The magical, colorful story of Mary Poppins—the stern yet ethereal nanny, friend to every screever, constellation, and animal—has its origins in, of all places, the serious confines of a bank.
Mary Poppins book series author, P.L. Travers, was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland, on August 9, 1899, in the top floor apartment of the Australian Joint Stock Bank managed by her father, Travers Goff.
Goff had always been a dreamer and a storyteller himself. A child at heart, he was ill-equipped for the corporate world, shirking his responsibilities and preferring the fantastical world of his own imagination—a world that he shared with his favorite daughter, Helen.
The Australian Joint Stock Bank closed in 1901, but by then Goff, whose alcoholism had begun to affect his job performance, had been demoted to the position of bank clerk, and the family relocated to rural Queensland. Goff passed away from pneumonia when Helen was just seven years old; his death affected her for the rest of her life, prompting her to adopt his name as her pen name in tribute.
Several more banks occupied the old AJSB building until 1952, when it was purchased by the Queensland government and turned into offices for various government departments. In 2019, the building was renovated and converted into the Story Bank, Australia’s only museum dedicated to the life and legacy of P.L. Travers and her famous book character. Where once loans were negotiated and mortgages drawn up, Mary Poppins and the Banks children now slide down the banisters, and the Bird Woman sits on the outside steps, feeding her pigeons and selling bread crumbs to passerby for a tuppence a bag.
The rooms of this historical building are filled with movie memorabilia, items from Travers’ estate (including letters and photographs), and interactive exhibits. Children are encouraged to write their own fairytales by opening up a “story bank” account and depositing their stories. Visitors can even receive correspondence from Mary Poppins at the postcard-writing station (Travers loved writing postcards and saw it as an art form)!
Almost poetically, over a century after his passing, the building that once stifled Travers Goff has come alive with the whimsical spirit of his daughter’s beautiful creation.
Know Before You Go
The Story Bank is open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., and weekends and public holidays from 9:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Admission is $15 AUD/adults, $7.50 AUD/children.