The Boronia Bowls Club was formed after an inaugural meeting that was held at the Boronia Progress Hall in Boronia on 19th May 1952. Some 16 residents were present and from these, Mr. Allan Chandler was elected as the first President, Mr. Ron Cousin as Secretary, and Mr. John Maguire as Treasurer. Others in attendance were Messers Coates, Hillhouse, Len Dobson, Pickering, Ritchie, Pope, Lovett, G. Chandler, Alexander and Castell. The Club was to be known as The Boronia & District Bowling Club.
The meeting was called because Mr. & Mrs. Pickering, parents in law of Allan Chandler, were very keen bowlers and, after they had moved into the area from East Kew, had wanted to continue bowling.
Those that attended that meeting were well prepared. It was recorded that the proposed site would be in Chandler Park, corner of Chandler and Allandale Roads, Boronia; that the estimated cost of the green was 1000 pounds which didn’t include the cost of any buildings; that the bank was to be consulted regarding a loan and that 5 pound debentures were to be issued. Mr Lowe from the Royal Victorian Bowling Association addressed the meeting on the subjects of “The Formation of Bowls Clubs” and “The Construction of Greens”.
At a public meeting on 9th June 1952, the name was changed to The Boronia Bowling Club and a decision was made to limit the membership to 120 men and 50 women.
A week later, in committee, details of the Green construction were discussed with suitable contractors to be asked for quotes and that the Bowling Club assist the Cricket Club to move the cricket pitch to a new site in the oval. At a later meeting it was decided that, because the site in Chandler Park was described as having a fall one way of 12 feet 10 inches (3.9M), a lot of excavation would have been necessary. The excavation cost and the need to build a retaining wall along Allandale Road, and quotes for the laying of agricultural pipes were considered. The decision was taken that a new site be inspected.
Arrangements were then made for the Committee to “meet at top of Boronia Road hill at 2pm on 16th August to inspect the Marie Street site”. Mr. Perc Chandler’s land in Marie Street was later inspected in the anticipation that it could be offered for sale. The President Allan Chandler, brother of Perc. Chandler reported that the Bowls advisors thought the new site would be ideal. All this activity took place during the period of three months!
And from where was the money to come? From early on, fund raising was discussed; Vacuum Oil Co. had been approached to arrange for a Picture Night (later held in the Progress Hall); and President Allan Chandler, a daffodil grower in Lewis Road, Wantirna South (Moruya Private Nursing Home taking its name from the property) had advised that he would “open his property for inspection on 7th September to all Members and friends of Bowling Clubs…” (entrance a silver coin). “Arrangements to be made by the Ladies for Afternoon Tea”. That was the first of many fund raising events. Allan Chandler’s annual Spring opening of his daffodil farm was always a great success. The crowds that were attracted necessitated police assistance with directing traffic. The President also opened his home for Pleasant Sunday Afternoons, and his farm for Garden fetes. Card parties were popular and held about once a month in a Members home. There was a lot of community interest and people other than the Committee became involved.
The present site in Marie Street had been part of Perc. Chandler’s daffodil farm, and daffodils still pop up on the perimeter of the property. Marie Street had been only a track with trees to dodge. There were no services connected. Water to the Club site had to be brought up from Boronia Road. On 16th April 1953, contractor Mr. Cowin tapped the water main in Boronia Road, and supervised the laying of pipe in a furrowed trench.
As with almost every stage, the work was carried out by volunteers. Allan Chandler, one member who had the concept of the formation of the Club, did the tractor work using scoops: several others used pick and shovel. Harry Lovett, an engineer, guided by the RVBA, “understood what had to be done and was a persuasive leader and hard worker”. In particular, he organised the construction of the concrete edges around the Green, and the road making to the Club House.
A motion to proceed with the plan to build club rooms, had been passed on 8th June 1953, and a vote was taken on 13th July to obtain a power pole. The original Club House (sometimes called The Pavilion) was weatherboard and cement sheeting, with an open fireplace and a corrugated cement sheet roof. The original shelter beside the Green was made of pine slabs and tea tree, with geranium growing over it. A garden was established with some of the plants being annuals. The garden along Marie Street, particularly the trees, is still there.
In the Minutes of 21st June 1954 there was a proposal to have a Picture Night in the Pavilion. On 6th Sept of that year, there was a comment about the poor response to Working Bees. Nevertheless, work did proceed and the first Annual Meeting of Members was held in the Clubhouse on 13th Oct 1954.
Construction of the Green was also proceeding. Dick Fankhauser explained that Greens must have a level surface, and a good drainage system underground. Pipes were laid, with a slight fall, on a clay base, in eight or nine inches of clinkers (the hard left overs from coal burning from the Gas Works) and then covered with sand. Bill Hodge, who was the Greenkeeper during the 70s, described spreading the top dressing of sand; it was for this purpose that he designed and made a wooden screed, the same width as the rink of 16 feet. It was a “man-killer” and took two or three to pull. Laurie Baker remembers pushing the roller, this also was heavy and needed more than one man (he soon realised).
A decision was made to have a day of Bowling on Sat 5th March 1955; and later that month to buy carpet for Indoor Bowls plus tea and toast, another way to raise funds. It was not until the Secretary’s Report of 8th August, that mention was made of the first season of play; quoting the Committee’s recommendation to enter a team of three fours for C Pennant for the 1955/56 Season. In readiness before the Season began, Harry Lovett, Greens Director and Works Manager had erected a sprinkling system and the Green had been top-dressed.
Since those early days, another Club House has been built and this has been added to. Orchardist Harold Jenkins was active with this and also devised a watering system with a 1 1/2 inch (4cm) pipe and a hose reel. There has been a second Green constructed, and adjoining land has been purchased to allow for even more expansion. The work continues, building on all that was accomplished by others in those earlier years. The cooking and the catering also continues, but some of the events of the past would be hard to replicate. Gala Days and the Smorgasbord meals were catered for in the tiny kitchen. Len Dobson (who served as treasurer for 25 years) would get the vegetables from market, and his wife Madge, President at the time, would roast the meat and prepare the fruit salad. Madge’s idea for a Smorgasbord to be served after Bowls, has been copied by other Clubs. In Boronia they were held twice a year to fund the purchase of a Public Address System. There was a lot of effort involved in serving 224 Bowlers and two sittings or “fills” were necessary, with the dishes washed in between! If it were not for the ladies, the Club would not be where it is today.
Boronia has produced some good players including Graham Bridge, an Australian Singles Champion who is now Chief Executive Officer for Bowls Victoria.
Taken from an article by Judith Lesley in “Boronia Bowls Club Inc. Celebrating 50 years 1952 – 2002”