A group of old friends, some old photographs and newspaper clippings is all that's needed to trigger the happy memories at the Matamata Memorial Centre.

The Memorial Centre opened in 1956 and is one of several buildings, including the 1940's Council Borough building on the block corner of Tui and Tainui streets which are set to come down by the end of the month.

Bobye Hawes recalls being just 17-years-old, a year after the hall was built in 1957, when she made her first official public appearance at the hall as a debutant.

"My dad was English and he wouldn't allow me to go to a ball until I had been presented because that was the accepted thing for young ladies in England."


"There were eight of us presented to the mayor Mr Gouk and his wife, our mothers presented us. It was the English tradition that girls didn't attend a ball until they had been presented."

Mrs Hawes reminisces to Noleine Leighton the "gentlemen were all tidied in their black suits, white shorts and they had to wear white gloves so that when they put their hand on your back they didn't leave a mark in your white dress."

A beautiful white dress she describes that was made by her talented mother, a "very clever seamstress".

Noeline nods her head in reflection. She says she used to work in the Council Borough Building and can distinctly remember the men who used to smoke - using "great big ash trays." They would leave ash all over the table and "I would have to clean it up".

She says it put her off smoking.

On the day the Memorial Centre was opened, Barry Mckey was armed and ready in his army uniform beside the roll of honour.

Don Stanley was at the Memorial Centre too when it first opened and says it had all of the support of the community at the time it was built.

And despite the finished memorial centre being a bit smaller and different to what was originally planned it was still a grand old building.

"They had this great design for the Memorial Centre itself - and that was one of the things that did help to sell the project and it got tremendous support from the community it was hard to find someone not involved in raising money."

On opening day in October 1956, Mr Stanley says there was a great crowd that showed up to mark the occasion.

"The thing I remember the most about it was I drove the Governor General around when he arrived in town."

Thirty years later Don Stanley was to become Mayor of the Matamata Borough.

Prior to that Dr Neil Algar was Mayor of the Borough from 1968 to 1986.

Dr Algar says the Memorial Centre was well used throughout the years with entertainment shows, singing, dancing, balls, music, sports, meetings and much more.

But, it's hard for him to pick out his fondest memory.

"I'm never able to quantify these things because we enjoyed them all. It's really been a really useful facility, it's been great."

And while running the hall may not have been "a paying proposition," it's a community service and centre that over the years helped "bind the people together."

Even with several interior refurbishments the place "has functioned well and looks well, but unfortunately it's not earthquake proof, well nothing's earthquake proof, but it's not good enough and it's like some of the people who used it, showing the effects of time".

Dr Algars wife, Eunice Algar says they were often at the Memorial centre for various engagements and of course her favourite, dancing..

"They were happy nights, and we didn't miss any of them, we went every month."

Joan Stanley (not related to Don Stanley) agrees that the Memorial Centre had some wonderful events and displays including floral and garden events and the "It's in the bag" game show.

"You just loved going there, and friends were going, at the time I had young children, young babies, and I couldn't go to everything, but over the years it's been a great place to go," Ms Stanley says.

But soon all that will remain will be the memories.

The hall is earmarked for demolition - to make way for a modern facility.

Mrs Stanley says it'll be sad to see the building go but "we all have to accept changes, all the memories are still there."

The demolition team comes in at the end of the month - with building starting on the new 6 million dollar facility soon after.

But the memories of bygone days will remain alive.

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