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Box Hill and Nelson Progress Association
Excerpts from THE BUILDING OF A COMMUNITY (Rouse Hill, Box Hill, and Nelson) By Jilly H. Warren Originally published in ‘Across the Paddock’ 2008-9 and reproduced with the author’s kind permission to use her research and photos.
NOTE that there is no audio incorporated into this transcript.
Rouse Hill and District Progress Association 1937-1939
This story is about community action for improvements to the area which are documented in the records of two associations, The Rouse Hill and District Progress Association formed in May 1937 and the Box Hill and Nelson Progress Association formed in 1944. There is much that is common to both associations and it can be seen that many of the same community minded people are the workers in these associations. This is a tribute to their efforts on behalf of and for the good of all residents.
On 24 May 1937 Leonard Holme wrote to the Chief Secretary’s Department in Sydney asking for the correct forms to form an association solely to endeavour to obtain services to the district, chiefly light and water. Len’s address was Box Hill via Riverstone and by the 31 May he was Hon. Secretary of Rouse Hill and District Progress Association with Jack Peterson of the ‘Royal Oak’ Windsor Road Rouse Hill as President. Subscriptions were one shilling per annum per member with no other fundraising to be undertaken and the expected total subscriptions to be £3. As there was no public hall in the area, the association met in Christ Church Hall, Windsor Road, Rouse Hill on the 1st Saturday of each month at 8pm with Rev. R.R. Hawkins minister at St. Pauls Riverstone and Christ Church the nominated hall contact.
It appears that the ‘White Hart Subdivision’ (from corner Windsor and Old Windsor Roads towards Kellyville) may have received electric current around May 1937 and the people of Rouse Hill, Box Hill and Nelson wanted it too. In June a petition was circulated around Box Hill, Nelson, Rouse Hill and probably Annangrove and forwarded to the area’s representative for A Riding at Baulkham Hills Shire Council, Cr. A. W. Edwards whose residence was ‘The Lookout’, Maroota. Also at the June meeting a motion was carried that The Rouse Hill and District Progress Association will combine with the Annangrove Fruitgrowers Association and use our best endeavours to obtain the Electric Current to the district. They also joined the United Association of Kindred Associations for mutual advantage, sent reports of meetings to the Parramatta ‘Advertiser’ and the ‘Carrier’ (later renamed the ‘Courier’) of Windsor, and corresponded with the Baulkham Hills Shire Council, Shire Clerk, Mr. H.C. Hain regarding Water and Light. The Riverstone Progress Association was also interested in the newly formed Rouse Hill Association and invited the President and Secretary to their next meeting and Cr. Edwards was thanked for his efforts on behalf of the association.
In July 1937 correspondence with Major Shand MLA recommended Leonard W. Holme, farmer of Box Hill via Riverstone and Walter W. Wright, poultry farmer of Mile End Road, Rouse Hill as possible candidates for Justices of the Peace. The reply was that only one was required and Mr. Wright was accepted. Diphtheria was a problem as there was some kind of immunisation programme underway and the association wrote to the Shire Clerk, asking for a Clinic for the Rouse Hill Area. The P & C Association, and the School Master of Rouse Hill School, Mr. Harris, was to be asked to support the request with a suggested joint meeting of the P & C and the Progress Association. By August forms were sent out to the parents of the school children, but members of the Rouse Hill and District Progress Association had had their children treated privately.
The September meeting was postponed a week to the 11 September as it clashed with a church activity and two delegates were selected to attend a conference for the United Association of Kindred Associations. Mr. Holme wrote to Cr. Edwards to arrange a meeting regarding the Electricity Scheme as he wished to have correct information as there were a lot of rumours flying around. He also apologized in reference to a Voting List. I am so busy with chickens to get around and make enquiries. I have endeavoured to get a list from H.F. Halloran & Co who own the unsold and partly paid portions of the Box Hill Estate but have had no satisfaction. (Box Hill Estate had been subdivided by the Terry family in 1919 and Leonard Holme was referring to the portions which were still unsold from this sale or still mortgaged, with no improvements, i.e. worked as farmland or containing a dwelling. Reference to vacant land is referred to again later when numbers of households are being counted for the purpose of getting reticulated water). He included the following names in his letter, Mr. A. Thorpe, Mr. G. Richie both of Old Pitt Town Road, Mr. F. Kuhn, Nelson Road, and Mrs. E. Livesey, Terry Road, Box Hill with the comment, but expect it is too late now. Cr. Currie informed the association that the Maraylya community was also lobbying Baulkham Hills Council for Electric Light at a coming meeting in October and the Rouse Hill Association wished to include a delegation.
