R&R Facilities in Mackay

Mackay All Services Voluntary Canteen

Famed Canteen fed the troops

The fame of the Mackay All Services Canteen which provided an around the clock service to soldiers passing through Mackay on wartime troop trains spread all over Australia.

The canteen inaugurated by Mackay women Mrs. Eileen Rumballe and Mrs. Laurie Coleman, was in Boddington Street opposite the railway station.

No matter at what time troop trains arrived, volunteers were always standing by to serve meals and refreshments, and through their friendly greetings offer to many a lonely soldier a breath of home.

So well did they do their job that many of the soldiers spoke of the canteen in letters home and their glowing  reports bought many messages of appreciation from their families.

There was also official  recognition of the efforts of the canteen volunteers.  William Forgan Smith, until 1943 Premier of Queensland and Member for Mackay, once said nothing had given Mackay a greater boost than the canteen.

The Victorian State Schools' War Relief committee sent a cheque for 200 pounds ($400) in appreciation of the services and kindness the canteen had offered to servicemen from all states.

At a function to mark the closure of the canteen, the then Mayor of Mackay Ald. Ian Wood expressed his regret at seeing such a fine organisation disbanded.

He said the volunteers had carried out their work in a fine spirit and he read letters from mothers in England who had received photographs of their sons taken in Mackay by canteen workers.

Mrs. Rumballe's daughter Mrs. Pam Black of Bucasia said her mother had always spoken highly of the co-operation and assistance the canteen committee had received from Percy McLean during the time he was the army R.T.O. in Mackay.

She said he always advised her mother of the anticipated arrival of trains so that staff could be brought on duty and refreshments prepared.

Christmas and New Year dinners were provided free to troops fortunate enough to be passing through Mackay on those days, and special menus including poultry were prepared for Easter.

More than 300 voluntary workers assisted in the various phases of the canteen work, and prices were kept as low as possible.

As well as doing that great work with the Canteen, Mrs Rumballe also worked with the American Red Cross Service.  Mrs. Coleman was the wife of the well-known Wood Street tailor Laurie Coleman.  Their son Laurie served in the R.A.A.F. as a Lockheed Hudson pilot.

Source:  The Daily Mercury, Monday, May 11, 1992.


The Mackay all services voluntary canteen near Mackay railway station in Boddington Street, gave a touch of home to troops on arriving trains. (Source:  The Daily Mercury, Monday, May 11, 1992).
(Source:  The Daily Mercury, Monday, May 11, 1992).

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  Glen Hall

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