Thursday, 30 March 2017

'Fun Times'

‘Fun Times’

Social life in Depression Warrimoo was by no means all ‘doom and gloom’. By 1930 the 44 hour week had become entrenched in Australian employment practice, meaning Saturday afternoon as well as Sunday were now available for leisure activities. The legendary ‘Great Australian Weekend” was taking hold.

Naturally the Blue Mountains, and this certainly included the Lower Blue Mountains, became the focus of one of Sydney society’s favourite weekend pastimes—hiking and bushwalking. So much so, that a celebrated ‘hike’ of several hundred people drew the attention of the Sydney Morning Herald whose photographer captured highlights of the event as it wound its way from Valley Heights to destinations round about, including Warrimoo…

Since the Great War engagement of women in active rather than purely passive pursuits became a hallmark: women could be seen smoking in public, travelling about unescorted and taking part in a wide variety of sports. One such—extremely popular at the time—sport avidly involving players of both sexes was tennis.

It so happened that one of the truly attractive features supplied to Warrimoo by Mr. Rickard was a set of clay-based tennis courts at Warrimoo, immediately next to the station on the southern side and a stone’s throw across the Western Road to the General Store. Another court was formally opened in Florabella Street by Mr. and Mrs. Powell in 1933. It was positioned roughly where the Warrimoo PS canteen car park is today, and was greeted with orations and fanfare.[1] After all, who could resist a game or two with members of the opposite sex, engaging in cheerful banter which might possibly lead to further activities into the evening?

A very old pic of the General Store, taken in the 1930's. The little girl is next to an indiscernible adult in the shadows, but you can make out the near new front windows and the frontage of the owners' accommodation above. This shop supplied many of the necessities for tennis players directly across the newly tarred highway...

As a theme to this chapter it is worth noting that a new and dynamic group had infused the Warrimoo Progress Association—family names which were to dominate the minutes of the Association, the pages of the Nepean Times as well as the Tennis tournaments themselves, began to appear: ‘Mudie’, ‘Neall’, ‘Bolton’ and ‘Wicks’…In a spritely piece in the Nepean Times they were announced…

The Progress Association, of which Mr W. Mudie is President, and Mr. Arch Neall secretary, is regarded locally as being a very live body, always ready and willing to do its utmost for the welfare, and in the interests of, the district generally.[2]

The Progress Association took a leading role in organising social events, usually with the aim of raising funds for some worthy community cause. The following excerpts from Nepean Times articles explain the process…

During the week-end Warrimoo Progress Association conducted another highly successful tennis tournament, followed by a grand euchre party and dance in the "Kookaburra" at night. Despite the inclement weather, players came from Sydney and Blaxland, and a very enjoyable week-end was spent by all.

Winners: Mixe d doubles championship, Miss Bradbury and B. Mudie; runners-up, Mrs Parmenter and H. Powell. Men's doubles championship: O. Powell and J. Sobels runners-up, A. Neall and N. Leaght.[3]

Such ‘Tennis Tournaments’, often held over a weekend, were major events and were a fond excuse to invite friends and relatives to Warrimoo to ‘stay over’ and take part. Numbers often reached over 50 and could grow up to 100 participants. Sometimes high profile players were invited to play ‘exhibition matches’. Guests from the city frequently stayed at the hotels in Springwood, so it was not unusual for them to walk/catch the train back to Springwood after the tournament, refresh and change, then return for the evening’s festivities at Warrimoo.

A likely group of tennis enthusiasts at the Warrimoo Courts--you can see the General Store in the background and the structure of the courts in between. Ukelele players and pianists were stars in the 20's and 30's, when sing-a-long parties were 'all the rage'. The renowned 'Archie Neall' looms to the right of the picture.

Tennis tournaments reliably had another purpose other than a purely social one—fund-raising for the Red Cross, local church or the Progress Association itself assisted the community’s growth. A famous visit to the ‘Mountains by Bert Oldfield’s ‘Womens Cricket Team’ inspired the Progress Association to raise pounds, shillings and pence for a very worthy cause indeed…

…A case in point was the recent purchase of three acres of land, at £5 per acre, for the purpose of establishing a local cricket ground—considered to be a long-felt want by the sporting fraternity at Warrimoo. The ground has been named Neall Park (after the Secretary of the Association, Mr Neall), and all work with regard to the clearing of the ground, etc, is being carried out by voluntary labor.

For the purpose of getting funds to help pay for this venture, a tennis tournament was held on Easter Monday and was a great success. About 80 entries were received, and a splendid days' tennis resulted. The following were the prize-winners:—Gent's singles, Mr W. Bolton; ladies' singles, Miss Rene Galicher; men's doubles, Messrs K. Watts and Powell; mixed doubles, H. Powell and Miss Elliott.

A very successful euchre party and dance was held in the Kookaburra Hall at night, and altogether the day's festivities added to the funds the very respectable sum of £4/4/-

Another tennis tournament will be conducted on the local courts on the Saturday of Anzac Day week-end, 23rd April.[4]

A Test Match between England and Australia held at the SCG in 1935. Famous Aussie cricketer Bert Oldfield brought a women's team to play exhibition matches in the Mountains in the early 30's, which inspired local activists of the Warrimoo Progress Association.

‘Enthusiasm’ was key to social activities of the day—people could have a marvellous time for very little cost as long as this key ingredient remained. The ‘cricket ground’ block here mentioned was located ‘at the bottom of Cross Street’ and as mentioned, consisted of 3 acres. It was indeed ‘cleared’, by voluntary labour and used as a cricket field, nominally as a womens’ cricket ground to encourage growth of the game in the ‘Mountains.

Obviously the ‘Warrimoo Cricket Ground’ did not survive the war years and again became overgrown with native bush. It is the surmise of Warrimoo Historians that this block was later purchased by the NSW Department of Education and thus morphed into the ‘Cross Street Reserve’ so avidly fought for by residents several decades later.[5]

[1] TROVE, Katoomba Daily, 2nd March., 1933
[2] TROVE, Nepean Times, Sat. 9th April 1932 p.6
[3] Ibid, Sat. 4th Feb, 1933 p.6
[4] Ibid, p.6
[5] Subject to confirmation, it is probable that the ‘3 acres’ referred to was bought by the NSW Education Department after WWII for a future school site. As it transpired, however, the block upon which the current school stands was bought later and became the preferred location, thus leaving the original block available for alternative usage—this became the centre of a protracted struggle between community, Council and State government for the ‘Cross Street Reserve’.