NIMMITABEL SCHOOL OF ARTS
(NOW KNOWN AS PIONEERS MEMORIAL HALL)
From School of Arts to Pioneers Memorial Hall
Contributed by Pat Golby
The School of Arts at Nimmitabel was erected in 1901, so by 1960 it had become much the worse for wear. It was very shabby and out of date. When balls were held the women sat around the walls and the men stood at the doorway. The supper room was in a dangerous state with uneven floor boards and little space between tables. There was a huge fireplace in which hung fountains and kerosene tins for boiling water. The women who provided and served the suppers worked under primitive conditions. Suppers consisted of meats and salads and trifles and were served at midnight in several sittings. When shows and sports were held at the showground crockery had to be transported to there and back to the hall for that night’s ball. The toilets consisted of a can in each comer of the back yard. So it was decided something had to be done.
A few enthusiastic people got together and fund raising was begun, to rebuild the hall. A queen competition was the first project, with Carmel Peters representing the town, Maureen Edwards the country, and Thea Buckley the sports. The fun began with a garden party at “Shirley” generously lent by Mr George Taylor, in November, 1960. This was a great success, with the large amount of money raised going to the three queens’ funds. It was wonderful the way everybody in the town and district supported all the functions which were held. Every possible kind of event took place . There were horse and car races, athletics , swimming carnivals , street stalls , baby shows , flower shows, house parties, games nights, street processions , auctions, concerts and raffles. I had a concert party of young adults and we took concerts to Bemboka, Berridale, Bibbenluke, Dalgety and Nimmitabel. We also had a raffle for a ‘slave’ day , and our party spent a day in Cooma North working in the garden of the winner.
All these functions raised 5000 pounds ($10,000) but it was necessary to obtain more to pay for the rebuilding of the hall . Monaro Shire Council gave a loan of 15,000 pounds ($30,000). It was all quite a lot in those days. Shire staff became interested in the project and were very helpful. The assistant shire engineer, Mr Hans Hoffman offered several designs from which the final one was chosen by the hall committee. He later supervised the work. The shire clerk, Mr Ash Garrard, and the shire engineer, Mr John Tynan were also very helpful.
In 1964 tenders were called and Local builder, Terry Buckley and his partner, Athol Blyton were successful. The building cost 17,680 pounds ($35,360). Then there was the cost of equipping the hall.
The grand opening ball was held in September, 1964, when over 400 adults and a number of children attended. Everyone was very excited about the magnificent building, far exceeding expectations , and well worth all the effort.
Among the specially invited guests were several elderly residents, a visitor from Jindabyne, Mrs Girvan , who in 1901 had ridden from Jindabyne to attend the opening of the original hall, and a number of notable district people . Mr Jack Woodhouse, president of the hall committee welcomed everyone and gave a brief account of the building project, the trusteeship of the Monaro Shire Council and financing of the new hall. He thanked all who had been involved in any way. In concluding his address he said that one of the greatest pioneers of the Nimmitabel district being remembered with the naming of the hall was John Jardine and he had much pleasure in calling on Mr Reg Jardine, a son, to speak.
Mr Jardine congratulated the people on the fine hall and spoke of the original opening which was also one of the biggest nights Nimmitabel had ever had. He said that the old hall had cost 440 pounds ($880) and those who worked to raise that money had a hard task, too. He named his father, John Jardine, Morty Morton, Owen Silk, John McDonald, Harry Holmes and others who had formed the first committee.
“The naming of the new hall is a gesture of appreciation of those pioneers”, Mr Jardine said, “and it will keep the memory of the grand old people of the olden days ever before us and others who follow. Thousands have enjoyed the pleasures of the old hall, and many thousands will enjoy the new.
Councillor Arthur Haylock, President of the Monaro Shire Council, was invited to open the hall. In doing so he paid tribute to the committee and the people of the town and district for shouldering the burden of financing the hall , and said that their efforts are on a parallel with those first people for whom they had provided a fitting memorial. The name for the new hall was suggested by Mr Jack Haylock.
He was happy to announce that Council had decided, to allot the sum of 1,200 pounds to assist the hall funds.
During the evening several generous donations were made, amounts ranging from one of 100 pounds , some 10 pounds, 5 pounds and smaller but all very welcome.
