The Historians

Here are copies of letters from Charles David A’Vard, Mervyn Charles Hall and Frank A. Kent, they being some of the original or early members. It is indeed necessary to refer to the memories of these old members for this history, as the records of the Sub-Branch were destroyed by a fire that started on a property, escaped through the fence and burnt some of the neighbouring buildings where the records were kept. The mishap occurred in Sorrento Street on 5th April 1961.

These dedicated members, together with Laurie Movley and others as the research proceeds, have contributed to this record. Their reports will now be recorded, as these valuable letters can furnish us with some of the history of the RSL that was lost in the fire.


Charlie D A’Vard writes

2 Trenton Street, Wagin, 6315.

17th Nov 1990.

Dear Merv, (Hall),

Following are my recollections of the early North Beach Sub-Branch for you to read. I don’t really know if Lola (Hall) was President or Secretary of the Auxiliary (Secretary. Ed)

Early in 1945 a few ex-servicemen from North Beach travelled to Yokine Sub-Branch of the RSL. This Sub-Branch had its own hall situated near the lake known as Dog Swamp. James’ Bus Service went past Dog Swamp so transport to and from there was OK, but the time table did not really suit especially as the last bus home did not allow us time to have a few convivial drinks after a meeting.

With those handicaps in mind we decided to try and form our own Sub-Branch at North Beach and as I worked in the Supreme Court that was not far from Anzac House, I was to make enquires on the procedure to form a Sub-Branch.

I cannot recall the State Secretary’s name, but it could have been a Mr Benson (It was. Ed) but whoever it was passed me over to a Mr Fred Bates, who gave me every assistance possible and guided me through the ropes. We had nine men eligible at that stage.

Our first meeting was held at Tom Greenshields Lido Shop known as The Jetty Tea Rooms. This was situated on the southern corner of Malcolm St and West Coast Highway (now Drive). We had about three meetings before we could satisfy all the requirements of Head Office.

Our biggest difficulty was finding ten members to start off with. John Henderson nominated his brother-in-law, John Turner, who was a Major still serving and that overcame that hurdle, and we finally got our charter in, I believe, September 1945. (Actually 14th June 1945. Ed.).

Our first official meeting place was in the Star Hall that was North Beach’s Dance Hall, Concert Hall and Picture Theatre at that time. The Hall was situated opposite Henderson’s Store that I understand later became known as Brennan’s. (NW Cnr of North Beach Road and Odo Street. Ed) Later on the unofficial Post Office that was in Henderson’s Store was replaced by the Post Office built next door in North Beach Road.

Tom Greenshields was our inaugural President and I think Arnold Hodder was Treasurer and myself Secretary. I cannot recall the names of all ten foundation members apart from Tom Greenshields, John Henderson, Dick Bentley, Arnold Hodder, John Turner and myself but the other four could have come from early members including Trigger Tregonning, Jack Richards, Gordon Cameron, Harry Gordon, Ted Parkes, Dave Spencer, Frank Parker (see later story Ed) and Eric Wilkes. I apologise if I have failed to recall the names of the other four members at our first meeting but that was forty-five years ago and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.

With the war over and men returning home it became obvious that we needed larger premises and we negotiated the use of the Surf Club Hall for that purpose.

At the Star Hall, where we used the beach room, we ran crown and anchor to raise funds. Beer was terribly short, we got one bottle a week from Sam Robb who was licensee of the Castle Hotel. This was annoying, as taxis from Perth called at that Hotel late at night and I don’t think the rattles we heard were from lemonade bottles purchased by American troops. However John Henderson had connections that enabled him to secure a 5 gallon keg of Red Castle beer for our meetings. It tasted a bit rough (That is mild language – it tasted awful. Ed) but was never knocked back.

Some early happenings that may not have been recorded and preserved and which I recall are as follows.

