This history was compiled by Mark Clare in 2002.
The Preston Lawn Bowling Club, was a quaint building on a beautiful green lawn
We would often stop on a summer afternoon or evening to watch people - usually seniors - often dressed in white - socializing and playing bowls. The scene seemed to fit the small town atmosphere of this part of Cambridge; a scene reminiscent of older and less hurried times; a scene still associated with small towns and old neighbourhoods all over Ontario.
The Preston Lawn Bowling Club had been part of our town for generations. We took it for granted that this fine old club would always be there.
Over the 1990s the level of activity at the club declined
Buildings began to show the telltale signs of lack of regular maintenance. By the mid 1990s the lawns - the most important asset of any lawn bowling club - had become waist high with weeds. The club had ceased active play owing to the simple fact that the remaining members were aging and did not have the physical energy to repair or maintain the facilities.
In the neighbourhood surrounding the club, a group of neighbours with an interest in preserving the best in their town began to ask questions about the Preston Lawn Bowling Club. Their inquiries led them to the last active member of the club, Mr. Bill Blake. Bill had been associated with the club for many years and lived across the road from the clubhouse. Bill held both the key to the clubhouse and the key to the club's history.
The Spring of 1998
In the early spring of 1998, the neighbours and Bill formed the Preston Lawn Bowling Club Restoration Committee. With material support from the City of Cambridge, particularly through the office of John Hanna, Director of Parks and Outside Services, the committee began work in the summer of 1998 on two fronts - the greens and the buildings.
The greens, which had been left unattended for several seasons, had to be completely rebuilt. They had to be hand weeded - then weeded again - raked and hoed. The sandy soil needed amending and the entire soil surface had to carefully leveled prior to seeding. The City of Cambridge lent the committee levelling rakes, scopes and seed spreaders, and provided the bent grass seed. For many evenings and on their own time, City staff Don Bridgeman and Richard Bullock joined the volunteers to help in the preparation of the greens.
The second focus of the restoration effort was the buildings, a series of three joined structures - the clubhouse, the bowls equipment storage room and the workshop/garage. All of the buildings needed paint and repair, but the equipment room had structural damage to two walls. The committee removed one entire wall and shored up the others. The siding was chosen to reflect the clapboard style of the club in days gone by.
The summer of 1998 was long and hot. The committee volunteers worked in the heat, pulling weeds, repairing the buildings, painting and planning. It must be pointed out that only one of the Restoration Committee members had ever thrown a bowl! To remedy this, local clubs invited the volunteers to visit and begin to learn the skills and strategies of lawn bowls.
The anticipation of the first playing season in years
Late in the fall of 1998, work on the club buildings and greens stopped for the winter months. The Restoration Committee shifted its focus in anticipation of the spring of 1999 and the first playing season in years. In preparation for a spring opening, an effort was undertaken to gather and organize the club archives and write a history of the club. Old photographs were found and displayed on the club walls. Pennants reflecting past glories were used to decorate the club interior. Former club members were contacted and encouraged to return to the club to play or simply to watch, socialize and share their stories of this fine old Preston institution.
By May of 1999, The Preston Lawn Bowling Club had its first playable greens in years. Over time, about 40 members - old and new - came out to support the club and play. Older members said that the restored club was almost indistinguishable from the club they had enjoyed over the years. During the summer of 1999, the Restoration Committee gave way to an elected executive which would carry on the business of the now active Preston Lawn Bowling Club. Today the PLBC has regained its status as a viable and active club affiliated with the Ontario Lawn Bowling Association.
The neighbourhood of the old Town of Preston once again has it's cottage-like clubhouse and greens. Once again, the neighbours can walk down the west end of Queenston Road on a summer afternoon or night and see people of all ages and abilities socializing and engaging in the gentle sport of lawn bowling.
With an investment of time, labour and care, an important part of the history of Cambridge survives and prospers. We like to think that the restoration of the Preston Lawn Bowling Club stands as an example of how a group of neighbours can work with their community to preserve a part of their heritage that they hold dear.
The Preston Lawn Bowling Club Restoration Committee
Mary Lou Wakutz