Dundas Tennis Club

Pre Club History (1800-1919):

In the late 1800s tennis was already a popular pastime for the upper-class citizens of Canada. Before the establishment of the Dundas Tennis Club, the sport had been played privately on local properties by citizens of Dundas across the town for many years. Backyards, open fields, and public lots were among some of the various locations that held local Tennis matches during this time. The area that would become the park holding the Dundas Tennis Club was a privately owned property during the early 1800s, but by 1886, the town of Dundas purchased the land for $3,500.00 to be used as a public park. By 1919, under the mayorship of Frank Exton Lennard, the town established the Dundas Driving Park as a community park through the Park Board and Public Park Act. The Park Act created the tennis courts and the funds necessary to establish the Dundas Tennis Club, and the club had to pay rent to the Parks Board for the use and upkeep of the park and courts. 

Inter-War Years (Great Depression) (1923-1939): 

With the public recreation space that the Driving Park awarded, Dundas finally had room for communal tennis courts – and with those, a club. On April 1st, 1924, members of the community gathered to discuss the logistics and planning for what would come to be known as the Dundas Tennis Club. Following a second meeting on May 30th, it was confirmed that the club would be allowed to establish courts in the coveted “Cove” section of the park. Transforming the space once used for socials and picnics, the tennis courts ushered in a new wave of enthusiastic Dundasians excited to use the space. With the chance to take their passion for the sport outside of their private properties, those who could afford it signed up to join the club’s member list and began to build a small community of players within the town.

Despite the mass-struggling and financial hardships that were brought on by the 1930s, the Dundas Tennis Club managed to stay in business, and accommodate their members at the same time. Reducing membership fees by fifty percent, and offering more short-term options, the club worked hard to support itself, and the community, in any way it could. Beyond tennis-based initiatives, the club also held parades, contests, festivals, plays, concerts, and a variety of other fundraising endeavours, raising upwards of $670.00 to help the club stay afloat during the Great Depression and support the needs of its members. Managing to survive, the club joined the Hamilton Area and District Tennis League in May 1936 and continued to remain open to those who came to play. With a tight-knit community and the tennis spirit driving their actions, the club had secured its place within the town and its role in the lives of its members. With the Depression Years coming to an end, they now had a new challenge to face – their clubhouse, which had begun to fall into complete disarray.

 War Years (1939-1945):

After the significant drop in membership fees and the loss of some personnel as a result of the Great Depression, the 1940s saw a steady increase in membership rates. With more members, there was now more need than ever for the construction of a new clubhouse. By August 1943, a Jamboree was set to take place to raise funds for its completion. The event was made up of several activities, including parades, costume and beauty contests, and concerts by local Dundasian musicians and bands. By completion, the Jamboree raised approximately $400 out of the $500 needed, with Mayor Robert Hunter advocating for volunteer efforts to make up the rest of the money. For five years, tennis club members continued to stage dances, draws, plays, and bake sales, tirelessly working to raise funds for the clubhouse. Nearly ten years after its initial call for creation, the clubhouse construction began in 1948, coming to completion in 1950, and lasting the club until 1978 – when a lack of space due to high membership, once again, forced it to expand.

Postwar (1945-):

The years following the war witnessed the sustained popularity and expansion of the club. In 1978, recognizing the burgeoning membership, the clubhouse underwent another reconstruction to accommodate the growing number of members. Initially designed to cater to 200 players, the space found itself overwhelmed by the skyrocketing enrollments, which had tripled the original capacity and were still on the rise. As the club continued to expand, Ann Parker, at the time a volunteer president and honorary lifetime member, spearheaded initiatives to provide additional tennis facilities. This endeavour led to the installation of courts at Highland Secondary School in the 1970s and cemented Parker’s voice as a historical supporter of the club. The Dundas Tennis Club continued to participate in games all over Ontario and hosted several tennis and community events. Between 2006 and 2008, a tournament was hosted in memory of past president, Debbie Thurley, drawing in players from all over Ontario. In the tennis spirit, the proceeds from both tournaments were donated to Camp Trillium Charity.

Today, the Dundas Tennis Club remains a prominent facet of the community, with many members still partaking in games and tournaments, throughout the summer months. With a waitlist for member sign-up to this day, it is safe to say that the club has solidified its importance to Dundas, and its place in the town for another hundred years!

Thanks to the students of McMaster University Department of History for their assistance with this project.

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