“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Alma Quon and her Joy Belles

Posted: January 4th, 2012 | 12 Comments »

A few weeks ago I mentioned the Museum of Chinese-Australian History in Melbourne – I liked much of it but the experience was marred, for me anyway, by the presence of a politically charged (and with politics not to my liking) exhibit sponsored by the ardently pro-Beijing and Communist Party funded Confucius Institute. Sad the museum and the local government took Beijing’s soft power cash for an otherwise excellent little museum.

The exhibit on the history of Chinese-Australian life is good though and one picture particularly charmed me immensely and has stuck in my mind – a photograph of Alma Quon and her Joy Belles (below) – they are simply fantastic! Sadly I don’t know much about them except that obviously they were the brainchild of Alma (on the drums below) and her sister Lorna. The rest of the band were European but check their cool Chinese themed costumes and the great typeface o Alma’s drum – CALL HAW2504!

Apparently in the mid-1950s Alma and her gang were busy ladies playing RSLs, bowling and golf clubs across the State of Victoria as well as being regulars at the dances held by the Young Chinese League. Alma had, I think, been in an early band during the 1940s called The Melody Makers before she set up her own group. I believe that several of the women musicians were in fact German refugees/immigrants and a couple may have passed through Shanghai during the late 1930s/war.

If anyone else knows anything about Alma Quon and Her Joy Belles do please let me know?

Dawn Smith, Molly Worrall, Gladys Torrens, Alma Quon (on drums), Valma Frecker, Moya Brown, Lotte Rehn, Gay Funston, Lorna Quon

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12 Comments on “Alma Quon and her Joy Belles”

  1. 1 Liam said at 3:16 pm on January 4th, 2012:

    Yeah, my friend used to work at that Museum, we studied Mandarin together. I think she left because of something like that actually. But then, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor is an Ass and probably cut their funding (Thanks Rob Doyle, you Prick!) , so maybe they are desperate for money.

    Here is a link to a favorite blog of mine about fair Robert Doyle (the aforementioned prick) but I had to bit.ly it as the name is somewhat….ribald


  2. 2 David widdowson said at 9:37 pm on December 29th, 2013:

    They played at the ball for our primary school around 1967, coburg town hall. I remember as my mother called them Elmer Fudd and his jelly bellies and I got a smack for repeating it to teacher next day!

  3. 3 Paul French said at 7:57 pm on January 2nd, 2014:

    Were they any good?

  4. 4 jan doran said at 5:00 pm on January 28th, 2014:

    Alma Quon used to teach dancing at primary schools in Victoria the seventies. ours were held at Malvern town hall.

  5. 5 John Cooper said at 12:16 pm on February 4th, 2014:

    Alma Quon did organize school balls in Victoria at least until the eighties as i attended with my then stepson.She amazingly could organize a complete school ball in 5 days.Alma used her drums to coordinate the movements of pupils correcting there mistakes with rapid volleys on drum kit.

  6. 6 Kathy Brown said at 5:50 pm on December 1st, 2014:

    Moya Brown, born 1904 (Moya Cole Aspinall) was a very talented musician and entertainer.
    She was married to Frederick Brown also a very talented entertainer. Both well known in Melbourne Australia. They both performed around Australia, for the army troops, during the wars. They settled in Kew. There two children Norman, worked at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat as a Clown and entertainer for 35 years. Doing all the old vaudeville acts. There younger Son, George Brown was also a clown and entertainer. Entertaining around Melbourne and the local community. Alma was very good friends with Moya. There legacy continues on, with some of there grand children now entertainers. Alma passed away a few years ago now, I remember meeting her, she was a lovely lady.

  7. 7 Chris Renwick said at 6:11 pm on December 1st, 2014:

    Many people in Deniliquin NSW will remember Lotte Rehn who taught music for some years. She was my first accordion teacher in the 60’s. I believe she later moved to Mildura.

  8. 8 Paul French said at 5:11 am on December 6th, 2014:

    Thanks all for comments

  9. 9 Ray Quon said at 9:43 am on February 16th, 2016:

    Being a musician myself (Blue Echoes Show-band ) during the 60s & 70s & still performing, Alma wanted me to take over her band. Being your nephew we had lots in common. Don’t hesitate to contact me for more info.
    Regards Ray

  10. 10 Joan Gains said at 5:33 pm on March 19th, 2016:

    Alma Quon taught my mother dance for her school ball in the late 1940’s in Brunswick She also taught my sister and I at Parklands Primary school, dance classes for our school ball in 1967 – 1972.

  11. 11 Debra Lawson said at 1:19 pm on December 23rd, 2018:

    She was a tyrant terrorising children at our primary school dragging them around by the ears if they didn’t get the steps right by then it was just Miss Quon and miss brown talk about child abuse we were so scared of her.

  12. 12 Linda Peacock said at 3:17 pm on March 23rd, 2021:

    I attended Greythorn State School in North Balwyn. The school held a children’s ball at Melbourne Town Hall – I’m not sure how many were held – but in 1968 I led the junior school dancing with my partner, Robert.
    For around six weeks we were trained in ballroom dancing by Miss Quon and on the night of the performance, Miss Quon and the Joybelles provided the music. Miss Quon taught us 3-steps, barn dances, Sambas and Jive.

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