Golightly House Queenscliff

 

The year is 1948 – shortly after the second-world war has ended. Essendon and Melbourne battled out the VFL Grand Final, ending in a draw (fortunately Melbourne won the rematch by 39 points(!)) and Rimfire won the Melbourne Cup. William Dobell won the Archibald Prize for his famous and award-winning portrait of Margaret Olley.

And it’s the year that Jack Golightly proposed to Audrey Johnson.

Things were done differently in those times, life was simple. You didn’t buy what you couldn’t afford, and you didn’t get married until you had a house that you could move into.

My beloved and I frequent Queenscliff on a semi-regular basis. Some 100 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD, it’s a picturesque holiday village that once had the army and fishing at the core of its economy.

Apart from the residents, one of the highlights of Queenscliff is the wonderful array of buildings that it possesses. They are a mixture of everything from early Victorian through to modern styles. There are many examples of grand Victorian and Edwardian era residences and public buildings, the town being the beneficiary of some of the wealth generated on Victoria’s goldfields in the late 1850’s. It was the place to promenade and there was easy access from Melbourne via the train service or ferries.

Jack was born in the front room of a lovely double fronted Victorian era dwelling in Stoke Street in 1927. Of Scottish heritage, the family have lived in the Queenscliff/Point Lonsdale area since its early days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Victorian house where Jack made his grand entrance – front right-hand room.

Jack comes from a long line of plumbers, his father and grandfather also being in that trade. His early days covered all areas of plumbing, including building septic tanks in the area before the town had a proper sewerage system. The town was sewered in in the early 1960’s.

It’s an interesting fact that all houses in Queenscliff were known by a name only – there was no street numbering system in place until after the sewerage system was created.

Audrey’s parents lived in Williamstown but moved to Queenscliff shortly before she was born in 1932. Her father was a fisherman and worked from Queenscliff Harbour and lived in the part of town known as “Fishermans Flat”. When the fishing wasn’t so good the family used to go rabbiting in the Mallee, around Ouyen and Jeparit in the hunt for underground mutton. Audrey says the farmers used to pay them sixpence for a pair of rabbits.

Unrenovated Victorian cottage opposite where Audrey grew up. This charming house has pedigree filigree.

This house on Fishermans Flats has had a full renovation three years ago. Very cute!

Once they were engaged, Jack set out to build the family home on a vacant block next door to the house where he was born. Being a plumber, he had trade skills and was able to do a fair bit of the work himself.

Getting a building permit those days was not as complicated as it is now, and having drawn up the plans himself, he submitted them to the Queenscliff Borough Council. The responsible officer, Mr Drossdan, stamped the plans (with the help of his capable assistant Mari Zula) and construction commenced shortly thereafter. There was no National Construction Code or building surveyors, but the intention was always to build a home that would last the distance.

This was not uncommon in the post war era – my beloved’s parents also built their own home in Kyabram and I have seen many films and documentaries over the years of families pitching in and helping each other to build their own homes. The Small Homes Service was one way of assisting with this, providing building plans that owner builders could use to construct their own house.

One of the reason’s I have gotten to know Jack and Audrey is that they spend quite a bit of time sitting on their front verandah. And they are chatty.

Their house is quite distinctive. In a town where the Victorian and Edwardian era homes reign supreme, their home has a unique and bright homely feel about it. This has a lot to do with its neat presentation, including the garden, and the fact that it was so well built in the first place. It shows no signs of deterioration despite being in a coastal location.

The Golightly house – simple austerity with good symmetry and proportions. Note the eve’s shading the north facing windows. This photo was taken mid-afternoon in summer.

It’s also distinctive because the bricks used were handmade by Jack and Audrey – 7,000 bricks in total, all in batches of 32. Jack says the trick to making the perfect brick in his brick mould was not to have the concrete mixture too thick or too runny. Like Goldilocks, it has to be just right.

By the time you got to your 220th odd batch you too would be pretty good at getting the mix right. Bricks were made after work and weekends on site. Jack and Audrey also made the roof tiles and cappings out of concrete. I call them Golightly bricks and there are other examples of them in the town, probably as a result of the good work done by Jack to raise some extra dollars for his own project.

 

Renovated Edwardian Cottage on Fisherman’s Flat with a Golightly brick fence.

Close up of the pattern of Jack’s home-made bricks

They would keep working and saving, doing bits and pieces on the house over 6 years until it was finished and then they could finally get married.

I love this house – its special because of the effort that went into it in the first instance. It was an expression of love by a couple who were to be married and raise their own family in a home that they proudly built themselves. That is a great achievement.

Originally, like many Austerity Era homes it consisted of only two bedrooms. Later there was a ground floor extension to the home adding another bedroom. In this house they raised their two boys, Barry and David, who live close by and who are both plumbers.

The Golightly Crew – Jack in Bib n Brace, David and Barry in Cotton Drill Action Backs.

Internally, the plaster work is from an earlier era, with hints of Art Deco. The walls are hard plaster (rendered by Jack whose experience rendering the internals of septic tanks came in handy) but there are some lovely ornate ceiling panels, and classy light fittings which adds a touch of class.

Dining room plaster detail with Flash Light – hints of Art Deco

All the kitchen cabinetry (still original) was made by Jack, 39 cupboards in all.

Typical Austerity style 1950’s kitchen shelf

These sash windows were built by Jack with recycled timber from packing crates

Many Austerity homes still had some ornamentation, and quite often it came in the form of wrought iron gates at the front entrance. When Jack and Audrey were finally married in 1954, one of their wedding presents was a set of gates for the driveway and footpath. They match the house really well and are still in use today. They come from Ray Barrett in Ballarat.

Wrought Iron gate for pedestrian access.

Having been married and living in the house for over 64 years there is no shortage of memories here. Queenscliff is a great place to raise children and lead an active lifestyle. Many family homes where children have been raised will have the children’s names, ages and heights along a doorway. At the Golightly’s height does not matter but some of the boy’s fishing conquests are marked out on the garage wall.

Flathead and Flounder commemorative wall

Jack and Audrey out the front of the house that they built together – 70 years on. There’s a small stitched plaque on the wall next to Jack that reads “He is happiest, be him King or Peasant who finds peace in his home”.

Jack and Audrey are proud of the home they created, and rightly so. It has given them a wonderful environment to raise their family and given them warmth and shelter for over sixty years.

It may be austere, but it’s great.