More Axedale Public Hall memories

from Axedale Antics, Issue 146, September 2008

Axedale Public Hall

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“Last month’s article in praise of the Axedale Public Hall inspired a couple of locals to contact the Antics and pass on a few memories. We welcome this feedback and hope that more of you will be inspired to add your own snippets of information to our fund of local knowledge.

Apparently, in it’s hey day, the Axedale Hall had the reputation of having the best dance floor anywhere in the district and people came from far and wide to do the Pride of Erin, the Barn Dance, Maxina, Charmaine, Evening Three Step, Modern Waltz and the Foxtrot, among other old time dances.

The hall custodians prepared the floor by scattering wax flakes or crystals and then ‘bagging’ the floor. Sometimes a box, covered in hessian or carpet was used and often small children helped the operation by riding on the bags or on top of the box, to add a bit of weight. The Dunlop family have been closely associated with the hall and Roy Dunlop was the regular M.C. or Master of Ceremonies. Peter and Kate Dunlop continue this involvement; Peter being the Secretary of the Hall Committee.

Music for the dancing was usually just provided by the piano and drums, and Maisie Evans and Win Byrne were regular pianists with Les Giri on the drums. Power for the dances, balls, and other entertainments was provided by a generator powered by an old Fordson tractor, which on occasions was notoriously difficult to start.  There was a house on the corner of McIvor Highway and Mitchell Street, where the barbecue now stands, and the tractor was kept there, at the ready. Before it’s demolition, the house was the residence of the two Misses Ryan.

Although it is hard for us to imagine life without electricity, it only came to Axedale in December 1955, and country life was beginning to change. Young people were beginning to be known as ‘teenagers’.  Some of them were even getting their own cars at 18 years of age, (although at Bendigo Teachers College in 1955, only 3 out of 200 had a car).

Rock and Roll music became popular. Shock horror, Elvis Presley ousted Johnny Ray (of ‘Crying’ Fame) and Bill Haley and The Comets burst onto the scene in the film “Rock Around The Clock’.

The first drive-in picture theatre opened in 1956 and competed with The Lyric, The Plaza, and The Princess, which were the existing Bendigo picture theatres at that time.

Dances were held at the YMCA and St. Killian’s on Saturday nights, and once a year a grand presentation ball was held in the Bendigo Town Hall, where each student was presented to the Mayor of Bendigo

November 1956 saw the arrival of TV, in time for the Melbourne Olympic Games, and even the liquor licences were changing.  We said goodbye to the ‘6 o’clock swill’ and social life changed.  Young people were mobile, dinner dances became popular, and by the time I returned to this district in 1965, the hall was used infrequently and carried a burden of debt.

Sometimes a new resident comes to a town, views the scene from a new perspective, and decides to make a difference. Such a person was Senior Constable A.E. (Ted) Godkin, who came to Axedale from Nagambie in 1967.

Ted could probably be described as a ‘sportsnut’.  He was a champion lawn bowler and was immediately snapped up as a Pennant player by a top Bendigo club.  He soon observed that Axedale had no sporting facilities at all apart from a sadly neglected public reserve, covered in 10ft high thistles, and a flat area where a couple of granite posts were the only remains of a tennis court.  Then there was this beautiful hall, which stood like a white elephant, rarely used, and almost a liability to the community who still had to finish paying for it.

Having played an indoor version of the game of bowls in earlier days, Ted could envisage a regular competition which would provide recreation for people of all ages and an income stream to the Hall Committee.  He lost no time in borrowing the necessary bowls, mats and measuring equipment, and spread the word around the district.

I’ll never forget the first bowls night.  The Axedale people sat on one side of the hall while the Knowsley people sat on the other, because they didn’t really know each other at all well.   The “Blowinskis” those of us who were new to the district, sat across the front while Ted explained the finer points.

It took off like wildfire.  We managed for a while with borrowed equipment but soon were able to purchase new mats and sets of bias bowls.  Indoor bowls was played two  nights each week, Wednesday and Saturday, and it wasn’t long before Tournaments and Championships were on the agenda.  We were able to fit seven mats in the hall, so it was not uncommon to have more than 100 participants.  With a regular rental income, the Hall Committee soon covered the existing debt and went from strength to strength.

An extremely hard working Hall Committee Ladies Auxiliary ( a plaque in the hall commemorates a lifetime of service by Mon Colvin, 23 years as Secretary) ran an annual casserole luncheon, three debutante balls and formed a Euchre club.

