A WANDER down Honour Avenue at Yeronga Memorial Park is redolent of strolling a film-set boulevard, where tall trees create a curtain either side of a gently curving path.
If a horse and carriage was to trot by carrying a Jane Austen-type character, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised.
There is an air of times past about this place, not surprising because it has its fair share of quirky constructions.
At the end of Honour Avenue, brick columns support decorative iron gates and to the side, a domed memorial shrine has a small flaming sandstone urn on top. (There was originally an angel but it was smashed by vandals in 1940).
Although it’s only 8km south of the CBD, the great green common that is Yeronga Memorial Park off busy Ipswich Rd, is one of the oldest parks in Brisbane.
Long before it was earmarked as a recreation reserve though, it was heavily timbered and the home of the Coorparoo or Yerongpan clans of the Jagera tribe inhabited by the Aboriginal people who called it Yerongpa, a sandy place.
Established in 1882, it came into its own after World War I when it was declared a memorial park and became the centre of a flurry of attention.
Over the years, it had been whittled down from its original 419,900sq m to 224,600sq m. Bits were shaved off for railway lines (more than half), schools, kindergarten, fire station and other public facilities.
Had World War I not come along in 1914, there would have been a zoo and possibly the Exhibition grounds and a university campus.
Instead, after the war from 1917-1921, there was a concerted effort to make the park a fitting memorial by the good people of Stephens Shire (Brisbane City wasn’t formed until 1924) as one in six of those who had enlisted from the shire didn’t make it home.
In three plantings from 1917-19, 96 alternating weeping figs and flame trees were planted to form Honour Avenue. Each tree had a metal shield bearing the name of a soldier who had died so it gave families a place to come to mourn husbands, sons and fathers, whose bodies lay in foreign fields.
Queen palms and Chinese fan palms were also planted in 1919, reportedly from seeds soldiers had brought back from Middle East and other tours of duty.
Unusually for the time, a plaque on the big memorial gates is dedicated to the women workers of the shire and was erected by local women.
Local people, who raised the money to build the domed cenotaph, also donated materials to build a bandstand which was officially opened in 1903.
Alas, it had disappeared by the 1960s but it’s easy to imagine it sitting there.
In the 1930s, a stone wall was built beside Ipswich Rd and during the Depression, work was created for the jobless by putting the curve into Honour Avenue so it led to the Ipswich Rd gates, rather than its original straight line to the cenotaph. Why the curve, other than providing work, remains a mystery.
After World War II, the trend was for public utilities rather than monuments, and the Yeronga Park Memorial Swimming Pool was added.
The American Legion more recently installed a memorial stone noting that US military units had set up a base in the park in 1942 and there are other memorials to other wars. Rosemary for remembrance is planted on Anzac Day each year.
Among the facilities for all sorts of recreational activities are a 1923 croquet club, a 1936 chequerboard, CWA (1952), grassed remains of original tennis courts, football field, basketball, swimming pool, cricket, Guides and Scouts and bridge club and there’s still plenty of room for parklands, playgrounds and picnic areas.
Thankfully, Yeronga Memorial Park was heritage-listed in 2005 as it delivers a sense of yesteryear.