Photos of the scoreboards of the old Lake Oval/Lakeside Oval at South Melbourne have proved elusive. Many thanks to Swans fan (Doctor J ), of the readandwhiteonline forum for unearthing this image via YouTube from a 1979 game. (Click on the photo to see a larger image.)
This is the smaller of the two scoreboards that served the crowd. The building was also home to the timekeeper, the umpires’ rooms and the press.
Doctor J recalled on the readandwhiteonline forum: “I remember the scoreboard attendants having to lean over the side of it and put the scores up manually. The scoreboard was like a v-shaped decking on the umpires change rooms. The v- shape was necessary so it could be seen from all parts of the ground.”
Another forum member (goswannie14) remembers seeing Little River Band “making an appearance above that scoreboard one day somewhere between 1977 and 1980”. And according to ‘sfan’ Little River Band “regular as clockwork used to play at the ground a lot on Sunday mornings after training. The gig was run by Ron Clegg and was called Smokeys Sunday Sippers. A social and fund raising activity.”
Dean Langford, now 83, always watched the game from One Eye Hill, diagonally opposite the small scoreboard. “My mate Leo reckoned he could see the timekeeper in his room above the scoreboard. When the game was close and almost over Leo would call out ‘The hand’s on the bell! The hand’s on the bell!'”
Dean has been following the Swans since he was a teenager. He grew up with future Swans players Fred Goldsmith (1955 Brownlow medallist), Billy Gunn (grandfather of Callan Ward) and Jack Garrick.
From the late 1950s Dean and his family and friends travelled from the northern suburb of Coburg to the Lake Oval. He’d shut up his green-grocer shop right on midday and pack his truck with three wooden banana boxes and two planks, plus his wife Grace and their three children. “We’d file through the turnstiles carrying our bits and pieces – the turnstile man never complained – and then we’d set up our own little grandstand for the children on the terrace. Our three kids plus our friends’ three kids had a good view. And at half-time we all had somewhere to sit.”
The One Eye Hill community mainly kept their eye on the press-box scoreboard. “The other scoreboard was a monster. It was a massive thing on stilts. It was perfect if you were sitting in the main grandstand but we’d have to crane our necks to see the scores. The small scoreboard was nice and basic. You could read it quite easily.” (In the photo above the Swans are a point in front early in the game, with perhaps Barry Round to the right. Alas, the Lions went on to win.)
Dean remembers the man who sold peanuts outside the ground. “He had white pea bags sitting on a banana box and everybody, everybody, seemed to buy peanuts then. There didn’t seem to be anaphalaxis back in those days.”
Dean also fondly recalls his brother-in-law Bobby listening to the races on a transistor radio and riding the winners home. “Bobby would have his imaginary whip in his hand and he’d start cheering the horse on. People on One Eye Hill would move back to give him room and cheer Bobby on.”
Postscript:Bob Ely, a scoreboard fan from Cohuna and now living in New Zealand, used YouTube to track down the 1981 image below of Lake Oval’s main clock . Thanks Bob. Was the clock attached to the Lake Oval’s larger scoreboard, or was it a stand-alone structure?
There may not be many photos of the old scoreboards at Lake Oval but fans like Dean Langford and members of the readandwhiteonline forum have plenty of stories of old-style barracking.
Meanwhile, The Holy Boot Football Emporium website has a terrific collection of photos of the old South Melbourne ground.