Ninety Not Out

July 20th, 2017
Ninety Not Out
From billiards, balls and basketball through the early 19th century to current day theatre performances and functions — this hall has seen it all.

The Mount Pleasant Soldiers’ Memorial Hall will celebrate 90 years since its opening with a high tea and dinner event on July 30.

Original plans to build the hall were stalled in the early 1900s, with the estimated cost of the building at ₤500 being more than the establishment committee of the time could afford or raise.

A meeting held in 1914 hosted discussions around funding the building but it would take a further 13 years before the hall would officially open on July 16 of 1927 as an institution, and in 1929 as a memorial to soldiers who fought in World War I.

Following the placement of the foundation stone for the hall by then Governor Sir Tom Bridges, the hall was officially opened by Mr Franklin Dewell, President of the Institution Committee responsible for building the hall.

Organiser of the 90th birthday celebrations and current curator of the Mount Pleasant District History Room Paula Bartsch said the event was about recognising the significant contribution to the community that the hall makes and has made.

“I think it is important to celebrate this beautiful hall and what it has provided for the community,” Paula said.

“It was built as an institution for community education and quickly incorporated a dedicated memorial for soldiers who fought in the war and those memorials are still accessible for the community today.

“The hall was and is a place for community socialisation.

“It was the only big public indoor space available when it was built and became an essential venue for community events and fundraisers.

“Initially it was used for educating the community, but it became a venue for dances and balls, and then basketball and rollerskating and even for showing pictures during the 1950s.

“The picture nights were very popular and people in the community had to book their seats in advance to secure their spots.”

The hall was originally maintained by a committee of community members before being relinquished to the then Mount Pleasant District Council in the 1960s.

Responsibility for the hall now lies with a management committee within the Barossa Council.

“A community advisory committee still reports to the council’s committee and I think the advisory committee has been good at second guessing what needs might be upcoming for the hall,” Paula said.

“And there is a caretaker employed by the council who oversees the booking of functions at the hall.

“But it is a lot of steps now, with the community advisory committee reporting to the council committee who report to the council who employ the caretaker.

“But these are necessary steps to ensure community consultation around the management of the hall.”

The event to celebrate the hall will include a high tea and a dinner, with members of the community invited to attend either event, or both.

“The idea behind the high tea and the dinner was largely about emulating a similar celebration to what would have occurred when the hall opened in 1927,” Paula said.

“It was a full day event back then with market type stalls in the morning and then an afternoon tea that progressed into a dance in the evening.

“I also usually run a Violet Day High Tea in the hall at a similar time of year to raise money for the historical society and it seemed logical to incorporate that into this event.

“So now the high tea and dinner are not only a celebration of the hall’s extensive history but also an opportunity to raise funds for the historical society and for community projects.”

Providing some entertainment at the event will be local theatre group Top of the Torrens, who will present snippets of the hall’s history in a performance at the dinner.

Organiser of the performance Kate Farrer said that the group has been rehearsing several times a week since June to prepare.

“It has been quite a tight turn around as we’ve only recently finished our mid year production but I think this performance has been a really important project for Top of the Torrens to take on,” Kate said.

“I began planning for the performance with a meeting with Paula in the history room to learn more about the hall.

“I’ve been inspired by newspaper clippings and stories of the hall and that fed into what we will be performing.

“Audiences at the dinner can expect to see something that will take them back to the early 1900s and then step through hall’s past using songs, poetry and costumes of each era.

“There is so much diversity from the merriment of the ‘20s, through to songs about what soldiers of World War II went through, right up until current use of the hall including some requests for sillier songs that Top of the Torrens have performed, basically some light-hearted nonsense to get people laughing.”

“It has been really interesting rehearsing the songs.

“A lot of people knew some of the choruses of the WWII songs but not many had heard the verses.

“And the verses are where the stories are, writing these songs was a way that soldiers coped with the horror of war.”

Newspaper clippings have helped inform the performance and Kate said that some of these will be read in-between songs.

“It has been really lovely, actually,” Kate said.

“Reading these pieces feels like you’re re-visiting a different world for a short period of time.

“I think we are so wrapped up in our modern day lives and it is nice to reflect on the past.

“I hope that it gives an older generation a chance to be reminded of happy memories as well as providing a taste of history for younger people.”

Kate said that Top of the Torrens were pleased to be assisting with celebrating the hall, which is the group’s ‘home-ground’.

“It is our home and we’ve had many performances in the hall, which feeds into our history, also,” Kate said.

“I love the space, I love the atmosphere and I love the beautiful architecture.

“This celebration is such a wonderful way to acknowledge this important space.”

In addition to the performance from Top of the Torrens, the Police Band Quintets will play.

Tickets are available for both the high tea and the dinner on July 30 and can be purchased at a reduced rate for attendance at both events.

For more information or to book tickets contact Paula Bartsch on 8568 2126.

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