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Opening day at the Community Centre.

As advised in The Crag No 165 (p5), the October general meeting of the Progress Association celebrated 60 years of activities at the Castlecrag Community Centre. Residents and former residents recalled community efforts to build the centre and its use over the years.

Barry Duncan, son of Frank and Anice, recalled his father’s key role in the establishment of the Centre as the driving force behind the cooperative society established to manage its construction and operation. The community raised funds for the Centre and put in long and arduous work for its construction. Barry expressed pleasure at visiting Castlecrag again and meeting many people he knew when he was a child, and hoped that the Centre would continue to be put to good use. Adrienne Kabos advised the meeting that a transcript is available on the Walter Burley Griffin Society website of an interview by Sue Randle of Frank Duncan and Edgar Deans, videoed 19 years ago, where they described establishing the Community Centre and community life in the Crag at that time.

Elizabeth Lander lauded the vision and efforts of earlier residents who in 1943 at a time of crisis during World War II proposed and built our Community Centre. It was a remarkable achievement by a small community and Elizabeth expressed special thanks to the Deans family, early friends and colleagues of the Griffins. Lindy Batterham spoke of her mother, Joyce, who played a key role with Frank Duncan in establishing the Centre and many other aspects of community life. The Helene France School of Ballet which Lindy and other aspiring balletomanes attended was one of the many activities held at the Centre. While the kindergarten operated during the day, it routinely cleared furniture away to facilitate use of the Centre for a wide range of activities.

Jonathon Mason spoke with emotion about the building blocks made by his father, Jim Mason, in 1947 for the kindergarten and still in daily use. One of his earliest memories was playing with the blocks at home when they were being made. Jim Mason also made and installed a gym—‘Jimmy’s Jungle’—that has now been removed. Jon noted that in the late 1940s residents walked everywhere: security was no problem because everybody, including the shopkeepers, knew everybody. There were many extra curricular activities such as music, painting, scouts, etc and there was a genuine community spirit.

Neil Buhrich spoke of his parents, Hugh and Eva, refugees from Germany who bought land in Castlecrag in 1941 but could not own it due to their status, so almost from birth Neil has owned land in the suburb. He spent most of his childhood exploring the bush with other children, sailing on Middle Harbour being popular. Discussion groups were held fortnightly in various houses, needing preparation and thoughtful input. Eva was very strongly involved in the anti-expressway effort. John Gibson told the meeting that when he and Joan built their house in The Rampart in 1953 the young population and the Community Centre were among the key attractions. Their house was ideally sited with the kindergarten at one end of their street and the Infants’ School at the other.

John Kabos brought things to the present day describing the work of the Community Centre 530A Management Committee, resurrected in the mid 1980s. The Centre was in a run-down condition; the fence at the rear of the playground was dangerous and needed reconstruction. A Plan of Management was prepared by an architect and approved by Willoughby City Council. All its objectives have now been achieved including disabled access, the storeroom, the extension to the library, the new deck and resumption of land which had been alienated at the eastern end of the playground. Several speakers, including Dorothy Fraser and Lindy Batterham, urged stronger community support for the library to ensure its survival.