Pioneer Memorial Oval – 1950s and 1960s
Logos of the touring teams to play at Pioneer Memorial Oval in the 1950s and 1960s. Source of images Wikipedia
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. History Parkes continues to look at the people and events relating to Pioneer Memorial Oval.
1950s Hosting International Superstars
The first international team to play at Pioneer Oval after the Second World War was none other than the mighty All Blacks. There was genuine excitement having such quality and entertaining sportsmen coming to Parkes. The Parkes District Rugby Union Football Club successfully applied to Council for a half-day holiday on the day the All Blacks were due to play. The New Zealand rugby team had defeated the touring British Lions 4-0 in the previous year, and a combined Central West rugby team was not given much of a chance. A crowd of 3,549 saw the All Blacks triumph 65-6. While the final score was lopsided, the Central West team were not in disgrace – the All Blacks played 13 games during their 1951 tour, winning 13 and amassing 375 points and only conceding 86 (tries at this stage were only worth three points). Ron Jarden set a then individual record scoring 6 tries and ten conversions. As the local paper reported, many in Parkes declared him the best player in the world of any football code.
Front page of Parkes Champion Post Thursday June 28, 1951 reporting of the All Blacks visit to Pioneer Oval. This not only details the match report but also the All Blacks Ball, at Tichborne, and a tour of local farms.
Wing three-quarter Ron Jarden. Spectators at Pioneer Oval considered him the best player in the world in any football code. Source: National Library of New Zealand Ronald Alexander Jarden set a then individual record in Parkes, scoring six tries and ten conversions.
Council minutes recording that Parkes District Rugby Union Football Club asked the Council to arrange a civic reception and for half-day holiday. Source: Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 17th April, 1951, Number 609
With international teams coming to play at Parkes, concerted efforts were raised to keep the facilities of Pioneer Memorial Oval at the best they could be.
Council minutes reporting further improvements to Pioneer Memorial Oval. The Parkes Sport Council, Parkes Rugby League and Mr W. B. Cheney (who would become a Life Member of the Sports Council) collaborated in preparation for the French team to visit the following year. Source: Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 7th December 1954 Number 1763
Terracing and grading being done with Council’s Ferguson tractor. This would allow more spectators and give each spectator a more pleasant viewing experience. Parkes Shire Council worked hard to make sure that this work was done effectively and economically. Source: Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 21st December 1954 Number 1851
Wednesday July 20th, Pioneer Oval hosted a game between France Rugby League team and Western Districts. Again sport was on the front page of the Parkes Champion Post. Despite not being a gazetted half-holiday, at the bottom of the front page it was reported that many stores closed their doors at 12.30pm to allow staff to get to attend the game. Initially the stores were to close at 1pm but Charles Dwyer (Group XI president) successfully appealed to the store owners to close earlier. Another coup for sports fans of the Parkes Shire, as the French Rugby League team were runners up in the 1954 World Cup (the first such event for either rugby code). Les Chanticleers drew a crowd of 8,306 to Pioneer Oval (Source Rugby League Project)
Front page of Parkes Champion Post Thursday July 21 1955. The French visit is part of several reports on this page, including mention of the first time that Parkes Girls Marching Band had performed, prior to the rugby league match.
Continued report of match between France and Western Districts. While Western Districts were unable to score any tries, Parkes player Ray Aldrich scored four penalty goals. Source: Parkes Champion Post Thursday July 21, 1955
The hospitality of Parkes impresses team representatives of French rugby league. Source: Parkes Champion Post Thursday 21 July 1955
Team photograph of Western Districts Rugby League team that played against France. Source: Parkes Champion Post Thursday 21 July 1955
The visit of the French rugby league team was considered a success and enhanced the reputation of Parkes Shire as a place of great hospitality. In the space of four years, Parkes had hosted two international teams that many considered world class in their sport. It would be eight years before another “world beater” would play in Parkes again.
1960s Kiwis, Kiosks and Cub Scouts
With improvements needed to keep Pioneer Oval amongst the best regional sporting fields, the Sports Council approached Council to see about adding a kiosk and changing rooms to Pioneer Oval. It would allow players from both teams to change at Pioneer Oval, rather than heading to the grandstand at Spicer Park and changing there! The new building would also allow another stalwart of the sporting community in Parkes to be remembered, Charlie Dwyer. As seems to have become the custom, the improvements would be officially opened with international opposition coming to Parkes.
Parkes administrator Charlie Dwyer receives recognition for all his efforts. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday 17 April, 1963
Charlie Dwyer was a selfless pillar of the Parkes Shire community. Just one report from Western Champion of him volunteering to referee a game of football between Parkes Scouts and Forbes Scouts. Source: Western Champion Thursday 31 May, 1928
Known as a fair and excellent referee, Charlie Dwyer was also a man of principles and not afraid to stick to those principles even if it resulted in extraordinary outcomes. This report, from Western Champion Friday 10 August 1934, states that Dwyer sent off one of his linesmen!
