Club History Part one

The Johnsonville Tennis Club owes its formation to a small band of enthusiasts who conceived the idea of establishing public tennis courts in Johnsonville.  The founding date of the Club was recorded in minutes of a meeting on 18th October 1904 where "about sixteen persons" resolved to form a tennis club.

The records of the initial meetings note that there was keen enthusiasm on the part of all members to set about the provision of playing facilities. However, the problem was finding a site that could accommodate both tennis courts and a tennis club.

This was solved by the generosity of the Moore brothers family which made available to the Club (free of any charge) a section of flat land having adequate area to accommodate two courts and situated on a property fronting Johnsonville Main Road, on part of the land now occupied by Countdown.

Several members of the family joined the Club at its inception and one in particular, the late Mr. A.A. Moore, remained actively associated with the Club in various capacities as a playing member, President and Patron, right to the time of his death in 1952, a period of association extending close on 50 years.  And note that it was not until about 1930, by which time the Club had become established on a healthy financial basis, that the owners of the land consented to accept any payment from the Club by way of rental. Even then the rental charged was quite nominal and hardly sufficed to meet the proportionate amount of rates payable on the property.

Having secured land, the Club lost no time in getting on with the job of laying down the first court. The land had to be drained, the surface smoothed and a clay foundation laid before the building of the court itself could start. After the court was finished, wire-netting stop-fences were erected and some facilities such as a shelter shed at least, provided for the convenience of members. At a meeting held on 21st November 1904, it was reported that "good progress had been made in the preparation of courts - much of the work being done by Moore brothers free of cost to the Club". It was at this meeting that rules to govern the operation of the Club were adopted and the first panel of officers elected.

We can estimate from a recommendation put to the Annual General Meeting of the Club on 31st July 1905, "That another court be laid down," that the completion of the first court was accomplished in time to permit it being used for play during the 1904/05 season.

The necessity for continuous improvements was not overlooked. Very many old (and some not too old) members will remember the rather small pavilion which served the Club until the new one was erected in 1935. Just when this pavilion was erected is not certain, but it is a fair inference to say that it was prior to the 1911/12 season.  At a Committee meeting held on the 26th August 1911, it was decided to erect a tank to supply fresh water and it is hardly likely that such a facility would have pre-dated the pavilion. Another improvement was the erection of a volley-board, which the Annual General Meeting of August 1913, requested should be provided.

There is no doubt that the mid 1920's saw the commencement of a steady and progressive expansion of the Club. The trend continued for a number of years and the membership reached such proportions that the provision of additional playing facilities became imperative if the Club was to continue to prosper. By way of illustration of this expansion, the membership figures in the years 1926, 1928, 1932, and 1934 were respectively 30, 38, 49 and 64.

For some years prior to 1935, it was becoming increasingly apparent to the Club Management, that unless expanded facilities were provided, the progress of the Club was likely to suffer a severe set-back through falling off of membership. First and foremost, a third court was absolutely essential, but the problem was where to locate it since the land adjoining the courts either was not available, or was unsuitable. Pavilion accommodation was also totally inadequate whilst the provision of drainage and other common amenities, was a pressing need.

The problem of a site for a third court was unexpectedly resolved by the generous offer of Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Willetts to permit the Club to lay down a court on their property. The site offered was convenient to the existing courts, being separated from them merely by a creek running along the common boundary of the two properties. With this assurance of a site for a third court, it was resolved by the Club to proceed with the following improvements -  viz. the establishment of a third court and the erection of a new and larger club-house including dressing rooms and kitchen, common room, conveniences, electric light and gas.

In order to finance the project, it was decided to provide the sum of 100 pounds out of club funds and to raise the balance needed by means of debentures. As a preliminary step to the issue of debentures, the Club became registered as an Incorporated Society, the Certificate of Incorporation being issued on 10th July, 1935.

Concurrently with the final stages of establishment of the new court, the work of erection of the new club-house was undertaken in August 1935. Although some labour had to be employed on this job and the plumbing and drainage done by contract, a large amount of work was put in by members.

Up until the outbreak of war in 1939, the Club continued to reap the benefits of the increased and improved facilities provided a few years previously. The impact of the war soon took serious toll of our membership which by 1942 had been reduced to a mere handful, practically all of whom were either lady members or junior girls.  On the return to normal times, the Club was able and equipped to cater for returning members and to commence to build up its strength again, so that by 1949, it was once more established on a firm footing with a large membership.

However, in 1951, the Club lost possession of the land on which the first two courts were situated and was faced with the greatest crisis in its existence. It would have been impossible to have carried on with the one remaining court and without any clubhouse.