Clifton Springs Bowling Club

The following notes are written by Maylie Sharp to assist Club Members regarding the formation of Clifton Springs Bowling Club.
“Clifton Springs Bowling Club came about after the Bellarine Council acquired land from Wilmore & Randall who had developed, and sub-divided the Clifton Springs area some years before and had made promises to the people who had bought building blocks that they would have many sporting facilities in the area supplied by the developers. However, a lot of promises were not fulfilled and after a number of request from the local residents and a court case or two, they were more or less forced to honour some of the promises made – among them the bowling greens which were put down as economically as possible.
However, the greens lay idle for about 3 years.

The Council bought the Community Centre and surrounding sporting areas – golf course, tennis courts, and bowling greens in 1977. Then, of course to justify the spending of ratepayer’s money the Council had to get interested residents motivated to get the areas working. A Public Meeting was called in October 1977 to find out if the residents would be interested in forming Clubs to use the facilities available. I suppose about 1 dozen people indicated that they would be interested in playing bowls. From that meeting another meeting was held to form a Committee. Mr Merrifield and Mr. Lex Mortimer were asked by the Council to give some advice on how to go about getting a working Committee.

Tom Sharp was elected President (much to the dismay of his wife who had spent the previous three weeks trying to talk him out of the responsibility) but there weren’t too many prepared to take on these positions. The only experience his wife had with bowlers was, when playing golf on Wednesdays with ladies who had played bowls on Tuesdays and who wouldn’t complain bitterly about someone playing in front or somewhere about, not giving them any shots the day before at Pennant. There was no way the President’s wife was going to be involved – FAMOUS LAST WORDS.

Mr. Jack Bain was elected Secretary – a very capable and hard-working man who had worked for some years for B.P. Oil Co. and somehow had acquired a quantity of B.P. Green paint which was used to paint our cupboard which Jack had got from the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence. Our shelters were donated by generous members, Jack taking the dominant role in building them and they, too, were painted B.P. green. A Treasurer was elected to take care of finances which were practically nil at that stage. Two ladies from another club offered to be President and Secretary but duly discovered they could not take the positions as they played pennant for that Club (their home club).

After frantic phone calls to the President he asked if Lyn Bain wife of Secretary Jack, to take the position of Lady President. Lyn accepted and then Peggy Howker agreed to be Treasurer. None of these ladies had played bowls before so you can imagine the job they had in front of them. They all made a great success of their positions with Peg and Doreen being amongst our most loyal and hard-working members. Lyn and Jack moved away to warmer climates and we did miss them.

Very few of our members had played bowls before so one of our experienced bowlers offered to give them lessons, with a little help from President Tom, who had not been bowling very long himself. The first game of official bowls was a Past President’s Annual Christmas break-up day organised by Lex Mortimer who was President of that organisation at that time. The luncheon was held at the Community Centre, the Manager at that time was a Mr. Abbott who supplied a three course meal for about $4 per head. All who attended were very impressed as I think they thought the Community Centre would be our Clubhouse. No-one complained about the greens that day which were really awful, not having been played on before. However, the complaints came later. Our meeting place was a very dark corner underneath the Community Centre which contained our own B.P. green cupboard which held our cups and saucers and a funny old table and a couple of chairs. There was a dirt floor which created a lot of dust so we solved that problem by emptying the teapots on it. On Sunday afternoons we were allowed to use the Bar area of the Centre for afternoon teas which our ladies always supplied most generously. After the bowling, the Manager of the Centre would always bring in platters of chicken pieces and salads (which were really the leftovers from the mid-day luncheon) – our visiting bowlers were very impressed – “what a great Club supplying such tasty “afters” – you didn’t get them anywhere else, etc, etc”.
During the winter we had card afternoons and the ladies brought goodies for a trading table – if we made anywhere near $20, it was a good day. Then with a lot of persuasion from President Tom, the Council supplied us with a temporary clubhouse near the greens which was promptly call Uncle Tom’s Cabin to where our worldly possessions were transferred – namely the B.P. green cupboard and its contents. The President and Secretary spent a lot of time trying to get a loan to build a club house – we only had one difficulty – we did not have any money. However a loan was raised and the clubhouse was completed in 1979.
By this time the Club had grown quite a bit and we had more experienced and generous people join us – amongst them George and Norma Willey who were elected Mens’ and Ladies’ Presidents and Beryl Young left our Club in 1988/89 to move to warmer climates. Norma and George Willie were very loyal and dedicated club members. Norma put us right about the length of our dresses, the angle of our hats, etc. They were very good bowlers and took on the job of giving us lessons which must have been very frustrating for them at that stage. (Norma was a Skipper in our first pennant team – she broke her left arm before the season started but played as we did not have anyone to take her place). However, they moved away to be nearer their family at Mansfield.
The men won their first pennant flag in 1979 – a great achievement, a unique experience to say the least with on-one complaining about their positions or who they were playing with – all were just playing for the club. I think there were just enough members to make a team.

The Clubhouse was officially opened on 7th September, 1979 and members were asked if they could help by lending money for the first payment of the loan – over $3,000 was raised that night.
In the season of 1980-81 we had two teams playing pennant and both won a flag – great celebrations. The lady who was our team’s skip must have been most frustrated – she would pass us on her way up the green and say to us – “you girls will not be in the team next week” – we could only giggle as there was nobody else to put in and no way the poor skip could change the team. Even the mens’ teams were short of players – one of our most respected members – Stan Chirgwin, even joined his two sons into the Club so they could make up a team – I’m sure those two young men would rather have been doing something else on Saturdays. There was a real team and Club spirit.

Of course, our greens were a particular problem in the first years as they had never been constructed correctly in the first place. The first year, 1978 – the greens were seeded twice and the rain washed it out but we had beautiful grass growing in the ditches. The greens were eventually completely rebuilt and showed good results with plenty of praise from visiting teams”.
The Club has grown from 25 players in those days to the number of members we have today.
M. Sharp

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