Just after the turn of the century, ten anglers and yachtsmen in the area decided to form a club and build a boathouse.
Some of the names were Richard (Dick) Williams, Fred Twentyman and Bill Omes, who was to go on to become the first president.
Early talks were held in the old bandstand, which was located where the present kiosk stands today. Further meetings were held in a loft at the back of a Mrs. Gilchrist’s house in Victoria Avenue on the corner of Lt. Page Street.
These early meetings resulted in a public meeting being called and to be held in the Continental Cafe at the northeast corner of Kerferd Road and Beaconsfield Pde.
The foundation members agreed to build a clubhouse and to put in £2 each to pay for timber, nails and other necessary materials.
The meeting held on Thursday night, 27th March 1909, was attended by The Mayor and Councillors and a membership fee of 5/-was set.
Members also attended a meeting held on the 15th May 1909 at the South Melbourne Town Hall for the purpose of advocating a £5000 extension to the Kerferd Road Pier or to put on a T-piece to make a harbor.
The Clubhouse was built on stumps rammed into the sand and back filled with broken bricks. The floor of the club was made from hardwood flooring with a sizeable gap in the planks. During a storm many mussels were washed up under the club and after a few days the smell became unbearable. It was decided to cover the front of the building in broken brick.
For many weeks, Dill Hannerbry used his horse and cart to collect brickbats (leftovers from building sites), and place them at the front of the club. He sold his horse and drank the proceeds and then later sold his cart for the same purpose. Bill was said to be the only man in the club to drink his horse and cart.
Pier at night
The formal opening of APYAC, the only angling club between St. Kilda and Williamstown, took place on October 9th 1909 and about 2000 spectators attended. The club flag was hoisted and a meeting adjourned at the clubrooms where light refreshments were served. An official opening was planned for November where a hundred clubs were to be invited. Angling competitions were arranged and trips to the salt-water river (Maribyrnong) and Werribee were held. Most trips to Werribee involved a train from Spencer Street at 6.30 is. The first annual election of office bearers was held in the clubroom in Beaconsfield Pde. And over 400 members attended. It was a heavily fought election with taxis and hansom cabs conveying voters to the meeting. The election was not concluded until just on 11.00 pm. when the result was declared.
From 1912 to 1914, many 14 foot yacht races were held against the St. Kilda, Elwood, Williamstown and Brighton Dinghy Clubs. Contrary to opinion, boats ventured past the channel with the use of small sails. Some of the first boats were the Penguin, Shamrock I and 11, Endeavor, Ruby II and John Bunny. Sailing was held every Saturday afternoon and on holidays. A civic reception was held for the Western Australia and South Australia combined dinghy clubs about 1913. It was the only interstate carnival ever held in those days.
Those anglers without sail were very strong rowers. Foster Harvison and Jack Liddicoat rowed out every trip, sometimes as far as the Farewell Beacon at the end of the channel. They pulled so hard; they regularly broke the spruce oars.
Fishing competitions were held every Saturday afternoon. Boats were hired from the lagoon, 8 anglers to a boat, and, having motors, were able to travel further than the 10 to 12 foot boats in the clubhouse which relied on oars, although one or two had sail rigged dinghies (a small mast at the stern).
Whiting competitions were held on holidays or Sundays. Trips were made to Werribee by sail and the members camped at Werribee. Bream competitions were held at Tooradin, Werribee and the salt water river (Maribyrnong).
Boat Skids were used to move the boats out of the boathouse. The skids were a set of rails down to the low water mark; boats were loaded on to a trolley and wheeled to the water. It was very heavy and cumbersome. Later, £200 was raised for a series of piles which supported a girder. Angling boats on the bottom deck of the boathouse, yachts on the top.
The rods at this time were bamboo with split cane rods appearing in the early 1920’s. The split cane rods were much stronger and made by splitting cane into six strips and gluing them together in a tight hexagonal pattern with an average length of seven feet.
It appeared that the 1914-18 War caused a big drop in membership although the competitions continued. The Heaviest Snapper competition was held each Saturday and the prize was £1. This was given in an envelope on Awards night. Some anglers borrowed so much from the Club in those years that on the night the envelope was presented, duly inscribed, but empty.
