The inaugural meeting of the Pleasant Point Branch of the R.S.A. was held on 11 September 1931. The first president was the resident Doctor P.D. Benham; the first secretary A.S. de Montalk, headmaster of the District High School, and meetings were held at either Of their residences. There were five members present at that first meeting.
At that time, the country was in the grips of the Great Depression and, to make matters worse, South Canterbury was suffering from one of its periodic severe droughts. The R.S.A. Executive was much concerned with the lack of work and, hence, money for its members.
Relief work was foremost and men frequently cycled to Timaru for employment. One member permitted unlimited willow wood to be cut on his property by the R.S.A. Some early minutes illustrate the concern for members who fell on hard times: “As this member has been in ill health for some time, it was agreed that he be paid one pound from the funds in hand on condition that it was worked for later.” And again: “Mr A. to cut two cords of wood and deliver to Mrs X in repayment of a pound advanced to him previously.”
The third Annual Report records that T.D. Burnett, M.P., had given a very generous donation of four pounds to be subsidised by the Branch for two pounds to buy beef for free distribution amongst unemployed R.S.A. members.
At Christmas time, for some years, orders for goods to the value of two shillings were given to eligible unemployed returned servicemen to purchase gifts for their children.
R.S.A. concerts were the social occasions of the district — admission 1/6d, children 6d, in 1942. In 1945 the highlight of the year was the R.S.A. Ball - men 3/-, women 2/- The Annual Smoke Concert (men only) was always a hilarious evening. In recent years, this has been replaced by a dinner and social with wives and widows invited, at the Club Rooms in Timaru. The occasional Mystery Coach Trip is also a social event.
The Memorial Lounge in the Town Hall is a fitting tribute to the local men who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II. Pleasant Point R.S.A. members purchased the section and were represented on the War Memorial Committee responsible for the establishment of this building. The lounge with its Roll of Honour, is the centre for the Anzac Day Remembrance Services.
The Memorial Stone which had been erected on the green at the western end of Afghan Street, was moved to the playground outside the Memorial Lounge as it was deemed a more suitable site for it.
By mid 1989, the Branch had only two World War I veterans left — M.J. Wilson and D. Connell. In 1968 all First World War veterans were granted free membership. Branch membership peaked in 1962 with 115 members. Now it stands at 56.
Many members have given sterling service to the organisation. In 1948 R.J. Esler was awarded a Certificate Of Merit and Gold Star. He is the only member of the Pleasant Point Branch to have received this award. Today, the Branch’s immediate past President LW. Blakemore is current President of the South Canterbury R.S.A. — the first Pleasant Point member to be appointed to that office.
As Mrs P.D. Roberts had undertaken the organisation of the Annual S.C.F. collection locally, it was suggested to her that she convene a meeting with the object of forming a sub branch in Pleasant Point. This she did in 1974 and was duly elected its first president.
Members of this branch continue in their efforts to raise funds for the aid of disadvantaged children at home and overseas.
Even though the Pleasant Point sub-centre of the Red Cross is recorded as having been formed on 6 September 1939, mention of such an organisation is made in a Timaru Herald of 1915 when a Monster Carnival and Auction Sale was held at the District High School in aid of the Red Cross.
Obviously, this would have been to raise money for the forces in the First World War and could have been for a Red Cross central fund.
When the local sub-centre was formed in 1939, Mrs M.F. Maze was appointed President and Miss Mary Davison Secretary/Treasurer. Members immediately busied themselves with knitting and making up garments, supplies of which were regularly sent to various services’ hospitals such as Burwood and Hanmer Springs.
Other activities centred around fund raising through shop days, saleyards catering, dances and canvassing. Quantities of goods were also sent to International Red Cross for inclusion in parcels for prisoners of war and needy families in Europe, Britain and other areas. Regular donations of cash were also sent to the Timaru Centre.
Without a doubt, the greatest demand for the peacetime services of the sub-branch came during and after the flood of 1986 when the resources of the branch, particularly in terms of man-power, were heavily committed for many weeks. Hundreds of meals were provided for those working round the clock to reinstate essential services and food, clothing, furnishings, etc. were supplied to those who had lost their homes and, in some cases, their livelihood as well.