Tom Greenshields died after only a couple of meetings and John Henderson was made acting President and he continued in that role till the end of 1949. We conducted Melbourne Cup Sweeps. The first was won by Dick Thompson (A North Beach bowler. Ed) who ran a wood yard behind Tyson’s Bakery (Now Ampol Garage) in North Beach Road. The first prize was $160 or $200. Ted Woodward was appointed Secretary in 1947/48. Ted now lives at 7 Urch Road, Kalamunda. In 1949 I accepted a position in the country and before leaving I was presented with your Sub-Branch’s first Certificate of Service. On my return from the country in 1950 I was voted President as John Henderson wished to retire.

Lola Hail was our first Women’s Auxiliary President (Lola says Secretary. Ed) and on our first ‘Poppy Day’ we were allocated all Bus Stops outside Supreme Court Gardens in St George’s Terrace. They sold an enormous amount of poppies that earned them front page cover in the Daily News of that day.

Around 1950/51 Dick Bentley suggested we purchase a block of land on the (Nor-west) corner of Elvire Street and Flora Terrace. At that time the Government ‘Fixed Prices’ on all land and house, sales. The ‘Fixed Price’ for this block was, I believe, $160 but to get it we had to pay a little more, $100 or so. How this was done must remain a secret (Shades of Australian politics of the 20th Century. Ed) but I understand that the wisdom of that purchase paved the way for the financial success for the Sub-Branch.

The RSL conducted an ARMS competition, being the Archbishop Riley Memorial Shield. In our isolation, bearing in mind that it took almost an hour by bus to Perth and the difficulty with Public Transport, we conducted our own ARMS competition, named after our sponsor Albert Richards who was a builder and Land Agent. He lived in North Beach Road prior to shifting to Armadale. We had good teams led by Mery Hall in table tennis, Ted Woodward with quoits, while Frank Parker and a few others wielded very handy darts.

I trust these few recollections will help fill in some gaps in records. Should any member care to question me it may help to refresh my memory on other events.

Charlie.

(Charles David A’Vard).


MERV HALL writes.

I joined the RSL in 1945 but did not attend meetings at North Beach Sub-Branch until 1946 at the Surf Club Hall. (The Surf Club was situated on the Western Side of West Coast Drive opposite Malcolm Street). After my discharge on 4/7/47 an RSL tennis club was formed and we played on the Castle Hotel tennis courts each Sunday afternoon. At the same time Arnold Hodder and I formed an RSL Badminton Club, which played in the Surf Club one evening each week. The members of the Club comprised of RSL members, wives, sons, daughters plus friends. All expenses were met by the members. The RSL Tennis Club disbanded when the Hotel sold to the Hambly family who made the courts into a car park. Badminton also ceased when the Surf Club hall ceiling fell in.

Wheel Barrow Derby.

From 1948 to 1952 a wheel barrow derby was held. The field was open to all comers and the prize money was sponsored by Ray Toby, licensee of the Castle Hotel. The course started at the Hotel and was along Flora Terrace, Beach Road, West Coast Highway, Malcolm Street and Flora Terrace to finish at the Hotel. This was always won by young market gardeners who were required to alternately push their partner over nominated stages and ride in the barrow for the others. The publican did more business on the afternoon of the event than he would for the wrest of the week. The SP bookies were also in attendance. The Sub-Branch made money from stalls set up outside the Hotel to sell cakes, sweets and garden produce.

In 1952 a Digger’s Sprint was held in conjunction with the Derby. The course was from the Hotel to Malcolm Street and return. Mery Hall pushed Wally Somers down hill to Malcolm Street, changed over and Wally sprinted the barrow back to victory. The prize was a water set each.

During the period 1947-50 Children’s picnics were held during their Christmas breaks from school. The children were assembled in Flora Terrace and hiked to Beach Road, Waterman and then along bush tracks to Mullaloo Beach where running and swimming races were held. They were refreshed with water melon, ginger beer (donated by the Swan Brewery) and ice cream (donated by Peters). These goodies were transported, together with tents that acted as refreshment rooms, first aid post, etc, in Albert Richard’s 1926 model Dodge Four utility. It could negotiate any track or sand dune with ease. The lame and the lazy returned by this truck running a ferry service.

