Manning-Wallamba Family History Society

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The Manning-Wallamba Family History Society has a wealth of local heritage information which has been brought to light due to the many tireless hours spent by volunteers searching through old newspaper articles and family history resources. 

We spoke recently with Vicki Fletcher and Janine Roberts from the Society about their upcoming event ,“A Journey Back in Time”.

Hi Vicki and Janine. Can you tell us about your involvement with the Manning-Wallamba Family History Society?

We both volunteer with the society, helping people to research their family history. The society has volunteers at the library six days a week. Vicki is also the Membership Secretary and Publicity Officer.

What’s the story behind the event “A Journey Back In Time”, which the Manning-Wallamba Family History Society is planning on holding in February?

Last year Janine was approached to organise a walking tour in October for a group of men from Hallidays Point. Several society members helped Janine with this walk along the Manning River from the Rowing Club to the bridge and part of Victoria Street. Along the way, society members shared stories of historical significance and stories about various local identities. The group was also shown some old photos of what the area looked like over the years.

The walk was enjoyed by all involved and as a result, we have been inspired to plan more events like this. A previous tour of the Scott’s Creek Church and Cemetery was also well attended.

Who has been involved in setting up the event, and who came up with the idea and why?

As a society, we wanted to participate in the 2019 Seniors’ Festival in February and organised a group to come up with ideas. We thought the walk would be interesting to the seniors in our area but felt because the festival is held in February, it would be too hot to physically do the actual walk. We came up with the idea of doing a “virtual” walk through presentations of photos and stories.

How do you hear about these stories, and where or who do you source all the wonderful photos from?  

The stories for the walk were researched by various members of the society once the route was finalised. This research involved using the society’s vast local family history resources, along with old newspaper articles. We like to verify any stories using various resources. 

We are based at the Taree Library and have a great working relationship with the library staff, who have allowed us access to their local history photo collection. 

Has there been anyone who has primarily been responsible for collecting and bringing all the material together?

Janine and another of our members, Penny Teerman, have put together the MidCoast Stories website. This website has a growing collection of short stories and pictures from the MidCoast area which encompasses the Manning, Great Lakes and Gloucester areas. 

Do you have any favourite images?

There are so many wonderful images of the area, that is hard to pick just one. Photos of the Aquatic Carnival in its heyday, the opening of the Martin Bridge and sailing on the river would have to be some of our favourites, as they revolve around the recreational use of the Manning River. 

What’s the most amazing story you’ve heard so far, or the one that you love the best?

One interesting story we’ve uncovered focuses on Fotheringham’s Hotel and Solomon’s Fruit Market in Victoria Street. During WWII, civilian volunteers were trained to observe and recognise planes flying over Taree. They were called the Volunteer Air Observers Corps (VAOC). Volunteers sat in one of the towers at Fog’s Hotel with binoculars and a phone to report all sights and sounds of planes to the RAAF’s plot room, which was situated in Dougal Watt’s garage (now Solomon’s Fruit Market). 

In September 1943, in one week alone, the number of aircraft sightings reported by the Taree VAOC reached 2,000, giving an indication of the work being completed by local residents 24 hours a day.

In 1944 a Catalina plane, which happened to be carrying American comedian and film star Bob Hope, had to make a forced landing at Laurieton. While Mr Hope and his entourage entertained the community who had rescued them, the Taree VAOC Control contacted the RAAF and US Air authorities and made all arrangements for extra transport, repair and salvage of the Catalina and accommodation for Mr Hope and his party. En-route to Williamtown the next day, Hope asked if he might stop in at Taree Control so he could personally thank everyone – which he did. 

Where are you going to be holding a Journey Back in Time, and how can our readers reserve their seats?

At this stage we are holding three sessions of this event. We will be at Taree Library on Thursday 14th February (10am to 12pm) and Tuesday 19th February (1:30pm to 3:30pm) and at Hallidays Point Library on Friday 15th February (10:30pm to 12:30pm). These sessions will have limited numbers. Anyone wishing to attend needs to contact the relevant library to reserve a seat. 

If any other organisation would like us to run a session for them, please contact us via email:

Final thoughts?

These sessions will be interactive, so we ask people to bring a historical photo or item that tells a story of our MidCoast area. To see some of the stories and photos we already have, check out the websites for Manning Wallamba Family History Society and MidCoast Stories 

Thanks Vicki and Janine.

Interview: Ingrid Bayer.

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