INSTITUTIONS

1 Warrimoo Citizens Association

'Blinky Bill' became one of the logos of the Warrimoo Citizens Association  over recent years

Part A) Warrimoo Progress Association Formed--192?--1963
 

The Warrimoo Progress Association—Sketchy Beginnings


Long before the formation of the ‘Warrimoo Citizens Association’ there was a ‘Warrimoo Progress Association’ operating on behalf of the community.

There are scant mentions of the ‘Progress Association’ in the 1920’s but it did exist. One suspects it came into existence as a way of formally lobbying the ‘Blue Mountains Shire Council’—every other settlement, Glenbrook, Blaxland, Valley Heights (etc), seemed to have a ‘Progress Association’ so why not Warrimoo? Exactly when it appeared is still, however, unclear.

Indeed, in 1920, it appeared that the power of Blaxland’s ‘Progress’ had something of an advantage over their neighbours, because they petitioned the Railway Commissioners to have the 2.50 am. ‘newspaper train’ stop at Blaxland. The worthy Commissioners obliged, and in so doing cancelled the subsequent stop at Warrimoo Station![1]


So the Warrimoo Progress Association was probably formed in the early 1920’s (though this inference needs to be confirmed).


Warrimoo was represented by a ‘Mr. Neal’ at the announcement of electrical power connection to lower mountains residents in 1928. He spoke at the large gathering in Glenbrook, all anxious to get the connection to their properties sooner rather than later. There was an agreed need to have the Western Highway ‘lighted’ as soon as possible.[2]


At a subsequent meeting at Glenbrook, Mr. H. C. Lewis, President of the Warrimoo Progress Association, proposed a vote of thanks to the Shire:


“I feel sure that we as residents of this lower end of the mountains are under a debt of gratitude to the Shire Council and what they have accomplished,” he said. (Applause)[3]


There are times when the ‘Progress’ Association and the ‘Parents & Citizens Association’ appear to be conflated, and both seemed to be involved in the organisation of dances at the ‘Kookaburra Hall’ and tennis tournaments at the Warrimoo Courts along with their Blaxland neighbours.
 

 A “Live Body”

 
By the 1930’s the most frequent mentions of the ‘Warrimoo Progress’ were in this social context. Its 1932 President, Mr. W. Mudie, boasts of it being a “very live body” which is “always ready and willing to do its utmost for the... district generally.” As proof he elicits the purchase of three acres of land in Warrimoo at 5 pounds per acre to create a cricket field called “Neall Park” after the Secretary of the Association, Mr. Arch Neall (presumably the same ‘Mr. Neal’ who spoke at the Glenbrook electricity gathering).

"Neall Park" was cleared for the specific purpose of providing a cricket field for women taking up the sport, in order to encourage its growth at Warrimoo. For whatever reason, the ground fell into disuse and was sold to the Education Department. It is now the "Cross Street Reserve", managed by a small dedicated band of Warrimooians as a retreat for nature lovers.


In this era of the Great Depression there was no absence of creative ways for small communities like Warrimoo to raise funds and enjoy collective entertainment at the same time. Mr. Mudie and his executive promoted mixed gender Tennis tournaments involving 80 plus players, who would, at the end of the day, adjourn to a ‘Euchre Party’ and then move on to yet another dance at the Kookaburra Hall. This kind of activity occurred at every holiday/long-weekend opportunity: at New Year’s, Easter, ANZAC Day, Queens’ Birthday, Labour Day and so on. There was no shortage of action![4]

Yet despite the election of further officeholders and a continuation in the vibrancy of social life in the area, something happened to the Progress Association that extinguished its public profile for at least a couple of years. Maybe leading ‘activists’ left the district. Certainly a major fire occurred in this ‘hiatus’ period, and there may have been tragedies to contend with. To all intents and purposes, the ‘live body’ spoken of in 1932, was now dead.


Then, in 1936, in the correspondence of the Blue Mountains Shire Council, a letter was tabled advising Council that the Warrimoo Swimming Pool was now empty. The letter was written by a Mr. W. Duckles, owner of the General Store opposite the ‘Station. The matter was referred to the Engineer’s Department. Embers of a revived civic responsibility were glowing again.[5]

In the following year the citizens of Warrimoo acted to resurrect their communal voice.


The Nepean Times of 1st April 1937 tells the story:

A meeting of property owners and permanent residents was held in the Gospel Hall, Rickard Road, Warrimoo, on Saturday, 27th March, to form a local progress association. Mr. W. T. Ely was voted to the chair, and Mr G.E. Ardill, convenor of the meeting, acted as secretary.

After preliminary discussion, it was resolved to form an association of property owners and residents of the district, to be called "The Warrimoo Progress Association." The following were elected office-bearers for the ensuing year:-Chairman, Mr. W. T. Ely; vice-chairman, Messrs G. W. Duckles and T. Pritchard; hon. secretary and treasurer, Mr G. E. Ardill. It was arranged that meetings of members be held on the fourth Saturday in each month.
[6]




A New Era



The era of the Ely/Ardill/Duckles/Pritchard Executive had arrived. Henceforward the Warrimoo Progress Association would be well organised and conform to a clear pattern: all meetings would be held in the Gospel Hall on Rickard Road and would take place on the 4th Saturday of every month. All meetings would be preceded by a prayer “for guidance”. Minutes would always be taken and passed on to the local newspapers, and correspondence would be acted upon. This ushered in more than a decade of consistent agitation to place Warrimoo’s material improvements at the forefront of community consciousness—not always with success, but with a dogged persistence which was to become a hallmark of the community’s character.


The preoccupations of this newly-formed group of local stalwarts shows just how basic living conditions in Warrimoo were in 1937. The state of the roads was rough to say the least: none were tarred; the timber railing along Railway Parade to guard against vehicles tumbling into gullies needed replacing because they had been burned in the last fire. The Boulevarde and Florabella Street needed “forming”, which presumably means they had not yet been graded and cambered, and the turnoff from the ‘Western Road’ into Railway Parade needed “cleansing”.


Basic services were a matter of concern. An electric light, one each, was needed on the Western Road and Florabella Street, and the Association urged an early extension of the “water scheme”. Clearly the small number of houses then around Warrimoo were reliant on tank water and outside pan toilets for their occupants’ needs.


And then there was the Warrimoo Swimming Pool. Located on the northern side in Long-Angle Gully about half a kilometre from the ‘Station, it had proved immensely popular with city visitors throughout the 1920’s seeking bushland escape from the sweat, grime and stink of summer heatwaves. Apart from timber-felling and bush-walking in Florabella Pass, this was Warrimoo’s main attraction.


Yet the Pool clearly posed its fair share of problems. When the creek did not flow it could become stagnant and encourage the growth of weeds. When it did rain sand sedimentation built up within it. Visitors or timber-cutters or both vandalised the walking-track and left rubbish—who was responsible for clean-up and repair of the bush?


The Pool became a bone of contention throughout its existence, and the existence of the Warrimoo Progress Association itself. In many ways, their destinies were linked.



[1] Trove.,Nepean Times, Dec. 4th, 1920
[2] Trove, Ibid., March 31st, 1929
[3] Trove, Ibid., June 15th 1929
[4] Trove, Ibid., April 9th, 1932
[5] Trove, Ibid., Dec. 10th, 1936
[6] Trove, Ibid., April 1st 1937

 

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