What to do with Grandma’s old silver sugarloaf cutters? Intriguing and somewhat ominous looking things, they really have no place in our current lifestyles, except as objects of mystery and intrigue.
Be that as it may, they are worthy ‘objects of mystery and intrigue’; along with many of their ilk, they are arranged for public enjoyment and appreciation in one of the many exhibition halls at the Dalby Pioneer Park Museum. This delightful local resource is an undervalued treasure. Set on 10 or so acres of Crown land in a residential area on the western side of Dalby, it consists of no less than 22 separate buildings absolutely filled to bursting with fascinating memorabilia. The buildings are in themselves a living history of the district. Something of a small town in their own right, they have been gathered here at the Dalby Pioneer Park for the preservation of their historic and cultural value, and to house a plethora of fascinating contents.There’s an old school complete with shared desks (with inkwells of course) and plank chairs, a typical, tiny pioneers’ cottage, its kitchen at the end of an open walkway for fire safety – but not exactly designed in consideration of the vicissitudes of Dalby’s frigid winter mornings. There’s the Kupunn Memorial Hall with its lovely floor made for dancing – now the home of the Dalby Men’s Shed. The current incumbents have been charged with the duty of protecting the integrity of this floor with their honour. There’s a lovely old store, the original nurses’ quarters from the hospital; even the old Dalby three-cell watchhouse has found a respectable niche and a gallant purpose in the care of an impressive (and heavily-guarded) rifle collection.
The buildings house such treasures as a rock collection, a bottle collection, a fossil collection. There’s even the tibia of a giant kangaroo, a now extinct species, 28 inches long from ankle to knee joint. From the vast collection of Aboriginal artefacts to Ned Kelly’s handwritten petition from his prison hospital bed begging permission for a visit from his sister, the history of mankind’s progression across this land, especially in the local district, is set out in the many artefacts on display at the Pioneer Park Museum.
Caretaker and custodian of the Park, Elaine Fox, is a streak of greased lightening on her golf cart as she inspects her vast domain. Elaine knows every inch of the Park and every museum item almost as well as she knows each of her six sons. Recently widowed, Elaine was named Dalby’s 2014 Australia Day Local Citizen of the Year in honour of a lifetime’s voluntary work. This includes 11 years volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and caring for the Pioneer Park Museum’s huge collection of fascinating memorabilia along with a committee of stalwart volunteers. Many people work hard to keep the Pioneer Park afloat and viable – it’s a big job, a labour of love, and makes possible an immensely significant local attraction and a fascinating insight into our past.
Words by Jane Grieve | Images via Janine Waters