Progress Association History
The Pearl Beach Progress Association was formed in 1929 by some of the original residents of Pearl Beach who began meeting to improve services to the Village. In those early days there was no power or water available and the only way for traffic to enter and leave the Village was via the rough road around Mount Ettymalong from Umina. After heavy rain Pearl Beach was often isolated by flooded creeks in Umina. The Foundation Member, Trustee and First President of the Pearl Beach Progress Association was William Martin Steinbeck. The Pearl Beach Progress Association has been in existence ever since, making it one of the oldest continuous Progress Associations in NSW.
Since its inauguration one of the aims of the Association had been to build a Community Hall, but the lack of funds, the interruption of the great depression and later the long years of WW11 were major stumbling blocks to realising this ambition. In 1943, three of its members, William Steinbeck, James Armstrong, and William Frost, purchased land at 9 Diamond Rd as a site for a Hall for the use of the Association and the community.
In 1943 the Building Fund stood at 15 pounds 16 shillings and 8 pence. A concerted effort of fundraising was conducted over several years to raise the 1,000 pounds required and construction of the Hall commenced in 1948. However, during and immediately after WW 11 it was almost impossible to obtain building materials and money was scarce. By designating the Hall a war memorial, a government subsidy became available, but even so, it was not until 1950 that the Hall was finished, using a combination of voluntary labour and much assistance from local builders, Cliff Mazlin and Jack Butler.
Plenty of willing hands to help build the Hall
Thus the hall became not only a community hall but also a memorial to the young men from Pearl Beach who died in WW11. The memorial tablet in front of the Hall was built as a donation by Jack Butler and bears a Roll of Honour for 5 young men: LJ Gallard, AIF; MF Murphy, AIF; WN Green, RAN; WJ Steinbeck, AIF; LA Low, RAR
The hall was officially dedicated as a Memorial Hall on the 19th September 1950. Mr L Hart, President of Pearl Beach Progress Association, officiated at the opening. Rev Cyril Francis, Rural Dean of Gosford, gave the dedication for the Memorial Tablet and Emeritus Professor Bland, University of Sydney, gave an address congratulating the Pearl Beach Progress Association on their meritorious achievement.
“A Community Centre, fundamentally is the embodiment of good neighbourliness and this comprises the sense of belonging, the belief in a common purpose and the conscious knowledge of sharing and understanding common life. A community centre gives a wider vision of how community activities may be made to enrich the life of the individual and his family; gives a new approach to the provision of the cultural, physical and social needs of a community; gives a clearer realisation that co-operative and boldly planned local efforts not only satisfy such needs but also develop in the process of new understanding of neighbourliness and of the democratic way of life.
…may I hope that what you have done here will be the stepping stones to the fullness of community life which will forever be inspired by the memory of those to whom the Hall is dedicated.”
(Taken from Pearl Beach Early Days, Ben Smith 1993)
Developments Over the Years
That first Hall was only about half the size of the Hall you see now. Over the years it has been extended, renovated and restored. Most recently modern toilets, facilities for disabled access and an additional storage shed have been added.
The Hall is now used by an extensive range of locals and community groups and can be booked for private functions, such as weddings and birthday parties.
Maintaining the Hall and keeping its facilities up to date with modern expectations has become a major financial responsibility for the Progress Association.
The Memorial Community Hall has been the venue for many community groups to meet and for numerous events and activities over the years, some of which have resulted in many fine traditions being established in Pearl Beach, such as The Glee Club, the Easter Book Fair, the Music Festival, the Anzac Day Service and the Craft Exhibition
The Glee Club was started in 1950 in the era before television, when families and friends made their own entertainment. Their performances included concerts with music, singing, comedy, and sketches. This tradition continues today with locals continuing to display immense talent and deliver productions that thrill and entertain the community.
Glee Club Picnic c1950
Glee Club 2016
The Easter Book Fair is a significant fundraising activity for the Progress Association which has become an annual tradition. It was organised for many years by Bill Abbott and numerous volunteers.Considering the price of each book is $2 and that proceeds now reach around $8,000-$10,000, that is a huge number of books!
