All posts by Ray Francis

When We Close for Maintenance…

We really mean it. On Friday, May 6, several hearty BLBC members hauled little cores of wet turf off the green to make it ready for receiving sand.

On Sunday morning (May 8) a mostly new crew came to shovel sand into the sander’s basin. It was physical labor that required over a dozen loads of sand to cover the green.  Each time the sander returned to the sand shed, the team filled the sander.  After a few loads, the team managed to refill the sander in under 2 minutes.  They felt like an Indianapolis 500 pit crew!

Next came spreading and sweeping the sand. As the pictures show, being a self-supporting lawn bowling club requires the work of fellow bowlers. The results will make the bowling better. Keeping the green running well is not magic, but hard work. Thanks to the teams who made this work happen!

The cores taken from the green were heavier than usual this time because of the recent rain.
The cores taken from the green were heavier than usual this time because of the recent rain.
The sand shed was around half full when the crew started!
The sand shed was around half full when the crew started!
Where the sand went.
Where the sand went.

Lucille McGuire: Bowler and Friend

Lucille McGuire passed away on October 18 in San Luis Obispo, where she lived near her daughter and grandchildren for the last several years. She was 92 years old. Lucille joined the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club in 1983 and served the club as a board member and secretary for many years. She also worked on the coaching and hospitality committees.

Lucille was born in Martinez, but was by all other measures a Berkeley native. She attended the University of California and raised a family on Ensenada Avenue in North Berkeley — just a short walk from her childhood home on the other side of Colusa Avenue. She liked to tell the story of her family piling into her father’s car and driving across the Bay Bridge the day it opened. Her father missed a turn, and they wound up driving to San Francisco on the lower deck, which was then just for passenger trains and large trucks (“He wasn’t a very good driver,” she would dryly remark.).

In some ways, Lucille was born into a Berkeley that began to disappear in the post-war era, but she cherished her hometown and knew Berkeley was special. She volunteered at the gift shop of Herrick Hospital, and she surprised several of us when she told us she had been involved in a protest at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant (San Luis Obispo County) in the 80s. Lucille didn’t blink from doing what she thought was right.

As a bowler, she played competitively for many years. Her “little birdie” zero heavyweights were a welcome sight on the greens of the Bay Area. She eagerly signed up for tournaments and saved many teams’ chances with her delicate touch. As a second, she provided thoughtful advice on how to turn an end to her team’s advantage. As much as she enjoyed playing bowls, she also relished the camaraderie of friends. Several times after playing in the heat of Rossmoor, Lucille happily joined her Berkeley bowling mates at PJ’s (a dive in El Sobrante) to knock back a martini on the way home. In the BLBC clubhouse, she played an intense game of dominoes and helped keep the club’s hospitality committee running. She became something a card sharp at our monthly poker games, frequently coming out ahead in the money. There were affectionate groans around the table whenever she called her game: “No Peekie.”

Lucille married a veteran of World War 2, William McGuire, and she proudly accompanied Bill to many reunions of his Army Air Corps comrades. Bill died in 2003 (after over 50 years of marriage), and Lucille moved to San Luis Obispo to be closer to family a few years later (she was a proud parent and even prouder grandmother).

Lucille held her friends and herself to very high standards; you never had to wonder where you stood with her. She knew that a club like the BLBC depends on the diversity of its members: she did not have to agree with everyone she met (and she didn’t), but anyone who came to bowl earned her good will and respect. She was fiercely loyal to her family, friends, town, club, and game. We offer our condolences to Lucille’s family and remember Lucille fondly for her contributions to the history and the legacy of the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club. Lucille’s and Bill’s ashes are buried in a plot at the San Francisco National Cemetery in the San Francisco Presidio, near her parents’ grave site and within easy view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

John Spiers remembered (1928 – 2015)

Long time Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club member John Spiers passed away on October 2, 2015. John was 87 years old and his health recently had begun to fail.

John joined the BLBC in 1993 and for many years local bowlers counted him among the club’s and the PIMD’s best bowlers. Not that he would have told you that: John’s wry and self-effacing wit put less-skilled bowlers at ease while giving himself the freedom to play brilliantly. As a skip, his teams relied on his ability pull the fat from the fire. As second, he provided solid, aggressive, and – when needed — hilarious advice to his skip (this writer can personally attest to this). Whatever role John played and whatever the outcome of his play, he always exhibited good sportsmanship and the simple enjoyment of the game of bowls. He quickly forgot the stings of losses and the pleasures of wins (though he would be the first to tell you that winning a game was pretty satisfying).

John came to us by way of the Richmond Lawn Bowling Club, but he hailed from Glasgow, Scotland. And there was no doubt that he was a true son of Glasgow. John was a private man not prone to boasting, but he did like to tell stories; he must have had hundreds of them. John lovingly told tales from his childhood about his neighborhood and its characters. He selectively shared stories from his time as a soldier in a Scottish regiment (he somehow managed to find something humorous out of being in Palestine when all sides seemed intent on shooting soldiers from the United Kingdom). He told about trips he’d taken and great games of bowls he’d won, lost, and witnessed. Most who knew John, though, probably remember him for his love of jokes. Conversations with John usually began with him saying, “Hey, I heard this joke…” John had a wide-ranging appetite for jokes, some better than others. But he was never cruel or unkind to anyone absent; and he had no patience for others who might want to gossip. Some might say John did not suffer fools gladly: he certainly did not suffer them silently.

