In World War I many activities took place on the home front to raise money for essentials and luxuries for the soldiers, items not readily available from the fledgling Commonwealth government.
Parcels containing items such as tea, sugar, biscuits, tobacco and clothing were assembled in Australia and sent to the men fighting in trenches and desert sands.
Many groups scattered across the Blue Mountains were formed solely to raise funds for the fighting soldiers and their injured comrades.
In 1917, the War Chest Committee in Mt Victoria raised enough money to send 600 kit bags, one dozen shirts and a large quantity of warm hand-knitted socks overseas.
Money for tobacco for the soldiers was raised by the Australian Women’s Battle ‘Planes Fund.
Also in 1917, the Red Cross Society in Springwood collected 96 dozen eggs, a quantity of sweets, vegetables, articles of clothing and old bundles of linen to provide comfort for sick and wounded soldiers.
Regularly held fundraising activities included picnics, card evenings, dances and tennis matches, all of which supported “our boys” both fighting overseas and recently returned, reminding them that the people at home still supported them.
In 1916, the Katoomba Boys’ Association ran one such initiative to raise funds to assist returned Blue Mountains soldiers. They aimed at the impossibly large sum of £200!
The association initiated a search for the Queen of the Blue Mountains. This was a popularity, not a beauty, contest. Candidates worked hard to outdo their rivals in selling votes.
Three votes cost threepence. Candidates also sold all manner of novelties and articles to raise money for votes. Grand prizes of a trip to the Melbourne Cup or a motor trip to the Jenolan Caves were offered in art unions. Their fundraising events included fancy-dress balls and euchre parties, miniature Paddy’s markets and fairs. The candidates worked extremely hard for their votes.
In August and September 1916, competition was fierce. It culminated in a carnival on the specially proclaimed public holiday, Wednesday, October 11, during which a grand parade and coronation ceremony were held where the winner, Mrs George James, was crowned Queen. The six runners-up in popularity became her Maids of Honour.
The day continued with refreshments, entertainment from the R.S.A. Band, judging of the decorated vehicles from the parade and sporting contests.
The grand finale of the fundraising was a Royal Ball at the Town Hall that evening. One hundred and fifty couples cavorted into the wee hours.
The Katoomba Boys’ Association initiative had raised a grand total of £1658.
Mayor of Katoomba, Alderman C L Dash, called the fund raising “the most successful patriotic demonstration ever held on the Hills”.
Robyne Ridge and Sherida Currie are members of Blue Mountains Historical Society.