Topic: Foxton 1888-1988 - Sport

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Survival of sports and recreation organisations has been by no means assured over the last century. There appears to be no one organised activity that has been an unbroken history of activity, not even horserĀ­acing, probably the one which has the longest history.

The resilience of this is probably a result of it being a blend of sport, recreation and business. Racing gives entertainment in many forms and each of these has a history of its own. Horse races were held at least as early as 1855 according to records available. There are also the reminisences of Mr John Kebbell (Levin) who recorded that races were held on St Patrick's Day 1863 - one of the prizes was five sacks of taewas! On 13 July 1865 a petition from the inhabitants of the Manawatu for a racecourse was presented to the Wellington Provincial Council. Among the 77 signa­tures were noted citizens of both races including J.P.'s Francis Robin­son and Thomas Cook, members of their families, and many other whose names are still remembered in the district e.g. Gray, Symons, Howan, Brown, Hartley, Cummerfield, Wilson, Collins, Kebbell and MacDonald. The petition was successful and the result was the setting aside of the present racecourse land for the use of the Foxton Racing Club. The Foxton Racecourse Act 1869 set aside a parcel of land as a racecourse and named Francis Robinson, Thomas Uppadine Cook, Alex­ander,Gray, John Kebbell junior and John Taylor Dalrymple as the trustees. This is the land used by the Foxton Racing Club today. Although there have been times when the races have had to be held elsewhere, and many other activities have used the racecourse land, the club has survived. Even attempts by the racing authorities to turn the track into a training venue only have been repulsed, so far, by the locals.

The Foxton course had seen many changes all of which have steadily improved the facilities available for man and beast. The construction of the railway along the back of the course caused it to be closed for several meetings in the early 1880's. The need to use a different venue (in this case Himatangi) was also hastened by the spread of sand onto the track when a hill was levelled so stewards could see the horses going around the western end of the track. In 1898 a new stand was built and in 1905 the bank by the stand was better contoured and a new tote house constructed. In 1914 the facilities for trainers were improved with the construction of loose boxes in Whyte Street (These were closed in the forties as a result of complaints about flies.) 1954 saw an upgrading of all the buildings at the course and the track itself was regraded and remodelled in 1967. Since then an irrigation scheme has also added to the standard of the track. The independent attitude of the Racing club was illustrated with the opening of the stand extension in 1980 without a subsidy from the Racing Conference.

 

Above: An early meeting of the Racing Club. This was before the reshaping of he hill and the erection of a new tote house.

 

Above: A trophy presentation at the races in the early years of the century. Left to right are - . B.C. Cower, A.S. Easton, J. Robinson and W.E. Barber.

 

Owners and their horses slow and fast are the backbone of the sport. In the early days the station hacks, some of which had thoroughbred blood, made up most of the entries. These sturdy animals often raced more than once a day and often carried heavy weights as owners liked to take the mount on their own horses. In the early years of the Borough the most prominent of local owners was F.S. Easton who be­came well known for his string of horses with Moutoa as their first name e.g. Moutoa Bond, Moutoa Lord, Moutoa Ivanova (a half-brother of Melbourne Cup winner Sassanof). The Easton family owned many successful horses and pride of place is probably held by Amythas which won the Trentham Gold Cup in 1920 and 1922 as well as the Awapuni Gold Cup in 1920. In the same period Rouen, owned by Dick Heppner and trained locally by A.M. Wright, won the 1923 New Zealand Cup. During the fifties local owner-trainer Earl Bryant had a lot of success with his mare Pinacle Ridge whose wins included the Ormond Gold Cup and a Wellington Metropolitan. Although not a Foxtonian Mr J.Q. Cameron was president of the local Racing Club and his champion horse Triton is probably the best to be associated with it. After being undefe­ated in New Zealand Triton went on to win the Doncaster, Stradbrolce and Epsom Handicaps in Australia and his ability was further recog­nised by his purchase for stud in Australia.

In recent years Foxton has developed into a major training centre although the track has always had some horses being prepared there. In 1892 there were nine horses in training and for many years the number did not reach very many more. Well known among the trainers using the track were Lou proctor, Fred Carmont, Alf Wright and Jack Proctor before World War II. Besides winning the New Zealand Cup with Rouen, Wright hit the headlines with the jumper Nukumai. Nukumai won the Whyte, Parliamentary and Winter Hurdles at Trentham in 1927 and then in 1928 the Grand National Hurdles. Over the last two decades the number of trainers has steadily increased. Probably the biggest team in the early post-war years was that of Keri Carter whose horses were a familiar sight as they returned to his stables at Motuiti. One of the longest survivors is Henry Callahan who in 1968 saddled up three winners at one local meeting. In 1978 there were twelve trainers who had at least one win during the season. Over the last decade Paddy Busuttin has dominated the training scene. With the large team he has built up he has become a leading figure on the national scene and has filled second place on the trainers table on two occasions. The most noticeable achievements of his charges have been the Sandown Cup (Tom's Mate) Despa (two Foxton Cups), Northfleet (Topsy Stakes), Beaufort Lass (top 2year old on the Free Handicap), and Heavenly View (NZ 2 yo 1000m record). Busuttin's success has seen him become the first New Zealand trainer to have training establishments in both is­lands with a member of the Melton family, Jim, in charge of the south­ern operations. Dave Enright has been another to prepare many win­ners, the most noticeable of which would be Four Crowns 1981 Brisbane Cup. Less than sixth months after he was transferred to Australia from Enright's stable Major Drive won the Sydney Cup. Other trainers to gain much success in recent years have been Kevin Thompson and Bruce Robinson who has carried on the association of a family involved with racing from the very first. Harness racing has also been repre­sented in Foxton on a number of occasions and the longest record is that of the Scaife family (Peter Senior and Junior) who have a 600m training track on their property between the beach and Foxton. F.B. Twomey trained at the Foxton course for a time after W.W. II but the conflict with galloping saw him cease the activity.

With so much racing in the area it is not surprising that many local boys have taken to the saddle. Lou Proctor has already been mentioned as riding last century. One local that often hit the headlines with his wins was Alan Johnson. Being a real lightweight Alan was often riding less fancied runners and when successful these usually paid big divvies. Mostyn Robinson, while apprenticed to the ex-Foxtonian Eric Ropiha in Woodville, was New Zealand's top apprentice in 1955. A bit of history was made in 1958 when brothers Gary and Graham O'Dea had their first rides in the same race. Gary won and his mount returned a divided of 126 pounds 19 shillings! Another local apprentice to rank among the countries best was Warwick Satherly, who from the Busuttin stable, finished second on the apprentice list in the 1985-6 season. The strength of the Foxton training centre was clearly illustrated at the January 1985 Foxton meeting when Satherly won 4 races and Foxton trainers saddled up five wins and five seconds. Local boy Eddie Lamb served his appren­ticeship with Rolly Williams (Foxton) and Kevin Gray (Waverley) and his most noticeable win has been the 1987 Grand National Hurdles. The most successful locally based jockey has been Gary Phillips who, since winning the premiership in the 1979-80 season, has remained right near the top of the list every year since and in 1986 became only the seventh New Zealand jockey to ride 1000 winners. At the same time Foxtonian Jimmy Walker has built up a fine reputation riding out of Hawera.

