peanut stookers endured.
“The bushels in the cold were stalky and their skin was so cold it had no give; they’d have strips torn off them,” he said.
“They’d have to put plaster on their hands.”
But the dew made their boots wet and muddy, so the men bore the pain of prickles and sticks until their soles toughened.
“It was incredible how much work they had to do to earn money,” Mr Patch said.
Mr Davies’ brother, Royce, died from Parkinson’s disease at age 58.