[Source: Weekly column of Now and Then published in the Fairfield Advance Newspaper in 2008-9]
Club Marconi was established in 1956 by the Italians community as a meeting place to play bocce and to socialise. Prior to the establishment of Club Marconi, the Italian community will often gather at private homes.
In April 1956 , Ruben Sartor, Provino Sartor and Lorenzo Zamprogno took decisive steps in establishing a licensed club. They visited an Italian club in Griffith to obtain advice on operating a social club.
An initial meeting was held at Provino Sartor’s house and was attended by Rino Bagatella, Sebastiano Crestani, Oscar Michelini, Antonio Pessoto, Vito Angelo Pessoto, Provino Sartor, Ruban Sartor, Davino Zadro, Lorenzo Zamprogno and Andrea Zulian.
The Sartor brothers offered a piece of land for the club at $6,900 (with no interest). This plot was located at the corner of Prairie Vale Road and what was then Middle Road. To raise fund for the venture, the group advertised in the local newspapers (the Advance, The Biz) and in the Italian newspapers (La Fiamma, Il Corriere and Risveglio) and asked foundation members to lend $100 each to the club. A public meeting was held on 21st September 1956 and 300 people generously offered $100 or more to the building project.
The members commissioned builders Lorenzo Zamprogno and Gisberto Benedetti for the building of the first building at a total cost of $120,000. To accommodate to the growing numbers of members and guests, a second stage extensions was planned and completed in 1962.
Land around the club was acquired successively in the early 1960s, with the block opposite the club bought for $16,000 in 1960, and the picnic ground purchased for $12,000 in 1962. By 1966 the club’s growth and dominance led to Fairfield Council changing the name of Middle Road to Marconi Road.
Further extensions were added between 1970 and 1990. This included tennis and squash courts, covered bocce courts, a children’s playroom and a football stadium. In 1990 the first car park was completed, followed by a second addition in 1998. The sport centre was completed in 1999 along with the construction of a gym in 2003, this was followed by a child care centre in 2005 and an outdoor gaming area in 2008. Today, Club Marconi is situated on thirty one acres of parkland and playing fields in Bossley Park.
The Ladies’ Auxiliary was formed on 9 December 1962 and is still responsible for organising activities tailored for women and families such as ladies’ nights, mothers’ and fathers’ day celebrations, Gala days, Valentine’s Day celebrations and other festivities. It is worth noting that the Marconi Club was one of the first few clubs of its time to allow full membership rights to women.
Club Marconi is named after Guglielmo Marconi. Marconi was highly regarded for his pioneering work in sending the first direct wireless message from Great Britain to Australia on September 22, 1918. In addition to this monumental achievement, Marconi switched on 2,800 coloured lights at Sydney Town Hall with a radio signal to open the Electrical and Radio Exhibition in Sydney, sent from his yacht Elettra in Genova.
Club Marconi’s logo consists of a globe of the world, a radio antenna and a boomerang. The boomerang, which consists of the Italian colours, symbolises the connection between Australia, Italy and the rest of the world. The emblem was designed by Guido Zuliani (a well known artist and photographer from Leichhardt).
The following are transcripts taken from Felice Zadro (a foundation member and past president of Marconi Club) ‘s oral history interview with Shirley McLeod in which he recounts the history of the Marconi Club.
Fairfield City Council commissioned a historical study of the School of Arts in Harris Street, Fairfield. The study was carried out by Megan Martin, a historian who works with the Historic Houses Trust, and it uncovered a fascinating story of the early days of the School!
Schools of Arts, mechanic and literary institutes were once highly valued public buildings, the forerunners of today’s libraries and community halls. The Sydney Mechanics School of Arts began in 1833. The movement grew steadily from the 1850’s and by 1912 there were 433 throughout New South Wales.
In April 1903 the idea of a School in Fairfield was raised at a meeting of the Fairfield Progress Association. The “ladies” of the district gave impetus to the idea by a major fundraising bazaar in September of that year. It was a huge success and raised 90 pounds, the nucleus of a building fund.
The Progress Committee considered three sites and selected Mrs. Eliza Stimson’s site between the police station and the Methodist Church. A committee was elected headed by John Robinson Wright, an architect who was head of the art department at Sydney Technical College. The committee designed the building. Tenders were called in February 1904, and the builders Thompson and Slater of Granville won the contract and the building was completed by November. It cost 340 pounds. The original plan (the brick part of the current building) shows a triangular plan with a lecture hall, class room library and reading room.
The School got off to a slid start. Regular meetings were held every four weeks (to take advantage of the full moon). There were lectures and entertainments at least once a month. In March 1905 Mr. Tremayne spoke about “science in everyday life and in May Profeesor Harper lectured on “our human brotherhood in relation to speech”. In march 1906 the School held its first fruit, flower and vegetable show. In the same month, it also had an athletics club.
