October 6 - 12, 2013: Issue 131

 Avalon Beach Historical Society’s 30th Anniversary and 8th Great Historic Photographic Exhibition Launch

Hon. Rob Stokes, MP for Pittwater, Cr. Jacqui Townsend, Mayor of Pittwater and Geoff Searl of Avalon Beach Historical Society. 


Geoff Searl of the Avalon Beach Historical Society, along with fellow members, entertained community guests at the launch of their 8th Great Historic Photographic Exhibition in the main hall of Avalon’s Community Centre on Friday evening. Opened officially be Cr. Jacqui Townsend, Mayor of Pittwater, the exhibition celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Avalon Beach Historical Society with a mammoth and extensive sample of the great photographs, lithographs and other materials this society has collected, maintained and keeps available. The main hall of the Avalon Recreation Centre (59a Old Barrenjoey Road) has the space to exhibit over 700 photographs. 

Those on display cover around 55 different topics, aspects and many eras of our local history and it will certainly rank alongside the best photo exhibitions of local history seen in the Pittwater, Manly and Warringah areas.

Besides these ‘still’ photographs, a feats for the eyes and sense, a screen has been set up to continually show many short ‘movie’ segments collected and compiled over the years that relate to Pittwater. Besides the popular ‘Bandstand and the Stomp on Avalon Beach’ in 1965, also showing is ‘A Day in the Life of Avalon School’ shot in the 1950s by the ABC. 

You will also be able to see the beach and the ‘Avaputt’ mini golf course in action during 1930 from a film shot by the ‘father of Avalon Beach’ - A.J. Small. The Society even has a great short film called ‘Cave Folk’ showing a folk concert shot in St Michael’s Cave in 1964. 

Ghost Ships’ catalogues  the search conducted off Palm Beach for survivors of the ‘Birchgrove Park’ in 1956 and some recent excellent colour footage shot by diver/photographer Max Gleeson of the wreck 3 kms off Avalon Beach. 

We share the remarks and thanks made by Geoff Searle from Friday evening:

''Welcome everybody, Good Evening and thank you for coming. I was going to isolate some people as very special guests but in my opinion you’re all very special so thank you for coming.

Whether you’ve shown an interest in the Society or loaned photographs or helped out financially or you’re a member of the Avalon Beach Historical Society – thank you very much for your contributions, you inspire us to keep doing what we’re doing. 

It’s lovely to have our enthusiastic local member, Mr Rob Stokes here this evening and our Councillors, Bob Grace, who has been a great supporter of this Society for some years, Alex McTaggart who has also supported us, and Jacqui Townsend, thank you for attending. Also attending tonight is our fabulous Patron, the Hon. Jim Macken.

What we did this year for the first time I four years was try to finance the exhibition. We asked for sponsors from our members so you will see different faces where people have contributed one hundred dollars towards different panels, which is fabulous. Many thanks to all of these sponsors – your names are on top of the panels. This would not happen without all your contributions. 

We have an apology from Dr Anne-Maree Whitaker FRAHS FRHistS., President of the Royal Australian Historical Society:

‘Hi Geoff, thanks for the invitation to the Opening of the ABHS Exhibition. It sounds like quite an undertaking and I would like to congratulate you and the Society on your achievement. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the launch on Friday but I wish you all the best for a successful evening and Exhibition. “

We’ve been affiliated with the Royal Australian Historical Society for the 30 years of our existence. 

I would also like to thank our members – without you our society would not happen.  You are the blood of this Society. 

We had almost 70 members at our Annual General Meeting recently, partly because of John Illingsworth’s efforts on producing a wonderful documentary on the history of West Head, especially the World War II fortifications. John climbed on board a micro seaplane with some fantastic fly pasts as he approached the gunnery placements and observation towers. He has done a great job and all our members loved it.

