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The sporting life was all about fun and games

Published on

Phil Egan

The growth of leisure time began in Sarnia in the late nineteenth century, although many sporting clubs wouldn’t begin organized activities until the early days of the 20th century.

One of the earliest to gain popularity was curling. Scottish-Canadians introduced the sport in 1873, when twelve members formed the Sarnia Curling Club.

They crafted rinks on the ice in Sarnia Bay, and played the game on frozen ponds along the London Road.

Two years later, the club built its first rink at Christina and Johnston streets. Membership was comprised of many distinguished Sarnia names, such as John, Charles and Daniel Mackenzie, James King, George Leys, A.H. Dalziel and William Ireland.

In 1892 as the sport grew in popularity they built a beautiful curling rink known as St. Andrew’s on Christina Street. Selling it in 1911, they built a new rink on Euphemia Street. The club outgrew that too, and in 1924, moved to North Front Street to what became known later as the Children’s Arena.

Summer sports included tennis, lawn bowling and golf.

In 1905, six men built the first tennis courts at Davis and College streets. Shortly before the First World War, the club won its first Western Ontario Tennis League championship.

With many men away at war the club became dormant but picked up again in peacetime. In 1925, the revitalized Sarnia Tennis Club moved to Bayview Park and soon boasted over 100 members. It has been a constant part of Sarnia’s sporting scene ever since.

The Sarnia Lawn Bowling Club dates from the evening of Aug. 17, 1906. The club’s first greens and clubhouse were on Durand Street, just behind the courthouse and jail that stonemason and future prime minister Alexander Mackenzie had built facing Christina Street in the 1850s.

The Honourable Frederick F. Pardee, M.P., was honourary chairman of the club, which later joined with the Sarnia Curling Club to share facilities between Front and Christina streets at the foot of Maria Street.

Sarnia’s first golf club arrived in 1909, and the clubhouse was built at a cost of $600. The Sarnia Golf Club included such distinguished members as Frederick F. Pardee, W.J. Hanna, , R.V. LeSeuer, W.H. Kenny, and others.

By 1936, Sarnia’s centennial year, the city had four flourishing golf courses.

Another popular turn-of-the-century pastime was indoor baseball, which was played with large, mushy balls and stick-like bats. The bases were 27 feet apart and no gloves were worn.

The Sarnia Maple Leafs played teams from Detroit, Alpena, Port Huron and St. Clair.

Games were held in the Lambton Regiment Armoury and, later, in the Boys Brigade hall.

Unlike their namesakes in Toronto, the Sarnia Maple Leafs were winners, playing between 1898 and 1905.

Shortly after that players began taking the game outdoors where it morphed into the sport known as softball.



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