Outback Life







Alice Springs RSL Club

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

Immediately prior to the war, Alice Springs was a small community with a few hundred residents, but by the end of the war, Alice had seen almost two hundred thousand service personnel pass through and had been home to some 8,000 transport personnel who were based in the town and ran the convoys up the track to Darwin and back. Naturally with such a significant population the infrastructure of Alice Springs was rapidly expanded to meet the demands placed on it during these years of abnormally high population. Once the war was over, Alice Springs' population rapidly reduced which resulted in the town being left with facilities and infrastructure that was far in advance of what would usually have been available to such a small, remote community. Perhaps the greatest benefit the war brought to the advancement of Alice Springs was the development of the highway north to Darwin. In the space of 2 years the road changed from little more than a bush track to a road navigable by standard cars and buses.

1936- Alice Springs
Heavitree Gap in the background. Looking south from ANZAC Hill. Church of England is mid-right. Part of Roman catholic church at left. Part of post office far right. Also can be seen: railway, police station, jail. (Image courtesy of Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory)

Additionally, during the war and almost immediately after the bombing of Darwin the Civil administration of the Territory moved its base from Darwin down to Alice Springs. Not only did this increase the number of higher level civil servants in the town but also went some way to promoting a more refined social scene within the town, which was even more apparent when compared to the type of social activities that existed before the onset of war.

Because of the sparse population in the Centre and the difficult way of life there, social occasions were few and far between. Precisely because of this they became major events. Racing continued to be the king of sports in Alice Springs. Indeed, racing in Central Australia took on a new sophistication in 1928 when a new course was established near Mount Nancy immediately north of the town. To mark the transition, the club became known as the Central Australian Racing Club in the early 1930s. Tennis parties and picnics were regularly organised and thoroughly enjoyed. As new people moved into the town new sports were introduced. Ly Underdown was particularly interested in cricket and acquired equipment from St Peter's College. While it was difficult to organise a regular competition, games were played frequently.

After 1939 - Alice Springs
J. McDouall Stuart Memorial in front of Hospital, Alice Springs. Note: on the left of the image there are some men dressed in army uniforms. (Image courtesy of Carr-Chinner Collection, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory)

Golf, too, was introduced in the early 1930s after Maurice Fuss, postmaster at the telegraph station, brought a set of clubs to Alice Springs and began to hit a ball around in his spare time. In 1933 the devotees laid out a nine-hole course on the east side between Spencer Hill and the Todd River and erected a lean-to shelter to act as a clubhouse. David Neck ensured that the proper rules were adhered to.

Weddings could not be anticipated, and when celebrated became gala events, particularly if they involved notables from any major stations. Such marriages were landmark events for women in the Centre. Something of the excitement is evident from the southern correspondent to the Northern Territory Times:

Dear Mr Editor. Am bubbling over with joyful anticipation and feel too elated with feelings of adventure, curiosity and excitement, to remain calm and collected, so please excuse the incoherent style of these lines. The cause of so much joy and thrill is simply because we have been very kindly invited to a wedding. Miss Doreen Crook of Singleton Station, elder daughter of Mr and Mrs Crook is to be married to Mr W.W. Braitling, on April 1st and quite a crowd of we bushies are off to the big 'spree' per car, and hope to have a jolly good time...The mere fact that I have never witnessed a marriage ceremony makes me tingle with impatient anticipation.
Alice Springs - Its History and The People Who Made It, Donovan

Report web problems to the webmaster
© Alice Springs RSL Sub-Branch 2002