Welcome to BARTON HOUSE!

For today's joke


Sunday morning after the night before: chilling out on the front steps; "yours truly" in dead centre, wearing sunnies and checkered shirt. Notice the chap on the far right having a "hair of the dog" from a McWilliams flagon left over from the night before. If that didn't do it, there was always BEX powder and a good lie down! Or take Vincent's with confidence for quick three-way relief. All things of the past now!
As is Barton House itself which was demolished in 1981.

Dear ex-Barton House Lodger,

It was 1965. The Menzies era was coming to an end. The conflict in Vietnam was escalating. And I had just come out to Australia as a young migrant from Germany. I spent those early years, from 1965 to 1967, and then again a brief period in 1969 after I had come back from South Africa, in Canberra in a place called "Barton House" in Brisbane Avenue, one of the many boarding houses then in existence.

Those were the days of parties, of evenings in front of the telly in the TV Room watching "Z-Car" or "M*A*S*H", laughing at the antics of Agent 99 and Maxwell Smart in "Get Smart" ("Good thinking, 99" was a favourite saying in those days); or being bored to death by Barry Jones's insufferable show-off act on Bob and Dolly's BP Pick-a-Box. And then there were the evenings spent at the Burns Club or in the Newsroom of the "Wello" Pub across the road, drinking 'schooners' and talking about 'sheilas', followed by a last-minute dash back to Barton House before the dining room closed! And Sunday morning, sitting on the frontsteps with the boys, recovering from the night before, while waiting for the week's washing to run through its cycle in the laundry in the backyard.

It was at Barton House that I was introduced to the culinary delights of Australia in the 60s:    mixed grill, corned silverside, Yorkshire pudding, spaghetti-meatballs, lamp chops, and, as a filla-uppa, loads and loads of steam-pudding drowned in thick creamy custard. And who can forget those dreadful brown-paperbag luncheon packs of baked-beans sandwiches, chutney sandwiches, and spaghetti sandwiches? Is there anything more revolting than a soggy spaghetti-sandwich dripping through the bottom of a brown paperbag? The people who ate that stuff must've been a weird mob indeed!

There were never any seconds - except for steam-pudding!!! - and for a growing lad that meant going next door to the "Greasy Spoon" at Lachlan Court to stock up on Iced Vovos, Arnott's Spicy Fruit Rolls (my favourites!), and spring and Chiko rolls.

No specific mention of Barton House but £11/10s. a week sounds about right

I always occupied a share-room because a share-room was cheaper. And some of the room mates I had to share with! There was the ANZ "Bank Johnny" from the Kingston branch who regularly came back drunk, night after night, and who was a master of the Australian expletive - which he used constantly, stand-alone, in between words, even inserted into words! Watching him at the Bank stringing together sentences without profanity was like watching someone trying to swim across a river without using his arms or his legs. And the WORMALD-employee who would purposefully strut off to work only to be back inside the room five minutes later, screaming his head off. "They repossessed my car again, the bastards!!!" He regularly fell behind with his repayments, and regularly had his car repossessed.

And then there was the postie who seemed to lead a charmed life as he was usually back from work by mid-morning until he was found out to have dumped his mail deliveries at the local tip! And the Kiwi with his already then wonderfully antique ROVER-car with walnut dashboard who loved classical music and played it throughout the night on his radiogram. Remember the radiogram? His was an expensive "HIS MASTER'S VOICE ". My own choice of music at the time were THE SEEKERS and PETER, PAUL AND MARY. There will never be another time like that! And could I write a book about it? You bet!!!

There was a constant stream of new arrivals, but for a hard core of people - and that included me! - Barton House was "home" because we had no other! The home we never left, not even for Christmas, when it became a ghostly place with just a handful of us scattered along its empty corridors and we sat like lost sheep in a small 'holding pen' of the otherwise closed-off dining room. It was the sort of "home" that prepared me well for the house I later shared in Rabaul with two fellow-accountants and the camp accommodation I occupied when I went to Bougainville Island. And it gave me the confidence and the skills to deal with all manner of people in future years.

