By David Nagel
News that the Pakenham Tennis Club will make the move to the Pakenham Regional Tennis Centre has triggered a flood of memories to come back for life-member of the club Ron Carroll.
The move from the club’s current home on Anderson Street – landlocked between the Pakenham Bowls Club and Pakenham Swimming Pool – to the more modern facility on Webster Way, in October this year, will see the end of a 61-year connection between the club and its traditional home courts.
There have been other courts at various locations around Pakenham over the years – including near the corner of Toomuc Valley Road; the police courts on the corner of James Street and the Princes Highway; the courts at the old Presbyterian church; and the two courts built by Don Williamson on James Street, about where the senior citizens building currently sits.
These courts were hired out to the Pakenham tennis Club for a number of years before the existing courts were built, and opened on November 6, 1960.
“We’ve had so many good times at those tennis courts; I remember they were just being built after I came to Pakenham. I’ll never forget that they opened on 6 November 1960 because that’s the day my son Bernard was born,” Carroll said.
“I went and saw Val at the hospital and then came down to the opening of the court.
“There’s a lot of history there – the clubhouse was all done by volunteers, and Margaret Court even played there before she went over and started winning at Wimbledon.”
Carroll said the Pakenham Tennis Club was a huge part of the local community when he first arrived in town in the 1950’s.
“I came to Pakenham in 1956, and I was a tennis player in Melbourne, and my sporting life, my social life, it all revolved around the tennis club and the Pakenham sporting precinct,” Carroll recalled.
“We played on ‘En tout cas’ courts, the red porous courts, and I boarded a few doors away from the tennis club on James Street.
“I remember playing a lot of tennis there with another teacher, Brian Gray, who played a lot of football (111 games) with Collingwood.
“We needed a fourth player, another member of the teaching staff, who could play a bit, and it ended up being my future wifeVal.”
Ron and Val were married in 1960, at the same time the new courts on Anderson Street were starting to take shape.
“I got involved in the building of the new courts and we started our own junior tennis competition, and seriously, the courts were busy from 8am on Saturday morning until 7.30pm at night.
“It was a huge part of the Pakenham community back then and the courts became a real centre for tennis in the district.”
Pakenham also had some quality players at the time who would compete in some major country events.
“We would travel to Warragul to play on grass, because grass was the ultimate tennis experience, and we would go on long weekends and represent Pakenham at places like Wangaratta, Warrnambool and Shepparton.
“They were great weekends away, and one year we were fortunate enough to have the quality of player at Pakenham to win the Country Week event at Kooyong.”
Carroll was part of that winning team at Kooyong, joining forces with Hugh Bourke, Wal Reid and Bob O’Connor to put Pakenham tennis on the map.
The influence of Kooyong also played a part in the design of the Pakenham clubhouse on Anderson Street.
“The clubhouse at Pakenham in the early days was a three-sided open shed, with an urn, that was it, so we decided to build a clubhouse,” Carroll said.
“We modelled it on the clubrooms at Kooyong, which had a beautiful deck overlooking the courts, so we built a second story so we could overlook our courts too.
“The highlight each year was how many people would come to watch the finals of the tennis at Anderson Street; the courts were full to the brim.”
Carroll recalls his early days in Pakenham with real pride.
“Pakenham was a small town, with only a couple of thousand people, but there was great community spirit and so many volunteers would chip in to make things happen,” he said.
“The tennis courts were built with volunteer help, the swimming pool the same, and influential locals like David Bourke and Peter Ronald were right behind the town as well.
“I remember the town securing a $30,000 grant which was used to build basketball courts. The whole sporting precinct was something special, with footy, cricket, tennis and basketball all great community sports at the time.
“And back in those days we had a little old hall. The Hall and Recreation Committee built a new one and ran dances and 500 or 600 people would be at the Saturday night dance.”
Carroll, who served as secretary or president for many years, was hopeful that the move to Webster Way would not diminish the long-term spirit of the club.
“I think it’s inevitable that it will lose a touch of heart,” Carroll said.
“And to me…that’s a bit sad,”
Current-day president of the Pakenham Tennis Club Greg Menzel believes the move will help boost participation and membership.
“Tennis is a top ten sport when it comes to participation across Australia,” Mr Menzel said.
“Our goal, as a club, is to see participation grow at a local level from kids right through to seniors.
“This move will help create more opportunities and remove barriers to participation in Pakenham by locating the club within the regional tennis centre.
“The conversion of four courts to artificial grass and the resurfacing of the remaining plex cushion, combined with a new clubroom facility will boost interest and involvement cementing the long-term future of the club.
Pakenham Tennis Club and Aligned Leisure (who run the Pakenham Regional Tennis Centre) offer a full program of tennis activities including junior and senior competition and training, mid-week ladies competition, social competitions and accessibility programs.
For more information on the Pakenham Tennis Club visit tennis.com.au/pakenham.