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Geebung History

The idea of Geebung Ski Club was first thought of in Zurs, Austria, during the ski seasons 1952 and 1953 by Messrs Mick Cox, Hugh Hamilton, Peter Kerr and John Roberts. In 1956 the plan to form a ski club was put forward by Hugh Hamilton, and an unofficial club was formed by these four, plus Jack Wawn, Keith Blight, the late Sid de Kantzow and the late R Mildren, the name Geebung coming from the Patterson poem the Geebung Polo Club. In 1957, this group was joined by Dr Betty Lark and Arthur Wyndham, and in 1958, Jenny and Barney Greatrex, Charles Mort, Peter Slack, Robert Brown and Paul Harriman joined the group. In 1958 the club was incorporated as Geebung Ski Club Limited and the first clubhouse was occupied in 1959.

Before the completion of the first lodge in 1959, the group stayed in various lodges in Thredbo whilst looking for a site to build Geebung. Some of these lodges were the old Roslyn, and Crackenback, and the original hotel, which was called The Lodge. Geebung was the fourth lodge to be built in Thredbo and is still No 4 on the official plans of the village.

In 1958, we retained the services of Kurt Springer, a German immigrant in Berridale. Under the direction of Mick Cox the first lodge was built and occupied in 1959, a famous winter of no snow. We have a photograph of the first group in the Thredbo Lodge.

The lodge was built in good time without any dramas. Members in those days were active in helping and members in their cars took down practically all PC items, a freezing drive in those days over terrible dirt roads, with a stop at the freezing Berridale pub. As members were working, most trips were done at night. The Alpine Way was under construction by the Snowy Mountains Authority so there were huge rocks everywhere with lots of mud and ice. The Snowy Mountains Authority were having so many problems building the road that their chief officer issued an order that any car breaking down on the Alpine Way would be bulldozed over the side! He had a tough schedule to keep but in reality everything went fairly smoothly and I never heard of a car going over the side.

The Thredbo Lodge was built simply as a small mountain retreat for 25 members. This was later increased to 50 members. It was a very popular lodge and the so-called "father of Thredbo", the late Charles Anton, told me in 1956, on one of his frequent visits, that he considered our lodge to be the most comfortable and the nicest lodge in Thredbo.

The lodge consisted of four small rooms with a three-quarter bunk on the bottom and a single bunk on top, and the rooms each measured six feet by ten feet. There were four bunkrooms and two shower rooms. There was also a loft, which was a very popular spot. The loft was entered through a trapdoor, and would never have passed any fire or building regulations today as the chimney went up through it. This room was naturally very warm, and many interesting and amusing events took place up there. Later a partition was put up and it became a dubious double bunkroom. As most residents of the loft slept on mattresses the sleeping arrangements were usually very amicable.

When one thinks of the demands put on committees today, the rough and tumble days of the first lodges are remembered as a lot of fun.

The sundeck, which is there today, is the original, which was kept when the new lodge was built.

The living area is almost the same but bigger. In the original lodge everything was on the same level and the only entrance was the front door. There was a ladder attached to the loft window on the Candlelight side to be used as a fire escape but luckily it was never required. Our land included most of the present corner that was later taken by the authorities to widen the road. As can be seen, this has basically prevented us from building a car park. Later a small piece of land was sold to the Monaro County Council for a substation and the present loading area is on its roof.

By 1984 the original lodge was slowly falling to bits and it was decided it was not feasible or economical to modify or restore the old building. With Malcolm Stanton as architect in charge, the old lodge was demolished and the present building put up. This was done so as not to miss a season. Once again the Club suffered from bureaucratic bungling. We were originally given permission to build a fourteen bed lodge, and this was later increased to sixteen, but the twenty beds we asked for was refused. After the plans were finalised and the building had started, permission for four extra beds was granted. It was difficult at that stage to do more than build the four-bed room downstairs, but that room has proved popular with many members, so all was not lost. The new lodge was subject to many, many more regulations than either of the early buildings, and this made life very frustrating for the architect and the committee.

