In December, 1964, the Gold Coast City Council introduced parking meters in Surfers Paradise. Bernard (Bernie) Elsey, President of the Surfers Paradise Progress Association, adopting an idea from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, established the meter maids.
Dressed in a brief two-piece swimsuit and golden tiara, they patrolled the streets feeding coins into the parking meters for visiting tourists. Bernie Elsey was “…very strict about dress sense, grooming and conduct.” (The Gold Coast Bulletin, 3 October 2003).
At first, only cars with interstate number plates were targeted, but later, any tourists were assisted. The first meter maid was Annette Welch who was employed in Bernie’s office. She was soon followed by Veronica Taylor and, by the end of 1965, there was two Meter Maids who were funded by weekly donations from Surfers Paradise shopkeepers.
The Meter Maids attracted worldwide media attention and were an important part of interstate and international tourist promotions. The first major overseas tour was to Japan in 1968 which was followed by visits to Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand.
Meter Maids were employed by the Surfers Paradise Progress Association, but Courtesy Maids and Golden Girls were employed by the City Council to provide general information to tourists. The Public Relations Section within Council had been formed in 1962 and Courtesy Maids were permanently attached to the Tourist Information Centre in 1967.
There was some degree of rivalry between the two different groups. However, both the Meter and Courtesy Maids, as well as beauty contest winners such as Miss Marineland, Miss Burleigh Heads and Miss Gold Coast Sun, accompanied the promotional tours at various times.
The Meter Maid scheme lapsed in the 1980s, but was revived by the Surfers Paradise Chamber of Commerce in 1988, although this was short-lived. Eileen Peters, a Councillor and business woman in Surfers Paradise, was not in favour of some of the proposed changes.
Bernie Elsey established a new Surfers Paradise Advanced Progress Association and introduced Meter Maids to Southport. Courtesy and Promotions Girls who wore mini dresses and slouch hats worked in Surfers Paradise.
Various private Meter Maids schemes have been developed including the Queensland Meter Maids established by Lisa Hassan in 1992 which later became the Paradise Meter Maids. According to Roberta Aitchison from Surfers Paradise Meter Maids, the girls are “…promotional tools, entertainers, ambassadors and indeed often charity workers…” (The Courier Mail, 4 August 2006)
Meter Maids still enjoy a high profile in Surfers Paradise and regularly appear at community events throughout the Gold Coast.
Sources of information and further reading
- Stolz, Greg. The Gold Coast Bulletin, 13 Mar 1989, p. 4.
- Galton, Barry. “Our first meter maid returns for historic reunion: Veronica set to relive a golden age.” The Gold Coast Bulletin, 3 Oct 2003, p. 4.
- Clark, Laine. “Public salute to golden girls.” The Courier Mail, 4 Aug 2006, p. 24.