The Bowlers in my Backyard: Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club

For my project I’ve decided to stick my head over the fence.

The founding date of the Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club is debatable to say the least. It could be marked down as the opening of the first greens in March 1962 or perhaps even registration with the Royal Bowling Association in 1957. Personally, I think the strongest case to be made is for somewhere in the mid-1950s when the Club’s founding members gathered out the back of a Lambeth Street store to play darts, drink beer, and do anything but play bowls.

Members of the Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club, circa 1960/1.

While in the six or so decades since then bowling has certainly shifted to the forefront of the Club’s identity (for reasons both legal and otherwise), this culture of mateship for mateship’s sake has remained at the group’s core. Located a little ways north of the George’s River, the Club is now home to the Men’s Bowls, Women’s Bowls and a number of other sub-clubs including the Picnic Point Darts, Golf and Fishing Clubs. As the hub for all these groups, the Club has become a centre for the smaller, local community of Picnic Point and Panania, with my own family included among its numbers.

My connection to the Club and its history is one that began fourteen years ago when my family moved into a house bordering the greens. My dad’s involvement quickly developed to the point where a gate leading exclusively to the Club appeared in our back fence and the initially two minute-long walk became thirty-seconds. Having seen it go through celebrations and hardships, and evolve in the years I’ve known it, I’m excited by the prospect of helping the Club utilise its history and solidify its identity today.

A partial view of the greens from my aforementioned back fence gate, September 2019.

Although not set in stone, the ultimate goal of my project will be to compile and organise the history of the Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club in various formats, the most prominent being recorded oral history interviews.

Currently, I’ve been reading through old Club meeting minutes and documents to get a grasp on an overarching historical narrative – this has been aided exponentially by an unfinished history written by a former member (who I’m hoping to get in contact with for permission to use his work) and archival research through TROVE and local newspapers. If time permits, I’d like to additionally digitize and catalogue these original minutes/documents as well as a number of photographs that have also been made available to me. Another major task I hope to undertake is recording oral interviews with some of the Club’s oldest members, to be both informed by the history I’ve uncovered and to expand upon it further.

The final form this project will take is still being decided upon. I endeavour to have the interviews compiled into a video that the Club can use at their discretion and the written history also as a standalone resource. Ideally, by the end I’d like to update the Club’s website with their expanded history and embed the video interviews within the same page. I may further include a photograph slideshow with labelled pictures from important moments in the Club’s history.

An early day on the Picnic Point greens, circa 1960s.

At its heart, the entire basis of my project is in facilitating the Club’s understanding of its history and attempting to help this history be utilised in the most effective way possible. Amidst the declining popularity of lawn bowls in Australia, I truly believe that this history and the Club’s identity will be the key to its future.

The Ku-Ring-Gai Historical Society – Exploring Local Histories

I chose the Ku-Ring-Gai Historical Society (KHS) as the organisation I wanted to engage with because of my desire to know more about my local area and to see how history is practised as part of a community. Ku-Ring-Gai is the name of a collection of suburbs on the North Shore and it is where I have lived for the last 17 years. The KHS has been operating since 1963 and has had over 600 members and is entirely comprised of volunteers. They have monthly meetings with two focuses, the first on general history where they will invite a speaker to give a presentation about their work as historians and another which focuses on producing family history. They also have an office located next to a local library in Gordon where there are collections of books, archives, computers connected to online resources. Volunteers meet there to work on various types of local history throughout the week from 10am-2pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They also create and publish an annual journal called “The Historian” with articles that cover a range of topics and places throughout a specific suburb, doing a different suburb each year so that all the suburbs within the area of Ku-Ring-Gai are featured at some point.

To become familiar with the KHS I first attended one of their general meetings on a Saturday where I heard about current news within the society, heard from one of their guest speakers and became a member. Before I attended the meeting I had a look at the name of the guest speaker and was delighted to realize it was my friend’s mum, a historical novelist called Carol Baxter, giving a presentation on an adventurous Australian lady she had just published a book on. I introduced myself to some of the members and arranged to spend some time at their office on Tuesday where I met with the Vice President of the society, Lorna Watt.

A typical day at the Society’s Offices
Retrieved from on 27th September 2019

On Tuesday Lorna introduced me to some of the people that do work there on Tuesdays specifically for the purpose of investigating property history in the local area. These projects arise from either a personal interest of the volunteers in the society and also from non-members inquiring about information and history of where they live. Lorna familiarised me with the way they work and how to access the resources they use and we discussed a range of things that I could do to assist the KHS.

