Wagin’s town hall has hosted many community-defining moments over its 124-year history — providing the centrepiece for a host of memories for one local couple. Starting life as an agricultural hall, the building’s stone foundations were supplied by the Wagin community and the building has, in turn, supported the community ever since. Wagin rose to prominence with the construction of the Great Southern Railway and its hall has since hosted films, wedding receptions, debutante balls and at least one world-famous hypnotist. The building was officially opened as an agricultural hall in January 1897 by then-Premier Sir John Forrest with a meal and band commemorating the festivities, before it was officially recognised as the town hall in 1909. At the time, The West Australian reported Sir John had called it the finest agricultural hall in that portion of the colony. In 1928, an extension was added to the original building. Featuring 600 seats, a lesser library and ticket office, it was enjoyed by many, including Harley and Cheryl Pederick. Mr Pederick’s family moved to Wagin before the original agricultural hall was finished. Now 90, he has been married to Mrs Pederick for more than half a century. The pair fondly remember seeing movies on the weekends together at the town hall. “In the 1940s, we had movies on Friday night and Saturday and traditionally most of the young people, the rowdy ones, went on a Friday night and the more staid ones went on a Saturday night,” Mr Pederick said. Mrs Pederick said the movies were a public — and private — outing. “It was quite a social occasion. You’d go along early and everyone sort of worked out where they would sit. ‘You sit there and they’ll sit there and we’ll sit at the back and canoodle’,” Mrs Pederick said. With World War II raging, these evenings were not the escapist entertainment one might expect from a trip to the cinema. Instead, they began with audience members rising from their chairs to sing the Australian national anthem and learn how the Australian war effort was progressing through news bulletins. A typical night at the cinema was split into two halves, with the first half featuring newsreels, serials and cartoons, before a short intermission followed by the feature film. “There were travelogue shorts, comedy ones, cartoons and that sort of stuff took up the first half,” Mr Pederick said. “At half-time the lights went up and virtually everyone went outside. Us young larrikins, we went down the street to the local Piccadilly Cafe and got ice-creams and drinks.” In the era before television and the internet, the town hall’s movies also provided residents with a large part of their cultural and public health education. One film screened at the town hall warned viewers of the dangers of syphilis as a sexually transmitted disease. “There was a movie that was called Damaged Goods. They didn’t have ratings in those days but a notice was put up that no children would be allowed, so of course we all sneaked in and had a look. I was about 14,” Mr Pederick said. “It was about sex and contraceptives and our eyes bugged out. “We’d never heard of these things at all.” In the late 1940s, Wagin Town Hall also hosted hypnotist Martin St James, who at the time was known as Rock Martin. St James, who was estimated to have hypnotised more than 1.5 million people, became a household name and had record-breaking stage and television shows across the world. “He said to Dad, ‘would you find some sort of object and bring it to the show but don’t tell me?’,” Mr Pederick said. “So he’s up on stage and he says, now Mr Pederick, would you please stand up and look at the item but don’t show me. “Rocky would be 60m away, and he said, ‘yes, it’s an electrical device, an unusual one, it’s about three-inches high and it’s got a curly thing on the side’. “He said to Dad, ‘is that right, Mr Pederick?’ And he said, ‘bloody spot on’. He captivated the entire audience. They wanted more and more.” While the town hall no longer hosts films every weekend or the likes of Rock Martin, it continues to play a significant role in the community. “Wagin Town Hall is important. It’s a noble-looking building and has been looked after reasonably well. It’s one of the main buildings in the town,” Wagin Historical Village president Max Bell said. Groups like the Wagin Historical Village are testament to the continued relevance of the town’s historic buildings and the community’s desire to preserve their history. A volunteer organisation since 1979, it’s responsible for maintaining 25 original and replica buildings from the Wagin district to ensure the region’s history is never forgotten. “Once I’m gone, the people behind me will have an interest in the history of our place ... not just places and buildings but people as well,” Mr Bell said.