The town that says yes

July 20, 2021

In 50 years of indoor bowling tournaments Marjorie Bloor has never picked up a ball. But she has picked up a knife and buttered loads of sandwiches for the players’ morning and afternoon teas.

This year Dannevirke celebrates a long and special relationship between its indoor bowling clubs and IHC. This is a town that has always said yes to supporting local people with intellectual disabilities.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Dannevirke Combined Indoor Bowling Clubs IHC Tournament and Marjorie has been volunteering at the event from the start.

Marjorie and her husband John live on the highway north of Dannevirke on the Piripiri flat where, as teenagers, Marjorie and her friends would ride their bikes to work, racing each other into town.

“I used to live six kilometres away. We came from a farm up the road – a dairy farm. Mum and Dad shifted there from Norsewood when I was 16. I used to bike into Dannevirke to work. Dad used to let me take the car when it was wet,” she says.

“I was in the bank. It started off with the Union Bank, which later amalgamated with the Bank of Australasia to become the ANZ Bank.”

It was while she was working at the bank that Marjorie met John Bloor, also off a farm, and he soon joined the cyclists on the trip into town. Marjorie and John married, went farming and had three sons. Then in 1963 their daughter Jennifer was born with an intellectual disability. Marjorie says there was no help on offer for families of children with disabilities until the town decided to step in.

“I remember when the IHC opened here, the Mayor [L J Appleton] called a meeting in the Concert Chamber in 1966,” she says.

The Dannevirke sub-branch of the Manawatū Branch of IHC was formed at that meeting. John joined the committee, travelling many hours to and from Palmerston North for Manawatū Branch meetings. He was treasurer and became patron of the Dannevirke sub-branch. Marjorie also joined the committee and served as secretary and treasurer.

Dannevirke was supporting local families with disabilities long before people started saying that it took a village to raise a child.

Spearheading that support were the indoor bowling clubs. They got together and decided to hold a tournament to raise funds for charity. There are only two indoor bowling clubs left in Dannevirke, but their support hasn’t wavered.

Players come from Napier, Marton, Feilding, Palmerston North, Pahiatua and Wairarapa. They play for the afternoon at the Dannevirke Sports Centre in teams of four and there are four games of 40 minutes each. People with intellectual disabilities are encouraged to join a team.

Marjorie may not be a bowler, but she says her daughter is keen. “She went away to a tournament and she did quite well.” Jennifer Bloor, now 57, prizes the insulated cup from Rabobank that she won as a prize in the 2019 tournament. “She has her morning coffee in that.”

IHC Committee member Theo Henricksen says it’s always great to see the delight on the faces of the disabled players when they go to the table to select their prizes. Theo is a former president and secretary of the committee.

Since 1971 the tournament has raised more than $60,000 for people with intellectual disabilities, and former Dannevirke Combined Indoor Bowling Clubs president John Johnson says IHC has always been the beneficiary. In 2001 the total amount raised reached $2000 for the first time and is tracking at about $2000 a year. The tournament is heavily sponsored by local businesses, which provide goods for prizes and raffles, and hardly anyone goes home without a prize. This year the tournament raised more than $4000.

“The sponsorship from Dannevirke has been incredible,” John says.

The money raised comes from sponsorship, the sale of raffle tickets, and entry fees from the players. It pays for extras for disabled people supported by IDEA Services in Dannevirke.

There are three residential homes in Dannevirke and all the houses and residents have benefited with outings, new lounge suites, iPads and garden improvements. The vocational base in High Street has had a shade sail installed and concrete paving is going underneath.

John was president for close to 17 years and, still on the committee, he organises the tournament each year. He says he’s not sure why IHC became the focus of all the bowling clubs’ efforts.

“Somebody just came up with the idea. They tossed up. It was going to be IHC or St John’s or someone.” And having made the decision, they stuck with it.

The 50th jubilee was to have been held last year but the pandemic intervened and the tournament was rescheduled for July 2021.

Marjorie recalls that the catering used to be a lot more demanding than it is now. As well as morning and afternoon teas, they would provide hot lunches with the meat donated by local butchers, the Ronchis. “The midday meal only lasted three or four years,” Marjorie says.

The women of the IHC committee would turn eight loaves of bread into sandwiches. “It was fun really, all working together. You really get to know people.” The fillings have got a bit flasher over the years, and the standard egg and corned silverside have been joined by cream cheese and pineapple, and apricot, cream cheese and ginger.

“They love the savouries – lots of sausage rolls. They love the cream cakes,” Marjorie says. “It’s amazing the amount of afternoon tea they eat.”

Dannevirke Combined Indoor Bowling Clubs Secretary Corriene Mitchinson has worked hard to make the 50th anniversary a special celebration, with speeches, printed T-shirts and a cake-cutting by Marjorie.

“The first event was held on 2 May 1971. In those days there were nine bowling clubs in and around Dannevirke. Now there are only two clubs – indoor clubs,” Corriene says.

“It gives me a real buzz when I see the money that we raise. It’s so rewarding. We have such support from all the local businesses and from outside the district as well.”

Caption 1: Tournament organiser John Johnson with Marjorie Bloor, daughter Jenny Bloor and Miriam Telford (right) celebrate the 50th jubilee at the Dannevirke Sports Centre.

Caption 2: Longstanding IHC committee members Theo Henricksen (left) and Marjorie Bloor have worked shoulder to shoulder over the years.