Ideas included assisting with the mailing out of the current publication of their journal, creating a pamphlet to distribute to encourage membership in the society and participating in the research that the volunteers are currently working on. In terms of my main project it looks like I may be able to produce a few local histories to be included in the next publication of their journal “The Historian” which will feature the suburb of Roseville. In particular researching and writing about Roseville Bridge and it’s surrounding area which used to have a swimming centre as well as Roseville Cinemas and a street named Babbage after a man named Benjamin Babbage who was a significant figure in Nineteenth Century Australian history. I hope to develop these ideas within the next few weeks after becoming more involved in the Society and more familiar with the resources I now have access to.

Collaroy Plateau public school – A local history

The Collaroy Plateau public school is situated on the hill of a small Northern beaches suburb. The photographs within the archives show a rich affiliation with the beach community and the local Collaroy plateau area. The principal, Suzanne Trisic, has kindly welcomed me into the school to participate, observe lessons, and even do some teachers aid work to support Mr. Ben Duce who helps students with learning difficulties such as Aspergers and Diabetes. The school is filled with the sound of children’s laughter and buzzing energy as they swarm around us before the start of school wanting to give hi 5’s.

Volunteering at this school has been an excellent environment to experience, as I am a pre-service high school teacher. Any opportunity to work in a school even if it has only been for about 20 hours has been a great opportunity. I began conversing with Suzanne about conducting a history project for the school. She was very pleased and we began to talk about the logistics of creating the project. Suzanne showed me some of the photographs, newspaper articles and archives that the school had. This was excellent to look through some primary sources that displayed the wide ranging – dynamic nature of the school. Newspaper clippings displayed former members of the school participating in local surf club events. The archives even contained articles on alumni such as Rod McQueen who coached the Australian Wallabies.

The articles were not exclusive to the success stories of alumni, the photographs told a richer story of a local school community that has developed a thoughtful and nurturing environment for local little ones to participate in the wonder and joy of learning about the world around us. The changes in the nature of pedagogy over time were evident as evidenced by the Corporal punishment book that gathered dust in the archive room. I also began to discuss the medium of production with Suzanne and she is going to get back to me. The desired presentation is likely to be a book or a website.

Hunter Rainbow History Group – the importance of queer histories

It’s Summer 2019, my friends and I are wandering through the stalls of Mardi Gras Fair Day. The sun is unbearably hot, and our faces are greasy with the layers of sunscreen and glitter piled onto them . We stop in the shade of an empty stall and take a moment to look around the crowd swarming Victoria Park. But I am distracted by a sign in the stall next door that’s far more exciting. It’s a sign for a pride festival later on in the year, but to my surprise it’s for my hometown – Newcastle. 

When we were asked to pick a community organisation for a history project, I had no idea where to start. Having only moved to Sydney in 2016 (and into four different suburbs since then), I’d never properly connected with any local organisations. But after being asked in this course to reflect on the communities and values I deem important, I knew I had to do something to connect two of the biggest, yet most separate communities in my life – Newcastle and the queer community.

Growing up in Newcastle I was never exposed to anything related to queerness – while it definitely existed, Newcastle’s history of queer lives and experiences was very much hidden from the average Novocastrian. When I moved to Sydney for university I was incredibly surprised, and grateful to find such an open and honest community of people. I couldn’t believe that Newcastle, only a 2 hour car trip away, was so different, and its queer community so concealed. It’s for that reason I have chosen to work with the Hunter Rainbow History Group for my history project.

The Hunter Rainbow History Group, a queer history group operating in the city of Newcastle, was formed to ‘record and collect the stories and experiences of LGBTIQ people in Newcastle and the Hunter, to preserve and illuminate the hidden histories of this vital and resilient community’. Their work involves the digitising, archiving and collecting of queer stories in Newcastle – the results of which I believe do incredible work to avoid the confusion and isolation of growing up queer away from a capital city. Currently, the group are working on recording the experiences of HIV/AIDs survivors and victims in Newcastle’s two HIV/AIDs designated hospitals – the Royal Newcastle Hospital and MacKillop House. The last few weeks I have had the pleasure of being in conversation with John Witte, a member of the group, who has suggested I could assist with digitising photos for MacKillop house, and working with the  Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar who were part of the creation of MacKillop House in the early 1990s. 

I am beyond excited to be working with this group and hope that I am able to bring more visibility to queer histories as an essential part of public history. Most of all, I am grateful that I am able to work with a group that are able to connect the younger and older generations in Newcastle – allowing us to connect to a long-standing community that has too long been left to be forgotten.

