Community Association History

It seems that the Association has existed on the Bouddi peninsula since the early 1920s. We do not have much physical evidence of this in the form of minutes, correspondence etc but there is mention in the history of the Pretty Beach School. An application for the establishment of a Public School at Pretty Beach Extension, together with a strongly worded letter from the Wagstaffe and Pretty Beach Progress Association, outlining the reasons for the proposal was made on the 7th January 1925. The application was the culmination of a veritable barrage of correspondence between three Progress Associations: Wagstaff and Pretty Beach, New Bar and Hardys Bay, and the Department of Education. Previous requests for a school dating from 1921 had been declined on two occasions. Eventually, the establishment of the school was approved by the Department of Education and the building was completed for the opening of the school in 1927.

It is interesting that the name was "Wagstaffe and Pretty Beach Progress Association" then, because around 1936 we come across the name "Pretty Beach Wagstaffe Citizens' Association". Then, even later on the name is "Pretty Beach Wagstaffe Progress Association". Later on again the words "and District" are added until in recent times the name is changed again to what it is currently.

Mrs Radford, known to the children as 'Granny Radford' was an important person in the Wagstaffe community during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. She had an important role to play in the Wagstaffe and Pretty Beach Progress Association. In the photograph, below, Granny Radford can be seen setting up tables under the coral tree in the square at Wagstaffe, in preparation for a stall or a party. Typically, there are children accompanying her, as she was well-loved by the younger fry.

Mrs Stewart, who is quoted in Jill Baxter's book, Reflections from the Beach and the Bay, remembered that Pretty Beach and Wagstaffe Progress Associations amalgamated in the little shed in Turo Park. Rod Radford was the first president of the Wagstaffe, Pretty Beach Progress Association. Rod Radford recalls the excitement engendered by the decision to build a community hall at Wagstaffe on the site of the original home of George Wagstaffe and his family, which also was where the guest House, Manly House, was located from the early 1900s until it burned to the ground in 1939.

The decision to build the hall was taken in the early 50s but money was needed. Heather Milne recalls the young women of the area being seconded to 'buy a brick'. She remembers going from door to door and convincing people to donate money to a good cause. This was just one of the ways the money was raised. No doubt there were street stalls and raffles. Jean Myer remembered that 'housie nights helped'. She also said that Mrs Radford loaned the money for the building of the hall.

Mrs Radford, also know as Granny Radford, setting up tables under the coral tree in the square at Wagstaffe, in preparation for a stall or a party.

The Building of the Hall

Mr Digby Smith was the President of the Wagstaffe, Pretty Beach Citizens’ Association at the time Wagstaffe Hall was built. Rod Radford’s father, Ern Radford, was prominent too. He was on the committee formed to build the hall and continued to be a trustee for several years. Rod Radford recalled nostalgically the excitement engendered by the decision to build a Community Hall at Wagstaffe on the site of the original home of George Wagstaffe and his family, which also was the site of the guesthouse, Manly House, from the early 1900s until it burned to the ground in 1939.

Prior to the building of the hall people’s homes were used for entertainment. Laurie and Sylvia Heron were very hospitable and they and Rod and Pat Radford taught ball-room dancing at the Herons’ house but a bigger venue was needed.

The community building the Wagstaffe Hall circa mid 1900's

The archival material has turned up a very interesting document, a book, dating from the time the Wagstaff Hall Committee formed on ‘15.11.47’ and made the decision to build the hall. Chas. Hanscombe J.P. was the President and F.A. Adams was the Secretary. The appointed Trustees were Rod Radford, Sid Ransley and Chas Hanscombe J.P. Mr Hanscombe operated the dairy at Wagstaffe and was known as the ‘Mayor of Wagstaffe’ or according to The Gosford Times (see Page 7) ‘The Uncrowned King of Wagstaffe’. The committee consisted of Ern Radford, H. Tindall, Wm Murphy, Ralph Winter, Jas Baldwin, F. Digby Smith and Rex Smith. Money was needed and it had to come from the community. It was decided, amongst other things, to hold outdoor picture shows, to raise money. The Minutes read: ‘Mr Hanscombe called a meeting. Idea to form a committee to discuss various means of collecting monies to build the proposed hall. Meeting commenced at 8.15 pm, 29 members of the Progress, 3 visitors’.

The decision to build the hall was taken but money was needed. Heather Milne recalls the young women of the area being seconded to encourage people to ‘buy a brick.’ She remembers going from door to door and convincing people to donate money to a good cause. This was just one of the ways the money was raised. No doubt there were street stalls and raffles. Mrs Radford was the driving force. In the photo above, she can be seen setting up a stall by the coral tree in the square. Jean Myer remembered that ‘housie nights helped.’ She also said that Mrs Radford loaned money for the building of the hall. Some people took debentures. And there were the picture shows held outdoors until the hall was built.

