A sustainable institution turns 101

Anne Hayde [left] and Viv Green, authors of Kahutara Hall Celebrates 101 Years. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

Two friends from Greytown – one a long-time local, the other a seasoned writer and historian – have teamed up to tell the story of an enduring South Wairarapa institution.

Viv Green and Anne Hayden are the authors of Kahutara Hall Celebrates 101 Years, a self-published story of the small farming town hall – a staple of its community since 1921.

Relocated to the area from the former Featherston military training camp, the hall has hosted everything from dance competitions and political talks to Sunday School classes and the much-anticipated neighborhood Christmas parties. .

In addition to the history of the building itself, Kahutara Hall Celebrates 101 Years, which will be launched during the hall’s 101st anniversary celebrations next month, chronicles a diligent and enterprising rural community.

For co-writers Green and Hayden, the soul of the story was the resilient, “quirky” characters who ensured the hall’s survival: from the first assembly that sought a community meeting place after the fire of the previous, to the volunteers organizing many worker bees and potlucks to welcome new residents, to the current committee determined to keep the doors open.

PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Kahutara Hall Celebrates 101 Years, designed and printed by Lamb-Peters Print of Greytown, was a labor of love for Green, who moved to Kahutara with her young family in 1978.

As an active member of the former Kahutara Country Women’s Institute, a founding member of the Kahutara Playgroup, and former Hall Committee Chairman, the turn-of-the-century wooden building served as a second home for Green for much of his 34 years in the zone.

To produce the book, she teamed up with close friend Hayden, combining her knowledge and wealth of contacts with Hayden’s writing experience – as author of Cobblestones Museum He Taonga: Wairarapa’s Heritage and of various academic publications.

For both women, it was important not to let the hall’s centenary pass without preserving its history, especially since many of its counterparts in Wairarapa have closed their doors.

“If we don’t record our history, it gets lost. And Kahutara Hall is part of Wairarapa history,” Green said.

“Community Halls were the heart of rural New Zealand, life in the community has always revolved around them.

“The Hall has survived all these years because of the people who were willing to work together to achieve a wonderful community asset.”

“It’s the people’s stories that really make the book, so many delightful and original stories about country life,” Hayden added.

“Their stories are funny, poignant and insightful, and reveal an extraordinary generosity of time and resources.

“You can feel that when you visit the room itself, it has such a pleasant and comforting atmosphere. You feel all the aroha that has been added to it over the years.

Kahutara Hall began life as part of the soldiers’ club building at Featherston Army Training Camp, also serving as a hospital during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

In 1921, a delegation from the Kahutara community approached the camp in hopes of obtaining a new community building after the Kahutara school gymnasium had been destroyed by fire several years earlier.

The committee bought part of the soldiers’ club for £325, and it was moved to land donated by owner WE Bidwill.

The community banded together, pooling their resources to furnish the hall and hold a community dance as their opening celebration, charging “three shillings for gentlemen and two shillings for ladies”.

Locals also paid a shilling to enter a waltz competition, with the winner taking home a £2 prize.

The committee continued to organize fundraising activities to “pay the mortgage”: which proved difficult in the early years, as the hall had no electricity until 1926 and boilers in copper were used for “making teacups and washing dishes”.

Several renovation projects followed, with worker bees organized to build a new dining room and an expanded kitchen.

The hall has had various uses over the century, for events, meetings between farmers and local politicians, church and school gatherings, and as the headquarters of community groups, some of the earliest being archery clubs. rifle and balls.

It was particularly active throughout the 1980s, thanks to an influx of newcomers: home to the Kahutara District Gymnastics Club, the Rimutaka Judo Club and the Kahutara Playgroup [the latter still going strong today].

“It was during election farms, so there were a lot of young families moving into the area,” Green said.

“Kahutara was a thriving community back then – very busy.”

Green and Hayden were grateful to the locals, who were willing to contribute their stories to the book: the farmers who remembered the wedding receptions the whole community would attend, and the parties, including the Euchre matches for those who disliked not too much dancing, former Kahutara school students who had to cross the road in pairs to use the hall, and volunteers who discovered the water tasted strange, thanks to a dead opossum in the water tank. water.

A community member told a charming story about community Christmas parties: his sister insisted that she knew the identity of “Santa Claus”, so she waited, out of sight, in locker room to find out for herself.

“His suspicions have been confirmed!” said Hayden.

“That was very cute.”

  • Kahutara Hall will hold two events to celebrate its centennial on November 11 and 12. Copies of Kahutara Hall Celebrates 101 Years will be on sale at both events for $20. To order a copy, contact Viv Green at roto.farm@xtra.co.nz

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