Tokoroa Club History

This page of the Club History will be a work in progress for a long while. We have an interesting story to tell. .

The Club is most grateful to Bill Machen who carried out the research and wrote the narrative of this History.


During the 1940's with Tokoroa's population at around the 600 mark, a group of local men formed what they called a 'Sport Supporters Club', the object of the Club was to raise funds for local sports clubs, assist families in need and provide financial relief to men who suffered injury whilst playing games for the district (no ACC in those days.)

The supporters Club consisted of Dick Evans as President, Harold Boon as Secretary and a Commitee consisting of: Ginger Robinson, Mick Rugg, Vic Murray, Clarrie Noble, Len Mustchin, Jim Stringer, Ernie Nuttall and Jim Harrington. Funds were raised by the sale of 'Tote Tickets' on Rugby League results and each week there would be an accounting, a distrubition of new tickets and paying out of prize money. At some time, probably around the middle of 1946, 'Fate' in the shape of 'the law' put an end to these worthy, yet illegal activities.

With the funds in hand, the districts first ambulance was financed and a section of land was purchased for $100. This land is where the #1 Bowling green and Snooker room now are located.

With $600 left in the 'Kitty' and an idea in mind, Dick Evans called a meeting of local males in Reg Walsh's garage (now the site of the Mayfair Motel) to discuss the possibility of organising a 'Legal Club'. Ignoring opposition from those who argued that money raised for pubilc use should not be used to benefit a small group, he obtained the support of the majority and a mandate to purchase the Managers house from Arohina Mill for $400. The house was cut up and transported to Tokoroa by Charlie and Ginger Robinson of Robinson Bros Transport.

At about that time, Dick Evans and Fred Blackwell went to Putaruru and called on Constable Tom Cotter, the head of the local Police District. They informed him of their plans, his reaction was "anything to keep you Tokoroa so and so's out of Putaruru on weekends will suit me, but run a proper Club, not a sly grog shop." So, with this fatherly advice they were on their way.

In December 1946 at a meeting called for the purpose of forming a mens Club, Dick Evans offered the freehold the section, clubrooms and all assets of the Tokoroa sport supporters club. This offer was accepted and Messers A. Reid and L. Ashworth moved the support club committee act as a provisional Management commitee. It wa also agreed, Moved C Rugg, and V. Murray that the Club be named as 'THE TOKOROA CLUB" and that immediate steps be taken to have it incorporated. Further it was moved F. Blackwell and E Nuttall the fees be set at $6.00 nomination and 4.00 annual subscription.

In February 1947 the last meeting of the provisional management committee was held. Charlie Cook, the Clubs first steward had been appointed and his wages were set at $2 per week.

On the 30th of April 1947 the first General Meeting of the Tokoroa Club was held with 34 members in attendance. The first election of Officers was held and those elected were: President (unopposed) E.W. Evans, Vice President (unopposed) E. Nuttall, Committee - C. Butler, M. Hawthorne, J. Harrington, V. Murray, C. Noble, C. Rugg, W. Williams and F. Blackwell. J.K. Cameron was appointed Hon Auditor and it was moved that a Constitution as drawn up by J. Grahame be adopted (J. Grahame became the Clubs first Honorary Solicitor). At the first committee meeting in May 1947, F.G. Blackwell was appointed Secretary/Treasurer.

A number of historical decisions were taken in 1947. The Clubs first set of Indoor Bowls were purchased, insurance to the extent of $15,000 on the Club building and $400 on the Clubs furniture and stock was arranged. Members wives were accorded the privilege of attending the the very first 'Ladies Night', these were set to become a feature of Club life over the next few years with the Club holding FOUR!!! 'Ladies Nights' a year.

1948 was an even more momentous year. In January it was decided to install a telephone, in April, timber was purchased to construct members lockers, some tables and stools (these were built by Eddie Gilbert) and a 'Flush Lavatory' was installed. In August the Clubs first Billiard table was purchased. In September 1948 a spot of bother was encountered. F.G. Blackwell resigned as Club Secretary and E. Nuttall was appointed "official" Club Secretary. The Club minutes record this action was taken to protect F.G. Blackwell, as the Club had been trading illegally. Fred was reappointed 'Hon Sec' in April 1949. Presumably the bar trading problem had been cleard up by then.


The 1950's were a time of expansion for The Tokoroa Club, as it was for many in Tokoroa in those times. Land was purchased, and some was sold, funds were raised and all of this was invested in the basis of what is now the fine establishment that is our Clubrooms. However, the 1950's started rather slowly.

