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Happy 100th anniversary to Burdett Hall
As the hall celebrates its centenary, Dianne Burbidge looks back on its history, with a few of her own fond memories along the way.
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If you are driving too fast on Burdett Road and neglect to turn your head at the right millisecond, you might miss it.
Tucked behind a row of protective evergreens, Burdett Hall stands on its lonesome, its stark whiteness an oasis in the country.
On Saturday, it hosted its centenary celebration ball, which treasurer Dianne Burbidge said more than 70 people had attended.
The hall treats loyal locals to a dance on the first Saturday of every month.
Although participants have been in decline in recent years, it has certainly seen some lively times.
In fact, it was on one of those magical nights that Ms Burbidge met her husband.
“I had been unwell leading up to the night of the annual ball, and my dad said I wasn’t allowed to go,” she said.
“And I had recently broken up from my boyfriend … but I just knew that I had to be there.
“My father finally said I was allowed to go, but I wasn’t allowed to dance all night.
“Well I went, and I was sitting on one of these chairs near the entrance, when I looked up and saw him (Neil) and I just knew he was the one.
“We danced to every single song.”
“At the end of the night, he asked my father if he could offer to take me home … he said yes … then we took Neil’s family home back to Ettrick, then Neil dropped me back to my place in Murray Bridge, then he drove all the way home.”
That fateful night was in 1974.
In 1975 the pair were engaged, and in 1976 they married.
The couple now have four children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Today, around 20-30 people would attend the average dance, partly due to COVID and partly due to ballroom dancing falling out of vogue.
However Ms Burbidge implored today’s youth to see the activity in a different light.
“I would like to see how many young people remain in engaged in physical activity for four hours straight,” she said.
As for the facility itself, she said it would be hard to beat.
“We have one of the best dance floors … it’s probably the best in the country,” Ms Burbidge said.
“In ballroom dancing, you never raise your feet, you only slide, so when you’re ballroom dancing on a floor that has too much friction, it hurts your ankles, knees and hips.
“As kids, we used to slip and slide up and down the hall all the time.”
Over the years, the hall has undergone some significant changes.
The original hall was actually a different building altogether: an iron and wood structure that was used as a school and dance hall, and would have been found near the far-right corner of the existing building.
The stone building that stands today was built in 1929.
People from from far and wide would visit Burdett Hall for their dances: not only from around the Murraylands, but also the Riverland, Adelaide, the Barossa, the South East, even Victoria.
In fact, numbers were previously so high that the hall has required a total of three extensions.
In 1956 a kitchen was added; in 1963, the dance floor was extended by 20 feet; in 1979 a foyer and toilet section was added; and in 1995, the dance floor was updated.
The hall’s committee raised money by holding euchre evenings, socials, picnics and, of course, dances.
In recent years the hall has hosted church services, meetings for the men’s and women’s agricultural bureaus, and an annual Christmas party.
Today, Ms Burbidge said that for the hall to continue operating, all ideas were welcome.
“Our committee is down to five members,” she said.
“We’re not sure what else to use the hall for, but it’s community owned, so any input from them would be helpful.”
As for first-timers interested in coming along for a dance, how could we learn – and, more importantly, what should we wear?
“Every Saturday night there is a dance hosted, and they hold lessons on Wednesday nights in Monarto,” Ms Burbidge said.
“Just wear neat casual … I don’t care what you wear, as long as it’s not your birthday suit – that’s where we draw the line.”
The hall committee thanked the businesses that donated raffle prizes for the centenary celebration ball: Just Jane Ceramics, Bridgeport Hotel, Hannaford Fleurieu Peninsula, Serenity Nursery, Fasta Pasta, Wendy’s, Murray Bridge Newsagency, Murray Bridge RSL, Willow Point Wines, Yummy Yarns and Fiber, Mojo’s and Kmart.
Dances throughout the month:
First Saturday: Burdett Hall
Second Saturday: Monarto South Hall
Third Saturday: Tailem Bend Town Hall
Fourth Saturday: Chapman Bore Hall
Fifth Saturday: Jervois Hall