THE HISTORY OF THE BELMORE SKI CLUB (and its variety of occupants who appreciated jollity)  by Ted Gleeson  - July 2017

I have endeavoured to avoid incidences contained in Colin Trumble’s colourful input in 2006 but there may be an occasional reference to a special event with a slightly different or an additional interpretation.  For obvious reasons, no attempt has been made to record events in chronological order … and it’s too long ago anyway.

World War II was over and many of we servicemen prepared to enter civilian life for the first time.  Some resumed university studies, others sought employment and many managed to show interest in the snow.

Colin’s contribution to the history of Belmore includes the period from around 1947 up to the commencement of the building.  Ian Anderson and I were not invited to join this fledgling ski lodge until 1951 – one of the few on the mountain.  I’m not certain when entry fees were introduced but I certainly remember Ian paid for a gas refrigerator and I a gas stove – both expensive items at the time.  We were proposed and seconded by Ted Yencken and Peter Trumble who failed to mention anything about buying these two luxuries!

Working weekends were mandatory in March and April when we were able to park near the old chalet site or at the bottom of Bourke Street.  This allowed us to carry winter supplies to Belmore viz building materials, grog, skis, personal winter gear, tinned food and even the completed kitchen bench.   During these treks mostly in single file, a pastime was to silently place part of your own load onto the haversack of the person in front.  Even a bottle or rock or two was enough to slow down the carrier who sometimes was unaware until he reached the lodge.  Peter Trumble and Joe Palliser were experts at performing this act of friendship.

During an early winter working weekend, Ted Yencken and I arrived at Belmore in the dark to the sounds of loud music and raucous laughter.  Belmore was having an all-male party.  On entering, the scene was chaotic.  A huge bath tub filled with snow sat on the floor of the main room out of which a curly head emerged.  Our honorary architect Joe was its owner who crawled out to the ear-splitting sound of the famous gong, totally blue with cold and totally naked.  A number of these strange and original accomplishments occurred from time to time which earned us arguably the rowdiest party club on Buller i.e. until wives and children began to appear!

This is a different little-known piece of history with an artistic flavour.  Shortly after the new building became liveable about 1950, Peter Trumble hung a self-portrait over the stove in the kitchen.  The image shows Peter’s shadowed face with a shabby felt hat on top and includes what looks like a failed short beard.  The portrait disappeared when the building was demolished and seemed lost forever.  So where is it today?

His youngest son Angus, is the director of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.  In December of 2003, he was interviewed on TV and there it was behind him sitting at his desk.  I saw the scenario and asked Angus was I dreaming?  “No” was his prompt reply.  I understand it is now in Simon Trumble’s holiday house at Metung although a print or two is in the hands of responsible persons.  Angus believes his father may have consumed a Gin or two when producing his work of art!

In time, some early members began to marry setting the scene for the arrival of a second generation of Belmorians.  By 1960, school holidays provided a wonderful opportunity for young kids to experience the unique conditions of life in the snow – a subdued life though compared to that of their parents.  My wife Althea, and I with our three children spent many school holidays with the Yenckens, Pallisers and Southeys whose progenies continue their use of the club to this day.  In fact, these youngsters and their children now represent a third generation as grandchildren of early members.  Now back to another Belmore party of note involving “adults” in their late sixties and early seventies.

But before revealing the components of this exhibition by ripened and ageing old fossils, there is a video of some of the antics portrayed in this mighty noisy production titled “The Farewell to Belmore”.  Perhaps it should be viewed after reading my description – good clean fun and no need for censoring.

