A Brief History of Dolamore Athletics Venue

Veteran athletes on their marks ready to race at Dolamore Reserve, 1986.

The site of the Dolamore athletics venue on the border of Mentone and Parkdale contains land that has been used for many purposes. Indigenous Australians undoubtedly would have roamed across it for centuries and probably hunted the wildlife there. It was then a swampy area, so wild ducks and other water-loving creatures such as frogs would have been prey aboriginal hunters sought. In the 1930s, and after World War 2, large drainage projects from Queen Street down to Parkers Road prevented the worst flooding that previously affected Potts Paddock, as the open area not far from Warrigal Road was then called. In the immediate post war years it had been converted into a rudimentary sports venue.

After Europeans came to the area in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Potts family of Mentone took up land in the low-lying section south of the Point Nepean Road that later included the Dolamore venue. Richard Potts ran horse cabs and later motor taxis from his home in Balcombe Road not far from Mentone Station. Potts also made money from selling builders sand that was excavated from the area now the site of the Dolamore athletics track. The huge sand pit was later filled with material from the weekly Council household rubbish collection. Later topped with soil, the site became a rough sportsground that locals called "Potts Paddock". During the 1940s and 1950s local teams and colleges used it for football and cricket. But it was soon to be given the Dolamore name.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Alfred Dolamore was a Councillor of the old City of Mordialloc municipality. Dolamore came with his parents to live in Mentone in 1924 when he was just thirteen years of age. The Dolamores lived in Beach Road but, sadly, Alfred's mother, Ada, died in 1930 when he was still a teenager. Alfred was married in his early twenties but his wife, Adelaide, died when he was only twenty five. The Dolamores came to Mentone from Malvern where Alfred's father was a successful accountant. The younger Dolamore had wider interests and began to promote them in his new home town where he quickly became active in local public life.

In his late twenties, Dolamore was already a Councillor. In 1939, he teed off on the new Mentone golf course that was opened on 26th June that year. His tee shot was important because it was the first shot played and Dolamore, as Mayor of Mordialloc City, was performing that ceremonial swing. No record exists of whether he hit the fairway or not. Incidentally, the club members of the Mentone golf course enjoyed several decades of competitions at the Lower Dandenong Road venue. The course closed in the early 1970s when housing development and land values in that part of Mentone grew so much that keeping passive land was too big a sacrifice. The Mentone Golf Club was competing for members with many other sand belt clubs that had top facilities and world class courses, so it eventually folded. Only a small sports oval remains as open land where the golfers once played.

Dolamore had an interest in athletics and wished to promote it in our local district. He convinced members of the Mordialloc Council to use some Council funding for the purchase of "Potts Paddock" with the hope it could eventually be an athletics track. The local athletics contests were well in the future during the 1940s when Potts Paddock officially became Dolamore Oval, but it was used for other sports until the late 1950s. Two Catholic football teams, Mentone YCW and Mentone CYMS, used the ground on weekends from the early forties until 1957. They played cricket there as well as football, and so did students from St Bede's College and Mentone Boys Grammar School. Both these colleges grew quickly after World War 2 and needed sports venues outside their own campuses.

It will surprise current local residents that the ground never had any change rooms or toilets in the period up to 1957. Teams changed in their buses or cars and home teams often came for their games fully attired in sporting gear, ready to play. It is best not to mention the lack of toilets, but luckily there were a few clumps of ti tree bushes near the oval.

The actual playing surface was cut by Council mowers, but little other maintenance occurred. The goal posts were put in place by Mentone CYMS players in the 1950s and the concrete cricket pitch was covered by the footballers to be ready for each season's first game. One end of the oval was covered in deep puddles when it rained, so playing conditions were fairly tough. Modern rules about occupational health and safety were certainly not present at Dolamore Oval during those times.

After the conclusion of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, there was an agreement between the Games organisers and the Mordialloc City Council to move the cinders running track from the MCG to the site that is now called Dolamore Athletics Venue. Members of Mentone Amateur Athletics Club, including John Bowles, Doug Eales, and Frank Kealy, had lobbied hard for this to occur because they had been important officials at the Games as judges, referees, and general administrators. The Olympic track came to Mentone over the last weeks of 1956 and was in place early in 1957, ready for club athletics competitions later that year. A small clubhouse was built so athletes could change and shower. Drainage works improved the southern end of the venue where high jumps and other field events, such as shot put could be staged. Mentone Amateur Athletic Club had a top class venue after over twenty years of training at venues such as Mentone Oval and even Mentone Racecourse after the horses had done their early morning workouts.

The world record of 47 minutes 12.8 seconds for 10 miles was set by Ron Clarke on the 3 March 1965 on the Dolamore Athletics Track. The track was up-graded and officially opened on 22 February 2002. Clarke, as a patron of the Athletics Club, returned to Dolamore to be present at the unveiling by the Governor of Victoria, John Landy AC, of a sculpture by D Capon of Clarke titled ‘The Torchbearer’. It was unveiled in the presence of the Mayor of Kingston, Cr Petchey.

Dolamore continues to be the home of the Mentone Little Athletics Club, the Mentone Athletics Club, and the Mentone Masters, and is a resource used by local secondary and primary schools from time to time. The swampy piece of waste land that the Potts family once owned is now a civic asset, with only the small Potts Street near its perimeter as a reminder of its humble origins.

Author:
Leo Gamble
Published:
18 December 2018
Revised:
11 January 2019
Article reference:
672

Aboriginal Flag

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).