The film makers' impression of the Struthers' Allora home.
The film makers' impression of the Struthers' Allora home.

Allora's magical link to Mary Poppins

UNDER the starry skies of the Darling Downs, Pamela Travers would sit and listen to her father tell stories.

It was a formative experience for the girl, born Helen Lyndon Goff, who would eventually write one of the world's most loved stories - Mary Poppins.

Travers spent two years in the small community of Allora, and yet her connection to the town has stayed surprisingly quiet.

That's likely to change when major Disney film Saving Mr Banks hits cinemas early in January, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

While telling the story of turning Mary Poppins into a film, Saving Mr Banks returns to the house in which Pamela Travers grew up - and in which her father, Travers Goff, died.

Today, Les and Loraine Struthers own the Allora home which was once both a home and a bank, where Travers' father once worked.

The Struthers' Allora home, the childhood home of Pamela Travers.
The Struthers' Allora home, the childhood home of Pamela Travers.

Their co-operation was critical to the makers of Saving Mr Banks, who visited and collaborated with the Struthers to recreate the homestead in Hollywood.

When they bought it in 2007, Mr Struthers, an architect, said he and his wife had little knowledge of the Travers link, with its unique design of more interest.

"We noticed it was very interesting architecturally, and falling down a bit," he said.

"At that stage we knew nothing about the connection with Pamela Travers. We found newspaper clippings here and there, and as we were restoring the house we started to do a bit of research."

The Struthers' experience with the film world began when a location scout knocked on their door.

Before long, director John Lee Hancock, who wrote and directed The Blind Side, made the trip from Hollywood, along with well-known producer Alison Owen.

Mr and Mrs Struthers showed the pair around the home and town, including the modest gravesite where Travers Goff was buried.

Hancock decided that logistically, Allora was too small and located too far from major centres to host a crew of more than 100, but asked for Mr Struthers' help to recreate Travers' childhood home.

"He said would you mind, because I'm an architect, collaborating with his set designer Susan Benjamin," Mr Struthers said.

"They were nice, genuine people - not two flamboyant directors and producers like you'd imagine."

The Struthers' travel fortnightly from Bribie Island to spend time in what Allora locals call "the Mary Poppins house".

ON SET: Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in a scene from the movie Saving Mr Banks. The film recreates the Allora homestead in which author Helen Lyndon Goff grew up.
ON SET: Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in a scene from the movie Saving Mr Banks. The film recreates the Allora homestead in which author Helen Lyndon Goff grew up. Francois Duhamel

Mr Struthers said after seeing Travers and Goff brought to life in Saving Mr Banks, their connection to their home's previous occupants was even stronger.

"A lot of people would go out there and recognise it… but it meant a lot more to us - I mean (Goff) was in our house, he died in our house," he said.

"Pamela Travers said later in life that it's how she wrote Mary Poppins, it's all about the relationship with her father.

"The father, I think he would have been a great guy.

"He told her stories, and they'd sit in the backyard in the grass under the stars at night - and they're pretty strong in Allora."

The Struthers' home is open for viewing by appointment.

Saving Mr Banks will be released around Australia on Thursday.


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