Another opportunity for Parkes to display its hospitality to international guests. Chamberlain Square (where Sir Henry Parkes’ statue is situated today) was the venue to welcome the New Zealand Kiwis. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday 15 May 1963
There was a lot of interest in the Kiwis coming to Parkes. Source: The Champion Post, Monday May 20 1963
Parkes hospitality on show. The report indicates that only top quality regional grounds were allowed to host international teams. Source: The Champion Post Wednesday May 22, 1963
Another example of Parkes hospitality. Source: The Champion Post Wednesday May 22 1963
President of Country Rugby League extending his welcoming to the Kiwis team representatives. Source: The Champion Post Wednesday May 22 1963
A great day for “The Old Man of Rugby League”, Charlie Dwyer. Source: The Champion Post Friday May 24, 1963
A positive visit and impression of Parkes on the international guests. Source: The Champion Post Friday May 24, 1963
First part of the match report Western Districts vs New Zealand Kiwis. Source : The Champion Post Friday May 24, 1963
Second part of the match report Western Districts vs New Zealand Kiwis. Source: The Champion Post Friday May 24 1963
Council minutes showing the improvements to amenities at Pioneer Oval. Source: Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes 10th December 1962 Number 1418
The next team of international superstars to play at Pioneer Oval would be the Great Britain Rugby League team on 17th July 1966. There was a lot of interest in this clash and even a harsh Parkes winter’s day couldn’t deter a large crowd from attending.
Great sport at Pioneer Memorial Oval for those residents of the Parkes Shire. Source: The Champion Post Wednesday July 13, 1966
Source: The Champion Post Friday July 15 1966
Part of a two page spread in The Champion Post Friday July 15 1966
Part two of a two page spread in The Champion Post Friday July 15 1966
Report on the Western Districts Rugby League team to take on Great Britain. Includes some interesting advertisement from the time. Source: The Champion Post Friday July 15 1966
Advertisement for the game Source: The Champion Post Friday July 15 1966
Article on Welsh winger, Berwyn Jones. Source: The Champion Post Friday July 15 1966
Photo Source: Saints Heritage Society. The Parkes crowd were looking forward to seeing the Welsh winger, Berwyn Jones, in action for Great Britain. Had Jones not taken to rugby league, he was due to represent Great Britain at the Olympics in 1968. Source: Wikipedia
Snow in the hills surrounding Parkes, conditions that Great Britain would have been more used to seeing than their hosts, Western Districts. Source: The Champion Post Monday July 18 1966
First part of a match report of Western Districts vs Great Britain. Source: The Champion Post Monday July 18 1966
Second part of a match report of Western Districts vs Great Britain. Source: The Champion Post Monday July 18 1966
Aerial photograph of Western Districts vs Great Britain match. Source: The Champion Post Monday July 18 1966
Continuing the versatility of Pioneer Memorial Oval, the Mid-Western Boys Scouts Association held their Jamborette (a smaller version of the nationwide Jamboree) at Easter 1967. Part of Council’s approval to Pioneer Oval hosting this event was that local boys scouts would assist the Beautification Council in planting trees around Pioneer Oval.
Be prepared! Unfortunately working with children can mean almost anything can happen. Fortunately the lost scout was found and the event was considered a success. Source: The Champion Post Wednesday March 29,1967
Source: The Champion Post Wednesday March 29,1967
Source: The Champion Post Wednesday March 29,1967
Source: The Champion Post Wednesday March 29,1967
The last half of the decade saw Parkes Rugby League Club taking more ownership and responsibility to keeping the amenities in top shape. In 1966 the club accepted responsibility to meet the cost of erecting fencing between Pioneer Oval and Spicer Park. Three years later the club would step up again and applied to council to erect a new kiosk. (Parkes Municipal Council Meeting Minutes October 27 1969)
My dad,Wal Prior, took me to see the All Blacks game at Spicer Park in 1951. Ron Jarden certainly thrilled the crowd with his exceptional football skills.In 1955, Vince Mitchell & myself were the ball boys for Parkes Rugby League for that great year when Parkes won the 3 grades.We were the ball boys for the French game so we were right in the action.At half-time the players had oranges on the field so Vince & I walked in amongst them.It was very exciting for us.My dad often mentioned a great player from the Alectown area named Bagwell who played in the 1930’s.Has anybody ever heard of him? In the report of Parkes playing Canowindra in 1934 I notice a Prior in the forwards.This could have been Dad’s brother,Sonny, who apparently was quite a good footballer as well.The series of articles brings back great memories of those games.Thank you for compiling them.Tony Prior
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Thanks for your personal anecdote, Tony. It’s hard to imagine modern players consuming oranges at half-time, let alone allowing ball boys to walk amongst them. I will check but I think the year that Parkes won all 3 grades was 1954. Thanks