History of Club Forster
The Story of the Lone Pine Cottage
When people look at the imposing building on Strand Street, Forster, and see the lavish interior complete with the modern facilities that members and visitors expect in a club, it is not commonly known that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airman Imperial League of Australia (RSS & AILIA) played a big part in the history of the Forster Tuncurry Memorial Services Club Ltd. (now known as Club Forster)
For those who may be aware of its early location in Wharf Street Forster, they may recall that the move to Strand Street which took place in 1976, was not completed without incident, and with the feelings of many running high at the time. This story however is not about the Club, but about an almost forgotten building that occupied the space where the present Commonwealth Bank, Forster, is today. It is the story of the Lone Pine Cottage that is behind this writing.
Unfortunately RSL records for the period immediately following World War 2 in 1945 are not available which made it necessary to call on the memories and personal experiences of a few remaining RSL members from the period, and for their help the writer thanks them sincerely.
In the early days of the RSL in the Great Lakes area there were two separate sub branches – Forster and Tuncurry.
When first formed, the sub branch meetings were held at the Lone Pine Cottage. After a time it was decided that it was necessary to have a permanent venue at which meetings could be held. It was to become known as the Lone Pine Cottage because there was a single pine tree in the front garden, but it was somewhat coincidental that such a tree had become synonymous with the Gallipoli Campaign.
The cottage itself comprised a veranda across the front, one large room, and several small rooms at the back.
With such a small membership (46), the money for the purchase must have presented the sub branch with what would have seemed an insurmountable problem, but by determination, dedication, hard work and donations the aim was obviously achieved. It should be remembered that movement between Forster and Tuncurry at the time was by means of a punt which ceased to run at sunset each day. This was probably one of the reasons why there were two separate sub branches so close to each other which would have been a good reason for each to have their own meeting places. The cottage was used for meetings only. Its use as a social centre was not contemplated.
During its life as a meeting place no alterations or renovations were carried out. As time went by and the Sub Branches expanded together with the general populations, it was decided to build a club. The foundations were laid and the club officially opened by Lt. Gen. Northcott on 3rd November, 1959.
Having decided on the club project, the need for the Lone Pine Cottage no longer existed, and accommodation in the form of office space, would be made available within the walls of the club. As a result the cottage was dismantled and the land became part of the club premises.
During its existence the cottage was primarily a place for meetings. There were no recreational facilities such as billiard tables, however it seems certain that those with enough initiative to see into and plan for the future would have made provision for some liquid refreshment for members following the closure of meetings. RSL Wharf Street Forster.
It should also be remembered that whilst they were working for the RSL and its future in the area, these early members had families and employment, think of not to mention the fact that they were trying to readjust to life after a World War.
These people knew what they wanted and went after it and everything was achieved as a result of voluntary and unpaid effort.
In the year 2006 it is hard to visualize Forster as it was in the days of the Lone Pine Cottage when these difficult decisions had to be made. It is to the credit of the RSL members and the community at the time for their faith in the town and its future. The Gallipoli “Lone Pine” was the scene of courage, dedication, decision making and sacrifice. Those who met at the Lone Pine Cottage, in their own way, displayed those same attributes and the benefits resulting from their efforts are here today – if we only care to remember.
Since decisions were made in a small rather insignificant cottage, it is also worth considering the fact that having served its purpose (ie. meeting place) it was demolished to make way for “bigger things” with our only reminder being a picture on a wall at Club Forster.
Just as “Lone Pine” at Gallipoli has faded into history, so the Forster Lone Pine Cottage is just a memory for a few older residents.
It is hoped that this writing will be a reminder of an interesting part of Forster’s history – LEST WE FORGET.
(This article was written in 2006)