Since 1914, the community of Tenindewa has an annual gathering at the Tenindewa Christmas tree to celebrate the end of harvest and Christmas. At the 100 year anniversary in December 2013, Kevin Weir reflects on this much loved tradition.
The first recorded Tenindewa Christmas tree was 100 years ago when the district went through a growth spurt. A school opened in 1913 and ran till 1939 and Tenindewa had an oval with its own cricket and football teams and had a thriving tennis club. The Geraldton-Mullewa rail line had opened in 1893 and Tenindewa had a permanent railway gang living here and there was a railway goods shed built to accommodate the growing rail freight. This goods shed was the location of the first Christmas tree in 1914.
At the end of the war in 1945 a new hall was built from old air force barracks and this became the home of the Christmas tree.
My earliest memories of the Tenindewa Tree were from the early 1950’s. While the event hasn’t changed a lot over the years, I can remember a lot more children were around in those days. With smaller farms there were more farming families and there was a small railway community here as well.
For a short time the Christmas tree started at 4.30pm with a sports carnival consisting of running races and novelty three legged, sack and egg and spoon races. Competition was keen with prize money of sixpence and threepence up for grabs. In those days this was enough to buy an ice-cream.
The Christmas tree was held in the old Tenindewa Hall which was located right next to the shop. Santa arrived in many different forms of transport including Police cars, Fire trucks, Tractors Headers etc. . . . After distributing gifts Santa departed and more games were held in the hall.
In those days there were no CD players but we did have an old piano in the hall and Jean Cream would play for musical chairs and pass the parcel games which are still popular today. As the evening progressed the adults would gather around the piano for a group sing-a-long which Jean always lead enthusiastically.
I can remember that some of the men who weren’t too keen on singing would gather around a fire out the back of the hall and have a competition throwing their empty beer cans into a bin in the distance. One year a fire started from lightning not far from the hall so these same men quickly gathered the community fire fighter which was housed in a small shed on the shop veranda and had it under control in no time. At that time most farmers only had knapsacks for fighting fires.
The electricity for the Hall was generated by a small petrol motor which inevitably ran out of fuel every year about mid-evening plunging us all into darkness until someone refuelled it after much stumbling around in the dark. For us kids this was always a highlight of the night.
The Foster family and their shop were a great asset to the district and particularly the Christmas tree, providing most things that were needed on the night. At that time all the locals did most of their shopping there even buying their fuel and some clothing there. Being a manual telephone exchange and Post Office too, the shop was the main focal point of the district. I can still picture the Petrol bowser with a big hand pump on the side which manually pumped the petrol up to a glass container at the top and the petrol then gravitated into the vehicle.
The Butler family was also very community minded with Paddy always cutting and erecting a bush Christmas tree and helping out wherever needed and Keith holds the record for attending the most Christmas trees which I think was over seventy. Doreen’s book “To Sow the Barley” is the source of some of the information in this address.
Mrs Roma Rumble, who lived halfway between Tenindewa and Ardingly, was the main organizer of the tree in my childhood but now the mothers share the workload.
In the seventies the hall fell into disrepair when white ants moved in so the hall had to be demolished. For a couple of years after this, Critch’s generously offered the use of their shearing shed to hold the Christmas tree.
In 1985 the Tenindewa Manual Telephone exchange was the last in WA to close, the Post Office closed and with fewer farmers now, the much loved Foster family closed the shop and moved to Geraldton. The shop was then converted to a meeting hall and the Christmas tree came back to its present location.
Our numbers declined further so for a year or two we combined our tree with Devils Creek but our numbers increased again when the Critch families and others started to repopulate Tenindewa so we have done our own thing for the last few years.
The Tenindewa tree has always been more than just for the kids. It has been an annual gathering to celebrate the end of harvest and to get together to celebrate Christmas and to enjoy each other’s company during the festive season, so I hope you can all enjoy the rest of the evening by reminiscing about life in our little community here and the last 100 years of the Tenindewa Christmas tree.