Inaugural board members of Lavington Sports Club reflect on fond memories of popular Border venue | The Border Mail | Wodonga, VIC

2022-08-02 21:07:31 By : Mr. Hozier SongPin

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After countless hours of volunteer labour and challenges to obtain liquor and gaming licences, a Border sporting institution was born.

Inaugural members of the Lavington Sports Club reunited to reflect on some of their fondest memories amidst the demolition of the building on Centaur Road in recent months.

Keith Wright recalls the formation meeting in 1964 where he was elected to the first committee and efforts were well under way to establish the club.

"We actually made our first application around the old football oval on Urana Road," he said.

"We got our licence knocked back because the church was next to us and the school was just over the road, so we couldn't go ahead with that.

"WG Hartley (former Lavington Football Club president) suggested we have a look at the old Catholic seminaries (on Centaur Road) as they were up for sale and that's how we switched over.

"We sold the blocks of land we had planned to put a club on and we moved up to the seminary. We first started having our little get togethers and we had no alcohol.

"All we had was hookey and darts and snooker and that was only there to try and get our licence.

"We invited the cricket club as well as the football club to get our numbers up. Once we did that and we finally got a licence, that's when the work started."

Mr Wright said the directors and other members began the process of stripping out the inside of the building in 1967, which was made up of smaller rooms and dormitories.

"We took the whole lot out and had one big, open area and that's when the work really started to go," he said.

"Grant Spurr was a big welding man and we had to put a big RSJ (rolled steel joist) in to hold the structure up. We used to have gas lanterns hanging on the side walls to give us a bit of heat."

Like many clubs in that era, only men were permitted. Women could later enter for two hours of an afternoon in a separate area.

But it didn't take the board long to open to the club up to everyone and it certainly thrived.

With no poker machines in Victoria at the time, bus loads of groups would make their way up from Melbourne to try their luck.

"The poker machines were five-centers and when we would close the club, we would have to get all the five cent pieces and wrap them up into $2 packages," Mr Wright said.

"We'd be sitting there until midnight or 1am rolling up these five cent pieces.

"The money that we made on the night, the director who was on duty had to put it in a bag, take it down to North Albury and the bank had a little slot in the door and we'd slip the bag of money in.

"I remember one night I went and there was a car parked just down from the bank with two people sitting in it. I was going to pull up and I decided not to because I thought they were sitting there waiting for me.

"I drove around the block and parked. I sat there and waited and waited and then finally they started to drive away.

"It was such a risky business to get out of your car and drop the bag in because there was a few thousand dollars in it most nights.

"Luckily the five-centers slipped away and the 10-centers came in that made it easier because the coins were in little plastic containers and we didn't have to keep wrapping them up in paper.

"We finally got a safe of our own in the club, so that solved any racing down with the bag full of money and we left it in the club overnight."

Another starting board member Allan Bounds had a different role with the poker machines.

"I used to work up there on a Friday night and we used to get the wheelbarrow and Percy Jones would go and unlock the poker machines and tip all the money into the wheelbarrow," he said.

"We'd wheel it back to the little office and it was handled from there."

But Mr Wright said it didn't all go to plan on one particular night.

"When we closed the club and locked up at night, we used to walk down through the paddock and deposit the key in through the president Col Donnolley's door who lived about where the bowling club is now," he said.

"One night, the club was broken into with those keys and a bloke loaded up a ute full of all the money.

"He got to around the Holbrook area and he saw a police car with its lights flashing. He panicked, did a U-turn and slipped off the road and got bogged because the back of the vehicle was full with coins.

"The police weren't there to stop him, but that's how they caught him.

"How the hell he got all the information and was able to get these key is a real mystery."

Keith Spurr worked casually at the Commercial Club, but was able to bring some of his skills mixing drinks to Lavington.

"There were some big nights up there with the bands they used to have. The dance floor would be packed and they would come from miles to see the bands play," he said.

"We drew a lot of the Commercial Club and SS and A Club's customers, especially the younger ones with the bands.

"They were very jealous and were opposing the licence in the first place, along with the hotels down on the corner."

Ian "Knuckles" Grayland spoke highly of the people involved, but said most lacked the business nous as it began to expand.

"I was on the original board and so many good people worked their butts off to get it going. If you wanted something done on the weekend, you'd have 40 or 50 blokes there with shovels doing things," he said.

"It was only a football oval and then we put the track around for bike riding and we had various sports carnivals.

"You had to have a business brain to get the best out of something. I'm not saying this disrespectfully, but a lot us of weren't quite up to it."

The quartet were disappointed to see the club, which closed in 2014, start to be knocked down, but will cherish the memories.

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