Plans for the centenary celebrations of the Gerringong RSL Hall and the publishing of a commemorative book to mark the occasion have received a major boost.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward presented $5400 on behalf of Premier Gladys Bereijklian to the Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch on Tuesday (November 24) to help in the publishing of the book by well-known and highly-respected historical author Robyn Florance OAM.
The book will be launched as part of the hall's centenary celebrations in November next year.
The distinctive building, on the western side of Fern Street at the intersection with Belinda Street was designed by Varney Parkes, the son of Sir Henry Parkes.
"Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch plays an important role in our local community not just with Anzac Day and Remembrance Day but the Gerringong RSL Memorial Hall plays host to many different community functions and events, birthday parties and community forums and gatherings," Mr Ward said.
"As the grandson of a serviceman that passed away as a result of his war injuries, I feel very strongly about preserving the history and memories of organisations like the Gerringong RSL.
"My father lost his father when he was aged just two. He was raised by a single mother and Legacy played a big part in his upbringing.
"We find today that many of us have been touched by the various armed conflicts Australia has been part of.
"I have nothing but the highest respect for our armed services. Our area has a strong connection with the defence forces with both HMAS Albatross and Creswell and the army's Parachute Training School and various other military organisations.
"We have a large veterans' community and part of that community is our many active RSL Sub-Branches."
He said when he was approached to add support to the project it was "a no brainer".
"Robyn Florance is a great local historian in our region. There would be very few people who could come close to the amount of work she has produced and her drive and efforts to preserve our history," he said.
"It will be great to see the history of the Gerringong RSL Hall told. It's a great hall with a rich history.
"I grew up here in Gerringong and have lots of fond memories in the hall over the years. I've attended many functions here - maybe one of the biggest was for Harold Alcock's 80th I think it was.
"I performed here with the Gerringong Music Club, playing the violin."
Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch treasurer Wes Hindmarsh thanked the state government for its support.
"This will be used to produce our book and also for the centenary weekend celebrations," he said.
President Mike O'Leary said the organisation is also in consultation with a heritage architect and is organising to have the hall undergo a refurbishment prior to the centenary celebrations.
It's planned that will including work on the hall's facade, brickwork, roof and guttering, cleaning of the marble honour boards and repainting of the inside of the hall.
"We are hoping to gain a grant to help with some of the cost of that work," he said.
Mrs Florance said she is making great progress on the book.
"I'm up to about the 1990s," she said.
She has spent hours scouring the sub-branch's minute books and photographic collections along with being given special permission during these COVID times to access the Kiama Library's newspaper collection.
"That has been a great help," she said.
Mrs Florance's book will tell the history of the hall, some of its residents and service personnel from World War II and other conflicts.
"The building was used as a council chamber, and for nearly 30 years contained a library and reading room conducted by the Gerringong Literary Institute," she said.
"It was a real social hub for the community and a popular venue for a variety of events, from meetings and social evenings to euchre parties and wedding receptions.
"In 1945, the Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch purchased the building, and it became clubrooms for ex-servicemen and women.
"The Gerringong Red Cross held its eighth annual meeting in the hall in 1922 and continues to meet there. If walls could speak what stories they could tell.
"In the centenary year, the Soldiers Memorial Hall is a visible reminder of the number of people from the district who died in the service of their country, and others who served.
"Inscriptions on the walls reveal their names, ensuring that they will always be remembered."
Another historical event is set down for the Hindmarsh property west of Gerringong this weekend.
As part of the Gerringong and District Historical Society Christmas gathering, former resident John Graham, who now lives in Queensland, will be presenting one of only five remaining letters flown by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith from Seven Mile Beach to New Zealand on the first mail run, to the historical society.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.