FAMILY HISTORY: Betty and Ken Peterson have been involved in the sugar industry for decades.
FAMILY HISTORY: Betty and Ken Peterson have been involved in the sugar industry for decades. Max Fleet

Mill powers five generations

A SOUTH Kolan woman is part of a chain of five generations of the one family which has worked at Bingera Mill - and she has lived close to the mill her whole life.

Along the way the family has notched up a list of firsts in the neighbourhood.

Betty Peterson, who turns 85 this week, said the first family member to work at the mill had been her great-grandfather John Webb.

Mr Webb was friends with the Gibson family in England, and when he came out in 1884 to take over the mill he and his wife, Elizabeth, came too.

He became the first man to work for the Gibsons at the mill.

Mrs Peterson said her grandmother Mabel was the first white child born in the district, in 1889.

"When she was born the mill flew the flag and blew the whistles," she said.

Mrs Peterson said she did not know her great-grandfather, but she remembered her great-grandmother.

"She was a real lady."

Mrs Peterson said Mabel worked in the office at the mill for a short time, as did Mabel's sister Ivy.

The Webbs had eight children: Annie, Mabel, Ruby, Grace, John, Joy, James and Hubert.

Mrs Peterson said Mabel married James Brennan, an engine driver at the mill.

"They lived in Mt Perry after they married and had one child there," she said.

"The Gibsons brought them home to Jensen St and they had their family there, in the first house in South Kolan.

"It's still there."

Mrs Peterson said her aunt Betty worked in the office at the mill for many years.

"When I was just 15 I was offered a job at the mill," she said.

Mrs Peterson said she spent six years in the office, and left when she married Allan Peterson, who died 19 years ago.

The couple's children also racked up significant time working at the mill.

Son Wayne worked there for 26 years after being offered a job when he was 15 and at school in Rockhampton.

Richard worked at the mill for 32 years, and Kerryn for seven years.

Mrs Peterson's son Ken still works for Bundaberg Sugar after 40 years.

He started as an apprentice fitter and turner and is now a system support officer for Bundaberg Sugar at Millaquin Mill.

Mrs Peterson said the family had strong ties to the South Kolan region.

"I've lived in South Kolan for 85 years," she said.

"I spent all my married life on a cane farm here."

Mrs Peterson said she used to play the piano for any function the Gibsons had and when they held parties on the lawn at the mill.

She also played for maypole dancing in the area.

Mrs Peterson said she helped establish the first kindergarten in the South Kolan area, and she and her husband started the aero club after the Second World War.

"We also started the soccer club because our son Wayne didn't have anywhere to play," she said.

BINGERA MILL: Bingera Mill. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
BINGERA MILL: Bingera Mill. Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet


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