Lower Town Hall,
Box Hill, Melbourne


Mike Smith

image copyright Doug Duke 2008 - used by permission.
Johnny Dick and Doug Parkinson on stage at Peppers, ca. 1970
Image by Doug Duke


by Doug Duke

From 1969 to 1972-ish I didn’t just visit venues, I worked every Saturday night at Peppers, downstairs at Box Hill Town Hall in Melbourne. Peppers offered "The Best of Both Worlds" -- dancing upstairs and all the latest bands downstairs. It was run, I think, for the Box Hill Football Club by Mike Smith, a Box Hill local, who had been Activities Director for the Monash Uni. Union. (I was Activities Director for the RMIT SRC in 1974, but that’s another story).Mike is now CEO of VIPAC Engineers and Scientists.

We started every Saturday night at around 5:30-6:00 PM, converting downstairs Box Hill Town Hall with a stage, backdrop, lighting and PA. Each Saturday night comprised three bands -- a house band plus an "early act" and a "late act -- all the “likely suspects” of the day: Thorpie and the Aztecs, Max Merritt & The Meteors, Spectrum/Murtceps, Daddy Cool, Doug Parkinson, Leo DeCastro, Chain ...

The place had to be packed up and vacated by 11:30 PM. No alcohol was permitted; Box Hill and Camberwell remain virtually alcohol-free to this day -- there are no pubs between Burke Road and Middleborough Road and few licensed restaurants. This caused a few problems as Stewie Spears and many others insisted on having a few bottles of Coca-Cola on stage, liberally laced with something alcoholic. We usually managed to clean up the evidence OK -- after three of us had hauled Stewie up on stage and helped him down again after his set, a legacy at least of the Meteors’ road accident, if not the stuff in the bottle. 

And … just to keep you amused … I’ve attached a few photos I took during the good times. All of these were taken with a small, fixed-lens Fujica 35mm camera passed down to me from my uncle, mostly with a small, electronic flash. The B/W shots were taken using mostly Ilford 400 ASA stock, hand-wound into 35mm cartridges in the dark room at my secondary school. I have only the negatives of these shots, processed in a tank at home and never printed. The few colour shots were taken on 35mm, 64 ASA slide stock, commercially processed. I have a bunch more ‘photos of some of the leading artists of the day. 

image copyright Doug Duke 2008; used by permission
Billy Thorpe rocks da house Matt Taylor and Phil Manning of Chain Ross "The Boss" Wilson, Daddy Cool Ross Hannaford, Daddy Cool

Image copyright Doug Duke 2008; used by permission Image copyright Doug Duke 2008; used by permission
Max Merritt & The Meteors probably mid-1970, with Dave Russell on bass

References / Links

Special thanks to Doug Duke for his recollections and for kindly providing his images of Pepper's