Threats to the Viability of the Fairfield Canoe Club
Just as the level of the Yarra rises and falls, so the financial viability of the Club has fluctuated. The heady days of the Club in 1920s wavered in the Great Depression, and the continuation of the Club was only achieved by its co-habiting with the newly formed Northern Districts Rowing Club in 1933.
Immediately post-war, the Club was again in trouble. Sidney Panther Timbers and Porta Timbers essentially ‘owned’ the Club through their 1924 debentures holdings, but when approached they agreed to relinquish these at no cost – which saved the day.
Much later, in the 1970s major financial storm clouds were approaching as the clubhouse was becoming derelict and active membership had dwindled to only 10 to 15 – in part due to the state of the clubhouse. Joe Alia recalls: ‘We were having a meeting at the old clubhouse, all sitting around the table, and the roof was leaking onto the meeting table – and it was possum piss. We all said, “That’s it, we can't have this anymore”, so we got moving’. And move they did, as there was word of an imminent demolition order to be issued by council. It was decided to draw up plans to rebuild the clubhouse and a building permit for a ‘giant’ A-frame was quickly applied for.
This did not resolve the financial burden of rebuilding. It was decided that the Club should become a cooperative with a minimum membership of 50, each member paying a $1000 joining fee. However, to incorporate, the land title was needed and this was a problem as the families of the 1924 trustees still held the title. The wife of the last trustee was located, and she handed the title deeds over to the Club. Unfortunately only 27 members joined up at the time, so it took more than three years of fundraising to get a roof in place.