Dirk van Binnendyk was the first person to advance the idea of building tennis courts on an area of undeveloped parkland Humber River flood plain, located on the east side of the river immediately south of Catherine Street. The idea was put forward at a meeting of the newly-formed Humber-Bloor-Jane Ratepayers’ Association in the fall of 1969. Mayor Phil White was at the meeting. He encouraged the Association to go ahead with the idea.
Dirk discussed the idea next with Mr. Savage, Commissioner Parks and Recreation for the Borough of York. He told Dirk that he had been contacted also by Shirley Earle of Humbercrest Boulevard about building tennis courts in the area. They decided to work together in the interests of the Homeowners they represented.
On December 19, 1969, Dirk organized a meeting of several area homeowners at his home: Peter Earl, Jim Goodbrand (President, Humber-Bloor-Jane-Ratepayers), Jim Morrison and Ted Zaharchuk. Dirk also arranged for Peter Dimmer to attend the meeting for his advice about tennis court construction, layout and surfaces. He was a tournament tennis player, coach and administrator. The meeting developed the contents of a proposal.
A formal, detailed proposal in the form of a petition signed by those homeowners was sent to the Borough February 16, 1970. It was accompanied by a supporting petition signed by 146 area homeowners. The proposal dealt with the location of the courts, the reasons they were needed in this area, the type of court surfaces, and a proposed layout for seven courts. The Old Millside Residents’ Association supported the proposal throughout its processing through Parks and Recreation Committee and Council. Peter McBurney, secretary of the Association, wrote a letter early in the process expressing the Association’s full support for the proposal. When, after 18 months, the approval process seemed to have stalled, Andy Gory of Old Millside put to work his political skills and personal enthusiasm for the courts and got things moving again.
No doubt, the continuing support of Mayor White helped, but he made clear that the Borough would not operate the courts; that would have to be the responsibility of a community group. Consequently, a temporary Executive Committee was formed to organize a tennis club. The committee was Dork van Binnendyk, President; David Britton, Secretary; Peter Satterfield, Treasurer; and Shirley Earle, Moira Hutchinson and Connie Zaharchuk, Directors.
A formal request to form the Old Mill Tennis Club, for the purpose of operating the courts, was sent to the Borough on January 14, 1972. It included the applications to join the club from 174, 111 seniors and 63 juniors. The request was granted and the York Old Mill Tennis Club was formed. The Committee worked, with the help of staff from Parks and Recreation, to prepare a constitution and the first playing rules. The secretary, David Britton carried much of that load, as well as negotiation an agreement with the Borough for such things as members and public playing time and bringing the Club under the umbrella of the Borough’s liability insurance.
Construction of the courts began May 1, 1972. They were opened for play on August 3, 1972. Mayor White, accompanied by Jim Trimbee, Alderman for the area, formally opened the courts on August 19th. The opening ceremony was followed by a round Robin.
The Club’s first annual meeting was held on October 11, 1972. The constitution was approved and the organizing directors were confirmed in office for the following year. Dirk van Binnendyk was succeeded as president in later years by Peter McBurney and Peter Satterfield. Erna Stiller was Membership Secretary for many of these years. Dennis Stamp was one of the early directors. Bob Cockerill, Bruce Cameron, Doug Smith were some of the presidents during the ensuing years, before Ros Foster and Gia Petrelli. Doug did a lot of work to advance the Club’s application to build a clubhouse.
Prepared October 24, 2002 by Peter Satterfield from notes and documents supplied by Dirk van Binnendyk. Reproduced in digital form by John Borg.