It is interesting that the association was now dealing with multiple issues not confining themselves to the original objectives. There was obviously an election in the not too distant future and so a letter to the Shire Clerk requested gravel or other hard material for the unsealed Mason Road as it was carrying all Nelson traffic due to wet weather making Terry Road impassable; and a list of accepted candidates for A and B ridings. By October they were lobbying Kellyville Progress Association in B Riding, through secretary Mr. J. Nutter, for a United Effort to elect the right candidates who will further our causes. Annangrove Fruit Growers Association was approached to co-operate in the electing of the right person to further their aims of Water and Light Services. They stated they were happy with their current elected Councillors, Edwards and Currie. With regards to water they comment, from the accounts published in the Daily Press, the Government appear anxious to supply every village etc. with water. Mr. Wimble of Maraylya was considering standing for election and the association sought his assurances that he would support Cr. Edwards and Currie in the matter of water and light.
In November 1937 a letter went to Major Shand regarding which council would receive the revenue for the supply of electric light when the councils owned opposite sides of the road and the power came down only one side of the road. A letter was also sent to the Postmaster Generals Department complaining of the poor telephone facilities (provided by a call box) at the Rouse Hill Shop and Post Office adding that the cost to ring Riverstone was exorbitant.
Other causes are to the fore in December. They brought to the notice of the Department of Main Roads, the very narrow nature of Rouse’s Bridge, between Rouse Hill School and the Post Office, is dangerous to traffic especially pedestrians (especially school children walking to school). As extensive improvement works are now in progress opposite Rouse Hill School could not the bridge be widened or a footbridge constructed clear of the carriageway.
In January 1938 the association submitted another proposal about water to the Baulkham Hills Council after meeting with Alderman Maunder of the Water Board. They also mentioned the dangerous state of Murphy’s Bridge. Such is the state of road names the location of Murphy’s Bridge was described as situated on the road leaving the Main Road just below Rouse Hill School for Annangrove and Dural just below Mr. Rassmussen’s (sic) property. Mr. Rasmussen’s property, 288 Annangrove Road, almost opposite Dr. Charteris’ Surgery and the road approaching Murphy’s Bridge wound down the hill to the bridge. This road leads off to the left as you descend and curves in a loop, re-entering Annangrove Road further down almost at the bridge. The present bridge and road was built and opened in 1980.
At this time the roads were not signposted and were referred to as the road to a location, for example Windsor Road was known as the Main Road or perhaps the road to Parramatta. They also requested in a letter to the Commonwealth Bank at Windsor, the services at Rouse Hill Post Office of a Savings Bank and in a letter to the Postmaster General at the GPO, Sydney the ability for the Post Office to sell Money Orders. Not content with those services, they wanted their mail expedited, it was too slow and they expected mail delivered to the Post Office on holidays!! The number of families receiving mail through Rouse Hill Post Office was said to be 52 in a reply to the Commonwealth Bank adding that people living on the Rouse Hill side of Box Hill and Nelson would also use the Rouse Hill Branch.
In early 1938 the ‘Cumberland Argus’ was one of the local papers read by the residents and the association requested that reports of the meetings of the Baulkham Hills Shire Council be published. Within a short time the paper complied with this request and in February it is mentioned that it is proposed that there be extensions to the Kellyville water supply.
Mail problems were brought to the attention of the Postmaster General in March 1938 stating that Rouse Hill mail was going to Rouse (sic. Rous) Mills (actually near Grafton) and much delay was experienced in receiving it. The council was contacted (by letter) complaining about a wash-away at the ford across Caddies Creek on Withers Road (where today is a high concrete bridge just before you get to Commercial Road) and about bad road surfaces on Hynds and Terry Roads. A letter was also forwarded to Cr. Edwards asking him for help with the road problems and advising of dangerous pot holes in Terry Road and the problem of the bridge near the corner of Hynds Road.
Help with a campaign by Riverstone and District Association for Baths for Riverstone was requested, but the Rouse Hill Association could not see any viability for this campaign and declined support. April 1938 brought a request for council to attend to the decking of the bridge in Commercial Road Rouse Hill and a thank you for attending to the Terry Road problem. There was surprise that the road material from the Windsor Road cutting was not available to be used. Private persons as well as the Blacktown Shire are obtaining large quantities, in fact, the Foreman in Charge of the Works appears most anxious to dispose of it.
In June 1938 the association asked Major Shand to recommend appointment as a JP, Mr. Leonard Winter Holme, farmer of ‘Perseverance’, Box Hill via Riverstone so he could act for the residents of Box Hill and Nelson. At this time Leonard Holme was still the secretary of the association and the property name very apt and perhaps ironic. In July, Major J.B. Shand MLA was contacted to revive the Water Supply project once again. The Electrical Engineer at Baulkham Hills Council was written to re the promised expansion of the Electricity supply by Mr. Spooner MLA, citing a Saw Mill and Garage as commercial potential users of electricity (as) dayload at Box Hill. Old Pitt Town Road and George Street were acknowledged as having been attended to but similar gravel was needed in Terry Road at the bridge near Mr. Wilson’s property and all the way from Windsor Road to Box Hill House gate (opposite Mason Road).