On a prearranged long weekend each year during the winter, Ted Yencken and I hosted a friendly gathering by inviting a number of non-members to share with us the delights of Belmore and the magic of being encircled by that white stuff.  Apart from my wife Althea and Peg Yencken, guests included Fred and Joan Moore, Liz Joyce, Bob and Jill Boynton and Peter and Kay Joubert – all close friends in Melbourne – no kids just a group keen on skiing, loud music, putting on an act, grog and singing.  Fred Moore was MC and drum major who had the ability to transform all cutlery, pots and pans into ear-splitting musical instruments.  Loud music precipitated rousing songs such as “Wish Me Luck” and “Rule Britannia”, “Land of Hope and Glory”, “There’ll always be an England”, “Long way to Tipperary”, “Roll out the Barrel” and a Vera Lynn track or two.  Each song sent a signal for the next to be even more boisterous.  Of course, this stage show had to include colourful decorations, so streamers and dozens of balloons were strung from one end of the room to the other which, when pricked, provided gunfire to accompany a resumption of “Land of Hope and Glory” and others.  “The Farewell” was well underway when two uninvited guests arrived, Jan Rogers and Jane Gilder.  They were on their way to some ski lodge, heard the noise emanating from Belmore and decided to call on us.  Several hours later they still remained but when leaving were shown out through a strange exit.  We heard later that they had told friends in Melbourne that it was the only party they had ever been to when they entered through a door and left by a refrigerator!

Another unique party trick consisted of “horizontal diving”.  This daring sport involved opening the windows in the main room, running from the other side near the kitchen bench and diving out onto the snow which had piled high up to the window sill.  On an occasion, one of the competitors finished his run tangled up in a tree, much to the mirth of the spectators.

At this point it should be recorded that skiing too was a popular pastime during our many vacations!  It was taken seriously for most were experienced enough to tackle practically all runs with the possible exception of Bull Run.  Tows of varying shapes and structures conveyed us around the mountain so plenty of skiing was available – no chair lifts though, just nutcrackers, T bars, rope tows and poma lifts – very advanced on earlier days when we walked everywhere.

Colin Trumble wrote of his memories of “the long drop”.  Mine are much the same but it was not very pleasant having stumbled some 50 metres through deep snow at 3 a.m. in the lightest of clothing … and snow boots.  On arrival, one was greeted by a member’s contraption which played “Twinkle twinkle little star …” and so this lonely isolated small haven became known as “The Music Room”.  As years went by, it was decided to install a proper, more convenient and modern facility downstairs in the main lodge.  Even so, navigation of the unlit steep stairs presented a degree of danger although there is no record of any fatalities.  On completion of this modern amenity, it was considered appropriate that the old, outdoor dulcet toned convenience be demolished or should we say, filled in.  This ceremonial event was undertaken with some nostalgia during a working weekend in the presence of Malcolm Southey, Ted Yencken, Charlie Yencken, Joe Palliser, John Palliser, Kari and Edward Gleeson and myself.  A photo exists somewhere of flames and smoke bellowing from our precious comfort station.

Now for a bit of serious stuff.  During one school holiday, Colin and I decided to ski in heavy snow to Mount Stirling.  This mini mountain doesn’t look that far until you have slogged for seven hours, carrying skis (which we abandoned shortly after leaving due to snow conditions), one bottle of beer, two oranges and several emergency items.  The amber liquid and oranges were consumed on the summit of Stirling while we talked of the future, our careers and life in general.  Isolation under these circumstances prompt all sorts of activity to the mind, more so than in exposed territory.  On the homeward stretch, the competitive Trumble strode ahead towards Kooroora where two large pots of beer sat on a table.  However, a different type of episode was to occur a day or two later.

While walking across the flat bottom of Bourke Street on the way to “The Ab” for dinner, I slipped, broke three ribs and punctured a lung.  During two weeks in Cabrini Hospital I was asked how did it happen so I boasted it was at Mount Buller under icy snow conditions.  True, but I failed to mention where the accident actually occurred … and a couple of Gin and Tonics at Belmore didn’t help.

After one hectic evening meal with others, Peter Trumble, a guest Jill Boynton and I set off for summit, each carrying two oranges and I with a bottle of rum.  It was one of those still, clear starlit nights with a full moon lighting up nearby mountain ranges.  We sat on rocks at the summit and talked about a variety of subjects as did Colin and I at Stirling.  We gazed down at the twinkling lights of Mansfield and managed to identify the outline of Hotham and Feathertop in the far distance.  Tranquillity and achieving a small adventure combined to make the evening impossible to forget.

