There’s no place like the CWA Hall, a second home to many
BY DI SNEDDON
Ask the members of the Singleton CWA Hall if they would ever sell their building in Pitt Street and the answer is a resounding no.
“If someone offered me a million dollars for my own home, I might sell but definitely not this place,” said member Linda McGlashen.
The building is loaded with so much history that you can almost hear the conversations that have happened in the past.
The building in Pitt Street has been the home of the Singleton branch since 1942. The branch first formed in 1926 and operated from Miss Upjohns Rooms next to the Court House.
In 1940 the Pitt Street location became available and the good old-trusty Rotary Club of Singleton helped to raise finance to purchase the site and with the cooperation of the banks, the branch was able to borrow finance on a 15-year loan at three per cent.
The rooms were opened in 1942 at a cost of three-and-a-half thousand pounds.
Later a store room was added and a verandah largely paid for with funds raised from local members catering at various functions.
The building remains in much the same state as when it was first built. The polished wooden floorboards were once a place where heels skipped across the dancefloor to the tune of popular bands. Little has changed in the kitchen which is due for a renovation but even so, it is quaint in its current state and captures an era of years gone by.
Having their own space does come at a cost with no sign of relief. They even have to pay the full council rates. The group has been successful in gaining grant funding but they say this is becoming a little more challenging to achieve.
Covid has seen hall hire drop off dramatically and the restrictions rule the hall can have no more than 28 people inside.
“Until this number increases, I don’t think we will see a huge jump in the demand for hire anytime soon,” said president Bronwyn Dunston.
“It is a challenge and the hall does need a little more tender loving care as you can see,” Bronwyn said.
But it is home, Olga Geale says it is like her second home. Their monthly meetings are interjected with craft mornings every Friday that keep the group connected.
But don’t think for one second this group is just about chatting, crafting and cooking.
“We are the largest womens group anywhere to be able to have a foot in the door of any parliamentary official, we have a position on the United Nations and the issues we lobby for are taken seriously and acted upon,” Bronwyn said.
This objective of keeping welfare of all is reflected in the role the CWA took in ensuring the health of young babies. The Baby Health Clinic service was widely used by all mums and their young children. It is possible that this project saw the CWA gain a permanent home in the first place because of the positive impact it had on the community.
The Baby Health Clinic was a place mums could have a quick health check of their baby by a nurse with morning and afternoon teas served. Initially done at Miss Upjohns rooms, a second clinic at Singleton Showground two afternoons a week. The NSW Health Department paid the wage of a nurse to do the checks but the program was managed by the CWA members.
Over time the value of the clinics was more broadly recognised and in 1950 the NSW Director of Health Dr E. Sydney told a General Conference: “Science is to the fore in country life teaching the man on the land the scientific way of raising stock, crops, poultry, orchards, etc, but these Centres teach the most important of all – Mothercraft- for the development of our country and the British Empire.”
It is interesting to note that Muswellbrook and Singleton were two of only 67 Baby Health Clinics operated by CWA branches across the entire State and even more astounding is that in May, 1954 there were a massive 265 babies checked in Singleton.
They saw a need and the CWA delivered as they continue to do in their Pitt Street home, a place definitely not for sale.
For hire enquiries please call Bronwyn Dunston on 0428 764 070.