AS TIME GOES BY: These stairs in Smithfield St were the catalyst for a love that would not die.
AS TIME GOES BY: These stairs in Smithfield St were the catalyst for a love that would not die.

Gympie tale: love in dangerous times

THERE is more than history in Gympie's Smithfield St bomb shelter steps, briefly uncovered by Gympie Regional Council this week.

There is wartime romance as well, the story of an air raid drill that changed two lives and led to a love that even dangerous times and separation could not kill.

John Stark says he read the story in The Gympie Times' then-publication, Leisuretime in the late 1980s and it has stayed with him for 30 years.

"I remember the bomb shelter,” said Mr Stark, who now lives at Palmwoods.

"We're all 87 now,” he says of his teenage mates who used to explore Gympie's underground tunnel, drain and bomb shelter network.

"We were in the same class at school. Dave (Thomas) and I joined the Army at the same time.

"Every Monday at 11am there would be an air raid drill. The old siren used to go off at the fire station.

"There was a soldier in town during one of the drills.

"A young lady taking part in the drill fell or something. So he carried her down the stairs.

"They kept in touch and corresponded for many years.

"Right through the war and for years afterwards, they kept in touch.

"But over time they lost contact.

"Then, 50 years later, he came back to revisit the town he had not seen since the war years.

"He was standing at the corner of Smithfield St, near the old shelter steps and she just happened to be down from Townsville.”

The couple who had not met since they were much younger, did not recognise each other.

"By accident they struck up conversation and he told her the story of those steps and how he had carried a girl down there during a wartime drill.

"She looked at him and said: 'I was that lass.”

It was the re-connection both of them might have been waiting for, for a long time. "This time they kept in touch,” Mr Stark recalls.

"They ended up getting married,” he said.