A Look Back to Our Lawn Bowling Roots
(The following history of lawn bowling and of the Coronado lawn Bowling Green was compiled from a number of sources. There are many histories and stories about Lawn Bowling to be found so the reader is cautioned that the facts herein may or may not be exactly accurate).
Lawn bowling, or “bowling on the green” is a game that has been around for a good many hundreds of years. During the heyday of the Roman Empire, the game was known as “bocce.” Metal bowls were used and the game is still played in Italy and Southern France. Bocce has been introduced into this country and is played in many cities of the United States.
Some say that the Romans eventually carried the game to Europe and the British Isles. Other historians say that the French brought it to Britain around the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. Bowling was so well established in England that by 1300 A.D., the Southampton Old Bowling Club was organized – a club that is still in existence. The game became so popular in England and also in France that it was eventually prohibited by law, because archery, essential in those days to national defense, was being neglected. However, bowling was not suppressed in Scotland, where it attained great popularity. Scottish bowlers developed the present flat green game and established rules of play, some of which are still used in our modern games.
In England and Scotland, elaborate facilities have been built completely enclosing greens for winter play, and the BBC televises tournament competitions almost every month. Royalty in England played and enjoyed the game. King Henry VIII had a bowling green installed at Whitehall, where it is reported that Anne Boleyn rolled a few before her untimely demise.
The “biased” wooden bowl was first introduced in the 1500s. Up until then the bowls were perfectly round. Wooden bowls were used up until the introduction of our composition or plastic bowl. However, even today, the British still refer to them as “woods.”
British officers installed bowling greens in the American Colonies. The first Lawn Bowling Green in the United States was reportedly built in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1632 (and a green still exists there behind the renowned Williamsburg Inn). The second one was established in what is now called Bowling Green, Virginia in 1670. It is said that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were avid lawn bowlers. Greens also appeared in New York in 1725, and in Port Royal, Canada, in 1734. The game lost popularity during the Revolutionary War, and was not revived in the United States until a hundred years later, when a club was started in New Jersey.
In 1899 the first Bowling Green on the west coast was built in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The first club in Southern California was formed in Los Angeles in 1908. There are approximately 160 lawn bowling clubs across the United States and the number continues to grow.
Today, Lawn Bowling is reputedly the sport played throughout the world by more people than any other single sport. It is played on six continents under 51 National Associations representing 46 countries. Historically, the sport of lawn bowls has been played by people 60 years and older; however, in the last twenty years the number of younger participants has been gradually increasing. Consider that in Australia alone there are now over 5,000 lawn bowlers under the age of 18. Moreover, in countries such as Canada, England, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, Japan and now even China, there are Lawn Bowling Clubs specifically devoted to youth bowling. National and international competitions are now developing.
The Coronado Lawn Bowling Club has its own interesting history. Back in 1933, when municipal affairs were simpler, the City Council of Coronado met with of the Rotary Club and the local businessmen to draw up a tentative budget for the City for 1934. The budget committee included an item of $500 for a bowling green; the need to be determined by public opinion.
Public opinion apparently favored a bowling green, because a year later, in 1935, the City Council completed the bowling green in West Plaza. At the same time, the Council established a Recreation Commission so that “as more and more recreational facilities are established Coronado will have still greater appeal to persons seeking a locality which offers a well rounded life”. Mrs. William Harris of A Avenue presented to the newly-appointed Recreation Commission several sets of splendid bowls for which her husband had sent to Scotland. These were given with the understanding “that a bowling club shall be formed…for play on the new bowling green in the West Plaza”.
The green had been built and the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club was formed. Its purpose was: “to provide the residents of this city with a means of recreation which embraces all the elements of good fellowship, good sportsmanship and friendly competition”. Its competitions were frequently reported in the local Coronado Journal such as the front page features entitled, “On The Bowling Green” by Jack, in 1936, describing the hard fought singles tournament played over several weeks that fall by Club Members Laing, Numbers, Ince, Rose, Atkinson, Carling, Stanley, Foret, Stanley, Troxel and Gray.
Annual dues in 1940 were $6 for men and $3 for women, but the Club suspended operations during World War II and, after the war, dues were only $2 annually for more than 40 years. Dues increased to $40 by 1999 and today are $150, which includes Membership dues in the Coronado Senior Center, Southwest Lawn Bowling Association Dues, and A City of Coronado Green replacement fund fee.
In 2010, the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club celebrated its 75th Anniversary. As stated above, the Club was started in 1935 at 7th and D Avenue and featured a traditional grass bowling green. That green was lost when it became the construction staging area for an addition to the Coronado Library. The City of Coronado then constructed a world class artificial tournament quality green, which was dedicated in March 2010 at the same location on the corner of 7th Street and D Avenue behind the Coronado Senior Center and next to the Coronado Library. The Coronado Parks and Recreation Services Department oversees this championship quality green and the Coronado Lawn Bowling Club maintains an active Club bowling schedule, special events and celebrations, provides free lessons individuals interested in learning the game, and assists the City with the ongoing daily maintenance of the Green.