By Stephen Toms with Rob Geerling
Its founders, Rob and Lily Geerling, inaugurated this Victorian Nudist Swim Night Group on the first Saturday night in July 1980, under the initial name of Metro East Nudist Leisure Group.
Rob and Lily had had many years of experience (since 1964) in Nudist Clubs, such as Sun Valley, Phoenix, Spielplatz, (all since defunct), and mainly Northside Country Club, which of course is still going strong.
Whilst at Northside, Lily had been membership Secretary, and Rob It’s Treasurer for four years, and had also represented most of those clubs at Association, and Federation - delegate level, as well as being ANF Treasurer for two years, and pseudo Supporter Secretary for the ANF Supporter Scheme’s first year.
That experience gave them the confidence to start up a club of their own, knowing the ins and outs of what’s required in running a club, both physically and administratively.
The first few nights were held at “Van Dyke’s Swim School”, this had a 12-metre long, 80-cm deep pool, in which during the day, swimming lessons were given to babies and toddlers. In those very early days, the title “Swim club”, was really a misnomer, since adults would find it very hard to swim in an 80cm deep pool. But Rob and Lily put the accent not so much on the swimming aspect of the club, but much more on the social aspect of Nudists meetings, and being able to talk freely about Nudist things.
To this end, they encouraged members to bring along some of their best culinary efforts, or if they weren’t cooks, something like sandwiches or cakes for the supper table, which meant that supper became one of the highlights of the meeting. The Conveners supplied the coffee, tea, milk, sugar, cups, and the hot water urns. The after-supper period, became the time when any news would be passed onto the members, since at that time, they would all be present in one place.
After about four or five nights at “Van Dyke’s”, and with more people joining the club, Rob and Lily started looking for larger premises, and the first one they found was the “Bulleen pool”, which had a large 50-metre pool, Spa area, and a kiddies wading pool; ideal for the many kids we had at that time. The Swimming Teacher’s room became our supper area, and we can still remember our youngest two-year old twin boys sleeping under the supper table, even during the sometimes noisy supper time conversation.
We advertised in the “Australian Sun and Health magazine”, also in the Melbourne “Age” newspaper’s public notices column, which brought us new members, many of whom had never been nudists before. So we introduced a few “easy-as-you-go” rules, applicable during the first two visits to make them feel more at ease. However, from the third visit on, the rules were “Nude Only” for everyone, no exceptions, although the latter was relaxed for ladies at certain times.
When the “Bulleen Pool” changed owners, and with the new management not being in favour of having nudists as their tenants, the Group was forced to look for a new venue, and found the “Templestowe Pool”, not far away from Bulleen. However this above-ground indoor pool, although heated, it was in a very cold large hall, and the distant Turkish sauna was almost always “out of order”, nor did we have an area to have our supper, which had become an essential part of our meetings.
So we kept looking for new premises, and found the “Rose Street Pool” in Toorak. This was a complex of two pools, one was a medium size 25-metre, which was nicely heated, and well suited for most members, whilst there was also a larger 50-metre; and much cooler pool, but suitable for those of us who enjoyed lap swimming. The complex had a fairly small area for our supper, but in those early days, it was just large enough. However, our club were very fortunate in attracting many people who were either already nudists, or were new to our lifestyle, and wanted to give nudism a try. So after about twelve months, we also out-grew this complex.
We then really lashed out, and became tenants at the very large and well equipped “Lifestyle Swim and Leisure Centre” at Wheeler’s Hill. The hire fee was quite reasonable, considering that we had the use of the large 50-metre heated pool, the two sauna areas, the two spa areas, and a very large-upstairs carpeted area for our supper, including room for a many number of massage tables; in fact, the only areas we weren’t allowed to use, were the gym and the weight room, as we could not afford the extra insurance premium that would have applied.
Mainly during the Wheeler’s Hill years, when the group just kept on growing and growing, Rob and Lily, who at first, had kept all organization of any kind under their own wings as Conveners of the Group, came to the conclusion, that it had become quite a nightmare keeping up with all the goings on within the Group.
Rob and Lily instigated a Conveners’ Advisory Board, where members were inaugurated as coordinators for some of the activities that had become regular features of the Group, such as a Sports Captain, a children’s coordinator, and members who offered to assist, when, and whichever capacity they might be required. This Board became the forerunner for an eventual Committee, once the members were ready to vote to become a Club.
The Metro East Travel Club, was brought into being when we started hiring a bus, and visiting all sorts of places of interest to Nudists in the Victorian country side, as well as over the border into New South Wales. We travelled to “Kellyville Ridge”, which is approximately 16km north of Parramatta; this is where the “Ettimogah Pub” still stands today. Some of the places we visited in Victoria, (amongst others), were; River Valley Nudist Resort, Noah’s Park Nudist Resort, (both since defunct), a trip on a paddle steamer from the port of Echuca, and a nude dinner dance at a winery at Lavington.
The Australian Nudists Information Bureau, (ANIB), which supplied information to members of the public about what Nudism is all about, where to find the nearest clothing optional beach, (or beaches along the interstate holiday routes), and also the addresses of the nearest Nudist Groups and Clubs. We supplied people with information on how to start, and perhaps run a Nudist holiday resort or club. We know of at least one such resort that started up, and operated successfully for quite a number of years, after having obtained their initial information from the (ANIB).
