The women's club - 1961. Brian Downey, from Akron, Ohio USA, sent us this photo that his late great aunt, Ruth Howland, took when she visited here in 1961 -- not long after the opening of Diamond Bay
In 1959, Rose Bay [now closed] and Double Bay bowling clubs were well established. Bellevue Hill and Dover Heights [both now closed] were new; and there was Vaucluse.
There was no community centre or club of any kind around Diamond Bay, and a group of men thought it would be a good idea to start another bowling Club -- and so they did: Diamond Bay Bowling Club.
In 1959, Diamond Bay Bowling Club existed in name only. Shortly after this, there were negotiations for land on which to establish the Club. The Department of Lands came to the party, and a lease in perpetuity was granted to the Club. This land now constitutes the entire area of the Club.
A Development Application was submitted to Waverley Council; and it took quite a while for the application to be approved. Actually, it took a year for the application to be approved -- apparently because of mysterious objections of one nearby resident.
Two early members of the Club were in the army, and because of them, the Club's playing location became Victoria Barracks -- by no means a superb surface, but it made do nicely while the Club was being constructed.
While the top two greens (now the Jack Brandon green and the Basil Don green) were being developed, a rubber-ish mat was created for the playing green (the 3rd green) behind the current clubhouse; and a shed was built for the clubhouse. The two main greens (in front of the clubhouse) were ready in 1961; and the official opening was held in 1962.
In 1962 also, a women's bowling club was formed. This club was constituted primarily of wives of the men members. The Club's membership in those days was around 400. It is interesting that there apparently was something of a vetting process for women applicants then, asking them their whys and wherefores before accepting them into the Club: questions like, "Why do you want to join?" One applicant, who answered honestly, "Because I'm looking to find a husband", was refused membership.
Of course, with the women, the clubhouse had to be made grander; and it was.
In the 60's and 70's, the Club was home to many community functions.
The Club thrived, filling 8 rinks each on 2 greens, and playing up to 6 times a week -- until the greenkeeper informed the Club that this was simply too much for the greens to withstand. In those days (quite unlike now!!??), there were some argumentative members, and there were complaints about the games that some people were getting. (Some things don't change. And, no matter how peaceful and peculiar a bowling club is, there are some things are are simply endemic to bowling clubs.)
A number of years ago, the Club realised that, like nearly all other bowling clubs, it could not survive on membership fees and green fees alone; and so it decided to sell its property (the 3rd green), and invest the money. This saved the Club; and management of the Club's investment portfolio has been a major responsibility of the Club's Board of Directors ever since. At about the same time, the Club sold its poker machines, and a couple of years later, sold its poker machine licences.
Not too long before the event of selling that green, there was an interesting comment in The Sydney Morning Herald -- March 7, 1988:
"Penrith Rugby League Club has bar sales of $10 million. It has built an artificial lake and has plans for a nine-hole golf course and a 120-room motel expansion. Diamond Bay Bowling Club is worried about paying the greenkeeper.
Penrith belongs in the new league of clubs -- big, slick and rich. Diamond Bay is struggling to keep the price of the bowlers' afternoon tea and sandwiches down to $2.50. [It's now $3: a game, afternoon tea, and a ticket in a raffle now cost, altogether, $15.]
Ten NSW clubs close each year. Every time one shuts or shudders, clubs like Diamond Bay get nervous. ...
Mr. Keith Kerr [the then executive director of the Registered Clubs Association] said that golf and bowling clubs in ... inner-city areas faced the biggest threat because they were small with high overheads and could not increase revenue or membership.
The president of the Diamond Bay Men's Bowling Club, Mr. Barry Brandon, said, 'We are just holding our own. Our main expense are the greenkeepers, who are employed on contract ... We have 400 members [we now have about 100], and membership costs $50 a year [it is now $100], but it's going to go up in June because all our costs are going up.'"
The Club has, in fact, had its share of turmoil. A few years ago, the Club came within inches of closing its doors, for fear that it could no longer remain financially viable.
For the past few years, the Club has been home to one of Sydney's premier bridge clubs, Kings & Queens. For a number of reasons -- not only financial -- Kings & Queens has proved to be an important asset for Diamond Bay.
Diamond Bay is a quirky club. There's no beer on tap (only bottled beer). There are no poker machines. There is a mix of people who originate from a number of different places around the world. There are people with shared experiences; and there are people who are enlightened by hearing of others' experiences and world views. Nearly all the Club's members greatly value their membership at Diamond Bay; and feel comfortable and welcome, and at home, when they're at the Club: The Club's members genuinely feel that the Club is their club (not merely a place they come to).
There are other things that distinguish Diamond Bay. Very importantly, the Club is completely integrated. For everything that we do -- that is allowable by the Royal NSW Bowls Association (and even for some things that are not allowable) -- we have no segregation of women from men. None of our playing days is a 'men only' or a 'women only' day. As much as we can manage, our Club championships are also all open to both women and men. It is surprising in this day and age that this fact is noteworthy, and in fact, exceptional in the world of lawn bowls -- but it is. One day it won't be. (The Club also sells beer at very low prices!)
Diamond Bay on the cover of Bowls magazine,