And what of the punters? In the early days they were catered for in an informal way with side bets being frequently made by the proud own­ers. As racing became more organised official bookmakers appeared on the course. Their legal role in the industry ended in 1911 and the Foxton meeting of January of that year was one of the last at which they appeared. The Foxton Club was clearly in favour of this for in 1906 they had banned bookies from their meeting. Their replacement by the on course totalisator did not cater for those at home or in the pub. For them it was the local bookie who stepped in to fill the gap. The betting book of one of these was found in the Foxton Hotel during renovations. On one page are recorded the wagers of one Bob H. who from five pound bets collected only 4 pound nine shillings in return. There were small bettors such as Mrs Hay whose eleven bets totalled only 6 pound 10 shillings from which she gained a payout of 4 pound 9 shillings. The Starting Price Rules and limits were also found with the betting book and show that the limits were not exactly generous. Such illegal activi­ties still continue and there are Foxtonians who delight at the thought of cleaning out the bookie. The TAB (introduced into Foxton in 1952) now provides for most of the off course betting and has become an integral part of the town's life. Even before the recent reintroduction of Satur­day shopping the TAB ensured that Main Street was a hive of activity on Saturday morning. Gone are the days of the local rugby club fighting with the Horowhenua Union over the holding of rugby on raceday - bets can be put on before the game. There are other forms of betting that Foxtonians take part in and an example is the various syndicates. Whether they be home, work or pub based the opportunity to have a bigger flutter, although at longer intervals, is an attraction to many. Another form of betting that was available was the weekly "picks". Sitting down to try to select all the winners on the card was often a family occasion and when done the slips were delivered to a local service organisation which coordinated the activity. A wait to see if enough points had been accumulated to beat the other contestants then followed. One aspect of punting in Foxton has now gone - no longer can one follow all the local horses for often there are more starting in one race than started at a complete meeting in the past!

Not all the owners have their horses for racing and over the years other horse sports have flourished. Although there has never been a Foxton Polo Club locals have taken part in the sport. In the 1890's the Oroua Club covered the district and one of the fields that it used was set out at Herrington. In 1898 the club won the Saville Cup, symbol of New Zealand supremacy, with a team consisting of Alan, Jack and Walter Strang, and Octavius Robinson. With A.C. Baker added to the squad the team toured to Australia in 1899 and won seven of its nine games. Participation in the sport fell away and this brief flurry seems to have been the only time polo was in the local limelight. Although young and old rode horse for business and pleasure organised activities for the young were few. Some took part in the hunts held locally, usually on the property of members of the Manawatu Hunt Club, but it was not until 1947 when the Moutoa Pony Club was formed, with George Barber as president, that they were specifically catered for. The club has held gymkhanas regularly and in 1967 the first of the Summer Camps was held at Foxton Racecourse. Long strings of ponies and riders, under the control of Bill Hoskins, have become a common sight around the town during these camps. Few locals have progressed to senior riding events but one local citizen to achieve distinction was Dawn Temperton who in 1967 was New Zealand Lady Rider of the Year.

If longevity gives a sport status than next on the list for Foxton must be cricket. An A.G.M. is recorded for 1878 but how long before that games were held is still to be ascertained. Not that there is an unbroken line of succession but the sport has always been of interest to Foxto­nians. Problems of getting a team together, getting them to practice, getting a wicket organised, and getting the outfield mown appear in the records as often as changes in venues and opponents. In 1894 the Secretary/Treasurer W.S. Stewart reported in The Herald "In most of the games the want of steady, regular practice was painfully manifest". At this time games were played on Stansell's paddock and other venues have been Easton's paddock, Herrington's woolshed paddock, Victoria Park, Easton Park, the Racecourse, and today, Manawatu Col­lege. Today a grass wicket is used, gone are the days of a concrete pitch covered by matting. In the early days ball tended to dominate the bat but a class player could rise above that. One such player was W.P. Redgrave a New Zealand representative who arrived in the area in 1909. His domination was such that a competition held in 1910 for the most runs specifically banned him from consideration!!

Cricket was played through the toughest of times. Stan Newth recalls that during the 1930's depression cricketers often played in barefeet or in their working boots, used old battered and chipped bats, and pads that were secured with string! The "danger" of helping out a club in a small town is reflected in election of Mrs Newth as secretary of the club - all she did was let her house be used for the first meeting! Since World War II cricket has experienced an unbroken run of organised competition. In 1950 the club won the Horowhenua competition for the first time since 1912. Victorious captain of that team, Cliff Carmont, for many years a representative player, had his loyalties tested during one game in 1966. After he had bowled one ball of an over the fire siren sounded. Cliff dropped the ball and took off! But he did return to the game later to bat in Foxton's innings. During the fifties the Foxton Club began to play games against teams from Wellington. The most famous of these was the one which contained four double All Blacks: M. Page, E. Tindall, G. Dickinson, and C. Olliver. Another innovation was the match against the Wellington Ladies team in 1961.

 

Above: Horowhenua (Foxton) Cricket Club – Champions in 1949-50.

Back - Noel Walls, Ron Jack, Sel Astwood, Len Mohekey, Ted Field, Hec Mingins, Ken Rodgers, Alf Mounsey.
Front Row: Mick Cleary, Stan Newth, Cliff Carmont (Captain), Bruce Ryburn (V.-Capt.), Ivan Williams.
Absent: Stuart Donnelly, Hec Apatari.

 

Success on the playing field was often hard to come by at times but in one game, after J. Sisson had scored 156 at Paraparaumu it was re­ported in the local paper that captain G. Robinson was in the rather unusual position of being able to declare!! During the seventies a small group of enthusiasts kept the club going. Among the younger cricketers in the town, M. Naran, made sure interest was kept up among the primary school pupils. Many a game was played with the bats, wickets, ball, gloves and pads supplied by Mahes and most of the runs and wickets gained by him. This experience was put to good use when Mahes became a member of the Central District B team. Highest hon­ours gained by a local cricketer was Vivienne Sexton selection in the New Zealand women's team which toured India in 1976. One of the enthusiasts referred to above, was John Read who, along with Tony Hunt from the college, organised the amalgamation of cricket in the town. From this grew the Manawatu-Foxton Club. This has prospered and many older players have come back to the game now that teams play in the less competitive lower grades.

 

The history of the nation's number one sport goes back almost as far as that of cricket. Its birth was in 1880 when at a meeting in Whyte's Hotel it was decided to form a Football Club and adopt the Rugby Union rules. Games were played on a casual basis at first but in 1885 regular competition was held among the four teams of the Manawatu County: Foxton, Feilding, Palmerston and Marton. In 1886 the first three clubs above formed the Manawatu County Union and Foxton rugby continued with that union until 1898 when the decision was made to join Horowhe­nua. It appears that the original club went in to recess during the early nineties for in 1895 a club called the Foxton Rugby Football Club was formed and chose light blue and dark blue as its colours. A junior club known as Awahou was also playing at that time. The change to-Horo­whenua does not seem to have been popular in all camps for in 1900 another club, the Foxton Athletic Football Club, playing in green and white, was formed. From this team came Foxton's first Horowhenua representatives, L. Furrie and ? Wingate. Len Furrie was a player of much ability and played for the North Island in 1904. He was also included in the squad of fifty players from which the 1905 (Invincibles) All Blacks were selected. However, after this flurry of activity senior rugby seems to have faded in the town and those who did play did so for Levin teams. 1904 saw another revival and this time a Foxton Union was formed.