In October, the association requested material and a grader be made available immediately to Old Pitt Town Road from the Trig Station for about 250 yards onwards; Terry Road approaches to the bridge and the bridge surface and from the Box Hill House gate 200 yards both ways; Terry Road bridge (near Mr. Cox’s property) stonework support has fallen away leaving very little support. A letter from the Water Board was forwarded in November 1938 to the association through Major Shand MLA definitely refusing a supply to Box Hill. A substantial petition containing 27 names of people on occupied blocks who guaranteed connection to any such water service, including probable usage volumes had been submitted. Owners of vacant land were not included in the petition. The area of connection suggested was an area bounded by Windsor, Nelson, Old Pitt Town and Terry Roads. Needless to say the association and community were not amused. The association requested Major Shand to make an emphatic protest to the Board at the unfair treatment accorded to this area.
In January, 1939 Hilda Cox of Terry Road, Box Hill took over as Secretary and although the group still met in the church hall, the meetings took on a social aspect. Supper was to be served and a friendly game of euchre was suggested after the meeting. Euchre in a church hall? Apparently it was OK with Rev. Hawkins whose permission was requested and granted. A new council representative was Cr. Hadley and the water supply story still an urgent agenda item.
On Saturday 14 January 1939, Baulkham Hills Shire suffered great loss from a destructive bush fire. The Box Hill, Nelson and Rouse Hill area suffered great loss to houses, outbuildings, animals, orchards and crops not to mention the deaths of two men. The community was in shock for some time. The Baulkham Hills Shire Council set up a Fund for donations and a total of £521.10.8 was collected and dispersed over quite some months. Community members Messrs. H. Skinner, L.W. Holme, J.F. Gardiner, W.H. Lawrence, K. Staunton, K.C. Brocklebank, and A. Thorpe were documented as receiving some relief money. Many other parts of Baulkham Hills Shire had suffered also - Castle Hill, Dural, Glenhaven and Annangrove were well represented in the relief payments.
On 10 March 1939 Mrs. Cox wrote to Ald. Maunder JP of the Water Board citing their disbelief at the Board’s figures/statistics which seem to have been used for the purposes of refusing the water supply. They continued … you have supplied water to districts offering far less consumers and the only reply we can get from you is it would be too costly, and on the face of it you have no accurate figure to base on. In April a letter to Major Shand stated that the great losses in the fires may have been averted if water had been available. May brought road problems again with a dangerous hole in the culvert near Mrs. Skinner’s place on the Dural Road, (now Annangrove Road), corner Edward Street, also Terry and George Streets at Box Hill were again in very bad condition. In June, another letter was written to the Shire Clerk in Baulkham Hills asking when council will be considering the supply of Light and Power to Box Hill? A second letter brought to the council’s attention the very bad and dangerous condition of both Nelson and Terry Roads Box Hill. A further letter asked the Hon. E. Spooner, Minister for Works, whether the water supply for Box Hill could be supplied under the subsidized scheme, citing lives and property could have been saved in the disastrous fire of January if Box Hill had a water supply.
The lobbying continued in July with Leonard Holme and Walter Wright appointed to brief the council’s Electrical Engineer re Electricity. On the water front this time a new tact was taken when writing to the local member, Major Shand. The association thanked him for his continued efforts on their behalf and added the following information. The expansion at the Meatworks in Riverstone meant people would be attracted to Box Hill and Nelson if only they had water. The newly expanded works had recently installed a skin drying plant capable of drying 7000 sheep skins per day; a new offal freezing tunnel at a cost of £25,000; a new canning factory; a new bacon factory of modern design; killing capacity 20,000 sheep and 600 cattle per day, 600 pigs per week, with most of the pigs supplied from the local area. A figure of 800 was quoted as the total employees, compared with only 300 in 1935 and it was understood that further expansion was expected and that Box Hill and Nelson offered a perfect place for these expected workers to live.
Also in July Nelson Road was a problem with a hole 6 feet long and 2 feet deep. In August the request regarding a footbridge on Rouse’s bridge (Second Ponds Bridge) was brought before the Baulkham Hills Council as the Main Roads Department said it was a council matter. August had some forward movement on the Electricity Supply with requisition forms circulated to Box Hill residents in the area bounded by Old Pitt Town, Nelson, Terry and Windsor Roads and presented to Baulkham Hills Council for consideration with a request to Cr. Edwards to support the requisitions - the same area suggested for the water connection.
In October a letter was sent to Parramatta Bus Company requesting a 2 day extended service to the Rouse Hill Store instead of their usual termination at Kellyville. A letter written to the Water and Sewerage Board asked … to have the water extended from Kellyville to Rouse Hill, Box Hill and Nelson. There are 60 people who have definitely signed requisition forms for the Electric Light in the Box Hill and Nelson area and over 50 families receive mail through the Rouse Hill Post Office…there are two large dairies and several large poultry farms.
