As you pass Talbot Park at the corner of Bayview and Eglinton on a warm evening, you’re likely to hear the sounds of kids playing baseball, see runners on the track, and smell popcorn being made at the snack bars.
And when you head to the eastern end of the park, you’ll come across a neighbourhood gem which has attracted residents of all ages for 70 years, the Leaside Lawn Bowling Club. In its seven decades, the Leaside Lawn Bowling Club has been a community hub for play, fun and friendship.
The roots of the club date to the late 1940s when the Town of Leaside began plans for a park and sports complex, now known as Talbot Park. The project included the development of a baseball field at the west end of the land and proposed the inclusion of two lawn bowling greens equipped with overhead lighting and an underground water sprinkler system at the east end.
With a loan of $20,000 from the town, a contract was drawn up between the lawn bowling club and the town, which stipulated that until the loan had been fully repaid, all monies received by the club were to be paid to the Town of Leaside at the close of each season. This amounted to approximately $2,000 a year.
A clubhouse was built in 1952, and in 1953, the Leaside Lawn Bowling Club opened officially, with Joe Davis as its first president.
While the City of Toronto now owns the property, the club is managed by a board of directors and runs with an enthusiastic team of volunteers.
Volunteers generously and happily take care of the club’s plants and flowers, prepare snacks for various events, maintain equipment, devise daily schedules, tend to the greens, schedule tournaments, and find sponsors for a myriad of events.
Over the years, the facilities have evolved and been updated. The club now boasts two greens with 16 rinks on each, covered seating and standing, excellent lighting for evening bowling and an accessible clubhouse with a kitchen, washrooms and locker room.
Games take place during the day and on evenings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with an occasional special event on Saturdays. There are also in-club tournaments, open tournaments and opportunities for group or company rentals.
Club members also hold an annual in-house tournament where they raise funds and/or gather items for charity.
Gloria Paisley, who has been a member for the past 10 years, describes it as “a very friendly and welcoming club.” She notes that “by playing together as well as working together, members get to know each other and friendships develop.”
Club members become such close friends, in fact, that when the greens close in October, activity moves indoors. Cards, board games and indoor bowling take over the clubhouse.
Paisley encourages anyone not familiar with lawn bowling but interested in playing to check out the Rock ‘n Bowl League. Held on Wednesday evenings in May and June (beginning on May 10th), the league begins with a session of coaching and practice followed by six weeks of play. People can join as individuals, couples or with friends or family.
Interested in playing on other days? An open house is set for Sat., May 13th, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. where you can check out the facilities, watch the game being played, ask questions and enjoy the extremely friendly atmosphere.
You might even run into the league’s current longest-time member, Dorothea Sutton, who has bowled with the club for 26 years.