Cronulla Polar Bears Winter Swimming Club

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Foundational members circa 1960

The Cronulla Polar Bears is an ocean swimming club operating between May and September every year since May of 1953.  With some still swimming with the club from its foundational years, ages range from 25 to 94. Their passion lies within the love for swimming and friendship with beer and barbecues as an added bonus. Over the years they have been part of various competitions around the country. With the largest being the Australian Winter Swimming National Championships that are typically held in respective states capital cities. Other competitions include local heats in the public ocean pool at South Cronulla Beach, that is typically the busiest time of the week – particularly with 10 degree weather.

With ‘The Bears’ endorsing small fundraisers for the clubs operational expenses like uniforms, food and pool maintenance; they also support a small local foundation Bears Of Hope which helps children with psychological and physical disabilities in the local region. Yes, the running theme of the Bears even stretches to their sponsorship from Bundaberg Rum (which also has a polar bear as its mascot).

Meeting 9am every Sunday in the John Suann room, their swimming typically commences within the hour then will wrap up about 3pm, but typically most will continue to stay and chat with close friends after lunch. in regards to their Internet ‘paw-print’, it spans from local newspaper articles to their most active being their public facebook page. The passion, humour and respect for community, is obvious through this page that is typically updated once a week informing members on events or just adding to club morale.

For what this club lacks in funding, members and sometimes sanity (I mean really who wants to go swimming in 8 degree water?!) they make up for in friendship, support and laughter. With the average age of members being over 50 years old, it can be a challenging time for men’s mental health. Through exercise, strong sense of community and humour, the club provides a healthy and supporting environment for it’s members physical and mental health. From the interactions I’ve had with some of the board members, I can already sense myself becoming part of the small community that encourages laughter and friendship – although they’ll have to work a little harder to get me in the ocean next winter.

Rights, dignity and wellbeing: the Older Women’s Network

Plunging into a timeline is a great way to get to know an organisation. Over the past week I’ve been piecing together the history of OWN, the Older Women’s Network for its new website. The many achievements of the past three decades suggest their motto could be ‘getting stuff done’. It’s a spirit that’s inspired me as I have discovered more about this can do group of women in their busy and friendly office set amidst the verdant community gardens in Newtown. Each day different activities are held in the large airy room next to the office: exercise classes, book groups and writing sessions to name a few of their varied activities. Since it formed in the mid 1980s this feisty grassroots women’s group has lobbied, advocated, fought invisibility, promoted health and wellbeing and had a lot of fun and friendship along the way. This was evident in the box of photos I looked through this afternoon. The camaraderie and self help ethos shone through, although I wish more information was written on the backs of the photos! 

OWN is a diverse organisation encompassing a theatre group, wellness centres, a Greek women’s group and a long running Aboriginal Support Circle with close links with senior Indigenous women in Sydney. It has written and contributed to countless reports and research on domestic violence, housing insecurity and financial issues affecting older women. The theatre group has wowed audiences throughout NSW and even performed their show Don’t Knock Your Granny about elder abuse at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.

OWN has nineteen groups in NSW, they all offer something a bit different depending on members’ interests, and wax and wane in numbers. During the uni break I’m taking a train trip to Coniston to meet octogenarian Barbara Malcolm, and to record her history for OWN. Going through the old newsletters, her name kept coming up as a vibrant force for older women and wellness in the Illawarra, and as a champion quilt maker. I’m looking forward to recording her story as one of the tireless, quiet achievers of OWN.

The Watsons Bay Association and Watsons Bay Walking Tour

The organisation that I am working with for the major project is the Watsons Bay Association. They are a local organisation made up of a few core members who are retirees, they also have a wider membership base that springs to action during times of threat to Watsons Bay’s natural sites. The organisation’s main goal is to lobby local government and campaign to stop large developments taking place in Watsons Bay.

They were instrumental in the Save Watsons Bay movement which was successful and they continuously fight to preserve South Head as a national park. I was initially drawn to this organisation as I have lived around the area for my entire life so for sentimental reasons its preservation is important to me. Furthermore, I noticed they had a history section on their website, so at the very least I thought that the people running the organisation were at least interested in the areas rich history.

Upon meeting with the president of the organisation Roger Bayliss and his wife Julie, who wrote much of the history section, I was informed that the organisation was in a dormant period and that they don’t really focus on history. However, they were both fascinated and very knowledgeable of the local history and saw its importance in future pleas for preservation.

