John Davies was born on 1/3/1930 at Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, England and his wife, Beryl, was born at Longton, another Stoke-on-Trent town, on 29/7/1930. They grew up through a depression and went to school during the war years, a time of bombing flights, air raid shelters and boarding school which was deemed safer than day school. They met on the Trentham tennis court and became part of a close friendship group that went on regular outings together across England and Wales. John joined the family business, the Peppers Motor Group, that distributed a range of English made cars including Morris, Wolseley, Riley, MG, across central England. They married in 1956 at Newcastle -under- Lime and had four children: Stephen, Claire, Alison and Richard. In 1969, following a take-over of the Peppers Motor Group, John and Beryl wanted to make a fresh start, and with the blessing of their families, headed for Australia.
They started their adventure by choosing to sail west, through the Panama Canal, up the west coast of the north American continent and back down through the Pacific to Sydney. Friends had recommended Brisbane so they hired a car and drove north. They were looking for a large town environment similar to Stoke-on-Trent which they were comfortable with and Brisbane seemed just right. They lived in Kenmore and Chapel Hill. John looked to enter the motor trade but found practices in Brisbane quite different to what he was familiar with. He then turned to real estate and as he learned the business branched out into a number of very successful real estate developments.
John and Beryl had started to consider venturing into the motel business when a real estate friend drove them up to Flaxton to see a property that was for sale, the Flaxton Inn.
It was a modest enterprise, not quite what they were after but a good stop gap, but only if Beryl did the cooking. It was big enough to accommodate their teenage family and a school bus would get the kids to Nambour for school. They bought the property from the Arbuthnots in 1975 and stayed for 5 years providing Devonshire Teas and luncheons that featured Beryl’s popular steak and kidney pudding to tourists and locals alike.
In 1982, they bought ten acres at the end of Western Avenue that dropped down to the escarpment overlooking Kondalilla Falls on the eastern side and Obi Obi Creek on the other, with spectacular views over the National Park. John sold his Brisbane investment properties, added a large extension to their new home, and later entered into a business partnership with John Thirnbeck. Together, they created a 20-lot development at Witta, Teutoberg Gardens. Both Claire and Alison were married in the Western Avenue home with Margaret Farmer helping organise the catering.
After the Witta venture, John and Beryl bought the Dome and 5 acres of land behind it. At the time, the Dome housed a model railway display, but this proved uneconomical. In its place, they created an art and craft gallery in the dome and built an extension which they leased to local glass blower, Chris Pantano.
A viewing gallery allowed visitors to watch Chris at work and he soon became Gallery D’s major exhibitor. They held a range of exhibitions in Gallery D for the next 14 years. Along with their popular Top of the Range Exhibitions featuring a diverse range of local artists, they also hosted visiting exhibitions. Perhaps the most controversial was Leon Pericles’ The Tiggy Puggenheim Touring Collection lampooning high society art.
Regular local artists included Chris Pantano, glass art; Thel Merry, fabric art; Chris Boston, soft sculpture art; and Chris Ballinger, paper art and sculpture.
With the kids gone, the Western Avenue home was too big and the 10 acres required too much work.John tells how the wheels on the old Massey Ferguson Tractor he used to slash the block locked leaving him careening towards the dam. He said it was a miracle he didn’t end up going for a swim. Enough was enough.They downsized to Lot 1, Block 91, Flaxton Mill Road in 1988; still a couple of acres with stunning views back towards Western Avenue over the National Park.
They recalled the magic of waking up to a plain of cloud filling the valley – inviting them to stroll back over to Montville. Finally, age caught up with them and once more they needed to down size to a home their son, Stephen, built for them on Buderim. However, their contribution to the hospitality and arts industries in Flaxton and Montville means they will be remembered by the many they worked with and helped over 20 years.