Woodstock Lawn Bowling Club set to celebrate 125th anniversary

Woodstock Lawn Bowling Club vice-president Larry Brown, left, and president Lorraine McLean hold a photo of the original club from the late 1880s that was located downtown. The club is celebrating its 125th anniversary July 20 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Cory Smith/Sentinel-Review jpg, SF

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Times have changed for the Woodstock Lawn Bowling Club, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary this weekend.

When the club – originally constructed on the Graham Street side of the Oxford County court house – opened in 1894, the greens were full and the sport’s popularity was growing.

James Canfield, Percy Canfield, Dr. Weston Krupp, Roy Bigham, and Jack and June Bell were among the club’s earliest ambassadors.

It’s basically a list of who’s who of Woodstock over the years that have been members here,” current club vice-president Larry Brown said. “Those were the people who had the money and knew where the money was that kept this club going all these years. They didn’t have to go out.”

Membership fees were $5 per year and $2.50 for non-residents. When the club was forced to move in 1952 to make room for a county registry office, Percy Canfield donated the lumber for a clubhouse on Finkle Street, and Krupp matched dollar for dollar what the membership raised for the new facility that remains its current home.

It’s humbling to know the club has been here for 125 years,” Woodstock Lawn Bowling Club president Lorraine McLean said. “We want to keep that going for as many years as we can because we enjoy the sport.”

There are close to 35 members in 2019, well short of the club’s peak when there were anywhere from 150 to 200. But Woodstock and other clubs continue to suffer from the stigma that lawn bowling is an “old person’s sport,” Brown said.

We’re trying to get younger people interested,” he added. “Every year we get groups coming down from high schools as part of their gym class, and they have a blast.

We keep telling people, if we’re here … come on in. The coffee is on, you will get trained by whomever is here, and there’s no pressure.”

The greenskeeper received $11 per month in 1894, and today Jim Roth sometimes spends nearly 30 hours a week maintaining the surface that has hosted multiple national and provincial championships over the years and is widely considered one of the best in Ontario.

People will drive a long way to play on good greens,” he said. “They keep getting better and better each year.”

There are currently six members who have qualified to play in the Canadian championships in 2019. Others have represented Woodstock at various prestigious events over the years, but the sport is often more of a social gathering that doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or ability.

It’s a low impact exercise,” Roth said. “You can play this game from the time you’re eight years old until … my dad is 89 and still plays. It’s a game for all ages.

It’s a game that’s very, very easy to learn but it’s hard to master if ever.”

The 125th anniversary celebration is scheduled to run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be memorabilia and memories, and Brown hopes to see family of some of the founders.

The whole year is going to be getting people from the fence in and just exposing them to it,” he said. “That’s the whole basis. Once you get people in they have a whale of a time. Then it’s convincing them to come back.”

For more information, contact the club at info@woodstocklawnbowling.com or call 519-240-6715.

cosmith@postmedia.com

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