Toad Hall – 55 Toalla Street


Behl’s two storey, C. 1964. Image by Allan “Bubby” George, courtesy of the George Family Collection.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive and recognisable buildings in Pambula is the two-storey weatherboard building often referred to as Toad Hall – named after the amalgamation of the 1970s business owner’s home towns of Frog’s Hollow and Rocky Hall. Originally erected in about 1884 for – guess who? – John Behl, it was known for many years as ‘Behl’s two-storey’.

In 1857 John migrated from Bavaria to Australia, married Mary Clarke and had two children. After John’s death in 1886, this building passed to his widow Mary and then to their son James. It was used as a general store until 1913, then following James’ death in 1914, his wife Mary operated it as a boarding house until the late 1920s.

From then till the mid-1930s it was home to the local Fisheries Inspector Mr. Gascoigne and his family. It is now an historic homestay – harking back to its earlier boarding house roots.

One early 1930’s account of this building recalls an adventure involving Mr Gascoigne’s son Billy, two friends and a revolver that had made its way down the coast from Sydney where it had been used in a ‘razor gang’ murder.

As it was told by local Terry Dowling: “…a young chap from Darlinghurst came in the holidays and he had this gun. I swapped it for about twenty bloody rabbit skins and ten bob. We tried shooting rabbits with it, but oh Christ they were hard to hit. Billy Gascoigne, he lived at the two storey…he’d come up to my grandmother’s place next to the School of Arts with Puddin Burgess. They were sitting on the back step of the house with the gun. He must have had his finger up and they thought they’d emptied the magazine. The next friggin’ thing, BANG, and he bloody near shot his finger off. He dropped the gun and I nearly fainted, I thought he’d shot himself in the guts. He ran out the bloody gate and straight across to his mother, she said go down to the doctors, so down the bloody main street he ran and into the doctors. It hit the bone and ran right through his finger, split it. The doctor stitched it up like a bloody old saveloy. I don’t know whether I rode a push bike or rode old Banjo the horse, but I went to Perch Rock, and I threw the bloody gun as far out into the ocean as I could. And that’s where it is today, a little bit of steel, out off Perch Rock”.