March 1950 saw the Club's first 'In House' entertainment other than the traditional Bowls, Darts, Billiards and Penny Poker (3d limit). A second hand piano was purchased from W. Williams at a cost of $20. By June it appears members had tired of the piano or its players, for a '5 valve radio was installed. Could this be the infamous radio that was ceremoniously dropped on the floor at an AGM some years later?

Later that year the bar hours were revised by the Committee. Henceforth the Bar would shut at 6:00 pm and the Club would close by 6:15 pm. It was noted that some members were difficult to get moving at closing time and by May 1952 these 'slow movers' had come to the attention of the local Constabulary as the Committee had been advised by local Constable Valentine that the Club could not open on Sundays and that it must be shut by 6:00 pm on other days.

The Club's 1951 Annual General Meeting saw the President record the death of the Club's first Honorary Solicitor (and author of the Club's founding constitution) Mr J. Grahame. He was replaced by his business partner Mr Morgan. The President also noted the purchase of an Emergency Lighting plant and a second Billiard Table.

1951 also saw the beginnings of the Clubs property interests. In February the Committee made its first approach to the Local Council regarding the possible purchase of Hodgson Street. This was a short 'dirt track' that ran in a Northerly direction from Chambers St towards the Whakauru Stream. The purchase of this piece of land was to be a long drawn out battle with the local authorities.

In March 1951 Dick Evans and Fred Blackwell agreed to sell their Sections (which were adjacent to the Clubrooms) to the Club. Fred's section was purchased in September for $900 and what had been Dick's was purchased (from Weatherly and Wood) in February 1952 for $1000.

In August 1951 J.B. Campbell was approached with a view to buying a section in Campbell Street. This section was eventually obtained in January 1952 at a price of $600.

The Annual General Meetig of 1952 was informed that "expenditure was to be kept to a minimum to conserve funds for a new Clubrooms". In 1953 the conservation of funds seems to have been put aside as the pursuit of "living room" continued. In February, the Cottage and Section adjacent to the Club property owned by a Mr Ritchie was purchased for $5,660. It was soon after let out to M. O'Donnell at weekly rental of $6.50. The section in Campbell Street was subsequently put up for sale for $800 cash and the acquisition of land for the new Clubrooms finally ceased, as the Committee truly got down to the busines of "conserving funds".

1954 was acomparatively quieter year for the Club. Founding President Dick Evans stood down from office at that years Annual General Meeting and was replaced by the Clubs second President, Mr Thomas Dew. The Clubs Original Steward, Charly Cook retired in 1954 and as a mark of the high esteem in which both these gentlemen were held, and to recognise the work they had done for the Club, both were accorded the privilege of Life Membership.

With the retirement of Charly Cook in 1954, the Club decided to advertise for a working Manager and a Mr Sterling was appointed from a short list of applicants. His starting salary was $1,550 per annum and he was granted a hospitality allowance of 420 per annum and allowed the rental of the CLub house for approximately $3.20 per week.

August 1955 saw Jim Fisher accept the position of Honorary Club Solicitor, a position Jim held for 51 years until 2006, when he was succeeded in this position by his son Paul.

New bar hours were promulgated in 1955. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday the bar was to close at 11:00 pm and the Club by midnight. On other days the Club would close at 6:00 pm other than Sundays which had a closing time of 5:00 pm.

Late in 1955 an estimate was recieved from Hawkins Construction Ltd for the construction of the proposed new Clubrooms. The estimate was $26,320. The Committee began to investigate the issue of interest bearing Debentures to help finance the new building. By 1956 planning for the extended Clubrooms was well advanced. The Northern Buiding Society had advised the Commitee that it was willing to lend up to $8,000 toward a new facility. Meanwhile, in April, Manager Mr Sterling had resigned. In May a new Manager, Mr A Reid was appointed.

By mid 1956 the Clubs cash reserves and investements totalled $8,000 and in August a $10,000 Debenture Issue was floated to finance the new building. The Debentures carried an interest rate of 5.5%. 1957 saw the first step in the major construction of the Clubrooms. Stage One of the construction (the job was carried out in Two Stages) was completed and furnished as far as funds permitted by the time of that years Annual General Meeting.

In June 1957 the Committee made two more desicions which would have an impact on the Club. Firstly they decided to proceed with Stage Two of the Building Programme, the 'new' Billiard Room. The tender price was $12,000, and secondly decided to give the old Billiard room to the Bowling Club. The extensions were officially opened by Member of Parliment, Mr R Boord in August 1957. The Clubs Charter was also presented at the opening function by Mr J.K. Logan representing the Local Council.

