By Helen Martin
A weekend event held in May to mark Makarau Hall turning 110 was a great success, with over 100 people attending, including long time and more recently arrived residents as well as folk who had moved away to places like Rotorua and Matamata and made the trip back for this eagerly awaited event.
On the first day the programme opened with a high tea. In the evening a sumptuous dinner catered largely by committee members was followed by a lively play performed by The Mad Makarau Players, “So You Want to Move to Makarau.” The following day a church service followed by lunch wound up the celebrations. Alongside these events, displays of vintage cars, clothing and memorabilia reminded people that what was being celebrated was as much the lives that have been lived in Makarau as the hall itself.
What’s so special about the hall, and the reason why there is plenty of cause to celebrate its longevity, is that it has always been community-owned. It began its life in 1905 when a group of locals formed a committee and called for tenders for timber to be cut for a community hall to be built on land purchased from committee member Charles Hooper, the son of 1860s settlers Charles and Amelia Hooper. The tender was won by Harry Hooper and the hall, with its beautiful matai floors and rimu walls, was duly built. From then on central to the life of the community, events in the hall over the years have included magic lantern shows, youth camps, Christmas parties, weddings and adult education classes.
Treasurer Alison Adams, who has been on the committee since 1974, says that she, President Alan Cole, Secretary Amisha O’Brien and the rest of the committee were very pleased with the turnout. A lot of work goes into organising such an event, finding former residents is a big mission, and it was gratifying to see their efforts were worthwhile. Particularly pleasing were presentations of a generous cheque by a long time hall supporter and of a quilted wall hanging, donated by descendents of the original Hoopers. Depicting the participation of New Zealand’s Anzac soldiers in World War 1, the hanging has recorded on the back the names of soldiers Sergeant R. G. Hooper (WW1) and his son Gunner Brian Hooper (WW2), both of whom served and survived. Donations like this provide more evidence that people really value the hall and the community it represents.