Next Tuesday the community has been invited to share ideas for the future of the Yass Soldiers Memorial Hall. As a wise man once said, "To live in the past has nothing to offer (but) to live with the past is enchanting". This building has embodies so much of Yass's past sacrifices, community spirit, and celebrations that are worth recalling.
Mr Crago, flour mill proprietor, was one of the moving forces behind the idea in 1920 to build a memorial hall to the hundreds of young men from the Yass district. Mr Crago had lost his own son and, in the letter he pens in May 1920, his passion is obvious. "A large and handsome building, having at the front entrance a spacious vestibule...and on the walls for this and future generations to see the names of our boys, our dear ones, who went across the seas to fight for us and liberty; those that were slain and those that came back, boys of every faith and condition of life".
Other suggestions were made, rivalries and doubts overcome. Town and country were asked to pull together and delicate negotiations to sell the Mechanics Institute that had served the community so well were entered into. And suddenly this community, struggling with the sorrow and trauma of the war, had a worthy project.
A flurry of fund raising ensued. By October 4, 1920, £2,500 had been raised of the £10,000 needed. By November 1 the £5,000 mark had been achieved. Methods employed showed imagination and enterprise. Carnivals, guessing competitions, processions and a three way Queen competition got underway. Mrs Crommelin amassed half of her goal of a mile of pennies by November 11. The young Henry Harmer who had seen the boys leave for the war but only one come back "sends 5/- for Herb Corey's sake" and promises he will give "a shilling of our pocket money each month". Landowners with deep pockets contributed generously. By November 25 a block of land was purchased from Mr Triggs and plans were called for. The Triggs family donated £1,000 towards the cost of the hall.
By July 18, 1921 the committee could report, "It will be a spacious edifice with a memorial vestibule: soldiers club, including writing and billiard rooms; hall with gallery to seat 600; two cloak rooms; stage, 28 x 20 feet with dressing rooms, and two spacious offices fronting Cooma street; supper room 21 x 82 feet, a large room for library and reading room".
So much accomplished by a small community in a short time! And since then? There have been alterations, additions and sadly more honour rolls. The hall has seen farewells, concerts, pictures, reunions, remembrance services and all those wonderful balls! Let's not forget what can be accomplished when a community puts its mind to it.
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