In prior generations, club membership was an important part of a person’s social life. It is a lovely idea: a pre-arranged, regularly scheduled and prioritized activity to look forward to weekly or monthly. A meeting of people gathered to practice or discuss a common interest.
Perhaps we’ve shifted our priorities as individuals away from such participation, and perhaps we are worse off for it: less connected, less interested. It’s hard to say. But the beauty of clubs is that they often exist just under our radar, and it’s never too late to join.
The Granville Park Lawn Bowls Club has been a staple of the South Granville neighbourhood since 1915. Men and women gather here to play bowls, one of mankind’s most ancient sports (some form of bowls has been played since 3,500 BCE). The basic rules involve a small white ball, called the Jack, being rolled onto a green, and the players trying to get their bowls closest to it. The game was a distinctly important part of early Vancouver’s social sport community.
The Granville Park Lawn Bowls Club started officially on Oct. 20, 1915 and was initially called the City Lawn Bowling Club. It was a club without a clubhouse, with members bowling on private estates; one in particular, called the Arnold property on 25th Avenue and Granville, was owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The newly formed club paid rent to use the space, and annual dues were set at $5 per year. At the time, the club was for men only. In 1916 a ladies’ club was established, but it was only open to the wives, sisters, daughters, or mothers of men’s club members. The women’s club was also given a separate green (and remained separate until 1990, when the clubs were combined).
In 1920 it came time for the club to find a permanent home, and six lots were purchased on the present site between 14th and 15th avenues on Fir Street. The following year, the new lots were seeded, reseeded, and prepared for play. The location officially opened on May 20, 1922, and included a clubhouse, greens, and groundskeeper. Membership started to rise and by 1925, the club was 142 people strong.
By 1933 a new clubhouse was needed, as the first one had foundation problems. Additional land was received from the Parks Board and plans for a new facility were drawn up by designer Thomas Logan Kerr; construction was completed in 1934. This single-level building featuring white columns punctuated by ornate medallions still stands today at 3025 Fir Street, and is the only lawn bowls club on the Vancouver Heritage Register.
Today, the sport holds competitions at the provincial, national, and international levels. “It certainly encourages my competitive spirit!” says Juanita Tucker, former club president and a member since 1988, her excitement radiating over the phone. “There is truly something for everyone—we welcome serious bowlers as well as social bowlers.” In addition to games, there are several social events at Granville Park, s well as off-season activities that occur indoors, such as bridge and whist. Bowls season is May to September; the club earns additional funds by renting out the greens and clubhouse to the public for special occasions.
Granville Park is one of seven historic bowls clubs in the city that are still going strong today; while the sport may have been more fashionable back when Vancouver first got involved, it is still an old and oft played pastime around the world. The Southampton Old Bowling Green Club in England, for example, was founded in 1299 and is still accepting members; Granville Park is accepting new members, too, and it is the hope that continued interest in bowls will allow the beautiful greens and vintage clubhouses to spark the interest of generations to come. On a warm spring day, it certainly looks tempting to stride onto the lush greens and give it a try.
Stay involved in the Community.