When Don Carter started greenkeeping at the Stoke Bowling Club, the world was a little different.
There was no internet. There were no mobile phones … not even the bricks that Gordon Gecko used in ‘Wall Street’. There were no faxes … they had yet to come … and yet to go.
New Zealand’s one television channel had just extended its hours, and started broadcasting a snowy black and white test pattern at two o’clock in the afternoon. Kids were now able to enjoy ‘Clutch Cargo’ after school. But only after they had done their chores to earn their 6d pocket money.
“It’s a bit hazy as to when Don actually started keeping the greens at Stoke,” says Club President Atholl Campbell. “He was definitely helping with the greens in 1966, and was head greenkeeper by 1968 … 53 years ago.”
“He’d been a club member since the 1959/1960 season.”
Recently, family, friends and club members came together for a function at the Stoke Bowling Club to pay tribute to Don who was retiring as greenkeeper at Stoke after what has almost certainly been the longest-serving greenkeeping tenure in New Zealand lawn bowls history.
“He’s always been there as greenkeeper,” remarked Atholl. “I don’t think any of the 100 or so members of the club have known anyone different tending the greens.”
Despite the loss of Don, the Stoke greens will not revert to squares of unsheriffed bailiwick … the club has been fortunate to have snatched greenkeeper Glen Miller from the Burnside Bowling Club in Christchurch.
“Glen’s a former Nelsonian,” says Atholl. “So he’s grateful to have the opportunity to be back in town. Don knows him very well too .. they’ve worked together in the past. So the handover will be very smooth.”
“But even though Don’s given up the greens, I’m sure we’ll still see a lot of him around the club. There’s no doubt he’ll be around to give Glen a hand. Or even just around to catch up with members over a coffee. He’s still our Patron and a Life Member.”
But although Don is retiring from curating the turf at Stoke, he wont be putting himself out to pasture.
“I love my garden,” he says, “And it just means that I’ll have more time for that.”
Who knows. He may still even have time for bowls. Although the Gold Star (and 2 bars) holder hasn’t played for more than 10 years (Don doesn’t play good enough for himself anymore!), he has been known to make an appearance at the annual greenkeepers’ tournament.
It’d be great to see you there with bowl-in-hand again, Don.
All the best in your retirement!