Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 50, September 2006
(by Graham Watton from research notes compiled by Mike Clark, Club Secretary.)
With the development of the Paeroa Domain in early 1904, and after one failed attempt, a group of men came together and formed the Paeroa Bowling Club at a meeting held on May 16 that year.
A much earlier move in December, 1896, saw a club formed but there is no record of this club having a green or playing in competitions.
The first president was Mr E. G. B. Moss, a prominent solicitor, with Mr W. Towers as secretary.
When the club was formed in 1904 an immediate approach was made to the Paeroa Domain Board, who was in charge of the development works by the Ohinemuri County Council, to have a green laid out and be ready for play in the coming summer months.
It did not take long for the green to be formed, levelled and ready to sow in grass seed. This was sited just inside the gate on the corner of Arney Street and Willoughby Street. (It is now used by the Paeroa Croquet Club as a third lawn).
However, the first act of vandalism occurred when two men rode their horses over the green causing considerable damage. The Domain Board was requested to fence the green to prevent this happening again and also kept other domain users and vandals off the newly-laid green.
It took a little time to get the green to an acceptable playing condition with members commencing to play just prior to Christmas, 1904. The official opening of the green took place on January 23, 2005, with teams taking part from Thames, Hamilton (they travelled by train) and Karangahake (they came by coach or brake).
The Paeroa Brass Band was in attendance, flags bedecked the fences and lady friends of the local men bowlers provided afternoon tea in a large marquee.
By 1906 regular inter-club games were played with Thames, Te Aroha and Karangahake and newly formed Waihi Clubs.
The lady friends of the Paeroa men bowlers looked after the catering for these events and did this in a tent alongside the greens. They were admitted as members of the club with very strict privileges.
As the game gained in popularity the club approached the Domain Board for a pavilion, and in a joint funding effort erected a fine building, which was opened in 1907. (When the ladies' bowling club moved in 1964 the Paeroa Amateur Athletic Club used building as a club as a clubroom. The building was destroyed by a arson fire in June, 1999.)
By 1909 the club had affiliated with the South Auckland Bowling Association and the Auckland Bowling Association and took part in the Goldfields Stars competition which involved players from Thames, Waihi, Karangahake and Te Aroha. Paeroa bowlers were making their presence felt at all levels of competition.
As the sport grew nationally, the New Zealand Bowling Association was formed in 1912 and the club rejected a move to join the Waikato Bowling Association, staying with the South Auckland.
With the formation of the Paeroa Borough Council in 1915 and taking over the control of the Domain, there was an immediate change in the rental. The new council adjusted the fee from 50 pounds ($100) a year to one pound seven shillings and six pence ($1.75) per member with a minimum payment of 50 pounds ($100). The council claimed that under the previous charge the ratepayers were subsidising the bowlers. The club members objected to the move but to no avail.
The Goldfields Association, now with Matamata included, played its own champion of champions competition and also the Clothier Shield (still played for today).
With Paeroa becoming the first rural town in New Zealand to be reticulated by hydro-electricity, the bowling club, in 1923, raised the funds and placed lights over their green and night bowls soon became extremely popular. Bowls were played six nights a week and became so popular that there was a limit of 12 teams for each competition.
Over the ensuing years the continuing battle with the local council over rent and the increasing damage caused by vandalism, the club in 1947 approached the council to lease part of the Rawhitiroa Reserve, over the bridge on Te Aroha Road. The next season saw agreement reach with the lease set at 3 guineas ($1.53) per year.
At this point the club became incorporated and work on the site commenced to construct a full-sized green. However, there was dissention among members with a good many not wishing to leave the domain. A special meeting of members in September, 1950, the project was fully discussed. Finally it was decided that the club president, Mr H. C. Shand, and Mr J. W. Silcock, met the borough council and seek an extra area of the reserve for a second green. The council was not agreeable and work intensified to complete the one green.
By 1952-53 season the Paeroa Ladies' Bowling Club had been formed and their application to use the domain green on Thursday afternoons led to a lengthy debate by the men's club before agreement was reached and both clubs worked well together.
However the men's club, while making good progress with their new Te Aroha Road green, required a pavilion. Again a concerted effort had the building in place for the start of the 1954-55 season and the club terminated its lease of the domain green at the end of October, 1954. The Ladies' Club successfully negotiated to take over the Domain green.
The 50th jubilee of the club was celebrated in new surroundings with a special luncheon held in the Druid's Hall, Queen Street, on January 23, 2004, and also with a two-day tournament.
It was not long before a second green was required to meet the increasing membership. Members were having success in the various Goldfields and Waikato centre tournaments in addition some of the major tournaments further afield.
By 1960 it was necessary to extend the pavilion and the 2000 pounds ($4000) was raised by joint and several guarantees of several members.
Faced with rising costs for equipment and maintenance of its green the ladies' club approached the men's club to join them on their Te Aroha complex. After 12 months of negotiation the men's club's annual general meeting in 1965 received a notice of motion granting the use of the facilities to the ladies with conditions of protection for the independence of both clubs. This sparked off a very lengthy debate, over two and half hours duration, before the motion was carried by secret ballot 28 votes to 24.
The ladies were given more time on the greens by granting them use of the club facilities at all times and the rinks were made available every day, except Saturdays.
With the steady development of the club, there were continuing demands on the finances and in the 1967-68 season an interest free loan of $400 was received from the ladies' club to ease the situation. Raffles and regular weekly housie nights ($486 profit over six months) were run to augment funds.
The club continued provide good facilities for its members, the first attempt at introducing the cotulla weed from the South Island failed and this caused some acrimony among those for and against the project. The ladies provided the funds to add a committee room and toilets to the western end of the pavilion.
While alcohol liquor had been available in the club for many years various means were used to "beat" the licensing laws, such as the locker system and a ticket system. When a change in the sale of liquor came into force in the late 1970s the club followed all other sporting clubs, by obtaining a liquor licence and bar facilities. This proved to be a very good source of revenue.
Disaster struck on the night of July 2, 1976, when a large part of the pavilion was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt from the insurance money received, but again club finances were put under very heavy pressure. Both men and ladies pulled together to get the club back on track for the start of the new season .
With increasing need for water for the greens in the dry months of January, February and March the club, in the early 1980s installed an automatic water system supplied from the borough council mains. This proved to be most successful in having good greens right through the season.
A second fire in the pavilion on March 18, 1984, burnt out the bar area and caused severe smoke and water damage to remainder of the pavilion. When the rebuilding was undertaken, renovations were made to the kitchen area and the main area of the pavilion was enlarged.
Again members put their shoulders to the financial wheel and the club. Some $6000 in debentures were taken out by club members to enable around $60,000 to be spent on repairs and renovations.
The club's centenary was marked in 2004 with a special luncheon in May close to the date on inauguration in 1904, and in January, 2005, a special two-day tournament was held on the exact dates of the opening ceremony 100 years previously.
Since these celebrations the Paeroa Women's Bowling Club, which marked its 50th anniversary in 2002, was wound-up at the end of 2005-06 season and amalgamated with the Paeroa Bowling Club. This move gave the club its first woman president, Mrs Elaine Smith.