RSL History

The History Of Epping RSL Sub-Branch Inc.

Formation of the Epping Sub-branch of the R.S.S.I.L.A. was achieved as a result of the sub-branch Mr R.J. Smith MC. Vice Presidents Mr. Wuchatsch and Mr Beattie. The Treasurer was Mr. M. Fowler. The 6th District Council Representative was Mr. J.R. Fowler

Committee men were Messrs Pratt, Cordell, McPhee, Bower, Major, Jackson and Bowen. The sub-branch boundaries were Mahoneys Lane in the South, Merri Creek to the West, Plenty River to the East and Donnybrook Lane & township to the North.

Their meetings were held in the Shire Hall although plans were developed for their own clubrooms, these never eventuated. In order to raise funds for the sub- branch an Inaugural Ball was held on the 23rd June 1920 in the Shire Hall. Mr. Andrews, the Secretary of the “Welcome Home Committee” arranged the entertainment. The cost of a ticket was 3/6 a double and an extra lady was 1/-.
The ball made a profit of 5/1/4. A second ball was held on 28th January 1921 in conjunction with the “War Trophy Trust”. Smoke nights were another popular way to raise funds. An unusual event that occurred on the 22nd June 1920 was that a discussion took place at the sub-branch as to the advisability of condemning a bar at ANZAC House.

The sub-branch instructed Mr. J.R. Fowler the representative to the 6th District Council to support the abolition of the same. On the 2nd February 1921 a letter was sent to a Mr. Butler to ask him to arrange a meeting of South Morang diggers to try to boost membership. At the same time a “Memorial Account” was opened with the Commonwealth Bank. The local Citizens Committee was asked to consider the proposal to move the “Honour Board” to a safer and more suitable location as they were being damaged at their present location.

On the 1st August 1921 a letter was sent to the Headmaster of Thomastown State School asking him to obtain permission to erect a “War Trophy” at the school. The minute book gives no indication of any further progress but on the 7th December 1921 an invitation was received from the Wollert State School inviting sub-branch members to attend the unveiling of their “War Trophy”.

On the 5th September 1921 discussion at the sub-branch meeting focused on the lack of advancement of the sub- branch and the lack of participation by it’s members in sub-branch activities. This resulted in a motion to “wind up” the sub-branch and that the Treasurer and the Secretary prepare statements regarding the sub-branch finances with the matter to be discussed at the next meeting. At
the October meeting the position of the sub-branch was discussed at length and the Executive present expressed their dissatisfaction at the lack of interest of members generally and all intimated their resolve to hand in their resignations as Branch Officers at the next meeting.

The meeting on the 7th November 1921 was attended by Mr. Hopkinson, President of the 6th District Council, Mr. Marshal, President of the Preston sub-branch, Mr. Mendelsohn and Messrs. Ryan and Barclay of Northcote Branch. The visitors all spoke during the meeting and a motion was moved that a general meeting of returned soldiers in this area be called for Wednesday 7th December to discuss the new insurance scheme and important business. All returned soldiers to be invited.

At the 7th December 1921 meeting the subject for discussion was the new insurance scheme, no doubt a matter of great importance to the diggers but the problems of the sub-branch seem to have been put aside but by the January meeting it was back on the agenda with the executive planning to resign as a body at the next meeting. The February 6th 1922 meeting dealt only with correspondence and accounts. There was no meeting held in March 1922 and at the April 10th meeting, the only apparent business discussed was the question of the money at credit in the “Memorial Account”. It was decided that the tablet for the “War Trophy” in the Local Hall be paid out of this account and the residue be paid to the “Unemployed Diggers” fund. There are no further entries in the minute book between the two world wars.

It appears that interest waned in the Epping Sub-Branch. This may possibly have been due to the great depression with many of the returned diggers leaving the district in search of work.

