30 years of collecting makes the most incredible display

Debbie in her Betty Boop diner found in the garage. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS. 256367_03

By Mikayla van Loon

Collectors everywhere would be amazed by the antique and collectible items Debbie and Lee Brasher from Montrose have been able to get their hands on.

For 30 years the pair have been collecting everything from petrol bowsers to cars, Betty Boop statues and pinball machines, adding to the purpose built garage in their backyard.

After meeting at a rock and roll dance all those years ago, Debbie’s passion for antiques and markets, which was something she shared with her dad, was passed onto Lee.

“You could probably say my addiction started with her because I wasn’t collecting before I met her. I started collecting Elvis stuff later on,” Lee said.

At the time, Debbie and her siblings loved going to Caribbean Market on a Sunday morning.

“That was the School of Caribbean because we would do that every Sunday morning. We’d be up at two o’clock in the morning with dad and we’d be parked at the gate waiting to go in,” she said.

“And I just loved it, that’s where I got it from, from dad.”

Debbie’s favourite item to collect is anything to do with Betty Boop, something she has dedicated an entire room to in the garage.

“We were driving along the Great Ocean Road and thought we’ll stay overnight so we found a BnB and there was a little antique shop underneath,” she said.

“On the pole, she was standing on the pole, and I’ve gone to Lee ‘oh my god I’ve loved Betty Boop for so long, I bet it is worth a fortune’. It was $120.”

That was the very first collectible item Debbie ever bought and it has just grown from there.

Although Lee loves every car he has, he does have a favourite – his 51 Twin Spinner Ford.

“That’s my first car, I’ve had that car for 20 years. So that’s my favourite and it’s getting totally redone,” he said.

For Lee, everything in the shed that’s increasing in value just by sitting there, he said, is for his daughter.

“Everything we do for our daughter because she’ll get the lot and I don’t care if she sells everything and travels for the rest of her life.”

Each room in the garage has been specially designed but most importantly it is the upstairs loft that carries the most significance.

Lee and Debbie’s son Corey occupied the bedroom upstairs before he died in 2018.

The staircase leading up to the bedroom and the room itself has been transformed into any Harry Potter fan’s dream.

“He moved out 15 days before so this never looked like this when he was here but we just did this as a bit of a tribute to his favorite movies he used to watch with his sister,” Debbie said.

Apart from their own enjoyment and remembering their son, the other reason behind the collection is sharing it with people.

“We probably take it for granted, we’ve had it for so long,” Lee said.

A favourite of Debbie’s was two 10 year old boys who celebrated their birthdays at Fonzie’s Diner, the restaurant Debbie runs, and she happened to have her Thunderbird parked outside.

Their excitement over the car gave Debbie a smile so she offered to let them take some photos in the car before offering to take them for a drive in it.

“They’re up the road, with their arms up, with the roof down and their sister came too. They got back there and it was just amazing. They were just like ‘this is the best thing we’ve ever done in their whole life’.”

Debbie said often people from the retirement home would walk past and come to have a look or people from the local church.

“We’ve had a man, he turned 80 years old, and they had it at Fonzie’s Diner and then she said ‘I really want to make the day special’,” Debbie said.

“So Lee picked him up in the car and took him out for lunch somewhere and then they came to Fonzie’s the next day and his surprise was coming up here for his birthday.

“It’s all about memories, memories are the thing that I think is the main thing.”