These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.Everyone in the Valley must have noticed the changed appearance of Wyong Creek Hall. This work has been carried out in preparation for The Hall’s centenary being celebrated this year . Its sister at Yarramalong reached that milestone ten years earlier in 2004. Yarramalong, too, has been altered many times over the years. This has been well documented in a history prepared at the time by Yvonne Turvey and Kevin Grant to record the occasion.
Long before adult public education was available here and overseas, communities established places where residents could have access to libraries with instructional and recreational books as well as technical information. Opportunities for learning and cultural improvement were offered by lectures. A general aim was “to promote the intellectual, social and moral improvement of the working man”. Somewhat presumptuous in terms of today’s attitudes.
The concept of establishing institutes originated in Scotland. It was adopted in Britain and imported to Australia in the 19th century. Schools of Arts, Literary Institutes and Mechanics Institutes abounded. By the 1890s there were over 400 Mechanics Institutes in Victoria alone. In NSW it seems that Schools of Arts were the more popular.
Both of the Valley’s Halls are owned by the community and are on donated land. Before Yarramalong Hall was built, people had to rely on a barn made available to the community by the pioneer settler, Ezekiel Waters. This was opposite the site of the old Linga Longa Inn which is now a private home.
For a number of years there was also “Triggs Hall” on the south side of Yarramalong Rd just east of Lauff’s Lane. Specific details are elusive but it was in use for many years and at least through to the 1930s. It was made available to the community by the well known Trigg family which has been in the district for 125 years or more.
The Hall at Yarramalong has the words “School of Arts – Est. 1904” proudly displayed on its gable. In the case the Wyong Creek Hall such a sign would be “Wyong Creek Literary Institute – Est. 1914”. These phrases may seem outmoded, even pretentious, in the 21st century but are an important part of the Hall’s history.However, times were rapidly changing. Transport improved, educational avenues developed and special purpose halls such as Masonic Temples, RSL Clubs and sporting Clubs’ meeting places were being built. The originally professed roles of the Halls became largely irrelevant. In small local communities like the Yarramalong Valley they came to be used mainly for recreational purposes such as concerts, art shows, school prize-giving ceremonies, Christmas parties, craft exhibitions, trash and treasure sales, wedding receptions and dances. Various means were used to prepare the floors for dancing. One was to spread sawdust mixed with kerosene over them and then sweep it off. Candle wax could be used later in the evening as the floor lost its “slide”.
In earlier times, it was the dances that were particularly popular. In the case of the Valley’s Halls, people came from as far as Murrays Run by horses, sulkies and later by car and truck. Rules and practices were developed to ensure the behaviour of the participants was kept within bounds. The following Rules were in common use but only our now elderly residents would know whether they all applied in the Valley’s Halls.
Generally, alcohol was not allowed in the Halls but the drinkers would bring their own. Fights were tolerated but only if they took place outside. On arrival, the young men stood at the entrance door to get a good look at the ladies as they entered. The young women sat inside on benches along the side walls. Many of the men spent a goodly part of the evening drinking outside. The women remained inside and kept an eye out for any girls who ventured out. The reputation of such girls was at risk. The men wore a jacket and a tie, the women frocks, skirts and blouses – nothing elaborate. They wore lipstick and possibly rouge but anything beyond that would be thought of as being “tarted up”. If children had been brought they would later sleep inside under the side benches, in the ladies’ cloak room or outside in the car.
Our Halls remain greatly appreciated today not only for their heritage and the happy memories they hold for our older residents but also because they continue to play an important part in the life of the Valley.
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SOURCES: Max Farley; Photos Susan Buck.