George Ray Senior, was a Father figure at South hawthorn for many years. He was Secretary from 1954-59, Treasurer from 1952-54. He was a member for 50 years and was awarded life membership in 1962.

George was an engineer by profession and was able to put his hand to just about anything. He built a business making drafting equipment, which was needed for the war, working out of a building on the north east corner of Burke rd and Toorak rds.

He and wife Elsie raised their family of Marilyn, Valma and George Jnr while growing the business and building their house at 48 Clifton rd. George had been a carpenter, so sub contracted the work, while building the kitchen and frame work. George Jnr remembers the great South Melbourne footballer Bob Pratt working on their house as a brickie. Pratt of course was famous as one of the greatest full forwards to play Aussie Rules and George remembers kicking the footy with him one day and Pratt booting the ball over their house.

As the children grew, Snr became interested in tennis. Elsie had played tennis as a junior and both George Snr and Jnr soon took to the game. George Snr built a brick wall in their garden, so they could have a hitting wall and they also began their involvement with South Hawthorn.

The whole family went away together to country tennis tournaments including, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Myrtleford, Romsey and as far as Perth.

In the late 40’s George snr built one of Australias first caravans. He made up a flat bed trailer, then put posts at each corner, with canvas hung between the posts and a canvas awning as a roof. George Snr, Elsie, Marilyn and Valma would sleep in the van while George Jnr would sleep across the back seat of the car. Of course in those days there were no caravan parks, so the Rays had to find somewhere to park the van. They sometimes parked at the footy ground or even at the local cemetary! In the early 50’s George snr built another van, this time a more sturdy all metal construction. George snr was the leader of many South Hawthorn expeditions to country tournaments. He would put a note on the board and get a group of members, sometimes up to 20 people to travel in convoy to the tournament. The South Hawthorn team would all play and take great enjoyment cheering each other on and pairing up for doubles contests.

George snr was a strong man and a great leader. He went to council with Keith Young on one occasion to organise a loan for the club. When told it was unlikely that it would be granted, he thumped his fist on the table and said “I won’t be leaving here till you give us this loan”. It was given.

I don’t think that method of negotiation still works today! The loan was for inside toilets and showers, as at the time the only toilets were in the park behind the club house.

Many tennis club members in those days played bowls at South Hawthorn Bowling Club. George senior eventually “went to bowls” and became involved in the committee there.

George jnr remembers playing table tennis for the club in the 50’s. Basil Wakely was the Captain of their 4 player team. We still have a table tennis pennant from 1955 on display at the club. The club had a team for some years that played in a suburban league. There were clubs in Albert Park and Coburg specifically for table tennis, while our team would set up the table in the middle of the club house for matches. The standard was very high in pennant, though many enjoyed a social hit as they still do today. George jnr, well into his seventies, still plays competitive table tennis today, at a club in Coffs Harbour, where he now lives.

He also remembers Neil Roberts who won the club championship in 1952.  He was a very stylish player, beautiful to watch.

George Jnr remembers his father taking him into the city for tennis lessons. Tennis coach Leo Guiney had taken the lease on an office in a 3 story building in Flinders Lane. This gave him the rights to the rooftop, where he built an En-Tous-cas court and gave lessons.  He had painted a target on the wall of the office downstairs and when it rained he would have the pupils hit against the wall.