When the bowlers get out on the green, you know summer is coming… or it could be the Spanish Armada.
Lawnbowling has captivated Langley for 35 years.
But the sport has been around much longer than that, explained Langley Lawn Bowling Club (LLBC) president Chester Murray, noting that Sir Francis Drake would not allow his bowls to be interrupted when he got news that an armada was on its way from Spain.
“The response is supposed to have been, ‘There’s plenty of time to finish the game and thrash the Spanish, too’,” said Murray. The 1588 battle remains, of course, one of England’s greatest victories at sea.
While the world’s oldest known bowling green dates back to 1399 in Plymouth, England, Langley’s green came together much more recently – in 1982.
Bill Lott, one of Langley City’s first aldermen and for many years Langley’s civil defence radiation monitor, was instrumental in getting three former civil defence trailers set up at a seniors complex in Langley City, explained LLBC member Bill Pike.
Pike joined the LLBC because of “my friend George Kennedy, who was a long-time member there.”
He noted that many of Langley’s prominent residents have been part of the club through the years, including well-known environmental activist Reese Griffiths – who recently passed away.
A Langley resident since 1945, Pike became involved with the club in 2000.
“We have eight greens, so we can bowl 16 teams at a time,” said Pike, “and it’s all maintained by volunteer labour, with a little bit of help in the spring from the Kwantlen [Polytechnique University] turf class.”
The Kwantlen students come in and help set up the 15-foot greens for the beginning of each season, which this year starts on Saturday with an official opening and open house.
“We have a little luncheon and then we throw a couple of bowls, and we depend on the weather a lot,” said Pike.
The weather is looking questionable for this year’s event, he said. But the rain has apparently been good for the green.
“It’s coming well,” said Pike. “We cut it like a golf green, and we alternate where we play – we can play east-west or north-south – so that the grass doesn’t wear out in a particular direction.”
Langley City’s Mayor Ted Schaffer is expected to attend. Both Murray and Pike pointedly noted the club is “very, very well supported by the City.”
Murray added that Langley MLA Mary Polak generally comes out for the opening, as well as Schaffer, “and MP Mark Warawa comes down sometimes.”
“We all know summer is coming,” said Murray, “because they all come down to play bowls.”
The club covers all of Langley, and a matchup between the Township and City is usually plays out later in the season.
“People just come and have fun,” said Murray, “which it’s all about.”
“There’s a sort of a loosey goosey drop-in,” said Pike.
“Anybody can come in to play, and we invite anybody to come in and try it. We ask for $25 from a person, and they can come in and try it during the lessons with our coaches, and if they desire to go forward, that $25 applies to the first year’s membership.”
Pike added: “It’s a very inexpensive sport. You can bowl your face off from April to late September for about $150, and there’s no other fee. We have bowls that you can use in the club, or you can purchase your own. It’s about $400 for a set of bowls.”
It’s also easy on the body.
“It’s not very… aerobic,” Pike explained. “It’s just a gentle sport, mostly social. I’m not a very good bowler, but I’ve progressed to where I bowl in tournaments, so it’s broadened my circle of friends to the 21 clubs.”
He concluded, “It’s mild exercise and the social aspect is very beneficial.”
This year’s official opening and open house will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, at 20471 54th Ave., at the south end of Douglas Park.