Robert Menzies packs The Rialto Theatre Kew, Victoria Australia

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The installation of CinemaScope at The Rialto Theatre Kew, Victoria Australia

Hoyts Rialto Kew

Melbourne, AU

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Robert Menzies packs The Rialto Theatre Kew, Victoria Australia

Robert Menzies packs The Rialto Theatre Kew

By the 1940’s cinema had come of age. It was a time when most of the population went to the movies, at least once, or twice a week. During the war years it was a place of emotional refuge, a special place. The Rialto Theatre Kew was the meeting place of a community. More people would pass through it’s doors than any other public building in the town, and as such it was fitting in 1941, upon his return from Britain, that Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, would choose The Rialto to speak to his electorate. Menzies led a government that was preparing the nation for war. The Kew council, sensing the occasion announced that Mr Menzies first major speech should be held in his home town, and within his own constituency. In 1941, he had visited Britain to discuss war strategies with Churchill and other leaders, and while travelling to the UK, he visited the Australian troops serving in the North African Campaign.

On May 31 he spoke to the nation from The Melbourne Town Hall. The following day, Sunday June Ist , 1941 he spoke to the people of Kew. Mr Menzies was cheered by thousands who cried out “Good on you Bob” It was the warmest and most tumultuous welcome of his career. His speech was to be relayed to the nation through Radio 3LO. Thousands of people were unable to enter the Rialto, and his speech was broadcast to those who were standing in the street out front. Sections of the VDC, Kew Volunteer Defense Corps, uniformed and carrying rifles, took part in the reception, marching to the Rialto with fixed bayonets, while providing a guard of honor. After inspecting them in the main street, Mr. Menzies was welcomed by Cr. Price, Mayor, in his official robes. Patriotic airs were played by the fire brigade band as Mr. Menzies entered the theatre. Then, as the drums rolled continuously, the theatre was darkened, the Greek, U-S, and British flags were hoisted successively, picked out by a spotlight and fluttering in a rush of air, then anthems of the 3 nations were played. Menzies told the crowd “We must nerve ourselves as we have never nerved ourselves before. In a few months to come we shall need every ounce of courage.” The audience completed the afternoon with a standing ovation, along with a stirring rendition of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.

Menzies spoke on August 11, 1974 at a ceremony awarding him the Freedom of the City of Kew, in the heart of his old electorate of Kooyong, in Melbourne. Menzies was 79. It was one of his final public appearances before his death in May 1978 … Contributed by Greg Lynch –

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