Parkdale Life-Saving Clubs: Sites and Members

Junior team of the Parkdale Life Saving Club marching in beach carnival. Members of the team include Lyn Brennan, Marilyn Williams, Sue Gravell, Colin Dennis, Maureen Jones, Ian -, and George Crilley. Courtesy Ian Lording, Kingston Collection.

The Parkdale Combined Life Saving and Swimming Club was formed in October 1919 with the appointment of Mr Turner as captain, but owing to a late start in the swimming season the decision was made to hold in abeyance the commencement of activities. Twelve months later the club secretary, Winifred Harrison, wrote to the Parkdale Progress Association setting out the club’s aims and objectives and inviting Association members to join. Some members of the Association were annoyed at this action by this new group, believing the Association should have been consulted and the club formed under their auspices. Consequently, the Harrison correspondence was allowed to ‘lie on the table.’ [1] Later, in November, three representatives of the Progress Association attended a general meeting of the Combined Club when its aims and rules were considered. After a full discussion the representatives decided to recommend to the Association that its members should join the swimming club rather than forming a club themselves as was first proposed. [2]

At the same time that the Harrison letter was sent to the Progress Association an application was put to the newly elected Mordialloc-Mentone Council for a suitable site on the beach where the club could erect sheds for their use. No decision was made but the matter was referred to the Foreshore Committee after the Mayor , Cr John Sibthorpe commented that he believed the club was not a properly constituted body. [3] Finding a site for a club house remained an issue for some time.

At the beginning of 1921 the club asked the Council for a site opposite Parkers Road where they could erect dressing rooms and a club house. Once again the matter was referred to the Foreshore Committee. [4] Two months later members of the club were called to join a deputation to the Council seeking permission to erect a clubhouse on the beach, at the foot of Parkers Road. A reporter from the local newspaper hoped that the Council would accede to the request noting the enthusiasm of the club secretary, Mrs Harrison, a memberships of 300, the desirable activities the club was conducting and a clubhouse design which would be an acquisition to the foreshore. [5] Four weeks later it was announced in the local press that as soon as the Council granted a site for a club house a campaign would be launched to raise the necessary funds. It was also indicated that the money to be raised would be gained through the issue of debentures rather than holding bazaars or conducting other forms of entertainment. [6]

Men’s Reel and Line team outside the clubhouse. Notice on door, ‘Day Members – You may have the use of these dressing sheds including showers.’ c1929. Courtesy Ian Lording, Kingston Collection.

Nine months later, having been unsuccessful in their appeal to Council for a beach site at the bottom of Parkers Road, members of the Parkdale club changed their approach. Rather than asking for a specific site they left it to councillors to nominate where the clubrooms could be erected. The next month a site had still not been identified although two bathing box were made available for the use of men and women. [7]

In September 1921, Winifred Harrison, no doubt frustrated, wrote a letter to the local newspaper criticising the Council. She drew attention to the inconsistency of the Council in persisting with their refusal to grant a site on the foreshore to the Combined Swimming and Life Saving Club. To the Council’s argument that granting a site would be an alienation of park lands, she listed instances where Council had done just that. Harrison noted that a tennis club was able to have a court and building on park land and the Council was willing to spend money to erect a Council Chamber on park land, and she wondered why ‘what was sauce for the goose was not sauce for the gander’. In her view, ‘if life-saving clubs are willing to provide substantial and attractive clubhouses, available for the public, the Council should give them every encouragement.’ [8]

While the Combined Club was having difficulties with the Council it was also experiencing internal strife; so much so that a club was formed in opposition. The new club formed late in 1921 was initially called the True Blue Swimming Club. A short time later the name was changed to the Como Swimming Club only to be changed a second time to the Parkdale Life Saving and Swimming Club. Some local residents wondered why a second club was necessary. It appears that some members of the original club thought there was some mismanagement of the clubs funds. The secretary, Winifred Harrison, responded to this grave charge in a letter to the local newspaper. She pointed out that the financial records were audited quarterly and were open for inspection at any time to the public and warned that if any further false reports were circulated legal action would be undertaken. [9] There was also disharmony between the club secretary and the president, D Tuxworth, about the payment of an account with Myer which led to a court case. [10]

Members of the Parkdale Life Saving Club. Courtesy Ian Lording, Kingston Collection.

