1930s and 1940s - Recollections of the School of Arts - Mavis Rye and Muriel Scott

The School of Arts was the hub of Social Events

The Chermside School of Arts stood on the corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road. It faced Gympie and the long side was to Hall Street. The front part was the Library and Foyer while the stage was at the back of the building. An extension was built in the 1930s on the other side (northern) and cannot be seen in the sketch done by Ian Rye. Originally the walls were sheeted with corrugated iron, later replaced with weatherboards.

The building was at that time the hub of social events in Chermside because it was the only hall with the capacity to accommodate large numbers. The Church of England and Methodist Churches in the area did not have halls attached in those days.

The School of Arts building was situated in Gympie Road with Hall Street on its southern side. The main entrance was at the corner of Hall Street and led into a fairly sizeable foyer while the hall extended the full width of the building along Hall Street.

The library consisted of a large room extending beyond the foyer along the Gympie Road front of the building. Run by the School of Arts Committee, it was always a place of interest. For many years Mrs. White was the librarian, with help from Miss Massey and other School of Arts ladies. The books were on shelves all around the room and secured in metal cages which of course were locked. Every time the library was opened, these cumbersome items had to be manhandled, mainly by the women.

In my childhood it appeared a large hall, with a high ceiling and large windows which let in as much breeze as possible. The property had a yard along the northern side, which to me, always seemed untidy, full of weeds and long grass. It had a huge Camphor-Laurel tree at the front (Gympie Road end) which gave shade to the library area on hot summer afternoons.

The front door of the hall faced south to Hall Street and, as one entered there was a grid in the floor, no doubt to catch the grit before we reached the dance floor. The entrance had a ticket box office with a window similar to the ones at local picture theatres, and also another on the inside so an eye could be kept on the foyer and doorway. A double doorway led from the foyer into the hall. On special occasions these doors were kept closed to keep functions private, particularly when the library was open. The doorman was near these doors or just inside the hall itself taking tickets or money.

To one side of the foyer, opposite the library, were two small rooms. One for the use of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australia for their lodge furniture and regalia, and the other was for the Masonic Lodge. I didn't, and I don't think anyone other than the Masons ever saw that room unlocked.

The stage area at the rear of the hall was well set-up. It had steps leading up each side from the floor, and there were side wings on the stage which could be swung either way so as to allow people not to be seen until the appropriate time. The curtain was a wide roll-up canvas, which had a scene and advertisements of various local businesses on it. At the back were two dressing rooms and a landing with steps down to the back yard. Underneath the stage was used as a store room for long trestle tables and extra seating needed at functions.

The Original Hall had no Kitchen

Mr Menerey, fifth from the left in the line of gentlemen, was the Head Teacher at Chermside State School from 1925 to 1933. When he left he was given a farewell in the School of Arts. This photo gives a good view of the inside of the building. And some of the children are still living in Chermside. This photo was taken before the building was extended to the right of the image. The people are facing the stage at the back of the School of Arts.

In those days, the toilets were earth closets down the back yard, and such was the case at the School of Arts building. Even when sewerage came to Chermside, the site of the toilets did not change. It was always a "Challenge" for ladies to "go", particularly if at a night-time function.

The original hall had no kitchen as such, and food and drinks were served from the library room. Later, in the mid 1930s, an extension was added to the side of the hall and a kitchen was built to the back of this extension. With the kitchen installed, it really made a big difference to catering facilities, and opened the way for the hall to be used for many Wedding Receptions, 21st Birthday Parties, Debutante Balls, etc., which were not possible previously.

My earliest recollections were of our Chermside Methodist Church functions being held there. An annual event was an Anniversary Tea Meeting and, of course the Sunday School Christmas Tree Concert. At the Anniversary Concert after the tea the Choir and Orchestra under the baton of Grandfather Hamilton, gave items interspersed with various items of recitations by Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Plunckett, Dulcie Hamilton and a visiting Mr. Price; violin and piano solos by Jessie & Joan Hamilton, cello solos from Mr Bishop and Grace Wayper. Leila Hamilton accompanied Fred Bishop, Dulcie and me for vocal duets and solos.

