Now 102 years old, the Lawrence Park Lawn Bowling and Croquet Club is a quiet escape from city life at Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave.
By: Graham Slaughter Staff Reporter, Published on Fri Jul 11 2014
When you picture lawn bowling, images of silver-haired players puttering through snail-paced matches may come to mind.
But that isn’t the case at the Lawrence Park Lawn Bowling and Croquet Club, a greenway tucked inside an urban glen near Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave.
“We like to be a little rowdy,” explained club president Mary Kaye, 70, who often nurses a non-alcoholic beer between lawn bowling matches. (The clubhouse sits on public parkland, so the alcoholic variety is off limits.)
It’s unique to Toronto’s 14 or so other lawn bowling clubs, which she says can be “so demure you can’t even stand them.”
“We like to hoot and holler and have a good time,” she said.
Now 102 years old, the Lawrence Park club is a collision of old and new Toronto. Some attendees insist on traditional all-white uniforms while others simply show up in jeans and sneakers. The club has two 90-year-olds, a couple of 20-somethings and one Grade 5 student among its members.
The white, cottage-style clubhouse is surrounded by a century-old forest that effectively muffles nearby traffic, replacing it with the pitter-patter of roving chipmunks and the tidal crush of leaves.
“If you don’t have a cottage, this is the place to be in the summer,” Kaye said.
Over time, the rules have loosened. All games are now coed, attire isn’t policed and members come from across the city. And at $175 for a year’s membership, the players are hardly elites.
Simply keeping Toronto’s lawn bowling clubs alive has been a challenge. The city issued a $3,000 levy on the city’s lawn bowling clubs in 2012, stretching the budgets at clubs that are often already strapped for members. The Glebe Manor Lawn Bowling Club in Davisville was forced to close last year, and it may be razed for housing development.
But it’s a different story at Lawrence Park, where 71 members play games nearly every day, weather permitting.
“We’re booming,” said vice-president croquet Philip Parsons, 56. “We are making efforts to find new people all the time.”
Croquet, introduced to the club in 2000 as a way to draw new members.
For instance, Sara Vajay Cserhati joined the club in May with her 10-year-old son, Gyurko, after learning about the club at a city festival.
For her, croquet is one of the few ways to spend a day outdoors with her son.
You don’t have to be physically fit. You don’t need a lot of muscle,” she said. “And it’s outdoors, so it’s actually really healthy. Everything is real, the grass, the flowers, the trees.”
Barbecues, socials and even a wedding have been hosted on the manicured lawns, with profits funnelled into the club’s upkeep. The grass is kept buzzcut-short but lush by a groundskeeper, while four members tend to the flowers.
“It is quaint in the finest sense of the word,” said Vajay Cserhati as she gazed around the club. “Ageless.”
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