Fundraising had begun in 1943, while the world was still at war. A committee was formed in Te Puke to erect a war memorial hall which would include a room for the Returned Services Association.
A hall was decided on because:
1/ it would be a tangible memorial to the South African, 1914-1918 and present war.
2/ a district hall had long been required.
3/ it would foster and maintain that ‘desirable comradeship through the services and to stimulate a healthy social life which has been made war weary’.
The committee chairman was John A (Jack) Pattie; W O Knight was secretary, and C H Montgomery, treasurer. The committee was: A J Collins, Jonathan Brown, Thomas E Palmer, C H Whitehead, L W Milsom, H J Thomas, J H Evans, A Snodgrass, A Forrester, T O’Callaghan, A E Stratton, T Thompson, M Clark, B E Twigg, W A Bennett (Jnr), M A Wilkins, A Rogers, W H Seal, J M Hodges, A V Bayliss, J Frost, K Tapsell, J Horne, D M Steel, S W Gunton, B Hosking, A C Wright, J I Vercoe, G Barrow, H F Wickham, D Wickham, J C Hammond, and B Robertson.
Fundraising began immediately with a baby contest with votes at one shilling each. The chosen babies (obviously born without the help of a mother) were:
West – Janet Ronald – daughter of Robert A (Roy) Ronald
East – Glynnis Mirriam Baker, daughter of Phillip Baker
Maori – Andy August Clark, adopted son of Moses Clark.
Central – bonny, chubby John Veitch, son of David Veitch
After twelve years of solid committee work and fundraising the foundation stone for the Te Puke War Memorial Hall was laid on 2 June 1953, Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Day.
Fundraising continued and in 1955 another Queen Carnival was held. The Queens and their teams were:
Blue Queen, Miss Anne Malcolm, representing the Sports and the Maori people. (Chairman Mr E J Bowen. Maids of Honour – Misses Jocelyn Young, Lindsay Collins, Mary Martelletti and Rangi Richmond. Flower Girls – Mary Alice Gemming and Robin Freeman.)
White Queen, Miss Barbara Ross, representing the eastern side of Kaituna. (Chairman Mr O E Webber. Maids of Honour – Misses Maureen Oxenham, Patricia Evans, Betty McKenzie and Mara Anderson. Flower Girls – Sheryl Marsh and Judith Martin.)
Red Queen, Miss Nancy Robertson, representing the western side of Kaituna. (Chairman Mr P N Verschaffelt. Maids of Honour – Misses Jessie Mark, Angela Strachan, Gail Butler and Judith Hopkins. Flower Girls – Pamela Hayes and Christine Godinagh.)
The War Memorial Hall, including the RSA Lounge and public restrooms was officially opened on the 9 March 1955. The first function held in the hall was the crowning of the Queen – around 1500 people crammed the hall and the streets outside awaiting the results. The Blue Queen, Anne Malcolm won, and £15,308 had been raised. For eight weeks each Queen and her team had fundraised frantically, and the functions always attract much hilarity and good-natured rivalry.
The hall and adjoining RSA Lounge had cost £35,000 of which over half had been raised by appeals and organised efforts of the town and district people. The balance was received by way of Government subsidy of £1 for £1. The Labour Government of the time had introduced a policy that unlike other wars, memorials constructed to commemorate the Second World War would be utilitarian buildings, not statues, cenotaphs or arches. What’s more they would be community centres rather than sports or other facilities. The public response was enthusiastic, partially because of the government subsidy, and over 700 applications were received for funding from all over New Zealand.