In our “A Drink with Jeff” series, Campbelltown Catholic Club community liaison Jeff McGill has been catching up with a diverse selection of club identities. This month, it’s Joy (Lowe) Power.
The foyer of the Catholic Club proudly displays the names of our great pioneer families of 1968 — such as the Meehans, McDonalds, Vardys and O’Loughlans.
But don’t bother looking for Joy’s family, the Lowes. You won’t find them.
In fact, coming from an old Church of England family, Joy wasn’t even allowed to join as a member until 1971 when the doors opened to non-Catholics.
It might be argued that the Lowes ARE a pioneer family of our club simply because Campbelltown Bowling Club, located next to Mawson Park, is now a division of The Catholic Club — and Joy’s parents and grandparents were definitely pioneers of that story. In fact, the first rink you see as you enter the Bowlo is the “Allan Lowe Green” – in honour of her late father. The first greenskeeper was also Joy’s great-uncle, Jack Dredge.
“So, your DNA is all over these greens,” I asked her.
“Hmmm, I’ve got to be a bit careful how I answer that question,” she laughed.
Joy’s razor-sharp wit, not to mention her sharp IT skills (as she airdropped jpgs to my phone) is noticeable, as she turns 80 in November yet could give most millennials a run for their money. So, as we looked over renovation work at the Bowling Club this month, I invited her to join me for my latest “Drink with Jeff” interview.
We met in the Catholic Club foyer as the doors opened at 10am, grabbed some hot drinks, and sat in a quiet corner of Harvest bistro before the lunch crowds rolled in.
I knew about Joy’s rich Bowling Club connections, but only discovered her deep Catholic Club links when I noticed the early number on her membership card as we swiped in. “Terry [her husband] and I joined not long after we got married,” she recalled. “We’d come here on Saturday nights for dinner, maybe put a few dollars through the pokies and enjoy the shows. I’ve seen lots of acts here over the decades, from Johnny O’Keefe to Marina Prior.”
(It was only in 1971, when membership stood at 1000 Catholics, that the Club decided to admit non-Catholic “social” members. Today, of course, all such restrictions are gone and non-Catholics now outnumber Catholics.)
Joy’s late cousin, Lynette Dredge, “lived” at The Catho, she said – and that’s no exaggeration. “Lyn LOVED coming here, she was here almost every day. She had never married, and didn’t socialise much outside the family, so The Catho became her second family — everyone knew her, she loved the staff, and would say to me, ‘Joy, these people are like family to me.’ If I wanted to have a coffee with Lyn, I’d just pop in because I knew she’d be here somewhere, and we’d sit together, have a chat and solve all the problems of the world. We also liked going to shows together.”
Joy’s other fond memories of The Catho involve many years with the Bridge Club — “I’m thinking of rejoining” — and Aquafit’s Living Stronger program. “My son Darren also loves Aquafit, particularly the pool,” she said. “And when my brother comes up to visit from Junee he always insists on coming to The Catho for a roast pork dinner.” He still calls it ‘The King of Clubs’, she smiled, citing the old slogan.
Joy told me her brother was an Anglican minister, and she recalled the bitter sectarianism of the 1940s and 1950s, when Catholic and Protestant kids often walked on different sides of the street.
Did that make it difficult for her to join a Catholic Club in 1971?
“No, not at all,” Joy said. “We loved coming here…and aren’t we all glad those bad old days of division are well behind us. I’m proud to say that my own children — Jodie, Kyle and Darren — all attended local Catholic schools, and now my grandchildren do, and they’ve all had very good educations. The Catholic Club was founded to support that.” Joy’s warm fond comments about John Therry High School, St Patrick’s College and St Thomas More Primary School ring a bell because my own family also has long-time connections with all three schools.
As our conversation unfolded, I also realised Joy’s open mindedness extended not just to matters of faith, but all walks of life — from politics, and the importance of Naidoc Week, to the kind hearts that most young Aussies display today. Joy feels like she belongs to a world moving on, not stuck in old habits or prejudices.
“We came from a family where my dad had expressions like ‘build a bridge’ and ‘wait a while’,” she told me.
They sound to me like other words for empathy and tolerance. Joy smiled and nodded at me. “Yes, you could say that.”
But Campbelltown was always a place that broke down the barriers, she suggested, pointing out that as a little girl her closest playmates were members of the McDonald and Eves families — the same Catholic clans who helped to create The Catho. “As kids we’d all meet up at Mawson Park on our bushbikes,” she said. “And, living in between where Bill Meehan and Bruce McDonald [club members No 1 and 3] had their homes in Lithgow Street, was my uncle Doug Dredge.”
There’s that Dredge name again.
