Presenting: The Balmy Beach Club – Legend by the Lake
The club itself also gets involved in charitable activities on behalf of the Beach community. The club sponsors local high school baseball, lacrosse and hockey teams, and club members also provide a scholarship to one male and one female student at Malvern Collegiate. During the summer the club runs a canoe/kayak day camp for about 300 children. The linkages to the community are strong.
I inquired into general information about the club, and Chris informed me that the opening hours are Monday to Sunday from 6 am to 1 am. He chuckled and said “the bar closes when the president goes home”. New developments are also in the works: the city wants to build additional volleyball courts on the sandy beach right in front of the club. Toronto has actually become known as the beach volleyball Mecca in Canada with a variety of leagues and tournaments encompassing hundreds of teams that are run out of Ashbridges Bay. The Balmy Beach Club was actually were it all started, and Canadian beach volleyball celebrities Mark Heese and John Child both used to play at the Balmy Beach Club. Heese and Child participated in three Olympic Games: the team won the bronze medal in Atlanta (1996), came in 5th in Sydney (2000) and 5th again in Athens (2004).
World caliber athletes have been coming out of the Balmy Beach Club for a long time. International rugby players have been developed at the Balmy Beach Club, and Chris adds that there are eight senior players that played on the Canadian national rugby team, while six Balmy Beach junior players are currently playing for Canada. Several paddlers from the Balmy Beach Club have won Olympic medals in kayaking and canoeing as well.
A little bit of socializing in front of the chimney on Monday morning
What Chris really enjoys about being a member at the Balmy Beach Club is that the club is very inclusive and includes members of all backgrounds and age groups. He enjoys being friends with 18-year old youngsters while he also appreciates the older members, many of whom have been part of this club for several decades. He said it is very sad when some of the older members pass away, and the entire club mourns the departure of long-term club members. He adds that he has football pictures from high school that depict three generations of Balmy Beach Club members.
Chris had to go and handed me back to Ken, and we set off on a tour of the building. Ken first took me into a large multi-purpose room on the Western side of the building which houses a variety of plaques and sports jerseys. This is where most of the social functions are held, and occasionally the room is also used for indoor lawn bowling. Ken indicated that the Balmy Beach Football team won the Grey Cup twice in 1927 and 1930. Several wooden plaques highlight the Canadian champions in canoeing / kayaking, lawn bowling and football/rugby that came out of the Balmy Beach Club. The long lists are impressive.
The multi-purpose room
One plaque in particular honours the Olympians that emerged from this club. One person that appears four times on this plaque is a gentleman by the name of Jim Mossmann, who, as Ken explained, was the Canadian Olympic Canoe Coach in four different Olympic games. In addition to paddling sports, curling is another sport offered by the Balmy Beach Club. The club fields twelve teams that all play in their own league at the East York Curling Club.
Lifetime club members also get honoured here, and some active members have been with the club for 60 or more years. The Balmy Beach Club truly provides social and recreational opportunities for an entire lifetime, and its members have a deeply felt loyalty to this institution. Many a courtship was started at the Balmy Beach Club, and I bet that scores of Beachers were born as a result of a romantic connection that started at the Balmy Beach Club.
Honouring the Champions
Just outside the multi-purpose room is an area full of plaques, the Balmy Beach Club Hall of Fame, honouring some of the distinguished athletes from the club. In a hallway just to the left of the entrance hall there are a number of certificates, including original certificates from the 1920 Olympic Games in Paris, the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the 1952 Games in Helsinki as well as the 1960 Olympic Games in London, all donated by Balmy Beach Club members who were actual participants in these historic competitions.
Olympic certificates from the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin
Ken pointed out a picture on the opposite side of the wall showing a group of lawn bowlers on opening day in 1905. A picture of hockey players dating back to 1913 also illustrates the long history of this institution. Ken explains that the original sports at the Balmy Beach Club were lawn bowling and canoeing, and all the other sports were added gradually over the years. We then headed downstairs where Ken showed me two squash courts as well as the well-equipped fitness room that is available to the fitness members. Wherever you look, walls are adorned with historical pictures, certificates, medals and plaques; there simply is not enough wall space at the Balmy Beach Club to display all the significant mementos that have accumulated over the years.
Certificate from the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki
Our official tour had concluded and Ken took me back upstairs. In addition to the club’s history I was also interested in some of the individuals that make this club run. I had already talked to the president, Chris Buckley, and I thought I’d find out a bit more about the historian himself. Ken Bingham was born right in the area and spent 25 years of his life living on Fernwood Park. He joined the Balmy Beach Club in 1950 and is also one of the lifetime members. Prior to his retirement he used to work at Inco’s head office, a company that also generously sponsored some of the trophy cases, a big TV screen and several filing cabinets for the club.