Getting our Groove On at the Ding Dong

 

By 1955, Medina had expanded to incorporate many people of different nationalities. During that time however, the new members of the community felt like their town was in the middle of nowhere. This was mostly due to the fact that the majority of people that migrated to Medina came from busy cities and were used to the hustle of daily life there.

In contrast, larger towns were far from sight and public transport was limited. In the words of Isobella Corker, quoting from Kwinana From Limestone Up:

“When I first came here I thought this was bush.”  And when she was asked about community amenities at the time when she first got here, Isobella Corker answered:

“There wasn’t any. Nothing at all.”

This view was also shared by Doug Scambler when he stated:

“What got a lot of people was the isolation.”

It was clear that the populace living in Medina would have been consumed by boredom and stagnation if it were not for the founding of establishments to provide social interaction within the community.

The Medina Cinema Gardens and the Medina Picture Theatre respectively opened in 1954 and 1955. They provided entertainment and allowed people to feel a sense of community in Medina. In 1957, the Ding Dong Nightclub came along which further aided in bringing the community together.

The Ding Dong was located off Gentle Road, on a property originally acquired by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942 to accommodate RAAF staff manning of the radar detection station on Wellard Road. The concrete footing remainder of an ablution block can still be seen to this day and was also built on the same year. Two additional buildings were then added in the 1950s.

After the war years, the Ding Dong Nightclub was founded when the new owner decided to build an open-air dance floor on it. An orchestra played music in the club, and refinery workers, construction personnel and other families living nearby would congregate to dance, thus the Ding Dong was dubbed the “nightclub with a difference!”

A hall was available on one side of the dance floor, and there a grassy slope where patrons could sit down and rest when not dancing. The Ding Dong was also popular for square dancing. According to local Harry Tebbutt, dances were held at the Ding Dong and Wellard, rotated on a weekly basis.

 

Isobella Corker remembers the Ding Dong Nightclub with approval:

When we weren’t allowed to have beer in Medina Hall, I think his name was Henry, he built a dance floor up in the Ding Dong. So we used to have our dances there in the Ding Dong. In the 50s, we would have a fabulous night.

She adds that even though people were expected to pay to enter, everything was open. Additionally, the Ding Dong forced Medina Hall to allow liquor in the hall as they were losing out due to the nightclub. Doug Scambler fondly states how the Ding Dong enabled a sense of community to the attendees:

They used to have dances out here in the Ding Dong, old Corker’s place. People from all backgrounds – the Poles would get involved, they’d dance and do this, the Scotch would do something. You were Europeans and that was it.

In 1960, the Ding Dong was sold to Norman and Mary Corker, who kept the party going until the 1980s, and who also responsible for the 300 olive trees planted on the slopes. Now, as the wind blows, the leaves of the trees wave as if dancing to an orchestra playing on a warm 1950s evening.

 

Original article by library volunteer Carlos Jimena.