View our full 50th Golden Jubilee here
The Te Atatu RSA is an association conceived and built by and for the members of the armed services who returned from conflicts overseas and the defence of New Zealand, seeking to rebuild their lives in ‘civvy street’- yet at the same time creating a living practical memorial to what they had survived and those they had left behind. That is why being a memorial – people entering the club are required to remove their hats.
It is a moving significance that this Jubilee year of 2010 for the Te Atatu R.S.A is shared with the unveiling of memorials both in Belgium and Te Atatu to Flying Officer Whelan F Hazard who left Te Atatu in 1943 and didn’t return from a bombing mission over Europe.
This story however is not a history of their wars. There is no intention or space to list every campaign in which our founders and members served. With few exceptions it is furthermore not intended to identify and list the names of all the members of this club who took some part over the years in its foundation and development. No attempt is made to assess or judge the relative merits of the many individuals who through the years have made contributions, great and small, to what we all continue to respect and enjoy today.
Before taking another step however let us all here and now acknowledge the women of the Te Atatu RSA. All of those who from the beginning provided an endless train of cups of tea and buttered scones and patience; giving life to the words of John Milton : They also serve who only stand and wait. They certainly did that and a lot more as well. This year they celebrate their 45th anniversary.
In the Beginning
Well, not really the beginning, for Te Atatu has a much longer history of settlement even before the arrival of the pakeha and Neil Housing. The modern settlement, the main focus of this booklet came with the new housing development in Te Atatu in the mid 20th century and the construction of the North West motorway across the mudflats of the western Waitemata harbour.
The French family, the Hazard family and others were established here well before that, suffering for many years the long way round discomfort and eccentricities of the ABC buses grinding up the Waikumete hill. Who knows, maybe the stress on the bladders of those early pioneers was a significant influence in the development of the concept of a local RSA. Nor should it be overlooked that at this time whilst there were widespread organised sporting interests like Rugby, League, Soccer, Cricket and Tennis etc for the younger ones, there was no general social facility for the slightly less active.
The first formal evidence of the concept is the minute of a meeting held on 31 August 1959 in Te Atatu advertised and called to investigate the possibilities of forming a Branch of Western Suburbs R.S.A. in this area. In addition to named officials and representatives from Henderson, New Lynn, Glen Eden and Waimauku the meeting was attended by “a number of interested ex-servicemen of Te Atatu”.
Next, a letter dated 19th October 1959 from Western Suburbs Returned Services Association addressed to:-
“The Pro Tem Chairman. Te Atatu Returned ex-Servicemens Meeting… The question of your forming a Branch of this Association was placed before the half yearly meeting of this Association held at Henderson on the 9th October 1959. I have to advise you that it will be in order for you to go ahead for this purpose…. Rules to govern your Branch will be necessary,……..”
There you go then! It looks as though it then took the next eight months to get organised and to make up the rules and do all the other things that the Western Association required – nearly as long as it took the same jokers to build the first dedicated club rooms 9 years later. For the next item is a request for a news item to be placed in the Waitakere Gazette :
“Returned Servicemen in Te Atatu
A sub-branch of the R.S.A. has been formed in Te Atatu.Fortnightly social evenings will commence for members in the Tennis Pavilion, Te Atatu Rd., starting on Monday 4th July 1960 at 7.30p.m and hereafter every 1st and 3rd Monday of the month.To make this a success the Committee desires the support of every Returned Serviceman in the Te Atatu area, so roll up and join up.”
The initial roll of returned men stood at 37 members. To our knowledge at the time of writing only three survivors remain from that list of originals – John Stubbing; Alastair Narbey; and Tom Hetherington. There may be others.
Two names stand out in this original ‘band of brothers’ that together represent, first the origin of the New Zealand R.S.A. movement and second the energy and enthusiasm that was put into its preservation. Both were veterans of the First World War.
Jack Grant otherwise known as Sgt J G Grant VC. Awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding conduct at Bancourt France September 1918. Look for his portrait and citation by the Honours Board. Read about him on the internet. – Yes, a – Foundation member of the Te Atatu RSA.
Arthur Thomas Foundation Treasurer – See his photo in the Life members gallery. Arthur was regarded as the Father of the Te Atatu RSA. Arthur Thomas is mentioned in Te Atatu history back as far as 1909. Zolene Houston recalls that within days of moving to Te Atatu Arthur was at her front door and would not leave until he had an assurance of Tom’s joining up. Arthur was the tireless fund raiser whose inspiring enthusiasm was an important feature of those early days. That was in addition to entertaining the Houston family with a vivid demonstration of his boxing skills of earlier years.
One further name stands out from the ranks of our early members that more than merits mention. That is David Cox MBE , maxima cum laude (with great praise), our current Patron. Looks equally good with spade or mike in hand. Dave enjoys an outstanding record of achievement from when he joined the Te Atatu RSA to his becoming our Patron including a long spell as National President of the NZRSA..
From that start in 1960 membership grew steadily. By 1972 it had reached 198. (This included 22 “Honorary members”). !965 saw the formal creation of our Women’s section.
By the mid 80’s membership was around the 400 mark. The 1991 yearbook records 316 Returned and Service members and 140 Associate members.
In 1997 there were 262 Returned and Service members and 251 Associates. At this time more detailed statistics were revealing an alarming and sad picture both local and national. The number of Returned and Service members was declining. The law under which our association existed required associate membership to be always a minority. Therefore theoretically at least, whenever a reduction in the number of servicemen occurred, associate membership had to be reduced proportionately. The waiting list for new associate memberships was getting alarmingly long.
