September 28, 2021

Old Places

Where we study the past to define our future

Pretty Sally Roadhouse - 1979

Pretty Sally Roadhouse - 1979

Pretty Sally Roadhouse

Bylands – a desolate wasteland between Wallan and Kilmore, Victoria. A product of a dystopian society where rogue motorbike gangs rule the highways and where lack of fuel may be the cause of your death. Located on highway 9, sector 26 is an establishment known as “Fat Nancy’s”, a somewhat pseudo cafe/petrol station which claims “If you can’t smell it, we ain’t got it”. The ideal place for Jim Goose (a member of the MFP motorcyle unit) to sample the local delicacies and to relay his over-embellished tales to others. After one of the MFP Pursuit Special cars is stolen by the Beserk Motorcyle Gang it is also the place where he receives the urgent dispatch call to apprehend them and from which he hastily races off on his motorcycle.

…Or so some movie makers from Melbourne in 1979 would have us believe.

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The truth be told, “Fat Nancy’s” was the disused Pretty Sally Roadhouse which was re-purposed for the first Mad Max movie. In the mid 1900’s, large twin roadhouses placed on either side of a freeway didn’t exist and it was the little towns that provided restaurants and cafes for drivers to eat and shower. By the late 1950’s the Pretty Sally Roadhouse had become one of the most popular roadhouses on the Melbourne to Sydney route but was closed a few years after the new dual lane Hume Highway bypassed Wallan and Broadford in 1976.

The below picture from ‘Motor Spirit, Kerosene, Fuel Oils and Lubricants – Contracts accepted – Series 1978-1979’ published in December 1977 shows that the roadhouse was still operational during this year. In addition, it served B.P Fuel and it’s opening hours were from 7am to 7pm. It’s address is listed at as the ‘Hume Highway’ but this should not be confused with the Hume Highway we know today and at the time ran via Wallan and Broadford. The exact location of the roadhouse is detailed later in this article.

Items number 13, 14, 17 and 18 under the title of ‘Country Areas’ from the same publication provide an insight into the fuel prices around that time; between 12c and 15c per litre! Even with factoring in inflation, the markup applied by the roadhouse and any any government taxes, the prices are still difficult to digest today  – especially with fuel prices sky-rocketing to $1.70 per litre in some places of Melbourne at the time of writing this article.

Whilst unable to obtain any photos of the roadhouse prior to 1987, a more detailed source of how it appeared 50 years ago in 1979 does exist. Let us for a moment view the part of the Mad Max movie that it is featured in.

The following details can be noted about the roadhouse with timestamps listed:

  • An area for refueling vehicles including a BP petrol bowser (0:03, 0:41, 0:48).
  • A fully concreted area in front of the roadhouse (0:41)
  • A distinctive ‘Charcoal Grill’ sign painted on the side of the building (0:41)
  • The phone number of the roadhouse listed as 057 831250 below the Charcoal Grill sign (0:41).
  • A clear path down to the highway (0:56)
  • Street lights (0:55, 0:58)
  • A sign on the road outside – perhaps showing fuel prices? (0:51).
  •  Truck parking area (0:58)
  • An inside restaurant area with kitchen/bar serving area and retro tables and chairs from the 1960’s similar to the below (0:15):
Pretty Sally Roadhouse Table and chairs - circa 1960
Table and chairs – circa 1960

After its use in the movie, the roadhouse and its surroundings began to fall into disrepair. The original owners of the Pretty Sally Roadhouse were the Vasiliades family and their name is clearly marked in some of the pictures below. The restuarant was called the Misty Restaurant. Approval was requested to sell the mineral water from an onsite spring but it lacked one important element and the request was denied. An additional problem faced was a restriction of customers when the highway was converted into dual lanes where it then became illegal to do a right hand turn for south bound traffic.  The Vasiliades family sold to a new owner who had plans to re-open the roadhouse as a service station but this did not eventuate and it was sold again to the current owners.

The below photo from 1987 shows weeds beginning to grow through cracks in the concrete and items stacked against the left side wall. This photo also shows a garage attached to the roadhouse where maintenance and repairs for vehicles was undertaken.

Pretty Sally Roadhouse - 1987
Pretty Sally Roadhouse – 1987

Only 2 years later in 1989 weeds had begun to take over and the storage of items on the site is more prevalent.

Pretty Sally Roadhouse - 1989
Pretty Sally Roadhouse – 1989

The below photo from 2008 indicates that the site was used as a place to stockpile items including windows, trailers and even an old horse cart. Again, the phone number of the roadhouse is visible and the name ‘Vasiliades’ can be seen on the building.

Pretty Sally Roadhouse - 2008
Pretty Sally Roadhouse – 2008

Ironically, the roadhouse site today is more representative of a post-apocalpytic world than it was during filming. The boundaries are fenced off, the site is unkempt with overgrown trees and grass, complimented with old rusting car bodies and other pieces of rubbish strewn around.

Pretty Sally Roadhouse - 2018
Pretty Sally Roadhouse – 2018

The roadhouse is located at 795 Northern Highway, on the corner of the Old Sydney Road and nestled at what some people consider the top (but not the peak) of Pretty Sally Hill.  A truck stop is situated on either side of it. It is most easily discovered by the blue ‘Truck Parking Area’ sign on the left of the Highway and adjacent to the property but I wager than many people have driven past the roadhouse without knowing it existed or of its role within the movie.

If the roadhouse had not been thrust into notoriety by the Mad Max movie it may well have been forgotten forever, save for the memories of a few elderly folk who may have driven by or stopped off there as a child on their way to or from Melbourne.

As the Pretty Sally Roadhouse continues to deteriorate with each passing year we can only hope that its dishevelled state is not an omen of times to come and foretells the collapse of society. Until that time, as we sit content behind our computer or phone screens – oblivious if an apocalypse is only moments from us, the Pretty Sally Roadhouse serves as interesting material towards an article on a place from a time now past.