"At the inaugural meeting the following attended: A. Shad­bolt and R. Swiggs (Poroutawhao), N. Heta and Taylor (Motuiti), J. Desmond and Curtis (Kiwi) and J. Jollett and F. (Trooper) Robinson (Awahou). Shadbolt become the secretary, all games were to be played on Saturday, E. Ball, J. Frew and Kereona appointed refs and the police were asked to be present at all games!"

This union was a sub-union of Manawatu and played off with their champion club for the Hankin Shield. In 1906 Albion joined the list of local clubs and in the same year Mrs H. Austin presented a banner for the local competition. Although the local union continued, not far below the surface was the question of Manawatu or Horowhenua. In 1911 the Albion and Awahou clubs de­cided to join forces in the Horowhenua competition as the Foxton Foot­ball Club, wearing colours of broad blue and white hoops and white knickers. Both local clubs had players selected for the New Zealand Maori team which toured Australia in 1910. Rore Pitihira (Rangihuea) was a five eight from the Awahou side and Walter Winiata a forward from Albion.

World War One had its effect on local rugby and most activity seems to have died out. As a consequence a public meeting chaired by F. Whibley in 1920 decided to enter senior and junior teams in the Horo­whenua competition in the now familiar yellow and black colours. In fact four teams were fielded. The new club went through some stormy moments during its early years. There were arguments over the venues for rep games, which union to affiliate with, playing of games on race­days, accusations of gambling, and of course challenges of referee's decisions. All this led to the challenges from league and soccer de­scribed later. During the twenties the Awahou Club reappeared, first as junior one but later (1927) as a senior side. Moses Mete was selected in the New Zealand Maori team which toured the world in 1926 and although C. Procter (1925) and A. Stevenson (1928) made the Manawhe­nua team, Foxton did not have a representative in the team when we held the Ranfurly Shield in 1927.

By 1930 the depression was beginning to have its effect on the life in the town and in that year a local competition was held for a cup donated by R. Heppner. The teams organised were Awahou (H. Taylor capt), Pirates (M. Moses), Kiwi (T. Fuller), and Crusaders (C. Procter). Games were played on Wednesday afternoon as this was the half-holiday. The Foxton Club continued on Saturdays with a senior and junior team. For the next few years the senior team folded and some members played for the Whitanui and Moutoa teams that had been established. 1931 saw the selection of the town's one and only locally produced All Black to date. Nelson "Kelly" Ball, son of long time local rugby supporter D. Ball, was chosen while playing for the Wellington representative team. Locally two new clubs were formed, Fire Brigade and Motuiti Fire Brigade, in black and white were the only senior team from Foxton. However, in 1936 the Foxton Club had a senior team and the Fire Brigade Club went through a name change, first to United and then to Moutoa Estate. In 1939 the club scene was finally sorted out when Foxton and Moutoa amalgamated, tried to get the union boundaries altered so they could play in Manawatu, and threatened to pull out of the Nash Cup competition! Things were patched up and in 1940 the senior side won the Horowhenua championship for the first time. Be­cause of a lack of teams in Horowhenua Foxton played in the Manawatu in 1944. Not only did the war end in 1945 but also did the life of one of Foxton's most ardent and colourful rugby supporters, Trooper Robin­son. After the war the Foxton Club as organised today was reestab­lished and midget rugby set up in 1947. The Manawatu-Horowhenua question came to the front again in 1948 and the club did in fact play the season in Manawatu before being placed firmly in the Horowhenua by the New Zealand Union.

 

In 1956 Foxton hit the rugby headlines when it was claimed that the Horowhenua-Manawatu game to be played there would be the first representative game to be played on a Sunday. Alas the fame was short lived for the game was designated a trial game and not an official rep one. Poodle McDonald began his climb toward Maori All Black selection: when he took part in trials at Wanganui. That status was gained in the next season when Poodle took the field against the Fijians at Dunedin. The early sixties could be looked upon as the heyday of Foxton rugby. From 1961 to 1964 the senior championship and the Nash Cup were won three times. During this period rugby was kept in the headlines of the local paper through the writings of Te Karere (Peter Knit). The early seventies saw a fall off of interest among senior players and in some cases a team was scraped together hours before kickoff. But among the administration there was confidence and by 1974 clubrooms had been built and a scoreboard and clock set up. 1975 saw the club back to three teams with the seniors boosted by the return to Foxton of Maori All Black John Tangaere. In 1978 the locals were again questioning the ability of the Horowhenua Union when they relegated the club to Senior B under conditions not completely lacking grounds for suspicion! But with the centennial year looming in 1980 the seniors set about proving the union wrong and bulldozed their way back to Senior A status and emphasised things by winning the Nash Cup. The centennial year was celebrated with a very successful weekend of celebrations and the club set off toward the next milestone in good heart.

Over the century it had not been just a question of which union to belong to but also one of which venue. In the first instance Whyte's paddock (behind the Hotel) was used but before long the racecourse became the main venue with Easton's paddock (now the park) getting some use. The use of Easton Park was gained in the 1920's but not without opposition from other codes and the Beautifying Society. By 1929 the park plus the Bath's changing sheds had become the relatively permanent home of rugby in Foxton. Floodlighting the area meant that no longer did teams have to find well lit spots such as the Union St-Main St corner, outside the Police Station and the Theatre Royal or buildings such as Thompson's shed (Park St) in which to train. Although there have been times when other venues have had to be used e.g. Burr's paddock and the Racecourse in 1951 when Easton Park was re-sown, Easton Park is the home of Foxton rugby. The present day players enjoy good training playing and social facilities. This has been reflected in the success on the field where the Laursen family have made a major impact and Robbie Puklowski has represented the province 134 times, thus passing John Read's previous record of 55.

The other two football codes, league and soccer, have found establish­ment difficult in the town. Soccer was first organised in 1922 when the inspiration was the availability of John McColl, an ex-Scottish profes­sional. In 1923 the club had clubrooms in Park Street and ? Jenvey was selected in the Manawatu reps. The club's playing highlight came in 1923 when they entered the Chatham Cup but unfortunately lost 0-5 in the first round. On the social side a Chinese University side visited and was entertained by Foxtonians before their game in Palmerston North at which the locals turned up to cheer for the visitors against their own' team! The club carried on shakily up to 1928 when an annual meeting was held but no side eventuated. The game, in an organised form, reappeared in the sixties when schoolteacher Stan Eaton organised games for primary schoolboys and later ex-New Zealand player, Clive Rennie introduced the game at Manawatu College. In 1974 a junior club was formed by George Carter and Gordon Dustin. Women's soccer began with girls at the College being introduced to the sport. Before this occurred a local girl, Nellie Jongeneel, had been selected for the New Zealand team which toured to Hong Kong. Nellie had been playing her soccer in Palmerston North. From the base of junior and college soccer developed the Manawatu Old Boys Club. In 1984 this team per­formed well enough to gain promotion to the Tasman League First Division. The highest honours gained by a local player has been that of Michael Craig who in 1984 and 1985 was included in the Central Region Youth team and in the later year was selected for the New Zealand Youth squad but unfortunately broke his leg before the group met. A lot of the progress soccer has made in the town has been the result of the enthusiasm of Dave Seavers whether it be coaching or refereeing.