However on the 3 September 1939, ‘a declaration of war on Germany’ was broadcast Australia wide by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and at 9.15pm that day Prime Minister R.G. Menzies stated that… as a result, Australia is also at war. The Rouse Hill and District Progress Association had met in August, and again on 10 October, after which they seem to have suspended operation of the association.
The in-between years and the war effort 1940 – 1944
During the next few years the families of the district concentrated on activities solely aimed at helping the men and women in the forces. In July 1940 a group was formed, called the Nelson and Box Hill War Chest Auxiliary, a little later it became the Nelson and Box Hill War Patriotic Auxiliary. By July 1941, the Nelson and Box Hill Comforts Fund was the groups name and appeared to be a women’s organization which raised money for various causes and did the usual activities associated with the war effort: knitting, writing letters and sending parcels overseas to service personnel. In other communities the school children were encouraged to write letters and knit socks to send to the troops and it is more than probable that the children at Rouse Hill School (where the children of Box Hill and Nelson attended) were involved in these activities too. The Comforts Fund also organized the farewells and welcome homes for those in the service assisted by the CWA Riverstone Branch.
Some of the money raised was spent on comfort parcels for the service personal and items such as chewing gum, peanuts, and socks are documented as being sent away. A knitting pattern for the socks was written in the back of the cash book which survives from this period and it documents donations of money to the following groups, the Chinese, Russians, Prisoners of War, Australian Merchant Seaman and for Greek Day.
The group operated from July, 1940 until November, 1945. The usual gift for a service person joining up was a wallet costing £1. Pocket knives were also purchased and given to the various personal. Pte. McDonald, however is the only person named, with his farewell held in early January, 1941 where he received a wallet and some socks, presented by Mrs. Terry of Rouse Hill House. This information comes from a copy of a press release found inside the cash book for the Comforts Fund. However we do know the name of at least one other member of the community who went to the war. Laurie eldest son of Thomas and Mary Anne (Annie) Hession of Nelson started his training in April, 1942 in Wagga and Cooma. He left Sydney on the Katoomba in December, 1942 assigned to the 3rd Field Ambulance Unit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. A watch was a parting gift from his parents.
The names of the following men were written in the back of the Comforts Fund cash book and would have been men the community knew and wrote to: Tp. Francesco Procopio, HQ Squadron, Puckapunyal; L.A.C. Brown AC, RAAF, Darwin; Corp. G.C. Bingham, Sigs. H.G. Malaya; F. Cribben, W/O 2, 8th Australian Division A.I.F. Malaya; S. Tull, 3rd Anti Tank Regt. C/- A.I.F. Abroad. Many of the local men would have been exempt as they were considered to be an essential service as farm owners. In the later years of the war the money raised by the Nelson and Box Hill Comforts Fund group was sent to Baulkham Hill Shire Council who had their own fund. Also documented is money sent directly to the Red Cross and the Australian Comforts Fund. The main activities which generated the money were monthly euchre tournaments, tennis afternoons, raffles, subscriptions and donations. War radically changed the district as it did the wider world and the community was determined to improve their close knit district. In 1944 the community group reformed as the Box Hill and Nelson Progress Association.
started and fund raising
As with the last few months of the Rouse Hill and District Progress Association, the new group became a combination of Glee Club and dispenser of Tea and Sympathy along with the important work of creating better amenities for the inhabitants. Letters were sent off to politicians and councillors congratulating them on being elected to office and condolences were sent to all manner of people for sickness or death. Best wishes went to couples planning to marry or having babies. Bridal showers were also sometimes given by the association to couples planning to marry. It was still a very small community and many of the residents had known one another since they were children and/or were related.
There is no doubt however, that the newly formed association was a voice for progress and that they intended to lobby and briskly pursue the multiple authorities responsible for those amenities they lacked, ‘electric current’, telephone services, reliable public transport, road naming, safety and direction signage, improved roads, efficient mail delivery and water reticulation. The desire for a meeting place of their own soon became a unified want of all the residents and judging from the evidence, the spirit and energy for gaining this important community facility, has never been repeated in the history of the association.
The first meetings of the association were by necessity held in private homes and during the years 1944 to 1955 it is documented that they were held in the homes of the following well known local residents of Box Hill: Mr. and Mrs. Holme (snr.), Turnbull, Potter and Dege. That is not to say that other homes were not used from time to time, but if they were they are not mentioned specifically. As these residents were perhaps seen at that time as a driving force it may have influenced the naming of the association as they all lived at Box Hill. It should be noted that during the war the community group involved in the war effort always used the name Nelson first probably reflecting the principal members’ addresses in Nelson.
