When Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life saving Club started operating over 70 years ago, there were less than 50 clubs in Australia. Now there are 243. It was first formed under the name of "Ballina Lighthouse S.L.S.C" on 13th September, 1933.
Prior to this date, Lighthouse Beach, or Tomki Beach as it was known in earlier years, following the wreck of the "Tomki", was considered unsafe. This belief arose because it was formed after the North Wall of the breakwater was completed and had been, in fact, the mouth of the Richmond River.
The main surfing beach and "home" beach for the existing Ballina Surf Life Saving Club was South Beach. This was reached by launches operated by the Foster family. There was a band rotunda, swings and a large picnic ground on the shore plus a small kiosk for the sale of hot water and soft drinks to the public. These were eventually covered under some 20 feet or more of encroaching sand dune.
Scene at the opening ceremony 17/12/1933
The surfing beach was reached by a long walk over the sand dunes, which became so hot in the summer as to be unbearable without sandshoes. Open top enclosures served as dressing sheds. Excursion trains starting at Kyogle and calling at numerous small sidings on the way to Byron Bay became very popular and Byron bay began to attract the bulk of the beach enthusiasts from Lismore as well.
Ballina Club continued to provide regular patrols for South Beach until Fosters Ferries finally ceased their regular schedule. Many young people, unemployed because of the depression or awaiting delayed appointment to teaching etc. began to frequent the Lighthouse Beach, together with the growing population of East Ballina.
It became apparent that the beach was safe for surfing, but that without proper patrols a fatality could well occur. Discussion along these lines on the beach lead to a suggestion from Phil Lewis, a Ballina resident waiting to take up his usual position as a paid lifesaver and ranger at Evans Head, that a Lifesaving Club be formed and he offered to help. Alva Pearson, one of the 'regulars' at the beach spoke to his father about the suggestion and he also agreed to help.
On the 13/09/1933 a club was formed known as the "Ballina Lighthouse Surf Life Saving Club". Maroon nd Blue were selected as it's colours and the fee for active members was set at 2/6d per annum. It was then decided that all members should meet at the beach the next week and settle on a probable site for a clubhouse.
Office Bearers were elected
PRESIDENT: A.G. Denison
SECRETARY: K.C. Leonard
TREASURER: H.A. Pearson
CLUB CAPTAIN: W. Whitehead
Three sites were suggested the next week for the clubhouse.
1. In a dissused quarry on the very front of the headland
2. Lower down on large rocks at the base of the cliff.
3. On the terrace, in shore and under the hill near the existing ramp leading down to the beach.
Number 1 was selected for ease of access, and the building was officially opened by Mr. W. Frith, M.L.A., on Sunday, 17th December, 1933, before a large public audience and a very happy band of club members.
The popularity of the beach increased so quickly, once it was patrolled, it became evident that some accommodation for dressing had to be made available for the public. Mr Pearson decided they must be allowed the use of the clubhouse for a small fee and that a safe custody service for valuables must be made available. It was decided to relinquish the Club facilities as soon as a new Clubhouse could be built and funding for this purpose commenced almost immediately after the first one was built.
During this period the committee decided three things needed to be urgently done
1. The resources of Ballina Township - without any baths - could not provide sufficient swimmers with the ability to man the patrols and compete successfully at carnivals.
2. The original Clubhouse had already been practically taken over by the paying public. Better accommodation for members and subscribers was needed.
3. The conduct of carnivals was only possible as a result of the generosity of "Count" Haskew and his boat crew from Byron Bay who provided and layed the buoys and manned the rescue boat. A surf boat and crew was a necessity for rescue work and for carnivals
Sunday at the beach Circa 1934
It was thought that any influence some had amongst the Lismore swimmers should be used to recruit them for Ballina Lighthouse. A meeting was arranged and it was pointed out that to succeed in this they would have to have the name "lismore" included in the name of the club.
A meeting was held on the 17/10/1934 and it was decided that the name of the club would be changed to "Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club"