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THE KIT-KAT CLUB (21st Century)

People living in KATANNING, a small town in Western Australia, have never heard of KITTANNING Pennsylvania, a somewhat larger town on the opposite side of the globe - and vice versa. They should get together to form a second Kit-Cat Club.

The Kit-Cat Club was a London political and literary club in the first 20 years of the 18th century. Its name came from a tavern run by Christopher Cat (or Kat), where members first met. The pub was also famous for its mutton pies, known as Kit-cats. The club's 50-odd members included leading Whig politicians and some of London's best young writers: Charles Seymour, sixth Duke of Somerset; Sir Robert Walpole; Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle; William Congreve; Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele.

By a happy coincidence, both Kittanning and Katanning (let's call them Kit and Kat) possess outstanding community websites, which provide good descriptions and photographs of both places.

KITTANNING PA is 43 miles north of Pittsburgh, and has a population of about 10,000. Kittanning.PA.com says: "Rain or shine, sleet or snow, we are always ready to welcome visitors to our small city along the eastern bank of the Allegheny River... Numerous smaller highways and roads crisscross the lush Pennsylvania countryside nearby, making exploration easy and fun for the whole family. The locks and dam system on the Allegheny makes Kittanning accessible also by water during the late spring, summer and fall.

"When you come visit us in person, be UN-surprised to hear 'hi' from people you meet in the stores downtown, those you pass on the street, and from people sitting on their porch swings and gliders in the early evening. From the residents and businesses of downtown Kittanning, a friendly WELCOME!"

A second KIT website, kittanning-pa.com offers a detailed history and a great selection of photographs. It says: "The earliest noted Lenape [native American tribe, sometimes called Delaware Indians] settlement in Kittanning (AttiquÈ) was around 1727. The Lenape were a peaceful people, who welcomed others to their homelands. Their nature was to be peaceful, but this masked a temper which, if provoked, could react with terrible violence."

How did KIT get its name? An article in the Valley News Dispatch, on the PittsburghLIVE website, says "Kittanning is the English version of the Delaware Indian word Kit-Han-Ne, meaning on the great stream."

Down Under, the KATANNING WA website says that their town, of more than 4500 people, is "a couple of hours' drive from everywhere. We are isolated enough to be a real country town but we are only a couple of hours' drive from Albany, Bunbury (2 1/4 hours), Perth (3 hours), the Stirling Ranges (1 1/2 hours), Mt Barker wine country (1 1/2 hours).

"We are at the heart of the Great Southern of Western Australia on the Great Southern Highway 30 minutes east of Kojonup, 30 minutes south of Wagin, 40 minutes west of Gnowangerup and 30 minutes north of Tambellup.

"Katanning offers an enviable life-style where you can enjoy the laid-back charm of country life yet still have all of the advantages that a regional centre has to offer. Katanning boasts almost 150 Services and Community organizations from a comprehensive health system to the RSL [Returned Services League], from aromatherapy and yoga to a toy library and meals on wheels, we also have almost every type of Sport & Leisure that you can imagine. Triathletes and croquet players, bridge players to competition football - you'll find it here.

"Katanning has a rich cultural mix that celebrates difference yet embraces Community. [We have] welcomed people from many parts of the world, from Christmas Island, South Africa, Italy, Great Britain and India, from all continents and many cultures. Importantly Katanning is still the original home to our Noongar community."

Katanning's claims to fame include:

  • The largest sheep sale turnover in the southern hemisphere.
  • Wake's Garage displaying Western Australia's first orbital engine, invented in Katanning by local engineers.
  • An art gallery which hosts international, national, state and local art exhibitions.

How did KAT get its unusual name? WALKABOUT, The Australian Travel Guide, says:  
"There is considerable disagreement as to just exactly what 'Katanning' means. Some sources argue that it is derived from the local Aboriginal word 'kartanup' meaning a 'clear pool of sweet water' while others suggest that it comes from 'kartannin' meaning 'meeting place'.

"A third suggestion combines these two interpretations suggesting that a 'clear pool of sweet water' would be an ideal 'meeting place'. Just to confuse matters there has been some people who insist that the town was named after an Aboriginal woman called Kate Ann or Kate Anning."

Since KIT derived its name from the native American word Kit-Han-Ne, meaning "on the great stream", we like to think that KAT, by sheer coincidence, came from the Australian aboriginal word for "a clear pool of sweet water".

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Copyright © 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted April 2003

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