They want me to design a walking tour and an accompanying pdf booklet that goes from the Macquarie Lighthouse all the way down to Watsons Bay and South Head and covers a lot of historical sites that are seldom visited or publicised by most tourist pamphlets or guided tours. They want me to do this potentially with the view to take my finished product to the local council and get signs posted in the area, this will make it easier to stop future developments.

Roger and Julie stressed the importance of the pre existing wide array of historical sites and natural beauty, which should be further emphasised for tourism, instead of the highly technological and complex nature of some of the proposed developments in the Watsons Bay area that the Association deals with and is made aware of.

Hammondville – Where’s that?

“Where’s that?” is the question I get every time I tell someone where I live and grew up. It’s a quiet small town that is situated 31 km southwest of Sydney and not many people have heard of Hammondville or know about its rich history.

The reason for selecting Hammondville Public School for my project is because of the rich history it has that isn’t known to the students or the community. On my first day going through the schools archives I was shocked to see the amount of photos, original documents and information there is about the school from the time it was opened in 1933. I believe that it’s important for the children that attend the school to know about the history of the school. When speaking to the librarian and deputy principle, I asked what they would like me to do and they both agreed a interactive website for the students would be great. 

Let’s start with the history of Hammondville.

When going through the archives, I found a letter titled ‘Aboriginal Tribe of Liverpool’ dated back to 1980, noting “Daruk, Gandangara and Tharawal are tribal names which are not commemorated in any local landmark, even though it is only 170 years since these aboriginal tribes possessed the areas which are now part of Liverpool. Each tribe had its own definite area and was a separate group, vigilantly protecting its own lands from trespass by other tribes. When white settlers came to Liverpool and the Cowpastures, ignorant of and disregarding tribal boundaries, conflict broke out. Six years after Liverpool was founded, the soldiers at the barracks were instructed to protect the settlers from attacks by “hostile natives’.” When R.B.S Hammond visited the area now known as Hammondville, it was empty land and did not have indigenous people there, it was documented that they were run out by white settlers in the late 19th century.

Hammondville was born out of the depression through the vision and persistence of one man: Canon Robert Brodribb Stewart Hammond (1870-1946). On the 12th February 1931, he called a meeting at St Barnabas Church (located on Broadway, Sydney) for married men who wished to apply for the kind of accommodation which he proposed to provide. The Church filled to over flowing and as a result 800 applications were received from people who asked to be allowed to participate in the project. Thousands were left homeless and were destitute during The Great War and the Depression.

The condition for a family’s entry to Hammondville required that they be  married, have at least three young children and that the parents were unemployed and evicted or under notice of eviction from their present residence. The homes were not going to be a gift: they had to be paid for on a rent-purchase basis “The project was not intended as a charity, but as an opportunity for people to better themselves by their own hard work.” Hammondville was officially opened by the New South Wales Governor Sir Phillips Games on Sunday 25th November 1932. Canon R.B.S Hammond offered land to the Department of Education for a school.

On May 30th, 1933, the school was officially named Hammondville School, and the building was completed on June 1933. The range of suburbs from which the families came, is surprising, as many people are under the impression that most came from very poor inner suburbs. By August 15th, there were 53 pupils attending the school.

With so many children, two teachers and one class room, turns were taken to use the building. When one teacher was indoors, the other was outdoors. During the Depression, the teachers’ salary was reduced and for one fortnight there was no salary at all. Teaching conditions were extremely difficult, particularly at Hammondville.

Most school equipment had to be provided by pupils. Understandably there was very little equipment. On one occasion a little girl (Arline Cochran, Now Mrs McNab from Batehaven) told Miss Beard that she was going to pull her tooth out on Saturday so the tooth fairy would give her a penny to buy a new book. As Miss Beard (one of the teachers at the school) recorded in her diary “it would be funny if she hadn’t been so terribly in earnest.”

In 1951 more than 157 British children enrolled at the school and British children (mainly English) continued arriving until the early 1970s. The arrival at the school of the first “brits” proved delightful entertainment for the “Hammo Aussies.” 

In 1962, British entertainer John Paul Young enrolled in Hammondville Public. He was part of the group of British migrants that settled in Hammondville. Young attended the school and was enrolled in 6th grade. He would entertain the class with his piano accordion.  John Hatton, former politician (1973-1995), and Jim Masterton of Masterton Homes also attended Hammondville Public School.

There were photos of drawings that children had made of their school in 1983 and how the school would look like in 2033, showing flying cars, spaceships and rockets. I spoke to one of the teachers who has been at Hammondville since the early 90s and said that children would draw spaceships and futuristic things when thinking about what it would be in the 2033 (image shown below). The school also has a time capsule located next to the library that will be opened in the year 2033 to commemorate the school’s 100th year anniversary.

