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Normie Rowe plays to a packed house on 9 July 1966. Photograph courtesy Orange and District Historical Society, CWD Collection.

A Shining Example of Community Collaboration

The concept of the Amoco Hall was first mentioned at a meeting at the Ophir Motel when Mr Ernest Tilston ‘sold’ the idea of a public hall to the then Deputy Mayor, Alderman Ron Hill.

Strangely enough the meeting was supposed to discuss the formation of a Bowling Club for proposed bowling greens that the Amoco Oil Company had agreed to help finance in exchange for the lease of the land on Bathurst Road on which their service station was built.Alderman Hill promised to solicit the support of the Mayor, Alderman Clive Hamer, and if Orange City Council agreed to a a public hall instead of a bowling green an approach would be made to the directors of the Amoco Oil Company to devote their lease money to the construction of the building.

Mayor Hamer and Mr Tilston had little difficulty in persuading Amoco and the Mayor was impressed with the need for a community centre. By this time Mr Tilston had secured the full support of the Orange Sports and Social Club and a not-for-profit company was to be formed to construct the hall. The Club agreed to raise funds and with Mr Tilston’s enthusiasm support began to roll in. The Orange Sports and Social Club raised money, tradesmen promised their labour and good second- hand material was purchased.

But of course like most worthwhile projects there were the ‘knockers’. Letters against the project were written and published in the Central Western Daily. People who promised support suddenly lost interest. Doubts were raised whether voluntary work could be organised and whether sufficient loan funds would be forthcoming. These objections were overcome and with voluntary help and the use of second-hand material the building was eventually completed for £60,000. One of the early supporters who gave much moral and financial support was Mr Geoff Murray. The architect, Mr F Graf donated a large portion of his fees.

The opening of the Hall on 10 June 1965 soon convinced everyone that this was a much needed amenity.On the opening night in June 1965 there was a hugely successful ball complete with live dance band (the Merry Makers).The next evening Stomp City, Orange's answer to Surf City in Sydney - began its amazing run as the town's major weekend entertainment. Three bands - Buddy and the Hermits, the Mystery Men and the Ravens - did half hour stints in turn to keep the dancers happy from 12 noon to 12 midnight. None of the musicians accepted pay that weekend, and neither did the hall staff - the entire proceeds were ploughed back into hall improvements.

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