Old mill helped build our region
THE last of the equipment from the old South Bundaberg sawmill in Lester St was sold recently, drawing an end to a Bundaberg era.
The equipment was auctioned off by Mark Mergard of the agency Real Estate Now!
The final disposal of the sawmill gear was a big day for Bundaberg's Barry Thiele, whose father started the sawmill in the 1950s.
"The sawmill would have started in about 1950," Mr Thiele said.
"My dad Merv Thiele bought a sawmill licence from a little cypress pine mill at Goodwood and transferred it to Alloway."
The sawmill was then run from a site next to where the Alloway Country Club now stands.
Mr Thiele said his father ran the sawmill in partnership with Stan Portas.
The mill was later shifted to its site in Lester St.
"Dad went into partnership with Charlie Volbon, who owned a furniture manufacturing business behind the site of the sawmill," Mr Thiele said.
"Dad bought Charlie's share out in about 1952."
Mr Thiele said he left school in 1953 at the age of 14 and started working in the mill.
"It was hard work with lots of heavy lifting," he said.
"We didn't have cranes or forklifts back then.
"We were our own forklifts."
Mr Thiele said his father died in 1973 and left the operation of the mill to him.
"I was running a cane farm at Fresh Water, Elliott at that time," he said.
"But I had to look after the mill too after his death."
Mr Thiele said the company bought another mill from the Hunter brothers that was a bit of an attraction for passers-by at the time.
The old steam mill was on the Gregory River at the time, and Mr Thiele recalls how people driving past used to stop and watch it operating.
That mill's licence was later transferred to South Bundaberg and the Hunter brothers and their workmen were employed there.
"We installed lights and worked two shifts for a while so we could keep everyone on," Mr Thiele said.
There was a bit of a building boom on at the time, and Mr Thiele said his sawmill would have supplied most of the timber for houses going up in the Norville area.
A major blow to the industry came in December 1991, when the State Government stopped logging on Fraser Island.
Mr Thiele said it made it very difficult for sawmills operating at the time to find timber.
The South Bundaberg sawmill was responsible for cutting much of the timber that went into Bundaberg buildings including the squash courts, the Civic Centre and the fire station.
Mr Thiele said he sold the mill in 1994, and had since lost touch with it.