The Newtown Bowling Club has been around since 1893. In those days they had over two hundred members. Their photos still hang in the clubroom- all dressed in white with hats and grey moustaches.
There’s a photo of the bowling green under 3 feet of water- April 12 1959.
It’s the oldest bowling club in Wellington that’s still in its original location. The oldest member is a Mr. Les Armstrong – 84, who had just been in earlier getting the clubroom ready for the evenings game of bowls.
I first visited the club when i was trying to get some photos of the destruction next door. Four huge old brick and corrugated iron factories where being pulled down by two diggers.
I stood in the middle of the perfect green staring through my camera.
To my left, and from out of the glass doors of the clubroom, I heard a voice, quietly spoken and not telling me to get off the bloody grass, which I was half expecting.
Fred Baker stood there leaning on the sliding door with some thick dark rimmed glasses sitting on the end of his nose.
I quickly got off the grass anyway, and muttered something about how I was trying to get a few shots of the destruction.
“I dunno how the council gets away with doing stuff like that…cutting down those beautiful Pohutukawa trees like that… That was a good shelter for the green.”
Fred used to work at one of the factories across the driveway.
“I used to look over the fence and see them all playing bowls and say to myself ‘i’ll never go there, i’ll never go there’, but i guess i got sick of looking over the fence and decided to come over one day and here i am”
Now, Fred plays an active part in the club – “General dogs body” he tells me.
I asked him how many members there were now.
“Oh nowhere near what it was in the beginning…you could just about drop a decimal.” he said.
The Bowling club is about to get some new neighbours – the historic factories are being replaced by blocks of apartments.
Fred told me that the factories used to provide a lot of privacy and it was easy to think that there wasn’t a bowling green there at all.
Nobody really knows how the apartments will effect the club.
As I was leaving, I passed a woman walking two dogs and carrying a smaller one in her arms.
“End of an era” she said.
Maybe it was.
When I walked back past the club later that night, the carpark was full and place was doing what it had done since the beginning.