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Community & Business

6 March, 2023

The punk rocker behind Dulcie’s pretty dresses

How did a punk rocker end up as the custodian of collection of dresses created for country dances back in the day?

It turns out the lure of a good yarn is just too much for Steve Towson to resist. 

In his role as president and director of the Australian Cultural Library, Mr Towson loves to get communities talking, perhaps reminiscing and sharing memories with another generation. 

And his collections do indeed have the ability to get people chatting - conjuring  conversations that perhaps never might have happened otherwise. 

In the case of the exhibition currently showing at Pittsworth’s Sondrio on 67, it’s a collection of dresses created by Thelma Beutel and worn by Dulcie Mason to attend country dances throughout the district. 

For nearly 50 years, Dulcie would take fabrics to Thelma, in Acland,  along with a drawing for the latest dress she had dreamed up.  

As local TV gardening identity Penny McKinlay was heard to say last week, “These two ladies are the Carla Zampatti of Acland and Goombungee.”

The exhibition includes photographs from the book about the pair, titled Frocks, Country Halls and Deb Balls, by Nicki Laws and Ann Alcock. 

With Mr Towson being the musician he is, there’s a backing track of Ronnie and The Ramblers setting the tone.  

The Ramblers was a band that travelled throughout Queensland for nearly five decades and produced 14 albums and achieved three Gold Record Awards before retiring in 2009. 

“My background is really not fashion,” Mr Towson says with a chuckle. 

“It’s punk rock! 

“But I’ve learned about Bishop sleeves and crinoline and crimplene.”

He does see parallels between putting on a community exhibition and organising gigs - or a country dance, with everyone pitching in to get the job done. 

“The exhibition makes a little bit of money for community organisations but
even if no money was made, if people just come out and talk to each other.”

Mr Towson said it was great to see communities showing an interest in their story. 

“Dulcie and Thelma are not rock stars or movie stars, they’re people from our communities. 

“Thelma was heavily involved in the Acland Soldiers’ Memorial and Dulcie was involved in the debutante ball scene, training the young ladies... but all these people they make our society so the
fact that they also had this legacy of these dresses means that other people can come along and remember. 

“Perhaps they knew them or their partners or remember the things they did. 

“The dresses are the catalyst.” 

The exhibition has already toured Dalby, Pilton,  and Tannymorel, and is open in Pittsworth  every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until March 25.  

Admission is $5 with proceeds going to History Pittsworth and LifeFlight.

For anyone unable to attend, the gowns can also been seen at The Royal Bull’s Head Inn, Drayton, with a 10-garment set on rotation there as an ongoing arrangement. 

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