Although the fledgling association dealt with the usual matters coming before it, as previously the Rouse Hill Association had, it now began in 1947 to focus on the idea of procuring their own community hall as soon as possible. Leonard Holme the previous secretary of the Rouse Hill Progress Association became founding President of the association and served from April, 1944 to November, 1947. Hilda Cox another previous secretary of the Rouse Hill Progress Association was founding Secretary/Treasurer with her major contribution from 1950 to 1969 as their hardworking Secretary. She and her husband Harold were made life members of the Association later on. Marion Thorpe was the association Secretary from January, 1946 until November, 1948 when she became Treasurer. Marion married Leo Holme, son of Len in around 1951.
With the idea of gaining their own hall firmly underway, their solicitor Mr. Robinson asked that the group choose a name for the hall. After deliberation it was decided to name it the Box Hill and Nelson Progress Hall and by August 1948 The Chief Secretary’s Department had registered the association under the Charitable Collections Act, Certificate of Registration No: 7369. Mr. Anthony Skarratt generously donated 1 acre on the Nelson Road, today’s present hall address at No. 15a.
Electricity came to Box Hill and Nelson in May, 1947 with the switching on ceremony creating great excitement. Whether the activities of the various progress associations and other local groups influenced the connection at this time or whether it was just general progress after the war is not documented. It was stated to have cost £70,000 to connect to the district and Mr. A.L. Simpson’s home at Box Hill (near today’s weighbridge) was set up soon after on a trial basis as the receiving office for payments. 1954 brought many complaints about low voltage being received in the district and the progress association was active in writing to the council about this problem. If you are old enough, you will also remember the unreliable current and multiple blackouts of the 1950’s wherever you lived.
hall is built
Although funds were being raised for the planned hall, the legal transfer of the land donated by Anthony Skarratt took some years to be settled. He became Secretary of the association and served from November 1948 to 1950. Whilst the legal problems were being sorted out, the community became so excited about the prospect of their hall that they decided that it should also be enhanced with a tennis court. Funds on hand on 7 August, 1948 were £49.17.9. In February of 1949 Mr. Michael Hession, the uncle of well known Nelson residents , Norm and the late Laurie Hession offered the association … any saplings you might require… for the corner posts of the tennis court. Sometime during late 1949 the tennis court was pegged out at the rear of the still not legally owned land and Mr. Brown graded the court and made a runway (driveway) off Nelson Road.
Norm Hession tells me that Anthony Skarratt then acquired loam for the surface from Eddy Todd’s land in today’s Burrawang Drive, Nelson and transported it to the site in a one ton Ford truck. The tennis court however had a rather short life and is not documented as being used at all in the associations papers, but Norm tells me he remembers seeing ladies playing there on and off. The trouble was that Nelson, Rouse Hill and Riverstone were all quite well equipped with privately owned tennis courts. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Box Hill would generate renewed interest in tennis and build some new courts.
An association minute dated 10 December, 1949 reminds us that all building activities were still under strict control until commercial activity got going again and goods and services returned to normal. With this restraint in mind a proposal was put to purchase a second hand Nissen Hut, after it had been inspected by an appointed member, Albert Kensitt. Mr. Holme reminded the committee that it was a good idea as we would never get a building permit for a new building, our only hope lying in a second hand one. Shortly after an ex army Nissen Hut 40ft x 36ft was purchased for £200, reflecting some steady fundraising since August, 1948. On the 17 December, 1949 many willing hands dismantled the building from Scheyville, and transported it to the home of Mr. J.B. Wood of Terry Road, Box Hill where it was stored awaiting the tedious legal work necessary for the gift of land to be legally transferred to the association in a form acceptable to the authorities. Scheyville, originally crown land became the home of the Dreadnought Scheme, hostel accommodation for young boys brought out from England for training as agricultural labourers. During the war it had been used for parachute training and from 1949 was temporary accommodation for newly arrived migrants. From 1965-1975 it was used as Army Officer Training during the conscription period for the Vietnam War. Later again it was accommodation for the Hawkesbury Agricultural College students during an expansion period at the college. In 1997 it was declared a National Park, something for which the local residents are very grateful because it had once been earmarked for urban development.
Mr. J.E. Holme (Edgar) of Hillcrest, Riverstone, the brother of L.W. Holme, drew up plans at no cost to the association in December 1950 for submission to council. The original roof timbers of the hall were not able to be used and an engineer was engaged to design a new roof using steel instead of timber. The unused timber was to be used to strengthen the floor. The Annual Report of the Box Hill and Nelson Progress Association for 1950-51 reported the membership was 47 with an average attendance of 19. On 1 October 1955 an Annual General Meeting was the first official meeting held in the almost finished hall.
