By George Seymour
Historic buildings help to connect us to previous times, people, and organisations; such as local governments. When people think of previous councils in our region they usually only refer to the four councils that existed immediately prior to 2008: the Woocoo Shire Council, Maryborough City Council, Tiaro Shire Council and Hervey Bay City Council. However, there were many more councils that have come and gone over the decades here, including the Granville, Burrum, Howard, Antigua, Tinana, and Pialba Shires.
These councils, along with their histories, records and political machinations have largely been forgotten.
However, every day as I drive up Main Street in Pialba, I am reminded of one of them: the Pialba Shire Council.
This was a relatively short-lived council that existed from 1905 to 1917.
Perhaps the most tangible connection we have to this council is the hall on Main Street, which we now know as the Pialba Memorial Hall.
Soon after being formed in 1905, the Pialba Shire Council built this hall to be used as their headquarters but also for a whole range of community activities.
Here, in this hall, the Pialba Farewell and Reception Committee presented soldiers with gifts as they departed by train. Over the years – and long after the Pialba Shire had ceased to exist – many different services and functions have taken place within its four walls including temporary shops when those across Main Street burned down, a temporary dental surgery, a meeting place, a cinema, many dances and even Zumba classes now.
We think of this hall as being a static part of our history, standing tall here on Main Street as the years come and go; however, it has not always occupied its present commanding position.
In 1939, its present site was gifted to the RSL, whose members dismantled, moved, and remodelled what was the Shire Hall to be the Pialba Memorial Hall here, about 100 metres further up Main Street from where the council had built it at the corner.
The Pialba District Soldiers’ Memorial Hall was opened on 20 December 1941, with a large and excited crowd. It was followed by a Debutante Ball, attended by over 200 guests, where four Pialba debutantes were presented to society: Betty Messer, Barbara Moes, Hazel Moes and Edna Moes.
The local paper breathlessly detailed each of the debutantes’ attire. Miss Hazel Moes “chose a charming frock of embossed organdie over satin. The bodice featured a heart shaped neckline, and the fully-flared skirt was finished at the waist with a large bow of organdie. White lace mittens were worn with the gown and Miss Hazel carried a dainty bouquet of artificial roses.”
“Miss Betty Messer, who was escorted by Mr Basil Moreton, wore a delightful ankle length gown of white hail-spot muslin, featuring a full circular skirt, dainty puff sleeves and trimmed at the neckline with a princes flounce of organdie. White lace mittens, elbow-length, completed the costume and she carried a dainty bouquet of pink hydrangea.”
The other debutantes also wore similar attire.
Fashions have changed, but the need for a hall here as a focus for the community remains. The hall’s continuing presence provides a meaningful connection with our history.