The club thrived in these early years largely due to the kindness and generosity of people like Claude. Al Sumner, who knew him as a junior when he joined in early 1950 referred to Claude as a "honest, wonderful gentleman". He was greatly loved and admired by all. It was this degree of openness, transparency and goodwill which made the DHBC thrive in it's early years. He acted as club Secretary for decades.
Claude was also a fantastic bike rider. His nephew, and former club member Stephen Heathcote said Claude participated in at least 20 to 30 'Goulburn to Sydney' (annual) bike races. He came in 2nd in one year. He had stopped to help a fellow competitor with a puncture and rode together for the finish line, to be pipped at the line by the very man he helped.
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After the death of Charlie Paris, it was Claude, his partner Sonia and a dedicated handful of bike club members who fostered and grew the club through the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. The club grew and maintained a strong membership during the 50s, however by the early 70s membership began to falter. This was largely due to locals not being interested in cycling and preferring to buy a car. By the 1960s, car ownership became affordable for many living the in area.
Between 1908 and the late 1940s club meetings were held at Charlie Paris 'Speedwell' bicycle shop located at 1 Hercules/Loftus St, Dulwich Hill, located next to the public car park behind the Gladstone Hotel. Meetings moved over to Claude and Sonia's home in 112 Constitution Road, Dulwich Hill between the late 40s and 1963, and then to 63 Riverview Rd, Undercliff until 1970. It then switched to O'Dea Reserve and later on to the Camperdown Velodrome until it's demolition in the late 1990s.
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Claude Heathcote (left) with the DHBC Juveline (under 16) Team Time Trial. NSW champions in 1952
In the 1970s, membership and interest in cycling fell drastically. It was Claude who pretty much single handedly (with the support of a strong committee) who kept the club going. Unfortunately by 1975, it became too difficult and Claude single handedly kept track racing and training (at the old Camperdown Velodrome) going right up to his sudden death from cancer in 1982.
Immediately after his death, a small group of club members such as Hal Summer, Al Sumner, Sonia Heathcote (his widow), Lionel Cox, Brad Cox, Roy Wolstenholm, Arthur Donnelly, Arthur Dempsey, Ray Judd, Shane Judd, Carol Shying and Mick Mazza kept DHBC track training going. In 1982 a Claude Heathcote perpetual trophy was inaugrated by the DHBC committee and financed by Sonia his widow. It would be nice if the club reinstated this trophy - probably at the next Sydney Classic Bicycle Show.
Sonia wrote the definitive history of the DHBC in 1988; 'Dulwich Hill Cycling Days 1908-1988'. Sonia passed away in 2008. Stephen Heathcote, the nephew of Claude said both Claude and Sonia were "both very kind and caring people who gave guidance to many young kids coming up through the ranks".
The Heathcote family have been associated with the DHBC committee since it's earliest years. Claude's uncle, also Claude Heathcote, was a DHBC committee member from around 1915 until his early death in 1919 during the global Spanish influenza epidemic that year.
(Researched by Marc Rerceretnam from DHBC minute books 1914-25, 1954-87).