- A Very Merry Christmas
Gifts purchased that year included autograph books, pens, propelling pencils, bracelets, boxes of handkerchiefs, rattles, sewing sets, horses, ducks, skipping ropes, jig saws, dolls, cooking sets, purses, jeeps, planes, cars, skittles, baskets, skipocopters, strings of pearls and games including Solitaire. Perfume, books and games were the gifts for the children 10 and over. Grace Bros. Broadway supplied many of these items also Woolworths, Parramatta which provided a money back guarantee. As in other years a Christmas Hamper was raffled to help defray costs. Santa (Toby Cleary who lived at the Nelson Road end of Blind Road, near Norm and Dawn Hession’s) was deftly padded and suited up in the women’s auxiliary’s home made Santa suit. Some years previously the women’s auxiliary had purchased some fabric and wadding to make this suit. Before this they had hired one from another organisation.
Another year, apart from many of the same gifts as above, variations included: kittens, rabbits, books, watering cans, cosmetic sets, Indian sets, covered wagons, tops, pigs, scarves, soap, talc, necklaces, binoculars, darts and guns. It must have been quite a task to select suitable gifts, purchase, wrap and label such a large number of gifts. The collection of donations towards the costs involved a huge amount of time and effort. Lists for several years in the 1950’s still exist of the names of the children who received gifts and the amount of donation received from each resident towards the costs involved.
Women’s Auxiliary, and more fund raising
The women’s auxiliary was formed and operated from 1953. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the members of this group were stay at home mum’s who spent inordinate amounts of time working for charity, especially the progress association. Many of the ladies were also members of the CWA in Riverstone and the Rouse Hill School parents group. They were very, very busy people. In 1983 Daphne Hession, wife of Laurie, and a long-time supporter of the Riverstone CWA, received an award for 20 years of service the year the branch celebrated its Golden Anniversary. Laurie’s sister Frances received the same award and Phyllis Dege was President of the CWA that year. The ladies were ever mindful of the loan monies and worked towards extinguishing the debts of the association as soon as possible. They ran Euchre and Treasure Chest afternoons each month which averaged £2 to £3 net profit but sometimes yielded as much as £7.10.0. Other fundraising or social occasions were run in between, one interesting event called a Mad Hatter’s Evening, yielded £7. There were always Guessing Competitions (raffles) at these occasions and sometimes home made jams, pickles, handicrafts, home grown produce and home made clothes were sold to add to the profits. The ladies’ money making schemes were never far from their focus. Several times a month prior to a fete there were sewing bees at a conveniently located home. Housie evenings or afternoons were tried and were quite successful financially but owing to the Lotteries and Art Unions Act., permission had to be sort from the Chief Secretary’s Department (Sydney) on the appropriate forms each time this
function was held so it was decided this wasn’t worth the trouble and other methods of raising money were found. In the earliest years of ‘electricity supply’ to the area, for convenience, a special day was set aside for paying one’s account at the Simpson’s home in Box Hill, which I believe was near the weighbridge. The ladies auxiliary took the opportunity of a captive clientele to hold a stall, selling home made cakes, sweets, home grown produce, and hand made goods. With the permission of Blacktown Council, street stalls were held in Riverstone giving the auxiliary a wider market. It must have been a great relief when in April 1958 the association paid the last instalment on the piano following the fantastic fund raising efforts.
A 1955 notebook documents the following ladies as members of the ladies auxiliary: Mesdames Colquhorn, Gardner, Ludgate, Carr-Wynne, Kensitt, Johncey, Cox, Turnbull, Cribbens, Chadwick, Jimminson, Butler, Holmes, Stevens, Cherry, Clarke, and Howard. Their contribution to the progress association that year was £177.16.3 and the homes of Mrs. Cox, Mrs. Ludgate (Trish Miller’s mother), and Mrs. Kensitt, were the venues for their meetings and social afternoons for that year.
The best fundraiser was the annual fete. A few fetes had been held prior to the hall being operational but the most successful commenced in 1956. These fetes were financially very beneficial for at least ten years with the following being the proceeds over that period, the smaller proceeds indicating inclement weather: 1956 - £117; 1957 - £100; 1958 - £110; 1959 - £51; 1960 - £50; 1961 - £54; 1962 - £29; 1963 - £84; 1964 - £56; 1965 - £66. Bottle drives were another successful fundraiser and brought in quite a few pounds with each collection averaging £2 or so. The collected bottles were loaded into hessian bags and delivered to Granville by a member of the committee, who was subsidised the cost of petrol for the trip. Soft drink and medicine bottles were sorted separately as they brought the most money. Beer, wine, sauce and those for cleaning fluid were the most common and needed to be sorted by colour: mostly brown, green, and clear. Soft drink bottles yielded a deposit from any shop which sold that brand of drinks and from there were returned to the drink factories.
