The Avalon Beach Historical Society was formed in September 1983 with the main aim of collecting the history of our immediate area – pictorially, literally and in the oral history form. We have an extensive and comprehensive photographic collection which covers many of the eras, areas and events along many hours of oral history recorded directly from residents who recalled earlier Avalon Beach in the first person for us. Much of this has been transcribed and is now being transferred to a digital format.
The Society has always been very keen to make this history available to interested groups, individuals and students on any level in the community. We would be pleased if it also helped to foster an appreciation for the fabulous area in which we live and the community spirit which has been sustained as the area grows.
The Society has given many lectures to many community groups, including some out-of-area talks to groups such as our parent body, the Royal Australian Historical Society (RAHS), at ‘History House’ in Macquarie Street. We have been affiliated with the RAHS since our inception in 1983.
Talks are usually accompanied by pictorial presentations from the Society’s huge collection to enhance the spoken word and illustrate the ‘before and after’ of a particular townscape or landscape.
The Society conducts four general meetings a year, one of which is the Annual General Meeting, usually in September. Meetings are frequently held with a guest speaker as the focal point of the evening. Past speakers have included many early residents and identities such as Les McGuire, the first headmaster of Avalon Public School, Wal Ward who worked with his dad in the first service station and formed the first scout group. Others include Sam Meek who worked on the Careel Bay dairy and who was also our first butcher and Max Watt who, as a member of the Woolloomooloo Police Boys’ Club, obtained his Bronze Medallion with the Avalon Beach Surf Club in 1945, and patrolled the beach for the next 60 years.
The Society has conducted tours to historic homes throughout the area and guided walking tours around Avalon Beach. Members were also witness, from the observation deck, to one of the last firings of a torpedo from the original torpedo base at Clareville in 1983 before it was demolished to make way for the present naval diving school.
Although by some historical standards the Society is a mere youngster, in its 33 years it has accomplished a great deal and has a right to be proud of its achievements.
The Society has also conducted over the years 8 enthusiastically attended historic photographic exhibitions which have usually been held in the original Community Centre and lately in the Avalon Recreation Centre.