Daphne Pirie represented Australia in the women's hockey team in the 1950s and 1960s.
Select from the subheadings below to watch YouTube videos about local Gold Coast people and places.
Daphne Pirie represented Australia in the women's hockey team in the 1950s and 1960s.
Rosser’s house and gardens is entered in the Gold Coast Local Heritage Register. It is a rare place on the Gold Coast, with an early home set in a heritage garden. Gene Rosser’s garden is the story of the evolution of this important heritage garden and her experiences growing up in this special place.
The following digital stories of heritage value combine film footage, music, photos, sound effects and the interviewee's voice. Select from the list below and watch a short story on YouTube, based on their oral history interviews.
‘Swing with Holiday Services’ that’s what our brochure said. I was called ‘Uncle Chris’ and my good friend and manager was called ‘Fearless Fred’. We used to take the guests from the Greenmount and Sunset Strip guesthouses at Coolangatta on boat cruises to Stradbroke Island, horse riding, barbeques, and to fancy dress nights at hotels all along the Gold Coast, such as Hawaiian Nights, pirate nights and not forgetting the famous pyjama parties at Bernie Elsey’s Beachcomber.
We handled about 500 or 600 young people and also helped to organise the weekly fancy dress skits for Doug Roughton’s weekly show on Greenmount Beach. Each guesthouse had a house captain and vice captain and they performed things like the ‘Sheik of Araby’ and the ‘Sultan and his Harem’. Each guest house had their own war cries. It was all good clean fun. They had weekly guest house meetings. As each new guest house arrived they were introduced and asked to sing a song.
Well, all good things must end and as the guest houses went out of popularity when the overseas cruises took over the market, we moved into day tours to Brisbane, the Gold Coast Hinterland and the Sunshine Coast. In the end we had seven big buses but we started off with three London double decker buses. One driver brought a double decker bus up from Newcastle and said when he arrived, “No trouble Chris – it was a piece of cake”, then promptly drove into the local garage roof. Those were the days!
In the 1950s I got a job singing at Moonee Ponds Town Hall. I had a terrific ear for picking up a song – a trumpeter would lead me in. I was like a lot of top entertainers like Sinatra Bing Crosby and even Michael Buble they all sang by ear. I came to the Gold Coast in 1961 with a friend who had a caravan. He and I stayed at Southport Caravan Park. I went out to investigate the entertainment scene and found myself at the Grand Hotel at Labrador, where they were asking if anyone in the audience would like to sing. I got up and sang a couple of songs and I was offered a job of compere vocalist for one or two nights a week. I gave that up when I got work at Berney Elsie’s after one night getting up and singing there. He offered me a job five nights a week singing and compering.
The Surfers Paradise Beer Garden was right next door to the Beachcomber where they had entertainers like Peter Allen and the Bee Gees. We also had Peter Allen and the Bee Gees on our floor show for at least two years. They were performing popular songs of the day way before they started writing their own songs.
I took over a little place just up the road from the Jolly Frog restaurant for a late night club and called it Hell’s Kitchen. It was named after a jazz place in America and I envisaged the same sorts of jam sessions taking place at my club. The Bee Gees turned up one night and heard me singing my own songs that I had written myself and Barry said to me, “How long have you been doing that?” “I said, I did a couple of years ago when I got a bit keen.” He said, Oh that’s interesting”, and from that point on he started writing his own music.
I used to think of the music before I thought of the song. I had a tape recorder and I would always put the two together and then get somebody to transpose it into music. In the early days I used to sing when I was cycling and some of my bicycling friends would say, “What makes you think you can sing?” I used to turn around and say, “Because they pay me!”
I’m happy, I say why do I keep on feeling this way? Maybe it’s because I’m in Surfers. Maybe it’s because I’m in Surfers.
I suppose I really lived two different lives, as a building worker during the day and at night I found myself immersed in the vibrant and exciting world of the entertainment and nightclub scene in Surfers - both legal and illegal. The security work varied. It was the Vietnam War and we had a lot of visiting American Servicemen who had gone AWOL.
The Gold Coast wasn’t an official destination for them – only Sydney was. They used to fly in here because Aussies in Vietnam had told them about the place. Quite a lot of the guys were traumatised and they were very young kids- only 18 or 19. Many of them had never even seen the ocean before they came here and they hadn’t been away from home before being conscripted for war. They used to come to the live entertainment at the Surfers Paradise Beer Garden and mostly kept to themselves but I had the usual out of town drunken yobbos to contend with that kept us on our toes.
People who work in hotels can usually tell you who is going to be a problem as soon as they walk in the door. I used to treat people the way I would like to be treated so if that didn’t work there was no point being nice anymore. That’s just how it was. When it got really busy in the Beer Garden there was just no control because anyone could walk in any of four different ways and there were only two of us on at one time. I had a good relationship with the ‘coppers’ and they knew that if someone got a clout in the ear they deserved it. In those days there might only be one policeman on duty between Coolangatta and Coomera, Sunday to Thursday nights. That was it – one policeman and one police car and a handful of bouncers looking after the whole of the Gold Coast, exciting times!