Here is a recollection from Florence Callicott, a resident of Fairfield and a member of the Stimson Family on the Fairfield School of Arts…Click on the image to read Florence’s reminiscences on the early years of the School of Arts!
The building of the School of Arts has social and historical significance as a major centre of social activity from the late nineteenth century. It is a good examples of Late Victorian and Federation period “high styles” buildings which is fairly rare for Fairfield city.
It is a single storey brick building with corrugated iron roof, built in two sections, approximately twenty years apart.
On the Eastern section, the older section constructed around 1895, the building has close eaves, a parapet to the street, a triangular pediment over the main entrance with circular louvred opening, brick pilasters, two deep parapet cornices, double-hung windows with round arched openings, moulded heads and projecting moulded stone sills.
On the Western section, built in 1915, in the Classical Revival style with roman Ionic giant order columns. The building has a traditional architrave lettered “SCHOOL OF ARTS”, a balustered parapet, two large panelled pairs of entrance doors, double-hung windows with triangular pediments and wreaths.
A few modifications were carry out over the years. For example, the face brick walls was painted. The exterior of the western section is essentially unaltered. However, the street façade to the eastern section has been altered in several respects: the existing entrance was originally a pair of double-hung windows; the central opening now closed up was originally a doorway, and the round arched window is new, it replaces an earlier large rectangular window opening. The interior of the building was extensively altered in 1989 but Council also undertook restoration of heritage facade in 2008. To learn furthermore about the transformation and the restoration of the facade of the School of Arts, please click here.
The works undertaken in this heritage building involved the dismantling of an existing low level roof structure and replacement with a new high level roof structure and roof access system. The replacement of an existing wet areas and the provision of new mezzanine floor, office space, air conditioning system, disabled lift, gallery/foyer space and storage area fit out.
Today, the Fairfield School of Arts is the headquarter of the Powerhouse Youth Theatre, a leading professional youth theatre company in Western Sydney. The company creates new, innovative and inclusive performing arts programs as well as trains the next generation of outstanding artists from Western Sydney.
[Source: Office of Environment and Heritage & “The Fairfield School of Arts, Harry Street Fairfield: draft history” by Megan Martin]
With over 50 years of history, the Golden Easter Egg remains the feature event for three year old fillies at Fairfield Paceway on Easter Monday.
The Biz, in 1965 wrote ” Fairfield Paceway will hold its first Golden Easter Egg meeting next Saturday, April 17, when the prize for the classic event will be valued at £350, plus trophy.
The classic event will be for 3-year-old fillies and run over a distance of 12 furlongs. The trophy is a gold Easter egg, mounted on a silver nest and is valued at £75. It was donated by Inhams Enterprises, who have promised to sponsor a similar event in 1966. The official spokesman for Fairfield Paceway, Mr. Pat McCabe, said this week that Inghams Enterprises would increase the value of their trophy to £1000 next year.”
Compare to its debut in 1965, this year, the Golden Easter Egg carried a prize money of $9,000, with a trophy and a rug, making the race worth in excess of $10,000.
The Golden Easter Egg was first conducted in 1965 and was running until 2004. After a decade of absence, the race returned in 2014 when the Fairfield Harness Racing Club was given the opportunity to race on Easter Monday.
Many winners of the Golden Easter Egg have gone onto become broodmare ‘gems’ with previous victors such as Smart Fancy, Stormy Helen, Gloomy Lass, Serene Queen and Miss Paula all graduating to the breeding barn with notable success. For the past two years, the race was won by Paul Fitzpatrick with Shes Got Issues winning last year while Ocean Diva was successful in 2014.
It’s been a long time since copies of The Biz have been available – not since 1972 in fact – but thanks to funding from the Library Council, Fairfield City Council and our neighbouring western Sydney councils, digitised copies are now available via Trove. Published between 1917 and 1972, and sold to Cumberland Newspapers in 1958, The Biz was a forerunner of the Fairfield Advance.
Also being digitised as part of the project is The Cumberland Argus (or to give it it’s full title The Cumberland Argus And Fruit Growers Advocate!). Published between 1887 and 1962, The Cumberland Argus had a readership that stretched from north-west to south-west Sydney. Currently issues from 1888 to 1919 are available on Trove.
Trove is an initiative of the National Library of Australia that allows users to search across a range of Australian collections containing more than 90 million items all at once. It includes an ever-growing collection of digitised resources including newspapers, journals, diaries, maps, music and images. Users can sign up to add tags, comments and correct data.
Microfilm copies of both The Biz and The Cumberland Argus are available to access in the Local Studies collection at the Whitlam Library or for a more hands on experience you can visit the actual printing press from The Biz at the Fairfield City Museum and Gallery.