top of page

PROGESS: 1900 - 1914

Tanunda in 1900 was a steadily progressing town.
The Victorian age had given residents of the British Empire a sense of stability. Everyone appeared to know his or her place in society. In a colony like South Australia, each village or settlement had its own community structure and Tanunda was no exception. Only two years before the foundation of the Tanunda Club, the town itself was said to have a ‘general air of substantial comfort’; it was a ‘local centre of industry’.


Little had occurred by the early 1900′s to change this optimistic view of Tanunda. It was paraded as an ‘example of a steadily progressing town in good times and bad’, an object lesson to many other areas. The town’s population had virtually doubled in the preceding decade and businesses were fast increasing. They were a ‘contented and prosperous-looking crowd of country folk’. The town was a religious focal point, home of the Lutheran Immanuel Synod; it was a renowned centre for music – the brass band was highly regarded; and it had a rich social life incorporating Lodges, sports, shows and other events. Many of the highlights of the social calendar were performed within the precinct of the first Tanunda Club Hall. In effect, much of the town’s business and pleasure was conducted within the Club. 

Office holders take the Club into a new century.
The Tanunda Club shared in a buoyant atmosphere of town growth. This was largely due to the work of office holders within the club.


W. J Offe stepped down as President in 1900 and was succeeded in the next decade by W.A. Hamann, C. P. John, A. Ohlmeyer, H. Suessbier, M. E. Heuzenroeder and C. W. H. Lake. The Committees in those years had formidable plans.For the Club, as for the town, the first years of the new century were full of ideas for the future. Throughout 1901, the Committee and members struggled with the notion of purchasing the block and buildings, but records of the time do not give us the full story. At a special general meeting on March 8th, the President explained that members’ opinions were being sough about the matter of proposed purchase.

Mr. E. Trimmer mentioned to the gathering that “the trustees decided not to buy the Club for £600 as the price was too high and would rather see it go to auction”. The members decided that the trustees of the club should be given discretionary powers about the whole matter. There is an indication that by May the Clubhouse had been purchased and that members were requesting the Committee to ‘see their way clear to add a little comfort to the Club’.


Adding to the Club’s amenities.
Suggestions like this one, for the addition of amenities, were obviously listened to carefully. Gas was laid on to the Club later in 1901. A new bar was built in 1902 and the caretaker even had a bed bought for him – an exceptionally generous step!

There were other kinds of issues being worked out while the Club was improving its assets. For example, one matter that consumed the Club’s attention was whether or not all meetings should be heard in the German language. A motion to this effect was defeated and, as had happened since the beginning of the Club, both German and English were used where necessary – a sound, practical solution to the problem. All in all, this was a time of progress and expectancy and it was typical of the era that, at a general meeting, a proposition should be carried with fervour that a ‘hearty vote of thanks be given to the Committees… for past services’.

The main aim at this time though, was to gain better amenities. It was plain that the Club members and Committee had their sights set on major improvement to the buildings. The first step involved sacrificing the ‘small tin shanty’ of a Clubhouse for something really up-to-date; a building that would cement the allegiance of Club members, encourage a relaxed atmosphere, and set the Club itself on a path for predictable, controlled and discerning growth.

By May 1906, the Club’s finances were in a very healthy state. It was perhaps with a sense of pride in the Club’s achievements that Mr. Adolph Schulz addressed a general meeting and mentioned that ‘according to the financial standing of the Club we might build a substantial front and prop. that a general meeting be called to test the feeling of the members’. There was a spirit of prediction in Schulz’s words.

In August, at an extraordinary meeting, Messrs. A. Schulz, E. Schrapel and W. Bietz strongly pursued the idea of the building, against some tentative thinkers. Those who would hold back the tide had little hope, and a building sub-committee was formed, beginning the work immediately. By October, rough sketches for the proposed edifice had been prepared and were quickly approved – the grand new Clubhouse was underway!

In January, 1907 tenders for the proposed building were accepted after Mr. Juncken had explained every detail of the work, from the materials to be used to the dimension of the rooms. Then in March, the Committee resolved to purchase an adjoining block of land for the new building, and in truly adept style, advised people that tenders could be made for the purchase of ‘that part of the existing Club premises which is to be removed to make way for the new front’. There was no wasteful financial management at this Club! By December, 1907, new furnishings for the rooms were being purchased.


A new building becomes a reality.
The building itself was to be a credit not only to the Club, but to the whole town of Tanunda. It was of fairly simple, rectangular design, topped by a roof with Dutch gables. The MacDonnell Street façade was plain, yet superb. A steeply pitched verandah ran the entire length. It had turned wooden posts, beautiful lacework at the timber joins, and an impressive low fence and magnificently worked wrought-iron gateway. Above this verandah, running like a ribbon down the façade, was a rendered parapet. It had gables at either end and a central, rounded feature with the words ‘CLUBHOUSE’ inserted in large gold letters.

The building’s substantial size, prominent position and fine construction made it one of Tanunda’s outstanding features. It could be looked upon as an enormous asset. In one sense, it changed the face of both the Club and its importance in the community.

