In October 1949, talented young acrobat Alice Broenimann fled her Swiss Stars troupe, who were performing at the Tivoli theatre in Sydney. She had fallen out with the group’s manager, Eugene Lambart.
The vivacious 18 year old hired a taxi and travelled to Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains. She had recently passed through the village on a trip to Mt Wilson and it had.captured her heart. She said it reminded her of her home in Switzerland.
Alice took a job as a waitress at the well known Glenella Guesthouse, in Govett’s Leap Road.
Even though her older sister Ericka remained with the troupe, the young star told the Swiss Consul that she was never going back and wanted to stay in Australia. In a letter, her father gave his blessing for her to remain if that was where her heart lay.
The rest of the Swiss Stars left for Europe on the Orontes in late November.
On the phone from Blackheath Alice said, ‘I am very happy in my job at Blackheath’. She said that she and the daughter of Glenella’s proprietor, Miss Jean Twyford, were chums, and went to the pictures and dances together. She added that her passport was valid until January 6, after which she would try to stay permanently. The publicity surrounding the young woman meant that Glenella’s popular Devonshire teas attracted more customers than ever.
Inevitably, job offers arrived from other performing groups….. and there were numerous marriage proposals. Alice ignored the latter, but in early February 1950 she decided to return to the stage on the Tivoli circuit. She sent a loving telegram to the Twyfords at Glenella Guesthouse, thanking them for all they had done for her. Mr Twyford said he was sad to lose such a proficient and charming waitress.
During the next twelve months Alice travelled the country, appearing in ice shows as a skater and contortionist.
On July 22 1951 she left the country. According to the Sydney Sun she intended visiting her family, then going on to perform in America. The expectation was that ultimately she would return to Australia. She was photographed ‘leaning over backwards’ to express her gratitude and say goodbye.
Nothing more was heard until postcards were received from her parents in August the following year, addressed to friends at Katoomba and to the Twyfords at Blackheath;
We have a great sorrow to tell you that Alice Broenimann died on 5/8/52, on the Baltic Sea. Can you tell us, please, why she left Australia? We assure you of our esteemed regards. Signed: F.A.M. Broenimann, Zurich.
Judging from the card it appears Alice did not return to her family in Zurich. What happened after she left Australia and the circumstances of her premature death remain a mystery.
Jean Twyford is now nearly ninety years old and still lives here in Blackheath. She remembers Alice very clearly, and fondly.