A Brief History of the CWA Capel Branch.
The Capel branch of the Country Women’s Association was inaugurated on Monday April 4 1934. It was Cattle Sale Day, so while their husbands bargained over cattle prices, 15 women accepted the invitation of Mrs. H. T. Dunkley to attend a meeting at the Capel Inn to consider the formation of a branch of the C.W.A. at Capel.
The State President, Mrs. Beryl Fisher and Mrs. Hearman of Donnybrook addressed the gathering on the aims and ideals of the association – to better the lot of country women and children – and to provide a social gathering, where lonely country women
could meet their neighbours, talk over their problems, change and feed a baby, enjoy a
cup of tea, and return home refreshed and relaxed. All were enthusiastic about the idea, and a branch was formed on the motion of Mrs. Dunkley, and Mrs. S.R. Hutton. The annual subscription was then four shillings.
Problems arose! First, where should they meet? The second monthly meeting with 20 ladies present was held in the Road Board Office (now the Senior Citizen Centre). Various rooms were sought, but, after several fruitless enquiries, the supper room at the local hall was finally rented at a cost of three shillings.
Next, how to make a cup of tea? Thermos flasks did not prove satisfactory, so a primus stove, kettle, teapot and jug were donated by members, and water procured from Mrs. Harrison, the local baker’s wife. All went well, till the Road Board Secretary heard about the primus, which was considered a fire hazard in the hall. No meeting is complete without a ‘cuppa’. So nothing daunted, the ladies took the tea, teapot etc. to the baker’s wife who obliged with boiling water. The tea made, it was carried 70 yards back to the hall. So they still had their ‘cuppa’, three ladies providing food for which each member paid six pence.
Enquiries began for a Rest Room, despite the fact that finances were very low. By the end of the first year, 4 pounds16 shillings and 9 pence had been raised. Card parties with sometimes a profit of only four shillings were held, supper and afternoon teas were served at 6d. a head, a garden party brought in 8 and a Fruit Fete raised 24 pounds , but all helped to swell the precious bank account.
A Library was commenced and proved a great attraction, as very few owned radios, and television was unheard of. Used books were donated by members, the exchange fee being three pence each. Mesdames Urry, Bentley and McCormack gave much valuable time and assistance to the Library which helped to swell the funds, and when most of the present books had been read, they were exchanged for others from another branch until they could afford to buy new ones.
As time went on, and membership increased, thought was given to building a CWA
Rest Room. Capel ladies don’t sit on their hands for very long..
In August, 1935, the generous offer of the President, Mrs. Lodge, to make available a free of interest loan of 350 for 25 years for the building of a Rest Room, with an annual repayment of 12 was accepted with gratitude.
In October, 1935, a lease of land adjoining the Railway Station was granted at an annual rental of 1 pound. This site was considered very suitable, as it was close to both the railway station and Post Office. In those days, all mail and goods arrived by train about 3 p.m. As the train was often late, people had to wait a considerable time – first for the train, and then for the mail to be sorted, so the need for a Rest Room was a very real one.
In December, 1935, Head Office gave permission to proceed with the building, providing it did not cost more than 270. Mesdames Lodge, Bentley and White were elected to a Building Committee and the tender of Messrs. W. Barrett & Sons was accepted.
Activities to raise money then gathered momentum. After long and varied discussions and negotiations, the Capel CWA Rest Room was finally built, and officially opened by Mrs. Archie Burt, the State President, on April 21st, 1936 – Capel CWA’s second birthday. Officers of all branches in the Southern Division were invited. Donations of furniture were received from Mr. McTaggart (stove), Mrs. Lodge (chairs), Mr. W.F. Roberts (Library cupboard) and twelve members each donated a tub chair from the Blind School at 8/6 each.
The RSL men, several of whom were husbands of CWA women, kindly offered to fence the Rest Room on 3 sides, supplying materials and labour. Throughout the years there has been generous support from the local branch of the RSL. A couple of months later, the kitchen was lined, a sink and cupboards installed and a 1,000 gallon tank and stand erected. Later again, the retiring room was lined by 3 good CWA husbands. A Younger Set was formed and gave valuable assistance to the Parent Branch in donating a piano, a cement path, a fire screen and cushions. It functioned for several years, until the Junior Farmer Movement became a popular and active body, incorporating both girls and boys. This body was also assisted by the branch which was represented in an advisory capacity.
The Rest Room was made available to various local bodies for meetings, The Red Cross, Infant Health Clinic, Junior Farmers, a visiting Doctor, St. John Ambulance Classes, Rifle Club, a music teacher for the benefit of local children, a Lodge, Farmers Extension Group, Girl Guides, Sunday School classes, and Church meetings.
On one occasion, a CWA member from another district, with her husband and children, had the misfortune of their car breaking down at Capel, the repairs necessitating a stay overnight. She enquired at the Post Office the whereabouts of a CWA member and within a short time, CWA women living nearby had transported mattresses, bedding and other necessities to the Rest Room, where the family spent the night in comparative comfort, and were able to avail themselves of the use of the stove, crockery, and other amenities to prepare meals till the car was ready next day.
A wedding party from another town also used the room on their arrival to make a cup of tea, freshen up and change. Ironing facilities were also placed there, so that dresses could be pressed before the ceremony.
At one stage a difficult situation was created by the local authority, the Health Department, and restrictions imposed by the railway lease, partly because men were allowed to use the rooms without having a separate toilet for them. A special meeting was called to decide whether to erect a Gents toilet on the present site, or to accept the offer of a gift of other land and re-erect the room there. Messrs. Lodge, McTaggart, E.J. summers and F. White were asked to attend to details, and it was decided to erect a Gents toilet on the present site, and comply with other regulations.
A septic system was required to comply with health regulations – all more expense, but once again good CWA husbands Messrs. Hornibrook, Clapp, Jamieson and Norton stepped into the breach and hey presto! It was done, costing very little.
Branch membership reached a record of 70 members in the years 1941 and 1945. In 2005 due to a decline in membership and concerns about the building maintenance required, a decision was made to hand over the building and the railway lease to Capel Apex Club. The rooms were still in use until 2015 when the Apex club disbanded. This raised the question—what to do with the building? The current Capel CWA members made a submission to Head Office to resume responsibility of the rooms but, due to the amount of maintenance required, permission was not given. This meant that Apex had to find someone interested in removing the building as the land had to be returned to its original state. The building was eventually relocated to a farm just south of Donnybrook where it will be renovated to become a farmstay for cancer sufferers. When this is completed we will be invited to attend a ceremony where we will install a plaque inside the building.
At a meeting, in 2016, it was moved that the site of the CWA Rest Rooms be marked by installing a sign. Our current members wanted to acknowledge the sacrifices and effort our founding members had made. A letter to the shire resulted in Mick Jeffrey contacting the branch. He helped to organise a sign and arranged for the sign to be installed and the area cleared and tidied.
- Capel SHOUT Retro Blast event – working in partnership with Shire of Capel, Bendigo Bank and Retravision Bunbury
- Community craft days
- Members of Bridgetown Chapter of Days for Girls
- Support Lock the Gate movement for Gasfield Free South West
- Support the Chaplain at Capel Primary School
- Hosting Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea – fundraiser for Cancer Research
- Catering for Anzac Day Gunfire Breakfast
- Hold Capel Farmers Market stall
- Hold pop up stalls in front of IGA and Cap
- el Newsagency
- Support local families in crisis