Posted July 21, 2018 08:00:13>
> Photo: The West Australian rowing club is now the oldest on the city shore of the Swan River. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
>Map: Perth 6000
Freezing mornings, dim light, cold water — for John Vos it's the best time of the day and has been for the past 53 years.
"When you are rowing, on the river, you can feel the city come alive," the West Australian Rowing Club life member says of early mornings on the Swan River.
"You hear the sirens, see people running along here, jogging and bike riding.">
> Photo: John Vos has been rowing since 1964 and "loved every minute". (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
Mr Vos joined the club as a 15-year-old schoolboy in 1964 and has never stopped rowing since.
"I tried other sports and because I had to wear specs, I'd come home with my glasses in pieces in a brown paper bag.
"So, when the school introduced rowing it was a godsend; I liked boats, I like water, and I thought this is for me. I just leapt into it."
The last rowing shed on the city foreshore
This month the club is celebrating its 150th birthday and status as the last rowing club left on the Perth city foreshore.
It was the first rowing club in Western Australia, founded at a time when the river was busy with boats of all sizes.
The clubhouse over the water, in front of the Supreme Court, was built in 1905 and is the oldest river building in the city.>
> Photo: When the building opened in 1905 it was reached by a bridge over river shale. (Supplied: WA Rowing Club)
When the club holds its sesquicentennial celebration on Saturday, it will be honouring not just its longevity but its survival.
The clubhouse was condemned and set to be demolished before a last-ditch rescue effort and extensive restoration in the 1990s.
"When we were here in the '70s, part of the corner of the building had fallen down," Mr Vos recalled.
"It was kept together with clamps and bits of wood.
"There was nobody here with any building experience and it fell into further and further disrepair. It kept operating, how it did I don't know.
"Boards were falling off the sides and it looked terrible.">
> Photo: The clubhouse, pictured in 1993, had been close to demolition before a rescue effort by members. (Supplied: WA Rowing Club/Darryl Salisbury)
Saved from demolition
When the nearby Swan River Rowing Club building was condemned and pulled down, it seemed likely that Westies, as the club is known, would go the same way.
But a member who was a construction engineer put forward a rescue plan and the committee swung into action.
"They managed to get enough money together and support, including from the Department of Employment and Training," Mr Vos said.
"They brought the young kids down here with tradesmen and rebuilt it."
Just in time for its 150th birthday, the club has had another facelift, with a new roof, railings and a complete repainting funded by the Heritage Council.>
> Photo: Westies, as the club is known, has just had another significant renovation. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
It's not the only major change Mr Vos has seen since 1964.
When he first joined, there were no women or girls rowing.
"I first joined the club in 1964 as a schoolboy and not long after that they decided: 'Well, why can't the girls row too?'
"And immediately the number of young guys coming down was doubled."
Archaic facilities now modernised
Mr Vos said he suspected the first group of girls to join the club didn't last long due to facilities that were "pretty archaic for them" at the time.
"These showers were just an open affair with a bit of black bitumen on the floor," he said.
"I can never forget when the ladies first came and said 'we're not showering in there', because when you stood in the shower you could see the traffic moving along Riverside Drive.">
> Photo: WA Rowing Club now has a new, larger neighbour under construction at Elizabeth Quay. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
The club has long since upgraded the bathrooms for both men and women, and women are now in the majority of the club's 200-plus membership.
There is no shortage of people who share Mr Vos's love of rowing.
"They can't all come down at once, so we have to stagger the training," he said.
"It's a busy place, the crews all have to go off at separate times."
'I've had a lot of fun along the way.'
Mr Vos's rowing heyday was in the 1970s, when he was a competitive rower at state and national level, but for him rowing is mostly about enjoyment, not competition.
"I was very lucky. I got in with a good group of guys and once you win a couple of races, you are blooded, and you think, 'Well, I can do anything'.
"I represented the state twice for the King's Cup race in 1977 and 1979.
"I also tried out for the Australian championships — I never quite made that grade but that's alright, I've had a lot of fun along the way.">
> Photo: John Vos (front rower) wearing the glasses that made playing other sports difficult. (Supplied: WA Rowing Club)
And he has no plans to stop rowing.
"I have got three mates who I go rowing with just on a social basis three times a week," he said.
"We are called the Grumpies because I think the young ones think we are grumpy old men because we are always complaining about how they treat stuff," he said, laughing.
"I'd hope I could go on as long as I can, absolutely, as long as the parking costs don't go up too much.
"You have to come down very early to miss the parking meters now; that hurts."
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Source : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-21/oldest-wa-rowing-club-marks-150-years-on-swan-river/10008026