Off the green, John was a generous man in providing rides for fellow bowlers to other greens, sharing drams of whisky (note the spelling) after an afternoon of draw games, and contributing to the craic of the group. He was a great bowler and an even greater friend of the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club. One of John’s last visits to the BLBC happened on September 19, when he came to watch the club’s intra-club triples games. Though not well, he was 100% John Spiers that day: with jokes, stories, and bowling all around. We extend our condolences to John’s family, and we already miss him terribly.

George Steedman: Thank You! (1912 – 2015)

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club received a letter last week that long time member and former BLBC president George Steedman passed away at his home in Lodi at the remarkable age of 102. George’s obituary in the Lodi News-Sentinel does a very nice job of telling many exciting and worthwhile things George and Helen Steedman accomplished (it is worth a read).

George joined the BLBC in 1969. As the “winners’ board” on the clubhouse wall attests, the Steedmans played bowls very well: from the 1970s to the 1990s, the Steedman name appears frequently among the intra-club events victors. As bowlers, they both were competitive without being flashy and were gracious in victory and defeat. George may have been the best draw bowler this writer ever witnessed, and he freely imparted this advice: “If you have a choice between a heavy shot and draw, choose the draw shot.” And he took his own advice. Frequently advised by seconds to drive, George might deign to go heavy with a “yard on” shot; but never a drive. Usually, though, he stuck with drawing a shot to devastating effect.

Off the green, George served as president of the BLBC in 1983, and Helen could be counted on to provide welcoming hospitality inside the clubhouse. George served many years as chairman of the Memorial and Endowment Fund, and the Fund still benefits from his thoughtful and careful work in this area. In the 1990s, George became chairman of the BLBC’s lease committee, and he patiently and wisely guided the club through the tricky political landscape the club faced at that time. His efforts paid off, and the BLBC received a long-term lease that ensured the club’s continued presence in Berkeley.

After Helen passed away, George continued bowling well at the club before eventually moving to the Lodi area. George always behaved as a true gentleman and his demeanor served to bring out the best in those of us who knew him. Saying “no” to a request from George – a man who did so much for the club — was just about impossible. George’s natural curiosity about the world and its people meant that he was always ready for a good conversation about current events, the economy, the Cal sports teams’ prospects, and many other subjects. The BLBC offers its sympathies to George’s family, but we also remember with gratitude the many years of good bowling and excellent service the Steedmans generously gave to us. Thank you, George!

Myra Baylor 1920 – 2014

We recently received news that former BLBC president Myra (Kolitsch) Baylor passed away earlier this year. Myra served the club in many ways, including serving as a board member and head of the coaching committee before being elected as the first (and to date only) woman president of the BLBC.

Myra hailed from Appleton, Wisconsin, and grew up in a large family. While a young student, Myra fell ill with scarlet fever and made up for lost school time by becoming a voracious reader and autodidact. She always enjoyed hearing about what other people were reading, and gently encouraged others into reading her favorite authors (she particularly enjoyed Vladimir Nabokov).

In one of her first jobs she worked as an assistant librarian at the public library in her town. She remembered that, when the Great Depression hit, people swarmed to the library for heat and relief from the harsh Wisconsin winter. She recounted that, at the end of the day, people would steal the library’s newspapers to use as insulation in their shoes that night. The head librarian drove herself to distraction trying to protect her newspapers. Myra came up with a solution: instead of trying to protect all the newspapers, Myra made a deal with readers in need: Myra would make sure 1 complete newspaper remained available for the library’s records and she would make all other copies of the day’s newspaper available for the cold night ahead. This story sums up Myra’s character: find a way to do the right thing and find a way to treat people respectfully and compassionately.

Myra went to university to become a professional librarian (with degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University). She came to the University of California in Berkeley in the 1940s and worked as a librarian into the 1980s. She met her future husband, former BLBC president Bob Baylor, at the Berkeley bowling green. In retirement she also served on the Berkeley Public Library board.

Myra’s commitment to people and ideals made her a superb coach and a great teammate for lawn bowling. She had a keen eye for strategy, and proved that bowls is game for everyone. Stronger and more experienced bowlers mistook Myra’s gentle demeanor for weakness at their peril. She recounted with particular glee the time she skipped a team of, as she called it, “3 little old ladies” against a seasoned team led by a nationally ranked man. Myra instructed her lead to roll two bowls short at every end to cause obstacles for the opposition: Myra’s famous super-wide 3s easily went around the blockers. The little old ladies won. Handily. Anyone who was on the receiving end of Myra delivering a bowl or dropping a run of doubles in dominos knows the mischievous yet charming glint that came to her eyes as she emerged victorious. She was obviously competitive, but valued good play far above winning.

Myra’s bowling legacy continues today: her coaching success can be seen in the bowling accomplishments of many current Berkeley bowlers. Myra provided the energy and inspiration that led to the creation of the special “Low Income or Disabled” and “Student” memberships. Myra was a force of nature and a kind, generous person. The BLBC is lucky she came along and is grateful that she gave so much talent and energy to our club. We offer our belated condolences to Myra’s family.

Free Lessons

Our coaches will be on the green on Sunday mornings at 10:00 to give lessons. It’s FREE, and you have nothing to bring except a desire to have some fun and flat soled shoes or sneakers.

Free lessons this Sunday…unless it’s raining.

If you like – and we’d love it – get together a group of four or six and learn together. You’ll be involved in a match after just a few minutes of instruction.