The Harley Club at Balnarring - Oral History
Narrator: Ilma Hackett
Coordination: Ilma Hackett and the Balnarring and District Historical Society
Production: Lavendar Hill Multimedia 2014
Balnarring and District Historical Society
Memories of the Harley Club at Balnarring, narrated by Ilma Hackett.
Balnarring Beach was always a popular place for picnics and for camping holidays.
A sub-division for a township, named Tulum, had been made in the later half of the 19th century, a road constructed and a bridge built to span the creek.
In 1920 Tulum was again being promoted as an ideal spot to buy land for a holiday home. By 1922 things were “on the move” and at least a half dozen beach houses were in various stages of construction.
Maud and Bob Strain put up a small building not far from the bridge which they ran as the Cheero Tea rooms. It was about this time that the Harley Club discovered Tulum or Balnarring Beach.
The club started as the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club in February 1924. It was just one of several similar motorcycle clubs that sprang up about that time. In the early 1900s and particularly during World War I the motor bike had developed into a powerful and versatile form of transport. After the war it was an effective and affordable vehicle. When coupled with a sidecar or trailer it could be used as a work vehicle or the means for a family to travel around. It could also be used for sporting events with the various clubs competing against each other.
Then in the summer of 1925/6 the Club went on a tour to Adelaide where the South Australian Harley Club House was located at Sellicks Beach. The idea of finding a similar beachside location not too far from Melbourne was enthusiastically embraced. The new subdivision at Tulum seemed perfect and two lots were purchased in 1926. Money was raised through football sweeps and construction work on a club house was soon underway.
The official opening took place in December 1928. The Cheero Café had become a favourite meeting place and the Club’s insignia wings were fixed above the doorway. The Club House was a centre where members could come at weekends for both social and sporting events. It was also where the Club’s trophies and photographs were displayed.
The wide stretch of beach towards Somers offered the perfect venue for beach races and in 1927 motor cycle races were held along the sand. However there were safety concerns and future races on the beach were banned.
In the early days monthly dances were held and these were very popular. The Club’s Annual Dinner Dance was the social event of the Motorcycle World. There were games on the beach, and each Christmas a Children’s Christmas Party was always held at the Club House. Santa, of course, arrived on a motorcycle. The club was very lucky with its officials and members with business experience. It remained financially successful over the years and large amounts of money were raised for charity.
The period after the Second World War brought considerable change. The car became the family vehicle – replacing the motor cycle. The Harley Club continued to be a holiday place although the number of families using the club facilities gradually fell away during the 1960s.
Today two houses stand on the former club property. The high cypress hedge that screened both still stands. The original Club House is now a private home. The old name, The Harley Club, is echoed in the house’s new name: Harley House.