Renewed interest after WWII saw several of Epping’s ex-servicemen get together and decide to reform the Sub-branch. Mr. Fred Shaw who was a local carpenter and bridge builder become the club’s first President after the second World war.
The newly reformed sub-branch held their early meetings in a small room in the Whittlesea Shire Hall in High St. (Now the Epping Police HQ.) At about this time a new suburb named after Peter Lalor was being developed. Most of the population
of Lalor were ex-service people and their families and they had formed a co-operative known as “The Peter Lalor Home Building Co-Operative Society”. It did not take long for these people to become involved in the local sub-branch at Epping. Having lost the use of their meeting venue for reasons unknown, the Epping and Lalor men banded together to build new clubrooms on land in High
Street Epping, adjacent to where the Memorial Hall stands today.

The new clubrooms were built some time around 1948 – 1949. As a result of their service in the war these men of Epping and Lalor were very adept with hammer and saw and they soon had new clubrooms known throughout the district as “The Hut”. Fundraising to support the sub-branch was to become a key issue but more people became interested when the members decided to run a ‘keg’ (any
wonder) but our local veterans had to be careful of this ‘sly grog’ operation.

Funds were raised in a number of ways which included Gymkhana’s and picnic days. These were held at various locations including the properties of Mr. Reg Yeo in Craigieburn and Mrs. June Batten at Wollert. Plans for a Memorial Hall to be built adjacent to “The Hut” were conceived in 1953. In order to raise funds for this venture a “Queen” competition was organised. Many of the young ladies
vying for this title were the daughters of local ex-servicemen. The contestants were asked to sell a small red brick in the form of a lapel pin. The winner of the competition would be the lady who sold the most bricks and the phrase “buy a brick” became well known throughout the District. Miss Jeanette Yeo from Craigieburn was the winner and was crowned “Queen” on the 3rd February 1955.
Construction on the new hall started during the course of the competition with well-known local Mr. Patrick Callaghan (Dec), among others, being involved with the digging of the stump holes.

According to local sources the club was still struggling to find sufficient fund to build the hall. It was decided to approach local land and property holders for loan funds in support of the project. Many people got behind the idea and contributed but not long afterwards farming took a downturn and many of the land holders needed their money back. This caused a major problem for the sub-branch. They now had to contend with the problem of paying the money back. To retain complete ownership of the hall a sum of about 8 to 10 thousand pounds was required but was not forthcoming.

At the time there was much ill feeling regarding the affair but circumstances saw the hall completed. The Epping Memorial Hall was officially opened on 7th April 1955. It was a gala night with entertainment by “Chief Little Wolf”, unfortunately the chief got a little carried away and was involved in an altercation with a club member in the foyer. After the intervention by the brave wife of another member and the ruffling of a few feathers, the night settled down. Opening night saw many dignitaries and special guest in attendance. There was hardly any room left for the average person. Many were disappointed at not being able to attend, so much so that a second stage opening night was held not long after the first. After the hall was opened some of its early events included the running of “picture shows” and “vaudeville” variety shows. Some of the artists involved were to later become well known television personalities, like Joff Ellen and Roy “Funny Face” Gordon. The hall finances and administration were eventually taken over by the
Council. The Clubrooms were improved and extended during the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. One area that was altered several times was the bar.

During the middle part of the 1980’s the club decided to build a new lounge area. Once again several members rallied to assist with the foundations and eventually a kitchen was installed and the club was able to serve it’s first meals. When poker machines were introduced into Victoria the club applied for a license. This was issued on the 22nd September 1993 and Tattersall’s installed
five machines into the clubrooms. The decision to move to new Clubrooms was due to circumstances involving the City of Whittlesea. A special meeting was held on the 11th October 1992.

The chairing of this meeting by the then President Mr. Ted Gason saw a motion carried to take up the Councils offer and to move to new premises in Harvest Home Lane. These premises were officially opened by Mr. John Rashleigh, Chairman of Commissioners of the City of Whittlesea on the 21st.