It is important to mention that the (ANIB) had considerable assistance from one of Metro East’s earliest new members, Greg Rough, helped tremendously by answering the phone, preparing and handing out brochures, and doing practically anything that was asked of him. It was through these brochures and him canvassing many pool venues in the Northern and Western areas of Melbourne, that Greg finally found the “Footscray Pool”. In the year of 1991, Greg Rough inaugurated the Solar West Nudist Leisure Group, ably assisted by his mother Joyce, a non-nudist, but someone we would all have been proud to have had for a mother.
The Leisure Scene magazine, which became both the members Newsletter, as well as a magazine that kept other people in the nudist community abreast of certain happenings on the Nudism front’ and had its own Editor. The magazine was published quarterly in A5 format, which sometimes went from 24 to 28 pages, and had black and white photo’s in it, (as supplied by members and other contributors). There was also a column for the kids, with prizes for the best drawing or jokes etc. It was sent to all clubs and resorts, and was also available to non-club members at a reasonable subscription rate; hence, many clubs may still have copies of “Leisure Scene” in their libraries.
After having run Metro East Nudist Leisure Group for nine years as its Conveners, Rob and Lily decided to call it a day on the 30th June 1989. They were celebrated at a special goodbye party, and presented with a beautiful silver coffee set, engraved with the names of all the members or their Advisory Board. As previously agreed, at the first swim night in July 1989, the members held a General Meeting, at which it was decided that after one year the Group would meet again and become a Club with a properly elected Executive and committee.
Rob and Lily handed over the reins of the Group for that one-year to Kevin and Bev Egan as Caretaker Conveners. At the following year’s 1990 AGM, Kevin was elected the new Club, Metro East Association’s first President, and Rob and Lily were awarded Life Membership of Metro East.
Further to Rob’s and Lily’s contribution to the history of Metro East, as recently as (2011), Rob came up with the idea of “Nude Ten Pin Bowling”. With the financial help of two other Melbourne Naturist Groups, and help from other people, there were a number of nude bowling events in the suburb of Mont Albert. Rob is a very friendly bloke, who is a true and passionate advocate for Naturism, and has been for many years. The current committee congratulate Rob and Lily for the many years of service that they have given for the enjoyment of Nudists everywhere!
While at the Wheelers Hill Venue, between 1990, and the end of 1996 George and Cathy Vlug were office holders in the capacity of George being Vice President, and Cathy being Secretary. Also during this time, Tim was on the committee as Sports Co-ordinator, which at times, can be a physically demanding job. At the end of 1996, the members voted to move to a new venue; called the “Freeway Sports Centre”, this Gym is in the suburb of Doveton.
Settled into Doveton for thirteen & half years: In 1997, George was voted in as President, and Cathy and Tim continued their positions on the committee. It’s worth noting, that over this period of time, these people and others, were mostly the same volunteers who worked tirelessly, so that Nudists everywhere could enjoy their social and recreational activities. The facilities included, an 8 lane heated Swimming Pool, many indoor Squash and Volleyball Courts, 2 Spas, 2 Saunas, and a TV with an open lounge/foyer area, where we would all meet to share our 9pm supper. On a typical Saturday night, Cathy would be instructing the half an hour water aerobics class, Tim, and other people were organising Volleyball matches.
The Club also own their own custom-built “Basketball Ring”, this was designed and built by Tim, his contraption fitted uniquely at the side of the swimming pool; the children and Adults had many hours of fun playing pool Basketball. We also own 2 Table Tennis Tables, which are used extensively at every event. Many people, including myself enjoyed many hours of fun competing against others. Every year, around about October, Tim would organise single and doubles Table Tennis Competitions, the runners up would receive a red material ribbon, with an engraved medallion, and the winners would receive a blue material ribbon, with an engraved medallion.
We also had the services of our fully trained professional Masseur, for people who enjoyed a half an hour massage for an extra small fee. Every year we would have a “Nude photo Competition” where prizes would be presented. The members and visitors would bring their photos along on the night, and there were three categories of photos, ‘In the Natural Environment’, ‘Couples & Families’, and ‘Out of the Ordinary’, these were placed on the wall where everyone voted for the best photo in each category, the votes were counted up, and the winners were announced at supper time.
Change of the Helm: From the middle of 2005 to the middle of 2009, Tim was elected unopposed as President, and also at the same time he continued his duties has Sporting Co-ordinator. George stepped back into the Vice Presidency role. George had 9 years as President, which was a huge commitment on his part, but he still had more to give in the following years.
A time for departure: The “Office Holders” carefully scouted around for new people to be gradually inducted, so there could be new elected Office Holders and committee members. This was done in a professional way, so that by the middle of 2009, Alan Sedgewick, (our current President), was elected unopposed as our new President. Also Cathy, Tim, and the committee continued in their perspective roles for some time after that. At the 2010 AGM, Alan Sedgewick continued to be President, and the rest of the Office Holders and committee positions became vacant. These positions were filled, and so not long after the middle of 2010, and after thirteen and half years at Metro East, the previous Office Holders and committee had left the club. We gained new committee members in Steve and Sue Toms, Melissa Toms, Russell Varney, Lis Bainbridge and John Kerr to name a few.
Our venue changed to a private gym in Narre Warren which unfortunately closed its doors forcing us to another venue in Warragul. After a promising start there an article in the local paper led to some issues for the hirer, ending our tenure there.
Back to the Future
Soon we will return to our former venue at Doveton, hoping to build Metroeast to the club our founders would be proud of.