Eiffelton hall spruced up for 75th birthday bash

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Above: Installing a Longbeach gate on the grounds of the Eiffelton Hall ahead of the 75th jubilee this weekend are Phil Cushnie, Angela Cushnie, David Keating, John O'Connell and Jason Rickard.

The Eiffelton Hall was the social hub of its time.

Built on donated farm land along Longbeach Road in 1946, it was a memorial to fallen soldiers from the area but also the heart of the community and a place where events and social gatherings could happen.

And they did.

There were regular skit nights, dances, indoor sporting matches, 21st celebrations, weddings and anniversaries, says David Keating, who is a third generation living in the district.

Among the sports played was badminton and indoor bowls.

David is on the hall committee helping to get the hall ready for this Sunday’s 75th jubilee celebration.

More than 110 people have registered to attend, and more were expected.

David has willingly stepped into the role which was also done by his late father Sam, who was on the Eiffelton Hall Society when it celebrated its 25th anniversary, in 1972.

In 1996 David was the youngest person on the hall’s committee for the 50th anniversary and now 25 years later, he is the oldest.

Many of the family names on both the World War I and II roll of honour boards still remain in the district including Read, Deal, White, Stoddart, Smith and Davidson.

But there are others such as fourth generation Jason Rickard whose great great grandfather J. Parsons was noted on the World War 1 honour roll of enlistments of 1914 that hangs in the hall.

A dozen soldiers on the roll are recorded as being killed during the war.

The hall, with its brightly painted walls, has a wooden interior complete with stage and plenty of quirky rooms including the ticket booth where children – such as a young Angela Cushnie – played.

The exterior of the hall was made of bricks sourced at the time from the neighbouring Longbeach Estate kiln. The kiln chimney stack was a beacon in its day and could be seen from miles around. It is believed the name Eiffelton came from the chimney stack looking like the Eiffel tower, in France; hence Eiffelton.

Now 75 years later, thanks to those in the area the hall is still standing and in use by its community.

Upgrades over the years have included a new water system – thanks to funding by the Ashburton District Council – revamped toilets, and as of last weekend, new Longbeach gates have been installed.

There is still plenty of memorabilia on show including a visitors book, drama shield, and clothing from the former Eiffelton School, which used to be across the road. It merged with neighbouring Longbeach School in 2000.

Past anniversary events held in warmer days have included a ceremonial cake cutting and some great catchups among the people from the district. But this year will be a bit different.

The celebration will be tied in with Anzac Day, bringing it back in line with its memorial hall status.

Community members – past and present – will gather on Sunday, from 1pm, for a short Anzac remembrance and catch up with many likely to stay on for a roast meal from 5pm.

Angus Mackenzie has been roped in to the play the bugle.

Other people with links to the area will also be on hand such as MC Ian Mackenzie and guest speakers Peter Davidson and Carolyn Cameron, also speaking on behalf of the Ashburton District Council.

Eiffelton Hall Society committee chairman Phil Cushnie, a relative newcomer to the area at 18 years, was thankful for council funding to date and hopeful the hall would get more community use throughout the year in the future.

The committee and others have been have been working behind the scenes to tidy up and renovate the hall to get it ready for its jubilee.

There will be additional community memorabilia and photos from across the decades on show.

Anyone still wanting to register, or to stay for a spit roast dinner from 5pm, – $20 cost – can register with David Keating (027-220 4400) or email Edwina Mackenzie at eiffeltonhall@nullgmail.com

 

– By Toni Williams