A highlight we children particularly enjoyed were the humorous duets sung by Mr Sam Harris & Uncle Alex Hamilton about topical district happenings as they dressed up in their concert gear. Our Methodist Circuit folk used to come from Kedron and Stafford to swell the numbers attending. My mother being President of the Ladies' Church Help for many years, our household had to spring into action when a forthcoming L. C. H. 'Morning Tea' was planned. If there was to be a stall then Leila was requested to 'run up' (as mum put it) some aprons or the like for it. When the program was worked out, Dulcie would type it out and on the morning of the event Dad would take several pot plants to place on the stage as he went to work, then bring them home again as he came from work. A lot of these functions were for raising funds for the new brick church of 1950/51.

The hall in those days was a very busy place I can remember the occasional Wedding Reception, School and Church Fetes, School Fancy Dress Parades and Anniversary Concerts while various other groups held plays and concerts there from time to time. Some of these were by the School of Arts Committee when local talent came to the fore. Students were able to support the Annual Show, run by the Hall Committee on a Saturday when we could display our Copy Books etc. The gardeners displayed their produce and craft people their wares. The Farewell Evening to Mr. Menerey, his wife and family was a notable one with a packed hall for great entertainment by the students and speeches of grateful remarks for Mr. Menerey's time as Head Teacher (1925-1933) at Chermside State School by notable people.

Lodge Meetings were all held in the Hall.

1950: Fancy Dress in School of Arts
Back (L-R) Pat Moreton, Ray Spry, Brian Spry. Front: Beverley Burnett, Ken Sinclair, Alma Burnett. They were attending a Church of England Ball in about 1950 and dressed appropriately. The photo was taken in the library with the books securely locked behind wire mesh. Lots of fun were had in the old hall. Fancy dress, concerts, plays, dances, farewells and welcome homes for the troops. Wedding receptions, whenever a group of people wanted a venue, the hall was the place. This was in the days when people had to make their own fun and the motor car hadn't taken over.

I think the Masonic Lodge met once a month. Dad used to set up the hall before he came home from work - I think I was able to help him one evening. The Masonic Brethren held a social once a year when wives and family were invited to enjoy items and dancing. We used to look forward to it as it was about the only time we could dress up in our long frocks and invite a partner. One year my partner wore rubber soled shoes - not ideal! Shoes had to have leather soles so the dancers could slide easily and quickly over the polished slippery floor, some of the dances were very fast.

Lodge meetings were all held at the hall. On a Saturday afternoon, about the age of seven we started as Juvenile Lodge members of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society with Superintendents Mr Sam Harris and Mr Charlie Vellnagel where we learned eventually to take the Chair, be Secretary or Treasurer or play the piano for one hymn, generally "Jesus Bids Us Shine" because it was easiest to play for beginners! We visited other lodges - a good training ground. The adult PAFS met on a Monday night - if my memory serves correctly.

During the war years, the Chermside Committee of the Australian Comfort Fund (A.C.F.) which was essentially the same people as on the School of Arts Committee ran a dance every Friday night. With the Army Camp at Marchant's Park, these Friday night dances were a huge success. With the closest hotel being the Edinburgh Castle at Kedron, and no available transport, liquor did not come into the equation of having a good time. Mr. George Lemke would go over to the hall early to put "Pops" on the floor, (to make it slippery) but the Dickfos Band was what really made it such a grand night with Mrs. Dickfos on Piano, Mr. Dickfos on Drums and a Saxophone player. There was a significant indentation on the stage floor from where Mrs. Dickfos kept the beat going with her foot on the pedal. The dance floor itself was very good for dancing with a spring to it, and was full well 'given the works' when a dance like "The Boston Two Step" came up.

For the dance nights, the library was used as a cloak room and the ladies of the Australian Comforts Fund were always on duty. Not only did they look after the gear, but gave an ear to many a young man or girl who were a long way from home.

Because my mother, Mrs. Jessie Smith, with Mrs. White, Miss Massey, Mrs. Lemke and other Committee ladies were there, my good friend Gwen Lemke, (now Mrs. Jackson) and I were quite often at the hall and this is where we first learnt to dance, young as we were. To us it was really a wonderful experience and great to see the hall filled with dancing couples doing the Progressive Barn Dance. It was a beautiful sea of movement, and to watch the experts with the New Vogue and modem waltzes was really something to witness.

To me at that time, the School of Arts was Chermside and it was a sorry day when it came to it's used by date, to make way for a vastly expanding Chermside in the form of the new Municipal Library Building in 1958.