The start of a new era begins on Saturday, October 27th, for the house that Ray Yule built, at 2 Page Street, (cnr Trouts Road) Everton Park. His daughter Jude and son-in-law Ron Johnson are holding a massive garage sale beginning at 8am to clear some space for their possessions after moving in six weeks ago. One and all are invited to view the bargains on offer and, if there is anything left, the sale will continue at 9am on Sunday, October 28.
You will have probably noticed a house with a tennis court as you travel along Trouts Road away from Stafford Road. If you’re anything like me, you may idly have wondered how the house and court came to be.
I never expected to actually find out, but last week I had the privilege of visiting and chatting to current owners Jude and Ron Johnson and heard the story of Jude’s remarkable father and the house he built. It was her childhood home and she remembers those days when Trouts Road was a dirt track and one of the few houses in the area.
Now she has come full circle to live in it again and during my visit painted a picture of her father, a man who was always busy with some project or other, who had a fertile imagination, the capacity to dream and the skill to give those dreams form in his superbly equipped engineering workshop.
Ray was born in 1928 to David and Anne Yule who owned land in Trouts Road, built the shops at the bottom of Stafford Road opposite the skate rink and operated a chemist’s shop. Ray attended Brisbane Grammar and from an early age showed his capacity for hard work and imagination.
A submarine he built out of flattened corrugated iron is believed to be the only one ever to set sail on Kedron Brook. He survived that adventure, much to his mother’s relief, and turned his hand to other projects like shooting a threepenny piece from between her fingers with his rifle.
He was one of those people who are good at everything they try. He was an excellent archer and marksman and very keen on tennis, which was how he came to meet Ann Patterson, daughter of the owner of Patterson’s sawmill, where Toowong Village is today.
They met while playing at the tennis courts near Royal Brisbane Hospital, married and only ever spent one night apart during the 63 years of their married life. He even managed to stick close when she was in hospital giving birth to their children by wearing a blue gown and allowing staff to believe he was a doctor.
Their first home was above the chemist shop in Stafford Road but they soon moved to Page Street after buying a plot suitable for a house and tennis court from his father. Ray built the house himself with timber sourced from his father-in-law.
So far nothing too unusual but the house acquired certain extras over time including a mini theatrette he dug out of the solid rock under the house, a room where he could edit his movies and fully equipped workshop which would not have embarrassed an engineering works.
I was entranced with Jude’s tales of her pharmacist father who would rush home from his chemist shop during the quiet times to work on a current project, so impatient to be getting on with things that he’d be digging trenches still dressed in his chemist’s whites.
It’s the extra details that brought this great story alive for me. Building a tennis court is a remarkable feat but what really lifts it above the average remarkable feat is that he first built the three tractors he used to complete the job.
Just dwell on that phrase for a moment: “Built the three tractors…” And the hydraulically operated umpire’s chair. Of course.
Ann and Ray hosted tennis parties just about every Saturday afternoon and their court attracted notice from VIPs. It was one of the few grass courts in Brisbane and the Swedish Davis Cup Team, including one Mr Bjorn Borg, once asked permission to train there; they were politely refused for fear they’d ruin the grass.
Ray Yule wasn’t one to do things by halves. He was the sort of bloke who had 12 electric drills so he didn’t have to waste time changing the bits.
In another example, an ordinary man would have built a theatrette, stuck in a row of comfortable chairs and called it quits. Not so Ray Yule.
His theatrette has proper cinema seats with cup holders, a proper projection booth, a ticket booth complete with real tickets and a stage where his grandchildren performed. Even now, there is a neat rack of microphone stands waiting for the next set of small hands to grab them and put on a show.
Jude told that her childhood cubby house was equipped with two beds, running water, a gas stove and a telephone connecting it to the house. Once grandchildren arrived, this was felt to be inadequate and replaced with a structure that would put many granny flats to shame – he was only restrained at the last minute from installing air conditioning.
To make sure the grandchildren had fun whenever they visited, Ray built a petrol-powered multipurpose vehicle for them to drive about on the tennis court. Its top speed can be limited to according to the age of the driver and it’s armed with a water cannon.
The house has a vehicle hoist built into the driveway, compressed air for powering tools piped to various places in the house and grounds and a powerful generator in a soundproof room under the cubby house.
And my favourite feature of the house? A hydraulically operated trap door in the kitchen floor which you open and sweep the kitchen dust into a bin in the basement.
Ann died in 2016 and Ray was heartbroken. He lived by himself in the house for just over a year, became ill and then moved into care. Unable to live without Ann and away from his house, he died in January 2018. We like to believe somewhere up there he’s happy the house he built is still being used and enjoyed by the family.