I started walking along the sands looking for the Broad Beach Hotel. I climbed over the sand dunes about 2 miles too early because I had to go over and up and down all the way. I went to see the chef. I told him what I’d done, where I’d been working and what I had done. Anyway he gave me the job of pasty chef and sweets’ cook and that sort of thing. But I wasn’t working there very long before the chef came to me and he said, “Look you finished here a lot earlier than I expected, would you go over and do some A La Carte?” I said, “Sure”, so I went over to the A La Carte, but I was fumbling along and didn’t really know what I was doing and Don Kelly, a hell of a nice bloke and a highly experienced head chef from London, could see I was in trouble and he was telling me things to do. I soon found myself decorating the buffets such as margarine sculpture, ice carving, sugar baskets and these were always used as a centrepiece for the buffets. That was a job I found myself doing which I wasn’t expected to be doing.
After several years I shifted to other hotels where I got more money. I went to the Chevron Hotel - that was the Corroboree Room. Then to Margot Kelly's Hibiscus Room. I was head chef in both those places. A few more years wandering around and then I went back to the Broadbeach Hotel where Hans Skrandies was the chef. It wasn’t long before Hans said, “I’m sick of this, too much responsibility, you can do it.”
I entered the competition judged by celebrity chef Graham Kerr; I called the winning entry Strawberries Passion Lei. It was strawberries in a champagne glass which had been sugared around the top , then it had a special passionfruit sauce which I had laid in there, and a dob of softly whisked cream. It was the winner. Graham Kerr decided to change the name to Hope Strawberry, he also said that it would become more famous than Peach Melba.
I thought I wouldn’t be very good at business but I happened to fall into it. I came back up here in the late 1960s and I had a bit of money put away. Laurie McKenzie, a painter friend of mine lived a couple of streets away and had a flat mate who was a builder. They knew a young architect who had drawn up plans for a motel. So we got serious about it and we built the Motel Montego. I named it after my first overseas trip, when I spent a week in Jamaica which is where Montego Bay is located. Harry Belafonte was introducing Calypso music at the time and I brought back one of the first LPs of his songs. The name, Motel Montego, also has fine alliteration.
We started to build and then we found out that the best size for a motel, if you’re going to live in it or have someone live in and run it for you, is 14 units. So we decided to buy the block adjoining the two we owned opposite where Pacific Fair is now. Then we had three blocks and we built a 14 unit motel which is still there. It was built of cinnamon brick because the builder, John Landrigan, ‘Specs’ as we called him was using the same bricks on a house for Joe Birt and Laurie liked the colour. He matched it with burnt orange doors. Keith Williams had a shed full of plants and shrubs that he used to landscape the Surfer’s Paradise Ski Gardens, where I had worked as a ski instructor. After discussions with one of the Trebilcock brothers, who had bought the property from Keith, Laurie and I loaded up his ute six times with plants, and used them to landscape the motel. I had some of the shrubs at my home and some of them put down roots there just like me.
The motel was demolished in 2007-08.
I didn’t go out to business until I was 27 years of age. In those days, the eldest daughter stayed home. I wanted to be a hairdresser and my mother didn’t want me to be one. I worked in a few places before I went to the Chevron. But that place was like an oasis; it had beautiful grounds and a lot of retired people used to stay there. They weren’t all holidaymakers. Some of them would come three times a year to have a rest. They were very well looked after. It had two pools – a very large pool which was beautifully kept and then there was the smaller one they called the ‘Ballet Pool’ which had panels of glass around the side.
I used the paging system all the time and one time I forgot to turn it off. One of the guests who had been lazing by the pool, who happened to be the managing director of the ABC in Brisbane, came up to tell me. I wondered what we’d said as we all swore like troopers on the reception desk when the guests had gone.
The hours on the reception desk were from 7.30am to 3.30pm and from 3 o’clock to 11 o’clock at night. Well, as the years went on there was no such thing as hours. You stayed until the job was done. I still lived with my mother and I used to feel sorry for her. I’d say, “Well I’ll pick you up this afternoon, mum, and I’ll take you shopping. I’ll be home by four o’clock.” The shops at Southport used to close at 5.30pm in those days and of course, I couldn’t get away at 4 o’clock and she’d be sitting on the veranda waiting for me to come home. But I enjoyed that job. The moment I’d drive out my driveway, I had that beautiful trip over the old Jubilee Bridge and along Narrow Neck and then down Cavill Avenue into the hotel. It wasn’t like an office job where just took the cover off the typewriter. Every day of your life was different.