Dedicated locals breathe new life into Monteith hall for its 100th birthday
Through weekly working bees, passionate committee members have taken it upon themselves to bring the local icon back to its former glory.
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This weekend, Monteith Institute community hall will celebrate its 100th birthday.
A committee has planned a celebration to be held at the hall on Sunday.
However, being a ripe old centenarian, it is only natural that the hall has become a little rough around the edges – quite literally, in fact.
Fortunately, with the help of grants and donations, a group of dedicated locals has been repairing the institute in time for its birthday through weekly working bees.
Hall committee president Darren Attril said while the working bees commenced in May, the hall’s restoration had been been a year in the making.
“We hastily threw together a Christmas do last year to raise some funds to start repairing the hall,” he said.
“We’ve now redone the wall outside right around and most of the inside walls … nearly the whole bottom metre … it needed close to 2.5 tonne of sand, cement and limestone.
“That’s all flood damage from the 1956 flood.
“If you look at the buildings in Monteith, a lot of them have a line going through the middle, and are discoloured in the bottom half … that’s from the floods.”
Fellow committee member and long-time Monteith resident Di Dawson said the 1956 flood had been something to behold.
“The water was so high one of the locals was able to swim through the hall on a canoe, through one window and out the other,” she said.
Mr Attril he had attended functions at the hall since childhood.
“I’ve lived in Monteith all my life, my grandparents came here in 1908 from Victoria … my father was born here in 1939, I was born here in 1967, and now we have the fourth generation here with my three sons.”
“As a little kid I remember the dances on Saturday nights in the 70s … I used to sit in the drinks room and sell the cool drinks,” he said.
“In the 80s and 90s, Monteith used to have 20-30 people playing table tennis teams in the Murray Bridge association, and they would practise here on Friday nights.”
“We also had games nights here on Friday nights in the 80s … my mum Loretta was in charge of organising the games night and table tennis.”
Fellow committee members Ian Hunt and Kylie Hunt farm beef cattle at Monteith.
Mr Hunt said he had lived locally since 1973, when his family moved there from Adelaide; Ms Hunt has lived there since she married Mr Hunt around 25 years ago.
“Back in the 70s, my mum would supply the food at the dances,” Mr Hunt said.
“Monteith hall had one of the best dance floors in the area.”
“They would also have progressive dinners, where you would have soup at one house, entrée at another, main somewhere else, and then everyone would meet back at the hall for coffee and dessert,” Ms Hunt said.
Although dances and progressive dinners were mostly considered things of the past, Ms Hunt said the hall remained a necessity at Monteith.
“It’s really important to the community … it’s the only place we have where we can all get together,” she said.
“You tell someone, ‘we should get together for a coffee’, then six months go by and you realise you haven’t caught up yet.
“When we have events at the hall, you block that time off to see everyone.
“And it’s been really great to catch up with the other committee members at the working bees.”
Ms Hunt said that even when the hall was not at its busiest, it would remain an important social hub for locals.
“Sometimes there are lots of kids, and then they grow up and there are less kids around, but then that group reaches an age where they start to have children of their own, and all of a sudden there are kids around again.”
“The community goes in ebbs and flows.”
All will be welcome to the Monteith Institute community hall’s centenary celebrations this Sunday, October 23 at 11am.
More information: Visit the committee’s Facebook page.