stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
Today Pioneer Oval is the home of the Parkes Spacemen – the Shire’s representative team in Country Rugby League (CRL) Group 11. However the land known as Pioneer Oval has had name changes and indeed many uses for other sports and recreational activities. It was originally known as People’s Park (which covered both Pioneer Oval and Spicer Park) and before it could be used by the public it needed 1500 stumps cleared (Tindall, Ron (Ed) Parkes: One Hundred Years of Local Government Netley, South Australia: Griffin Press Ltd, 1983. page 267)
Early Days up until 1920s
Displaying the pragmatic attitude of previous century residents, the People’s Park was sought after as grazing land, with the right to graze going to auction (Parkes Council. (1898, February 18). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 13) This resulted in tendering for not only the grazing rights but also to fence the grazing area. These matters, along with the complaints of a foul smell from the area meant that the People’s Park and Recreation Reserve was often talked about in Council meetings (Parkes Council. (1898, March 25). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 14) Grazing rights going to tender proved to be excellent business acumen by Council (PEOPLE’S PARK. (1928, November 8). Western Champion(Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 2)
Many of the local churches utilised the space for hosting their annual Sunday School picnics (Sunday School Picnic. (1898, May 27). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 12) The first game of football at People’s Park was proposed for Wednesday July 6th 1898. It was organised by the Early-closing Association and to celebrate all employers granting their workers a weekly half-holiday a game of fancy dress football was organised, to be followed with afternoon tea (Early-closing Association. (1898, June 10). Western Champion (Parkes, NSW : 1898 – 1934), p. 10) Sadly there are no photos available of this interesting part of Parkes’ history.
1920s “The Don” at People’s Park
By the swinging 20s, People’s Park was seen as a top quality sporting field. Along with rugby league, local cricket and golf associations desired to make People’s Park their home. According to the Parkes Municipal Council minutes, the golf club requested permission to use People’s Park as early as December 1924. It wasn’t until May 1933 that the Council minutes record that the golf club were given a 7 year lease with conditions. The Golf Club would pay Council £15.0.0 per annum for the use of facilities on the land. As part of the agreement the Golf Club would follow these conditions:
By the late 1920s the park was now being used extensively and Council decided to explore the possibility of adding a grandstand. On 10th May 1928 the tender for grandstand was awarded to W I Job and in 3rd July of the same year, the Honourable Fred Flowers MLC was invited to open the grandstand on the 18th July. This was indeed an honour for Parkes as the accepted invitation from the Hon. F. Flowers MLC was a former minister in the Labor Party’s first office in NSW and was the current patron of NSW Rugby League. Flowers was also responsible for the development of Taronga Park – a zoological park that is now internationally renowned. The opening was to coincide with a game of rugby league between the English national team and a team from Far West.
In 1928, A E Parker was appointed caretaker of People’s Park. His wage was £2.10.0 per week (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 9th October 1928, Number 619). Also in 1928, the Cricket Association were excited with the new turf wicket that Council laid for them (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 9th October 1928, Number 584).
The following year, the Shire was abuzz with news that the New South Wales cricket team would play two games at People’s Park – one against a Far West team and the other against Parkes cricket team. Included in the NSW side was none other than Sir Donald Bradman.
1930s A Decade of Developments
It was during the mid to late 1930s that People’s Park was to undergo dramatic changes. The last listed grazing rights were awarded to J. Lindsay (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 13th January 1931, Number 10). The Council minutes record that the Intermediate High School applied to have use of the park for Wednesday afternoons during the winter months (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 14th July,1931, Number 658)
On 24th February 1931 the Cricket Association applied to Council to ask permission to close the ground and charge spectators admission for a match on 1st March 1931. According to Council minutes in 1932 the Cricket Association paid £2.2.0 per week for the use of People’s Park Oval during cricket season (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 24th February 1931, Number 178). With the Cricket Association looking to lay a turf wicket at Woodward Park, the days of cricket being played at People’s Park were numbered.
The days of golf being played at People’s Park were also nearing their end. Although the Golf Club had just signed a 7 year conditional lease, by 1934 the Golf Club informed Council that it would not be renewing the lease, as it looked to other areas within Parkes to develop the Golf Club (at this stage the Golf Club was looking towards Billabong Creek in an area known as “Swimming Pool”). While golf and cricket would soon end their association with People’s Park, the Western Star Tennis Club were granted permission to erect tennis courts in People’s Park (Parkes Municipal Council, Meeting Minutes, 17th October 1933, Number 954) Three years later the Council moved to allow the old Golf Club House to serve the Western Star Tennis Courts (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 7th January 1936, Number 33)
With the increasing status of opposing sporting teams to visit Parkes, particularly in rugby league, Council became aware that the ground needed to be kept to the best standard possible. In 1933 additional seating was placed around the oval fence and the following year People’s Park was included for sewerage. In 1935 a number of public reserves were renamed and People’s Park was one park that was given a new name. People’s Park was now called Spicer Park. Frank Spicer was a visionary within Parkes; having been a hairdresser, Atlantic Union Oil regional manager, and starting Parkes Broadcasting Corporation (2PK radio). In addition Frank Spicer was an alderman at Parkes from 1922-1969 and was elected Mayor 12 times (The Hon. Frank William SPICER (1893 – 1977) (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au) Frank Spicer was also “…a delegate to the Central West County Council, he sat on the Parkes Jockey Club Committee for 25 years, was a Councillor of the Royal Far West Children’s Health Scheme and Chairman of the Parkes Branch of the Australia Comfort Fund during World War II” (Dwyer, Margaret Jewels Along The Newell Bloomington, Indiana: Balboa Press, 2014. p180)
With the increase in usage, there was discussion that an oval, specifically designed for top class sport, be developed at Spicer Park. In 1938 Engineer Bellamy estimated construction and fencing costs would exceed £3,000 for the new oval (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 17th May 1938, Number 675). Parkes Municipal Council were busy during 1939 to apply for grants to assist with the building costs for the new oval (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 24th January 1939, Number 86 & 3rd October 1939, Number 1143).
One of the sporting highlight of the 1930s was the visit of Balmain Tigers Rugby League Club in 1934.
Continuing the variety of events that Spicer Park would host, Council minutes record that the Mechanical Hare Coursing Club requested use of Spicer Park in November 1935 (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 26th November 1935, Noumber 1134).
The highlight of the 1930s for Spicer Park would be again hosting the English Rugby League team who played a team from Far West.
1940s Foundations and Futureproofing
With the oval building completed in 1941 it now needed to be named. The minutes indicated that two councillors put forward an amendment to the original motion to call the new oval on Spicer Park, “Spooner Oval”. This was defeated and the new oval became Pioneer Memorial Oval, in memory of the many hardworking pioneers from over one hundred years ago. Had the amendment not been defeated, there could have been some confusion as the home ground of Forbes rugby league is called Spooner Oval (SPOONER SPORTS OVAL. (1938, December 2). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 9)
In the 1940s Pioneer Memorial Oval was to receive a dressing shed, emergency lighting to allow the rugby league team to train two nights per week and yet more improvements were required. In 1946 the Parkes Sports Council mentioned to Council that improvements were needed. The Sports Council displayed good foresight in recommending these improvements, because the next decade and beyond would show that Parkes was still capable of hosting more international sporting teams.
To Be Continued…. Next Post – Timeline of Pioneer Memorial Oval 1950s to 2015