Scouting has had a long and enthusiastic history across our local area, with the first Cessnock scouts formed over 100 years ago in March 1915.
The scouting movement, then for boys only, was promoted as character building, with the parent of a scout enthusing to local newspaper, the Cessnock Eagle, that it "promotes and develops integrity, engenders discipline, inculcates resourcefulness...and goes a long way towards inspiring a boy with pluck, chivalry, patriotism and character generally".
Kurri Kurri Boy Scouts had been operating since 1916, but they were not an officially recognised troop by Scouts Australia, but instead organised by St. Paul's Church of England. Nonetheless Scout Master Robert Spinks knew how to keep the boys on their toes, with an 18 mile march to Mount Vincent and back again, overnight camps and an emphasis on prayer.
The first officially recognised Kurri Kurri Boy Scout group formed in mid-1934 and its initial investiture of scouts was attended by a large and enthusiastic group of parents and scouts from nearby troops. They didn't waste any time. Braving a Hunter Valley winter the scouts went into camp in July and August, in particularly local style, camping at Scout Haven on Wallis Creek, Richmond Vale, on land owned by the nearby Richmond Main Colliery.
The Police Service has always had a natural affinity with the Boy Scout movement and that connection also has a long history. The Kurri Kurri police immediately became a sponsor of their local troop and in August formed an enthusiastic committee, under the presidency of local police officer Sergeant W. Wood and Constable C. Dimmock as Secretary, with the aim of holding Kurri Kurri's first police ball in just two months' time.
They did it! In October 1936 the Police Ball was held with all money raised going to support the Kurri Kurri Boy Scouts and buy equipment for the troop. The ball was held in the Ambulance Practice Hall, recently refurbished back to its former glory.
It was such a success that it was held again the following year with this ball even bigger as 500 people danced the night away. For women, formal long dresses were the order of the day adorned with corsages of fresh flowers. Miss Daphne White of Weston was chosen as Belle of the Ball, albeit with a lot of competition from other young women in beautiful 'spring and pastel-coloured creations'. A glamorous night for a wonderful cause indeed.
- Kimberly O'Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock Library. Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org.