This critical impact upon the survival of associations was widespread throughout the country. Other social, economic and political factors influenced this ‘sea-change’ in addition to a decline in traditional sources of new member recruitment and sad but inevitable attrition of existing membership. The existing membership recognised the need to encourage growth in numbers yet at the same time to maintain and preserve the RSA identity and culture. In 1998 the Te Atatu members carried through constitutional amendments that afforded the club “Memorial” status. This freed the club from tight controls over membership status and numbers. In 1998 membership reached the 600 mark—in 2002 it was close to 900.
This action and the increased popularity following the millennium renovations had a dramatic effect with membership now standing at a total of 1191. This includes 248 service members (The definition of ‘service’ has in recent times been changed to recognise a wider range of qualifying service) yet only 146 returned members. The numbers of our returned members continue to decline.
It is this factor more than any other that demonstrates how important it is for the RSA culture itself not to be diminished in any way.
We owe that to the spirit in which this club has been built up over these last 50 years, the blokes that did the hard yakka of original fund raising and the concrete they poured – the dream they cherished as they did it all, and the sacred memory of those that did not get back.
We Will Remember Them.
We will continue to remember them with pride and gratitude.
Clubrooms and Activities
The growth in membership was the obvious main influence upon space; not only the numbers but also the demand for greater variety in choice of activities. Early meetings in the relatively cramped old tennis pavilion overflowed into the old Community Centre facing on to the main road. Here in those early days table tennis was fiercely contested. Everybody played table tennis then. Next was indoor bowls – only one mat! Space was at a premium. It’s interesting to note that neither activity is played by today’s members.
Confidence and enthusiasm was such that by early 1969 the Waitemata County Council had approved a request for a site for a dedicated club building on land designated for a new Community Centre.
Before the end of that year the first section of our club building had been completed and officially opened. A liquor licence was granted in 1972 thus ending the antiquated locker system that had sufficed till then.
The 80’s saw further building and the emergence of the separate Bowling Club. This came about largely because of the need to maximise membership of bowlers against contrary restraints upon associate membership of the RSA itself and restrictions imposed by liquor licensing law.
A major refurbishment commenced in 1999 included the absorption into the R.S.A of the area of the building that had to then been occupied by the Bowlers. The addition of our dining Room followed a couple of years later.
In 2001 another significant step was taken when the members voted unanimously to put the day to day management of the club into professional hands. The immediate impact of this move was a significant restructuring of the Bar operation. More dynamic management became necessary through increased and more stringent requirements of both central government and local body in gaming machine management and control, liquor licensing, general hygiene, health and safety and catering management. General administration of the club had to change up a few notches.
Te Atatu RSA and the Community
The culture of the Te Atatu Memorial RSA is outward looking. Pride is justifiably taken in the club’s active commitment to the national motto of “People Helping People” and its active status in the local community. The club has an ongoing record of financial support to a wide range of worthy local causes, which has worked substantially to enhance the external image of the club. Early history records our financial support for youth to attend Outward Bound Courses and Charm courses.
Support of youth activities continues to a major extent. We sponsor exchange visits with Australian RSL youth groups. Participants are selected from children and grandchildren of members. Youth sports groups, army cadets, local school and kindergarten projects in the area enjoy financial support from the Te Atatu RSA. We sponsor and fund scholarships at Rutherford College. We regularly support the local Food Bank, and organisations such as the Arthritis Foundation, Barnardos and the Salvation Army. Some $15,000 has been donated to these causes in the first nine months of this current financial year.
Donations are made from Gaming machine proceeds, profits from other club activities and straight out fund raising such as the Christmas Raffles. The Women’s section is also very active in this area. Our members are collectively very generous in their support of all these enterprises.
The Te Atatu Memorial RSA Today and the future
At the official re-opening of the Club following the 2000 renovations, an informed observation was made by the National President of the RNZRSA to the effect that in order to survive, Clubs like ours needed to continue to grow, and needed programmes designed to continue to hold the interest of its members.
Over the following period, the Club attracted a very high and continuing level of approval for its presentation management and general ambience.
Applications for new memberships continue. It may be deduced from this that the club in its continuing presentation remains attractive to a very wide cross section of people with a wide variety of interests.
The membership profile of the club, and the services and attractions that members demand have changed over the years of its history. Personal drinking habits, and liquor licensing laws—especially late closing and “Host responsibilities”, the provision of dining facilities required, together with other furniture and comforts, the introduction of the “Pokies”, Drink/Driving Enforcement are all powerful influences.
Wider variety in entertainment options, the increased choices and opportunities arising from modern television sports broadcasts have all contributed. The Club has to date kept up with all these influences.
Membership of the Te Atatu Memorial RSA is a privilege. It is also a responsibility. The enjoyment of the privileges and facilities that it offers demands the responsibility of all members and their guests to respect the standards and rules that are in place for this very purpose.
ANZAC Day, Tradition, Culture, and Respect
In the early days the Te Atatu ex servicemen joined together with other Western Branches to parade at the Waikumete Cemetery to commemorate ANZAC Day.
With the opening of the new community Centre in Te Atatu a local parade was organised – complete with band, cadets and other support groups marching off from further down Te Atatu Road for a service held at the Community Centre itself.
The ever increasing popularity of this event is graphically illustrated by the people lining the street for the march and crowding into the Community centre for the service. The participation by groups from the active armed services, the Police, Fire Brigade, Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies is very warming. The march has shortened over the years in deference to condemnation of the years and frailer step. Yet numbers taking part in the march do not seem to diminish.
This event with the function that follows in the RSA clubrooms remains a significant reminder of what it is all about.
The New Zealand Flag continues to be raised and lowered at the Club every day, together with the live recital of the Ode at 6pm. At this time all people in the Club stand, and lights are dimmed in respect of those who shall not grow old.