Real estate interest led to local development

Karen Askew, relates the story of Charles Staples – a councillor, businessman and road maker – and the namesake of one of our most popular lookouts.

Charles Staples was a Woy Woy businessman working primarily in real estate who moved here about 1914.

His real estate business was on the corner of Blackwall Rd and Railway St, Woy Woy.

He and his wife, Florence, were civic-minded and involved in many community projects.

Granted a district auctioneer’s licence in March 1915, he lived in Blackwall Rd, Woy Woy, in a house facing the waterfront and began selling subdivided lots immediately.

He became the secretary of a local progress association concerned with the installation of a tramway from Woy Woy station to Ocean Beach, Umina.

With the advent of the First World War, it was decided that perhaps a road for vehicular traffic should go in first and to shelve the tramway idea.

By June of 1915, Staples was petitioning the Council to sell some of its reserves to fund Ocean Beach Rd.

One has to remember that Gosford and the Brisbane Water district began as a series of waterside townships, which were very reliant on boats for travelling to neighbouring settlements and travel to Sydney and beyond.

With the advent of motorised vehicles, there was added pressure to develop link roads from Sydney to Newcastle and for roads to swing by Gosford and other towns on the way.

Letters to the editor in the local paper suggest that Staples was bashing his head against the old guard, who saw him as a blow-in and they did not want to open new pathways to new tourist sites that would deflect from their own tourist investments.

The construction of Ocean Beach Rd commenced after several years of Staples nagging and toughing it out with the old guard, arguing that their objections to the proposed new road were putting obstacles up before the local residents and not the tourists and it was for local traffic only as there was at this time no other road into the Peninsula.

With the popular support of the local residents, Staples was elected to the Erina Council.

Many of the roads to the Central Coast we take for granted and use today did not exist until the 1920s.

As the roads system developed to what we have today, the dependence on water travel declined.

Staples was involved with the committee to establish a war memorial by the waterfront, the creation of Ocean Beach Rd and in one audacious act, Charles and two others were in the first car to bush-bash a track from Kariong to Woy Woy.

This track became the present day Woy Woy Rd.

Charles Staples’ business interests as a real estate agent directly linked him to an interest in road development.

In 1923 Staples was President of the Erina Shire Council and oversaw the construction of many local roads.

“The Devil’s Elbow” on Bulls Hill is one of a number of hairpin bends in the district that are the legacy of Charles Staples, other notorious bends included Ward’s Hill Killcare, and on the road to Patonga.

In the early 1930s Staples was also responsible for the planning and building of Brisbane Water Dr.

There was a time when you did not have to come from a medical or a legal background to become the district coroner.

Just having a reputation as being an upstanding community-minded person would suffice for the position.

In 1933 Charles Staple became the third District Coroner.

His first case was a multiple murder-suicide at Ourimbah. This became known as the “Ourimbah Tragedy” which became a matter for national headlines but was not reported at all in the local newspapers.

Not all the cases Staples dealt with were as dramatic as the Ourimbah Tragedy.

He had involvement in many coronial inquiries about vehicle-related deaths, be they pedestrians, passengers or drivers.

Many of these deaths were on the very roads he had marked out the decade before.

Staples observed that by 1937 vehicles had became faster and faster by the year and that the grade of the hills and the number of curves and corners had remained the same, leading to the increase of fatalities on the Central Coast roads.

He was a strong advocate for warning signage and speed limits and driving to the conditions.

The Central Coast was the first to install yellow diamond shaped warning signs suggesting a safe speed to take the next corner. These signs are country wide now.

He also noted that the Central Coast was about equal distance from both Sydney and Newcastle and was in what he called the “sleep zone” with many drivers dying asleep at the wheel.

He dealt with 10 road fatalities in his first year.

This observation of his became the basis for the nationwide two-hour driver reviver campaign that we still see today.

Charles Jeffress Staples died in 1973 aged 88.

The only landmark celebrating the name of this remarkable man is the lookout on the Woy Woy Rd.

He and his whole family are buried at Point Clare Cemetery.

Email, 9 Jun 2020
Karen Askew, Point Clare

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