A Mentone councillor speaking at a local community meeting suggested that while Parkdale had no distinctive geographical feature it was noted for its activity in life-saving work, with two organisations to cater for a handful of people. He thought it unfortunate that the new club had finally settled on a name similar to that of the original club. [11] Subsequently, other people expressed the hope that the two clubs would settle any misunderstandings that existed between them and join together to form a single Parkdale club. Cr Cornall in April 1922 reported to Council that the Foreshore Committee had gone over the plans for the Combined Life Saving Club and everything was in order. He expressed the hope that the trouble with the Parkdale people was now ended and the building of club rooms would bring them together. [12] By May 1922, while some unanimity had been reached between the two Parkdale clubs enabling them to jointly stage fund raising activities an amalgamation had not been achieved. Both clubs were competing separately in beach carnivals in 1930. [13] The Parkdale Combined Life Saving Club sought and gained permission of the Council to change its name to Parkdale Central Life Saving Club in 1922. [14]

Both clubs, after receiving permission, built extensive clubhouses on the Parkdale beach, incurring significant debt. [15] In the winter of 1923 a violent gale washed a wooden club house out to sea. The Mayor of Mordialloc , Cr Bradshaw, commented in opening the new concrete building that in contrast with the former club house, it would withstand the most boisterous seas. [16]

Reel and Line Team at Parkdale Central Life Saving Club. C Cornish, J Jones, and J Moore. Bathing Box on stilts in background. Club house to the left. Courtesy Ian Lording, Kingston Collection.

Tensions between the two Parkdale clubs seemed to have been resolved in the late 1930s but news of club activities was scarce. Cr Brine, Mayor of Mordialloc, moved at a 1937 Council in meeting that the Town Clerk write to the Parkdale Life Saving Club congratulating the members on their life saving efforts that season. [17] By 1940 the claim was that the Parkdale Club was doing well, the success being largely credited to the tireless work of its secretary, Reg Hunt. Several members had received reel and line medallions and bronze medallions. Also the club had entered a carnival conducted by the South Eastern Beaches Association and while they were not placed, a newspaper correspondent said, ‘they put up a really good show.’ [18]

The annual meeting of the club in September 1939 saw the commencement of a campaign to gain a new clubhouse. A deputation attended a Mordialloc Council meeting to ask for assistance in improving their clubrooms. The hope was that the Council would provide two thirds of the cost with the remaining money being provided by the club. Several months later discussion explored the option of purchasing the Mentone Recreation Hall and using the material for the erection of a new club house. Not all members agreed with this idea. One member thought that given the national emergency existing at the time it was inopportune to proceed with the suggestion. However, he was not supported by the majority of members who agreed that a price not exceeding £75 should be offered for the hall. [19] The offer was not accepted.

Parkdale Central Life Saving Club, reel and line team. Harry Allan Hood third from left. c1938. Courtesy Allan Hood, Kingston Collection.

After the conclusion of the Second World War, building a new club house was again a matter of discussion. The Royal Life Saving Society was informed in March 1946 that the club intended to build a new clubhouse using the materials from an old army hut for the construction. New materials were scarce and strict regulations applied to their use. Priority was given to the provision of homes for the returning servicemen who wished to commence a family. After enquiries, the club was informed that no army huts were available. [20] Nevertheless, the club approached the Council twelve months later to set aside a site midway between steps to the beach at Foam and Surf streets. [21] While the new site of the clubhouse had not been confirmed, in September 1948 a committee decided the dimensions of the new club house would be approximately 70ft x 30ft at the base with the top storey of 70ft x 50ft. [22]

The issues of a site and new clubhouse lasted for several years but early in 1951 discussion moved to considering renovation of what they had rather than constructing a new facility. This discussion, focusing on renewing and strengthening the foundations of the clubhouse, continued over the next two years. Early in 1959 the notion of a new clubhouse was revived. [23] Suggestions on how to raise the necessary money were being canvassed. Those offered included a public appeal through the local newspaper, a door to door campaign, a big raffle, a ball in Mentone City Hall in winter, a popular girl contest, collection of bottles by children and collection of goods for a jumble sale during the year. The aim was to amass £6000. [24]

Club House of the Parkdale Life Saving Club. Courtesy Kingston Collection.

