The Historical Society acknowledges and respects the Darug and Gundungurra People, the Traditional Custodians of the area.

The Mechanics Institute (Community Hall) Memories

Mechanics Institute / Community Hall ....To Be Demolished?


David Jenner was a boy projectionist in the 1950s at the Lawson Literary Institute as it was then known. The following are some of his memories of those times.

The hall was leased on Saturdays and Wednesdays at that time for the purpose of showing films, and was very well attended because television had recently been introduced but had not yet made inroads into the habits of the film going public.

I don't want to sound too self-indulgent, but I really had some of the happiest times of my life there as a 14-15 year old. The lessee was Eric Ellis ,who also ran the movies in Glenbrook School of Arts, and sometimes the running times of the films had to be staggered because the same print would be shown at both locations on the same day!

Sometimes this meant literally waiting for the next reel to arrive from Glenbrook by car while in the middle of the Saturday matinee. The seating was movable to allow for dances and other functions to take place and the screen was behind curtains at the back of the stage so plays and other entertainments could happen in front of it when necessary. Our biggest success at that time was a musical called "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" which had not yet screened at Katoomba and had continuous sessions all day at Lawson.

I was told later in the afternoon that there was a queue outside for the evening show stretching all the way outside past the police station next door and right up to the park on the corner. When the audience was finally seated (some on chairs taken from the room behind and placed down the aisle spaces) all that could be seen from the projection box was a sea of heads.

It was probably a fire trap but nobody seemed to worry! Lollies were sold in the side extension at interval. Matinees consisted largely of Westerns and the Marx Brothers were always popular. Children did not like musicals and whenever someone opened their mouth to sing there would be a stampede for the toilets on either side of the stage. Electric radiators mounted on the walls provided heat in the winter months. People who had not been before always seemed to think the front looked "A bit like a church".

Film projection at that time was a very laborious process with very hot and messy arc lights and of course every reel had to be rewound the minute it came off the machine.The temperature in that small room was sweltering in summer and often the small half moon window above the front porch could not be opened because it let light onto the ceiling inside.

On one occasion the large valve amplifier had smoke pouring from it and I really didn't know what to do because Eric was out posting bills on the numerous billboards around town and if the show was stopped there was the thunder of all those stamping feet down below and the inevitable shout of "Put a penny in it!"On one weekend bushfires were raging outside and all hands were needed so the show had to be cancelled.

The movie was a comedy very aptly entitled "Phfft!"

It would be very sad to see this building go because so many people seem to regard it with such affection.I think the facade is an integral part of Lawson and maybe it could be moved back to front a newer building behind it.

I'm one of the few people who remember the old swimming pool at Wilson Park before it was "concreted in" and this is a prime example of what happens when utility is allowed to predominate over all else.

It may be more hygienic but is about a third of the size of the old one and of course makes the surrounding pavilions look rather sad overlooking so much concrete!

Mrs Pattie Louden of Lawson reminisces and laments for the future of  the Mechanics Institute / Community Hall in Lawson.mrs louden

Mrs. Louden has had a very long connection with Lawson, going back over seventy years, most of which she has spent in her home in Sayers Street with her late husband Tom and her two daughters.

Mrs. Louden was asked how she feels about the prospect of the Mechanics Institute / Community Hall being demolished for the widening of the highway and to share some  memories about it.

Before I married I would come often to dances on Friday nights at the hall during the war years to raise funds for the war effort, we had such a wonderful time. I would leave work at 5.30 pm and travel by steam train on Friday evenings, it usually took about 3 hours to get here then from Sydney.The entrance to the dances cost 1 shilling, and I remember it was always packed out.

The Hall was really the focal point of the community in Lawson and I have may happy memories of various functions, dances, special occasions and so on. The hall was used by many community groups, it was used by the C.W.A. for many years and  other groups. I remember it being used for Christmas Carols for some years, it was wonderful.

Of the my many happy times at the hall I particularly remember  it being used on the weekends as a movie theatre. I remember seeing the films 'Going My Way','King Of The Zombies' are two I remember, there were others, but i can't recall them now.

I feel very strongly that the hall should somehow be moved and be used again for the whole community as it was intended, after all it belongs to the people of the township. Although it looks small from the highway it is really quite large inside. I remember the enormous kitchen / supper area and attending functions such as the C.W.A. and my daughters attending many school and other functions here as they were growing up.

I feel that we should be keeping the old hall as it has such important historical connections with many people in Lawson. Of course I realise that the highway is in desperate need of being widened but I would like to see the hall retained regardless.

I have no memory of any community consultation over the years regarding what would be done with the hall when the highway eventually is re- built. Maybe there was something in 'The Gazette' over the years but I don't recall anything being said about it.

I would feel very sad to see this important building demolished considering the connections it has with so many people over the years.

Mechanics Institute Photo Memories

16th div AIF
17th batallion
mascot for 17th batallion
mechanics institute lawson 1936
mechanics institute 1950's
lawson meachanics institute