Joe still playing sport as he approaches century mark

STYLE: Joe van der Lee shows his bowling style after being interviewed about his 95th birthday at the BHAS Bowling Club.

STYLE: Joe van der Lee shows his bowling style after being interviewed about his 95th birthday at the BHAS Bowling Club.

At 95 years old, Joe van der Lee is cruising the bowling greens.

He still plays pennant competition for Royals despite having celebrated his birthday on September 16.

"I am doing reasonably well," he said in an understatement about his senior prowess.

"I am still looking at going to the next team up, O'Shaughnessy. It is based on ability.

"I enjoy my bowls. I am glad that I am able to do it.

"I recently lost my licence because of poor eyesight.

"Now, I ride a gopher or walk or catch a taxi to get around."

He attributes his long life to "sensible living and diet and habits".

"I don't smoke and only have the occasional drink - a schooner of heavy or a small wine," he said.

"I eat well and I sleep well."

Mr van der Lee retired to Port Pirie 30 years ago from a position as district clerk at Georgetown council.

This reporter remembers interviewing him in the council offices back in the 1970s.

Mr van der Lee still speaks with the same clipped voice.

His wife, Barbara, is now deceased. They had three sons.

He moved to a house on Senate Road after leaving Georgetown and still lives there.

Mr van der Lee was born in Unley in 1924. "My middle name is Geurin, a family name," he said.

His father was a member of the Waterside Workers' Union at Thevenard and worked there for many years.

"I spent my boyhood there and joined the railways when I left school," he said.

"I served as a junior porter, junior clerk, stationmaster and relieving stationmaster at Yunta, Wudinna, Murray Bridge, Pinnaroo and the Riverland.

"I transferred to the Adelaide division as a relieving stationmaster on the Port line and at Snowtown and Balaklava.

"I was stationmaster at Laura for several years - it was a really busy place - then served at Eudunda.

"I resigned from Eudunda after becoming qualified as a local government town clerk and went to the City of Mount Gambier."

Then followed a stint at Meadows council in the Adelaide Hills where he unceremoniously stepped down amid a political furore over students being taught in the council chamber.

"It is getting politically hot, but that is water under the bridge," he said.

"I next worked at Chrysler as a parts picker. You go around on a motorcycle with a basket."

Mr van der Lee became a licensed land broker after qualifying as a real estate salesman and manager.

"It was during the time of the 'hippy' movement when farmers and land-owners were worried that the 'hippies' might squat on unmade roads in or around their properties," he said.

"I arranged for roads on properties at Narridy and Huddleston to be closed legally.

"During that time the Commonwealth railways demolished fettlers' camps across the Nullarbor so these people could not occupy them.

"The 'hippies' were considered a danger, but the movement later faded out.

"I returned to local government to spend several years at Georgetown District Council and retired at 65 years old.

"That council disappeared into the Northern Areas Council based at Jamestown.

"The district clerks were not called chief executive officers in those days."

Mr van der Lee is still serving as a Justice of the Peace.

He was inducted to this role by parliamentarian C.D. Rowe in 1961.

For two years he was a member of the state council of the Royal Justices Association, attending meetings with Angus Sargent, of Crystal Brook, and Doug Henderson, of Caltowie.

On the day after his birthday, September 16, Mr van der Lee celebrated at BHAS Bowling Club.

"I have got my eyes set on the ton, now," he said.


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