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Club History

by John Maffey OAM

The Rotary Club of Moss Vale called an Interest Meeting on Thursday, 14th June,1984 at the Moss Vale Golf Club to see whether retired and semi-retired business and professional men would be interested in forming the first Probus Club in the Southern Highlands. The purpose of the Club would be to hold regular monthly meetings for retired men who would appreciate and value the opportunity to meet with others having similar interests and enjoy their fellowship. Guest speakers would be invited and visits to places of interest were envisaged.
The President of the Rotary Club, Ernie Thorpe, presided at this Meeting which was attended by Rotarians, Probus Club members from Goulburn and Cliff Johnston from Probus South Pacific who explained the structure and history of Probus, as well as 22 interested candidates who subsequently became the foundation members of the new Club.
Mr Thorpe invited Gordon Harman to take the Chair and he proceeded with the business of forming the Club, accepting the 22 Foundation members, adopting the Constitution, electing the Management Committee, setting the annual subscription at $12.00 and resolving that the cost of morning tea would be 50 cents for each member attending. Rotary stood the cost of the President's collar, Members' lapel pins, advertising and printing to establish the Club.
Before closing the Interest Meeting the Rotary President installed Gordon Harman as the Foundation President of the Moss Vale Probus Club. By the close of the August Meeting the Club had 31 members who came from all corners of the Southern Highlands. Most members in the early days had worked and lived in the Wingecarribee Shire, whereas in the 21st century the majority of the 104 members have worked all round the world and have retired to live in the district.
Meetings have always been held on the second Thursday of the month at 10am at the Moss Vale Golf Club up until March, 2016 when the Golf Club underwent renovations and the Probus Club, unable to find a venue in Moss Vale has had to relocate to the Mittagong RSL Club.
Moss Vale Probus Club has always had a reputation for obtaining quality speakers. In the beginning most speakers were locals, whereas today they are drawn from Sydney, Canberra, the South Coast, as well as from the Highlands. Outings, functions and concern for any sick/frail members have always been on the Club's agenda. The first trip was to visit the Goulburn Probus Club in October, 1984. Functions have often included the ladies - the first being held just before Christmas 1984 with a member performing the duties of Santa Claus!
The first monthly Bulletin was published in July, 1984 and the March, 2016 edition was No.370. Ken Hope took over as Editor in 1985, relinquishing the position in March 1998, having been responsible for 152 publications! The format has changed several times, colour added and now it is an e-bulletin. The typing has progressed from a manual to an electric typewriter and now it's all set up on the computer.
Club Interest Groups have come and gone over our 33 years of existence: golf, walking, bowls, military history, computer activities, dining-out evenings and coffee mornings to name some.
Birthdays have always been remembered, but the means by which the "lucky" boy to receive a present (i.e. bottle of wine) has varied over the years e.g. a lucky number, the length of a straw, a card from a pack etc.
For many years members provided and set up morning tea and then washed up afterwards. In recent years it has been provided by the Golf Club, but then the cost has increased from the original 50 cents per member!
The Club Presidents have been ably supported by hard working Committees. The third President, Ray Sleeman (1986-87), is the Club's only Life Member, as well as being the only surviving Foundation Member.
Early on a Committee member was delegated to be the Sergeant-at-Arms and his job was to scour the local newspapers and listen to the radio for news of members who would be "fined", anything up to 20 cents, for performing worthy deeds in the community. For some years the Club had a marquee at the Bong Bong Picnic Races. The Annual Changeover and Christmas luncheons have always been a feature, particularly as it provides further opportunities for the ladies to join their menfolk. Originally at the Changeover Luncheon the Incoming President would present the wife of the Outgoing President with a bouquet of flowers, but that has changed and now the wives of all Committee men receive a single rose.
Whilst the average age tends to creep up the Moss Vale Probus Club remains a vibrant group of about 100 men from many and varied backgrounds who continue to enjoy fun, friendship and fellowship.