The End Of An Era – (1)

May 2, 2012

This year, the traditional Speewa Easter Hoedown evoked mixed emotions.  The more than 120 dancers who attended were happy to be there, but sad that this was the very last hoedown to be held at the Barn.  This was the 45th year that Des Devereux organized the event, in recent years ably assisted by Bruce & Cathy Rushton, their family, friends and Peter Humphries from Matamoras Squares.


As per last year I have split this account up into sections so that your computer can handle the big file sizes generated by the photos I have posted.

All you doubting Thomas’s who decided to miss this year and come next year, you have missed out.  This really was the last Speewa Easter Hoedown.  Des’s heath is not as good as it used to be and he has just had a pacemaker fitted.  Even though it’s difficult to slow him down, I think he now recognizes that the effort necessary to prepare for the event is slipping beyond his reach; his property is now up for sale.

This year Des wanted to end on a high note, “go out with a bang” and a few of us agreed to arrive early to ensure he achieved this aim.  I arrived 10 days early accompanied by Heather, Tony and my wife Helen; we travelled up from Wild Frontier’s weekend away at Berri in SA ( see:  Bob and Margaret from Burrill Lake, NSW arrived one day later.  Our job was to help Des clean up the place in preparation for the “marauding hordes” about to descend on Des, intent on “rape and pillage” (in reality all pillage no rape).  We were the volunteer cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew.

We found the property looking really great, a lot bigger than previous years because the old homestead had been removed and replace by green mowed grass which abounded over the whole camp site.  We assisted by relocating truckloads of Des’s treasures which still lay about the place thus creating even more space.  We also got the hot water and drainage systems working, cleaned the ablution block, the kitchen, dining room and dance floor, washed all the dishes, cleaned the kitchen equipment and went shopping with Des.  The place was all spick and span and looked the best ever when the first caravans arrived on the Tuesday before Easter.

We also helped Des prepare cook and serve the traditional meal held on Thursday night to raise money for Des’s charity Beyond Blue.  Historically, Des and Fay have done a lot of work for many charities helping to raise many children from broken homes and others less fortunate than they.  We also cooked all the breakfasts – ye gods so many sausages bacon rashers, and eggs to cook (not to forget the resulting dirty dishes and kitchen clean up).  After the show was over, we all agreed that it was very satisfying to help take the load off Des’s shoulders.

Click On The Images To Enlarge, Click Again To Make Even Bigger

The Barn In Its Rural Setting

For those of you who don’t know “The Barn”, above is a snapshot .  The picture shows the Barn set on Des’s rural property at Speewa, 15 kilometres North of Swan Hill, Victoria.  This is a lovely area with flat land farm crisscrossed by many irrigation channels (the vast majority now unused) fed from the nearby Murray River.  I have included a plan below showing the layout of the barn which contains a dance floor, commercial kitchen and a dining room.

Floor Plan

Glass Doors Open Into The Dining Room,
The Small White Door Opens Onto The Dance Floor

The following video is of the facility in full swing on the first night, entering from the small external white door adjacent to “THE BARN” sign,  which is near the stage (see above photo).  The video then takes you through the dance floor up into the dining area then back onto the dance floor finally returning to the dining room where many dancers relax for a chat and a cuppa.  Click on the white door in the picture above to view the video.


Day 1 Tuesday 27th March

After leaving Berri at 9.00 AM (SA time), Heather, Tony, Helen and Roger arrived at The Barn at about 4.00 PM (VIC time).  They found one of Des’s fence rails was on fire and were not sure if he was intentionally burning it.  No one was about so they started to locate their two caravans when Des arrived home.  After they had parked up, Des joined them and they helped isolate the fire then all had a cuppa and a chat.  They then continued to set up camp, whilst Des pottered around cleaning up the place on his Furgie tractor.

Day 2 Wednesday 28th March

Whilst taking the dogs for a walk down to the ferry / bonfire area it was apparent that the river was flowing very fast; and was very high, but not yet flooding the bonfire area.

Today, Heather and Helen attacked the huge ant nests outside the ablution block, there would have been literally more than 1000 inch ants swarming all over the place, it was not possible to walk to the outside sinks through such a swarm.  They then started to clean the toilet block finishing the disabled and ladies toilets.  Tony and Roger managed to get the two water heaters working thus providing hot rain water to the showers and hand basins.  They also found that the door to the disabled toilet and shower would only partially open because the concrete footpath had pushed up.  So they removed the door and used a hand saw to cut 10 mm off the bottom edge of the door which when refitted opened and closed properly.

