Dear country halls,
A RECENT visit to one of your kind prompted my thinking about your existence.
You are not necessarily regarded as pieces of art but I think you should be.
Your structures and design, each a little different to that in the next town or State, is only part of your artistic aura.
The secrets you hold, the sights you’ve seen would go far beyond the best gossip columnist.
Ever receptive to those wanting to hire you for their purposes, you’ve gracefully changed your inner space to whatever it needed to be.
Without getting too repetitive of Slim Dusty’s famous song about you, you have much to be admired within all your details, some seen, some invisible.
For instance, the various substances your wooden floors would have absorbed over the years.
A drop of blood or two from the wedding reception barney; spilt custard from the Christmas party dinner; excessive hair gel flicked from the slicked young buck’s do, keen to impress a lass at an old time dance.
Each of your kitchens has similar qualities. There’ll be a tank-sized urn that’s been responsible for hundreds of thousands of cups of tea; a drawer of tea-towels, many of which will have maps of various States on them; and the all important broom, mop and dustpan, as per the strict cleaning instructions given to the hirer.
Some of you will have modern touches, like toilets actually adjoined to the building, and fans.
The ones that particularly intrigue are those of you on the highway, miles away from a thriving town yet still dutifully maintained.
And then there is that smell; hard to dissect, impossible to bottle. There is obviously a mustiness to it, with undertones of floor polish, perhaps strong disinfectant, tea and canvas.
There is a pride behind you as well. That’s clear by the regal glass-framed youthful portrait of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the wall.
Often, an Australian flag adorns one of the stage walls, or is on a pole nearby.
Your piano, sitting idly on the high stage, seems to long for someone to pull back the hand-made, custom fit cover and belt out the 'Road to Gundagai'.
Once the chairs are re-stacked and put away, inevitably some of the young ones will remove their shoes and discover the joy of attempting to break sock sliding records.
I cringe to think about your futures. As regional councils and developers have their sights set on expansions, shiny designs and multipurpose facilities, there is high risk of seeing the demise of your noble selves.
You’ve launched careers, changed laws, farewelled legends and upheld traditions.
You’ve held rallies, concerts, receptions, parties, exhibitions, meetings and forums.
Above all though, you continue to hold memories, something for which there is no need for the master key to keep safely stored away.