The Red Cross branch continues to support and render assistance to those in need in the district. Hospital visiting and transport to and from medical attention are willingly undertaken by members.
The Pleasant Point branch of this organisation was formed in 1983 with about forty members and works towards the welfare of the community.
Amongst projects it has undertaken are: a shade house for the I.H.C. Farm at Kerrytown, construction of equipment for the Cave Play Centre, providing a C.P.R. manikin for resuscitation training, restoration of the water-wheel from Walton’s Mill on Cartwright’s farm, extension to the public library premises, White Elephant sales for the benefit of the Railway and Historical Society.
Funds for these projects are raised by such means as hay carting, farm manure sales. The annual Casino night is always popular, raising as much as $3,000.
Another organisation working for the welfare of the community is Jaycees, formed in 1976. It has a membership of up to thirty.
Through fund raising activities such as sales of fertiliser and firewood and hay carting, it has provided the township with a children’s adventure playground opposite the school on Halstead Road, and picnic tables for the green median strip. The information kiosk on the parking area earned them the N .Z. Jaycee—Insurance Trophy for the best project of 1985.
This kiosk was built at a cost of $5,750. Most of the money was raised by members and supplemented by grants from the Strathallan County and Pleasant Point Community Councils. Local tradesmen did the construction voluntarily.
The Masonic Lodge held its first meeting in 1909 at the Technical School of the D.H.S. Meetings continued there until October 1909 when the Masonic Hall was ready for use.
It appears that the section in Harris Street was bought by James Stewart and Walter Brydon for thirty pounds. The cost of erecting the hall was met by a loan of three hundred pounds for five years at 6 per cent. It was completed in December 1909.
In 1910, ownership was transferred to the Trustees of Lodge St. Martin 162. Some members travelled many miles by horse and gig to attend the monthly meetings and, during the first year, twenty-one candidates were initiated.
With the growth of membership, the refectory was enlarged in 1953 and, in 1958, the kitchen was added. The building is now completely freehold.
Born of humble origins with twelve members in 1909, the growth of the Lodge shows that “Peace, Love and Harmony” continue amongst its members and the community around it.
Even though there are no records before 1936, of the Farmers’ Union in Pleasant Point, such an organisation did exist many years before that.
In “Jubilee History of South Canterbury” it states: ”In the beginning of 1872 there were two Farmers’ Clubs in South Canterbury; one at The Point formed on 14th July 1870; one at Waihi Crossing working for the good of the farming community.”
In 1872 the Timaru Herald reported that the Pleasant Point Farmers’ Club published a memorandum requesting Central Government assistance for a railway branch line to the township from Washdyke.
Whether or not this Club continued in existence up until the formation of the first Farmers’ Union in Timaru in 1901 is a matter for speculation. Nevertheless, Pleasant Point was well represented on that first committee. E. Acton, J. Chisholm, A. Cleland and W. Shepherd were amongst the elected members.
Pleasant Point certainly had its own Farmers‘ Union Branch in the early 1920s as reports in the Timaru Herald indicate. After the Second World War in 1945, the Farmers’ Union changed its name to Federated Farmers and Pleasant Point Branch has had a strong membership ever since working for the good of the farming community.
A Young Farmers’ Club branch was formed in Pleasant Point in 1938 with Dudley Gardiner as first president and AD. Talbot as secretary. Its aim has been to develop leadership qualities amongst the farming youth and to educate them in the advancement of farming methods. Debates and stock judging have been two of the activities which have been strongly contended for in competition with other branches of the movement.
Country Girls’ Club was first formed in 1963 with Heather Munro the first president and Margaret Porter secretary.
Several members have competed at a National level in stock judging competitions with considerable success, Miss C. Collett having won the award more than once. Debating, public speaking and home arts are other activities for which competitions are held. Mrs Andrea Bailey has been elected to the National Executive Council.
In 1973, Country Girls’ Club amalgamated with Young Farmers’ Club but, in Pleasant Point, they continue to meet separately, known as Te Ngawai Y.F.C.
