By James T Mealing OAM
At the beginning of 1977, I had been working for the Main Roads Dept. for 10 years, during this time I had spent no more than 6 weeks in the one place. I began to look for an opportunity to change my occupation and settle into a more permanent place. My mind was set on three possible destinations. In the hills behind Sarina, On Harvey’s Range west of Townsville or Kuranda . I was staying at the Kuranda bottom pub drill testing foundations for the proposed Kuranda by-pass road when, one Sunday, I took my washing to the Honey House laundrette where I met Howard Jones, the Honey House owner. He indicated that he was willing to sell the Honey House business and property. I asked him to present me with a price so that I could work on a proposal to purchase the property from him. Mid year I returned to Kuranda without any word from Howard and I approached him again for a sale price. He nominated $ 115,000. as the price he would accept. I proposed to him that I would transfer to him my Ross River block of land for $ 15,000. Pay him $ 30,000. cash which I would obtain from my Bank and for him to carry a mortgage for the remaining $ 70,000. He accepted this proposal and in November Olive and a friend moved into the Honey House to learn to operate the business. The sale was finalised in January, Olive operated the business until April when I resigned from the Main Roads Department and arrived in Kuranda to help the operation. 12 businesses operated in Kuranda and business was extremely slack. A Kuranda Scenic Rail Train operated 6 mornings each week staying in Kuranda for 40 minute before returning to Cairns. Most of the passengers derailed from the train onto Busses and continued around the Tablelands and back to Cairns. On Sundays the Bus traveled in a reverse direction, arriving at Kuranda mid afternoon where some of the bus passengers transferred to a Rail motor which came up from Cairns each Sunday afternoon. The Kuranda Rail Refreshment Rooms operated on these Tourists, however no Tourists entered the Town. A Honey House sign at the Railway station was ineffectual because it took more than 40 minute to walk to the Honey House and back to the Station and have time for shopping. I removed this sign and erected one on Clarrie Butlers property on the highway before Kuranda and another on the Railway property visible as one drove across the Barron River Bridge. Olive obtained a permit from Mareeba Shire to sell Tea & Scones with Honey and cream. Marge Harris produced great pumpkin scones and business began to increase. Keith Harris introduced us to Shorty Waugh who drove a small Tourist Bus on a (2) service from Cairns to Cooktown and back. Shorty introduced us to Jack Wilson, another bus driver.
My aunt Ruby Nugent and Big Stew (A Main Roads bridge carpenter) stole some doors from the old Honey House and completed construction of a Female and Male toilet, down stairs at the back of the Honey House. When the tourist season began, Shorty would pick up his passengers from various Motels in Cairns and head for Cooktown. when he reached Kuranda he would make a toilet stop at the Honey House. Next day, on their way back from Cooktown he would make another toilet stop and give them time to shop for honey products in our shop. Thus began our Tourist bus trade when interstate tour buses would collect their passengers from the train and deliver them to us for morning tea with tea or coffee, pumpkin scones, honey and cream. The bus drivers would call on us on their way to the railway station and give us their passenger numbers so that we served them more efficiently than the Railway Refreshment rooms and saved the drivers valuable time and, it provided us with valuable customers. We devised a system whereby we paid drivers a commission on all sales of honey products. The commissions were placed in envelopes and placed behind the Kitchen door to be collected by each driver on their return visit. Our business began to thrive, however the other businesses in town were struggling to exist. These businesses had formed an organisation, “The Kuranda Tourist Association” which I joined. Its aim was to try to develop some scheme to entice visitors to Kuranda. The members of the K T A were Charles Woodward Phyl & Thelma Cohen, Peter & Lyn Hohermuth, Keith & Marge Harris, Jim Biggs, Meryl Cranston, Pam Wright, Betty Wilson and Myself. Many ideas were floated without any successful actions. When we arrived at the Honey House, John Bax was operating an unsuccessful restaurant called “Mr SUNSHINE” in the old Honey House building. For a few weekends he operated a small Hippie Market below the old Honey House building. One night John did a runner. Phil Cohen Myself and a few others helped John remove his equipment from “Mr Sunshine” to Thelma Cohen’s home. John had a large banner “KURANDA MARKETS” which he used for his Hippie Market. He presented the banner to me. At the next Kuranda Tourist Association meeting I raised the idea that we should try to resurrect the Hippie Market and suggested that the Honey House property was a better site which I made available. Many discussions culminated from this idea. One day Big Stew. arrived at the Honey House and set up a stall on the footpath. I spoke to Keith Harris and Peter Hohermuth and suggested that We immediately set up some stalls on the Honey House property amongst the old Museum pieces and start the markets as soon as possible.
Keith, Phyl and Peter using reject timber from the sawmill and square iron tubing, constructed a few stalls amongst the museum pieces in the Honey House back yard, meanwhile I spent a few days in Cairns Base Hospital suffering a bout of asthma. On arriving home I found the stalls ready and that Peter and Lyn Hohermuth had organised free advertising throughout the Cairns area and Peter and Keith had organised a number of stall holders and set the opening day as Sunday, 6th August, 1978. which coincided with Olive’s birthday. The stalls were set up amongst and utilising the Old Wrotham Park Saddlery shed, Bill Bacon’s Pioneer Cottage, the Cream Shed, the enormous horse team drawn plough which belonged to the Harriman Family, a Bullock Wagon with harness, Cane planting and other old farming equipment. Early Sunday morning the stall holders began to arrive and set up their stalls and displays. Charles Woodward arrived with a truck load of oranges in corn bags, Jeremy and Pam Darvell dressed as Cockney stall holders, sold fruit and “Pam on the Boyle” cooked foods. Marge Harris presented her home cooked tarts and cakes etc. Dulcie Hunter, Mrs Harriman and Church of England Ladies sold home Cookie and clothing for the Church funds. Lyn Hohermuth sold her “Secret Garden” products, Phyl sold books etc from their paper shop. Hans & Mary sold painted rock doorstops while Max their son played his piano accordion. Fruit, veggies, clothing and craft items made the rest of the stalls. The people of Cairns were bored with few choices for a Sunday outing after a boring week at work. Kuranda was a half hour drive from Cairns with a complete change of scenery. A large number of people took the opportunity and drove to visit the new markets in Kuranda. The town filled up with Vehicles, the Honey House sold out of food, Wilson’s Shell roadhouse sold out of food. Both Pubs sold out of beer and food, the News agency sold out of papers and all the stall holders sold out of their products . The first Kuranda Market was a great success. The members of the Tourist association agreed that they would continue to operate the Market for as long as possible.