The Music Festival was first held in the Memorial Community Hall during the June long weekend in 1994. Since then it has also become an annual event attracting many professional and well known musicians as well as providing an opportunity to showcase the talented students from Gosford Conservatorium. A most memorable Festival occurred in 2007 because of severe storms that brought down trees and power lines, the Festival was held largely by candlelight. From 2008 to 2016 this event has been organised by Lynne Lillico who has worked exceedingly hard to produce a first class festival every year.
The Anzac Day Service is an important event in the calendar of Pearl Beach. The volunteer organisers for over a decade were Richard and Libby Stewart with the support and involvement of Rev. Ernie. The original memorial tablet in front of the Hall is still used each year for laying the wreaths at the service.
Anzac Centenary - in 2015 a group of locals organised an exhibition to commemorate the Anzac Centenary. It provided an opportunity for Australians to honour, remember and thank all those who have served in the last century and learn about and reflect on Australia’s wartime history and the nation’s contribution to international peace.
The Exhibition “Tell Us Your Story” presented 50 stories from Pearl Beach locals about their own or their family’s experiences, also a huge range of fascinating memorabilia and a special poppy display.
The Pearl Beach Craft Group meet fortnightly in the Hall for “knit & Natter”. In 1993 a local group completed a unique quilt depicting life in Pearl Beach which is on permanent display in the Hall. They also have a long tradition of holding a craft fair every 2 years to showcase and sell work by local artists and raise funds for charity – to date over $26,000 has been donated to a wide mix of local and national charities.
80th Anniversary – 1929 to 2009
To celebrate 80 years of continuous work by the Pearl Beach Progress Association, local resident and historian, Beverley Kingston prepared a small book 'Pearl Beach & Progress – The story of a community and an ideal 1929-2009'
(Copies can be ordered from the author (02) 4341 2569 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
From the press release:
Pearl Beach was one of several estates on the Woy Woy Peninsula developed after WW1 by father and son C.R and CJ Staples. By 1921 they had consolidated the existing land holdings at what was then known at Green Point and were planning a new estate to be called Pearl Beach with its streets named after gem stones. The first land sale was registered in 1927 and the first house built soon after. But for some years, partly because of the depression of the early 1930s, sales were slow, few houses were built and Pearl Beach continued as a fishing camp, one of many up and down the coast of NSW.
According to legend (for there are no surviving records till the 1940s) the Pearl Beach Progress Association came into being in 1929, probably a William Steinbeck and his friends yarned round their camp fire after cooking the day’s catch about the problem of fighting bush fires that threatened in the summer.
Soon there were other needs – a post office, a telephone service, better maintenance of the dangerous and inadequate cliff road round the base of Mt Ettalong and the rock pool, both built by the developers to make the beach more attractive but increasingly a headache to maintain, and a bus that connected with the train at Woy Woy.
During the 1930s and 1940s Pearl Beach gradually became home to a few families who were able to make a living from the small farm blocks opened behind the village streets, some ex-servicemen who found its quiet remoteness preferable to city life, and an early conservationist, former Woy Woy postmistress, Minard Crommelin.
By the late 1940s the Progress Association had begun building a community hall, dedicated in 1950 as a war memorial to the sons of several local families who had died during World War 2 and in Korea. Once basic needs for communications and maintenance were satisfied the idea of progress came to mean ‘no progress’ in Pearl Beach. There were those who thought that the next steps should be in the direction of greater suburbanisation. However, Pearl Beach preferred trees to curbs and gutters. There was a growing awareness that the confined space of the valley, with its creeks and lagoon, its encircling national park and nature reserves, would not support a large population or too much modern development. Progress in Pearl Beach came to mean the ability to sustain a bushland environment, a peaceful place to live, somewhere to get away from the excitements of modem life – though in time the Progress Association would also campaign for better mobile phone reception and access to fast Broadband.