"Remembering" within the Avondale Returned and Services Association (Incorporated) : gossip, social dramas, women's roles, ritual and commemoration, within a voluntary association : a thesis submitted for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Albany
“A war has many lives”, appropriate words written by an Avondale Returned
Serviceman. The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association was created in
1916 by World War I veterans serving as a place to gather and support each other postwar,
giving those who joined a sanctuary of peace, the battlefields of war. These men
created a space ready for the next group of men and women to return from World War II.
Avondale Returned and Services Association (Incorporated) began in 1933, serving the
Avondale community and Avondale returned personnel. Through the years the clubrooms
have been a place where service personnel receive support, can relax and enjoy the
company of like minded people, family and friends. The clubrooms have seen many
changes and milestones; namely allowing women into what began as a “men only” club
and creating their own Women’s Sections. With the introduction of membership to family
members of war veterans, membership numbers increased dramatically. More recently
however, membership was afforded to members of the community. This was necessary
because of the decreasing numbers of returned service personnel.
The changes have allowed a wide age group of people to experience the R.S.A.,
ranging in age from teenagers through to some now in their 90’s. This has allowed for a
diverse club culture to be established, with many ethnicities mixing in a historic, sacred
space, created to remember the wars and honour the dead. There is an eclectic mix of
rituals and traditions taking place within the one space, the clubrooms. I have likened
these clubrooms to Erving Goffman’s theory of a theatre, with daily performances by
many of the actors, taking their entrances and exits on cue. Others will only make a cameo
appearance every now and then. Many actors perform solely for the audience, putting on
their masks for their performance and removing it on exit, replacing it with another for the
next performance in their life.
In this thesis it is my aim to give my perspective on the many aspects of what one
particular Returned Services Association, situated in a particular place and time is about.
My research methods were primarily the anthropological, that of participant/observation,
with some interviews and archival research to help make sense of the history behind the
Association. Many of the war veterans I interviewed and spoke to informally were happy
to share their memories with me, of the Association and also their time at war, adding
another dimension to the research, giving a positive feel to the overall benefits of having
an Association such as this in the community.