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Bowls In Focus : October 2009
Bowls In Focus 11 with the Camberwell Petanque Club. Another member Steve Pitney says that the players of the curious French game could not find a base. “T hey promised to boost our funds, membership and create a great atmosphere,” Pitney says. But the marriage of the two bowling codes was not a union made in heaven; there were heated spats, spiteful accusations and eventual divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Six years ago the council apparatchiks developed a new bowls strategy - basically it involved removing the clubhouse and greens from the landscape. Some Denham St residents took exception to the plan and joined the club to fight the demolition, says Sandy. “Only a few,” adds Pitney. Pitney warns against portraying residents as heroic defenders of the club. “I believe it was more about their property values,” he says. Something other than the cute wooden clubhouse might be a blot on the landscape and drag down their investment, one thinks. “Most of the local community believe that the HBC members are a small group of ungrateful people who did not bowl and who denied the community a much-needed facility,” Pitney says in reference to a million-dollar multi-use redevelopment plan put forward by council. This followed a 2004 council decision to allocate about $590,000 to renovate the clubhouse and green- keepers cottage. Gee, the HBC file at council HQ must be thick with all these plans and paperwork. Historically, lawn bowls and the City of Boroond- ara are not comfortable bedfellows. Just ask MCC members who recall the protracted development process before their Swinburne Ave clubhouse was given the green light in the 1990s. The council found all sorts of problems with the project; roof colour out of sync with the suburb, roof pitch wrong, the sound of bowls colliding keeping residents awake at day, that sort of thing. But rejoice, what was dead has been revived. The 129-year-old Hawthorn club has climbed out of the coffin this year and has entered a pennant team in this season’s metropolitan Division 8 competition, ready to smoke their unwary rivals. Barefoot bowls, long regarded as the promiscu- ous offspring of the organised game, proved to be the HBC saviour. It brought much-needed cash flow and some recruits to the club, including hard-working spearhead Center. The club needed a professional greenkeeper to upgrade the quality of their two greens. So in came Haintz, on a deal where he resides in the cottage and maintains the common couch grass. A return to pennant ranks flowed on from that. Haintz had played at Richmond Union and brought on board the enthusiastic Neal to help recruit players and negotiate RVBA affiliation. Now the club has 25 members and the green light from Bowlers House officials to return to the fold. Clubs rarely rise from the grave, so it surprises nobody that there’s something a little different about HBC. A skull and crossbones flag flaps atop their flagpole. It’s also on the club badge. Not surprising, really, as Sir Francis Drake (bowls visionary and fa- mous participant) was as much a pirate as an English naval hero. There’s a sense of old-style attitudes at the club. On Wednesday afternoon a bowler can slurp up a plate or two of soup before strolling onto the green for a game of bowls played in a relaxed and friendly way. All for just $5. Now, that’s a 1970s price! The RVBA has so embraced the HBC retur n that match committee boss Bob Middleton used the 1930s-era clubhouse as a backdrop for a photograph as part of Victorian bowls support of the beyondblue depression initiative. And there’s another turn-up for the club that really takes the cake - literally. A few weeks ago Center took a call from a Hawthorn antiques shop. They had a Victorian silver cake tray inscribed as a HBC trophy, and were they interested? So for 40-something Oxford scholars a 108-year old club trophy is back where it belongs. It was the President’s Trophy won by the rink of W Lawrence, S McLean, J C Stephens and skip J P Savage in the 1900-01 season. It’s a quite substantial prize for an event where only 12 teams participated: Hawthorn only had a six-rink green at the turn of the 19th century. The club laid down a three-rink surface when it was formed in 1880. Two more rinks were added in 1882 and another in 1899, with the green growing to eight rinks in 1903. A second green was added during the 1960s. The area had been used by a croquet club, which lapsed into oblivion. Ironically that green has been transformed into a petanque surface. The club dates back to April of 1880. It was founded by Hawthorn Mayor William Cleverdon, who clearly had had the political muscle to convince the borough council to lease the club a prime spot on the elevated north-west corner of St James Park. Instead of a rink, it was supposed to be a clink. A police station was planned for the Denham St site until Cleverdon exerted his mayoral clout. But it was a logical decision. Ask any Hawthorn spin doctor now; there’s no crime in the suburb! HBC officially opened for trundling on December 16 with beverages and snacking at the nearby Sir Robert Mickle Hotel. A small pavilion was erected in 1882, and seven years later was moved alongside the small green. This did the job until 1938 when the present club- house was built. The clubhouse has two levels and overlooks the park and the bowling greens. Stage Right • Above: Welcoming and inclusive, the signs says it all. • Right: Hats and umbrellas from a bygone era still adorn the foyer. • Bottom Right: Chairman Alan Center reclaimed the 108-year-old President’s Trophy. • Below: Better times ahead for the historic old club.
August September 2009