As Australians gather to celebrate our tennis greats at the prestigious Australian Open, spare a thought for our pioneer tennis players, scattered far and wide on the Sunshine Coast, and the pivotal role tennis played in the social and cultural development of the Sunshine Coast.
From the earliest days of settlement, the game of tennis and its social activities provided an outlet for enjoyment amongst the early pioneer townspeople.
Tennis clubs at the turn of the century were considered essential infrastructure for local communities.
The clubs were self-funded, with funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the tennis courts raised by social days, social evenings and dinner dances.
Not only did tennis clubs provide an avenue for sport, they also provided a way for communities and people to get together and socialise.
Tennis was a regular column in the Nambour Chronicle and articles regaling the tournaments, and social gatherings were a regular feature in the local paper.
Attending a tennis match was not a simple thing.
On June 30, 1905 the Nambour Chronicle gives an insight into the difficulties of intertown tournaments.
It recalls a match between teams from Buderim Mountain and Woombye. The article not only congratulates the winning side – Buderim, but then talks about the wonderful comradeship afterwards and ends the day with ‘three cheers for the ladies’, with that the Woombye group rattled on their wagon, past the school cheering and cheering again and again on their way back to Woombye. “It would seem distance and lack of transport was not a deterrent to a good day’s tennis.”
Nambour Tennis, a club still in existence today, held a social to fundraise for the club.
The newspaper reports “the committee worked really hard with the elaborate decorations, which consisted of piccabeen and fan palm leaves, flags, and some beautiful roses effectively arranged with the club colours, dark and light blue”.
Extra care was taken with the floor and the committee on completing their work hall-marked it by placing the design of a miniature tennis court in the middle of the dancing space.
Social events such as these were numerous and provided a sense of community for the people living in the small rural towns.
The start of World War I did not dampen the spirit of the tennis set with the continuation of games and social events.
Funds raised went to the Red Cross or other similar funds dedicated to the welfare of returning soldiers.
Tennis also acknowledged the contribution of returning veterans with local soldiers being made life members of some tennis clubs.
World War II also saw a continuation of tennis, but not tournaments, as one of the major problems was the lack of new balls.
The government allowed the balls to be recycled and this allowed games to continue.
Reprocessing of tennis balls for civilian use received official approval. This involved stripping off the old cover, reinflation of the ball and recovering with new material which, produced a first quality article.
Fixtures returned in April 1945 and the opening day of the Maroochy tennis season in April 1946 surpassed the pre-war days.
Each local town had its own tennis club and courts.
Mooloolaba Tennis Club was initiated in 1947 and was situated where The Wharf development is currently.
It was unique in some aspects of its management.
In the early days, members had to wait until the tide subsided before play could commence.
Mooloolaba also had an all-female committee from 1959 to 1962 with the committee members needing to water, roll, seep and mark the court twice weekly.
The club continued the traditions of social and sport mixing with their annual Christmas party including Santa arriving in a mini moke.
The tradition of every town having a tennis club continues today with newer developments like Kawana Waters where a tennis club was established in 1975 with the assistance of Noel Burns.
Many of the local tennis clubs have links to our pioneers.
Glenview Tennis Club land was donated by Ewen Maddock and a hall and subsequent tennis court was built on the land.
In 1927, the new hall was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the tennis club was formed on May 22, 1927. The club still operates from the original site.
Yandina Tennis Club was formed prior to 1915 and initially called the Elite Club.
It was followed by the Excelsior Club in 1919 and the Lake Point Club in 1921.
In the late 1920s, tennis was so popular there were six clubs in the Ninderry association and another association based in Nambour.
Currently there are 19 clubs and schools that make up the Sunshine Coast Tennis Association.
There were also some courts in country areas that were privately owned by rural families.
Social tennis was played among families and friends as entertainment and a chance to get together.
Fashions on the court were also of interest with women in the early part of the 20th century playing tennis in white mid-calf length dresses with matching hats.
Tennis was considered a genteel sport and the tennis clothing reflected the refinement of the sport.
However, by the 1920s hemlines had risen but styles were straight and restrictive.
By the 1930s, the dresses were slightly above the knee with a flared skirt much more useful for getting those aces.
By 1945, white above knee fashions were gracing the courts And whites are still the regulation colour for tournaments such as Wimbledon.
Fashions for men have changed little with white pants and white shirts of various designs still being worn today.
Final word should go to poet Fifteen Love who wrote a poem in 1904 in the Nambour Chronicle to commemorate a match between Buderim Mountain and Nambour.
Lawn Tennis is the Rage right now
And we surely want a change
From cricket, which you must allow
Has been skited to the Range
Now, Buderim Mount have a tennis club
And they are itching for the show
To make the players of Nambour club
To Buderim they did not go
Their challenge has been taken up,
And Nambour will be there,
To play as though were for a cup,
So, Buderim Mount, beware!
Look out for Currie’s rapid serves
And Hobson’s steady play:
Macpherson, too has steady nerves
And so, has Ben McKay
Our lady players are not too slow,
So, Buderim, be prepared
And play the game just all you know
For the Nambours are not scared
Buck up, you Buderim Mountain crew.
Get to practice with a will
For one or two of us can screw
Which to return requires some skill
If I keep on writing as above
I am afraid I will cause a duce
But look for a beating six to love.
For the Nambours will be “on the loose”
It would seem local rivalries have been a long time in the making. The Buderim Mountaineers replied in style in the Nambour Chronicle with a similar poem celebrating their sporting prowess.
Just look at our players-
Theres the dashing Victor Fielding,
Then comes the stalwart John McKeon
Perfect terrors at racquet wielding
But the demons of the mountain
Are Jim Guy and Stephen Fountain.
Then come our lady players,
So full of vim and go;
Up to every doge and style
Which to Nambour just spells woe
Misses Marion, Flo, Jess and Mrs Mac
Are a terrible quartet terribly hard to crack.
So, when you sit back to watch the Australian Open this year, remember the many country towns that fostered the development of tennis and contributed to the social fabric of our communities.
Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.