The Mattei family: Wonthaggi to Creswick

barb_mullen2by Barb Mullen, Australia

In 1922, Peter, Elsie and Kenneth moved to Creswick to run the British Hotel. It was at this grand hotel some hundreds of miles from where most of the family were living, that fractures in the relationship between Peter and Elsie were visible.

Who knows where blame lies, or if it is even relevant, nonetheless, oral history suggests that Peter was a jolly man and a good drinker, but he had epilepsy, a fearful disorder. Elsie, it is suggested, was a sad woman who sought solace in alcohol. It was not a happy home. Even so, Elsie did not allow this to impede life, she was an excellent dressmaker and would run up an outfit for her young nieces who visited.

The British Hotel, Creswick, today. Photo by Kev Whelan

barb_hotelThe Mattei siblings tried to stay in touch with each other in spite of distances and the demands of work. Peter’s family was visited by siblings and cousins, and undoubtedly these visits were reciprocated.

When by 1923, they had left Creswick, the local paper carried an extensive report of their farewell and many complimentary remarks about Peter were made. However, the early promise of a comfortable life together had

The sad last decades

It was probably sometime after 1924, the couple separated.

After that, Peter was working as a stevedore in Port Melbourne till 1930. For many years during the 1930’s, 40’s, he lived at 483 La Trobe St Melbourne in the residence of Mrs Margaret Simpson. Meanwhile, in 1936, Elsie is living and working as a cook at a mansion in Toorak, 36 St George’s Road.

Elsie, Peter and Kenneth with dog.

In March 1945, Peter was taken to the Ballarat Benevolent Home from where he had been living with his sister Kit Monighetti in St Kilda. This move must have meant that caring for Peter had become too difficult and no-one in the family was able to take him in. He was 57 when he died, on 31 Dec 1945, his death certificate states he died of cerebral anemia and epilepsy.

On the 2nd May, 1950, Elsie died. In the insertions in the paper for both Peter and Elsie, no mention was made of the other.

Ken’s early years would have been difficult and lonely.

It was the height of the Depression Years when he worked as a Teacher’s Assistant in 1932. In 1935 he was able to attend Teacher’s College in Melbourne to graduate at the end of the year. Ken continued to teach in country Victoria while continuing his studies part time at Melbourne University.

In January 1945 he married Heather Mary Stewart, and left the Education Dept in Victoria to travel and live overseas. They lived in the UK and in USA.

By the 1960s Ken and Heather were in Canberra and then NSW. Their daughter, Fiona attended ballet school, following in her mum’s footsteps, while Ken taught Maths. He is remembered today by students he taught as a great teacher and mentor.

Ken retired from his work in the Dept of Education in NSW due to ill health and passed away in 2003.

His wife Heather had died earlier in 1994.

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