Many Flathead were caught by members drifting for them. Most of the catch would be over 2 lb in size, filling a large fish box in 3-4 hours. During the depression, there was a lot of fish sold by club members to hungry people of the area. The Kerferd Rd. pier had a regular group of 20-30 anglers fishing for flathead.
In 1922 the only fatalities in the club’s history were recorded. Hill and Jackson set off for Altona Bay to drift for flathead in a 14 foot rigged dinghy. Overnight, a howling south westerly came in. The next day the dinghy was found floating between the Kerferd Rd. Pier and The Baths. Foster Harvison remembers being taken down to the pier, when he was a lad, by his father and shown the boat, floating upside down 100 meters off shore. The bodies were never recovered.
Hill had three children, Jackson had four. The Club decided to send an annual honorarium to the widows, for well over seven years. The fishing reels used at this time were made from English hardwood, a centre-pin design, 6 inches in diameter with brass fittings. To use the reels about 16-18 yards of line were paid out into the boat before a cast. You had to make sure that there was nothing on the floor of the boat to catch the line and create a tangle.
The club was almost lost to its members because of alcohol. In 1930 the club allowed bottles of beer to be kept in members lockers. A “broken dozen” was the limit. This was anything less than 12 bottles, usually 11. There were 40 lockers, so at anytime there was quite a bit of beer on the premises.
Some members began selling beer to friends at the club, the word got out and the Liquor Commission raided the club. The Harbour Trust, our landlord, found out about it and decided to remove the club from the premises.
Albert Park Life Saving Club got wind of it and applied to take over the building. Billy Gray decided to try and save the day by forming a new committee. He was made President by promising to stop all beer at the club and when he approached the Harbour Trust, APYAC was given a one year trial under the new committee. After a second year trial, a longer lease was restored to the club.
During the early 1930’s meetings of members were held once per week. The Clubhouse did not have toilets, or running water and there was no kitchen or cooking facilities.
The depression deprived many members of a motor for their boats, the price was around £6 to £8, which was an expensive item in 1930. Fishing from the Kerferd ~d. pier was very good in these years with 68 Snapper caught by Foster Harvison in one year. Inter-club competitions were held with members of other clubs going out with our members in the same boat.
During these years juniors were not allowed up stairs in the club, without a parent. There was gambling, cards, snooker and billiards. Popular card games were solo, 4 down, euchre, blind poker and crib.
In 1929 Fred Twentyman, a grocer in Nelson Rd., introduced the first motor in a fishing boat to the Club, it was a two and a half horsepower Chapman which cost him £8.
Between 1930 and 1935 motors were introduced to other the boats in the Club. Skeeter Flighter, a South Melbourne ruckman who played alongside Roy Cazaly, bought a boat with a motor but never quite understood the thing. He never actually got the motor going and for years rowed the boat, out and back, from the fishing marks, motor and all. The wooden fishing reels were gradually replaced by the Bakelite fishing reels. Still using the same design the new reels with names like Alpha, Academy and Stellite were much prized because they did not break when dropped or stood on in the boat.
During the 1939-45 War, fishing declined mainly because of the anti-submarine nets strung across the Port Phillip Bay heads. Motor boats were not used because of the noise of the motors, upsetting the wartime listening posts but also petrol rationing had a big effect. Some members still rowed out to the fishing grounds, some as far as the Farewell buoy at the end of the channel markers.
The club had approximately 400 members. Committee members were kept busy sending newspaper clippings of football results and letters to members fighting overseas. If you had a good boat it was taken by the Government for use in the War effort. Four club boats were taken and compensation paid. Gerald Coffey and Wally Mumford had their boats bought at £2 per foot. So they received £28 for the boat, oars and anchor. The boats were used to ferry Catalina and Sunderland Flying Boat crews out to their planes in the war zones.
Before the advent of nylon fishing lines, cat gut from Japan was used. Cat gut was a stiff line that had to be soaked in water in order to free it up for casting. On the day before fishing, the reel was placed in water and then wrapped in a wet towel until the line was used. Jack Liddicoat once put his line over the side to wet it and caught a flathead on a bare hook. Cat gut could only be cast a few boat lengths and if you had a kink in the line it would break as a fish took the bait.
Boats on the shore
There were many club and interclub snooker and billiard competitions. There were both A and B grade teams playing the St. Kilda Traders, Ormond and Elwood Angling Clubs. One of the most popular teams to play was the Police Social Club. Members played on tables at Russell Street Headquarters and the supper and drinks afterward were eagerly consumed. Walter Lindrum and brother Horace gave regular exhibition games at the club. The family lived in Kerferd Rd. and were regular visitors to the club.
