The land on which the Santa Anita Bowling Green Club's greens and clubhouse are located was once a small part of the original Rancho Santa Anita, a vast area of about 2,100 square miles. Lucky Baldwin purchased the Rancho in 1875. Over time, portions of the Rancho were sold, eventually being developed into the towns we know today as Arcadia, El Monte, Monrovia, and Sierra Madre.
In 1918, the County of Los Angeles purchased 185 acres from Anita Baldwin for $92,000. Prior to the purchase, the land was part of the Santa Anita Racetrack. The county turned the land into a park, which was then used as a training camp by the U.S. Army.
In 1935, through an act of Congress, the War Department redeeded the 185 acres to the county with the provision that it be used as a park and recreation center.
The conversion of the site from an army camp into a recreational facility was a WPA project that employed 600 men and cost over $100,000.00.
Ninety percent of the labor was done by hand and produced an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool, a bath house, eight tennis courts,
grandstands for the swimming pool and the tennis courts, a baseball diamond and stadium, a softball diamond, a children’s playground, and two lawn bowling greens.
Can you imagine what the cost would be today?!
The Club is Formed
Bowling greens #1 and #2 were almost complete when a group of local men got together to form a lawn bowling club. They met in the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce rooms on June 17, 1937. There were 12 men at that initial meeting. At the next meeting, five days later on June 22, 1937, the original twelve (who would become the founding members) were joined by an additional eight, and the organization was officially founded under the name, Arcadia Bowling Green Club (ABGC).
The ABGC was strictly a male organization, and only three of the organizers had any idea how to play the game. Jack Stanley, who moved to Arcadia from Oakland, California, where he was active in the club there, became the first president and agreed to teach the other members. He was joined by Ed Berry who also had some experience with the game.
The club grew, and by the time the Pearl Harbor attacks occurred there were about 55 members. The hardships associated with the war took their toll on the club, however, and membership dropped to about 40. With the return of peace, membership quickly rose to about 75.
The Early Years: 1937 - 1960
During the first ten years of the club’s existence it was without a clubhouse.
Then in 1947, after years of lobbying, the club was able to persuade the county to appropriate $30,000 to build a clubhouse.
The building was completed in 1948.
During this time, the club was also pleased to welcome players from Britain and Canada.
A group of 30 British bowlers visited the ABGC in 1947.
They were followed by a Canadian group in 1955, and another British group in 1956.
Though both the British and Canadian players were able to defeat the members of the ABGC, the competitions were educational and fun for everyone.
In January 1949, a group of ladies formed their own club and began bowling. At one time the membership of the ladies’ club stood at 15.
They associated themselves with the Southern California Women’s group and enjoyed bowling in tournaments throughout the state.
The ladies’ club was also active socially, holding parties and picnics to celebrate most of the major holidays.
By 1960, the membership of the ladies’club had dwindled to almost nothing. It was decided that they would be admitted to the men’s club, but only as Class B members. This meant that they could bowl with the men but had no voting privileges.
In July of 1964, Class B memberships were eliminated from the club’s by-laws and the women became full members.
The first women to join the club were Anna Bucher, Nellie Jerg, Susan Long, and Cathy Noren.
Both Cathy Noren and Anna Bucher had served as President of the ladies’ club.
The Sixties and Seventies
The years 1962 and 1963 were good for the ABGC.
Construction of a north wing room was completed and the club was allowed to use it as a clubroom.
At the same time, construction of Green #3 began.
While all this construction was in progress, the club entertained 31 men and 15 women from six lawn bowling clubs in Australia.
Up until about 1963 the ABGC was almost the only organization using the clubhouse.
Hardly a day went by that bowlers didn’t stay after their games to chat, eat lunch, and play bridge.
Once the new additions were completed, however, more and more groups began to use the facility.
Until 1966 no money was paid to the county for the upkeep of the greens.
However, there was an unspoken agreement that the club would donate one half of all dues collected to the county.
One half of what was collected was put into a separate bank account and given to the county at the end of the year as a goodwill offering.
The county supervisors acknowledged the receipt of this money as a gift.
Because the greens were in poor condition in 1965, the county decided that the club should withhold its gift.
In 1966, the club decided to begin collecting fees specifically for the care of the greens.
The first fees were set at $18 per year.
Training classes were organized in the 1970s and the results were reflected in a steadily increasing membership:
membership tripled between 1971 and 1979.
In 1977 ABGC hosted the Women’s U.S. Nationals.
More recently, the club has often hosted the Southwest Division Open.
The ABGC was the first lawn bowling club to stage charity events.
The first project, started by Joe Zook in 1965, was a Halloween party for children with learning disabilities.
Though it was a hit with everyone involved, it had to be abandoned in 1978 due to a transportation issue.
On Parks and Recreation Day each year, the club holds its City of Hope Triples tournament,
which attracts bowlers from across Southern California, raising money for cancer research at the City of Hope.
The progress this club has made since 1937 should instill a sense of pride in each member and make us determined to maintain the high standards and good sportsmanship that are traditional in lawn bowling.
-- Distilled from documents written by Frank R. Jerome and Mike Eberle.
Arcadia County Park 405 S. Santa Anita Ave. Arcadia, CA. 91006