In the early 1970s, three venturers broke their leg … Jo Palliser, son David and my son Andrew, aged about six.  Jo had to be carted out from the bottom of Bull Run, David, I think, was in the vicinity of Bourke Street while Andrew and I were skiing near the top of Baldy.  He had behaved badly that morning but fell and then refused to get up.  A light jab or two with my stock failed.  He had broken a leg and was in pain.  I felt rotten with guilt as I carried him down to the medical centre and the rest is history.

Here’s another story about lack of sympathy.  On arrival late one night, Jo surprised us by refusing the usual welcome drink which attracted colourful remarks from others.  During the night, he experienced strong chest pains and later, Peg, Ted and I arranged for an ambulance and we three accompanied him down to the Mansfield Hospital.  He had had a heart attack and his recovery took a long long while.

Many old and bold skiers must wonder if present members and guests have as much clean fun and serious skiing as we did.  Probably they do in a more refined way and in keeping with an elegant atmosphere.  If not, try harder – and the ghosts of the past will look down on you with envy.

BELMORE SKI CLUB - Colin Trumble 30 May, 2006

Amanda has asked me to put a few words together about the origins of Belmore as I was the last original member until recently when I retired as a member.

I retired as a member because I no longer ski. Since I gave up ski-ing at least 25 or 30 years ago one may ask why I did not retire then. I have no idea except that I do not like leaving an organisation which gave so much enjoyment.

Since the Club started about 55 years ago my memory of early events has become patchy. I have spoken to two elderly early members I can find who are still with us to fill up the gaps in my memory. These were Ted Yencken and Jim Minifie who have been very helpful. There would be others but time has prevented me from finding them.

I hope what follows is reasonably accurate.

I have decided that this little story needs a background to explain why the early members decided to build something better than they had enjoyed previously and also to recall some of the difficulties of early ski-ing.

In particular, the background throws up a few interesting comparisons between “then and now”.

My father was a keen skier and sometime in the 1920’s took up the sport. He and my mother used to ski at Mt Buffalo and there met up with Helmet Kofler who at the time worked there. Kofler conceived the idea of building something at Mt Buller.  My father and a group of his friends got together and financed the construction of the old Mt Buller Chalet with Kofler as a major shareholder. The first time I went ski-ing was in 1931 at Buller. The construction of that Chalet was truly a major feat. Kofler did a lot of the work himself. There was no road to the site of the Chalet and materials had to be carried by pack-horse for the last 11 miles along a track known as the “Mouse Track”. Even a piano was carried this way.

There was a telephone in the old Chalet and I remember Kofler himself strung the wire for it from tree to tree for a very great distance—probably about eleven miles to the Dump where the horses were kept. The telephone worked but one had to shout and to have absolute silence to hear what came from the other end.

There were no tows and one walked everywhere. On a good day we always spent the entire day out on the snow with picnic lunches. To go to the Summit was a major outing. Kofler built a jump which I remember clearly. Only one person jumped over and that was Kofler. He was a beautiful stylish skier but the jump was enormous and it was too much even for him. I still have a film taken of this jump. The jump was a disaster and Kofler broke several ribs and put himself out of action for some time.

Getting to the Chalet meant riding horseback for the last 11 miles along the Mouse-Track and I was terrified every inch of the way. There was a cliff one side and a straight drop of several hundred feet the other side.

That little bit of history throws up a few of comparisons.

I was 6 or 7 years old at the time but I can remember the early journeys all too well. We always seemed to take two days to get there. We spent the first night at the Hunt Club Hotel at Merrijig which I believe is still there. The second day involved walking and riding rather moth eaten old pack horses. This was a terrifying experience for me. I can remember the horse frequently putting its foot into a mud hole several feet deep. When we got to the Mouse-Track I always dismounted and walked if I had my way.

Weekends were out of the question and you had to stay a week at least to make it worth while.

Nowadays, of course, one considers it a disaster if one cannot drive one’s car right to the Lodge door, the whole trip from Melbourne taking perhaps three hours. A weekend has become common.

I have an old film taken by Dr Bunny Cato around this time, including Kofler’s jump. The pictures are very indistinct and scratchy but interesting none the less. The people involved included a number of skiers who all became well known doctors. Their clothing was of amazing variety. Some even wore collars and ties and jackets from old suits and several wore felt hats. Many were smokers. Even I was included in the film which can be shown if desired.