In 1946 nylon fishing line was introduced to the club. Bob Kimball, also a member of the Air Force, tried some nylon line used for stitching parachutes. It proved very popular with those who could get it. A few months later the line went on sale as INOVA brand nylon fishing line.
Members of the club were very impressed with this innovation. The line was 18 lb breaking strain and there was no more soaking. The breaking strain for the thinness of the new line was remarkable.
Foster Harvison was trying the new nylon line on the Convent Mark, it was his first trial. With four of the new lines in the water Foster caught a barracouta, as he reeled it in, the fish opened its mouth and cut through all 3 other lines.
With the new nylon line came fibreglass rods. Jarvis Walker began manufacturing custom made fibreglass rods for APYAC members.
He approached the club because it had the reputation as the most successful Snapper fishing club in Victoria. He was seeking a design that would be ideal for snapper using this new material. At that stage the club was pulling in over 2000 snapper per season.
The club had over 600 members buying and making rods. The Club advised Jarvis Walker where to put the rod runners for maximum strength and the addition of cork butts for grip and comfort. The rods were manufactured and sold all over Australia.
During the 1950’s the pattern of life for many members was to arrive at the club, after work, and from 4 pm to 5.30 pm, play billiards or cards, then cross the road and have a few beers at the Victoria Hotel and then home for tea after 6 pm.
Members were responsible each month to supply and operate rescue boats for the Surf Life Saving Competitions at Middle Park and Albert Park Lifesaving Clubs.
Sunday afternoons the gamblers came into the club and continued all afternoon and well into the night. It was not unusual to see the club lights on early Monday morning. The two billiard tables were heavily booked on both Saturday and Sunday. You needed to arrive at the club on Sunday morning to get your name down for a game Sunday afternoon.
In 1954 it was decided to extend the club with a west wing and this was done under the guidance of President Peter Bradley and a dedicated bunch of volunteers.
Wally Mumford was made supervisor, as it was agreed he was the “brains behind it”.
At this stage Wally’s affliction of Parkinson’s Disease was quite obvious and members could not watch when he was hammering three inch nails into the building with his shaking hand. In the same year the second gantry was constructed to allow two boats to be launched and beached at a time.
In the boathouse, hand operated chain blocks were replaced by a hydraulic hoist system.
The advent of TV in 1956 brought entertainment into the home and away from the club, and the membership languished for some years.
The press gave the club some coverage when a shark jumped into a club boat. Dicky True was fishing at Williamstown and was doing well with a shoal of 2 lb pinkies. There were so many of them that he had handlines over the stern. While pulling a pinky over the stern a shark rose up, following the fish into the boat. The shark landed with such force it caught its head between the seat and the floorboards, also trapping Dicky True’s arm under the seat. By waving, Dicky attracted another boat as he freed his arm. He jumped into the other boat and towed his boat, with the shark under the seat, back to the clubhouse. They used the gantry hook in the shark’s mouth to lift the shark from the boat. George Alley built the boat with angle iron on the seats, if he had not done so, the shark would have ripped the seat right out of the boat, and probably sank it.
Les Bell, Club Champion, decided to try these new “egg beater” fishing reels. He caught a lot of fish with the new reel and other members soon caught on. At about the same time, rod holders were introduced to club boats.
The 80’s saw the introduction of fish finders and sonar devices to track fish electronically under the boats.
A successful scallop dredging protest rally was organised by the Club in 1996, with local and State politicians in attendance. Several National radio interviews were done on the day, with the subsequent State Government banning of Scallop Dredging in 1997. Over recent years the environment of the Bay and its users has been the overriding concern of members. The decline of fish stocks, along with increasing access to passive entertainment, has contributed to a falling membership. Similar protests have been organised against the practice of netting in the Bay.
Over the 90 years of the clubs existence, APYAC has established itself in Victoria’s heritage. It has been home to many generations of families. The club has taught many hundreds of people how to fish, supported families in distress and helped one another in times of needs.
The Albert Park Yachting & Angling Club would like to thank former members Bev and Neville Stanley for this history. Neville researched and interviewed several senior members to compile this article.