Media legend Pete Smith OAM and his wife Jackie are bidding a fond farewell to Portsea after 60 years of having the Mornington Peninsula as their second home.
Pete and Jackie bought their first property almost 60 years ago. “It was a little place my father built in Westmore Avenue, Sorrento, in the days when you could build without all the regulations. The place is still there, believe it or not. Then, when Jackie and I were married, we bought our own little place in London Bridge Road, again just a very humble beach shack. It was the days when beach houses were beach houses, not mansions. We loved it there because it’s a dead-end road down to the iconic London Bridge, and the kids enjoyed that in their early years, going across the road and pinching golf balls off the greens, much to the anger of golfers,” Pete chuckles. “I didn’t know they were doing it until quite late in the piece.”
“Then we got the opportunity to turn a paddock into another lovely home and subdivided it into the place we are now. Over those eras, we’ve had some wonderful times, all in this wonderful area, which is really unique. The Peninsula has something very special going for it, which I don’t believe any other area has, and we’ve got plenty of wonderful areas in Victoria.”
So, what’s it like to put their precious Portsea home up for sale?
“There was a lot of emotion involved in making this decision but, at the same time, the full impact for Jackie and I won’t be felt until we’ve gone. You don’t put a footprint down the way we have for all those years in this area without feeling a great sense of loss when you leave. We think it’s the most wonderful home, and somebody, hopefully, a younger family, is going to reap the benefit and enjoy it all over again. That’s what it’s all about, I think.”
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Back when Pete was working in radio and television at Channel 9 with legends like Graham Kennedy, Ernie Sigley and Don Lane, it was a long way to drive down to Portsea along single-lane roadways. You had to be passionate about getting there. “Mind you,” Pete says, “there weren’t as many cars on the road, and there weren’t as many people – most of the time. In those days, we worked five nights a week on live variety, flying by the seat of your pants. It was relentless, and the weekend was the only escape.
“As the years have gone by, it’s become more and more suburban down here, and sadly – it had to happen – the little village of Sorrento has disappeared. Whereas the benefit of Portsea, like Flinders, is that it’s been left basically untouched. It’s not much different from what it was in years gone by. The loss of the beach, though, is a tragedy.”
Pete is still involved at Channel 9, is in demand as a guest speaker, raises money for charities like The O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery, and is currently doing a podcast with comedian Tony Martin, who is 25 years younger than Pete, and Djovan Caro, another young comedian who is 25 years younger than Tony.
“It spans three decades,” says Pete. “It’s a joy. There’s nothing like younger people recognising what you did and respecting it and wanting to utilise it.”
The monthly podcast is called ‘From the Hideout’ and has quite a following. The name echoes back to when Pete and Philip Brady were schoolboy friends playing radio stations under Pete’s house in Kew. “We thought it was the real deal on a Sunday. We’d ‘broadcast’, and that turned out to be the equivalent of what today we call podcasts. So, Phillip is really responsible for what I do now with Tony and Djovan.”
Pete and Jackie are both in their eighties and are finding the drive down, and the responsibilities of looking after the place are getting too much. Besides, their son, landscape designer Nicholas Smith and his partner Annmaree Van Rooy have a magnificent property, Panorama Wildlife Sanctuary and Secret Gardens, in Boneo, so Pete and Jackie will retain their connection to the Peninsula. “Nick’s place is the best of both worlds, really,” says Pete. “It’s still only ten minutes to the beach, and there’s the wonderful aspect of being in the ‘dress circle of Rosebud’.”