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Probus Club of Donvale Hill Inc., Christmas in July (8/7/2014) at The Cuckoo
On Tuesday 8th July 2014, some 50 members of the Probus Club of Donvale Hill Inc. ventured to the Cuckoo Restaurant at Olinda in the Dandenong Rangers. The bleak and cold weather made the interior of the restaurant with its large open fireplace radiating warmth even more inviting.
The visit corresponded with the 100th Anniversary year of the restaurant. It started as The Quamby Café in 1914, specialising in "Strawberry and Cream", sold for a handful of pennies from a one room wooden shack to the local woodcutters and weary passing travellers. A young couple, Willi and Karin Koeppen came to Melbourne for the Olympic Games in 1956, liked the People and the Country, decided to stay and purchased the "Quamby" in 1958.
The story goes that the restaurant was renamed by the Koeppen after Karin heard a cuckoo calling in the darkness soon after they moved in. Karin still owns the restaurant whilst her brother Horst is the Manager and MC for most of the floorshows. Horst engages the patrons with stories and humour such as "I am The President but I don't live in a "White House" but in a "Tree House" which is white only when it snows. He also informed us that we can see (above the stairs) the largest "Cuckoo Clock" in the Southern Hemisphere, which was purchased and transported from the Barossa Valley in SA.
The current charming building is designed in the Bavarian Chalet style complete with staggered gable roof with scalloped edging and decorated window shutters. The interior is also in character with the Chalet style: the windows have muntin bars (glazing bars), Bavarian decorations and local memorabilia by way of photos from early 20th Century Olinda and the "Quamby". Needless to say it oozes with atmosphere, catering for Interstate and International tourists, with stories and songs appropriate for each
On arrival members were welcomed and accommodated in the premier section of the restaurant fronting the entertainment area. All were offered tea or coffee followed by a complementary glass of red or white wine. After the pumpkin soup we enjoyed the hot and cold smorgasbord. This was similar to last year with carved beef supported by a wide range of hot and cold meats, fish and vegetables including traditional cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, red cabbage and a variety of salads.
As smorgasbords go, the food was fresh and of a high standard, but all did not go to the Cuckoo for food alone. There was music, singing, yodelling with punctuated humorous quips by two musos dressed in traditional costumes as well as an entertainer leading the audience sing along and playing "cow bells" assisted by four selected children ringing their allocated bells as directed. The arrival of Father Christmas (as promised early in the proceedings by Horst) from Tullamarine added further to the festivities and lifted everyone's spirits higher than the Bavarian Rafters. Santa distributed gifts (chocolates) moving between tables and asking whether we were "Good or bad". He was most generous with those who admitted to being "Bad". However most agreed that the highlight was a local girl with a clear, beautiful soprano voice who sang a medley of old-time classical songs culminating with "Ave Maria" without accompaniment or background music.
The meal was concluded with coffee/tea and a wide range of very appetising-looking deserts, pancakes made on the spot with ice cream, plum pudding and custard.
A professional photographer snapped away soon after all arrived and later offered the photos at $15 each. However Denise Carrig also took a selection of photos.
The background noise level from our conversation was as usual very high, similar to that at the commencement and fellowship of all the Club's General Meetings. A sign and proof of a happy, vibrant and successful Club.
Final thanks must go to Ken Falconer OAM for arranging and organising yet another successful Club outing – Christmas in July.
Denis Buckley and Peter Podolak