The rugby league code came upon the Foxton scene with a flourish in 1924. At that time annoyance of the local rugby supporters at the attitude of the Horowhenua Union saw P.J. Jack make use of the situa­tion and introduce rugby league. Mr Jack had played league in Christ­church and in this attempt to get the game going here told the New Zealand League that all four local rugby teams, Bulls, three Shannon teams, two from Palmerston North, and one from Te Kawau were keen to play!! Thirty local players showed interest and games were played between local teams and against Wellington clubs. One of the later was Petone who were beaten 16-0 by a team containing H. Reid and I. Moses, noted rugby reps. But the surge of interest was short lived and despite attempts it could not be revived in 1926. A very successful, and more permanent period of participation, began in 1985 when after some of the local rugby players had played friendly end of season league games it was decided to organise a competition orientated team. Suc­cess was immediate and the mixture of experience and enthusiasm saw the club reach premier status after only one season. In fact in 1986 they were the Manawatu representatives in the national club championship for the Tooth Cup. During its early years the club received some help from Michael Kuiti, a local who learnt his league playing for Upper Hutt in Wellington. Michael added to his national ranking as an age group swimmer the achievement of being a member of the New Zea­land Maori League team. It is interesting to note that despite the attrac­tion of league to local youth this has not affected the achievement of rugby union and in fact both codes have continued to perform success­fully.

Another winter sport that Foxtonians have shown a fluctuation in­terest in, is hockey. In 1907 a club was started with F. Woods as captain and G. McGonagle secretary/treasurer. Wycherly and Sons were adver­tising equipment and by May a ladies team was organised and play had taken place on Symon's paddock. By 1909 the venue had been changed to Perreau's paddock in Duncan Street. In 1914 a revived club began things again and enthusiasm was such that the Manawatu Herald on 14 May observed "Hockey seems to have levelled the good old rugby game locally". Elsewhere it was reported that "the young women will never be able to play hockey efficiently in long skirts, which considerably handicapped their movement in yesterday's game." Revivals took place in 1925, when a women's team was organised, in 1934, and again in 1948. In these and other revivals the sport was usually confined to women's teams: The pattern continued until the game was established at Man­awatu College where it continues although at times support has been low. There has been no re-emergence of women's hockey from this interest but a Manawatu Old Boys team was formed under Ken Tritt's guidance in 1972 and this went on to win the Horowhenua A grade. The Timms family have been synonymous with the development of hockey since then whether playing or umpiring.

Many sports activities did not have permanent organisations in the early years but committees were set up to run them when required. On the occasion of a public holiday a group of prominent and interested citizens would hold a public meeting, elect a committee, and set about arranging a programme. In 1904 a Sports and Picnic Club was estab­lished but had a short life. In 1923, following the example of Oroua Downs, a United Sport Association was set up. This group held its sports at the racecourse and in fact it was the loss of this venue (in 1940) that led to the end of the association's activities. Several types of sports were staged by the association over the years including running, motor cycle and car races, and even whippet races. Gradually motor sports became the dominant part of the programme and New Zealand titles for motorcycles and light cars were decided on many occasions. Two famous participants at these meetings were Percy Coleman and H. Managh. The end of the sports came in 1940 when some of the racing club officials felt that the vehicles were damaging the track. An attempt was made in 1950 to revive the association but that failed and the assets were distributed.

At the numerous sports days held as part of the entertainment on Royal Birthdays or end of season activities of groups such as the Rugby Club, athletic and cycling events were an integral part of the program­me. Separate athletic and cycling clubs were established early this century and in 1903 they decided to amalgamate. They wished to have the cycling track at Victoria Park repaired, a request that was to be heard many times in the future. At this time Foxton's outstanding athlete was L.J. Furrie who recorded wins in the 100, 220 and 440 yard events at the New Zealand Caledonian Games. Sports events continued to be held on an informal and irregular basis until the twenties. In 1922 the Athletics Club was reformed and in 1926 a Cycling Club, concentrat­ing on racing around the town's streets, was established. This street racing upset some locals who felt a track at Easton Park would be the best way to accommodate the sport. In 1929 a star emerged from the Athletic Club when 15 year old Margaret Barron recorded a time of 11.4 seconds for the 100 yards which at that time equalled the world re­cord!! Unfortunately the circumstances of the run prevented official recognition of the effort. In 1931 Margaret was to record another fine time when only 0.1 seconds outside the world record for 50 yards. She continued to compete with the best in the country for a number of years. At the same time cyclists were also producing top performances. Will Hussey at the age of 17 won the Palmerston North to Wellington race off the limit mark. It was to road racing that the locals directed most of their efforts and in 1933 Jack Preston gained second fastest time in the Palmerston North to Wellington event. The two sports were again united when an Athletic and Cycling Club was formed and this continued until 1943 when the war forced it into a two year recess. The first committee of this club was made of men who contributed much to the sport of the town: Jack Preston, Bill Howe, Hec Dawson, George King and Bert Hinds. This club has continued to give the locals, particu­larly the children, a chance to show their talents. One local family that came to the fore in cycling was the Vertongens. Noel set the national junior five mile record in 1949 and although selected in the trials for the 1950 Empire Games he decided to join the K Force instead. Two of Noel's brothers, Norm and David, were also in the top national company and his son Max proved himself capable of competing at the highest international level.

 

Above: The original committee. of the Motor Sports Association. Back - Bob Byne, ?, ?, Basil Walls; Sid Dudson. Middle - Garnie Fraser, ?, ~, ?, Front - Horace Reid, Joe Clark.

 


Above: There were often military camps held at the racecourse in peace as well as war times. The town often provided entertainment for the soldiers. This photograph shows the basket­ball (netball) teams on one occasion during the forties.

The local girls were (left to right) Peaches Sim, Elsie Titcombe, May Wolley, Joyce McKenzie, Ngaio Kingi, Beryl Coley, Janey Murphy, Peggy Murphy, Merle Rouse, Maisie Rouse.

