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Boulevard of broken dreams

The Golden Fleece has stood the test of time

09 Nov 2017

The Golden Fleece has stood the test of time Image

By Sara Madderson - Montague Community Alliance

The Golden Fleece Hotel is one of the few original buildings remaining in Montague and has seen many changes during its 145-year history.

Founded by John Edward Deeble in 1872, the original structure was a four-roomed timber building with a brick bar. By 1880, the hotel had expanded to 11 rooms and an adjoining brick shop was also incorporated.

In 1889 the hotel licence was taken over by Mrs E Strieff and the name was changed to Strieff’s Hotel. However, when the licence was transferred again in 1891 the original name was restored.

At the turn of the century Montague was a teeming metropolis with more than a 1000 homes. It had its own kindergarten, school, church, shops, police station and many, many hotels and the Golden Fleece was popular due to its central location.

With the establishment in 1906 of the Licence Reduction Board which had powers to reduce the number of hotels, many in Montague faced closure. In order to survive, most had to show evidence of proposals to upgrade the premises, the number boarders and meals that were being made each week and the Golden Fleece was one of the lucky ones to remain trading.

As noted in South Melbourne, A History by Susan Priestley (1995) despite pleas about providing meals and accommodation, beer sales remained of overwhelming importance. One member of the community, Henry Hall who grew up in Gladstone St during the 1920s recalls that one of his childhood chores was to take a hot meal to his father working at the coal wharves.

“My dad never ever went to the pub. My mum’d always see that he had a beer on the job, and I’d get it at home for him too. A quart bottle three-parts full was 9d … but if you run in at five to six, just before closing time, they’d fill it right up for you.”

“We used to sit down in the gutter on a hot night opposite the Golden Fleece Hotel in Montague St … and as soon as the ding-a-ling (of the alarm) went, all the kids would dive in together with the basket and the bottles.

“Well, the barman, he used to hate you to come in while that thing was ringing. He just used to pull the handle till the froth was right to the top … (and) bang the cork in it.”

“Then me and my mate would go down by Montague school and sit there on the quiet, and drink it down to the nine penniworth (sic). We knew where that was.”

Back then many pubs were more than just a place for drink or two and a meal. It was a place for some to call home, for the community to get together to discuss issues regarding the local area and on occasion a cheeky game of two up.

As there weren’t many spaces available for large groups to meet, the Golden Fleece was used on regularly by prospective local council candidates to address residents come election time and for various social club meetings.

One such club, the Golden Fleece Social Party, was formed in 1938 by licensee George White along with other members of the community. As noted in local paper, The Record on the October 15, 1938, the social club’s purpose was to promote happiness amongst the families of members, organise social events such sporting matches and dances where proceeds from tickets sales would fund local initiatives to provide assistance those less fortunate.

The club also had an aspiration to educate the children of Montague in swimming and life-saving. But with homes being in various states of disrepair and many having to be demolished residents moved on to other areas and by the 1950s and 60s the area had largely become industrial.

With this in mind I dare say the Golden Fleece may have faced lean times but, with the few residents that remained, companies such as Dunlop Rubber Mill and the Union Can Company based in Montague who employed so many, and those who worked on the waterfront, the Golden Fleece was able to keep trading and sustain its business by providing workers with counter meals and drinks.

Fast forward to 2017 and its still trading, still pouring drinks and providing great meals and the occasional Pinball comp.

Some industry still remains and the community, albeit small at the moment, is using the space to hold regular meetings such as those held by The Montague Community Alliance.

The Golden Fleece has stood the test of time and many have passed through its doors. It is hoped that it will continue to be a centre point in Montague for many years to come and a place that respects and pays homage to the old while welcoming the new with open arms.

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