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Blue Mountains Tourist : Winter 2011
"She disappeared into the mists of Mt Victoria..." by Paul Innes www.bluemountainstouristnewspaper.com.au winter 2011 28 Coming across this sentence while researching the history of Mount Victoria several years ago, I found its intriguing and tantalising essence to be a bit like the town itself. Situated on the Western Railway Line and Great Western Highway, Mount Victoria offers the visitor a glimpse of an old Blue Mountains town -- a selection of local streets along which one can stroll and find St Peter's Anglican Church, the Imperial Hotel, the old Post Office, Mount Vic Flicks, shops and cafes, the railway station and museum, the park and war memorial, comfortable guesthouses and numerous old homes. Initially known as One Tree Hill, Mount Victoria was given its new name in the late 1860s in honour of Queen Victoria. By the 1890s Mount Victoria was becoming a popular tourist destination, not only for people who wanted to stay, but also those alighting at the railway station and travelling further onto Jenolan Caves. At that time, Horrock's Handy Guide to the Blue Mountains described the village as "nestling amongst the bush," creating "wonder and affection," a place where "there is a bucolic somnolescence in the air, a suggestion that here a man is meant to grow quietly fat and happy in the open sunlight". Hmmm okay... One fellow who was entranced by Mount Victoria in the early 20th Century was Sydney Lord Mayor, hotel owner and horse racing enthusiast, James Joynton Smith. In the mid 1920s he wrote: "When I saw the Blue Mountains, they cast their spell over me. It was Mount Victoria that particularly appealed to me, and the Imperial Hotel seemed to offer what I needed. I had the hotel fifteen years as a weekend hobby, giving me more in health and happiness than mere money could return". During Joynton Smith's tenure at the Imperial (c1910 -- 1926), Mount Victoria witnessed a huge celebration, in May 1913, commemorating the Centenary of the Three Explorers' Crossing of the Blue Mountains. The celebration was attended by thousands of people, including a mass choir of over 1500 school children, who, with the crowds packed into the park opposite the Imperial, sang hymns, the (then) national anthem, and a song titled 'Advance Australia Fair' -- all three verses too! Fourteen years later, in April 1927, The Duke and Duchess of York graced Mount Victoria with their presence -- as part of a two day visit to the Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves. During this time, Billy Lees was the owner of the Imperial. Seeking to broaden the reputation of the hotel and the town, he provided guests with a range of services, including coach trips to the Jenolan Caves, a zoo in the Memorial Park opposite the hotel (where several concrete enclosures can still be seen), a tennis court, bowling green and a golf course, located on the eastern side of the railway station. At the station itself, a large and comfortable refreshment room offered travellers the chance to relax while their steam train was being re-watered. The rooms are now the Mount Victoria Museum, where many exhibits can be viewed and pondered over -- especially the Melanesian masks which came from Mel Ward's Hydro Majestic Museum Collection. After the Second World War, Mount Victoria went through a revival of sorts. This was certainly aided by the presence of Bill and Nancy Thompson, at the Imperial Hotel, for under Bill Thompson as licensee, the town enjoyed quality music, reflecting his experience in the Sydney Jazz scene. During this time, one cold winter's weekend in 1947, two friends drove to Mount Vic in a new navy blue Oldsmobile roadster. Staying over on Saturday night, they were met by Bill Thompson the following morning with the distressing news that "one of the guests died during the night". "Tch, tch, tch," said Bill, adjusting his glasses back up his nose, "a terrible thing has happened, and the worst thing is, we now have to tell the bloke's son to come up from Sydney to collect his father's body. As for the young girl who was with him... she just disappeared into the mists of Mount Victoria..." Paul Innes -- historian and tour guide "As a local Historian and local History Tour Guide, I am always searching for stories and information on the Blue Mountains. Thus, if anyone can shed more light on the 1905 Dunlop Trial and the Hydro s involvement in that Trial , or if you have any Hydro car stories from any era please do not hesitate to contact me." Based on thorough written and oral research, with a touch of light hearted fun, Paul's tours cover the Blue Mountains, from Lapstone to Mount York. The itinerary includes walking tours, coach tours with commentaries, and tag-a-long car tours. As well as conducting tours himself, Paul is assisted by published historians such as John Low. Paul has been working as an historian and history tour guide in the Blue Mountains since 1996. Prior to starting the business in 1996, Paul taught History, English and Drama for 17 years. To contact Paul, phone 0402-483-599, or visit his website www.discoverthebluemountains.com.au