Our club house

- Est. 1957 -

The clubhouse holds a special place in the hearts of all our members both past and present.  

 From the developments in swimsuits in the mid 1950's to the incomparable role of our Club Patron -  John Suann, in the procuring of our clubhouse is one of historical significance and pride for our club. 

The Bears
Before The Clubhouse

Our club was born from the passion to continue swimming throughout the off-season and friendships made through the local Surf Club's, developing facilities was not at the forefront. So during our first developing years, we didn't have a building to call 'home' (or club house), therefore, post-race antics and meetings would be held at any local Surf Club that was available.

 

Due to our members strong relationship's with the Surf Clubs, cold winter Sunday mornings were reprieved by their hospitality post-race. In the following years, the club would begin to gain legitimacy as a club both locally and interstate    

Changing Beach Culture:
An Opportunity  

With Cronulla Train Station is a convenient 5 minute walk from South Cronulla beach, thus in the early to mid 20th century it became a hub for those looking to cool off after work. It wasn't just the ending to a work day that beachgoers would flood the beach, weekends also proved a hit with families from western suburbs finding reprieve in the cooler eastern suburbs.

At the turn of the century beach culture was thriving, meaning there was an open market in developing of new technologies that would streamline the process of going for a swim.Then came the change from cotton based swimsuits to the invention of lycra and composite materials that would be quick -drying and stylish. As Club Patron, John Suann recalls "it was just easier - men would be able to change under neath their towel.Beach culture was changing and so were the facilities that fed off of it.

 

With the once viable business of the dressing sheds convenience store, beach goers were now simply by-passing the facility altogether with no need to change out of their saturated cotton swimsuits. The combination of faster drying swimsuits and the demise of the local dressing sheds, proved opportunistic for John Suann. 

wanda 1950.jpg

View looking north over South Cronulla Park and beach. In the distance is the bears ocean pool (middle of photo)

Stylish swimsuits reflecting fashion trends, Wanda Beach, c. 1950. Photographer unknown. 

Looking south over South Cronulla beach c. 1950. Sydney photographer, Frank Hurley, capturing Cronulla beach culture of swimwear trends and an abundance of sunshades. Swimmers still wearing swimsuits made from cotton and the dressing sheds still in operation (before becoming Bears HQ). 

Plans for renovations of the club house from GM Designs. These designs weren't followed to a 'T', but resemble the refurbished layout of the clubhouse. 

Fines session in play on the balcony. Camaraderie and character was built through these sessions, bringing a classic sense of Aussie humour into the club is what makes the club so distinct from the rest. C.1960-70

Our balcony in 2019 with a few structural changes to the picture on the right.

The Bears moving in:

With John's committed relationship to his community and the Bears, the clubhouse was secured by the season of '57. The whole building would proceed to be in the hands of the council to then be jointly utilised by the Bears and the Surf Club, finally finding 'home' in the northern balcony terrace. 

Not only was it a rarity that winter swimming clubs had a clubhouse to call their own, but to have a location as magnificent as the pavilion - the clubhouse was something to show off. 

 

But that wasn't before some major renovations. Removing remnants of the mens dressing sheds and creating facilities for the club would be the next task for the boys. As many of the men had skills in their respective trades, much of the blood sweat and tears that is the clubhouse today was created by some of our founding members.

Patron, John Suann, sitting in his spot at the clubhouse. Notice the hand-crafted, personalised towel

hook above his head.

The Clubhouse Today:

 Into the next century, Bears HQ now contains generations of memories and stories that can only truly be told by those who created it. 

Although not physically changing drastically over the years, small additions in recognition of beloved members add to its cherished character. Accessibility has been improved by the building of stairs on the north-western side of the pavilion for 'exclusive-bears-access'. This was built in 1960, only a few years after securing the spot.

 

End-of-day results are still presented on the balcony alongside the winner of the raffles. Post-race antics also include the fines session, where mates usually turn mates in on their not-so-bright moments of the week. Social hours follow with swimmers recharging with potatoes, corn and a chilli filled feed prepared by Col the Cook and of course redeeming of beer tickets at Warbo's Bar. 

Whilst the Bears are caretakers May-September, the Surf Club utilises the balcony and room as needed during the peak-season.  

View of the Cronulla Pavilion, the top right hand balcony is our clubhouse today. 

Look north from the balcony of our clubhouse. Lucky club we are.

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All information provided by Cronulla Polar Bear Member's and ex-members.

 

Collated by Nicole Freer.