Fund Raising and Pleasure.

One incident. Barbara Kent, an expert seamstress, made a beautiful dress for a child during the 1950’s for a stall. I was offered $1.50 for it and grabbed it as we would have got 99 cents or may be $1.05 cents for it. Forty cents was a big deal then. The purchaser wanted to send it to Germany as the child’s Dad was a USA serviceman.

         Various Meeting Places                         Presidents
         Jetty Tea Rooms, 1945 (Formation)              Tom Greenshields
         Star Hall (Lesser Hall) 1945-46                John Henderson 46-49
         Surf Club 1946-52                              Charlie A’Vard 50
         Castle Hotel 1953 (Three months only)          M. Hall 51-52
         Surf Club 1953                                 F. Parker (Part year)| M.Hali 53-57
         Harry Gordon's Garden Shed                     H.Gordon 58-59 | N.Clarke 60-62
         North Beach Road RSL Hall                      F. Kent 63-67
         North Beach Sportsmen's Club                   N. Clarke 1968
                                                        F.Kent 69-76
                                                        M.Hall 77-82. 85-90
                                                        R.G.Hancock 83-84

Block of Land

 North West Corner of ELVIRE ST u0026amp; FLORA TCE

This was purchased with a view to building our own hall but building costs, requirements and lack of materials at the time, and of course finance, prevented that happening. To help pay the rates and taxes and to show a return it was fenced, water laid on and with the help and guidance of Harry Gordon, whose family had a market garden in North Beach road, Balcatta. Busy bees were held to plant crops of peas, etc. The produce was taken to market with the Gordon’s own produce and the Sub-Branch received the proceeds. It was the sale of this block that provided most of the finance required to buy the block of land owned by A. Richards in North Beach road, on which there was a large workshop come storage shed and a tennis court (about 1954).

The first Anzac Day service that I attended was in 1946. We marched from Henderson’s shop, cnr Odo St and North Beach Road to the Surf Club. The service was conducted by a Mr. Frederick Pitcher, a lay preacher, followed by tea and scones, provided by the ladies. After the Preacher, ladies and visitors retired, the members opened the 5 gallon keg. Soon the two up and crown and anchor were in progress. Mr Pitcher conducted the Anzac Services for several years until he was ordained and transferred to the country as a parish Priest. Mrs Thelma Washing always played the piano is those days. After Mr Pitcher left, Mery Hall conducted the services.

Alec Gunn bought the house next door from Albert Richards when he went to Armadale in about 1955. Alec became Warden of the NB RSL building. Tolmie (a chemist), bought the ammunition for the rifle. Frank Taylor gave the steel plates for the bunker for rifle shooting on the verandah of the Surf Club.

The Big Four. The Albert RICHARDS Memorial Shield. A.R.M.S.

This was the brain child of two members, Mr Fred Tredrae and Bert Dullard of the Yokine RSL Sub-Branch. They had a meeting with Merv Hall at the North Beach garage, cnr Flora Terrace and Malcolm Street, one afternoon. They then attended Sub-Branch meetings at Yokine, Scarborough and Osborne Park during the next month. The idea was welcomed. Games of table tennis, quoits, and darts only to be played among all four Sub-Branches once a month, each venue in turn. Points awarded to winners of all games to be credited to their Sub-Branch over twelve months for a Shield to be presented at Wind Up. The donor of the Shield was Mr A. G. Richards, Master Builder and Estate Agent of North Beach.

This competition was responsible for the formation and cementing strong friendships between these small (in those days) and poor Sub-Branches. Even today the competition is still talked about by the older members although it disbanded on the sale of the Yokine, Scarborough and then North Beach Halls. Osborne Park Sub-Branch hold the trophy for safe keeping as they are the only Sub-Branch of the Big 4 with their own premises.