Best of all, we got to know our neighbours and made lasting friendships.  The Axedale Indoor Bowling Club functioned for more than 30 years until the cost of public liability insurance became prohibitive but in future issues we will explain how the sporting facilities we enjoy today sprang from the foundation

**written by Axedale resident, Lorraine Gunn

 

 

Memories of Axedale Public Hall

This is a great article of memories of  the Axedale Public Hall and social life in a small country township.

from: Axedale Antics, Issue 145, August 2008

As we drive through Axedale, the centrepiece of our small township is our local Hall.  Set in a surround of lovely old pepper trees, so typical of a northern Victoria town, it features picnic tables, a barbecue, a playground/skate ramp and entices many tourists passing through the region to stop a short while, take a break, enjoy a cuppa and make use of the facilities.  We often wonder what impression the travellers gain of our town. Do we ever ask ourselves how fortunate we are to have such a well kept meeting place? Who built it originally? Who maintains it?

Our inaugural Australia Day Breakfast on January 26, 2008 (don’t forget to put it in your diary for next year) proved what a boon the local hall is to Axedale; the ideal venue for a laid-back community celebration of what it is to be an Aussie. Down through the years our hall has proved to be the hub of social interaction within the community, hosting dances, balls, concerts, school break-ups, family celebrations, farewells, meetings and various fund-raising efforts.

Before the present hall was built, halls connected to the two main hotels were used for meetings and dances. ‘Accent on Axedale’, published in 1970, tells us that “in 1927, Mr.W. Millington called a meeting to decide on ways of financing the erection of a Mechanic’s Institute or hall”.  As a result, a committee was formed with P.O’Dwyer as the Chairman and W. Millington, the Secretary.

Various fund raising efforts were held over the years; mainly the annual sports and picnic days at the reserve.  Finally with the help of a Government grant, the hall was built.  It was opened by the Hon. J.H. Lienhop M.L.C. on December 12,1945.  A debutante ball was held on December 28 1945, with 13 local girl forming the set.  A Younger Set was formed with the proceeds of this first debutante ball.  They bought some of the seats and the piano.  They disbanded in 1951, and the remaining money was handed to the hall committee.  It was to be very many more years, however, before the hall was finally paid for.

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It must be remembered, that back in those days the social life of a community revolved around formal gatherings or entertainment.  There was no TV, DVD or internet, mobile phones only limited transport and the cinema was a rare treat.  Does anyone else remember ‘tea meetings’ and ‘lantern lectures’.  These were generally held in connection with one of the churches, and often involved a visiting missionary, newly arrived from darkest Africa or some remote island community.  Endless slides of native children singing hymns were shown to an audience, usually huddled under blankets or travel rugs to keep warm, and very often the projector would ‘blow up’ halfway through the performance which concluded with a collection for the mission.

These are my childhood memories, but, although they were set in a different part of Victoria, undoubtedly, Axedale residents experienced similar social functions.

‘Kitchen Teas’ were popular in my township, and nearly every bride-to-be in a country town would be asked to nominate the colour scheme of her future kitchen and people from far and wide would gather at a dance in the local hall, bearing a small gift in the appropriate colour way; ‘cream and green’, ‘cherry and cream’, ‘blue and white’, etc.  A large trestle table on stage would be covered with sieves, cake tins, canisters, rolling pins, basins and all the myriad of kitchen gadgets, pot holders and tea towels needed to equip the new home.  Sometimes there would e a wallet of cash to help with wedding expenses, and even the gift of clothing coupons during war time rationing.  Those attending would not necessarily be wedding guests; just well wishers, casual friends and neighbours.

Another custom which occurred a few weeks after a newly-wed couple arrived home from their honeymoon, was the ‘tin-kettling’.  Many a couple, wife with hair in curlers, husband unshaven and pyjama clad, would be disturbed by an almighty din outside their matrimonial home.  On investigation, it would prove to be a group of friends and neighbours bearing plates of supper and creating a ruckus, to welcome home the newly married couple.

In the district where I was raised, there was such a dance in the local hall, every Saturday night.  The dance band, and often a family group, would usually consist of a piano, saxophone and drums (no guitars), and the program was normally 50/50, meaning half old-time and half fox-trot.  This was before the days of rock and roll, but I clearly recall the jive and jitterbug! Many of the dancers wore uniform and often the function was a welcome home for a veteran, or to farewell a young person off to to war.  The older men and matrons of the town would prepare the hall, wax the floor, decorate, organise the music and the supper, then retire to the supper room to play Euchre until refreshments were required.  Children danced together and learned ballroom dancing while their Mums played cards.

