Robyn, or Aunty Robyn as she is fondly referred to by the staff, started at the Club on the 17th April 1984. How did Robyn come to be employed here?
Well President Ken Armstrong, played bowls with Robyn’s husband Allan, and one Saturday during conversation after a game whilst downing a frothy, Ken asked Allan if he knew of anyone who could provide assistance in the office at the Club.
Well, as a matter of fact, Allan did know someone, and suggested to Robyn that evening. So, as it went Robyn decided to provide some part-time assistance for three days a week, as she was able to ensure that her young daughter, Michelle was well looked after and she enjoyed the challenge of working in this new arrangement.
Robyn became a permanent member of staff in 1985, moving into full-time employment. As the Club’s longest serving member of staff, she has certainly seen huge changes in her time at the Club. Robyn remembers how limited the office area and facilities were back then. There was a very small space down the back of the building and a shed just outside the back door, where barrels of beer were stored.
Position descriptions were unheard of as staff had to be flexible in those days, as everybody was expected to pitch in and do whatever needed to be done to keep the Club running. It could be preparing a newsletter, working on member records, rolling barrels of beer to the bar area or taking money as patrons arrived for functions.
Initially Robyn basically had to do everything – payroll, fees, everyday administrative tasks, newsletters, organise a Christmas party, helping at the Sportsman’s breakfasts, sometimes helping at the bar, raffle assistance, counting money, going to the bank, and even handing out parking tickets for football days at Waverley Park to members for their guests. She even had to report any break-ins!
Robyn loved working with and for the Club members. She saw the relatively early stages of development and has grown with the Club. She liked the culture and the people; and it was comfortable, and yet there was always something different happening that made for very interesting work. Robyn has enjoyed attending and organising the annual children’s Christmas parties for the members children & grandchildren over the years and seeing how many of those children have grown up and are now bringing their own next generation children to the Club!
Robyn became an active tennis player, and enjoyed success playing alongside other club legends, like Dorsy, particularly in the midweek ladies’ competition when she still worked part-time, even winning the flag one year. In earlier days, she’d play tennis on Tuesday morning, then change and move into her administrative roles. Unfortunately, her tennis career at the Club ceased when she had a major back operation in 1992, but that hasn’t stopped her putting in many years of service in the office since.
Although many of the early office tasks were much different from today, the purposes were still the same – to support the members of the Club as required. In truth, Robyn had many roles at Mulgrave, especially in the days before there was a paid manager in the Club and very few others whom to call on to share jobs. It should also be remembered that Robyn commenced work before any of the major building renovations and extensions took place and has been part of one early renovation which was the new Club entrance and office along with dining room that meant no more shoe box office to work out. Twenty years after Robyn commenced, the Club had its first major expansion undergoing a redevelopment in 2004, creating the enlarged administrative office area upstairs that we all still work in today.
Robyn has had an ongoing interaction with directors and other major office bearers of the Club and has been a long-term member of the Sections committee. In her role, Robyn has had to work with many people from all walks of life and pays tribute to Presidents Ken Armstrong, Bob Hookey, Geoff Woodley and Ken Kinson, as well as club stalwart Molly Simpson, who ran Bingo and held other committee roles as well.
Robyn’s favourite part about being a staff member for so long with the Mulgrave Country Club was the ‘Huge challenges’ (a very nice way of putting it) and wonderful friendships formed with so many people. Robyn has some very strong memories of productive and satisfying times at the Club. These include organising the 25th anniversary celebrations in 1986, along with the 30th, 40th and 50th anniversary, the opening of the new building in 2004 with a gala night, and a special afternoon tea for members held to celebrate 25 years or more of membership. With our 60th anniversary looming in 2021, we may call on Robyn to assist on the organising committee once again.
Probably the biggest impact on the Club that Robyn has seen over the years was the introduction of poker machines in 1993 and the closure of Waverley Park, when the AFL stopped playing football across the road in 1999, thus ending 30 years of football fans swelling the Club on game days, along with the finishing of the Annual Sportsman’s Breakfast.
Some of the other tasks Robyn performed in the early years at the Club was organising Club Functions, Friday social night bookings, all outside company functions for Christmas, along with Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve bookings and the annual Club Championship Dinner.
The Club newsletter was initially printed away from the Club, as there was no appropriate equipment to produce it in the office. When newsletters came back for distribution, some staff and volunteer members would go out to the shed to prepare them for mailing. Ken Kinson, a Past President, often helped, along with Geoff Woodley and other volunteers and/or staff. Ken edited the newsletter himself for some time. It was Ken’s idea to get hold of an old washing machine with a wringer attached, and to use the wringer to assist in the folding.
Volunteers would fold newsletters into envelope size and feed them through the wringer to compress the folds so newsletters would fit into an envelope. An old canvas mailbag was hooked up to the output of the wringer.
Once they were flattened this way, newsletters were then stuffed into envelopes, addressed and bagged for despatch. Robyn James remembers the days of lugging the bag to the post office where over 900 envelopes were posted out.
Of course, when office facilities and equipment like typewriters, were introduced during the 70s and 80s that helped to produce the newsletter in-house and it was an exciting time.
Most club records in its early days were, at best, typed using carbon paper for copies, and the good old-fashioned method of handwriting which is how most of the early meeting notes were recorded. Times continued to see changes in technology with equipment and production methods, as newsletters are now electronic, online, and distributed in printed booklet form around the Club.
Robyn has had the pleasure of seeing all Life Members and Meritorious Service Members receive their awards.
Robyn has worked for 8 different managers during her time at the Club. Neil Fairburn, Bob Beecroft, Paul Bowen, Christine Stredwick, Paul Morwood, John Laughton, Michael Silcock and yours truly. It is so pleasing to know that I was her favourite.
On a serious note we thank Robyn for the last 35 years of service to our great Club. She has worked at the Club half her life but now it is time for her to take a step back, look after her health, let husband Allan run around after her, and enjoy spending time with her two beautiful granddaughters, Mia and Ava.
We all wish Robyn a long, healthy and happy retirement and of course look forward to her visiting us often in the future.