Calendar Girls

Bare to be Different - That South Arm Calendar

In the late 1990’s the Committee of the Calverton Hall Association decided that new stage curtains were needed.

A “curtain” account was set up and various fund raising functions were held. An estimate was that new curtains would cost around $6,000.00. Early in 2001 the account had nearly $800 in it and the feeling was that they would would all probably be dead by the time enough money was raised.

Then the Secretary, Dot Kelly, came forward with an idea, and a surprising one at that!

She had been sent a calendar made in England by a group of women in various stages of undress and suggested to a meeting that the committee should do something like that. The reaction ranged from opposition to mild interest. But Dot wasn’t deterred and persuaded a group of her friends to take part, then presented the idea to a Committee meeting. She had done her homework well and had everything ready to go - her daughter Anne would do the photos; a printer was lined up and the calendars would sell for $10.00. She estimated that selling to family and friends would raise the necessary amount.

The Treasurer had made it clear that she didn’t think they would sell enough to cover costs - who would want to buy a calendar of stupid old women in the buff? But said she wouldn’t oppose going ahead and hoped to be proved wrong.

The photo shoot went ahead with much laughter and the ladies had lots of fun deciding on the photos for each month and thinking up witty captions. An order for a run of 1000 calendars was placed with the printers.

With everything in place it was decided to have a special evening at the Hall to launch the calendar... and what a night that turned out to be! The ladies came in all their finery and a great night was had by all with orders taken for 700 calendars. The next day an order for more calendars was placed with the printers.

Then publicity started to flow. A Current Affair did a segment on national TV, a German film crew made a documentary and Reuters put it on their international news. And so the orders flooded in from all over Australia and around the world.

Every morning the calendar ladies would meet together to process the orders and package calendars for posting. Many orders were accompanied by congratulatory letters and comments. The ladies had many a laugh - one order for 12 calendars came from the Little Sisters of Mercy in Kings Cross!

Every few days a bag of cheques and money orders would be delivered to the Treasurer for banking. The bank deposit book only had spaces for 7 entries so she set up a spreadsheet with 50 spaces to enter the details. When she had banked over $26,000 she realised that she hadn’t factored in GST. She sought advice from an accountant and was told that since the Association was a ‘not for profit organisation’ they could raise up to $100,000 without having to pay GST. That seemed so laughable that she didn’t give it another thought.

Not long after that however over $100,000 had been banked and the Committee met to discuss what to do. Orders were still flowing in and it was decided to ask Dot’s daughter Anne if she would like to take over and run it as a private business. Anne was willing to take over and set preparations in place for a 2003 Calendar. She also produced a number of merchandise items - tea towels, mugs, mouse pads.

The Committee then started to look at how the money could be spent. Of course the stage curtains were top priority and these were duly ordered. Since the material had to come from England it would take a while to have them in place.

Piggery Productions, the local amateur theatre group, uses the Hall for their annual review which raises fund for our local primary school. There were no dressing rooms at the Hall so it was decided to build dressing rooms behind the stage area. The Council agreed, tenders were let and a design chosen that kept the extension in keeping with the existing building.

Next was an upgrade to the kitchen in order to have it classed as a “commercial kitchen”. A commercial quality dishwasher, working bench tops and cupboards were installed and new crockery, cutlery, glassware and kitchen equipment bought.

The tennis court had been closed due to the dangerous state of the concrete surface so with a grant from Sport and Recreation, and a contribution from the Clarence Council, a state of the art surface was laid and new fence erected.

In 2003, the new dressing rooms were completed and the curtains installed. To celebrate this, in March an Old Style Music Hall night was held. Due to the weight of the curtains, opening and closing was very hard work so it was decided to have them made electronically operated.

Midge Moore, one of the local ladies who had worked on calendar, wrote a stage play about the making of the calendar which was taken up by Mainstage Theatre Company and staged at the Peacock Theatre in 2002. It played to full houses!

Anne continued to make the calendar for the next four years and it was then taken over by Bev Fone, one of the original Calendar Girls. New ‘models’ came on board and photo shoots and get togethers to decide on captions continued to be lots of fun. The calendars continued to sell well locally, around Australia and overseas but after 10 years despite significant forward orders, it was decided to call it a day.

Thank you to Noela Foxcroft for sharing the history of the Calendar Girls.

Thank you to Joan Griffiths who kindly provided a copy of her speech given on the occasion of the opening of Calverton Hall in all its glory following the fundraising efforts of the Calendar Girls.

First I welcome you all here tonight and thank you very much for coming. We are here of course to celebrate the hall's "New Look".

The early settlers in this district would have a surprise if they could see it today I'm sure. We know that the hall is over 110 years old and I believe in the first days it was known as the Cricket Pavilion. If it could talk it would have plenty of stories to tell. Many a dance has been held here. In the old days the children came as well and when they were tired they went to sleep on the coats piled in the supper room or so I have been told. In the 1950's it became the R.S.L until the club across the road was built and many happy nights were had here.

When Alma Calvert passed the titles over to the Council, they refurbished it and then the Committee was left to improve it. Well we didn't do a bad job with providing crockery and tables etc. Thanks to the help of some local tradesmen who freely donated their services we were able to put in the indoor toilets. But we were always talking about how we could get some new stage curtains.

A fund was opened to which Piggery Productions and C.W.A. contributed, but we knew we were looking at a huge sum of money. In fact to be honest I think the committee felt they would all be gone before the curtains were available. Then came the DAY!!! Shall I ever forget It?

I went to visit Dot Kelly who had just received a calendar from a friend in England with discreet shots of partially undressed middle aged ladies. These ladies had raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for children with leukaemia. "There you are!", says Dot," if we did this we'd have the money easily."

I wasn't so sure. Who was going to be game to pose to start with. Not me! Well when Dot gets an idea she is not going to give up. The next thing I know is that she has the models, the photographer and the printer lined up! I would like to pay a special tribute to those ladies who were so game to do it. Every time I look at those curtains I shall pay tribute in my mind. They had more spunk than I did.

Well you know the rest of the story, the calendar story travelled to all parts of the world. I'm still having email from one of the families in America!

So much money came in from those calendars that we were able to build a dressing room which, thanks to an excellent architect and builders, looks as if it has been there for ever. We were concerned about the outside appearance but we needn't have worried.

We also purchased a dishwasher and extended the kitchen benches. Stage lights and a lighting system have been installed. I'm sure Piggery will be pleased about this.

When we were talking about an open night for showing off the new curtains I mentioned an Olde Tyme Music Hall. Well don't ever give ideas to Dot because she'll take them up.

So here we are tonight. Admire the curtains and see that the windows have also been treated to new curtains.

Enjoy yourselves. Once again thank you to the Calendar Girls. And PLEASE don't give Dot any more ideas or we will all be emigrating!