1958, and the Club had 431 members, the Billiard room was complete, a new cool room had been added, and the 'Lion Draught Ale' was "on trial". In February the original Clubroom was donated to the Pirates Rugby Football Club. March 1958 saw the resignation of Manager Mr A. Reid and a new Manager Mr Alex Gilchrist was apppointed to be his replacement. Claude Butler was elected the third President and at the end of that year a 'Loud Speaker System' was installed at a cost of $60.

The decade finished in 1959 with the Committee making changes to the Dress Code. Dress Shorts could be worn to evening functions, with a tie of course. 159 also saw the Committee agree to an "Old Members" evening. This was to be the genesis of the '100 Club'.


At the start of the sixties the Club staff numbered three (casual and part time staff excluded), Alex Gilchrist was the Manager and A Crocker and C Anderson were the Club Stewards. In September 1960 Alex Gilchrist tendered his resignation and Mr Paxton took his place at a salary of $2,080 a year, including house rental. Paxton lasted only two months and was replaced by George Cunningham from Kawerau who is remembered by those who knew him as a fine Club Manager

'Lucky Lion Ale' was not proving to the members liking and 'Leopard' was to be given a trial as the Clubs 'second ale'. Waikato having always been on tap.

A second rental property was purchased by the Club, this time in Arthur Street at a cost of $7,700 and was rented to a staff member at $3 per week.

At the Annual General Meeting of 1961, President Jack Lee presented Fred Blackwell with Honourary Memberhip of the Club. Fred having served the Club as Secretary/Treasurer almost since its inception.

A running battle between the Club and the Musicians Union and local identity Fred Towner began in 1962. The Club had formed a band from among the membership and Mr Towner objected to the use of non-union labour being employed at Club functions and the breaching of Copyrights held by the Australasian Performing Rights Association. The arguements continued for some years, becoming quite volatile at times. However the Club band had folded by 1965 and proffesional entertainers began to appear at social functions.

The 27th of April 1962 was a sad day for the Club. Founding President and Life Member E.W. (Dick) Evans passed away. He is remembered as the person who gave life to an idea. That idea has grown into the fine facilities that all members enjoy today. Dick's memory is honoured by the Club by way of the Dick Evans Memorial Scholarship that is granted to a student from a local secondary school each year to assist with tertiary study fees. The first recepient was Margaret Dawe of Tokoroa High School who was granted $50 per year from 1964 until she completed her degree at Otago University.

Another Club scholarship was initiated in 1964. The Club decided to financially support members sons (and later on daughters) to the Cobham Outward Bound School in Anakiwa. The first recipients of this support were Bill Cunningham, Peter (Shadow) Stevenson and Alby Kuttell.

With the Club amenities coming under pressure from increasing membership, the Club Committee were already planning the next and most costly of the expansion projects. In 1965 Ralph Butterworth became President taking over from Morrow Hawthorne. He and his commitee asked for approval at that years Annual General Meeting to raise approximately $60,000 to finance additions and improvements. There was some opposition to this, as many members felt the Club may be going too far, too fast. However, after much discussion approval was given.

The plan was to provide an extra 260 sq metres by way of a 'Ladies and Escorts Lounge' and second bar, a mezzanine floor the length of the Biliard Room, an upstairs Managers flat, and also upstairs, a modern kitchen and supper room to seat 200.

These plans took some time to come to fruition. Finance by way of Loans, Debentures and Club Capital had to be raised (the estimated cost had risen to $80,000 by 1966. A special Committee meeting held 18th November 1966 resolved to borrow $22,000 from BNZ at an interest rate of 7% for five years and raise $30,000 by way of 10 year debentures at 6.5% interest. By mid 1967 the cost had risen 'again' to 82,000 and another special Committee resolved to borrow a further $21,000 to allow work to be completed.

The new wing, additions and alterations less the mezzanine floor, were opened by Crown Minister, the Hon Duncan McIntyre on Saturday 28th October 1967. The final cost including new plant and furniture was close to $85,000.

While all this activity was taking place, the Club had suffered some managerial woes. George Cunningham the well liked and respected Club Manager since 1960 passed away suddenly in August 1966. He was replaced (briefly) by a Mr Bob Tunnage whose services were terminated in March 1967. The replacement for Mr Tunnage being the incomparabe Myer Morris, who commenced his long and distinguished career as Manager in April 1967. 1967 was also the year that decimal currency and '10 o'clock closing' were introduced to New Zealand.

