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So much has changed: Longtime local shares Airlie memories

By Jessie-Lee Fitzgerald

ERIC Bottle is a man who could tell you a few stories about Airlie Beach, having arrived in 1981 and gone on to run successful businesses and serve for decades on the committees of service organisations and sporting clubs, as well as the Airlie Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“So many things have changed and evolved over my time here, beginning with my arrival in Airlie Beach in 1981 to manage the new pharmacy, located where Al’s Bait & Tackle is now,” Mr Bottle said.

“My first memory was that there was no home delivery of mail, you had to go to the newsagents who had a sub agency for Australia Post.

“There was a beach with a wire enclosure where the lagoon is now and the other beach fronted what was then the site of the council caravan park.

“There were still private residences in the main street, along with a few 1970s style motels, and backpackers weren’t invented yet.”

The local paper was the weekly Proserpine Guardian, which was widely read for births, deaths, marriages and sporting results, Mr Bottle said.

“I was given an advertising budget, so an attractive lady called Dale Hell used to call in for that week’s advert copy,” Mr Bottle said, referring to his long-term partner Dale, who went on to compile two ‘Pioneers of Airlie Beach’ books full of old Airlie photos and memories.

“It turned out she was a single parent, like me, with some common interests, and the rest as they say is history.”

Ms Hell was also the journalist for the Airlie Times & Island News (the precursor to the Whitsunday Times) taking photos and writing copy, as well as collecting the advertising.

The “places to be” back then, according to Mr Bottle, were The Village (now Magnums) and K.C.’s who both offered live entertainment to house guests and locals, but due to the then archaic liquor laws you had to be “intending to dine” to enter these premises.

“Most restaurants were BYO, which suited the new Whitsunday Wine Appreciation Group (WWAGS) that Dale pioneered after hosting a series of tastings by a visiting wine expert,” Mr Bottle said.

“This special group of fun people included Rose and Dr. John Parker, Garth and Amanda Chapman, John and Mary Muddle, Jill and Dr.Gerry O’Neill, Lyn and Nita Law, and Rosemary and Lindsay Jackson. We met monthly for around 20 years, rotating through various venues, including Proserpine and several of the islands.”

In 1983, Dale and Eric bought Whitsunday Travel Centre, which was the leading booking agency at the time, and expanded it into a “real” travel agency selling interstate and overseas airfares and holiday packages. It became the first internationally licenced travel agency in the Whitsundays.

“Dale and I met a guy called Bill Smith as the owner of a day charter yacht called Uhuru, not knowing that he planned to start a second paper, which he called the Airlie Times & Island News, now known as the Whitsunday Times.

“Bill was very “hands on” and personally delivered the Times to main street businesses and this new, free paper was delivered to all the houses in Airlie Beach, Cannonvale and Jubilee Pocket,” Mr Bottle said.

Also in 1983, a group of local entrepreneurs had successfully lobbied the Queensland government for marketing support, and the Whitsunday Tourism Association (now Tourism Whitsundays) was formed.

“I became a member of this and served a year on the board with Rosa Aitchison as president and David Hutchen (founder of Fantasea Cruises) as a fellow board member.

“In the late 1980s I joined two organisations – Airlie Beach Rotary and Airlie Beach Bowls Club.

“I have served as board member and president of both and have been board chairman of the bowls club several times. I still continue to press for more use of this under-utilised community facility and affordable function room.

“My proudest achievement in Rotary was to produce the first modern Rotary Phone Guide, in 1987, which until last year contributed more than $10 million in advertising proceeds to the Whitsunday Community. It has now gone digital, which is timely, but I am one of many that will miss the printed phone guide.”

source: Whitsunday Times

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