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The Rise and Demise of Forestville Scouts

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
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Published May 5th 2013
The Governor, the Knight, and the boys
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The Scout Emblem on Penno Hall


While walking about Adelaide recently I noticed the distinctive Scout fleur-de-lis emblem located high on a building wall just around the corner from Wilberforce Walk.

My interest was caught and I looked through some cracks in the fence, but it seemed to be used as a builder's storage yard now. I did see a faded sign on the wall saying "Penno Hall", but that was the only visible sign of the building's former use.

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Penno Hall and Grounds


A neighbour I spoke to said he could not remember the building being used by the Scouts in the last 25 years, so I spent some time using Google. It took a while to realise that my search results were limited because I was using the name Nichols Street - prior to 1940 that section of the road was in fact called Maybelle Street.

The earliest record I could find of the Forestville Scouts was on July 28 1916 when the official Scout Gazette recorded that the First Forestville Troop had been registered. In August The Register newspaper reported that the Scouts would give a concert at the Goodwood Institute in aid of the Red Cross.

As this was during the First World War, it's likely that the proceeds were indirectly helping our troops on the battlefield and it was later reported that 8-10 was raised. In December 1916 Mrs F.F. Horstler was appointed instructor to the troop, and the following year the Scout Master J.R. Digance left for the war front.

The high casualty rate on the battlefield in 1915 and 1916 prompted Britain to call on her empire to do more for the mother country. SA had responded by despatching a recruiting train around the state, decorated with patriotic posters and bunting. At each stop a military brass band played martial music, Union Jacks and the Australian Flag were flown and State Premier Vaughan addressed the generally large crowds.

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Premier Vaughan at Mt Barker (Courtesy History SA GN00745)


Fortunately Scoutmaster Digance survived and was welcomed back to the troop in 1919. He later went on to become a priest, but maintained connections with the troop.

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Forestville Scouts at Mitcham Reserve 1921 (Courtesy State Library of SA)


Arthur Robert Horstler (son of Mrs Horstler, and known as Bob) was made honorary Scoutmaster in 1921 and by 1928 the troop had 30 Scouts, 32 Cubs and 6 Rovers. More than 650 boys had already been part of the troop, a sign of the huge popularity of Scouting in those days.

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Bob Horstler in 1928


Girls were only able to join the Guides and Brownies, but I found no evidence of a Forestville group south of Adelaide.

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State Governor Sir Tom Bridges Opens Penno Hall 1924


Mr H.J. Penno provided an interest free loan of 100 for three years to enable a hall to be built for the group. Penno Hall was opened in 1924 by no less than the State Governor, Sir Tom Bridges. The hall was also used by the local community for a social - a dance for the local people.

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Forestville Scouts at Penno Hall, Date Unknown


Another notable visitor to Penno Hall in 1927 was Sir Keith Smith who, together with his brother Ross and two other men became the first people to fly from England to Australia. The air journey in 1919 still took 28 days! Sir Keith was a patron of the Rover Scouts, and presented a cup which was used in competitions for many years.

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Forestville Scout Troop, Mitcham Reserve November 23 1929


The second world war took its toll on the First Forestville Scout Troop, with a number of members being killed in action around the world. The Troop had even continued its meetings during the war as minutes show, and there were clearly enough members for a group photo in 1946.

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First Forestville Cubs and Scouts 1946


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Scouts Meeting Report April 21 1944


By 1964 the Group had a regular news bulletin, and their thought for the day is still relevant: The art of conversation isn't lost - it's hidden behind the TV set.

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Forestville Scouts News Bulletin July 1964


The Scouts of Forestville celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1966 with a good sized article in local newspaper The Community Courier on August 24. Bob Horstler attended the celebration party, maintaining his 50 year association with Scouts Australia and the local group.

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Community Courier Article on Forestville Scouts 50th Anniversary


The article mentioned that the Troop was presented with a 40 foot flagpole in 1962, made from the mast of a coal hulk which had been towed from England in the 1890's. Unfortunately I couldn't see the flagpole when I visited the hall.

The last trace I found of the Scouts I could find was a 1970 census form recording 14 boys in the Troop. And it is here that the trail of the Forestville Scouts disappears. I found nothing to show when the troop faded away and was disbanded.

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1970 Scout Census Form


Lands Titles Records show that the Penno Hall land was sold in 1985 to a man whose family who had lived in the area for much the same time as the Scouts. That family also had an association with the Scouts, but the owner has died since I started writing this story.

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The Last Sign of Penno Hall


It's possible that soon there will be no visible trace of the First Forestville Scouts after 97 years.

The author would like to thank Tony Aldous and Scouts Australia for their assistance in making available photographs and documents.

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Where: Forestville, SA
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Your Comment
I wonder if the owner of the hall would donate the sign to the Scout SA Historical Society? Contactable through Scouts SA.
by jacqu (score: 0|8) 1076 days ago
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