June 12 -18, 2022: Issue 542


Avalon Beach Historical Society's 10th Great Historic Photograph Exhibition Opening

Members and guests of the Avalon Beach Historical Society gathered on Friday evening, June 10th, for the official opening of the 10th Great Historic Photographic Exhibition. This forms part of the year long Avalon Beach 100th celebrations being co-ordinated through the Avalon Beach Cultural Collective and fittingly is being held in the Avalon Recreation Centre on the verge of Avalon Beach's village green, Dunbar Park.

The Exhibition is open over the Queen's Birthday June long weekend, with the Tuesday always reserved for the youngsters from local schools to walk through.

This means visitors can peruse this exceptional display Sunday and Monday from 9am.

The wonderful aspect of ABHS Exhibitions and members is their ability to track down and add items to the historic collection - for instance, this image was found by Warren Young OAM was brought in to add into the archives:

President of the ANBHS, Geoff Searl OAM welcomed everyone to the opening. Brian Friend OAM was asked to give the Address this time. 

Their remarks, for the Historical Records, were;

Geoff Searl:

I’d like to welcome everybody to the 10th Great Historic Photographic Exhibition, to celebrate one hundred years since Arthur Jabez Small named Avalon Beach on December 4th 1921. 

We were aiming to do this last year but of course Covid wouldn’t let us do that, so as not to be beaten we’ve brought this about this year to help celebrate those 100 years.

I have a few people I’d like to mention, in fact 130 of them. (laughter)

I’m not going to thank them individually but I’d like to thank our members.; there’s 130 of them and they do a fabulous job., especially the 15 that came today and helped set up this exhibition. It took several hours for us all to put all these stands up and then all the photographs, including the correct captions under the correct photograph.

Over the next 3 days we have 160 hours that our volunteer members are chalking up, which is a fabulous feat also. 

At a Pittwater Council Christmas celebration for volunteers 7 years ago I remember volunteers were asked to put a $22 per hour value on their volunteering and when I apply that to this we’re looking at about $3600.00 worth that you folk are putting in and that underlines to me especially how worthwhile what we do is.

I’d also like to thank all the sponsors. Four years ago we opened up the idea that members could sponsor a particular panel; and so if someone wanted to sponsor the public school panel because they attended this in 1964 they could. We had 25 members sponsor different panels this time, you will see their names up there – so thank you for those members coming forward and helping to defray the costs of the stands, which were expensive but work so well for us.

I think we have 7 OAM’s and 1 AM here this evening, so this is quite a group. 

Another special thanks up front is to my mum and dad who brought me here when I was six months old in 1947, which I consider a very fortunate occurrence. I’ve lived in Avalon Beach for 75 years this year and have never left. I was going to say ‘I’ve never looked back’ but since we formed the Society (ABHS) in 1983 I’ve done nothing but look back (laughter) with interest and enthusiasm and your support, which is wonderful.

There is a quote; ‘The more you know of the past the better you are prepared for the future’.

I’d like to share a small insight into mum and dad coming here.

Mum and dad came down here for their honeymoon and stayed at Sand Point in 1944 and thought this was a fabulous area. Mum’s mum and dad had already built in Avalon Parade at No. 64. Mum and dad thought ‘this is good, £110 for a block of land’, how could they possibly go wrong? They paid it off in a short time and then dad approached his bank manager in Jamieson Street in the city;’ ‘How can I help you Mr. Searl? – ‘We own a block of land and would like to borrow some money to build a house.’ – ‘that shouldn’t be a problem, where’s the land Mr. Searl?’ – ‘Avalon Beach.’ To which eh said, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t lend money for housing north of Narrabeen Lakes, it will never go ahead.’(laughter)

And so Bob Oatley paid 20 million for Finisterre on Stokes Point in 2016. … (more laughter)…yes, ‘it’ll never go ahead…’

The other thank you is to my remarkable wife, Collette (loud applause), and my family, they are truly wonderful.


Thanks also to Arthur Jabez Small – thanks to him we have an Avalon Beach and I don’t know what it would look like if somebody else was involved there. We’re delighted to have two grandchildren of A J Small here tonight, Jennie Small and Peter Small, thank you very much for coming.

Without A J Small who knows what we’d be celebrating or commiserating if the Right Reverend J J Therry had discovered coal on the second green of the golf course in 1860 – a hundred metre coal wharf off Avalon Beach just doesn’t bear thinking about or imagining.

I’d also like to thank Rob Stokes – Rob managed to secure a wavered fee of the hall hire, which we do appreciate.

This year there are 60 areas of interest to look through, along with a selection of the Society’s panoramas, architectural plans and even videos. For those returning there are a feast of new panels – Bilgola Bends Pictorial History, Paintings of North Avalon Beach over the years from 1862 to 2012, and some wonderful Residences of Avalon Beach.

