The Club has now reached a momentous point in its long and colourful history, namely, the completion of fifty years of healthy and happy recreation for its members, through participation in the games of tennis, bowls and croquet, and spiced by exhilarating social intercourse among friends in delightfully congenial surroundings.
On such an auspicious occasion it is fitting that time should be taken to recapitulate the origin and evolution through the years, of our Organisation and reflect with gratitude and admiration on the personalities whose enterprise, public spirit, industry and devotion have created and maintained the Club during the varying vicissitudes of its illustrious past.
It has been freely acknowledged that the Club was the “brainchild” of a number of imaginative, but nevertheless realistic, bowlers resident in Glen Iris, Gardiner, Darling and East Malvern, notably Dr. Ferguson Lemon, of Lower Malvern Road, East Malvern, and Mr. W. G. Ferguson, of Ranfurlie Crescent, Glen Iris, who, in the early 1920’s became acutely conscious of the need to provide facilities which would adequately cater for the recreational needs of local residents. Their enthusiasm for the project became contagious and, before long, many of their friends and neighbours, and others further afield, became alive to the virtue and value of such a proposal, upon fulfilment and were anxious for action.
With this object in view many private meetings were held and lengthy discussions conducted, and eventually plans were developed to the stage where public support was required.
A preliminary search for suitable land had been feverishly conducted over many months, resulting in two possible prospects. One, involving land in Hedgely Dene Estate, East Malvern, offered by the Malvern City Council, on the basis of permissive occupancy only, with no prospect of a clear title to the proposed club, and the other involving an area of five acres of land between Glen Iris railway station and Gardiner’s Creek, which could be purchased for £1,200, payable by instalments over a period.
At a large and representative meeting of citizens of the locality, held in the hall of the old St. James’ Church of England, Burke Road, Glen Iris, on Monday 16th April, 1923, it was resolved to establish a modern recreation ground for a club to be known as the Glen Iris Valley Recreation Club and to authorise a provisional committee to purchase the Glen Iris land from one, Ernest Ratcliffe, for £1,200.
Plans had been prepared for the erection of a bowling green, croquet lawns, three tennis courts and a clubhouse, and necessary fencing, levelling, dressing, etc., and to seek public support by widespread publicity. The Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association were executed on 6th August, 1923, and the Club was duly registered as a company.
The first officers of the Club were:-
President: W. G. Ferguson
Vice-Presidents: Dr. F. Lemon and A. A. Brahe
Hon. Secretary: H. A. Winton
Hon. Treasurer: W. L. Richardson
The financing of the venture was arranged by subscriptions and a private loan, and the issue of debentures, for the latter of which a number of Club “zealots” conducted a vigorous and successful campaign.
The first playing area, involving eight tennis courts, became available for play in September, 1924, and the bowling green three months later, the bowls membership then numbering forty-six. Construction of the croquet lawn commenced in May, 1924, the sectional membership being thirty-eight. Erection of the clubhouse was effected during the years 1925-26. Prior to this an iron shed along the bank of the creek was used as a Cafe De Luxe, water for afternoon tea being boiled in kerosene tins in a very rural setting. With sustained interest on the part of members and staff the playing areas continued to improve, the membership increased, and the teams for all sections had established themselves in pennant play involving their respective games, and Glen Iris had become really established.
In 1934 disaster befell the Club when, after an extended period of torrential rain, the whole of the playing surfaces was flooded when the creek overflowed its banks, destroying several tennis courts and covering the other areas with slime. Prompt attention in the form of scouring, seeding and top dressing restored some semblance of normality with a minimum loss of time, but the tennis areas needed full-scale attention. But by this time the financial position of the Club had become strained. Debenture interest and Principal redemption could not be met. A rearrangement proposal, approval by the denture holders and sanctioned by the Court, gave the Club a reprieve and financial stability was gradually achieved. The Annual Schoolgirls and Schoolboys’ Tournament was instituted about this time at Glen Iris and it has become a major tennis event in junior tennis in Victoria.
Progress in all sections and in the playing areas was recorded until 1939, when World War II commenced, and fox six years activities were compulsorily restricted. Many members joined the Services – seventy in all – and others became active in movements designed to assist the country’s war effort. During this period the Club became “of age”, but with only very mild celebration, understandable.
In 1950 disaster struck the Club when fire eventually demolished the clubhouse. Undaunted, the members determined to restore the structure and, after ingenious planning, generous interest and assistance from many loyal members, and despite rigorous restrictions on supply of building materials, the new clubhouse became an accomplished fact in 1952.
From this point membership continued to grow and a new era commenced. Interest in all sections quickened and applications for membership were so numerous that waiting lists became necessary.
In 1959 the peace and tranquillity of Glen Iris was threatened, when an ultimatum was received from the Board of Works that an incursion through club grounds, to enable laying of a sewer main, was about to take place. After protracted negotiations the project was completed with a minimum of disruption to the Club, by means of extensive tunnelling instead of surface excavation, as originally threatened.
As a result of skilful oversight and management the financial position of the Club had progressively improved, and outstanding debenture liability was cleared from the Club’s books. Membership numbers continued to rise steadily, and in 1967 they reached a peak of 892.
The need for extra accommodation for such a large membership became increasingly urgent, and in 1970, extensions, including an enlarged buffet and meeting room, relieved the pressure in this regard, and there were many reasons why it could be confidently expected that the Club was destined for a happier and more useful future.
Throughout the last half-century the Club has rendered a valuable community service to many thousands of persons in its membership, and provided recreation of such quality and range as probably exceeded the most sanguine hopes of its founders.
The efficiency of its management, by a succession of devoted and capable officers has been a distinguishing characteristic of the organisation, enabling the Club to surmount the difficult vicissitudes of the past and laying the foundations for a consolidated co-operative enterprise, exemplary in its many facets.
At this point of time we acknowledge with gratitude the magnificent contribution of our “pioneers” and those dedicated souls who, often at the cost of much personal inconvenience and sacrifice, have borne “the burden and heat of the day” and combined to produce a Club, unique in many aspects, and given us a heritage of which we may be justly proud.
We cherish the memory of our gracious benefactors, and with this thought uppermost in our minds, it must be our earnest resolve that the happy, harmonious and healthy organisation which they established and maintained, will continue to function with increasing usefulness to all who are privileged to be the modern members of it.
To celebrate the attainment of the Golden Anniversary of the Club, a Celebration Party is planned, to take place on Thursday, 25th October, 1973, at the Clubhouse, commencing at 6.30 p.m. Further reference in this connection will be communicated to members in a separate notification.
– J. W. WILSON, President.