The History of Camberwell Petanque Club

Once Upon A Time.....

All good stories start a while back in time. For Camberwell, the story goes back to the 1980s when Camberwell Primary School held annual fetes and one of the attractions was you could play a game of Petanque. It appears this was organised by Christian Draschler. There are reports of many players joining in to play at these fetes and Don Miller was one of them. While they didn't realise it at the time, Christian and Don were to become the founders of the Camberwell Petanque Club. Amazingly, back in those days, up to 100 players gathered informally on Sundays to play on rough pistes near the old tram station in Wattle park.

A decade later the number of players had declined and the idea arose to establish a club at a suitable venue, ideally with a clubhouse, in order to create a more formal approach to rebuilding interest in the sport.

Our Club Is Born

On the 5th September 1998 a meeting was held at Camberwell Primary School to gauge interest in opening a new club. There were 11 attendees and 3 apologies. Don and Christian put a proposal forward to base the club at a Hawthorn Lawn Bowls Club at St James Park in Wood Street where an unused bowling green was available. The proposal was approved and our Club was founded that day.

Now For The Hard Work

Considerable planning must have gone into this proposal because only a year later the hard work of laying a piste had started. The structure of a good piste is not achieved easily and various layers need to be constructed. Undeterred by such details Don called a mate at Boral and got a truckload of mixed stones delivered the next weekend, all 60 tons of it. He asked Christian and Patrick Robin to help, told his son he’d have to help too and over a couple of weekends in November the four of them with help from a few others on the second weekend levelled 20 pistes. Quite an achievement!

The Club sent out a note inviting potential members to a social game on the very next weekend, Sunday 21st November 1999 between 1pm and 5pm. The Club was in business! And Don and Christian being good business men must have alerted the press because the very next day Progress Press ran an article headed “Players take rough with rough”. Obviously one of these ‘roughs’ refers to the piste. Not sure about the other one but given Don Miller is quoted in the article as saying “Imbibing of wine is a necessary part of the game – it helps with the frustration of it” maybe his choice of wine wasn’t so good that day!

Expanding The Club

Publicity was needed to help expand the Club and a newsletter was started in early 1999. “The Petanqueur” Issue 3, published in December 1999, was full of interesting news about the activities and players of the day, with so many names still familiar as players 20 years later. A brochure was produced indicating an annual subscription of $80 and advising that regular play would be held on Sunday afternoons between November and March. In May 2000 the Club applied for affiliation with the then Australian Petanque Federation and by the end of the year there were 18 licensed players and many more non-licensed as was the practice in those days.

The Club grew steadily and life at St James Park was convivial, picnics and dinners under the stars making for a very nice atmosphere.  As both the petanque and bowls clubs grew in numbers access to the clubhouse became less available and the Council provided CPC with a small tin shed to store its tables and chairs – the Club’s very first own clubhouse! Through this period a regular blog was established by the Club’s then President, Bill Claiborne. Bill was a successful career journalist with international experience and couldn’t resist NEWS! He named his blog with the somewhat dubious name of ‘Piste Up’ and somehow this ended up with the unforgettable tag line “If it’s not on Piste Up, it’s not on”!

Moving Again

As the Club continued to grow, life alongside the bowling club became restrictive and the hunt was on for larger premises that the Club could call its own. By timely luck Boroondara Council approached CPC to ask if it were interested in taking a lease on a new clubhouse at Lynden Park. This was located at the vacant premises of the Camberwell Ladies Bowling Club and the Council had just completely refurbished it. In 2011 CPC moved in to this wonderful new clubhouse, you could fit 20 tin sheds in it! Another new era had begun.

Just as had happened 12 years before there was now much work to be done laying pistes. John Paul Ernst master minded pulling up yards of fake grass and building 24 magnificent pistes. Many pitched in to help though JP and, amazingly, his 90 year old father did a lot of the work themselves. This time CPC did even better than Don’s deal with Boral, the tons of stones were provided by a quarry FREE. Apparently they had little need for that particular mix. Unfortunately, that didn’t make the stones any easier to spread!

The Future

20 years on where are we now? Since moving to Lynden Park in 2011 three shelters have been built including a central pergola feature and the Council have been very supportive by renovating the crumbling old edges around the pistes, left over from the original bowls club. Plans are under consideration to add lighting so evening play can become possible. Membership is now around 80 licensed players. The Club continues to steadily extend its facilities and this website will be an important catalyst for better communication and an improvement in player and social activities. We are lucky to be at Lynden Park and if you look it up on Trip Advisor you will find it described as a ‘Hidden Oasis’! We should be so lucky.