Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Mary's great commitment

There can't be many people who know more about the Avenel War Memorial Hall than Mary Vearing.

CHALPAT SONTI April 10, 2014 3:53am

Mary Vearing and Strathbogie Shire councillor Malcolm Little with a thank you from the hall committee. They are sitting in the "original" hall.

Mary Vearing’s grandson Mason probably summed it up best.

One day as a young school pupil a few years ago he was walking past the Avenel War Memorial Hall with some fellow students when he told them: ‘‘My Nana owns the hall’’.

Which wasn’t strictly true of course, but might as well have been. Mrs Vearing has an association with the building going back more than 60 years, including the past 30 in a variety of roles on the hall committee.

That has come to an end because she has stepped down from the committee. And it’s fair to say in those 60-odd years she has seen the hall come a long way.

It all began when as a 16-year-old she answered a call, almost reluctantly, from Harry White to play piano at a dance.

‘‘The pianist was sick and I said ‘I can’t’’ but I had a practice and that was it,’’ Mrs Vearing said.

Eventually her to-be husband John joined her and the couple became well known as far afield as Strath Creek, Puckapunyal, Costerfield and Rushworth, where they played. The Avenel dances would see regulars come from Yea and even Warragul.

The Vearings children could sometimes be spotted asleep behind the piano.

Back then the hall was basically what is now the annex on the eastern side. It hosted three balls a year, with supper served in a marquee outside.

‘‘They were wonderful nights,’’ Mrs Vearing said.

‘‘The suppers were so popular, there were three sittings and people quite often missed out (due to demand).’’

The Vearings eventually eased out of the music ‘‘business’’ and there hasn’t been any regular musical entertainment in Avenel since they stopped playing.

‘‘I had osteoporosis in an arm and I didn’t think I could do it any more,’’ she said.

‘‘One Christmas we decided we would have our last dance and that was it. It got very tiring at the end.’’

By then she had joined the hall committee (in 1981) and it had grown to what it is today. Mrs Vearing started off as treasurer before becoming booking clerk.

‘‘For a long time I did voluntary work but after a time the committee paid me $50/month,’’ she said.

‘‘The hall had to be kept tidy and inspected before and after each booking.’’

There were quite a few renovations — a new floor, kitchen cupboards and one unscheduled one when the front door was smashed — but Mrs Vearing remembers the biggest problem was an airconditioner.

‘‘Water leaked through the pipe and we had to sweep it out the side.’’

At one stage the committee was down to five people but things have been on the up since. Mrs Vearing took on the role of treasurer again, but stepped down last year for health reasons.

Mrs Vearing has also picked up her share of honours along the way — Citizen of the Year in the former Seymour Shire and also the first one in Strathbogie Shire in 1993 (which late husband John also picked up 10 years later) — but while she might not be directly involved with the hall any more, she is still keenly interested in it.

‘‘A lot of people don’t realise what a convenient hall we’ve got,’’ she said.

‘‘If we don’t use it, we’ll lose it. Over the years it has just sort of grown and we’ve had deb balls, weddings, funerals, everything in here.’’

Strathbogie Shire councillor Malcolm Little said there was a push for a major upgrade of the hall ‘‘because it needs it’’. This could be in the next couple of years.

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