Breakfast Creek Brothels
Breakfast Creek Hotel carpark
- Brisbane City
2 Kingsford Smith Drive, Albion 4110
Before World War Two, prostitution in Brisbane fell into two categories. There were brothels that were tolerated by the Queensland Government and known to the police and health authorities. As well, there were individual street prostitutes.
The Breakfast Creek Hotel carpark had two such brothels, that serviced troops from Camp Ascot Park, Camp Doomben and Eagle Farm Airfield.
Brothels had existed in Brisbane prior to World War Two under the watchful eye of the Queensland Police. A crisis arose in September 1942, when Brisbane’s prostitutes could not cope with the large numbers of Allied servicemen arriving in Brisbane. The Federal Government entrained Sydney prostitutes on the 'Curtin Special' to head to Brisbane to aid the war effort. Established brothels remained close to the City Centre but a number of short-term brothels operated close to some of the large military camps located in the suburbs.
During 1942, as Brisbane was the headquarters for the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) Command, it developed into a major Allied base. The burgeoning numbers of Australian and American soldiers either working or on leave in Brisbane placed heavy pressure on the local accommodation and recreation facilities. By September 1942, there were approximately 250,000 servicemen based in or near Brisbane, a figure close to Brisbane’s entire population in 1939.
Brisbane’s prostitutes could not cope with the overwhelming demand in servicemen’s business. In September 1942, the Queensland Government made informal appeals to the Commonwealth Government for assistance with this sensitive issue. A representative of the Curtin Government made approaches to the Sydney underworld, particularly the well-known Thommo’s two-up school in Surrey Hills. Soon Sydney prostitutes were volunteering for service in Brisbane. The Federal Government hired a train (unofficially dubbed the Curtin Special), paid the train fares of the girls and arranged cheap accommodation in Brisbane. Though paid low wages, the prostitutes were urged to increase their earning capacity through a frequent turn-over of clients.
Wartime brothels were located in either pre-war establishments located close to the City or were placed in the suburbs close-by to a large military camp. The former included brothels in Ernest and Nott Streets at South Brisbane and at 'Killarney' in Fish Lane at South Brisbane. In the City, there was a brothel in 'Ballarat House' in Margaret Street with servicemen lined up at the door holding a &163;2 note to prove that they could pay. 'Elsie's' was located in Albert Street in the block running between Margaret and Mary Streets. It was marked with a green painted door entrance. The door sat above the footpath on a concrete step so that the clients could not easily run out of 'Elsie’s' without paying. Australian singer and harmonica player Horrie Dargie was an Australian soldier on leave in Brisbane when one day he passed 'Elsie’s' and wondered what went on behind the green door. Horrie Dargie became a popular 1950s Australian recording artist. He laid claim to writing the popular song The Green Door and based it on 'Elsie’s' brothel. This song became a world-wide hit, most notably for British pop star Shakin’ Stevens in July 1981.
In the suburbs, there were brothels at Breakfast Creek, Bulimba and at Chermside. Two brothels operated at the rear of the Breakfast Creek Hotel. The prostitutes serviced the US troops from Camp Ascot Park, Camp Doomben and Eagle Farm Airfield. The brothels were located close to a local school. But as the US servicemen were lining up along the street to use the brothels in full public view, there was a community outcry and the brothels closed. Two separate brothels serviced the Chinese workers Camp attached to the US Army barge factory at Bulimba. One brothel was run in the open from a gully along Lytton Road. The other brothel had a Madam collect customers in her Buick that was parked at the corner of Lytton and Apollo Roads. The Chermside brothel was in an old house at the corner of Gympie and Hamilton Roads diagonally across from the local police station. It serviced the large Camp Chermside that had been established by the Australian Army in October 1940. 'Holland House' at 92 Yundah Street, Sandgate attracted servicemen who were on leave at the seaside.
Due to concerns about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, most large camps had a Blue Light Tent that issued condoms to personnel. The US Navy operated a Prophylactic Station in South Brisbane from 3 October 1944 to 16 June 1945. 'Yungaba' at Kangaroo Point was requisitioned by the Australian Army’s 126th Army Special Hospital (ASH) that ran a Venereal Disease (VD) Clinic for servicemen. Servicewomen were treated at the small VD isolation ward at the 'Ryndarra' hospital at Yeronga.
The incidence of individual or street prostitution in Brisbane was over-exaggerated during the war. Petty jealousy, xenophobia and moral intolerance led to accusations of prostitution made against Australian women who were simply dating American servicemen.
- Jonathan (Jack) Ford, Marching to the Trains - the Chermside Army Camp Remembered, (Brisbane; Jack Ford, 2005).
- John Hammond Moore, Over-Sexed, Over-Paid & Over Here—Americans in Australia 1941–1945, (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1981).
- US Navy, Bureau of Yards and Docks Section, US Naval Base, Navy 134, Brisbane, Defense Aid - Reciprocal and Review Board Report - General, (1946).
- Dunn,P. Brothels located in Brisbane during WW2
- Brisbane History Group, The Sandgate/Shorncliffe Heritage Tour, (Brisbane: Brisbane History Group, 1990).