Progress Association Members – the early years
occasions and travelling vendors 1950’s and early 1960’s
clothes (not school uniforms as public schools did not require them at this time). If he didn’t have what you needed he would order it for you and bring it the next time he called. He also sold sewing thread, embroidery cotton, buttons, zippers and sheeting by the yard, unbleached calico and economically priced dress materials, wool, and some basic knitwear.
new generation arrives and creates a ‘Baby Boom’
Everyone was greatly optimistic for the imminent development of the area as there were many plans around, and our properties were sold to us with the expectation, that it would be a growth area very soon. Joining the progress association, it was said, would enable the residents to have a say in how that growth and development would unfold.
Progress Association Members – Baby Boom Era and later
Glen, Irene and Tom Austin, Don and Jan Hodgekiss, Min Randall, Eileen Cox, Don Powell, Ken Haywood, Dianne and John Young, Barry Young, Owen and Sylvia Hunter, Ralph and Jilly Warren, Laurie and Fay Archer, John and Hazel Higman, David Hope, Trish Miller, Lyn and Warren Head, Gary Robertson, Mr. & Mrs. Sid Howard, G.T. Cooper, S. & D. Chalmers, John and Helen Fomiatti, A. & D. Mirabito, Danny and Lorraine McCann, I. Davison, Gail Nelson, Sam and Helen Ursino, Maureen and Keith Woodbury, John and Theresa Hession, Marilyn Vietnieks, Monica Leach.
The outside of the hall received a facelift with paint donated by several community minded paint companies. The doors, windows and locks were repaired, lighting upgraded, the regulation exit signs erected and fire extinguishers were properly mounted as per regulations. Masonite was purchased and nailed over the existing floor, strengthening it. Several members who were plumbers or handymen worked on the water tank and pump. Once again the hall came to life as the centre of the community activity for sports groups, bands, private family parties, local fundraising and the ever present big events, protest meetings. Norm Hession kindly took to checking the water tank and delivering water as necessary once the hall was again operational so that we would not arrive for meetings or a local activity to find no water coming out of the sink tap or to flush the toilets.
Large scale fundraising was no longer necessary from the late 1970’s onwards as the loan moneys had been paid back and the ongoing costs were reasonably minor after the refurbishment. The almost universal use of the telephone and general mobility of the population brought about by the motor car (no public transport here except the school bus!) meant the community no longer needed to get together for social interaction. Their options had broadened, TV was probably in every household and there was a corresponding decline in the activities of the association, and changes in the general use of the hall. The newly arrived baby boomer mothers formed a Playgroup which met in the hall weekly except School Holidays. Sending children to Preschool had not yet become the norm and it was unusual for mothers of young children to go out to work. The new concept of a community playgroup was a way of socialising the under school age children who were now part of much smaller families, owing to the wide use of multiple forms of birth control. Families with more than three children were rare. Most were also now widely separated from relatives especially grandparents and the playgroup became a support network for the young mums.
Business – Progress
I actually can’t remember what part of Terry or Old Pitt Town Roads were sealed, but needless to say all of the roads would come under scrutiny from time to time by the association. Ralph and I can still laugh when we think of sitting in our lounge room in the original cottage, which stood opposite McHales Way, where today the Rance family’s new house is at 24 Nelson Road, watching cars coming up the still unsealed Nelson Road. Just below the driveway of our second house at 22 Nelson Road, where today there is a culvert and drain under the road, there was a particularly greasy patch of clay. At night and after a reasonable fall of rain it was quite spectacular to watch a car, just as it increased acceleration to negotiate the steeper part of the hill, do a 360º spin before proceeding once more up the hill. The car headlights highlighted the degree and speed of the spin and it is interesting to note that the drivers were of such quality that we never actually saw any vehicle crash. Of course there wasn’t that much traffic so the spinning car was unlikely to hit another. It is hard to imagine a Box Hill and Nelson with mostly dirt roads now that they are all sealed. The sealing of the roads in the area and ongoing maintenance of problem spots has been a regular agenda item of the association from the earliest beginnings in 1937 of Rouse Hill and District Progress Association. The Terry Road bridge where Hynds Road intersects it, was probably the most constantly mentioned and the most dangerous of all the road problems except for perhaps, the crossing of Windsor Road from Terry Road into Garfield Road. The Terry Road bridge trouble spot was the subject of a third party Insurance Claim in later years and it cost Baulkham Hills Council a lot of money. The association minutes and correspondence regarding this black spot was subpoenaed by the insurance company and used as evidence. The council was found liable. The problem with the Terry Road bridge is that it crosses the Killarney Chain of Ponds and from time to time that water course carries quite a large body of water which undermines the bridge and the road.
and Other Causes
Few serious problems have threatened the peaceful ambience and day to day activities of the community. Pollution in the form of excessive odour from the knackery on the hill directly opposite the Nelson Road exit from Windsor Road came from the processing plant and abattoir known as Bush’s Pet Foods. It processed cattle, sheep and horses for pet food and fertilizer. Fresh kangaroo meat was also available from this business although no kangaroos as far as I know were ever killed on this site. When the smell became unbearable, mostly at night, many phone calls were made to the State Pollution Control Commission, followed by a raft of letters. The smell seemed to be worse on nights of temperature inversion and of course when the westerly winds blew the smell towards Box Hill and Nelson. Eventually after many years of complaints, many promises to fix the problem and frequent monitoring of the extent of the smell by the authorities, new equipment was installed and the smells abated. The abattoir and sales outlet still operates from this site adjacent to Rouse Hill House.