Joy is not only a Lowe but, via her mother’s line, a Dredge. The same family of “Dredge’s Cottage” fame — the heritage home in Queen Street that serves as Campbelltown’s Veterans’ Recreation Centre. In fact, old Zillah Dredge who was very well-known and still lived there when I was a kid in the 1970s, was Joy’s grandmother. And her grandfather was Ray Dredge, one of Campbelltown’s WW1 renowned lighthorsemen who served at the famous Battle of Beersheba in 1917.
That starts us both down a rabbit hole we find it hard to emerge from…because Joy and I are not only history buffs, but keen genealogists.
“What makes Joy tick, you wanted to know,” she laughed, “well, this is what makes me tick.” Joy ripped out a laptop computer and showed me all her various family tree charts and discoveries, as well as a host of old family photographs.
It’s fascinating because it’s a family tree full of Campbelltown pioneers such as Samuel Larkin, a convict who in 1816 was granted a farm called Ambarvale. I also noted the name Rudd — as in Leumeah’s Rudd Road, and as in a certain former Prime Minister. “Yes, Kevin Rudd’s great-great grandmother and my great-great-great grandmother were sisters,” Joy added.
The family tree thing then led us to play the old game of Campbelltown Connections. We discovered one person after person we shared a link or a friendship with, and I noted that her uncle, Garney Dredge, was a great helper to me when I wrote a history of Campbelltown’s WW1 veterans in 2001. “Typical Campbelltown,” we smiled.
Joy is a local patriot who wouldn’t live anywhere else. Even her working life was spent at the old Crompton Parkinson plant, opened in 1956 as Campbelltown’s first major factory near the railway station. “I was originally a telephonist but eventually became the payroll manager, and my husband also worked there. Between us we chocked up 80 years combined service.”
Many old timers will remember Joy’s dad, Allan Lowe, from his long years with the railways as a local stationmaster, but it is at Campbelltown Bowling Club that he is most famed as a member for 50 years, as a longtime club secretary, and as a club historian. Joy’s mother, Joyce, and grandmother Zillah Dredge also reformed the ladies bowling club in 1952 after it was disbanded during WW2.I am, however, surprised to learn that Joy herself is a complete newbie to bowls. “I only started playing about five years ago,” she admitted. “Dad often tried to persuade me to play, but I didn’t — probably because I thought it was ‘something old people did’. I played golf instead. But, one day I decided to pop into the Bowling Club for old times sake, I basically grew up there, and when I walked in they asked me if I wanted to have a go. I did, and…well…I haven’t played golf since! I love it, and it’s great to see some of the club’s nicest characters now are younger people…but we still need more young people. It’s for all ages!”
Joy spoke with great nostalgia about her parents’ friendships with old-time characters of the Bowlo like Bill Vardy. That name pricks up my ears because he was the father of my good mate, Chris Vardy-Thomson, who I like to describe as Catholic Club royalty: one of first waitresses from 1968 and one of its longest-serving staffers. Joy also spoke fondly of Chris, as the threads between the two clubs became more intertwined.
At this point I suddenly realised that Joy and I had been chatting for two hours, and it was getting busier around us as the lunchtime crowds arrived, so we decided to wind things up. But , on our way to the car park, we went via Quondong.
This historic building next to the Club is strongly symbolic to Joy because she said it shows what can be achieved with good intentions. It was just an old termite-infested semi-ruin when it was purchased by The Catho in the 1990s, but almost $1 million was then spent painstakingly restoring everything from the wood shingle roof to the polished floorboards. It is now Campbelltown’s visitor information centre, and features a replica 19th century schoolroom to denote the fact it was once Campbelltown’s first Catholic school — St Patrick’s. The late great Noel Burton, a former Club President, once boldly declared the building was in better condition now, than when first built in 1840!
Joy totally agrees with that sentiment. “To me, this is a great symbol of why it was so important for the Bowling Club to join with the Catholic Club. If my parents could see the current renovations, I think they’d be over the moon because the Bowling Club was everything to them. But, the truth is, it was struggling to survive in more recent times. I trust the Catholic Club to ensure that legacy will now survive. What they did for Quondong, and what they have done for Campbelltown Golf Club, tells me that the Bowling Club DOES have a solid future.”
Then, Joy proudly pointed out that her grandmother Zillah Dredge attended the original school at Quondong in the years after Federation!
That made me smile because it seemed to very neatly bring our conversation full circle. Joy’s family might not be among the 1968 pioneers listed in the Catholic Club foyer, but they do have a solid place in The Catholic Club’s wider story — not just back to the opening of the Bowling Club a century ago in the 1920s, but all the way back to a Quondong schoolgirl called Zillah.