Outback Life







Alice Springs RSL Club

Women - Activities and Entertainment
Civilian Women | Women in the Armed Forces | Activities and Entertainment | When a British MP visited the Outback

Activities and Entertainment

Tennis was an ideal sport for army personnel to play and let off steam during quiet periods. Each Unit – 121 AGT, AMEN 2/163, 109 AGH, AAMWS, AWAS, Staging Camp, 64 DORE, Provost and AWC – had their own court and many were located within the centre of Alice Springs. Like the floors of other army buildings built in town at this time, the hard surfaced areas were created out of compacted anthill dirt from “up the track”.

For the AAMWS and AWAS service women, for example, it was a short walk from their barracks on Stuart Terrace to any one of the four tennis courts in the vicinity of Gregory Terrace. However, a common problem for these few and far between female players – as recalled by VA later AAMWS Corporal Joan Scott (Higgins) - was getting past the wolf whistles and typical banter from the male troops, drinking at Ly Underdown’s Hotel.

There were two other centrally based courts – one next to the Courthouse on Hartley Street, and another on the Wills Terrace end of Bath Street, near the Anglican Church.

Special Event
Wedding reception of Sister Joy Pickhaver, in a borrowed white wedding dress, and army dentist, Captain Tom Ginty on the lawns of the AIM Hostel
Sylvia Wilson Collection, Adelaide House Museum

Tournaments were also organised as demonstrated by a contemporary programme advertising The Central Australian Tennis Association’s Finals at the Provost’s Court, Sunday 25th February at 14.00 hours, printed by the AAA Amenities Service, who also produced the daily “Mulga” newsletter.

Alice Springs, NT, 1942-09-28.
General scene of Alice Springs looking south from ANZAC Hill toward the Gap which clearly shows tennis court in Bath Street or one next to Courthouse (just below the building at center-left on photo).
(Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial)

“Each night for the past 3 weeks at 1730 hrs a familiar sight around Alice Springs has been scores and scores of tennis players fanning out north, south, east and west to the various area courts to fulfil their evening fixtures.

Sweet young things niftily clad in all kinds of tennis garb, rubbed shoulders or swapped shots with big “bronzed Anzacs” wearing nought but the briefest of brief shorts, each and every one imbued with the idea of being the last one to hit the elusive pill over the net, within the court’s limits, each match spelling “finis” for the loser and “fresh fields” to be captured by the winner.”
Tournament Finals’ Programme 25 February c.1943. Pat Roden-Cock (AWAS Sig M Roden) Collection, National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, Alice Springs


To cater for the needs of large numbers of bored army personnel, Alice Springs was able to offer 3 movie theatresall open air - during the war years. Troops got to see most of the current films from Britain and the USA - some now forgotten “B” movies as well as the classics of the era such as Gone with the Wind and Casablanca. News reels of the day were also popular and it is noted that the 1944 Melbourne Cup was shown on 13 November of that year at the Camp Theatre.

The Camp Theatre was situated on the west of Anzac Hill by the main army camp (now the site of the Anzac Oval). Patrons leant or sat on rows of padded, mulga rails like hitching posts. Movies were shown here but the theatre was also used for Concert Parties and other forms of live entertainment such as the famed musical comedy “Wheels within Wheels”. British musical hall comic singer Gracie Fields was also reputed to have appeared here in concert to entertain the troops.

Front cover of “Wheels within Wheels” program. (Image courtesy of Adelaide House Museum, Alice Springs)

Camp Theatre, pictured here in 1944, was situated on the west side of Anzac Hill and could accommodate a couple of thousand in one sitting. Patrons leant or sat on the padded “hitching” rails.
Ken Evans Collection, Adelaide House Museum, Alice Springs

Days off from hospital duty allowed time to catch up on washing, writing letters home, reading, or playing table tennis, listening to gramophone records or VA Jeannie Redman playing the piano in their Recreation Hut. They could also play tennis at one of the numerous courts in town or attend parties, concerts and film nights. The hospital had an entertainment troupe, made up mainly of the male orderlies, which organised concerts. The range of activities was quite wide considering we were in such an isolated location.

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© Alice Springs RSL Sub-Branch 2002