From Cows to Caravans – History of Easts Beach
Family owned and operated for over 80 years, BIG4 Easts Beach Holiday Park has become the oldest park in the state, if not the country. From cows to caravans this is our story…..
It all begins when Thomas and Elizabeth East engaged passage to Australia in the ship "Earl Grey". Six months later, in the year 1841, they arrived in Sydney. They met the hardships with the courage that helped to lay the foundations of Australia. Thomas East was the first in the area to purchase his own property which was known as "Prospect". It was originally part of a grant which covered 500 acres called "Burroul".
The early pioneering years for Mr and Mrs Thomas East left little time for relaxation. With a family of twelve, six boys and six girls, cows were milked, and butter made by hand, which sold at 5d. a pound. The East's family bible shows the wear and tear of children being taught to read by it.
Although the Kiama district had become the birthplace of the dairying industry, by 1893 buggies would be meeting the train to take visitors to see the Blow Hole, the beaches, and further out, the Saddleback Mountain and Minnamurra Falls. Meantime, back on the farm, George Lacey East was busy running everything and looking after his aged mother, Elizabeth. In 1901, George married Nelly Rogers who had come out from Cornwall in England at the age of seven with her family. They had one daughter and two sons, and their youngest son Bruce helped his father to manage the property.
By the time "Prospect" had been handed to Bruce, visitors were coming over the hill to gaze at what is now known as Easts Beach.
Cows grazed down to the edge of the sea, just to stop at the curve of sand where the sea sprayed the rocks in constant white foam. Men walked with tents on their backs to ask Bruce if they could camp. With Australian hospitality at its best, others soon found their way to this secluded lagoon.
The family dairy, on the property, was still fully operational when the campers began to arrive and the inquisitive cows were very friendly towards their neighbours, Bruce was running "Prospect" on his own and in the 1930’s saw the commercial value in camping. This was the beginning of a family legacy known as Easts Beach Caravan Park.
Soon people were paying 5/- a week or 1/- a night! The giving was not all one sided as the campers soon found. Milk and butter found its way to the campers and later they found ice in the ice chests on a Friday night! The area, even in the early days, was kept as clean as the hygienic dairy of "Prospect". There were pit toilets, cold showers and even a field boiler for clothes. There were barbecues and standing around fires and Bruce lost his heart to Bessie, one of his earliest campers who came to Easts Beach with her parents. He married Bessie in 1940.
Bruce and Bessie had three sons, Robert, Alan and Phillip. They grew up on the farm and park, Robert and Alan, both on leaving school, decided to stay in the business.
Robert married Judith Blow in 1966 and lived at "Valley View", Jamberoo for ten years, managing the family dairy farms, while Alan lived and worked with his parents, managing the caravan park. The dairy farm at Jamberoo sold in 1974, with Robert and Judith moving to Easts Beach to live. Robert and Judith raised their three young children, Leanne, Darren and Jennifer on the park and worked the long hours together.
Rows of neat white caravans stand on terraces and seem to survey the scene below. A secluded lagoon where the waves toss themselves against the rocks making white foam, then falling away to become gentle surf on sandy beaches.
The area seems always lush and green with cows that graze peacefully in the distance reminding one of how the caravan park started.
Times were tough with the park, the farm and living in a caravan with three children. But maybe the saying “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger” applies. Robert continued in his father’s footsteps and became a Councillor, and then Deputy Mayor of Kiama, but with all his duties he was a still a ’Farmer at Heart’.
In 1979, Bruce and Bessie decided to retire and move to Bright, Victoria. Robert, Alan and families carried on managing Easts Beach. In 1980, it was decided to extend the business. The East family purchased Easts Fountain Caravan Park at Eden, with Alan and Sandra moving to the park to manage it, they have since sold this property. In 1985, Phillip, the youngest son, was asked to rejoin the family business. Married to Dianne Coffill in 1969, they took up the management of Lane Cove River Van Village, this park was later returned to national parks. By the late 1980’s, the East family managed up to 12 parks all over NSW.
Today both Alan, Phillip and families own parks on the mid-north coast and the south coast of NSW.
Sadly, Robert ‘Mayor of Easts Beach’ lost his courageous fight against cancer on 13 January 2006, holding on so the children and staff could concentrate on the business over the Christmas/New Year period. His wish to take a last look at his treasured Easts Beach was granted, with the funeral hearse visiting the park. Loyal staff and guests alike were able to farewell Robert onto his next project, and yes you guessed it, it would be a farm! Bruce and Bessie, then aged 92 lost their first-born son, Robert aged just 63, and in a matter of months, Bruce was left a widower having lost his beloved Bessie. In October 2009, Bruce passed away at the age of 95, his departure marking the end of an era. The holiday park meant the world to him and he played an integral part in its history. He is greatly missed, but fondly remembered.
Robert and Judith’s children Leanne, Darren and Jennifer have inherited the East family’s work ethics and determination, actively working in the business and have a total of seven children, who no doubt will have the love of their family’s business in their hearts.
Contact the BIG4 National Support Office via our contact us page.
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