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Sunnyside Tennis Club

The April 1979 OSCAR contained an article by Lindsay Suthren in which Mr. George Seal of Bellwood Avenue reminisced… “about his childhood in Ottawa South. He can remember the sounds of tennis playing on the four courts of the Sunnyside Tennis Club which was situated in the ravine behind St. Margaret Mary's Church, formerly Calvin Presbyterian Church. Tennis was very popular as was canoeing. There were a number of canoe clubs on the Rideau River and on the Canal within the Ottawa South area.”[1]

Tennis boomed in Ottawa in the 1920s. Many clubs – St. James, All Saints, St. Alban’s, and St. Joseph’s – were linked to churches and in 1924 Calvin Presbyterian Church at Sunnyside and Fairbairn acquired enough land behind the church to build six double tennis courts; in fact, only four courts were built.[2]

N. Bruce Lyon was president of the club for at least its first four years and he and his wife were among its top players. In 1928 he and Mrs. Lyon advanced to the final round in the Ottawa District Lawn Tennis Association mixed doubles competition and in 1933-1934 he was the district veteran champion. [3]

Nearly 100 members attended the club’s windup banquet in the church hall in September 1926. Engraved spoons were presented to the winners of club competitions:

Men’s ladder – N.B. Lyon;

Ladies’ ladder – Mrs. N.B Lyon;

Progressive doubles – J. W. Cocburn and Mrs. N.B. Lyon, C. McGuirl and Miss Agnes Scott;

Ladies’ singles – Miss Jessie Guthrie;

Men’s singles – Taylor Shore;

Ladies’ doubles – Miss M. Williams and Mrs. Lyon;

Men’s doubles – W. Ambridge and N.B. Lyon;

Mixed doubles – Miss L. Doran and F.R. Duminy.[4]

In 1929 W.G. Ambridge took over as president with Major W.E.L. Coleman as vice-president. Bruce Lyon was secretary-treasurer. At the annual general meeting in 1929 it was decided to resurface the four courts one at a time so as not to interfere with play; at the same time the club decided to build a small shelter on the property with change rooms for the members.[5]

In addition to club play, the club usually entered a team in either the C or B section of the Ottawa District Lawn Tennis Association league. Although it never won its section title, Calvin typically finished in the middle of its group.

As a club operating on church land, the club, and other church affiliated tennis clubs claimed a municipal tax free status. Clubs which were not affiliated with churches complained to the city assessor who ruled that the club’s should pay municipal taxes. Calvin, Glebe, St. James and Blessed Sacrament all appealed the ruling and won their case: “the court reached the view that the activities of the church organizations which operated tennis and bowling clubs were a definite part of recognized church work.”[6]

Calvin Presbyterian Church entered the 1925 church union and in 1931 it amalgamated with Ottawa South Methodist Church to build the Southminister United Church. The Calvin church was sold to the Roman Catholic diocese and became St. Margaret Mary. The tennis courts were not part of the sale and were transferred to the club which changed its name to the Sunnyside Tennis Club. [7]

The Sunnyside club continued in much the same way as the Calvin club with club play and a team in the city league. In 1932 the Citizen reported that Bessie and Dora McLean had defeated Miss M Munn and Miss G. Fairbairn to win the AC Brown Trophy, emblematic of the ladies’ doubles championship of the Sunnyside Tennis Club.[8]

In 1935 the Journal reported that the club would open with mixed doubles round robin tournament followed by a club tea on 11 May. [9]

Even the personnel remained the same. In 1936 Major W.E.L. Coleman was elected president; J.J. Scott, vice-president; N. Bruce Lyon, secretary-treasurer; Graham Brown, chair of the playing committee; and Mrs. C.P. Brown, chair of the social and entertainment committee. Reports indicated that both the courts and the bank account were in good shape. The club was constructing an outdoor badminton court and planned to continue to enter a team in the Ottawa District Lawn Tennis Association league.[10]

Ottawa Journal 19370615In 1937 the Journal reported on the annual President/Secretary’s match at the club: [11]

The war disrupted tennis in Ottawa. A number of new clubs,  often based on occupational groupings, emerged, while some clubs closed or restricted their activities for the duration and some did not reopen. In 1941 the Citizen mentioned the Sunnyside club as one of a number of smaller clubs — Britannia Heights, St. James, Ascension, Lindelea, Experimental Farm, Rideau Aquatic Club, Riverview, and Stewarton Church — operating in the city.[12]

According to Mr. Seal the club disbanded after the war and I have not found references to the club after 1941. Exactly when it closed is not clear but a 1958 aerial photo of the area does not show any indication of tennis courts.

[2] Ottawa Journal, (OJ), 9 May 1924. “Calvin Church Tennis.”

[3] OJ, 17 September 1926. “Calvin Tennis Club Reviews the Year;” OJ, 6 September 1928. “Over the Net;” OJ, 27 June 1934. “George Leclerc Holds Title in Men’s Singles.”

[4] OJ, 17 September 1926. “Calvin Tennis Club Reviews the Year.”

[5] OJ, 22 April 1929. “Calvin Club Tennis Officers.”

[6] OJ, 28 November 1929. “Churches Allowed Appeals Against Levy on Grounds.”

[7]!history/cgwa ; OJ, 3 July 1940. “Not Collecting Taxes From Sunnyside Club.”

[8] Ottawa Citizen, 8 September 1932. “On the Courts.”

[9] OJ, 11 May 1935, “Hold Opening Today.”

[10] OJ, 16 April 1936. Sunnyside Tennis Club Elects Officers.”

[11] Ottawa Journal, 15 June 1937. “Over the Net.”

[12] Ottawa Citizen, 11 April 1941, p.15 “Rideau Tennis Club Ushers in Season…”