It was with heavy hearts that members of the Camps Bay Bowling Club shut their doors this week.
Instead of celebrating their 100th year, all those who have called the club their home for so long came together for one last time to reminisce about the place where they found fun and friendship.
The bowling club lost a long battle with the City of Cape Town to have its lease renewed. The City plans to rezone the piece of land for educational purposes, particularly for the expansion of the neighbouring Camps Bay Primary School’s preparatory campus.
On Saturday June 23, social members, league bowlers and young and old community members gathered at the club for the last day.
The club had been part of the community for almost a century, functioning not only as a bowling club but also as a venue for community functions, including fund-raisers, and sports activities such as bridge games for women, dancing, karate and gym classes for youngsters.
Lynne Gotchalk, a member of the bridge group, which hosted meetings at the bowling club once a week, said the women were sad to see the situation come to this end.
She said they believed in progress, however, they wished the space was shared with the school so everyone could be happy.
She said they did not understand why the City was taking away an existing asset for the community and replacing it with a 10-year lease and uncertainty thereafter.
A dance teacher who had been using the club for over 22 years, Edwin de Waal, said he was hoping that the school would facilitate the sports activities because the space would be vacant and Camps Bay has no community centre.
“My clientele are people from Camps Bay up to Hout Bay and this club has helped me develop SA and Western province dance champions in the past years and I truly believe that I’m servicing the community,” he said.
At the gathering on Saturday evening, members of the community expressed heartache and grief that an amicable solution could not be reached in the matter. They said this was not only a loss for the club, but for the community as a whole. They said the club shared an emblem with all the Camps Bay schools.
“The (former now) elderly students of Camps Bay schools came to this club and had their lunch here when they celebrated their 100th anniversary,” said Quinton Brand who had dedicated his life to running the club, calling it a “labour of love for the community.”
Greg Coulstock, who was born and bred in Camps Bay, and was now an active social member of the club, said he had wonderful memories.
He said he spent most Saturday evenings watching sports with his late dad at the club. He said this was where they would even bump into old school teachers and catch up after years.
“My dad was a member here for a very long time and even when he passed away, after the church service, the community gathered here and reached out in sympathy and showed us support,” said Mr Coulstock.
The oldest couple in the club, Patrick and Virginia O’Connor, said this was their social hub, as they spent time at the club every Saturday and were now worried that when the club closed, they wouldn’t have a connection with the community anymore.
“This will change social habits of many people in here and I don’t know where we are going to go now to socialise,” said Mr O’Connor.
A tourist from England, Lord Anthony Carrol, who often visited the club when he travelled to South Africa, said he was told that the club was closing down this weekend and he flew down specially to be with his friends on the last day. He said he had met great people and made great friendships thanks to the club.
Mr Carrol recalled the first time he walked into the club, he felt welcomed and told the members that he’d come back.
“I’ve travelled to different places such as Paris, Scotland, Portugal, but I couldn’t go back to these countries and say I’ve got friends, but here I’ve met real friends and I’m devastated by this and I feel sorry for my friends in here and believe that nothing will ever be the same again,” he said.
The City’s mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond, said the club was to vacate the premises on Monday June 25 and City’s Property Management Department was in the process of finalising the lease agreement with the Provincial Government of the Western Cape.