The Caton’s paddock, now No.75 Wagstaffe Avenue, next to where Berry’s tennis court is today was the site used for the open air cinema. The screen was adjacent to the water. To begin with, they had an 8mm projector. The films came by train from Sydney and were collected by Bob and his taxi-truck. Bob would deliver them to Rod’s pharmacy at Ettalong and Rod would bring them to Wagstaffe. A Saturday night in holiday time would see 150 or so people turn up for the pictures. Rod remembers Rita Hayworth and ‘shoot 'me up cowboy things’ were popular. Inclement weather? They used the Heron’s verandah.

Eventually, the association had the land and after a time they had the money. Labour was the next requirement and they found that too. Laurie Heron designed the building. His son, John Heron, visited the site in March, 2010 and followed up with a written version of his memories of living at Wagstaffe as a small child.

John Heron recalled some of the stories told by his father about the building of the hall. His father, Laurie Heron, a member of the Association, designed the building and employed the tradesmen. Labour was the next requirement and they found that too. Tom Hedges of Beach Drive made the bricks, which were of the large ‘Besser’ type. The first bricklayer employed was really a carpenter.

As told by John Heron, the story goes like this: ‘The ‘bricklayer’ started at the door (the original entrance was close to Wagstaffe Avenue) and laid a row of bricks around the perimeter of the building; the problem was that by the time he reached his starting point, the bricks were level with what was to be the second row. My father gave him ‘the sack on the spot’.

John went on to say that, at that point, the members decided to do the work themselves. This meant they turned up when they could at the weekends, so the men and women in the neighbourhood worked voluntarily to build the hall. Each section of the hall was allocated to a different man with the width of the mortar (for each man) calculated to result in a uniform height when the walls reached the top. A supervisor and a labourer (a young fellow from Mulhall Street) were appointed.

John Heron told the story of his father’s life when he lived at Wagstaffe: ‘Laurie Heron was a draughtsman who worked at STC (Standard Telephone Cables). John said: “He got up at 3 or 4 a.m. and drove his flat bed truck (the one with no doors and roll up blinds) to Gosford and then to Woy Woy, to pick up ice from Woy Woy Ice-works and then he became ‘the ice-man’ as he delivered ice around Woy Woy and Ettalong. He then left his truck at Woy Woy station and caught the train to Sydney to work at Alexandria, where he designed STC radios. After work he would come home every night but on Thursday night he would stay back to do his overtime (for being late arriving in the mornings). He would stay at his mother’s place at Hurstville. After coming home on Friday night and having a quick tea, he was off down to the hall to put the pictures on - he was now a projectionist, not an iceman, not a draughtsman but a projectionist - the picture-show man in living black and white’.

*Laurie Heron also designed Rod Radford’s chemist shop at Ettalong.
It is the men of course, who can be seen in the photos, doing the hard labour but the women weren’t far away The ladies would have provided the cups of tea, scones and encouragement. Is the lady in the photo above holding a tray with glasses?

The ‘article’ below, found in the Association's archives, gives us the history of the hall, from the perspective of the unknown writer, in the days following its construction and includes an invitation to the opening which took place in 1954. The date can be approximated as being April or May, 1954.

.......…Mission Hall and they taught the children to dance. The children then became interested in having a larger hall, so they also set to work to help raise funds for the building.
They saved their pocket money, bought sweets, rearranged them, held competitions and thereby disposed of the sweets at a great profit. They held back yard concerts; they helped at functions given by members. They also sold ‘Shilling A Brick’ tickets, and with this and funds from other functions very soon there was 150 pounds.

A member of the Association, Mr Turner, then suggested we hold an open air Picture night. Mr & Mrs Caton lent their paddock and supplied the electricity. 27 pounds was raised at this function. Expenses were high because the projector, films and projectionist were all hired. For seats at the show, we had the cement bricks with pieces of the building material laid across them; this material was later used in construction of Hall. In spite of the high expenses, the Association were inspired by the success of the evening to buy a projector of their own. At a hastily formed, completely impromptu meeting more or less on the spot, within two minutes, a sum of 90 pounds was loaned by the few present. We purchased a second hand 16m.m. projector and joined the Kodak Film Library. Two members of the Association, Mr Turner and Mr Heron operated the projector and took full responsibility for its care and maintenance.