 

During the 1950's the Athletic and Cycling Club was an active and successful group. Getting floodlights at Victoria Park in 1940 meant they were able to organise high quality evening meetings. Not only were the local stars seen to advantage but also the international stars. Among these were the Fijian and Nigerian Empire Games teams of 1950. At that meeting the first recorded javelin throw in Foxton was made. In 1954 it was our New Zealand stars, Murray Halberg and Les King, who provided the highlights on the athletic track. Best perform­ance by a local was Robert Moore who ran second' in the New Zealand Junior mile in 1957. In cycling, apart from the Vertongens, R. (Sarge) Calder, A. Podjursky, Noel Walls and Allan Wapp kept the Foxton col­ours to the fore. Calder won the 1951 West Coast 100 mile and competed in the Olympic trials. In 1955 Sarge was successful in the Palmerston North-Wellington event. Podjursky won a Woodville-Napier and Walls gained a second in one Palmerston-Wellington race. Wapp gained fourth place in the New Zealand Junior 100 mile in 1955 and with Calder entered the Wellington-Auckland classic. Wapp performed well to come in sixth and was the youngest competitor to complete the distance. In 1961 the club made George King a life member in recognition of his 25 years of service. Although recent achievements of the club have not matched those of the fifties the enthusiasm of the young has not faded. Victoria Park is a mecca every Thursday night during summer for children from pre-school to college age wishing to show their ability - and have a night out! The aim of the more able in recent years has been to quality for the North Island Colgate Games and the most successful in this respect has been Natasha Bergin who in 1983 won four gold medals in the seven year age group. Many locals showed their support for athletics when Foxton hosted the National Intellectually Handicap­ped Games organised by the Rotary Club.

 

Tennis is a game in which fluctuation in interest has been more noticeable than others. In 1892 the first organised club began on dirt courts with painted battens set in the grounds as lines. Enthusiasm was so high at that point that games were being started at 6am each day! A second court was laid down in 1893 at the club's Ravensworth Place home. The club considered but rejected the idea of including croquet in its activities in 1900 despite the fact that a lawn court was in place and could be used. Although interest fluctuated over the next few years by 1913 it was necessary to limit membership. Lack of space saw the idea of putting down courts at Easton Park put forward in 1922 but the expansion came with the shift to Avenue Road and six new courts in 1926. These grass courts were eventually converted into hard courts and the need for continual preparation and management was removed. Teams and individuals played against other clubs and some entered the Manawatu championships. Although no national stars emerged from the club A. Sexton and T. Douds did reach the finals of the Manawatu doubles in 1948 and Keith Dawson proved the better of all the Manawa­tu' juniors in 1951. But once again the membership fell away and the club went into recess. In 1968 a social club was formed but as the Avenue Road courts had been sold for private development the courts at Manawatu College were used. In 1978 this club also went into recess to be reformed in 1981.

 

Above: The tennis courts in 1909 which were located on the Ravensworth Place-Watson Street corner overlooking the river.

 

Bowls is another lawn sport and although it has had a shorter history it has been a continuous one. The first attempt to establish a club in the borough was in 1908 when a public meeting was called to consider such a proposal and although a committee was set up a club did not eventu­ate. However, the next attempt in 1910, was more successful and a Bowling and Croquet Club was established. At the first meeting an issue of debentures was organised and by the end of the meeting 150 pounds of the desired 300 pounds was raised. On the 8 October the first general meeting was held, G. H. Stiles elected president. H. Witchell (who had been a prime mover for a club) became secretary/treasurer, and C. Spring elected caretaker. A green was laid on the present site, tried out on 17 September, and officially opened on 7 December. Croquet was under way in the next year but the women were also allowed to play bowls. The Herald in February 1911 recorded "The Club is pleased to welcome the ladies to the green and hope to see more playing in the future. Any wishing to join are requested to kindly notify the secret­ary." A Ladys Committee functioned for some years but it was not until 1948 that a Women's Bowling Club was set up. In 1924 the club made its first foray into national competitions when two rinks entered the cham­pionships. F.D. Whibley was runner up twice in the Champion of Cham­pion singles in the early twenties but the first local players to gain success at the top level were R. Roore and J. Thompson. These two dominated the Manawatu Pairs title winning it in four consecutive years, 1934 to 1937. They were also in the champion rinks of 1935 and 1936. To their successes can be added those of clubmates K. de Ridder and W. Trueman who in 1937 reached the semi-finals of the New Zea­land pairs.

 

Above: Bowling champs of the 1920s. Back - F. Whibley; Charles Ross. Front - Wil­liam Nye, Roore Rangiheuea.

 

The years during and after World War Two brought to the fore several players who proved to be the equals of the best. The most successful were H. (Nin) Huff, H. Graham, and K. (Skinny) Robinson all of whom won a Center Gold Star. Three others, H. Robson, P. Huff and D. (Midge) Dunn also performed well but the fifth title that would earn them their Gold Star has proved elusive. It is a pity that many of these bowlers were unable to afford the time and cost of taking part in national tournaments for they certainly had the ability to achieve national titles. The best performed of the lady bowlers have been L. Perreau, N. Robinson and A. Dunn who have been together in Manawatu title winning fours on three occasions. In 1957 the club showed it achieved permanent status in the borough by purchasing the site of its greens from the council. The negotiation of this transaction included a lot of discussion on ,the future of Croquet Club and a guarantee of its playing rights was sought but not obtained. However the number of players began to fall off until the club was disbanded in about 1961. The croquet green was replaced with a bowling surface. The replacement of the grass green with one of cotula gave a surface that was more dur­able and versatile especially in wet conditions. In 1987 plans were afoot to extend the clubrooms onto the site where the original clubrooms had been built several years before.

The indoor version of bowls was a late arrival on the Foxton scene. A meeting was held in 1948 with members of the Levin Club in the hope of establishing the sport in the town. In 1949 a club was established with V.C. Rotherham president and L.J. Smith secretary-treasurer and it met in the Town Hall supper room. The club later moved to the Masonic Hall and in 1953 club members made their first entry into the New Zealand championships. The Memorial Hall was used from 1954 to 1960 but in 1958 the wharf sheds, all that remained of the port of Foxton, was purchased by the growing club. Upgrading, including the replacement of the floor, was carried out and in 1960 a magnificent venue was available for the Awahou Centre's play. One of the features on their programme has become the annual Labour Weekend Tourna­ment. On the playing mat the first major achievement at national level was in 1958 when A. Cox and W. Graham were runners up in the pairs. But the top performance was the effort of G. Brensell (skip), R. Willers, Mrs N. Brensell, and Mrs R. Willers who in 1965 captured the New Zealand fours title.

Another sport which has both indoor and outdoor versions is basket­ball although the outdoor version is known as netball today. The begin­nings of netball in the town are unclear but it was almost certainly introduced to the local school first, at least by 1921. By 1929 a club was established and in 1930 games were played as part of a promotion of the sport among the locals. 1934 was a milestone in the establishment of basketball when an association was formed with teams representing Town, Old Girls, School and Factory. The association's officers were D. Pillar (president), M. Ross (vice-president) and M. Yorke (secretary/­treasurer). The association's life was a brief one for in 1939 the game was being revived under the auspices of the Cycling and Athletic Club. Affiliation at a regional level was first with Te Kawau (1940) and then Horowhenua (1941). The club held its matches at Victoria Park on grass courts but later moved to the sealed courts at the District High School. In the sixties teams travelled to Levin for their games. In those days it was certainly a young womens game as one new arrival found she was the "old maid" of the team at the age of 21! It might be interesting to see how many of her team mates took part in the resurgence of the sport which took place in 1972 with the re-establishment of the Foxton Association. The hive of activity at the college courts each Saturday during the winter has become a regular part of Foxton life. The itchy feet of the men spectators led them to forming a team but as yet they have not been able to take part in Saturday competitions.