Ralph Butterworth stepped down as President in 1968. He had presided over a very busy period in the Club's history and our 'upstairs' and what was formally known as the 'ladies and escorts lounge' (this area is now occupied by the cafe and restaurant) are truly a tribute to him and his Committees. Jack Russell-Green took over from Ralph Butterworth and took the Club through to the 1970's.

1968 saw Club Members getting used to the new licencing hours (10 o'clock closing). It was also the year of the first golf tournament for Club Members, Jack Phillips winning Club Cup for the best gross and Roy Stratton winning the Myer Morris Cup for best net.

In 1969 the Club consolidated its property holdings. Firstly the Club property in Campbell Street was sold to Marshall & Harnett for the sum of $9,000, this money was used to purchase the 'Barrington Proerty' for 8,500. Later in the year the Committee arranged to purchase one and a half acres to the East of Club from the RSA Club for $20,000. This was to coincide with plans to expand our Bowling Club facilities.

The '60's' ended with the introduction of Waikato 'Brew 22' as an alternative draught ale on tap, certainly a beer to remember (anyone who tried it is not surprised it is no longer available). 1969 was the year the Pulp & Paper Workers Club (now the Tokoroa Cosmpolitan Club) opened to mixed sex membership. Questions regarding our Club membership rules (men only) surfaced again.


The "Seventies" were a period of great social change. The rise of the 'Womens Movement,' a more relaxed attitude to drinking, 'dressing up' and 'going out' were to be evidenced throughout the decade and The Tokoroa Club changed with the times to keep up with the developments.

The first of these changes was the lowering of the age at which a male could become a member of the Club. In line with national legislation this was lowered to 20 years in 1970. A more radical change was the employment of stewardesses. In 1971 Iva Matson was hired and became the first woman to work behind the bar (Iva was later to be employed as Manager of the Pulp & Paper Workers Club), Iva was followed shortly after by Ann Dann. Eunice Morrison was to take up the third stewardesses position by the years end and it is interesting that the Presidents Report for that year noted the improvement in behaviour of members in general and the decline in coarse language in particular which he attibuted to the "female presence". Stewardesses have continued to play an important role ever since , with one, Carole Middleton being continuously in the Club s employment for 27 years. 1971 also saw a Club member made a Knight of the realm. Reginald Smythe (Roll # 272), the Cheif Executive of NZ Forest products Ltd becoming "Sir Reginald", all of this being a matter of pride for that years new Club President Tom Storer.

In 1972 with membership fast approaching the 2,000 mark it was decided to extend the North wall out toward the Bowling Club green. This added almost 5 square metres and enabled 3 more Billiard tables to be added. There was also an increase in lounge space and improvements to the Bar and Cool Room facilities. This work was all completed by the end of 1973.

The Clubs long serving Secretary Fred Blackwell retired after 27 years service on the 31st March 1974. Fred was member # 3 and like all of 'the originals' was a Club man through and through. As the Headmaster of Tokoroa East School from 1938 to 1958 he had seen Tokoroa and it's people grow and develop and he sincerely believed his Club had played a large part in that development. In hoour of his commitment and service to the Club the Committee instituted the FG Blackwell Scholarship Fund, run on the same lines as the EW Evans Scholarship, the purpose was to provide financial support to students from Forest View High School attending University. The first winner of the full award was Christine Atmore in 1978. Fred Blackwell passed away in 1978 after 33 years as a Club member.

For a Club that was "Male Only", it has never been averse to supporting females in any other role. As has been noted, the Club's first two scholarship winners were Female (they have claimed approximately 75% of these awards since their inception). Fred Blackwells successor as Secretary was also a woman, F.E. "Floss" Coleman had been appointed assistant in 1968 and was to take over his full duties in 1974. In 1976 the Club sponsored one of the first Tokoroa women to 'Outward Bound' at Anakiwa. This was Heather McKenzie, the daughter of another Club stalwart, Don McKenzie.

In December 1975, a Club tradition that had been maintained almost since the Club's inception had to abandoned. This was the Christmas 'Milk Function'. The Commitee advised members that "due to circumstances beyond our control, Christmas milk is cancelled this year". In fact, the the cancellation was due to a blunder between the Club Commitee and the local Police. This blunder was to halt all Christmas morning functions until the 1990's. The cancellation was probably greeted as good news by a large number of members wives, but a number of charitable causes were poorer for it.

Club Manager Myer Morris announced his resignation effective 31st March 1977 late in 1976. Carl Rush, Myers' assistant took over as his replacement. A farewell function marking his 10 years as 'The Manager' was held and Myer departed only to return following a period of instability in the Managerial Stakes. Carl Rush left after only eight months and was replaced by his assistant John Webster who lasted only a short time. Geoff Hunt acted for some time as Manager and then Myer was brought back by the Club Commitee to get matters back on an even keel.