The ladies who served the hot and lavish supper were loud in their praise of the spacious and convenient kitchen and supper room which had been added right along the north side of the hall. Also added were the handsome front entrance which reached to the footpath , and dressing rooms and indoor toilets at the back , while the stage and wings had been renovated
It was 1980 before the debt on the hall was repaid, so the community went on holding functions and a variety of activities . Cabaret balls became very popular and rents from these and other events, such as a games club, with indoor bowls the main feature, dancing classes , dress making classes , conferences, religious services, flower shows, baby shows, school concerts and presentation nights . Jack and Dorrie Evans conducted square dancing over quite a period. The picture shows held each week, with Harley Ingram and Harold Thistleton operating the equipment and Harley’s wife Esme, Irene Baker and Joyce Ingram as ticket sellers and ushers, were quite profitable. After all expenses were paid the profits went to the hall funds.
The Women’s Auxiliary worked hard to raise funds, particularly with catering for dinners , stock sales , street stalls, ranch house dances , concerts and the annual Spring Fair, which was a great money spinner. The men took on painting the park fence as one way of earning some money for the hall.
20 local people guaranteed 300 pounds each if the repayments could not be met, but they were never called upon. The Lions Club donated an amplifying system, and many generous donations of cash were made over the years. Annual repayments with interest were around $2,400 After 10 years the debt was reduced by more than half, so the interest dropped. The final $6000 was waived by the council in 1980.
To see the hall as the venue for the “Back to Nimmitabel ” historical display in 2003 filled me with pride. I felt – it had really made the effort worth while. – Pat Golby
A Brief History
The original building was erected in the early pioneering days of the Nineteen Hundreds. First details on hand are that the building was erected and completed for functions in May 1901
The original tender price was for 440 pounds by Hugh McDonald. The opening Ball was held on 24 May 1901, the music being supplied by the Cooma Brass Band. From this date no records are available until the early 1930’s, when an old minute book on hand, names Mr Reg Jardine as President. The committee were C Mooney, CE Burke, W Clear, A Poole, P Reed and CH Pilley. Since that time various other Presidents have presided, namely Andrew Poole, Jack Shelley (from 1942-1944) ER (Bob) Adams (1944-1948) Frank Burke (1948-1950). Secretaries for this period were Cohen McKeachie, Normy Poole, Mick Holmes and Jack Tindall.
In the late 40’s the financial position and attendance at meetings was so grave that at a meeting on 10 December 1946 a motion was moved and carried that the Hall be closed from 13 December 1946, and if 10 people didn’t inform the President JB Shelley in writing that they wished a meeting be called, the committee had to hand the keys to the Trustees.
A special meeting was convened on 17 January 1947, some 37 persons attending. The meeting is recorded in Minute Book 2 in a bad state of repair. From this time on fairly comprehensive minutes were kept until at a meeting in August 1949, the Secretary was authorised to purchase new books for the Business of Hall Meetings etc.
Since that meeting I have been directly connected with the Hall having being the Secretary for the period.
Many changes have taken place since then, the picture plant that was installed in the late 40’s was purchased by the Hall committee for 850 pounds ($1700), and run by volunteers from 1953 until the Hall rebuilding in 1964.
Warner Bros used the Hall for costume storage during the filming of “The Sundowners” in 1960.
After the Hall was rebuilt in 1964, films were again shown until the price of films and suitable films were both non-compatible for Junior Audiences.
When the re-building was decided in 1963, various money-raising ventures were organised – Field days, Street carnivals, Queen competition, Ugly Man competition, and any means whatever to raise funds. Money raised by this means was far short of requirements. Some critics thought that it could never be financed for the tendered sum of 15870 pounds 11 and six ($31741.15) with the final cost being 19735 pounds 6 and 2 ($39470.60)
Monaro Shire organised a loan, and prominent citizens guaranteed a further loan through the Commercial Bank. All the work was paid for and the loans and guarantors completed before the Shire Amalgamation in 1984.
AC Ingram (Hon secretary from 1949 until 1995)
NB The number of people who guaranteed finance for the loan was 20, and the amount was 300 pounds each, these funds were never called on.
Of interest AC (Harley) Ingram passed away in August 1999, aged 80 years
PS: Later research showed that William Jardine was presented with a large photograph of himself in 1903 acknowledging his efforts towards the beginning of the School of Arts (Pioneers Memorial Hall)
A framed Honour Board with photographs acknowledging 15 years service by President JJ Jardine, Secretary OE Silk, and Treasurer MT Morton (probably the first executives) The inscription reads “Honorary Life Members. Any persons who have rendered valuable service to the institution or who is eminent for his attainments in literature, science, or art, may have upon the recommendation of the committee be elected an Honorary Life Member by any general meeting of members. The names of such members shall be posted in the Reading Room”