The other pollution issue that of clouds of dust billowing into the air and settling on our roofs, eventually ending up in residents’ water supply, was ever present until the sealing of roads in the area was complete. Summer would usually be the time for the problem to surface and council would be inundated with phone calls complaining of the dust clouds.
The more calls the better for this would result in the dispatch of the water truck to spray the affected area and hopefully lay the dust. In really dry weather the spraying of water would be necessary more than once in the same day. As Box Hill, Nelson and parts of Rouse Hill still have no water, dust pollution can still be a problem if a large paddock is ploughed or a site is excavated for a new building, or a road is being resurfaced. However, at present this problem is rare.
Other major areas for concern were two proposals for a second Sydney Airport. The first proposal had much of the Hills area up in arms. It was flagged for the Galston area in 1973 and would have meant that Box Hill and Nelson would have been in direct line of a proposed flight path. A change of government downed this proposal. A similar proposal for an airport centred on Scheyville in 1978. It created much concern and worry to the local community, packing out the hall for full on protests on several occasions. Both proposals ended up being seen as nonsense and rather stupid because of the hilly terrain over which both would have spread. This type of large community protest was always a good magnet for the incumbent MP’s and Councillors. Many of the progress members joined the protest groups, collecting signatures, writing letters and delivering notices.
Celebration Community Project
50 Years the Hall gets a facelift
Quickly stripped back to the wall frames, roof trusses, and, bearers and joists, the makeover began. With the contacts our building company had with suppliers, we were able to get some of the larger companies to donate or sell at a discounted price the materials needed for the makeover. Stegbar, a window and door company provided free obsolete aluminium doors and windows. Unfortunately they were a powder blue, but free is free! James Hardie provided at no cost enough pre primed external hardiplank cladding and fasteners for the whole building.
Our company paid for the Colorbond® roof sheeting, fascia and gutter, which Lysaghts provided at a discounted price to us. Insulco supplied the insulation blanket and wall batts at a greatly discounted price. Pioneer Plaster at Matraville also supplied to us plasterboard to reline the hall at ‘mates rates’. Dulux donated enough paint to paint the inside and Mark Powell son of Max and Josie Powell of Hynds Road did the painting.
The apprentices did all the building work required with the occasional help from progress association tradesman, mostly donated labour. The 4 x 2 hardwood heavily nogged wall frames and the specially made extra strong steel trusses opened the eyes of the supervisors and apprentices alike. Heavy duty particleboard was also obtained and nailed to the floor in place of the original flooring.
A new water tank and pump was installed and the building at last became bird proof. The council provided a new small group of cupboards for the south eastern corner, a new sink and water heater and provided vinyl to cover the new flooring.
This newly installed small kitchen area remained until 2003 when a new kitchen and storage wing was added to the southern end of the hall. Ray Fabris supplied new (second hand) chairs and trestle tables from another council hall which was receiving an upgrade. All gifts were gratefully received and the hall reverberated with new life. Lena Mezzomo as the adjoining owner to the progress hall had acted as the hiring agent and unofficial security guard for many years. Joe her late husband, a long-time supporter for the association and other local organizations including the Rouse Hill Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, passed away suddenly in 1995. Living next door, Joe often popped over to do some small maintenance job or other to the hall.
The progress association was not very social as a group but many family and other gatherings began to be held at the hall, including year 12 school farewells. These had some problems and after a few years they were not permitted by the progress association members, some of these occasions needing the Police to be called. Strict vetting of party organizers tended to help with this and it was decided to limit the letting for parties to persons of local residence, or persons known to the committee. Occasionally also, the hall equipment was allowed to be hired by the local community and or charities to help with family parties or fund raisers.
Hall Hosts a Council Dinner and Meeting
Jean had lived across the road from the hall for many years and had only just moved away to the central coast. She had suffered many times over the years from the noisy functions at the hall. In fact some of these functions had at times caused sleepless nights to the whole valley, with Jean and the Mezzomos suffering the most, with the Aarts family also affected on occasion.
Mayor Brooke-Cowden made a presentation to Phyllis on the night and they together planted some shrubs along the newly installed ramp for the disabled. Following the dinner the council meeting was held, the hall overflowing with local residents eager for discussion on local issues and in particular the then current problem of the Windsor Road, generally known at the time as ‘the carpark’.
Battle for Windsor Road
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