Until the projector was bought, the Association had been struggling along in deep but moderately calm waters, but now the storm broke over the few regular members. They were accused of using ‘hole and corner’ methods to obtain the machine, the Committee was ‘unconstitutional’, so on and so forth. These howls were from people who did not belong to the Association, and many who ‘howled the loudest...did the leastest’ in every way. There was so much division of feeling that a Special Meeting of the Citizens Association was called on January 26th 1951, 8 months after the Pretty Beach, Wagstaff Association was formed. A full quorum attended, 33 were present. The results of voting on endorsing the Committee’s action, in purchasing the projector were 31 For, 1 No Vote, 1 Against; this from a member who joined the Assoc. that morning, and who has not been to a meeting since.

The few active members kept going, the pictures were shown, in the open when fine, in private homes when cold or wet, the funds growing all the time. Soon the Assoc. was able to move to its own ground…the Village Green, where Manly House once stood. Here Mr Williamson supplied the electricity. Our grave misdemeanour was reported to the Council. However, instead of being discouraged, the Association increased its efforts and resulted in the Assoc. getting its own Electricity supply.

At a meeting on June 9th 1951, the council requested that Trustees be appointed for the Hall. They were appointed at this meeting, a lease of the ground was granted for 25 years at 1 Pound per annum with right to renewal at the same rate.

Given the money from the Open Air pictures and other money-raising efforts by members and helpers and headaches over finances and building material, it was possible to make a start on building the Hall.

The foundations were laid by voluntary labour in July 1951, 15 months after the Citizens Association was formed. The set backs and worries had been terrific, but the same few active members kept going.

Mr. Heron, a member, designed the Hall and drew up the plans, which were passed by Council. The working bees by members at week-ends contributed most of the labour, although at different times paid labour was employed. The expenses were mounting as the building grew. Members helped to put the steel principals in place to hold the roof and finally the roof was put on; it was financed by a member and completed by mostly voluntary workers of the Assoc. The floor was laid voluntarily by members and helpers. There we wish to thank sincerely everyone who helped to do this, and also thanks to the ladies who supplied the morning and afternoon teas etc. for the workers.

The Hall was ready to use on Xmas Eve 1953, 2 years and 8 months from the time the Pretty Beach Wagstaff Citizens Association was formed. A picture show was held that night; the takings were ₤25 for our first entertainment in the new Community Hall. At this picture show, the Projector was mounted on a medium sized kitchen table at one end of the Hall and Mr Heron stood on the table beside the machine to operate it. I can assure all readers that there was still plenty of opposition.

This decided the Assoc. to hold two picture shows a week, now there was a Hall to show them in. At this time Mr Heron, who had helped so much, left the district, but still remained a member. Another member, Mr Naylor, took over the operation of the machine. After a period of this uncomfortable makeshift operation from the old kitchen table, the need of having twin Projectors was obvious, so the pictures could be shown without a break in the continuity of the picture. At the June 1953 Meeting of the Citizens Assoc. a member of the Association put forward an unconditional loan, the sum of approx. 450 pounds, the amount needed to purchase the twin projectors. For the time being the twin projectors were mounted on the red kitchen table and the shows went on. Mr Naylor was now joined by another member, Mr Bashford, to help operate the two machines.

The need of a projection room was urgent now, to house the twin projectors in a regulation fire-proof, built to standard measurements, properly equipped room. Meanwhile, the other money raising efforts were still going on in the Hall and privately: a Boys Club on Tuesday evenings, Pictures, Wednesday and Saturday, Euchre for locals and visitors on Thursday evening, a dance for the young people and others on Friday evening. Then the cement projection room was built, and the machines set up properly there, Mr Naylor and Mr Bashford still taking complete charge and responsibility of machines.

To both these members we all owe our sincere thanks and gratitude, for the amount of effort in this and other ways, whereby they have helped tremendously to raise funds. We also again thank every member and helper, who has had any part in furthering the plans for the Association. The Hall is also for letting for Social Functions morning or afternoons as well. It is particularly suitable for Wedding Receptions, Smokos, Dances etc. In view of the improvements the Association wish to make, it must be realized that money is needed. The Fete, with Dance to follow, on 17th April is to help boost funds.

We are indeed privileged to have the Shire President, Councillor Brown, to make the Official Opening for us, and we invite everyone to be present at the Opening.

A further article on the activities of the Wagstaff people and our Associates, the people from Pretty Beach will be written soon, also a resume of the improvements to the District gained by the continued representation to the Council, to the Post Master General and others – by the Pretty Beach-Wagstaff Citizens Association.

Did I mention our population in the Pretty Beach-Wagstaff Area from the School at Pretty Beach to Wagstaff? It is 400 permanent residents.

Next article is to deal with the Charitable and other Organisations we support also, and amounts collected in our small area for same......

Unfortunately, further ‘articles’ were not found in the archives.