A report in the Mordialloc City News on 19 February 1959 set out the situation faced by the club.
The building is badly in need of repair, but it is so old that if it was situated in a housing area it would have been condemned long ago as uninhabitable. Nevertheless, it is the centre from which the Parkdale Life Saving Club is doing its best to promote a voluntary and essential public service. Efforts have been made from time to time by working bees to keep the building standing, but the stage has now been reached where it is folly to spend money trying to patch it up. The membership of the club is 203 made up of 42 family members, 6 senior members and 145 junior members. It will be appreciated from these figures that the club is doing its best under very cramped conditions to foster lifesaving and also teach local and visiting children to swim. In general it is encouraging the young people of today to be the worthy citizens of tomorrow.

Almost at the conclusion of the 1959 year the Club was granted Council permission to build its proposed new clubhouse on the cliff-top at the foot of Parkers Road. This was the club’s preferred location. Cr Shirley Burke was very supportive of this decision but there were some councillors who thought the club would be better situated above the promenade and concrete bathing boxes near Antibes Street where, in their view, the beach was more attractive. [25] Twelve months later the club secretary was writing to Ron Ferguson, the builder, asking for confirmation on the starting date of the project. [26]

Official Opening Junior team of the Parkdale Life Saving Club of the W Atkin Memorial Building, Parkdale Life Saving Club. Mr Murray Porter MLA, State President of Royal Life Saving Society, Club President Jack Furmedge and Mr E Pleydell Secretary of RLSS Victorian Branch, 1961. Courtesy Leader Collection, City of Kingston.

Months later, President S Dennis was warning that the club appeared to be in deep water concerning finance and could find itself in an embarrassing position unless careful attention was given to expenditure. [27] An approach was made by the club president to Council concerning a loan to finish the clubhouse and in 1963 the executive committee listed desirable features in any agreement reached with Council.

1. Tenancy not to be terminated by Council as long as premises remain occupied by a life saving club which is affiliated with the RLSS
2. a. The council insure whole property against all damages.
b. the club to insure all fittings and equipment
3. Club to maintain in good repair the portion of building used exclusively by the club and the council because it holds insurance on property to repair any external damage or loss.
4. a. that the club is prepared to pay between £30 & £50 per annum. With the option of club to pay more if it is able.
The reason for this is that we need to purchase equipment to the value of approx. £600.
b. the club reserves the right to resume complete ownership of the portion used by the club on payments totaling £4000.
5. The club to have complete control of clubrooms for letting etc. The club constitution, copy enclosed forbids the use of intoxicating liquors on club premises.
6. That floodlights be allowed to be installed for training purposes and also to use public address systems and shark alarms for the protection of the public.
7. The council arrange with the bank the raising of £4000 [28]

In November 1963 it was announced that the Council would assist the club to the value of £5200; with club facilities absorbing £4000 while £1200 was assigned to public dressing facilities. [29]. The clubhouse was not a prominent feature in club records until mid June 1971 when the club president, Mr Kellow reported that a permit application for clubhouse extensions had been ratified by the Mordialloc Council, the Port Phillip Authority and the Lands Department and the plans lodged with the Board of Works for final assessment. [30] Because the Board refused to grant a permit and the difficulties that caused, the club resolved to leave the proposed extensions in abeyance. [31]

The attention of the club’s executive moved from a strong focus on club facilities and finance to consider the problem of declining membership. This was not a new concern as it had been raised earlier by President Dennis in 1965 when he urged the executive to discuss ways and means of attracting new members. [32] At the 1971 annual meeting of the club, President Kellow said the juniors were the life blood of the club and it was important to make the Club more successful and more interesting to the juniors. In this drive he said it was essential to have the interest and support of more parents and to retain the keenness and interest of present members. For that year membership lagged. New members amounted to four families and seven juniors taking the total financial membership of the club to twenty three families, six seniors and thirteen juniors. [33] At the annual meeting of 1973 membership remained a concern. While acknowledging the task of patrol duty on the beach was probably a deterrent to membership, it was noted that over the years at least twenty three lives had been saved by members of the club. President Kellow expressed the opinion ‘that the controlling bodies of Royal Life and Surf Life Saving should cooperate in a drive to encourage junior members to join bayside clubs, who would train them and prepare them for possible future membership of the Surf Clubs, which seemed to hold the greater attraction for the older teenage set in these times.’ He said, ‘the past year in the life of our club gave no reason for rejoicing and we are now probably at the most critical stage in the club’s history.’ [34]

Junior life savers marching behind club flag on the Parkdale beach with club rooms on the cliff top in background. Courtesy Kingston Collection.

