Bicheno Post War History: Shack Life
The end of WW2 heralded a change in the way Tasmanians relaxed and socialized. People from all walks of life began to embrace Shack Culture.
Small ramshackled huts, hobbled together from leftover building materials started popping up across the East Coast of Tasmania from as early as the 1920’s. What started as a timber and tin fishing hut usually only inhabited by one or two men suddenly exploded. By 1946 families reunited after the war, yearning to get away from the reality of post war life,
gravitated to the coast to relax and enjoy a new kind of recreation.
Extended families of 6 or more adults and hoards of children of varying ages would cram into cars and drive for hours in the heat on dusty roads, finally arriving and spending a whole afternoon unloading cars and setting up for the summer.
Sandy roads gave way to gravel driveways and front gardens became home to half a dozen or more cars. An army surplus canvas tent pitched in the backyard. Folding camp chairs permanently parked around a campfire for the summer. Camp stretchers or single beds crammed into every room and the children all slept outside in a large tent or little teepees. Later friends and relatives would arrive with their caravan and park it up on the large sandy blocks. Beach towels hung from every railing, wafting in the breeze. Sand so hot children performed their own little dance as they raced to the waters edge.
The hot summer air was filled with the mixed scents of ocean spray, seafood and oilskin from tarps, caravan annexes and tents.
There were no fences – they weren’t needed, dogs and children roamed freely only coming home to eat and sleep with families and friends sitting around a campfire each night sharing food, stories, songs and laughter. Shacks were places for extended families to holiday together in open and relaxed social communities.
1946 was also the year local entrepreneur Brian Winspear opened a small shop and service station. About the same time Brian also started a freight service from Launceston to support his wholesale fish distributing business and developed what is today, a large abalone industry at Bicheno.
Based on a vision initially developed by Brian’s father Roger, was the construction of an entirely new concept of hotel accommodation in Bicheno, a motor lodge, the Silver Sands Hotel-Motel. Located at historic Waubs Bay the site incorporated motel units, games rooms, swimming pool, and later the famous “Cray Bake” where the local community would gather around a boiling cauldron of seafood at the end of the day, sunburned faces, sand between the toes.
Mr Winspear continued to develop the area, constructing recreation activities including the popular Bird Life Park (Natureworld), Sea Life Centre and the local bowls and golf clubs.
Bicheno’s street scape has changed from those early shack days with beach huts being replaced by holiday homes, beach houses or weekenders but the essence of Mid-Century Shack Culture remains in this friendly family community.