History of Preston Rowing Club
Chapter 5 - City Premises
Owing to the lack of accommodation at Princes Bridge and with the draining of Edwardes Park Lake for the purpose of cleaning out the weeds and erecting a stone retaining wall the club was placed in a precarious position in 1936. After several conferences on the matter it was decided to look for a site where we could have a branch boathouse on the river. After viewing several sites we decided to approach the authorities of Olympic Park for permission to erect a boathouse there. A site at the half-mile post being granted us, arrangements were entered with W. S. Neelands for the supply of material to build a fireproof shed 50 feet by 80 feet, which was built by club member Allen Downey, and finished for Henley of that year.
We are much indebted to Messrs. H. P. Zwar, Mr. Taylor, secretary of the Olympic Park Trustees, Mr. McIlroy of the Lands Department, Ray Todd, Basil Coningsby, .Mr. .McMurtrie the curator of the Park. Allen Downey, Tom Fawcett. George Lewis and the secretary of the club (Wally Johnson) for the work and consideration they gave the club in this project. During this season the members carried out many improvements to the Edwardes Park shed to make it comply with the Health Department's regulations. The billiard room was enlarged and Mr. E. W. Rose excelled himself in the way he panelled the ceiling and walls. In season 1938-39 the club was highly honoured when Arthur James was chosen to row in the Kings Cup crew. Arthur who came to the club as the result of a membership drive at the age of sixteen, started as a lightweight and reached the highest plane an oarsman can attain. Much credit is due to him, for previous to his selection he suffered a broken leg in an accident, forcing him to retire for a while.
Success beyond our greatest expectations followed the efforts of the social committee with the dance held at Holy Trinity Hall, Thornbury. It was mainly dlue to their efforts that the Olympic Park debt was liquidated and the various improvements to the sheds carried out.
ln 1938-39 the club had its most successful season in racing since its formation. We finished the season with eleven wins, including our first junior eight which was a double at Henley and V.R.A., and were second to Banks in the junior premiership. Power House, South .Melbourne and Heidelberg Clubs were sharing our river shed with us, and the training quarters became rather cramped during practice hours. It became necessary to add another 10 feet to the rear, this work being carried out by Messrs. G. Lewis and W. Johnson. After 5 1/2 years of success, the dance at Thornbury began to decline, and we were reluctantly compelled to close. There is no doubt at all that our great improvement over the last few years was the result of the labours of our members in this direction and our present assets are tangible proof of this.
With the outbreak or war, a more subdued tone was evident regarding social and racing activities, but a lightweight eight comprised of six novices rowed splendidly to win on April 13, 1940 and a week later were just a length behind Melbourne in the Lightweight Championship in a field of four. They were - J. Pew (bow). R. Lewis, A. Johnson, L. Burns, L. Rimes, A. Mainwaring, K. Billingham, T. Vandersluys (str.) G. Lewis (coach). This crew had an exciting experience on the Yarra one night while training. A collision occurred with another eight and our boat, City of Preston, was completely smashed front the bow seat to the bow. Nobody was hurt, however, and the boat has since been repaired. We purchased a racing eight from Xavier, in very good order, which was used in the race. This brings us to the present and we are still up and doing.
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