Verna Bowering looks back at history of Bay Roberts 50-plus club

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One evening in 1996 while bowling at Old Mill Lanes, I was called to the phone. On the line was Ron Delaney, who worked with recreation. He asked if there were any activities in Bay Roberts for seniors. I said, "nothing at all."

Verna Bowering is one of the founding members of the Bay Roberts 50-plus club.

By Verna A. Bowering

One evening in 1996 while bowling at Old Mill Lanes, I was called to the phone. On the line was Ron Delaney, who worked with recreation. He asked if there were any activities in Bay Roberts for seniors. I said, "nothing at all."

He called me because he had heard about my involvement with young people and the different bowling leagues.

I told Edith Greenland and Tom Stoodley about the call, and Tom was the first to suggest a 50-plus club might work. This soon led to a meeting with Ron Delaney, and discussions about whether there was enough interest, where such a club might meet, and if any money was available to get things started.

Ron threw the ball and Tom ran with it. He was the right man for the job.

Word got around that we were trying to form a club, and people started coming forward. There was Ruth Mercer, Shirley Andrews, June Thompson, Enid Smith, Molly Boone, Morgan Green, Ernestine Jones, Edith Greenland, Dorothy Somerton, Tom and myself. The Fisherman’s Lodge and the old railway station offered us space for our first meetings.

In the spring of 1997 we decided to form a committee. The good-hearted Lions Club members told us we could use their club to meet.

We set a date for the first committee meeting, but I was unable to attend because my husband was ill. Only a few turned up for the meeting. Tom went in as president, along with Edith Greenland (first vice-president), Ruth Mercer (treasurer) and Morgan Green (secretary).

With very little happening, we lost these members, but we had four new people join us — Emmy Roach, May Shute, Bob Hardy and Edgar Russell.

Following my husband's passing in the fall of 1997, I returned to be with friends. I went to the right place. As time went on we all found out the 50-plus club was for people like us, lonely and looking for friends to help us fill the void in our lives. All of these people were the founders of the first club in Bay Roberts, even though some of our founders eventually left, they still played a big part in getting it started.

Our executive later consisted of Tom Stoodley (president), I took on the job of first vice-president, Bob Hardy (treasure) and Edgar Russell (secretary).

Significant donations

Bob and I started Wednesday night card games. We asked each member to bring prizes. I went to the flower shop and asked for a donation and the late Hughie Atkinson gave me a beautiful arrangement. I sold them on tickets and returned the next week to buy an arrangement.

When I went in to purchase them Hughie, with a smile on his face, said that if we could put the flowers to good use he would donate them to us for one year. That one year turned into 16 years. Also when we started our card games, Al Shute brought a bag of groceries to every game he attended. What wonderful gifts to our club! It was people like them and our members that made our club the success it is today.

Word soon got out, our attendance grew, and we no longer needed our members to bring donations. We started to give monetary prizes — $15 (first), $10 (second) and $5 (third). We also continued to sell tickets on the flowers and groceries. We started to have get-togethers where we would served dinners and had potluck. The club provided the vegetables, meats, salmon or fish and each member would pay for their own meal and this was our way of making money for the club. We also brought dinners to any of our members who were sick and could not attend.

Seniors bowling

In the fall of 1997 my dream came true when we started a seniors bowling league. We had 12 members, consisting of four teams with three members on each team. Since then we have hosted teams from Carbonear and St. John's, feeding them doughnuts donated by Tim Hortons and lunch provided by our members.

We often won and we have a plaque in our club today to prove it! Carbonear and St. John's would then challenge us to a return match and of course we were up to the challenge. Our club provided us with a bus that would take us to and from our destination. Some of our members have had to drop out due to illness, but our biggest loss came in 2004-2005 when, within just six months, six of our members, all bowlers, passed away. There is a plaque in their memory at the club today. Sixteen years later I’m proud to say that I am still president of the bowling league and we now have 24 bowlers, plus a few spares.

In December 1997 the Bay Roberts council had their first Festival of Lights. What an amazing sight! Club member were asked to host a breakfast on Dec 9. It was quite a task to undertake, but we said yes. The big question was how many would attend and how much food we would need?

We didn’t know then how many we would serve and we only thought we were prepared. We had more new members and everyone chipped in. But we certainly weren’t prepared for the numbers that showed up! By 9:30 am we had served over 100 people and many more in the next hour-and-a-half. We served with a smile and made over $600 that morning. We are still serving breakfasts today.

Travelling seniors

In the summer of 1998, President Tom made plans and 20 or more of us went to Woody Island. Another outing was to attend a 50-plus conference, where we met other 50-plus members. It was exciting to meet so many people who shared our same interests.