Quinn Shwan

HANDITAL- Able and Equal

The organisation I have chosen to work with is Handital. They are a non-profit voluntary organisation that help and support people with disabilities, their families and friends. The organisation was established in 1983 for the purpose of assisting people with disabilities as well as their carers, particularly those with an Italian background. The main objectives of Handital are to overcome the challenges of language and cultural barriers by guiding members and providing them with essential information about the benefits they are entitled to. Handital provides countless services such as counselling, referrals and a social group for young adults and it is this sense of community that really stood out to me. The organisation also organises frequent local fundraising events and gatherings for its members and has had a significant impact on the lives of many individuals and families.

During my first visit, I asked one of the representatives what I could do to help and he asked if I could scan a bunch of photographs from over the years as they cannot find the time to do it themselves. As well as completing this task, I have begun thinking about what major historical project I could possibly undertake that will benefit the organisation. Handital do not have their own personal website and although I have little experience in web design, I am prepared to do some research and create a website for Handital where I will also be able to incorporate some of the scanned photographs. Perhaps, a website will attract and increase the amount of members at Handital.

Due to the organisation’s lack of online resources, I realised that it is going to be difficult to access information for my project. Therefore, I conducted a brief interview with a representative about the establishment of the organisation and its history and I am also interested in organising an interview with the two founding members of Handital. It is clear that I will be relying significantly on oral history in this project and the upcoming lecture on oral histories will prove useful.

The Guild Theatre, Rockdale

The Guild Theatre is approximately a seven minute walk from my house. Since moving to Rockdale in 2017, I can confidently say I have walked (or run, depending on how late I was for the train) past the Guild almost every day. However, I had not once stopped to look at the Federation building or considered attending a Guild play. As a former Newtown Performing Arts student, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring my two personal loves together for this project – theatre and history. I had always thought of myself as an avid supporter of the Arts, but now I feel I can truly hold that title as my collaborative work with the Guild takes shape.

The Guild Theatre. Photograph by Jim Bar.
The Guild Theatre. Photograph by Jim Bar, 2019.

The Guild Theatre is a member based community theatre group in Sydney’s Rockdale. With over 2,000 members and patrons, the Guild is a vibrant, tight-knit community of dedicated performers and practitioners – brought together by their love of theatre. Branching out of the Rockdale Musical Society in the early 50’s, the Guild Theatre was founded in 1952 by teacher and director Miss Hazel Plant. The first production on the current premises, located on the corner of Railway and Waltz Street, Rockdale, was Quality Street by James M. Barrie on Friday the 18th of March, 1966. On Monday, I interviewed long-time member Alannah Jarman. During the interview, I learned she had played Miss Henrietta Turnbull in the 1966 production of Quality Street. Ms Jarman is an avid performer and a part of many community theatre groups in South Sydney. She remembers fondly the “early days” of the Guild, under the guidance and expertise of Miss Plant.

“We were so lucky, we worked with wonderful people…It was simpler in those days, there is no doubt about it. The director knew us and so she would just ask us to do a part; we didn’t have auditions. When it was a smaller group, a play was chosen according to the people in that group. So yes, we were very privileged.”

Allanah Jarman, 23rd of September, 2019.

I had approached the Guild via email in August and received a positive response from the President, Christine Searle, by the end of the month. Chris had kindly arranged a ticket for me to see the final performance of Where Angels Fear to Tread. After the performance, Chris gave me a detailed tour of the Guild. She emphasised the historical significance of the building, leading my eye to the original brick work and ceiling panels. I began volunteering the following day at the Sunday working bee. Taking down an intricate set was not how I envisioned the first day of Spring, but I was more than happy to get to know the loyal members that make up the Guild.

Souvenir Programme of ‘The Tender Trap’ in 1961. Photograph by Chloe Breitkreuz, 2019.

Since early September, I have been working closely with Chris to determine how I can both boost the Guild’s visibility in the area and create an historical project that reflects the significance of the Guild community and its members. Chris and I began by sorting through past production programmes – all of which need to be categorised. Last week, I proposed to the committee that I create a digital oral history of long and short-term members with accompanying personal achieves such as programmes, scripts and photographs. Inspired by Nicole Cama’s project ‘Different Times, Same Spirit’, I aspire to produce a body of work that reflects the ongoing rich and diverse history of the Guild. I am incredibly thankful I have the support of Chris and the committee, who are as enthusiastic about the project as I am.