WORDS BY ROSS PEDDLESDEN
In the middle years of the 20th Century there was no one more respected and influential than Garnet Leslie Buss.
The son of George and Edith Buss, Garnet Buss was born in Bundy in 1886. The Buss family were already well known, with the Buss and Turner department store founded by his uncle Frederic and family in 1876, a prominent landmark in Bourbong Street.
Garnet was educated at Central State School and then Maryborough Boys’ Grammar School before undergoing a drapery apprenticeship with Hordern Brothers in Sydney, in preparation for joining the family department store. Married to Mabel Howard Buss in 1919, who was also his cousin and daughter to Frederic Buss, Garnet remained with the family business for the rest of his long life and rose to manager, and then managing director by 1927.
About this same time, Garnet was elected as an Alderman of the Bundaberg City Council, a position he held for many years. He is recorded as supporting a controversial council scheme to borrow the huge sum of £25,000 to seal the town’s streets with bitumen imported from Trinidad. The proposal was narrowly supported by a vote of citizens and the modernisation went ahead.
But it was his community and sporting contributions which earned Garnet Buss the nickname ‘Mr Bundaberg’. His list of achievements is extensive: Charter President of the Rotary Club of Bundaberg and District Governor from 1940–41; long-term President of the Burnett Club; Church Warden and Parochial Councillor of Christ Church Anglican and member of the Diocesan Council; member of the Gordon Club; member of the Athol Masonic Lodge; an early member of the ambulance committee and a Director of the Bundaberg Foundry Company.
In the sporting field he was a long term and active member of the Burnett Bowls Club and a long-term supporter and generous patron of the Bundaberg Surf Lifesaving Club. However, it’s probably his involvement with the Bargara Golf Club that will be remembered as one of his greatest achievements.
He was one of a small group of golf enthusiasts who decided to form the club and develop a course in what was then a scrubby undeveloped area of Bargara, and land which he personally donated to the club. He was president of the club for many years, a patron until his death, and on the course, he was club champion several times. He also had a house near the site of the present golf club house.
Garnet Buss’ name lives on. Bundaberg Rotary clubs still award a memorial bursary in his name each year to high-achieving year 12 graduates designed to help them begin their tertiary education.
The Buss family had an interest in civic improvement and in early 1930 Garnet’s brother Horace Buss gave the handsome sum of £500 to improve what was then known as the Market Reserve. By the end of that year, Buss Park (almost as we know it today) was open for citizens to enjoy.
Ross is a member of the Bundaberg & District Historical Museum, as well as an author, Rotarian and passionate community volunteer. Special thanks to Chris Spence, coordinator of the Bundaberg & District Historical Museum.