Dee Why was first surveyed in 1814 by James Meehan who is attributed to naming the beach. At the turn of the century Dee Why was practically wholly owned by the Salvation Army and surf bathing was not allowed.
It was not until 1907 that a few hardy souls braved the breakers and started a trend that would eventually turn the beach into one of Australia’s most popular surf spots. In 1912 the Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club came into being and in 1913 the first Club House was opened. That same year the Black Swan and the blue and white that have become the symbol for Dee Why were adopted.
Over the next 50 years Dee Why grew and grew in popularity and Club members rescued over 2,400 bathers. Not one life was lost while Patrols were on duty. In 1920 the initial Club House was rolled off to a neighboring block and a new building funded by Club members was started. The Club House was completed the following year and served until 1935 when it was replaced by a larger and more salt resistant building.
During the war years membership declined as most able young men enlisted to do their duty. Despite this Patrols continued and Club members continued to improve their surroundings. They carved out the original rock pool, funded the promenade wall, planted the Norfolk Pines and built the war memorial.
There have been many stories of service and courage – too numerous to name, there have also been many stories of excellence in competition. All this and the spirit that is Dee Why has been captured in the book “The Drowning Don’t Die” by Ern Thomas. This book is about the first 50 years of the Club and is a really, really good read. It was reprinted by the Club to celebrate its 85th birthday and is available from the Club shop.
Thankfully we now have a historical committee who are doing their best to write the next 50 years. Stand by for more tall tales and true.
The Centenary Book is still available at a new reduced price of $66 (incl. GST). Visit the clubhouse on Sunday’s between 10am-midday during the patrolling season to view the book or collect a copy.