The first tennis court open to the public was an asphalt court east of the corner of Reserve Road and Beach Road behind the current Life Saving Club. Members at this club in the early days used to have to obtain the key and the net from Major Philips who lived across the road. In 1956 a meeting was held in the Beaumaris Anglican Church Hall in Martin Street. It was chaired by Clive Gleadhill. A committee was formed to set up the Beaumaris Tennis Club with Clive as President. The Council granted a 20 year lease and four courts were constructed in Bodley Street and the clubhouse was built on its current site in 1956/57. The club wished to expand with two more courts to the west, but, by this time, the Beaumaris Bowls Club had been formed and the land the tennis club wanted was now part of the bowling club. Hence two extra courts were built on the eastern side making 6 courts in all.
On 16 October 1966 a special general meeting was held and it was agreed to move the club to its current location. A small group of people were heavily involved and are credited with establishing the club at its new location in Tramway Pde. They were Bill Cooper, Nick Fermanis, Tony Avery, Ian Jones, Len Little, Vic Peters, Cliff Sullivan, Alan Craven, Bill Speedy.
A co-op was formed to raise the money needed. A number of functions to raise money were run often at the Community Centre in Reserve Road.
On June 3 1968, another special general meeting was held and approval was given to build a clubhouse at the Tramway Pde location. The cost was $37,500 and was paid for with a bank loan of $30,000, co-op funds of $4,000 and a levy of $1,900. In 1969 the clubhouse was opened. Nick Fermanis, Harold Hunt, Roland Chandler and a hard working committee supervised construction of the clubhouse. It was designed by Beaumaris resident, Graeme Gilchrist and stood the test of time until the Beaumaris Sports Club pavilion was built in 2017.
In May 1973, approval was given to build grass courts, but they only lasted 7 years. Due to the cost of maintaining natural grass courts, they were converted to synthetic grass in 1980. To this day, members still refuse to let the name ‘Lawn’ go in the club’s name.
Originally, the club was a social only tennis club but many members wished to compete in wider competition and the Caulfield Carrum Tennis Association gained another club. Around 1959/60, Pennant Teams were formed and played on Saturday afternoons. BLTC men played C Special at this time. The Ladies were not permitted to play as their competition (LTAV Pennant) was played on Saturday mornings and the Beaumaris courts were required by the juniors. Our ladies went to Elsternwick for 2 years to play B Grade. So great was the pressure on the courts that the Lawn Tennis Association of Victoria granted our club permission to hire two courts at Ivern Public Courts (previously part of Mentone Grammar). History was made when these ladies went on to win B Grade Pennant and the following year B Grade Special Pennant. Many of the players named on the Honours Board are still active in community life.
In 1966, BLTC fielded its first Grade A Pennant team. Visiting players included Neale and John Fraser and quite a crowd used to watch their matches with Paul Hearndon and Neville Nette and Stephen Myers.
Many of the original BLTC members and their families still live around the Beaumaris area. Tennis and the tennis club were a major part of their social and sporting lives. Their families also thrived in the tennis scene including the first junior tennis tournament in Beaumaris and seasonal competition as well as the many social events. A feature of early BLTC was the junior committee who helped in the social and sporting development of many local teenagers and younger children.
Every year, a re-union of some lady members was held around Christmas time in the clubhouse and a lot of memories are shared. A set or two used to be played up until age slowly caught up with these tennis pioneers.
A Typical Sunday afternoon in the 60’s and 70’s
Players would begin arriving at 12.30pm. Name tags would be placed in a sliding board rack. As soon as there were enough for a set of mixed, men’s or ladies, these players, selected by the player named on the bottom of the list, would move out on to a court. There was usually a court captain who would assist players in choosing sets. Quite often, there would be sixty players or even more and a good afternoon would see each players have around three sets.
It was a very democratic system and tennis bloomed throughout the district. Whilst BLTC social tennis continues the camaraderie of early Beaumaris, it was a marvellous memory for so many.
Beaumaris’s first coach was Ben Brown. He was followed by Neville Nette and Neville Gall and then Ken Richardson, Jamie Parrot and for 27 years, Larry Dempster before the current administration.
These were held in the week past Christmas and attracted a vast entry of quality juniors. The entry was so great that outside courts were hired at Stella Maris and the Community centre. Eddie Myers and Ian Thomas and many others competed in these tournaments which were organised initially by Ian Jones.
There was sometimes conflict over court usage between social and competition players and this posed difficulties for the committee for many years. On one occasion to attest the conflict between social and competition players, a pennant team was having its short break for afternoon tea and went out to complete their match. To its dismay, eight social players had begun a set which they completed before the pennant match resumed.
Drought and Wind
Bores were put down in Bodley Street and also Tramway Pde to tap into underground water so that the courts could be watered. Unfortunately, the pressure was poor and a watering can brigade was often to be seen. On several occasions at Bodley Street, howling easterly winds deposited the en-tous-cas onto the neighbouring bowling green. Anticipating this on one occasion, the committee of the time, organised an all night roster to keep a constant stream of water to save the expensive en-tous-cas.
Over the years, many successful social events were held. There were Caufield Carrum Balls, dinners, dances and ‘Sports Men’s and Women’s’ nights. One memorable occasion saw fresh prawns flown in from Queensland for a Cup Eve function. (They were delicious!) New Years Eves were also packed at both Bodley Street and Tramway Pde clubrooms.
The names on the Honour Boards attest to the champions over the years. Several international players featured namely, Pam Whitecross and Nicole Provis. Both graced the National and International scene for many years. Pam is still a major organiser in World Women’s events which Nicole acts as a commentator in major events.
This was the name given to the dances organised at the Tramway Pde site for the many teenagers in the district. The events were a great success but security problems with gate crashers and liquor, forced their closure.
One of the most well-known Beaumaris families was the Myers Family. Cecelia and Bob had 5 children, all of whom performed well on the tennis court. Stephen won several local championships and represented Beaumaris at a high pennant and district level. Stephen won the Victorian Junior Championship among other titles. Eddie played A Grade Pennant and other first grade events while the girls were fine junior players. Amongst other families were the Neal, Whitecross, Avery, Sullivan, Fermanis, Craven, Stewert, Manns, Jones, Davies, Bellhouse, to name but a few. A glance at the Honour Boards will see many other names who were such an important part of Beaumaris Lawn Tennis Club History.
Compiled by Ian Jones