Tradition during past Exhibitions has been for me to ask someone to come along and please open the Exhibition. This is always someone prominent, someone who has given enormously to the area and this bloke, I don’t know how he does it all – I’d like to welcome Brian Friend, everyone knows him as Friendly. 

This bloke has four Life Memberships of four different organisations, Chairman of three organisations, a Centenary Medal, Queens Commendation for Bravery in 1974, NSW Police Commissioner’s Commendation for Courage in 1974, Australia Day Citizen of the Year from Pittwater Council, he’s in Master Rugby League, Touch Football, he is a backbone of the Doggies Rugby league Club and a 2103 Order of Australia Medal.


Thanks Geoff. It’s good to be here with my old mate, we go back a long way. 

A Hundred Years of Avalon Beach Exhibition:

When I was asked to open this Exhibition I thought of the importance of the Avalon Beach Historical Society to our community, especially for students and the wonderful memories the history of this village rekindles for us old-timers.

I have lived in Avalon Beach,  yes it is Avalon Beach, not Avalon, for a period of just over 55 years and so have seen many changes. As a youth that loved surfing I visited this jewel of the peninsula and stayed in a house behind the back of the old Avalon Tyre Service over many weekends from about 1963. I moved here permanently the day I married in January 1967.

I’ve seen many historic changes to this wonderful village, some positive and some negative, depending on your own personal ideas.

I joined the Avalon Beach Surf Club in 1965 and then met this wonderful man standing next to me and formed a friendship that has continued. 

How fortunate are we that we have, as a community, such a resource of historic materials and their availability to youth, to young and old, made possible through ABHS. I’ve been involved in many aspects of local history and I find it great that we can, as a group, get together at ABHS Meetings and recall some of these wonderful times and record these memories for our fellow residents. 

Why do we need this label ‘Historical Society’ you ask? Well, without it our memories would fade away and it would be just another suburb of New South Wales. 

The knowledge and records kept by this Society conveys to our fellow citizens that this village is a wonderful pocket of history in the Manly, Warringah and Pittwater region. 

Without this Historical Society many of us would not know who is responsible, one hundred years ago, for naming this area ‘Avalon Beach’. We would not know who is responsible for the design and layout of the area and the creation of the village.  

The Avalon Beach Historical Society is a gift to locals old and new. This volunteer organisation, guided by this wonderful man Geoff and his band of dedicated people, is a group of people who are passionate about their little village north of the bends. 

I look around this room and see 60 display panels and marvel at the great memories they evoke. I have memories of this place from when we first moved here; memories of seeing koalas in the trees outside our house, memories of the tree lined streets – today we struggle to see any of this.

I remember when I joined the Avalon Beach Surf Lifesaving Club we struggled to get six members on Patrol over a whole weekend. Today, with the dedication of people who are in this room, we see 15 members on one Patrol and there are two Patrols each day of a weekend. You can thank Warren Young OAM and Roger Sayers OAM for a lot of that happening.

With Geoff and John Stone and their band of merry men and women we would struggle to keep the history of our village recorded for the benefit of our young children who attend our local schools. One day they will become adults and ask ‘how did this place commence its life when my mum and dad lived here?’.

This is a question which has been answered by the Avalon Beach Historical Society since its inception 39 years ago. It remains up to we people to support this group and support those who work to preserve our history. You have chosen to be part of this community and your support will only enhance our history forever.

So, my old mate of many years, keep up the good work, and may you and your merry band received the accolades you deserve for the wonderful job you do in keeping our memories alive. 

When you received your OAM I could not think of a more dedicated person that this community recognises and was so thoroughly deserved for all the many years of hard labour. 

It would be remiss of me to end this speech without acknowledging the wonderful woman who gave Geoff free range to do what he has done over many years. On behalf of us Avalonians; thank you Collette for the loan of your husband and for putting up for his wanderings throughout our History.

I Now Declare the 10th Great Historic Photographic Exhibition of the Avalon Beach Historical Society OPEN!

Brian Friend OAM and Geoff Searl OAM

L to R: A J Smalls' grandchildren -  Jennie Small and Peter Small 

Brian Friend OAM,  Kelly Searl, Collette Searl, Warren Young OAM, Roger Sayers OAM

Paul and Margaret Sanders in front of their family panel

Anne and Colin Spencer

Jonathan King and Wendy Frew

Cr. Miranda Korzy and Anne Montgomery

John and Gayle Witchard

Jill and Rob Berry

Denise and Michael Marangakis, Central Coast visitors

Kelly Searl, wife of Geoff and Collette's son Chris (he's a great photographer too!) - Kelly is Pony Rider Creative director

Jan Roberts and Ros Marsh

Maureen Rutlidge and Sharelle Ravenscroft

Photos/report: A J Guesdon