In the 1960s and 1970s Gladys Hunter ran a secondhand/antique business at 45 Glebe Point Road while living next door at number 43. She also had a regular stall at Paddy’s Markets. Gladys’ stock was a mix of trash and treasure. In the chaos of her shop a discerning buyer could find bargains such as waratah pendant light fittings from Sydney Town Hall.
Gladys was born in Balmain North, the third of five children of James Steedman and London-born Victoria Alberta Holmes who had married in 1894. Her siblings were Irene Margaret May (1895-1974), James Steedman junior (1897-1916), Leslie Douglas (1900-80) and Bruce Wallace Holmes.
Gladys joined J C Williamson’s as an acrobatic dancer and in 1925 married steel guitar player Mayo Koa Hunter, one half of The Honolulu Duo who had arrived in Sydney from Auckland on 11 July 1922 on the Ulimaroa. (Mayo’s partner was fellow Samoan Thompson Yandall.) Mayo worked for J C Williamson and Fuller’s Theatres and played solo or musical interludes with his Novelty Jazz Band or Hawaiian Trio during silent fi lm screenings at the Lyceum in the city or the Acme at Rockdale. He also performed live at YMCA dances and on 2FC, 2BL and 2GB radio with his Hawaiian Troubadors.
For Australian Hillbilly Radio Hits he recorded numbers such as Honolulu March, Sweet Hawaiian Sands, Dreams of Honolulu and The Prisoner’s Song.
Following their marriage Mayo and Gladys formed a double act, appearing at Wirth’s Hippodrome (with Winter’s educated dogs), the Hippodrome (with Josie Johnson’s Nine Lilliputians) and the Roxy (with the Flying Omars). In 1933 Mayo and ‘Gladee’ sang a medley including Kentucky Barbecue, Kentucky Moon and Yaka Hula in a community concert broadcast from the Australian Hall. On the same bill was Maori singer Princess Wiki, the granddaughter of a Rotoruan chief. During the 1920s and early 30s the Hunters lived in Blues Point Road North Sydney before moving to Francis Street in the city. Mayo taught music and had music shops in Her Majesty’s and the New Royal arcades. By 1941 they had settled in Glebe where Mayo junior, previously educated by correspondence, was enrolled at Glebe Public School. The family lived at 25 Arundel Street until the early 1960s when they moved to 43 Glebe Point Road.
During the Depression years the Hunters made a living as a music and dance act, travelling around the countryside in a caravan. Gladys drew the backcloths and sewed the costumes on a treadle machine. Their fi rst four children were incorporated into the routines. Mayo (meaning ‘first born’) was born on 18 November 1926, Malama (‘the dawn’) Tilesa Patricia in 1930, Luana (‘second daughter’) ca 1935, Lani (‘heavenly’) David in 1938 and Aloha (‘farewell – to motherhood’) Lei Irene ca 1941.
Mayo junior studied violin at the Conservatorium (a fellow student was Ray Price learning the bassoon) but became a journalist. He travelled with the Beatles for the Canberra Times on their 1964 Australian tour, confessing to an inability to understand their appeal: ‘the secret something which has united the whole world of teenagers’. He was a Channel 7 news cameraman during the Vietnam War. Mayo’s brother Lani also took up journalism, with the Sydney Morning Herald and Channel 2. Luana, Malama and Aloha all attended the Conservatorium High School and became accomplished musicians. Aloha was a player with the Australian Youth Orchestra and married a member of the Sydney Symphony. They set up as alpaca breeders at Dural.
Gladys Hunter died on 6 September 1980. Mayo senior died on 16 November 1965. Mayo junior died at Lightning Ridge.