A branch of this movement was formed in Pleasant Point in November 1931 with Mrs C. Ley as president and Mrs Gordon Campbell as secretary. Its aim was to foster interest in home arts and campaign for rural women’s rights and welfare.
Much of this work was closely allied to that of Women’s Institute and it was eventually realised that a more effective group would result if the organisation disbanded and joined the Women’s Institute. This was done in 1957.
Branches of the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers continue to function in outlying areas such as Kakahu, Sutherlands and Hazelbum.
The Pleasant Point Women’s Institute was formed in July 1931. Mrs W.T. Taylor was elected president. It would appear that the Women’s Institute, at that time, catered for women living the the township whereas the Women’s Division catered more for farmers’ wives.
Pleasant Point C.W.I. continues to be supported by a dedicated group of women in the township, meeting on a monthly basis.
Twenty-five years ago a meeting was convened in Pleasant Point to assess public interest in forming a Garden Club, Reverend R.]. Okey presiding. The fifty strong attendance indicated plenty of enthusiasm and the first Garden Circle was formed. Mrs Ann Fairburn was elected president and Mrs Margaret Gardiner Secretary.
Meeting once a month, the Circle has a variety of subjects for discussion, all related to promoting gardening in all its aspects. These include demonstrations by experts, specialist speakers and the ever popular garden visits. Membership has grown to over a hundred.
The group is community minded and has given financial assistance towards many projects for beautifying the township.
The Te Ngawai Floral Art Group was formed in 1976 when some members of the Garden Circle with a special interest in this skill decided that the formation of a group would further the interest in this field.
Mrs Linda White was elected president and Mrs Ruth Mitchell secretary.
The group caters for wedding and other functions where flowers are in demand and the artistic skill demonstrated in their floral decorations has earned them merit enough to enable the project to become a successful fund raising venture for its thirty-five members.
In 1988 a committee was elected at a public meeting called to consider ways and means of improving the environment of the township to make an attractive scene. Harley Stewart was voted chairman and Lester Chapman secretary.
The group has devoted many hours of voluntary work to planting three hundred trees on the median green strip bordering the Main Street and nursing them through the dry seasons. The project was financed by Strathallan County Council.
They have also planted the perimeters of the new sports field next to the Main Road. These pin oak, ash and cherry trees will, in years to come, be a fitting tribute to those who, in their retirement, helped make the township a place to be proud of.
Some residents, keen to enhance the appearance of their streets, have planted trees there at their own expense, thus contributing to the project.
In May 1974 a meeting was convened under the leadership of Mrs P. Scott, to consider the formation of this body as a means of providing entertainment for senior citizens of the district.
With support from local organisations, it was decided to proceed and Mrs Scott was elected president. The Club has been active ever since with sporting, church and social organisations undertaking to provide teas and socials on a roster system.
This monthly event fulfils a social need for the elderly of the district.
The first Pleasant Point Scout Group commenced activities on 8 February 1940 under the mastership of Reverend Schurr, assisted by AS. Watson of Butlers Road. F.E.G. Malcolmson was the first chairman of the Scout Committee.
It is interesting to record that this first pack met in the unoccupied shop which is now the Scout Den. Owing to wartime restrictions, transport was limited so that only boys within walking or cycling distance were able to attend and the pack was small in number.
When Rev Schurr left to become an Army Chaplain, H.O. Fort took over as Scoutmaster and, about three years later, a Cub Pack was formed under the leadership of Miss Beattie Taylor. The pack numbered fifteen boys.
It would appear that the Scouts went into recess for some time and was reinstated when Rev Ian Powell undertook the leadership in 1956. An old cottage was purchased at 27 Harris Street for use as a Scout Den and was used until 1985 when the present Den was bought from the Pipe Band Committee.
As Scout membership increased, the old cottage became inadequate and the obsolete Catholic Church hall was acquired and moved on to the site in 1968.
Again, in 1974, the Scouts went into recess through lack of leadership but resumed in the 1980s and has grown in numbers to a troop of 32 Scouts, four of whom are about to attain Venturer status. There is a Pack of 27 Cubs and, in 1988, a new group, Keas, was formed for six to eight year old boys.
