As the sun peeked through the clouds on an overcast Sunday afternoon at the North Vancouver Bowling Club, it provided a welcome glimmer of light for one photographer and her moving mass of smiling subjects. So harmonious were the elements that one would have been forgiven for not noticing there were more than a few absences.
“I was hoping to get 100 members, but I knew that just wasn’t going to be possible,” the club’s president, Bruce Murray, said with a laugh.
“I think we’ve managed to count just over 70, which I think is still a pretty good turnout.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the club will mark its official centennial birthday, 100 years to the day since the local sporting stalwart was first formed. Murray, who joined the club 12 years ago and has been its president for the past four, said he was honoured to share “such a proud moment” with such a loyal community – the club’s backbone.
“Few North Shore nonprofits can say they’ve reached this milestone, and it is the community that has played an integral part during the past 100 years,” he said.
With a global pandemic and the whole upheaval of the club to navigate – in 2020, the greens were moved to the Mickey McDougall Community Recreation Centre site, at the corner of St. Andrews and 24th Street, from their longtime home adjacent to the Harry Jerome rec centre — Murray hasn’t had the most typical of presidential experiences these past four years. Yet he credits some of the low points as also being some of the highest, as each, he said, is a testament to how dedicated, driven and doting the bowls club community is.
“Looking back over the years, it is the volunteers that are really the glue that holds this whole thing together, the members of the club who chip in and make it work and overcome whatever problem they are faced with,” he said.
For Pat McKenzie, first vice-president and centennial chair, a particularly cherished memory is the club’s hosting of the National Bowling Championships in 2013. Canada’s finest bowlers flocked from around the country, and the team did particularly well, scoring two golds, three silvers and a bronze in the six divisions, but it was the efforts of the members that left the largest impression.
“People volunteered to do everything,” she said.
“Everyone in the club participated in some way or another. Some were making meals, some were picking people up from hotels. There was daily tidying up all the greens. It was just quite a production, and it was just due to our volunteers at our club who will pitch in to do anything to ensure it is a success.”
McKenzie, who has been with the club since 2014, said the event was so well planned and executed that the community received praise from impressed players “from Nova Scotia through to Alberta.”
“I think it is that aspect that is why we’re so successful, and why we’ve kept on going for these one hundred years,” she said.
With so much inclusivity and camaraderie among the 271 club members, McKenzie said the group is more like a “big family” then it is a regular sporting team. In fact for some long-standing members, it is the buddies rather than the bowls that keeps them coming back.
Dora Caruso, who will be turning 98 this May, used to be “very active” within the club — volunteering, playing, organizing social events — but her involvement has, understandably, decreased in recent years. Yet you’ll still find her showing up on the greens and attending events, checking in with those she has become close with over her 34-year relationship with the organisation.
“Joining the club was one of the best things I ever did when I retired from work,” she said.
“It has just been wonderful, it really is like a family. Me and a lot of the members are very good friends, I still go out for lunch with many of them.”
For some, the social aspect is less of a bonus and more of a lifeline.
“I lost my wife of 57 years a few years ago, and, well, thank god for the lawn bowling club,” said long-standing member Mike Edwards, who has been with the club since 1986.
“It brings together people from all walks of life and it really is like a family. It has been a true lifesaver for me.”
Edwards has just turned 82 and said he will be dedicated to the club until his final days.
“I was recently talking to someone about the health problems we face as we get older, and we were talking about resuscitation, and I said that if I dropped on the greens, don’t you dare call 911 – you make sure I’m gone,” he laughed.
“What better way to go out, than on the North Shore greens?”
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.