Also, the manager of Tim Hortons provided us with a bus to have many day trips.

Later that year the council moved to Cable Avenue and offered our club the old council building to lease for $1 a year. We were so happy to finally have a place of our own. We went right to work as there was lots to be done. We needed everything from a teaspoon to a stove.

The late Edgar Russell had an idea to print a book where local businesses could advertise. Four of us started by going to all the business owners in the area and told them that they could put an advertisement in this book. This venture was very successful.

A place to call home

Our grand opening was June 19, 1999. We now had 63 members and we celebrated with a dinner and dance. The band was the Porter Brothers from Port de Grave and another gentleman from St. John's.

Our executive then was president Tom Stoodley, vice-president Verna Bowering, secretary Edgar Russell and treasurer Robert Hardy and Hazel Hardy, who assisted him. We also added a board of directors consisting of Eric Mercer, Maxwell Ford, Molly Boone, Nellie Spurrell and Margaret Bradbury.

Many renovations had to be done to the interior of the building starting with floors, walls, bathrooms and the building of a kitchen. Bob and Tom purchased materials and made our tables. Sixty chairs were bought and paid for by members and some even bought two chairs.

One of our founding members donated a stove and sink. We purchased 50 mugs that are still being used today. Silverware and plates were also donated by members. The Bay Roberts council helped us in many ways and we also received a small grant. Now, our club was ready to host many different functions.

Bob and I started a Saturday afternoon crib game. The first week we had six players and the second week there was eight. But as time went on and word got around, more players came and at one point we had 72 players. I’m still looking after crib today with the help of other teams.

Raising money

Soon we raised money by having bake sales. All of these baked goods sold like hot cakes. What wonderful bakers we have in our club. Loretta Mercer came up with the idea of an afternoon tea and everyone contributed to this wonderful idea. China cups were donated by our members. Our afternoon tea is still going strong today.

Years ago we used to get exercise by walking in the stadium, swimming at the pool and playing horseshoes at the side of our club. But today, thanks to Bay Roberts Recreation, we have an outdoor walking area, outdoor shuffleboard and a place at the playground to play horseshoes.

Even though we had lots going on within our club, we still made time to volunteer at the Lions Club as we wanted to give back as they had given us so much. Our volunteer work consisted of peeling vegetables, serving at their functions and filling 100s of candy bags for the Christmas parade.

In the fall they would give us a dinner plus a cheque for the club to use as needed.

A change of leadership

I worked as first-vice beside president Tom for many years. He was a man with great ideas, he wanted things done and done right. All executive decisions were approved of and voted on by our members at the monthly meetings. He ensured that everyone got to the meetings by picking up many of the members and arranging rides for others.

Tom and I sometimes did not agree on everything but we did agree to disagree and by the time we left the meeting we were still friends. We had many cups of coffee at Tims right up until his health failed in 2003-2004. He resigned as president and in 2005 Tom and his wife returned to Ontario. They have since passed away.

Eric Mercer became our new president and he filled this position for a few years. Mary Tucker is our current president.

Some founding members had to leave because of failing health. It was later decided they would be made life members, receiving fruit baskets at Christmas.

Twenty six of our members passed away between 1998 and 2011 — six were founders. In 2013, from January to July, four more founders passed away. This was a sad time for our club.

I have been with the club since Day 1 — 17 years. Over the years I have seen many changes. Even though we have many new active members we still have some members that joined in 1998-1999 who are still active within the club today.

With grants and hard work our club has received a much-needed facelift. We have a beautiful club, everything at our finger tips, we’ve gone with the old saying: From Rags to Riches!

A worthwhile adventure

I am 83 years-old and have written much of this from memory. I am still in the club and play darts, cards and bowl weekly. I also volunteer when at the Lion’s Club and the nursing home.

I live in a cottage in Clarke's Beach, not far from where I was born in South River. I worked 26 years and raised seven children. The years are slipping by and I hope that you get the pleasure of being a member of our 50-plus club.

God bless our club for many years to come.

— This look back at the history of the Bay Roberts 50-plus club is an edited version of an article written by Verna A. Bowering in July, 2013.

Organizations: Lions Club, Tim Hortons, Bay Roberts council Porter Brothers

Geographic location: Bay Roberts, St. John's, Carbonear Woody Island Cable Avenue Port de Grave China Ontario South River

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Recent comments

  • florence tucker
    April 01, 2014 - 10:57

    I would to join club

  • lysa coley
    February 09, 2014 - 13:57

    mr, Robert's 'Don't you think you should have gone to some real members of the club for the truth.bad writing I say