Indoor basketball made its appearance in Foxton in 1958 in conjunc­tion with the Te Awahou Sporting Club. In 1960 games were played against teams from Palmerston North with the Memorial Hall as the venue. Later the Sporting Club moved to its gymnasium in Cook Street where Ken Laursen continued to organise matches. The top players formed teams that competed in Levin competitions from time to time. In 1975 John Knights arrived as a teacher at the college and organised a team called Cougars. This team proved the equal of the other teams in the region and among its achievements was the winning of the 1976 Palmerston North B Grade tournament. Basketball continues to be play­ed in the local gymnasium.

This gymnasium is one of a long line of buildings that have been used for physical training and the playing of many sports. From the early days boxing and wrestling matches were arranged in any venue that could accommodate the event and crowd. For example, in 1889 James Dunn fought Robert Kirkwood for a purse of 10 pounds a side at an unnamed local venue. In 1904 P. Robinson advertised a boxing tourna­ment for anyone who wished to take part. In 1914 interest was high enough to consider setting up an association but this was yet another idea that failed. At the 1936 Christmas Cheer carnival wrestling bouts were held and among those taking part was Alan Harvey who was to become a prominent figure in local boxing after the war. His most noteworthy achievement was when he refereed (on television) the final Commonwealth Games trials in 1970. A boxing club was functioning in 1939 using the Scout Hall in Watson Street (at that time known as the Red Gym) as a gymnasium and the sport has been part of the Te Awahou Sporting Club's programme from time to time. Wrestling also has a checkered history. Bouts were organised on a casual basis throughout the years and it was often the local policeman who was the local star. One such policeman was Const D. Dickson who in bouts with touring wrestlers showed that when he was around the law did have a "strong arm"! Professionals often visited and A. Jenkins promoted many bouts during the 1950s including one between Al Costello and Earl McCready. In 1955 the Te Awahou Sporting Club was established and with Ken Laursen as its driving force, star performer on the mat, and referee, kept both boxing and wrestling alive. When the club moved to its Cook Street gym in 1965 it continued to provide training and parti­cipation in a number of sports. Gymnastics and physical fitness has often created interest in Foxton. In 1904 Len Furrie set up a Gym Club and physical fitness for life was its focus. In 1905 Brother Fox was running a School of Physical Culture and two years later R.O. Jarret was holding physical culture classes. Although interest in physical fit­ness no doubt continued clubs do not seem to have been organised. Indeed, apart from the Te Awahou Sporting Club, the Gymnastics Club started at Coley Street School by Lola Lane in 1958 seems to be the only other. Karate was introduced into the town in 1978 and Bill Harvey soon learnt the skills which have gained him a national ranking. In recent years Brent Schamm has been the leading figure in tae kwon do both as a performer and instructor.

Although New Zealand does not accept firearms as a legal form of self defence they are allowed to be used for recreation. Most forms of shooting have been tried by. Foxtonians and acclimatisation activities are reported as early as 1879 and the provision of game for shooters, particularly pheasants, still goes on. In the Foxton area the presence of sambur deer was an attraction for stalkers although most times they travelled further afield. Organised shooting clubs of various types have existed in the past. We have had Rifle Clubs, Gun Clubs, Miniature Rifle, and Rifle, Rod and Gun Club. A rifle club of some form existed almost continuously from 1880 to the twenties. A Gun Club appeared from 1912 to 1915 and for some years after 1924. In 1947 E. Burling of Himatangi was the driving force behind the formation of a Rod and Gun Club. Like all the earlier clubs this one used land at the Target Reserve behind the Racecourse as their headquarters holding regular clay pi­

geon shoots until 1957. The club finally disbanded in 1961. The top performances from a local shooter came from N. (Mick) Petersen who, in 1959, as a member of the Levin Club won the Queen's Prize at Trentham. Mick went on to represent New Zealand at Bisley, the Perth Commonwealth Games, and in 1966 won the Ballinger belt for the third time. In the same year Norma Ingram struck a blow for women when she was the first of her sex to win the C Grade title at Trentham narrowly missing the Queen's Fifty. In recent years a number of Foxto­nians have competed as members of the Levin and Poroutawhao Clubs.

How soon Foxtonians started shooting for pars on the golf course has not been finally established. Confusion is created by a Manawatu Herald report on 10 August 1897 of the results of matches played between Mrs Still and Mrs J.B. Pascal and Mr Pascal and Mr L. Abra­ham. There is no mention of a club or venue so perhaps the match was played elsewhere. However the sport did get under way in 1913 when a club was formed to play to F.S. Easton's land at the end of Avenue Road opposite the cemetery. Dr Mandl and J.L. Harvey led a group of 30 members in this venture. How long the club continued for has not been established but Maurice Baird recalls seeing golf being played on the site and Eddie Petersen has memories of looking for golf balls there. The next club formed was a private one located at "Herrington" on the Beach Road. This was opened in June 1925 with nine holes and P.E. Easton as president. Affiliation with the New Zealand Golf Association took place in 1927 with Jack Newton as secretary. Four holes on Mr Archer's land across the road was added in 1932. For a short time Foxton had two golf courses for Maurice Baird was instrumental in establishing another club with nine holes on F.S. Easton's land behind the tow paddocks on the northern boundary of the town. This Foxton club lasted until 1938 and the Herrington catered for the locals until 1946. Mr H. Hannay began the moves that led to the opening of the present links in 1949. Many hours of voluntary labour have seen the original nine holes grow first to a thirteen hole layout and finally a fully fledged 18 hole course. Of the many champions who have won title on the course the most accomplished was Ralph Jenkins, senior champ four times, three of them in succession. But there are those, however, whose stories warrant recording by some club scribe. As a club the best performance by the men was in 1963 when their team won promotion to the A grade pennant competition. A product of the Foxton club, Mal­colm Wells, was selected in the 1987 Wanganui-Manawatu team for the Government Life Inter-provincial Tournament. For the women in the club victories in the Takapau Cup played for against the other Horo­whenua clubs have been highlights. Lyn Prew has dominated the senior section of the ladies championships and her name appears twelve times on the honours board. Lyn Pennell who has played top provincial teams in other areas is probably the most capable of the women golfers the club has had. The first attempt at playing summer golf was made in 1954 and although the course dries out badly this has become an integ­ral and profitable part of the club's activities. The extension of the course to 18 holes in 1966 was made possible in part, by the removal of the plantation from the railway land along the front of the course. The original clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1951 and the replacement has been added to several times to give the present facility.