Mr Richards also donated a Cup for a competition in similar games by ladies of the Big 4. 1959 saw the abandonment of this competition for the same reason as the men’s.

During the early 1950’s a variety concert was staged by the Sub-Branch in the Open Air Picture gardens at the Castle Hotel. It was a packed house raising considerable funds for the Sub- Branch. There were items by Frank Parker’s delightful young daughter, a male choir, a ladies’ choir, an exhibition dance by Miss Labourne and M. Hall and a presentation of Mendelsohn’s Spring Song Ballet by male members, dressed as fairies (flowers). Ted Park, a 191cm tall man, weighing 102 kg’s, dressed in a fairy costume, and wearing army boots, was the principal’ ballerina. Other items cannot be recalled.

A skit at one social evening saw the ladies march to the tune of “Bless Em All”. Littlest lady, Barbara Kent on end of the line, turned up with an L Plate.

Members remembered during 1947-50 were:- Tom Greenshields, Arnold Hodder, Charlie A’Vard, John Henderson, Dick Bentley, John Turner, Wallie Wright, Fred Troughton, Trigger Tregonning, Jack Rickard, Gordon Cameron, Harry Gordon, Frank Parker, Ted Park, Dave Spence, Eric Wilks, Les Picknoll, Ross Trudgian, Jack Sherriffs, Norman Clarke, Reg and Bert Hayes, (twins), Clarrie Betteridge, Ted Woodward, Ted Barbera, Bernie Long, Dick Gordon and Stan McKenna.


Frank KENT Reports.

Mention has been made of the RSL building in North Beach Road. Here is a little bit more on it.

In late 1960 discussion at meetings was on the possibility of us getting our own premises. We had a block of land in Flora Terrace but no extra money and no way of getting any.

Albert Richards, a good supporter of the RSL, had a big block of land in North Beach Road, with a large shed built on it. It was suggested by Frank Taylor, who was a social member and a good supporter, but not a returned soldier, that we sell our land and purchase Albert’s block. After a lot of discussion for and against, and there were a lot against, it was decided to act upon Frank’s suggestion. It was a large block. On it was a bitumen tennis court (Dot Wright, nee Russell, regularly played on it. Ed.) and a shed. The shed was divided into three parts, unlined and pretty grubby. There were no toilets, so before we could let the tennis court, we had to do something about it.

During the next few months 500 hours were put in by voluntary workers (members) in building toilets and making the shed habitable. We had a wooden floor put in this main room, also an open fireplace. It was hard work, but a lot of fun. A lot of thanks must go to those early members who kept the fires burning and laid the foundations of the present success of the Sub- Branch. Many have passed on. Of those workers only three remain.

The present North Beach Tennis Club originated at the block in North Beach Road, using the court. (Ed:-The first recorded championships of the NBTC were in 1972.)

A mention must be made of the Women’s Auxiliary. They were a great bunch of workers. Cake, vegetable and pot plant stalls raised much cash. We all had many great evenings at the old shed, enjoying the Big 4 sports nights and the odd dance or two.

The odd trauma occurred from time to time. That was when the Bank asked for a reduction of our overdraft. I don’t think that we were in the position to reduce it. I do remember that on one occasion Laurie Movley and I had to front up to the Bank in the City about the overdraft. The Manager asked if we had come to pay off some of the debt. We replied that we had come for some more money. He laughed, then said, “How much?” It was quite a relief when we sold it and had no more worries.

 


The following who I can remember assisted at the hall.

 Ted Barbera, *  Norm Clarke,*    Harry Gordon,*

Basil Gorman,*   E. Gunn,*        Merv Hall,

Frank Kent,      Bernie Long,*    Reg Miller,

Laurie Movley,   Frank Parker,*   Jack Sherriffs.

                 *Denotes deceased.

                                                                                                      (Thank-you, Frank.)

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