For scores of families making the long trek from Melbourne to the Peninsula in the 1950s and ‘60s, the sight of Frankston’s comfort station was a huge relief.
It marked the midway point between the city and the holiday towns of Sorrento and Portsea, so it was an ideal stopping point whether heading south or north.
“In those days you’d often have a packed lunch with you in the car, and where the carpark is now used to be all grass, so that’s where you’d sit to have your lunch,” Frankston Historical Society president Glenda Viner recalls. “There also used to be a burger shop and ice cream shop near the comfort station, and an ice cream is what you got if you’d been good in the car.”
It would cost a penny to use the toilets (older readers might remember the phrase “spend a penny”) and there was a woman who worked there at weekends and collected the money. But the comfort station served more than just the most obvious purpose – it was a meeting place too.
“It was the centre of town and a place where boys met girls, especially if you were going to the beach because it was the only toilet,” Glenda says. “But you weren’t allowed to wear bikinis on the main street, so if Rex the (beach) patroller caught you, he made you go back to the beach and cover up.”
The historical society fought successfully to save the comfort station as Frankston grew around it, and now it serves as a functioning reminder of days gone by.