Humpty Doo HotelIf its possible to name a date when Humpty Doo evolved from a place in the bush with a funny name into an urban area, that date would be 11 September 1971.
That was the day that the Humpty Doo Hotel - Motel was officially opened for business. "Turn Left at the 22 Mile on the Stuart Highway, then 6 miles down the Mount Bundey Road" said the advertisements directing thirsty travellers to the newest and flashest pub in the scrub.
Neville Skewes came to the Territory in the 1940s, met and married Helen in 1946 and began contracting in and around Darwin. In 1967 Neville and Helen moved onto a small property on the Humpty Doo road. They built and operated a small store on the roadside, but, as Neville said in 1971 "the idea of building a pub was one our minds right from the start. At the rate Darwin was expanding, I could see that it wouldn't be long before Humpty Doo would be just on the outskirts of the city.
"Late in 1968 we presented some plans to the Licensing Court. They were amended many times, but in March 1970 we got approval to go ahead and build" Neville recalled proudly on the pub's opening day.
Building the hotel was a family affair - actually an extended family affair. The Skewes did much of the work themselves; tradesmen mates did most of the rest.
When it opened the new hotel featured a large cold room, a terrazzo bar top, a modern and well equipped kitchen, and six detached motel units. There was a fluorescent light over each bed, and each motel room had its own bathroom facilities - a far cry from the usual bush pub accommodation standards of the day.
The hotel was planned to cater for the increasing tourist trade on the road to the Jim Jim Roadhouse (now Cooinda, in Kakadu). Already, by 1971, the road which is now the Arnhem Highway but was then simply "the Mount Bundey road", had been developed across the new Adelaide River bridge and was well on the way toward a new bridge over the Mary River. The new road had even been bituminised and was to be extended to service the "Uranium Province" - now Kakadu, then continue toward Oenpelli in Arnhem Land.
But again Neville Skewes saw the future more clearly than most people did at that time. "The passing traffic will be important, but the steady increase in trade will come from local people who build on blocks of land in the area, people who have decided to get out of Darwin. It's a country hotel now, but it won't be so very long before it's a suburban one."
Neville Skewes was right, the Humpty Doo Hotel did become the focal point for a local service centre in a suburban environment. But there's still something about Humpty Doo which suggests that its no ordinary suburb. Its on the edge of the outback.