Barton House AFL team: Dennis Everitt, front row second from left; Merv Quine, back row, third from right

Picnic on the front lawn of Barton House; Colleen Murray in white dress, second from right

Don’t know the blonde; Graham Leahy, Dennis Everitt and “Little John”

Sunday afternoon cricket on the back lawn of Barton House (houses across the road are long gone as is Barton House itself). Colleen Murray fielding in slips, wickie was “Little John” Mathis (ex CBC Kingston?), and Merv Quine making a spectacular shot

And what variety of people I met, and what interesting friends I made! Some of the names I still remember are John Burke, my immediate boss at the Bank, Merv Quine, another "Bank Johnny" originally from Broken Hill, the other two "Bank Johnnies" Dennis Everitt and Bob Southwell, Pat Fisher from Foreign Affairs who was forever on study leave trying to learn some foreign languages but never getting past the equivalents of "Good Morning" and "How are you?". And Jerry from the Government Printers who somehow or other broke his leg and stayed on crutches for years and years, creaming off the insurance companies. The retired dotty surveyor, known as "The Colonel", who spoke to no-one and always walked about with his own cutlery in his pockets. In the mornings he would stand outside the communal shower cubicles and rap his walking-stick on the door if anyone dared to stand under the shower beyond what he considered was a reasonable time.

A list of guests at Barton House in 1967. I remember four of them:
Acland, Susan, Bank Clerk; Chek, Peter, Manager;
Southwell, Robert, Bank Officer; Young, Philip, Bank Officer.
And Dowling, Ernest, Surveyor, was, I think, the old chap we called 'The Colonel'

For years after, and in different parts of Australia, I still kept bumping into people who had been at Barton House, who had been chased for their outstanding rents by Peter "Frenchie" Chek, the manager, who also ran an "Academy of Self-Defense" (and didn't he need it to deal with some of his more difficult boarders!) They all looked back on their time there with fond memories and a great deal of nostalgia.

Soaking up the sun on the front steps of Barton House: half of yours truly,
Colleen Murray, her roomie Dulcie, and Denva Boardman

If you were at one time or another an "inmate" of Barton House and have pictures and memories to share, please email me this very moment at riverbendnelligen@mail.com! I shall collect all comments and snaps on this website which, hopefully, will grow as time goes on.

With best wishes to whoever and wherever you are!

Peter, an ex-ANZ "Bank Johnny"
31st July 2003


From the CANBERRA TIMES of 15 July 1941 - see here:

Barton House - Canberra's Largest Hostel

Barton House, build under Government supervision for private lease, represents an appreciable step in the development of Canberra with its handsome appearance and modern appointments.

The one hundred and sixty five bedrooms, which were occupied almost completely on the opening day several weeks ago, have also greatly relieved the shortage of accommodation in the Australian capital.

The main portion of the building, which is of two stories and built in long corridor style, comprises a main lounge room, recreation room, writing room, card room and study room in addition to the 165 bedrooms. A projecting dining room leads to the kitchen laundries and staff quarters.

The contractors, Cody and Willis, of Glebe, succeeded admirably in blending the three main exterior features, brickwork, paintwork and roof. Clean face bricks are interlaid with others of a mottled variety and the sheer double-storey frontage is relieved by a variegated tile roof.

From the richly covered floors to the plaster ceilings, the interior appointments are attractive and comfortable. Seven hundred yards of carpeting and one thousand yards of linoleum were laid by Mr. T. Byrne, of Canberra. The carpet is Australian made axminster with a Persian all-over pattern. Silky oak timber was used throughout in the joinery work, most of which was done by W. Burden, of Kingston. The building is completely served with hot water, and the writing, card and dining rooms are electrically heated. Electrical appointments were installed by W. A. Harris, of Reid.

The richly appointed entrance hall and dining room gained most from the Canberra Fibrous Plaster Works whose work in installing the ceilings has been specially commended by departmental officers. The entrance hall ceiling is a plain sheeted area with 18" fluted cornice moulds. Plain flush-joined areas with an 18" plain run cornice mould adds greatly to the appearance of the dining room. Three 4x3 ventilators have been set in this celling. The bedroom and corridor ceilings are plain areas with small plain cornices, and steel beams are encased with special plaster casings.

Glazing, most of which is plain, was carried out by Robt. Briton, of Manuka.

The kitchen, to which two chilling rooms are attached, has stainless steel fittings and other desirable features for cleanliness. The plaster celling has been painted to allow the whole room to be washed. An Esse stove of the latest type is installed.


My trip to Samoa   An Island to Oneself   Pigeon Island   Your holiday destination in Australia   Retire by the Sea   Bougainville Island