History of the Barrie Community Tennis Club
[This is an abridged version of the article by Jane Suderman that appeared in Ontario tennis, Spring, 2008, pp. 6-7. to mark the 90th anniversary of the Ontario Tennis Association (OTA).]
Barrie in 1918 was an unlikely place for the genteel sport of tennis to take hold. The muddy settlement on Kempenfelt Bay was gritty, a rough-and- tumble lumber town, railway hub, and nightlife haunt for the rank and file of nearby Base Borden.
But behind the scenes, developments in the area were changing both the physical and social landscape. The railway, extended to Allandale in 1853, began carrying passengers as well as timber and freight. This led to an increase in the numbers of tourists on day trips from Toronto or transferring to other rail lines and steamships that would take them to resorts further north in cottage country. Toronto’s elite were also constructing summer residences on Lake Simcoe setting the stage for the tennis scene that developed around Barrie after the end of World War I.
In 1918, local enthusiasts formed the Ontario Lawn Tennis Association, forerunner of today’s OTA. Well-known names like Jack Boys, Garnet Meldrum, and Jack Little were present at the initial meeting and, in 1919, the association’s first president was elected.
In the absence of public courts in Barrie, tennis was then played on private courts (Great Gatsby style, one imagines, in white sweaters and slacks with sundowners after the match) around the Bay from 1918 to 1940, and some of Ontario’s finest championship-calibre players frequented these summer courts.
In 1946, despite the calibre of players (such as Fred Perry, three-time Wimbledon champ, and Jack Kramer who came to play), the town of Barrie, then population 11,00, still had no public courts. Local tennis enthusiasts asked the Barrie Parks Board to consider building a tennis court in Queen Park and, although public opinion went against the proposal, the Parks Board agreed to build two courts on the west side of the Park on the condition that it construct the courts and the tennis enthusiasts take care of everything else. The players went to work with donated equipment and the courts took shape with over 600 feet of court lines painted by members with traffic paint donated by the City.
The Barrie Tennis Club operated between 1972 and 2002 from a Parks and Recreation utility shed equipped with just a sink and a chair! There are now five courts at Queens Park, four of which are home to the Barrie Community Tennis Club. BCTC, with the assistance of a Molson Fund grant, a City loan, and contributions from members, built a clubhouse on site and, in 2007, created a tennis school with the help of a Trillium Foundation grant. BCTC celebrates its history and carries on today with an active adult membership.