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Alice Springs RSL Club

Outback Life - Overview
Overview | Alice Springs - The Town | The People | Ted Strehlow and the Aboriginal community

By the end of the 1930s, the population of Alice Springs was very small, as were most Territory towns, with only 30 or so telephone extensions at the telephone exchange and most of those were businesses.

The advent of World War II saw Alice Springs change from a very small Outback cluster of buildings which was isolated from the rest of Australia, to a thriving modern day community with ready access to transport both north and south. For a time there were even discussions of Alice Springs permanently replacing Darwin as the capital of the Northern Territory. There was certainly some interesting byplay between the civil and military administrations.

Early 1940s - Alice Springs
In 1940 the memorial on top of Anzac Hill overlooked a sparse community, however now it oversees a large modern centre. (Image courtesy of Adelaide House Collection)
Roll cursor over image for a modern view of the memorial.

1936 - Alice Springs
Saddling paddock at the Alice Springs racecourse (Image courtesy of former Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory)
Administrator Abbott commented that 'on the cultural side, life in Alice Springs had plenty of interest. Art societies were instituted, lectures on music given, play reading and exhibitions of paintings were held, and modern comedies staged.' In the town, the Capitol and Pioneer Theatres provided a variety of movies which were well patronised. Canvas decking seats made a truly relaxed atmosphere. Even the Governor General, Lord Gowrie, and Lady Gowrie attended during an official visit in 1943.
The Camp Theatre was later built on the north-western slope of Anzac Hill and was used for cinema and live entertainment, such as boxing, wrestling and the arts. The Catholic Church and the Methodist Inland Mission held dances, concerts and musical entertainment, where townsfolk were able to mix with service personnel, even though there was a very heavy imbalance of males to females.

Convoys Up The Track, Alan C. Smith

The population, industry, infrastructure and ease of access for non-Territorians were all enhanced as a direct consequence of the impact of the war on this small outback town in particular and Central Australia in general. Additionally, there were a number of local people who were instrumental in assisting the town in its economic and social development during this period. In this section we visit some of these people and take a look at a few of the ways that the town was changed.

 


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