1939 Edge of the precipice

After last season’s single win, the club was reinvigorated and motivated to produce better results at regattas. Several good lightweight crews emerged this season and in most cases were stroked by Warwick Ehms. Warwick’s father, Carl, had been a successful oarsman in the early 1900’s and Warwick and later his brother Alan followed the family tradition starting as a cox and becoming a good lightweight rower. Mr. C. H. (Harry) Bunce continued as president for the 11th consecutive year. The Captain this season was T. J. Stevens who also coached most of the winning crews. The club’s determined efforts paid off when we advanced from 21st to eighth position on the Junior premiership. This was a particularly gratifying result as many of the experienced club members from the past two or three seasons had transferred to other places mainly for employment and the club relied on its younger less experienced oarsmen who certainly proved equal to the task.

The club was represented at most regattas – VRA, Henley, Colac, VRA /Upper Yarra, Barwon and Ballarat. The club scored two wins at Colac in a lightweight Maiden eight and four, a Junior pair at Barwon and a Lightweight maiden pair at Ballarat. We again won the premiership at Ballarat Novice regatta by scoring a first and a third in the Novice fours and winning the Maiden eight and Novice sculls making it a Ballarat City benefit.

The Social Club proved yet again to be a great asset to the club giving the club 100 pounds towards its operating costs and paying the 200 pounds required to have the shed finally connected to the sewerage system. Sports Nights were again held during the winter and members and friends enjoyed the variety of activities. Open day was held on Sunday November 5th. Mr. Bunce donated trophies for Scratch pairs that were won by J. Reilly and H. Reilly. Two new pairs were christened by the now very accomplished christener of boats- Mrs. Bunce. They were named the L.JOHNSON and the N.WOOD. Another series of scratch pairs were raced for trophies presented by P. Larmer. This series was won by J. Grenfell and H. Reilly. A fine entry was also received for the Bickart Scratch fours rowed over the last half mile of the regatta course. It was won by W. Holden, F. Reece, Alf Bannister and A. Cochrane by a very narrow margin.

This season also saw the innovation of filming crews in training. Mr. Lew Zillies took movies of crews in training to assist with improving their rowing. This was a highly advanced addition to coaching and training and City must have been among the very first clubs to use film as a coaching tool! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those films had survived!

This photo from Alan Ehms shows Bob Mitchell, Arch Seddon, Frank McQuan, Dick Lee and the young Alan Ehms enjoying lunch at Deer Park on their way to Henley Regatta by car in January 1939.

The trip by car on the old Melbourne Road used to take considerably longer than it does today. It would have been about a three hour trip. Therefore it would have made sense to stop and have something to eat on the way to the regatta. They are also very well dressed compared to the oarsmen of today-blazers, hats and ties were mandatory, even for the coxswain!

In September 1939 just prior to the opening of the rowing season war against Germany was declared and the world that was just recovering from the Great Depression was flung into the maelstrom that was to become World War Two. Once again “our boys” marched away to war. This war though would be carried right to our very doorstep and was so much closer in every way to every Australian. Despite war being declared the VRA carried on a normal regatta season for this season. Senior and junior premierships were held but the Interstate Championships were abandoned. Albert Park won the Senior Premiership and Footscray the Junior. City, who had just started to improve their regatta results again were in a quandary as were many sporting clubs. How to keep going with all the young men off fighting? Again the older members came to the fore. Although too old to be called up they served their country by preserving as much of everyday life as they could. They ran the clubs and societies and frequently they joined the home guard.

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