The 'Seventies' were notable for three other matters. Firstly, the relaxation of some of the dress rules. Up until 1978 'Ties' had to worn at all evening Club functions. They could be loosened if the evening was overly warm only at the discretion of the Committee man in charge, but not removed. Following a lengthy debate and some fine oratory by a member (Walter Vaughan) at the 1978 Annual General Meeting, the Committee decided a 'Cravat' was an acceptable alternative to a 'Tie'. The Club did not fall down although some older members had foretold this sort of disaster because of the "lowering of standards". By the end of the decade "Clean and Tidy Dress with a collared shirt" was acceptable to all but the most formal of functions, Club Ball etc. The second matter that arose was the tightening and more rigid enforcement of the 'Drink-Drive Laws'. A lowering of the allowable blood alcohol limit in 1978 (and again a few years later) and the introduction of 'Blitz's' was to bring about changes in drinking patterns and negatively impact on the Clubs patronage. The third matter of note was the purchase by the Club of the land across the Whakauru stream. Negotiations had commenced in 1973, but it was not until 1980 the formalities were completed and the ownerhip of 4 acres passed in to the Clubs hands at a purchase price of $25,000. The land was leased out for grazing for a number of years and eventually sold.


The Eighties were to be a trying time for the Club, major changes by Central Governments changed the face of New Zealand forever, and nowhere was the effect felt more than in Tokoroa. Massive redundancies at the Kinleith Mill and the consequent drop in the local population was to bring the financial management of the Club to a heightened sense of importance. This had to be done while maintaining the Club spirit and ambience. It was not an eay time for the Club, its employees or the Governance Committee.

1980 commenced with a new Manager at the helm. Noel Steer who had been a Manager with Consolidated Hotels was hired and Myer Morris finally retired. Noel is remembered as the man who introduced the 'counter lunch' in an endeavour to attract local custom. Noel passed away at the end of 1980 and was replaced by 'the one armed bandit', Peter Stanley, who had been Noels' assistant. The new Assistant Manager appointed being Mike McPhee. The Club underwent a face lift in 1981 with a 'Cobb & Co' look being adopted for the downstairs bar areas. Speaking of 'one armed bandits', it was 1982 when the 'Avago' card type of Poker Machines were introduced to the Club. These were to be the forerunner of the 20 cent machines introduced to the Club in 1988 and the cashless 'smartcard' gaming machines that were introduced in 1995. It is true to say that it is gaming machine income that has enabled the Club to stay solvent, or at least keep the annual subscription at a very reasonable level.

Mike McPhee left the district in 1984 and was replaced as Assistant Manager by Wally Pehi. Wally came to us from Wellington and was promoted to Manager in 1986 when Peter Stanley moved to Rotorua. To many, Peter was the person who christened the Lounge area over looking the Snooker Room 'Skid Row'. Peter had served the Club longer than most other Managers and is well remembered by all who came into contact with him.

In 1988 a number of changes took place. Firstly at a very active Annual General Meeting females were finally given access to all areas of the Club premises. This was roundly welcomed by most members and was, with the introduction of Friday night late nights, combined with live entertainment to prove successful, both socially and financially for the Club. !988 was also the year that Kevin 'HUMPHREY' Grey arrived to replace Wally Pehi. "HUMPHREY' was formadible figure never to be forgotten by all who met him.


The 'Nineties' began with a problem that first raised it's head in 1985, a lack of a full fied of candidates for the Committee at the Annual General Meeting. Although two members had put their names forward for the position of President (Bob Hardisty prevailed over Dick Bloxham), there was a shortage of other membes willing to stand for other positions, and the Committee found itself short of one vice-President and one Committee man. The positions were eventually filled by a co-opting Club Member.

In 1991 Peter Everitt was appointed as Club Manager and had the good fortune to to be able to move into the new Club Managers residence on the section adjacent to the Club. The new house replaced the 'old shack' that had stood alongside the main Club building for many years. The Assistant Managers house had also been renovated and another newcomer, Dennis Cricket was to enjoy this accomodation. 1991 also saw the main dance floor renewed and another renewal in the replacement of our third Club Secretary, Marion Lang with Jan Leatham who was Club Secretary until 2004.

To assist the Club Secretary in her work the Committee in 1992 authorised the purchase of a computer. This was to vastly speed up and improve the Clubs record keeping and reporting. 1992 also saw changes to the members 'Snowball Draw' that was held every Monday night, henceforth there would be the facility for up to five 'Snowball draws'