The Lalalty District Hall is a blip on the radar when you pass it at 100 km/h — an outpost between Barooga and Berrigan.
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Although unassuming in appearance, the hall is in fact the heart of the Lalalty district farming community — and has undergone a transplant, replacement and repair in its 77-year lifetime.
The ‘new’ hall was built 50 years ago and, while a government grant went some way to funding the build, it was the ladies’ committee at the time that baked the place to life.
“We raised funds by catering for events of course,” Marg Watson, committee member and wife of the late Bob Watson who was president of the Lalalty Hall Committee for 53 years, said.
“The men grew crops and fattened cattle and we funded the building of the new hall.”
It was opened on November 10, 1972.
Today, the hall is still fuelled by volunteers. The committee consists of the surrounding farming families that love the tradition of catching up at the hall, out of town, in their patch.
The annual Christmas party — held on November 26 this year — brings about 100 people to the hall, depending on the weather.
“If there’s a header ban or it rains, all the people harvesting come in and then we really have to scrape the salad bowls and cook up every last piece of meat,” Marg said.
“Some years we’ve had to send people up the road to fetch more tables and chairs from home.”
The hall committee, who all live ‘down the road’ in every direction from the brown brick building, are responsible for setting up and decorating the hall, catering for the meal, and donating the Christmas gifts for the mystery prizes under the Christmas tree.
Naturally, they are also responsible for finding someone willing and able to don the red suit and hand out bags of lollies to the next generation of Lalalty farmers.
“The kids really get the most out of it, everyone else who attends gets to enjoy watching how much fun the young ones have,” committee president Leigh Adkins said.
This year’s event was up against perfect harvesting conditions but it still managed to fill the hall.
“It’s a fundraiser but it’s affordable for families. It’s about the district having a Christmas party. It’s a chance to all come together,” Marg said.
The hall has benefited from years of maintenance and upkeep thanks to the committee’s fundraising efforts, with the installation of a kitchen, commercial fridge, raised stage, toilets and polished floorboards.
“We’ve also got funding to create a fenced-off lawn area for the kids to make events more relaxing for parents,” Leigh said.
So how did the hall come about?
The story goes that in 1945 the community met and decided, like all self-respecting farm districts, that they needed a hall.
The original building was picked up for $150 and trucked over from ‘The Rocks’ near Tocumwal.
It had an eventful trip, spending a week or so wedged outside a farmer’s property and causing gates to be removed. Eventually it landed on the corner of Nolans Rd and Barooga-Berrigan Rd.
A brief but active 25 years later, after many dances and social gatherings, the community met again to decide the fate of the hall.
“It was fairly patched together, so we discussed whether we should build a new one or repair the old one,” Marg said.
The construction of the new hall was a testament to community perseverance and fundraising prowess.
Locals went on to use the space for weddings, engagements, birthdays, badminton competitions, card games, dances and debutante balls.
“In the 1980s things died off because the sports clubs were built in town and people started using them as a venue instead,” Marg said.
“Bob said, ‘we can’t shut the hall down, it’s a public hall’, so we had a public meeting.”
Marg recalled the committee of the day decided that if people were interested in the future of the hall then they could come along for the free barbecue and consider their options.
“We half-filled the hall with concerned citizens and the people moved to keep the hall open,” Marg said.
“Everyone enjoyed catching up at the hall and so it was decided we should do it every year — and we do.”