They also removed a dud refrigerator from the kitchen and dug out a dirty old refrigerator stored in Des’s bus port, which they then dragged into the kitchen (after checking it still worked).  Unfortunately there was no water supply to the toilets so they had to use buckets for flushing purposes.  They also found some very large wasp nests in and near the ablution block, Des sprayed some stuff but the wasps regrouped in three other places after some frantic flying too and fro angrily searching for someone to sting

Day 3 Thursday 29th March

Heather and Tony finished cleaning the ablutions including some miscellaneous repair jobs.  Roger spent about 4 hours cleaning the dirty fridge which was then put in its final location in the kitchen and switched on to cool down. Helen cleaned the outside sinks and drainers, then moved into the kitchen and started to do some work there.  The gas man delivered new cylinders and the plumber came and cleared all the clogged drains from the showers and toilets and also serviced the water heater to the kitchen.  Just before they stopped for the day, Bob and Margaret arrived so they all sat down and had a cupper and were joined by Des and his mate Henry.  After dark, Roger donned his overalls, and with hat, mosquito net and gloves went out to de wasp the ablution block with a large can of insect killer.  The place was shaping up for a great Easter Hoedown

Friday 30th March

Roger Tony and Bob did further work cleaning up the park, moving rubbish out of the way, dismantling a collapsing fence clearing away long grass etc  Tony did some further work cleaning out the kitchen.  Heather Margaret and Helen also concentrated on the kitchen, cleaning benches drawers and the walk in refrigerator and commenced washing up loads of crockery. Des filled his dam and switched over to dam water for toilet flushing and lawn sprinklers to keep the grass nice and green.  Roger drove into Swan Hill to buy some more stuff like curtain hooks to hang some new curtains in the kitchen that the ladies planned to make.  That evening they had a banquet in the dining room, just the six of them plus 4 dogs, later Des joined them after returning from a working bee and dinner down at the hall by the punt.

         Des & Bob Return After Fixing A Spilling Dam

Saturday 31st March

Whilst taking the dogs for a walk down to the ferry / bonfire area it was apparent that the river had dropped a couple of inches, but was still flowing fast.

Roger and Tony found a freezer in the pantry adjacent to the kitchen, most useful for storing all the frozen foods Des was going to purchase.  When they switched it on, it briefly ran then stopped so they decided a replacement freezer was the only option, and resurrected an older deep freezer Des had in his shed.  After wiring up a new plug and checking it still operated Roger cleaned the years of dirt out of the inside and off the outside.

Meanwhile the ladies continued work in the kitchen, including the manufacture of new curtains.  The sewing was made a lot easier using a sewing machine Tony found in one of the storage rooms in the barn, which he got working with some TLC (and CRC)

The resurrected freezer was placed in the kitchen but would not start.  After some checking, the power point was found to be dead.  So an extension lead was put to use.

Whilst the ladies continued to work on the kitchen, the men relocated a couple of Des’s on site caravans.  They then found that quite a few power points were dead in the dining room, even though they had been working (prior to testing the freezer in the pantry).  The main switchboard was OK and it was only when looking for another power point to check out which ones were dead that they found another sub board, and guess what one circuit had tripped out on overload, after it was reset, the resurrected freezer was plugged into an appropriate socket and the extension lead removed.

Yes We Did Stop For Tea Breaks 

More wasp nests were discovered, a job for after dark and more rubbish was cleared away along the fences where the caravans had been removed.  The ladies hung the new curtains and the place looked great.

Des as usual (he will not listen) overdid things so, after lunch, he retired to bed stuffed, with a couple of Panadol, his lady friend Grace popped in with some tea towels table cloths etc.

Sunday 1st April

The cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew did a lot more tidying up around the park and along the fences, relocating the junk to the back of the property.  Des’s quad bike and a trailer came in very handy to move some of the stuff; it should have been used earlier.  They also cleaned up a lot of weeds etc – the place looked great.  The ladies continued on, cleaning the kitchen cool room, and bar areas.


 The Ladies Were Determined That No One Would Find A Fly In Their Soup

For continuation of this story and a lot more square dance photos click on the link below which will take you to Section 2


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