Posted in: News
Unravelling what, on the face of it would seem a simple if unusual mission has, produced a story where many strands of history combine including some of the rich history of Alice Springs and its characters.
Things were set in motion due to the generosity of the City of Adelaide and Walkerville North Lions Clubs providing sufficient funds for a new purpose built mobile unit to be purchased for the Adelaide region.
Coincidentally in May 1974 Yvonne Snelling arranged a seminar at the School of Occupational Therapy to introduce the mobility services now provided by Guide Dogs SA/NT. This was the first of a series of educational programmes designed to assist those who were in contact with the vision impaired in the course of their work. It was planned that the sessions should be taken to far- reaching centres of SA and NT.
As a consequence, in June 1974, Bevan and Paul Rutt took the original mobile unit to Darwin via Alice Springs, Barrow Creek, Tennant Creek and Katherine, with a detour to Gove en route.
The caravan was loaded on to the Ghan in Adelaide, bound first for Alice Springs in time for the Show where it was used as a display unit alongside a mobile canteen where the Alice Springs Auxiliary worked at full stretch serving the show goers with refreshments.
From this one event alone the Auxiliary raised $800.00. An amazing effort for a community with a population of 7000!!
Guide Dogs SA President, Frank Beauchamp Clive Thelning and his Guide Dog, King, flew to Alice to join those there for the arrival of the mobile unit and they all gathered at the Alice Spring Hotel for a social evening recognising the work of the Auxiliary.
Now to add another strand of history: it happened that the Alice Springs Hotel was built and run by Ly Underdown and his mother. Originally in 1929 the duo set up and sold groceries from a tin shed, however when, in the early 1930s, the only pub in town decided to sell groceries as well Ly and his mother decided to sell beer. From this small beginning the Underdowns went on to build a substantial hotel of 55 rooms, 36 with attached bathrooms.
Ly was a philanthropist who championing many causes in Alice Springs including the Guide Dogs Auxiliary. At the time of the ‘mobile unit adventure’ the travellers observed a painting of Guide Dog Alice, I have been unable to discover the story behind the painting but it must have been wonderful because Ly was so impressed that he had it replicated on to beer mats for the Hotel.
What a find it would be to add to our history archive if we could locate Alice in her role of barmaid!! Sadly the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1984 so the chances are slim!