On the 25 August 1974, the club secretary, D Schobar, was writing to M Reidy of Black Rock asking for assistance. He wrote:

I would like to appraise you of the situation now. Several of the members of my Committee are determined to make an all-out effort to save the club, and are prepared to make a drive for new members. However we are desperately in need of an Instructor, and would greatly appreciate your co-operation in enquiring among your members or past members if any would be interested in taking on this function on a paid basis during the active life saving season, if possible from November to the end of March.

Realizing that the concept of a paid instructor is not in line with Royal Life ideals of the past, I have discussed the issue with several prominent executive members, and been informed that the Society would consider such action vastly preferable to the disbanding of a club. As will be evident, a club without an instructor has nothing to attract new members, so the issue is vital. We are conducting a wide search in an endeavor to acquire a willing and competent instructor, even to advertising in newspapers, but to date of no avail.

In addition to other efforts, I have distributed over 80 newsletters, designed to try to stir a little interest in the fate of the club, to former members of the club, and I enclose a copy for your perusal. As you will see, our annual meeting is to be held on Sunday afternoon, Sept 15th and we would warmly welcome the pleasure of your company and that of any of your members who would care to visit us.

Yours sincerely,
D L Schobar
Hon Sec.

Shortly after this correspondence the club disbanded. No further notes were recorded in the Minute Books of the Club or the local newspaper. What had been a club formed through the action of a small and determined group of people living in Parkdale and supported by many families and individuals over more than fifty years, no longer existed. The service provided by the young men and women overseeing the safety of swimmers at Parkdale was no longer available. Children wanting to learn how to swim had to go elsewhere. The participation of a Parkdale local club in beach carnivals no longer occurred, leaving a sense of loss for these services by many members of the community.

Beach inspection at Parkdale. Crs Arthur Burke, John Beesley and Roy Ward with Jack Ferguson, Parkdale Life Saving Club architect. 1961. Courtesy Kingston Collection, City of Kingston.


  1. Moorabbin News, 15 October 1920.
  2. Moorabbin News, 6 November 1920.
  3. Moorabbin News, 16 October 1920.
  4. Moorabbin News, 15 January 1921.
  5. Moorabbin News, 12 March 1921.
  6. Moorabbin News, 9 April 1921.
  7. Moorabbin News, 16 July 1921.
  8. Moorabbin News, 3 September 1921.
  9. Moorabbin News, 10 December 1921.
  10. Moorabbin News, 15 April 1922.
  11. Moorabbin News, 8 April 1922.
  12. Moorabbin News, 8 April 1922.
  13. Frankston & Somerville, 1 February 1930.
  14. Moorabbin News, 6 May 1922.
  15. Moorabbin News, 20 May 1922.
  16. The Argus, 21 November 1924.
  17. Frankston and Somerville Standard, 12 February 1937.
  18. Moorabbin News, 23 February 1940.
  19. Club Minutes, 27 June 1940.
  20. Club Minutes, 3 June 1946.
  21. Club Minutes, 30 June 1947.
  22. Club Minutes, 27 September 1948.
  23. Club Minutes, 12 January 1959.
  24. Club Minutes, 12 January 1959.
  25. Mordialloc City News, 17 December 1959.
  26. Club Minutes, 19 December 1960.
  27. Club Minutes, 26 October 1961.
  28. Club Minutes, 26 March 1963.
  29. Club Minutes, 26 November 1964.
  30. Club Minutes, 22 June 1971.
  31. Club Minutes, 30 January 1973.
  32. Club Minutes, 22 June 1965.
  33. Club Minutes, 24 September 1971.
  34. Club Minutes, 9 September 1973.
14 June 2015
Article reference:

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City of Kingston acknowledges the Kulin Nation as the custodians of the land on which the municipality is a part and pays respect to their Elders, past and present. Council is a member of the Inter Council Aboriginal Consultative Committee (ICACC).