Once girls turned 16, (there were no ‘teenagers’ in those days), it was usual for them to ‘come out’ at a debutante ball.  It was the custom for a young lady to put her hair up and wear her first long white dress.  She could then attend the balls, which were the special occasion fundraisers in country towns.  ‘Belle of the Ball’, ‘Star of the Evening’, ‘Young Farmer of the Year’, all of these competitions carried sashes for the winners and every girl had a number of ball gowns in her wardrobe.  Very often bridal gowns were designed in such a way that by the addition of a bolero and the removal of the train, a useful ball gown was the result.  Overskirts were added, gowns were dyed a different colour etc. Our forebears were a thrifty generation, but they knew how to enjoy a rich social life.

A good friend once told the story of a Saturday night dance in a Mallee township where a stranger pulled up his truck to the doorway of the local hall.   Wearing shorts, army boots, no socks, a singlet and a hat, he asked each girl in turn to dance.  When no-one would accept his invitation, he stomped out, returning with a hatful of wheat, which he threw across the dace floor. “If  I don’t dance, nobody dances”, he said before roaring off in his truck.  My friend was amazed when the locals calmly grabbed brooms and swept the floor, before resuming dancing as if nothing had happened.

When I came to Axedale 44 years ago, the effects of TV, the cinema (or the ‘pictures’, as we called it, drive-ins and the availability of transport had changed the social lives of country people and our local hall was not receiving the amount of use it required to pay off the remaining debt.

In our next issue we will explain what happened to save the day, and to ensure that our Hall remained the magnificent asset it is today.

 ….more to come in next post

**written by Axedale resident Lorraine Gunn

 

 

 

Axedale Community Hall

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The Axedale Hall is situated in the centre of Axedale, on a large block of land, that includes a childrens playground. To me, it represents the community hub of Axedale.

The Hall was built in 1945, however it seems there was earlier planning for a community centre, as the first minutes for the Hall Committee were recorded on 31 August 1938. Present at this meeting were Councillors Doak & Mill, Messrs Ryan, McKindley, Atlee, Lynch, O’Donogue, Carney, Lienhop, Drake, O’Dwyer & O’Brien. Any meetings that occurred prior to this date are not recorded in the minutes book.

The minutes on 29 April 1944, record that Blocks 6 and 7 Section 5 Town of Axedale, be the site of the proposed Hall and that the committee accept Mr. Drakes offer of a free gift of the land, subject to Mr. Drake’s condition that the land would be definitely used for the erection of the Hall. The offer was accepted and a hearty note of thanks was sent to Mr. Drake for his generous offer.

On 19 October 1943, the Executive Committee wrote to the Strathfieldsaye Shire Council, requesting that an application be made to the Minister of Public Works for a grant of 600 pounds on a basis of £2 for £1 as a post war construction job.

On 8 August 1945, the minutes moved that the committee issue 5 year debentures minimum to be 1 pound interest on the debentures to be at 21/2%.

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The Axedale Hall was officially opened on 30 June 1945, by the Hon. J.H. Lienhop MLC, Minister of Public Works for Victoria. Many dignitaries attended and members of the Ladies Committee provided afternoon tea. This information is noted in the minutes of the hall committee. This was just a few weeks before the end of World War 2.

A Roll of Honour to both World Wars was installed proudly and hangs today. The names of locals who served and also those who lost their lives is inscribed.

FullSizeRender(1)The above plaque commemorates the opening of the water scheme in Axedale on 9 April 1964.

On reading the minutes, it becomes obvious that the Hall Committee were hard working and very committed to getting the Axedale Hall built for the community.

Today, the Axedale Hall Committee operates as an incorporated body of volunteers along with a Management Agreement with the City of Greater Bendigo. There are nine people on the Committee including a representative from the Pre-school.

The Axedale Pre-School, which opened in 1992, is in the back part of the hall building. Originally that part of the hall was the supper room.

There have been many events held at the hall in the decades since it opened, such as weddings, engagement parties and funerals. I have been told that there are many residents still living in Axedale, who celebrated their weddings in the hall.

There have also been many official community functions held, such as school concerts, fashion parades, casserole luncheons, and children’s fancy dress parties. There have been 5 Debutante Balls held there over the years. The photos of these deb balls still hang proudly in the hall.

As recently as 2004, indoor bowls was played in the hall on a piece of carpet, which would be rolled out for the occasion.

The CFA used the hall for their meetings, while waiting for their new premises to become available.

Today the hall is regularly used for private functions as well as community events such as Yoga Classes.

The Axedale Hall Committee today, appear to me, to be a very active, vibrant, and hard working group of committed volunteers.  They operate the local market and also support other local events.

The above information was kindly given to me by Ann Mason, Axedale Hall Committee member for about 12 years. Anne lives on a property at Knowsley, about 10k from Axedale. Originally from Bendigo, Ann has been living at Knowsley since 1994 and is very actively involved in the Axedale community.