Early records of this movement are sparse but it is known that a Girl Guide Company was formed in 1943 if only for a few years. At that stage, they met in a small, disused cottage in Maitland Street.
In 1957 a Brownie Pack was formed under the leadership of Mrs Jan Clemens who, apart from a few years when her own family took up all her time, has continued as leader ever since.
As Brownie members reached the required age, their enthusiasm led to the formation of a Guide Company in 1969 and, today, the organisation has grown to two Guide units, a Ranger unit, two Brownie Packs and a Pippin group which is a recent formation for six to eight year old girls.
Several Pleasant Point Guide members have, over the years, received the Queen’s Badge, the highest award in Guiding.
A St. John‘s Ambulance Cadet Group was first formed in 1978 under the leadership of Mr Haines and, in 1987, a Family Unit was also formed.
The Cadet Group, now led by Mr and Mrs Scott, is given instruction on many facets of First Aid and proficiency badges are awarded accordingly.
The Family Unit attends local sports matches in order to treat any injuries which may arise and are also to be seen on duty at the annual Gymkhana and at the Railway Museum when the train is running.
The Band was formed in 1946, primarily by members of the wartime band of the Levels Battalion of the Home Guard.
The convenor of the meeting to discuss its formation was E.G. Hewitt who considered it would be an asset to the community. The meeting elected R. Fraser Snr. of Sterndale as Patron and L.C. Craythorne as President.
To raise money to outfit the players, the band gave afternoon and evening performances and held shop days. They had received a grant of $400 from the trustees of the defunct Caledonian Society.
The original uniforms were imported from Lawries of Scotland averaging 48 Found 15/- each —- a total cost of 692 Pound 13/4d. In honour of their patron, the Fraser Tartan was adopted for the kilts.
For a number of years, the band practised in rented rooms until the members decided they needed premises of their own for housing of equipment and rehearsals. They purchased the disused store in Te Ngawai Road in 1953. In the years that followed, they renovated the building extensively and, in 1967, the Band was equipped with new uniforms and a set of guard drums and chanters.
The Pipe Band has played a prominent role in the affairs of the district, always being in evidence at celebrations and ceremonies besides making numerous appearances at National and Provincial contests where it has met with some success.
For a period of about ten years, the Band went into recess although an administrative committee was maintained. In 1985 a move was made by the committee to revive the Band and it now has sufficient active players to be able to join with the Temuka Pipe Band in competing in South Canterbury competitions.
The hall is now the property of the Scouts but the band continues to practise there.
In years gone by, Pleasant Point had an active drama group which provided local entertainment besides competing in the South Canterbury Drama Festivals. It was weakened by the introduction of television and other counter attractions and eventually collapsed in 1970.
However, recent years have reawakened interest in live performances and, in 1985, the Village Players was formed in the township. This is a music and drama group with a preference for musical performances. They have presented successful evenings of lighthearted ‘revue’ and ‘cabaret’ style entertainment besides a one act play.
Profits made at these performances have assisted other local societies as well as providing finance for future entertainment.
The Christmas Procession is the social highlight of the year for the children of the district who come to see Santa Claus. For the ‘not so young’, it is a fitting opportunity for local organisations to join together in the township’s Christmas celebrations.
Since it began in 1960, there has been a constant increase in the number of floats taking part and also in the size of the crowds that gather to watch the procession.
The first procession was conceived when Miss Margaret Winter and Mrs Betty Bowman decided that Pleasant Point needed livening up at Christmas time. With a small band of helpers, some of whom are still on the committee, their idea became a reality.
The pattern of the procession has changed little since then. Floats are entered by local businesses, sports clubs, charitable organisations and societies with most of the community being represented in one form or another. Themes are many and varied, often devised with an eye to local and national issues.
Led by the Pipe Band and Marching Girls, the Procession proceeds from the corner of Totara Street via Te Ngawai Road to the Main Street, through the town to Harris Street, ultimately ariving at the playground next to the Town Hall. At this point, Santa Claus distributes sweets and listens to children’s Christmas wishes. The committee, which was formed in 1963, raises enough money through raffles, etc., to be able to distribute about 500 bags of sweets free. The Christmas Procession has become an established event looked forward to by young and old alike.