Drive-in to Oakey

Image: Federal Sports Grounds 2015

Image: Federal Sports Grounds 2015

I’m running a bit behind, last week was busy so I’ll have to squeeze in two posts this week. This week’s idea doesn’t come from the collection; it’s from my early morning walk. I was walking to work the other day and a fog had settled down over the town, casting a “peering through the mists of time” feeling (if you’re the over imaginative sort). I looked up at one point, my shoulders hunched and head down from the cold and cast my gaze over the soccer fields and I could almost see the old drive-in movie screen towering up in the misty morning light. Drive-in movie theatres are a dying breed these days and I vaguely remember as a kid going to the drive-in here in Oakey in the 1980s, and so I thought I’d see what I could dig up.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, not much. One local humorous recollection that I stumbled across told “The bosses’ wife came in one morning totally perplexed by the weekend events at the Oakey drive-in. It seemed that a lot of patrons had asked, as they paid their money and got tickets, “and where’s my free condom?” A check on the commercials that had been put to air the week before found that, when played in a quiet environment, a small voice was heard in the mandated half second of silence at the end of the commercial. The voice was that of a curly red headed tech who had waltzed past the booth, just as the voice over ended and shouted towards the “sound-proof” booth “and get your free condom at the gate”. In the general noise of editing the commercial it was missed. On February 18 1954, the Skyline in Burwood, a Melbourne suburb, became the first of more than 330 drive-ins that were built across Australia. The drive-in era peaked during the 1960s and 1970s with the decline of the drive-in age beginning in the 1980s. Fewer than 20 drive-ins are in operation throughout Australia these days.

Image: World War II aeroplanes at RAAF base c1946 Source: Dpt. of Defence

Image: World War II aeroplanes at RAAF base c1946
Source: Dpt. of Defence

I also found a fascinating article that mentioned the old Oakey drive-in in The Australian newspaper talking about “the Lasseter’s Reef of war birds” buried right here in Oakey. Following the end of World War II, the RAAF sent 544 aircrafts to Oakey to be stripped down for scrap metal. Well that’s what the records show, but local lore has it that some of the 232 Spitfires that were flown to Oakey didn’t end up on the scrap heap but were instead buried/hidden away in the old Federal Coal mine, which is below the old Oakey drive-in site. There are many locals that have a story both for and against this tale. There are those that worked on the breaking down of the aircraft that state they find it very doubtful that such a treasure trove exists, and others that saw the contractors digging a trench and putting large crates in them.  I am neither supporting nor denying this tale, but let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time a disused mine has been used for the dumping of rubbish. This would just make it very expensive landfill instead of the usual toxic/industrial waste.

Image: World War II Planes Source: Frank Bonner

Image: World War II Planes
Source: Frank Bonner

Of course reading this article then made me think “Coal Mine, What coal mine?” I think I might have to get back to that one later this week.

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