Sometime in 1946 and 1947 a group of us decided to take up ski-ing again. There was my brother Peter and I and Ted Yencken and Malcolm Southey and Joe Palliser.We commandeered the old Cow Camp Hut of which I include a photograph.

This was a truly ramshackle hut originally used by mountain cattle men in the early 1920’s or earlier. This was our first chalet and it just accomodated five of us. There was no bathroom or lavatory and if you wanted to relieve yourself you went outside whatever the weather was doing. We cooked over the open fire. There were three bunks, one person slept on the floor in a stretcher and I slept in a hammock slung from one corner of the hut to the opposite corner. Ted always went to bed with an empty jam tin so he did not need to go outside during the night. If it snowed a lot of snow came through the roof and one woke in the morning with an inch of snow on the bed. That hut did us for a year or two before we moved on to something better

Sometimes the Cow Camp establishment was referred to as the Cow Camp Academy. The occupants of the Academy were not usually noted for being of sartorial elegance.

Cow Camp, however, provided its members with a lot of enjoyment.

As far as I can remember some of the members were then married but no wife enjoyed the facilities with us. None of them would have been seen dead in the place.

Sometime around this time I discovered that the surviving members of the old original Mt Buller Syndicate still had the occupancy licence. The old chalet had been burnt down in about 1940 I think. A group of people decided to build a hut on the old Chalet site and I was one of them. We called it the Junior Ski Club. It was really nice and a great deal better than Cow Camp. I have lost track of the members except for Tim Moran who had become a good friend. He and I, and a number of others, used to go up for working parties each weekend. Tim and I constructed the outside dunny. We designed this dunny so the view from it was magnificent right down the valley. The only trouble was that he and I missed a couple of weekends and when we got back we discovered that in our absence the dunny had been constructed so that the view was of the hill behind. The plan had been reversed by someone with no imagination at all. The dunny was simply a long drop and had no plumbing.

The Junior Ski Club provided for a number of years. We eventually drifted away from it with the advent of Belmore which I now deal with.

Belmore really grew out of the nucleus of Cow Camp and a group which came from the James Minifie family who then lived in Balwyn.

The Minifies home was called “Belmore Grange” and that is how Belmore got its name.

The Minifies and their friends and the Cow Camp people added up to about 20 or 25 persons and they formed the Belmore Ski Club. This would have about 1949 or 1950.

Somehow or other the Club obtained a permissive occupancy at what is still the present site near the bottom of the Bourke Street tow. I think my brother Peter had a lot to do with this.

The Club members supplied the labour to build the lodge which was designed by the only Club member who was an architect - Joe Palliser.

All building work took place in the weekends and the job took about twelve months to complete.

There was accommodation for about twelve people in two dormitories eight in the boys and four in the girls.

The shower room was downstairs. The lavatory was built of the long drop principle and was in a hut outside. There was a sign on the door. This was connected by a cord to the lavatory seat and the sign  indicated “Occupied” or “Empty” according to whether the seat was up or down.

Completion was nothing short of a miracle. Belmore by modern standards was primitive but     compared to Cow Camp was luxurious. On arrival at commencement of a weekend one had first to unfreeze the pipes with a blow lamp if one could first light the blow lamp. Heating in the living room was by a pot belly stove that got so hot it glowed in the dark.

Hot water was supplied by means of large gas bottles outside. I remember one occasion when the top came unstuck on one of these bottles and the escaping gas made an ear splitting noise like escaping steam from a steam engine. All adults present bolted outside until we remembered the children were still inside. We eventually got them out and some brave soul reattached the top to the bottle. After the gas cleared we went back in badly frightened.

Some of the people who occupied Belmore were of considerable interest and I hope I will be pardoned for mentioning a few incidents.

Joe Palliser was a rowdy character at times and very funny and entertaining. He had a particular friend named Marshall Gibson who was not a member but went to Belmore many times with Joe. Marshall was the proprietor of Gibby’s Coffee Shops in various parts of Melbourne and he was even rowdier that Joe.

