THE Foster and District Historical Society Inc. has reached an important milestone in its own history.
Just over half a century has passed since the Shire of South Gippsland Historical Society was established at its first meeting held in the Church of England hall in Foster on August 7, 1973.
Current Society president Meg Rogers, herself the daughter of the inaugural president, Bill Crawford, welcomed several long-standing members to the Society’s 50th Annual General Meeting on Tuesday September 5, 2023.
Among the more than 25 people at the AGM were three past presidents of the Society; Graeme “Buck” Rogers, Margerie Linton, and Reg Williams, along with an apology from a fourth past president, Jennifer Jones.
One past secretary, Norm “Cobber” Sparkes, was present at the AGM, and an apology was received from another, Graeme Wheeler.
Long-term member, Bill Davies, was also in attendance at the meeting, which was held in Crawford Hall in the grounds of the Foster Museum.
During the meeting Meg read out a letter written in 1977 by the Society’s then secretary, John Alfred “Jack” Sparkes, which had been among the contents of a time capsule set down in the grounds of the Foster Museum that same year.
The letter described how the Society had been formed by a group of interested local people at a public meeting convened by Bill Crawford in 1973.
Bill was elected as president, with Cr Tom Morgan as secretary, and Jack Sparkes as treasurer.
The new Society’s committee members were Jack Doran, Laurie Clavarino, Harold Phillips, Andy Baldwin, Chas Nicoll, Keane Pilkington, Meme Farrell, Bruce Jones, and Geoff Esler.
The letter said the original name of the Society was later changed to South Gippsland Historical Society “as it was found that the use of the word ‘Shire’ in this respect [conflicted] with a by-law in the use of the Shire name”.
In the late 1990s the Society was renamed again, this time as the Foster and District Historical Society, as it is still known as today.
Jack’s letter summarises the Society’s first four years, including the Shire granting an area of Crown land in Foster, on part of the old Victory Mine lease, “for the purpose of placing historical buildings thereon to house historical items”.
The letter states that “negotiations to acquire the old Agnes School, and the old Foster Post Office to place on the museum site [were] eventually successful”.
They were followed by “the old Lands Department office, which was originally a Closer Settlement dwelling at Ameys Track”.
These buildings became the nucleus of the present-day Foster Museum, with more buildings, including a Yanakie Primary School classroom now called Crawford Hall, and the Foster Police Station lock-up, being added in subsequent years.
Jack’s letter said “an offer of $3000 by an anonymous donor or donors was promised if the Society raised $1500.
“The money was raised by displays of historical items etc. in Foster, Toora, Fish Creek, and Sandy Point, also donations from members of the public, and from various organisations throughout the district,” Jack wrote.
The letter noted that there were well over 100 members of the Historical Society in 1976/1977. Including three junior members, and that Jack, who was born in 1906, didn’t “expect to be present when the capsule is opened in the Year 2020 – Cheerio”.
The guest speaker at the 50th AGM was historian and author Mike McCarthy, whose most recent book In the Shadow of the Prom – Early South Gippsland Times, Tales and Tramlines was launched at the Foster Museum in November 2020.
Mike discussed the tramlines that once served Fish Creek’s quarry and gravel pits.
Meg was returned as president of the Society, with Kerry Corcoran continuing as secretary, and Michael Heal retaining the vice president’s position.
The Society’s committee members for 2023/2024 are Nola Taylor, Marilyn Smith, Rae Knee and Prue Fleming.
At the end of the afternoon a special golden anniversary cake made by committee member Rae, was cut by three of the long-standing members Bill Davies, “Cobber” Sparkes and Reg Williams.
For more information about the Foster and District Historical Society Inc., including membership of the Society, and its range of available local history books and publications, visit the Society’s website at www.promcountryhistory.org.au.