100 Years of RSL - down through the decades

By Cobram Courier

Today, the Courier continues the 100 years of RSL — down through the decades series. Today’s article tells the story of the fifth decade of the Cobram-Barooga RSL Sub-Branch.

1959 to 1968

During this decade the position of president was occupied by only three Diggers — 1959-61: H T Paterson; 1962: Charlie Foster; and 1963-67: N E Phillips. In 1968, H T Paterson assumed the mantle once again.

The sub-branch recently relocated its honour board from the civic centre to the River Bends room at Cobram-Barooga Golf Club. Inspection of this shows that the executive positions show the same names in different roles and we have details of the committees, which again show significant Cobram-Barooga family names represented.

The last decade concluded with the sub-branch having acquired a building to use as its club rooms, but within four years there were discussions about needing new club rooms. Between 1963 and 1968, multiple sub-committees were established to consider various options including alteration/additions, an RSL room in the planned civic centre, buying the old National Australia Bank or ‘Le Carousel’ — who can remember attending functions there?
Eventually, in May 1968, council agreed to transfer the supper room to the RSL, perhaps persuaded by the deputation that reminded council of the contribution by the 1914-18 Diggers to the Mechanics Institute and supper room. However, the RSL would be required to convert the iron-clad building to double brick — with early estimates of cost at $7000.

In 1960, the observance of Anzac Day changed to reflect the result of a plebiscite conducted in 1959. This would see march and observance in the morning, with unrestricted normal holiday activities from 1 pm, the profits from any organised entertainment to go to RSL, and other ex-service welfare funds, if the promoting bodies agreed. So, in 1961, an afternoon golf competition was organised (including a competition for women) with a perpetual RSL trophy. Did that trophy ever end up in your family home?

Between 1961 and 1965 there were discussions about holding a dawn service, but there are no records of it eventuating at this time.

With deference to the ageing Diggers from the 1914-18 war, while the 1939-45 Diggers marched from the Royal Victoria Hotel (Bottom Pub) to the Clock Tower, via the Hay Memorial Ave, the older Diggers joined the march at Mrs Gilmour’s corner (now the Visitor Information Centre).

With the focus of fundraising in the state being for the running of the war veterans homes, donations from our district of fruit, butter and cheese were gratefully accepted, as was citrus fruit for the making of marmalade. An early iteration of ‘‘Peaches and Cream’’. On the local fundraising front, there were raffle prizes of ‘‘a pair of geese’’, golf clubs, and boat and trailer. Farmers raised calves for later sale, and there was a drive for old tyres and batteries. Who knew that we were into recycling in the 1960s? All this in addition to dances, street stalls, clay bird gun shoot and fishing competition. The gun shoot was a success but no fish were caught on the day. Diggers golf and bowls days continued to be well supported and good fundraisers and one of the first fundraisers after the change-over to decimal currency was the Murray Valley Marbles Championship that raised $110.78.

In 1965, 50 years after the landing at Gallipoli, there was a pilgrimage back there and Vern Brock from Cobram made the journey.

In 1965, there was a significant change for the organisation with the name change from Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to Returned Services League. The change was designed to bring in the women who served in a war area and are entitled to be members, but the previous name made it look like a male organisation.

The sub-branch fundraised for the Cobram swimming pool and donated playground equipment that was installed in 1964. Who remembers playing on the giant slide or log swing? However, the RSL was not allowed to use its welfare funds towards the memorial gates.

In 1964, it was acknowledged that the clock tower had not been dedicated, so the shire was again asked to build a war memorial, perhaps in association with the proposed civic centre. The name ‘‘Mivo Park’’ was suggested as Mivo was the name of a river in Bougainville that was to be the next objective of the CMF in that area. As up to 100 men from this district were in the area at the time of the cessation of hostilities it was felt that the name would mean something to a considerable number of people.

In 1965, Bertha Markey’s 40 years loyal service to RSL and ladies auxiliary was rewarded with the award of the Certificate of Merit with Gold Badge — the highest award available to a person who is not a service member of the league. Unfortunately, soon after that the auxiliary went into recess for 12 months.

In 1965, the RSL co-ordinated and conducted the door-knock appeal for the Churchill Memorial Trust that had a national target of £1 000 000.

Towards the end of the period covered by this article, the district was welcoming home soldiers who had been conscripted for National Service. One of these, Bill Slatterie, remains a member of the sub-branch today.
And, on Anzac Day 1968, the Cobram march included Diggers from World Wars I and II and Vietnam.

● If you have any photos or memorabilia about the early days of the RSL, we would like the opportunity to photograph or copy it. People can contact the secretary on 0407 040 208, or email [email protected]