Of interest is the fact that in 1960 the Club nearly decamped to Perisher as the original Kosciusko Thredbo Company was experiencing certain problems. In 1959 we had a total of eighty members and the intention was to keep the membership to one hundred members only.

In 1961 the Club opened up the Perisher lodge. This was not without the usual bungling by the authorities. Mick Cox had designed a very pleasant loge with the same dimensions as the present one. Contracts were signed with a Czech builder called Pockay and everything was organised to start building, when the National Parks and Wildlife Service announced that the site was too big! They insisted that we redesign the building on a site half the size, that is, half the size of the present site. Mick Cox had three weeks to redesign the lodge and get it approved as the National Parks and Wildlife Service closed for Christmas. This he achieved, designing a lodge, which went upwards rather than longways. (Mick stating that "this time the buggers wont cut it in half". The building was in fact three stories, if you count the basement, which was above ground. It was to be the last high building allowed in the valley, as it was without doubt a firetrap, which was in no way the architect's fault. The building was to say the least unique, but extremely warm and worked very well. In a blizzard it did have a pronounced sway, and in one blizzard when some members became agitated in the middle of the night and got up. Paul Harriman opened his door and calmly announced to all that they had nothing to fear as the building was guaranteed not to blow down until the wind reached 120 miles per hour. Our builder, Mr Pockay, was affectionately known as old Pockety, and despite going bankrupt before he finished the building, he did finish it, and as we occupied it for the first time, we looked out the window to see him struggling up through the snow with a ready made cocktail bar in his arms, his present to the Club.

Many happy days were spent in this lodge - the Latvian parties being particularly interesting as one of our members, Uldis Abolins, who was Latvian, used to bring along his friends with their accordions and generous refreshments.

Valhalla Riding School, under the management of Jean Finlay, and later Jean and Don Finlay Gower, was established, and the riding school used the lodge in the summer. Rangers often called in and we made the lodge an Honorary Ranger Station. Hugh Hamilton was made Chairman of Valhalla Riding School and Barney Greatrex a Director. The riding school was later closed when regulations introduced by the National Parks and Wildlife Service prohibited the presence of horses in the park.

One Saturday morning in 1977 the Perisher lodge caught fire and was destroyed in twenty minutes. The fire occurred at changeover time on Saturday and luckily no lives were lost. Only one lot of possessions was burnt belonging to an unfortunate early arrival that had left his gear in the entrance and had gone skiing. No one else had arrived and most of those departing had left.

The cause of the fire was never discovered but the likely cause was a gas heater being left on near some curtains. It was always very difficult to see in daylight if these heaters were on as the flame was invisible. A photographer on the hillside opposite was photographing some races and saw flames coming through a window just above this heater. The only person who couldn't be accounted for after the fire was a guest who had left early. This episode emphasised to us the importance of having names, contact numbers and addresses of all guests. Of course, all the usual rumours were spread about the fire being deliberately lit for the insurance etc. As it happened the insurance did not cover the cost of a new lodge with all the new regulations and requirements. Architect Mick Cox by that time had had enough of the National Parks and Wildlife Service bureaucrats. Malcolm Stanton designed the new lodge. It was put up in a record six months and the Club did not lose a season. The building was finished during blizzard conditions and the younger members of the Club carried furniture in over the snow. The only mishap was a builder falling off an icy roof.

Many members have worked hard for the Club in an honorary capacity. Jenny Greatrex being honorary Booking Clerk for most of our operating years, retiring in 1994. Jenny started the bookings when there were only twenty-five members and when she handed over to Paul Harriman there were four hundred plus members. The Club owes a great debt of gratitude to Jenny for her years of service.

Geebung has always prided itself on having obeyed the rules and entered into the spirit of being a proper ski club. As such, it does not compete with commercial lodges and in the early years every committee member was an Honorary State Ranger and Fire Patrol Officer making Geebung a most unique organisation and one that has always tried to help the spirit and concept of the sport of amateur skiing.