Last Hotel Days
NARRATOR: Its 1946 and war has ended, and Miss Hunter is employing new staff to look after the returning hotel guests – local Mornington resident Jean Male came here as a waitress in 1947 and remembers Miss Hunter and Mr Smithers time here: “he was a real gentleman who looked after us young serving girls very kindly”.
Mount Martha House was the local telephone exchange and where locals collected their deliveries, ration books and voting papers, a lost dog’s home. The house had fallen into some disrepair and was ready for demolition and replacement with a multistorey building but was saved by WWII.
In 1948 and the property was been purchased by Sarah and Eric Fordyce, Malcolm please tell us about your time here as a teenager.
In 1948 Sarah Fordyce who had holidayed there in the 1920 s put together a company to Purchase Mount Martha House on 5 acres for 25ooo pounds. Interestingly when the shire bought it from the commonwealth the price was nearer to $ 250000.00
The Golf course was not in the purchase but was leased until sold for housing development.
My Mother was a remarkable lady, probably a forerunner of the women’s lib movement early in her marriage to my dad she had to become the family bread winner when Dad succumbed to ill health that originated from his world war 1 service in France and Belgium.
Because she had been brought up in Hotels run by her parents she persued a business career, her career began with a cafe on St Kilda road, through a succession of boarding houses, each one a bit bigger that the last, then a hotel in Bendigo for a number of years.
After Bendigo we moved to Melbourne an lived there until Mum put together the company to purchase Mount Martha house from Hunter and Smithers.
In the hotel I had become used to helping where ever needed so Mount Martha was not a huge change’ except that it was very seasonal, frantically busy in the warm months then tapering off to literally nothing in the depths of winter.
During the first winter I learned to drive, unbeknown to anyone except a few staff who fortunately kept quiet about it. I used to practice my skills alone in the
early morning not a good idea, but Mum was impressed how well I had progressed.
I did eventually confess.
During summer we had up to 100 guests, both levels of the house full as well as the cottage where the present tennis club house is as well as the bungalows between there and the main house
Our most notable guest list was when the Liberal government booked the house out for a conference. My Mum decided to forgo the luxury of her own bathroom and allocate it to Prime Minister R.G. Menzies, when she sent a maid to inform him of that he returned a message that he had already bathed in the common pool. So Mum got her bath back.
Staff were accommodated in staff quarters where the top car park now is.
Originally in Elmie Terrace there were 2 water tanks for water supply but as town water was connected they were filled in.
In school holiday times the guests were largely families it was a very happy time, beach in day time often music and dancing in the ball room at night, and plenty of company.
When I got my driving licence it was even better for me, in and out to Mornington for supplies or to the laundry service in Vancouver Street that was opposite the present library. Another plus was the occasional female passenger.
The season quietened as the weather cooled and after Easter and May school holidays it really quietened off. In winter we sometimes had heavy storms, on 2 occasions the lounge and then the ball room windows were blown in, and in each case were replaced with 2 narrower ones.
The seasonal aspect created staffing difficulties that were increased by the loss of the golf course, and I believe that was one of the main contributing factor in the eventual decision to sell the property.
In 1950 Australian Army purchased it for the 30 WRAAC Barrack young ladies who lived her until 1976.
Please go to station No 8 located on the opposite side of the building outside room 18 for information about children at Mount Martha House.
ANDREWS. C. Mt Martha House 1890 – 1997
CALDER, W. The Changing Face of Mt Martha
CALDER, W. Mount Martha Lands and People 2009
GORDON. M. Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula pub: Loch Haven Books, Dromana, 1997.
HUXLEY. D. “This Old House Once Knew our People” Compiled for the 40th Anniversary 30 WRAAC Barracks, with cover drawing by Duncan Forrester.
Mount Martha CFA
Mount Martha Estate Booklet 1890
Mount Martha House Booklet 1890
Malcolm Fordyce – living
Jean Male – living
Mornington & District Historical Society Inc
Mt Martha House Historical Collection
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