While the sun apparently shone on the building activities of the Club at this time, it was still the case that the day-to-day problems of the organisation kept occurring; too many non-members were drinking refreshments; books were ‘wandering’ from the library; and disputes arose between individuals.

For some reason it seemed that the gravest insults between one member and another invariably occurred at the New Year’s Eve festivities (perhaps the dancing became a little haphazard as the evening went on and collisions took place!). Whatever the case, between January and March 1907 the then President, H. Suessbier, demanded an apology from a very senior Club member and town identity for ‘insulting language’. It took the President the full 3 months to receive his satisfaction in Committee. By that time, the insult had probably worked its full course.

But these were only minor hiccups, as the general trend of the Club’s activities was ever forward.


The Club’s hall is in demand.

In the ensuing years, the Club’s Hall was in demand as a centre for community activities. The Brass Band, school children, travelling players, wrestling promoters, local people wanting to raise funds for a new recreation ground, lecturers and business people all favoured it as a venue. On occasions, the finest dances and balls were held there. One of these elicited the most favourable comments in the local press and averted to the fact that the ‘merry throng… waltzed to the divine music discoursed by Messers Parsons & Sibley (piano and violin) which undoubtedly surpassed any previous effort in Tanunda and district’.

Very often, the Club gave the hall free of charge to local groups and were thanked over and over again for their community-mindedness. The success of the hall as a meeting place for local citizens sparked an idea in the minds of Club officers: a new hall could be built to again further advantage the society of Tanunda.

The Secretary of the Club at that time, A. H. Graue, called a meeting on Friday 2nd December , 1910, to ‘consider and deal with the application of members pursuant to rule 20 as to the advisability of a building a new Club hall’. It was not surprising that the membership gave the go-ahead for the venture.


A bigger, better community hall.
A building committee was again established under the chairmanship of the President, C. W. H. Lake. By 2nd June, 1911, this committee had reported the various reasons for the construction of the large hall, 24.25m x 12.45m, with a stage 12m deep. There was to be a loft above the stage and dressing and dining rooms beneath it. The front portion of the building would eventually be two-storied. This ambitious project was recommended for immediate commencement.

Soon, the Adelaide architects, English & Soward, provided excellent plans and by September the members had accepted the tender of Mr. B. Freytag for £3200 to build the new Club hall. It was destined to become one of the finest in the state, with a stage that would be ‘large enough to accommodate the largest touring company’. The building was completed in March 1913.

On the night of Friday 16th May, 1913, the new Club hall was officially declared open. Some functions had already been held within its walls, but this was to be the night of nights. Everything was ready except the plush stage curtain, which would have to wait its time, and a makeshift curtain was erected for the interim. Attended by around 700-800 people, music was provided by the Tanunda orchestra under the guidance of Mr. O. E. Juttner.

During the evening, the Club’s President, C. W. H. Lake, rose and told the gathering the story of the Club’s origins. He pointed to the careful accumulation of funds and the good fellowship existing between members as the reasons for the Club’s success. It was now a wealthy institution and possessed a ‘pretentious structure’ – the ‘Clubhouse’; with its fine bar, large billiard room, three parlours, reading room and pantry, and an even more pretentious building – the ‘Hall’; regarded to be the finest equipped outside Adelaide. The club itself had 552 members.

At this point during the evening, Miss Gretchen Heuzenroeder cut the ribbons near the stage to declare the venue officially open, a curtain rose, and the stage – with its splendid scenery – was revealed to all. To complete the evening, the Tanunda Dramatic Club gave a performance of ‘Octoroon’, a vivid drama set in the American deep south.

In February 1914, the plush stage curtain was finally completed and hung in the hall. It was made of peacock blue fabric and featured a monogram of the Club in the centre, ‘in three shades of velvet surrounded by a laurel wreath’.

When C. W. Lake officially accepted the curtain and it was raised for the first time, a modern technological marvel – a moving picture – was screened to mark the occasion presented by the Kinograph company.


A dire change is coming.

It seemed that all the world was at the feet of the Tanunda Club. Even Walter Lindrum, a gifted exponent of billiards and snooker of world wide repute, deigned to appear at the Club. He commented that one of the tables there rated with the best he had ever played on.

The town was alive with possibilities for the future. Everything pointed towards a time of greatness. By June 1914, the Club’s balance sheet told a story which showed ‘what a wonderful success the organisation had become’. In the six months to the 3oth April, 1914, the Club had an income of £1 661/13/3, of which £1 369/2/- was from the sale of refreshments. An overdraft of £3 500 on buildings was to be quickly reduced. Total assets were valued at over £7 000. It was an astounding statement of how quickly the Club had progressed. This era though, with all its success and hope, was to be short lived.

Just as the Club appeared to be entering its finest hour, an event of global magnitude shattered the nations. In the middle of the campaign for a Federal election, on 5th August, 1914, the Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, told Australians about the tragic declaration of war between Britain and Germany and added, “Australia is now at war”.


/click here to see next page...

The new Tanunda Club Hall ready for opening night in 1914. Note the glorious scenery, national flags and spirit lamps.

bottom of page