One weekend when I was going to Belmore I asked Marshall for a lift. He duly arrived in an XK120 Jaguar car which seemed to have only the front seat. We got into this thing with the skis between us Marshall had the roof down and I pointed out to him that it was raining and he should put the roof up.. No- he said when we get going the rain will just go over the top! So it did but for this to happen we had to go at very high speed.

Travelling at such speed meant that   the air rushing overhead created a suction in the cockpit. This meant that all the dust of the floor became airborne. So for most of the trip my eyes were shut and I have no idea how Marshall managed.

I strongly suspect this performance was designed by Marshall to frighten me. He succeeded.

When got to the dips in the road near Alexandria we became airborne.

We duly arrived in double quick time at the old Chalet site just as Joe Palliser arrived in another car.

In those days all one’s gear, including grog, had to be carried the rest of the way by pack on one’s back.

Joe asked Marshall to help him load his pack on his back. Marshall did this, and as there was still room in the pack topped it up with rocks.

Then to my amazement Marshall asked Joe to help him in the same way .Exactly the same thing happened and Joe topped up Marshall’s pack also with rocks.

I thought this was priceless so said nothing.

We then walked the considerable distance to Belmore with each of Joe and Marshall laughing at each other and me laughing at both of them.

On arrival, of course, these pranks were revealed and there was a good natured brawl.

I should mention an important piece of Belmore equipment. This was the Gong. It consisted of a heavy piece of pipe about 6 inches in diameter and two feet long. When struck with a hammer it made a terrible deafening noise and it was in frequent use, mainly by Palliser and Gibson.

Many parties took place in the old Belmore. By this time most of the members were married so the wives took part too. Sometimes the members of nearby Womens Club joined as well.

As I have mentioned the lodge was built by the members themselves.

This was a time shortly after the end of the War which itself followed on after the major depression.

So nobody had much money. There was no question we could not afford a builder and the architect was unpaid.

Material, where possible, had to be scrounged.

The bunks were old ship bunks from the Manoora ,and felt like it too.

Ted Yencken’s family had a large hardware business in the City so a lot of things came from there.

The window frames and roof trusses were prefabricated in the workshop at the Minifie flour mill. Jim Minifie tells me that one of his tasks was to provide transport. So, as necessary, he commandeered the “O-so-lite” truck which was used for transport.  Jim tells me he travelled thousands of miles - so much that his engineering manager from the mill complained that Jim was wearing out the tyres.

To build Belmore was quite a large job so I imagine some members had to fill the role of project manager. As far as I can remember Joe Palliser and Malcolm Southey had a lot to do with this.

The result was a good practical lodge which provided for the Club for more the 35 years.

Initially the building was unlined so it was extremely draughty and cold

The carpets came out of Ted Yencken’s house and I think he also supplied the linoleum in the kitchen.

The refrigerator had no working parts but that did not matter. It was built on the back of the Belmore building so it got cold enough that way. To gain access to the refrigerator one merely opened the lodge back door and there was the refrigerator.

Over the years, of course, Belmore was progressively improved until it became more comfortable and warmer.

Sometime after initial construction Ian Anderson and Ted Gleeson became members. As an entrance fee for joining the Club one supplied a refrigerator and the other a stove. The new refrigerator took the place of the early one mentioned above.

Sometimes the back door was used as a means of access either to get to the dunny of for other reasons.

I am reminded of one famous occasion during a party when one visitor (not a member) became so inebriated he passed out. I can recall being one of three persons being asked to carry him out and take him back to his own lodge wherever that was. We decided to use the door by the old refrigerator. The way out was steep and extremely slippery. So, of course, we dropped the inebriated visitor and he slid  down the slope back into Belmore and half way across the floor much to the delight of everyone. I can even remember the name of the inebriated visitor but I am not prepared to divulge it.

I often wonder if the early skiers in the 1920's and 1930's had as much fun as we did. As a 6/7 year old I do not recall any such rumpus but maybe I was sent to bed early.

I wonder the same thing about skiers today.

Some time around the late 1980’s the Club was informed by the Alpine Authority that the licence would be cancelled if the dilapidated condition of the building was not rectified.

By this time all original members had become quite old so the young members took over and did a wonderful job.

They sold the site to a developer who built a number of units one of which is what the Club now occupies..