Mister President

I was president of the Canowindra Services and Citizens Club (try saying that after a few schooners) for almost 10 years.  During my term the club prospered and grew. I originally was the treasurer before being elected president. The club had very modest beginnings with Gordon Rue the first president and Arthur
Sargent secretary manager. Arthur used to go to the Royal Hotel and fill a small keg with draught beer which was then dispensed to patrons at the club.

The club had a very small poker machine.(one).

You had to purchase tokens at the bar and these were then inserted into the machine. Arthur was Secretary Manager of the club under these difficult conditions The club eventually acquired a Silver Jubilee 20 cent machine when poker machine were legalised. It made thousands of dollars for the club. Eventually Arthur became addicted and the committee decided he had to go. He used to have all night parties with his mates after the club had closed. One conscientious committeeman took it upon himself to “raid” these after hours parties. We had a very conscientious committee.

I remember several nights on duty after the club was broken into and the strong room damaged. Committeemen were rostered on an all-night vigil to guard the club while repairs were made. One committeeman was rostered on each night to clear the poker machines. weigh the proceeds and sign off. Arthur’s successor as Secretary Manager was Ken Callinan – a former Colonel in the Army. Not a very warm and engaging person. Luckily we had a good backup staff in Jack Simpson, “Red” Hetterick and Robert Grant with Albert {“Treaky”) Trindall as the cleaner. During my term the club instigated a very generous superannuation scheme which helped us to attract and retain good staff and as a means of sharing the club’s prosperity with those who made the club so popular. They were all very good for public relations.

I will never forget the look of consternation on Jack Simpson’s face when I used to say when the club was packed to the rafters: I think we will send one around. President’s shout”. I always insisted on paying for my own drinks during these episodes. Why the club was so successful was because we kept a tight rein on the poker machine revenue. Each trading night a committeeman would clear the machines and then weigh the money. This was surprisingly accurate with the actual count by the bank next day.

I even invented a “Poker machine Auditor”, This gadget when attached to the machine would count the number of times the handle was pulled and also count the number of coins that went into the “cop box”.I eventually sold it to a Maniladra businessman for a tidy sum. During my term we built and opened the renovated club and the magnificent Canowindra community centre comprising a large auditorium, Nangar meeting room, shire library and RSL room. (all air conditioned and later the hall and meeting room also) all the envy of much larger towns.

It was all built courtesy of a loan by the Boree Shire Council, (our local government body ) and paid off by the club with the council having title to the project. I remember who owned it created quite a debate with me saying it did not matter who owned it as long as we had exclusive use of it to which the council agreed.  Our local councilors Athol Brown and Charlie |McCarron lent their great support. I used to travel to Boree Shire meetings with Athol and Charlie so I had their “ëar” on this and other matters to the extent they used to call me the 13th councillor (Boree had 12 Councillors).

To his great credit the late Arthur Kinsella (my successor as President) negotiated the return of title to the building to the club. I don’t know how he did it but he did.

I remember we had sought approval for the building to contain the wording:

“Ä Community project with the names of  Boree Shire Council L.M. Stapleton, president; Canowindra councillors R.A. Brown and C.Mcarron;  Canowindra RSL, R.T. Scoble President; and the
Canowindra Services and Citizens Club, K.W. Whalan President.”

Shire president Max Stapleton insisted that the plaque contain only the name of Boree Shire Council, with the result that no names appeared on the plaque and the idea was abandoned for a plaque commemorating the building of the project. The centre was officially opened by the NSW Governor Sir Eric Woodward  and Lady Woodward who were guests at a Vice Regal ball which was a great success.  I remember the very good looking Aide-de-Camp accompanied the Royal Couple home and then came back to the Ball. I remember asking Lady Woodward to dance and Sir Eric asking my wife to dance in return.

Sir Eric said : “I haven’t danced  for years.”

Lady Woodward was a very good dancer  and after a spirited dance which we greatly enjoyed we stopped to talk to one of the town’s socialites who promptly blew a cloud of her smoke from a long cigarette holder over Lady Woodward.  I could have killed the woman on the spot. She was not supposed to be smoking in the hall in the first place.

Lady Woodward commented on my knees knocking as I was making my speech at the opening of the hall

“I have never seen that before,” she said.

Sir Eric and Lady Woodward took a great liking to the fact that we had twin boys. We took them down to the train to farewell Sir Eric and Lady Woodward who were delighted to see them. Andrew promptly went to sleep.

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