Living on the riverside and near the sea, Foxtonians have, and still do, turned to the water for much of their sport and recreation. From the early days the river gave fish and birds for the table and Foxton became well known as the source of Wellington's flounder and whitebait - "Fresh Foxton Flounder" was a common sign on the capital's streets. The stories about whitebait and whitebaiters are numerous, catches so big they were measured by the kerosene tin and then often taken home to feed to the chooks. Stories abound over the fight for possies especial­ly along the banks of Whitebait Creek at the beach. Today the bait is scarce but each season somebody gets a lift that has the locals dream­ing about days gone by. The rivers and lakes in the district have been the destination of duck shooting expeditions through the century. The supply of ducks and swans is still plentiful but the weather can often mean disappointing bags on the all important opening day. Vigils on the waterside waiting for the appearance of ducks and whitebait have be­come a feature of life in Foxton - but the careful have their means of keeping away the cold! At times the baiters have also had their lookouts to try to evade the police when fishing illegally in Whitebait Creek.

Travel along the river has been part of everyday activity from the earliest days and much recreational activity has followed on from that. Casual rowing was a genteel pastime for Sunday afternoon and the more energetic took place in regattas held from time to time. The Herald of 1879 records an active rowing club taking part in a regatta which also included sailing races. Rowing was therefore one of the earliest sports organised in the town. This club was like most others in that it had periods of activity followed by recess. In 1889 the Rowing Club was calling for tenders for the construction of a shed to house its equipment. The peak of achievement for the Foxton rowers came with the performances of the four of A. Howe, J. Symons, J. and W. Collins. This crew rowing in the famous "Dolly Varden" shell won all the regat­tas in the central part of New Zealand and were regarded as the unoffi­cial New Zealand champions.

 


Above: HERRINGTON GOLF CLUB - Members of Herrington Golf Club, Foxton, outside their clubrooms, 1929 – 1930.
Those in the photograph include:- C Procter, M E Perreau, D Gilbert, A P Easton, B W Pedersen, ? Newton, H Tait, R H Robinson, Mrs Hewett, L Thompson, Rev Walton, W Trueman, J K Hornblow, Miss B Spiers, Miss M Kilgour, Mrs Hornblow, Miss E Barber, Miss B Robinson, Mrs A Ross, Mrs Walton, Mrs J Robinson, Mrs H Robinson, Robin Mason, Miss C Robinson, Miss F Robinson, Mrs Mason, Mrs Jagger, F Mason, Mrs Newton, Miss J Bowe, G F Smith, Miss G Neylon, Mrs P Austin, Mrs Parkes, Mrs Smith, Mrs Perreau, Miss Wanklynn, C Petersen, Miss M Goodwin, E Wilson, S Mattar, Miss L Robinson, Father Brennan, L C Bryant, D Bryant, M Hewett, Miss N Woods, S H Poole, B Bergin, Miss N Robinson. Plus visitors on Opening Day.

 

 The value of the Whirokino Stretch as a rowing venue has given rise to much discussion over the years. Hopes of a Webb v Arnst world championship on the stretch were high in 1908. This did not eventuate but New Zealand and Australian rowers did do battle there in 1909. Continual attempts were made to keep the club going but although the rowing shed and boats were still on the riverside rowers such as H. McKegney had to travel to Wanganui to compete during the early years of the war. It was not until 1933 when Tom Crotty arrived and revived the club, which had been in recess for 12 years, that things looked up. Of the locals that Tom's enthusiasm encouraged the most successful was Jim Purcell. In 1938 he won the maiden single and double sculls at the New Zealand championship regatta at Wanganui. In 1947 the end of rowing in Foxton was heralded with the dismantling of the boat shed that had been built to replace the one destroyed by fire in 1920. Rowing was in the Foxton headlines again in 1958 when Frank Crotty, son of Tom, was included in the Commonwealth Games squad while represent­ing Wanganui. But rowing has not reappeared as a sport in Foxton despite the effort of the Wellington Star Club who in 1978 held a ten day, camp at Manawatu College and invited any interested locals to come along and have a try.

The river was also the beginning of another sport, that of swimming. The history of any town on a river is full of mishaps in which the ability to swim has been the difference between life and death. Swimming in the river was, and is, a risky business and being able to swim was recognised as a necessary skill. All rivers have spots which become known as an ideal place to swim and in Foxton's case the spot at the mouth of the Te Awahou Stream was the one. As early as 1890 swim­ming events were being included in the Rowing Club regatta. In 1905 F. de Ridder wrote to the Manawatu Herald suggesting the development of baths on the banks of the river as a desirable development. Although swimming continued to be contested at regattas it was not until 1923 that a Swimming Club was organised and this intended using the old swimming hole at the mouth of the Te Awahou. A public meeting came to the decision that the situation regarding the site for baths came down to a question of water suitability or water availability. It was the former that won out and once the new water scheme was fully operational in 1925 steps got underway that saw baths completed in Easton Park by 1927.

 

Above: The Boating and Sailing Club hold a regatta at their shed behind the Fozton Hotel. Boats were available for public hire as well as being used for racing.

 


Above: The Surf Club in its early days. Left to right - G.K. Shaw, G.M. Baird, G. Hirini, L. King, L.J. Thompson, W.J. Barrat, L.G. Robinson, W.F.Hussey, N.S. Wishart, S. Bills.

 

The most successful swimmer in the early years of the bath's life was W. Harrison who won Manawatu titles over a number of years and along with the Hirini brothers W., R. and J. formed the basis of the Flying Squadron that won the Flying Squadron relay at the Manawatu champs of 1930. In 1931 the Swimming Club went into recess although groups such as the Sports Association and the newly formed Surf Club held swimming carnivals. An ex-Foxtonian W. Whareaitu (then of Rotor­ua) was included in the 1934 Empire Games team as a backstroker. In 1946 the swimming section broke away from the Sports Association to set up on their own. President was P. Robbie and secretary Mrs Eva Wells, who was to carry on to many years of service both as an adminis­trator and coach. Her daughter Julie-Ann was setting Manawatu re­cords by 1950. Another administrator of note at this time was Jack Hogan whose work for swimming in the Manawatu was to be long standing. In 1955 Leonie Broad hit the headlines with her numerous Manawatu records and titles. She obviously passed on that ability for, together with her husband Bill Kuiti, she produced and coached a very successful family of swimmers. Michael (3rd in the 1970 Teleprinter final and 3rd in the National Age Groups in 1971), Marie, Bill jnr, and Wendy all competed successfully at top levels. As far as club achieve­ments are concerned 1959 stands out as Noeline Andrews, Alison Bowles and Basil Vertongen all finished fourth at national level. Basil's efforts were so impressive that he was included in the National Junior Training School, a group that included Eva Wells as a coach. Basil followed this up with two thirds at the next national championships. In 1964 the new, extended baths were opened and were soon put to use as the venue for the Manawatu championships. Although these baths were a great improvement the rapidly increasing standard of competitive swimming meant that the cold water baths did not give a long enough training season to reach the top. As a consequence some of the keener swimmers (and perhaps keener parents!) of the seventies and eighties have decided to travel to Levin for extra coaching under the watchful eye of successful professional coach Dick Treloar. The best achieve­ments gained by these have been those of Lisa Mason (2 silver and a bronze) and Brenda Ingram (finalist) at national level.

