Wednesday, July 4, 2007

An Impassioned Plea To Save Our Hall

It dawned on me today how much of an ingrained memory that beautiful old hall really is, as I was driving past the vigil and honking my horn.

I have taken it for granted for so many years, this beautiful old lady, sitting proudly overlooking the north side of my home town.

I, as many others probably take her for granted, as we go about our day to day existence.

But that was the place I watched my sister and her friends practice their Physical Culture classes every Thursday afternoon after School.

I would sit on the front steps of the Hall, watching the cars and trucks whiz by, waiting for my Father to arrive home from work, so I could be relieved from my own vigil, watching the mind-numbing dance routines that unfolded in front of me, for what seemed to a primary school boy, an eternity!

We would go there, at the end of our school terms, to dance the heel and toe polka with our sweaty palmed peers, in our fancy dress pirate outfits, and gorge ourselves sick on lollies and soft drink, late into the summer evenings.

And later, it was to be the first time I would experience the stifling blow of a head-butt at a heavy metal show, and later that evening, the even more stifling experience of a kiss from a girl named Marie, whom I never did meet again.

As simple and embarrassing twee as these experiences are, aren't they the experiences that make us who we are, the times that cement our roots as a community?

I believe so, and as the lucky community that we are, the residents of the Mid Mountains, I want my baby son to be able to grow up here, and to be able to share the collected wealth of experience that we have here.

I hope that we can save this beautiful gift that was given to us so many years ago, to re-invigorate her, and make her a part of our future for many many years to come.

Yours Sincerely,

Michael Whye.

David Jenner was a boy projectionist in the 1950s at the Lawson Literary Institute as it was then known. The following are some of his memories of those times.

The hall was leased on Saturdays and Wednesdays at that time for the purpose of showing films, and was very well attended because television had recently been introduced but had not yet made inroads into the habits of the film going public.

I don't want to sound too self-indulgent, but I really had some of the happiest times of my life there as a 14-15 year old. The lessee was Eric Ellis ,who also ran the movies in Glenbrook School of Arts, and sometimes the running times of the films had to be staggered because the same print would be shown at both locations on the same day!

Sometimes this meant literally waiting for the next reel to arrive from Glenbrook by car while in the middle of the Saturday matinee. The seating was movable to allow for dances and other functions to take place and the screen was behind curtains at the back of the stage so plays and other entertainments could happen in front of it when necessary. Our biggest success at that time was a musical called "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" which had not yet screened at Katoomba and had continuous sessions all day at Lawson.

I was told later in the afternoon that there was a queue outside for the evening show stretching all the way outside past the police station next door and right up to the park on the corner. When the audience was finally seated (some on chairs taken from the room behind and placed down the aisle spaces) all that could be seen from the projection box was a sea of heads.

It was probably a fire trap but nobody seemed to worry! Lollies were sold in the side extension at interval. Matinees consisted largely of Westerns and the Marx Brothers were always popular. Children did not like musicals and whenever someone opened their mouth to sing there would be a stampede for the toilets on either side of the stage. Electric radiators mounted on the walls provided heat in the winter months. People who had not been before always seemed to think the front looked "A bit like a church".

Film projection at that time was a very laborious process with very hot and messy arc lights and of course every reel had to be rewound the minute it came off the machine.The temperature in that small room was sweltering in summer and often the small half moon window above the front porch could not be opened because it let light onto the ceiling inside.

On one occasion the large valve amplifier had smoke pouring from it and I really didn't know what to do because Eric was out posting bills on the numerous billboards around town and if the show was stopped there was the thunder of all those stamping feet down below and the inevitable shout of "Put a penny in it!"On one weekend bushfires were raging outside and all hands were needed so the show had to be cancelled.

The movie was a comedy very aptly entitled "Phfft!"

It would be very sad to see this building go because so many people seem to regard it with such affection.I think the facade is an integral part of Lawson and maybe it could be moved back to front a newer building behind it.

I'm one of the few people who remember the old swimming pool at Wilson Park before it was "concreted in" and this is a prime example of what happens when utility is allowed to predominate over all else.

It may be more hygienic but is about a third of the size of the old one and of course makes the surrounding pavilions look rather sad overlooking so much concrete!