A NEW exhibition now on show after a year of preparation and the loyalty and service of two long-term members were marked by the Foster and District Historical Society Inc. at the Foster Museum on Sunday afternoon December 5, 2021.
“Communications Past and Present” was officially opened by the Society’s now-retired honorary fix-it man Reg Williams, and a plaque beside a newly-planted yellow rose was unveiled in honour of the late Noela Cripps, archivist and treasurer.
Historical Society president Meg Rogers greeted her fellow local historians, district residents, South Gippsland Shire Mayor Mohya Davies, and the relatives and friends of both Reg and Noela, who had gathered outside the Museum in Main Street.
“We’re celebrating three important things today, or four, or it’s five really,” she said.
“This is the first get-together we’ve had for almost two years, and so it will also be our Christmas break-up, too.
“The second thing is the official opening of our Communications exhibition, which we’ve been getting ready for 12 months,” Meg said.
“We’ll be presenting Society member Reg Williams with a citation recognising his many years of devoted hard work for the Museum, as well as commemorating our much-missed member Noela Cripps who passed away in April this year,” she said.
“We are very pleased to be able to welcome you all here today, especially Reg’s sons, Mervyn and his wife Christine, and Rex; and Noela’s family, including her daughters Meagan and Katrina, grandchildren Ashley, Bradley and Gracey, and her brother Neil Lush and his wife Mary,” Meg said.
“Our new Major Cr Mohya Davies is also present, with her husband John who has promised to be a better Historical Society member this year”, to which he swiftly replied, “yes, I will be, next year!”
Meg told the gathering that Society membership was due, resulting in several existing members paying their renewals there and then, and a number of new members signing up.
Society member Rob Pritchard introduced Communications Past and Present, describing it as “a team effort”.
He said the exhibition featured “several different aspects” such as the “spoken and written word” referring to postal services, newspapers, radio, telephones, and television, and “physical connections” including the Great Southern Railway, roads, “cars and trucks”, and shipping.
“There is much to see and much to read in Communications Past and Present, and I recommend that everyone take the time to examine it closely during the course of the next year or so while it is on display.”
Reg cut a dark blue ribbon stretched across the front door of the Foster Museum to open the exhibition, using the same pair of scissors that had performed the same task at the opening of the Promontory Road, and the rebuilt Long Jetty at Port Welshpool.
Citation for Reg Williams
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village to run a museum,” Meg said, while presenting Reg with a citation thanking him for his efforts for and at the Foster Museum over many years.
“We’ve been lucky to have many villagers, of which Reg is one,” she said.
“Reg and his wife Dorothy joined the Historical Society and the Foster Museum in 1980 just as the old Post Office was moved to its present site.
“Reg was among the members who built the vault which is the place of deposit for the Public Records.
“Working bees were the way the Museum and grounds developed, and Reg was present and in some cases leading the way forward with ideas and ways of solving problems.
“From 1981 to 1984 Reg was president, and the Society continued to grow its Museum exhibits both inside and outside.
“In 1986 ill health forced Reg and Dorothy to move from their beloved Foster to Pakenham to be closer to family, but Foster has a way of keeping you close, and they returned in 1992, to the Museum’s gain,” Meg said.
“When you look around the Museum and grounds you will see many examples of Reg’s model work. The model of the town is much admired by all visitors, and there are lighthouses, mines, buildings and vintage fences, just to name a few.
“Fifteen years ago Reg became the Museum’s ‘official’ maintenance man, a job he’d been doing for some 30 years. He instigated a day a week to help keep on top of the jobs that needed to be done,” she said.
“Every Wednesday afternoon from 1 pm to 3 pm, Reg, Richard Jones and Rob Pritchard, known affectionately as ‘the three Rs’, could be seen mending, building, painting, and so we also present him with this framed photo of the three of them.
“We thank Reg for all he has contributed to the Museum over a long period and we wish him good health in his retirement from a ‘job’ he loved,” Meg said.
“As Reg knows, history matters.”
Rose, plaque for Noela Cripps
Noela’s nine-year-old granddaughter Gracey Barry unveiled the plaque the Historical Society has installed in the Museum grounds beside a young rose bush in remembrance of her service to the Museum’s collections and more recently as Society treasurer.
“We’ve asked Noela’s family here today to join us in remembering Noela,” Meg said.
“The members are aware that whatever we did to commemorate her work for the Museum would be met with a scoff, but Noela was a valued member of the Society for more than 20 years.
“She first worked with Rosie Crawford and later with Jennifer Jones at cataloguing, and she was also the Museum’s archivist who knew everything that is in the vault.
“We called her Noela Joy, and she could direct Nola Elizabeth [Taylor] and I from her chair at the computer to find what we needed in the vault.
“Without her, Nola and I would wander in and out numerous times before we could find what we were looking for,” she said.
“After [Norm] ‘Cobber’ [Sparkes] retired as treasurer Noela Joy took over and watched every penny we spent – a very good keeper of the purse.
“She resisted moving from keeping our financial records in a book to on computer, as well as having an EFTPOS machine to replace docket books.
“Noela’s knowledge of the Toora and Agnes area and its people was a valuable resource in answering research requests, and she has left a gap that can’t be filled,” Meg said.
“We’ve chosen a yellow rose and we’ve planted it here in the grounds in remembrance of Noela’s dedicated work for the Museum, and her friendship over more than 20 years.”