Today we continue the story of Stonleigh which has seen a variety of businesses in its long history.
Ray Porta relocated to Wodonga from Chiltern where he had run a bottle collection yard adjacent to the fish café operated by him and his wife. He had established a bottle yard in Wodonga Street in February 1954 and in November of the same year applied to move it to Stonleigh. The business became large enough for Ray to employ his sons, Ramon Jnr and Phillip, and other staff. The collection business serviced as far afield as Corryong, Mitta Mitta, Springhurst and Rutherglen districts.
Bottle drives were a popular fundraiser for community organisations such as Scouts.
In an unidentified newspaper clipping, thought to be from 1973, Ray estimated that he had handled more than a million empty bottles in the 35 years in the trade to then.
He was in the process of establishing a bottle museum proposed to be known as Riverlands Colorseum Bottle Displays. Later information tells us it was known as Riverlands Bottle Park Museum.
With assistance from his wife, May, and youngest daughter Margaret, he had built a patio-style double-row bottle fence with a diamond design mural of about 3,500 amber, dark and light green and clear bottles measuring 20ft by 5ft, and another 8ft panel of green bottles topped with clear flagons. Other rare and valuable bottles, which included blue castor oil and stone ginger bottles, had already been housed in display cabinets.
Another newspaper clipping described a display he was working on, “a three-tint arrangement featuring a launch resting in a sea of blue-green bottles, with a sparkling blue sky above.” In other bottle-art the wall of the spillway at the Hume Weir was depicted.
Many cars and busses travelling past the premises on the Hume Highway, as that part of High Street was then, stopped outside Stonleigh in order that occupants could visit the bottle museum.
There were an estimated 50,000 bottles on display. The collection was sold after Ray Porta passed away in 1989 and his family sold Stonleigh two years later.