Not quite concerned with water temperature have been the members of the Surf Club which has its headquarters at Foxton Beach. The Foxton Surf and Lifesaving Club was established in 1930. The impetus for its founding was a discussion by some of the locals sitting on the beach after there had been a drowning. Within two years clubrooms had been constructed in Nelson Street and G. Shaw was captain of an enthusiastic club. In 1933 the club has allocated the New Zealand Cham­pionships but a heavy westerly swell put paid to the chance of using the Ocean Beach. An attempt was made to use the sheltered river beach but after land drills were judged the competitors found the tide had fallen and they could walk out to the buoys! However the first Annual Confer­ence of the national body was held in the Foxton Town Hall and in December Maurice Baird represented the club at the first A.G.M. At the end of the war the watch tower set up for coastal watching became redundant and the Surf Club bought it but not before the War Assets Reduction Board had extracted a payment of 25 pounds. In 1946 fund raising and voluntary work enabled the clubrooms to be shifted and the upgraded on the corner of Marine Parade. The Club was building up a foundation of efficiency and skill which has stretched on for 50 years without a drowning on the beach when patrols have been in action. Interest began to fall away during the fifties and the 1960 A.G.M. lacked a quorum. In 1962 Joe Jordan of Palmerston North took an interest in the club and under his encouragement it began to recover. Joe has since served for many years on the Western District Associa­tion including holding the position of president. After a season of re­building there was a resurgence of interest in 1963-4. An old Bedford van was bought with the aid of the Foxton Lions. This was used to transport members to the beach and was domiciled in Palmerston North where several members lived. Gradually interest began to dwindle again and in 1971 a public meeting was held to organise the winding up but instead it decided to reform the club and one of the first actions was to demolish the old clubrooms. In 1972 the membership base was widened when the first women members were allowed to join. After using a small garage for some years the Club, with full community support was able to build the present, spacious building. Leadership over the past two decades has been given by Basil Vertongen who has been rewarded with the New Zealand service award. Basil has shown particular interest in the use of power craft in life saving and is a national judge for this event at championships. One whom he trained was Lyn Garrick and she became the first woman in Australasia to become a licensed powercraft operator. At national level the best achievement has come from Sean Murphy who was placed in the Junior Ski race in the 1984-85 season. The Club itself is proud of gaining five of the last ten annual awards for the best patrol on the west coast.

There are several other sports which have taken place in the borough for greater or shorter time, with greater or lesser skill. The attraction of rinking at indoor venues such as the Town Hall was here from the early days. In 1889 advertisements were appearing in the Herald and in 1890 "polo" was being listed as an attraction-perhaps this was the fore­runner to roller hockey! These rinking activities were enthusiastically followed through the nineties and even hurdle races were included. As with others sports skating went through slumps and peaks. Roller hock­ey was being played in 1913, and in 1927 the Theatre Royal was being used as a rink. For a number of years focus shifted to the skating rink at Foxton Beach where the first national roller hockey champs were held in 1954. One local boy to do well at this time was Nelson Speirs who was a runner up at the national championships in 1955. In Foxton a rink was formed in the area behind the Band Hall during the fifties but skating, as an organised activity has not reappeared since the club disbanded in 1961. But the skaters are still with us for technological advances have seen the development of more robust wheels so that any hard surface can be skated on. In addition the development of the skateboard has given much versatility to the young of the town.

Smooth movement is also the aim of the young ladies who have chosen marching as their sport. In 1946 the Horowhenua Association was formed and in the next year three Foxton teams attended their championships. Leaders of these teams were Smiths - F. Podmore, Woolpacks - L. Evans (chosen best leader), Juniors - M. McLaughlan. Various teams have been formed in subsequent years including Mar­shall's Midgets, Fusilliers and Grenadiers. Today the sport is carried on by the Grenadiers under the guidance of Murray Parfitt. In 1987 the club had more teams competing than any other in the lower North Island.

 

Above: The Baths opened in 192Z. Although smaller than the present day ones, they were deeper and had a diving board, here being used as a speaking platform by the dignitaries.

 



Above: Marching girls of 1947 (left to right) - Zena Betty, Audrey Burr, Joyce 0'Reilly, Shirley Thompson, Anne Merriman, ? Haycock, Pam Marshall, ? Mounsey, Heather McKenzie.

 

For a brief period around 1948 greyhound racing, which took place at the Beach, entertained the locals. For many years locals have raced homing pigeons throughout the country. Billiards were for a long time an integral part of life from earliest days. The Herald reported in June 1892 that "A billiard tournament is now being played at Whyte's Hotel, in which the bankers and principal citizens are taking place." Apart from matches by the Fire Brigade snooker and billiards have not been organised sports. There have however been billiard saloons in several locations in the town the most recent of these being next door to the Racing Club offices. During the twenties the Fire Brigade took part in matches for the Coley Shield a competition revived in 1947. Outstanding players such as Clark McConachy have visited the town and played the best of the local players.

Several sports are similar to billiards and snooker in that they have been played a lot but not necessarily other than in a social manner. In 1965 a Badminton Club was established, for many years in the sixties a Table Tennis Club met regularly, and in 1984 social volleyball was organised. A BMX club existed from 1982 to 1987 using a track laid out on the old railway land. In 1984 a Squash Club was formed and has built courts in Victoria Park. Indoor games have also had their followers. A Chess Club flourished in the nineties. The Bowling Club organised draught competitions in 1950. Darts have been played by Hotel Social Clubs for several years along with games of eight ball pool. Carlo Stella went further than throwing a few darts at the pub when he was success­ful at North Island level. Card clubs have been formed from time to time but generally they have been part of other activities or else been used for fundraising. Crib was a favourite game for the first two de­cades of this century but in the thirties euchre took over as the main "competition" game. Several forms of motor sport have been tried in Foxton. As with rowing, Whirokino has been an attraction for speed­boating. T.S. Madge of Palmerston North tried out the river in 1930. In 1936 F.W. Pullyn (Foxton Beach) won the New Zealand championship in his boat Miss Manawatu. In 1949 Bill Woodcock in his craft Miss Foxton began to show the form which gained him a ranking in top national company. On the speedway track at Palmerston North several Foxto­nians have tried their luck in Racers, bikes, saloons and stocks. In the early thirties Jack Gower was a top rider at the Palmerston North speedway. In the more recent sport of stock cars the most successful has been David Evans who in his "Tank" crashed his way to many successes including the New Zealand title in 1984 and 1985 and was a regular member of the Palmerston North Panthers team. Smaller en­gines were used by the go-karters who began a local club in 1960. Lionel Tatton and Jim McMillan were the main forces behind this move and in 1961 a first class track was laid on part of the Target Reserve. Although several of the members reached North Island championship level the most successful was Laurie Gudsell who won two New Zealand titles in 1965. The status of the club and track was shown in 1966 when the visiting Australian team competed locally.

Softball first came to Foxton in 1941 when teams from Wellington and Wanganui played an exhibition game. It was not until 1953 when Gra­ham Bloomfield organised a womens team that the game was organised on a regular basis. Since then men's and women's teams have appeared a number times as interest has waxed and waned. One of the features for several seasons was the appearance of New Zealand star Kevin Herlihy as a member of a Foxton invitation team. The women's team of 1983-84 provided a-highlight for the sport when they won the Horowhe­nua title.

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