Thanks also to the three Small children. A J Small was undoubtedly the ‘Father of Avalon Beach’.  In 1917 he bought a hundred acres and proceeded to subdivide this amazing area. He did a very fine job.

He had four children. I was so fortunate to interview three children in 1984 at Neutral Bay. This laid the foundations for the Avalon Beach Historical Society. They were so generous with their information, loaning their photographs for rephotographing. They really kicked things off in a big way.

Tonight we’re delighted to have Jenny Small, a direct descendant of A J Small’s son, Geoff Small. We thank you for coming.

The 14th of September 1983 was when the Avalon Beach Historical Society was formed and I think there are only Gwen and myself who are still in the Society and were there on foundation day who are here tonight.  

John Stone – nobody can ever know the effort this gentleman has put into the society, his contribution has been remarkable. He has worked for many years using his fabulous photographic work to reproduce photographs loaned to the society and these days is still reproducing photographs but he is restoring these – especially those that might have a bad tear or have been lifted from the colour slides of the 1950’s or the contrast is poor – we get great results through John. 

John sold his original shop in 1967 and bought another shop in Bowling Green Lane. He said to me, I want to continue my photographic restorative work, if I take the back third of the shop will you take the front two thirds for the Historical Society?

I said, well give me time to think about it ….yes! So he has been our greatest benefactor and has given the Society that office in the village and has established for us this facility which enables us to help students from the University, Architectural students, Barrenjoey High School students – all of these and the community can access the History we’ve collated because it’s made available – and this is the reason why we do what we do.  There’s no pint in putting it into filing cabinets where no one can get to it – get it out and make it available – especially to a community that is as interested in it as ours is.

Thanks also to Bill and Linda from Peninsula Reflections who have been wonderful in framing some of our early blueprints and documents.

Some of the aspects of Avalon Beach are not on display – there just wasn’t room to display all of these as we have well into four figures of photographs and documents displaying the Avalon and Pittwater area. 

God bless the people who carried around Box Brownies in the 1930’s, 40’s ad 50’s. without your wonderful photographs we would not be able to see these wonderful records – people say, ‘oh, they’re just family photographs’, - but when you look at these and what’s in the background and how the family are dressed it creates quite a remarkable family history.

E B Studios – E B stood for two surnames of two very accomplished photographers of the 1920’s, (John H. Enemark in partnership with Hilda Bridges at 278 George Street, Sydney) who had this amazing camera that panned around and produced seven of the wonderful panoramas we have. These show the naked beauty of our area before it became occupied. 

I’d like to finish with a quote by Dr. Beverly Kingston from her acceptance speech for her Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Australian Historical Society;

In this modern world you can’t measure what you have or what you aspire to or even what your ambitions are if you have no knowledge and sense of what has been before, if you can’t comp[are what you have with what has been before.”

Hopefully our 8th Great Historic Photographic Exhibition will give people a chance to see what has been before.''


The 8th Avalon Beach Historical Society Great Historic Photographic Exhibition continues today 6th of October and tomorrow’s long weekend Monday at Avalon Beach Community Centre. 

Membership of this great local historical society is a mere $10.00 and a great way to support the work Mr Searle and his fellow members undertake to ensure our children and our children’s children will have access to this amazing collection of our historic past. 

See details on how to join at their website: http://avalonbeachhistory.com.au/index.htm

John Illingworth’s excellent two films on aspects of Pittwater’s Histories feature this Issue in our History page – many thanks to Mr Illingsworth for permission to share them with you.

John Stone and Hon. James Macken, Patron of the Avalon Beach Historical Society. 

Cr. Bob Grace of Pittwater Council and Christine Hopton, President of Avalon Beach SLSC. 

 Jenny Cronan of Pittwater Council with Brian (OAM) and Robyn Friend.

John and Lyn Illingsworth. 
Historians Norman Field and Geoff Searle - the passion of people for our histories is what Keeps them available for all.

Report and Photos by A J Guesdon, 2013.