Charles Raymond Nolan Best known as Charlie (6th Jan 1932 – 1st August 2019). Life Member Athletics Victoria and Athletics Bendigo.
Charlie was first involved with athletics in the 1970’s when his son Leigh was a member of the Bendigo YCW club.
In the mid 1970’s the Bendigo Regional Centre wanted to develop an all-weather track in Bendigo. At that stage the Centre was based at the Bendigo Sports Centre where the quality grass track was an unusual shape and under 400 metres with inadequate facilities for field events.
After much hassling with the local councils the former Shire of Huntly offered up a bare patch of land just off the highway at Epsom. Part of the deal was that the Centre had to contribute a significant percentage of the funds to lay the black bitumen rubber track and develop the site.
Charlie headed up the fundraising committee that included a core group of women to raise the necessary funds. At that stage the men’s and women’s group were separate entities. Charlies women’s fundraising group along with the support of the local Bendigo Centre Clubs did all the usual country efforts like cake stalls and raffles to raise the necessary funds and the Epsom Track was opened in 1980.
His work was not finished with the opening. Charlie for the next 19 years managed the track for the Centre. He took the bookings, cut the grass (although Steve Ryan tells of doing some mowing under Charlies control and he was a tough taskmaster). During this period Charlie was working as a “traveller” for a motor car spare parts firm and this took him all over the North Central part of the State often over 100 miles (160kms) from Bendigo. Before he set off each day, when the schools were competing, he would make sure that the track and equipment was ready for the school and that the key was at the spot he had at his home for collection. Then at night he’d check that the track was left in good condition and quite often set up for a school next day.
Charlie headed up the Committee of Management for the track which eventually included the Epsom Soccer Club and Tennis Club. In addition he was Centre President for four years, Vice President for two years and Secretary for three years.
Perhaps Charlie was best known in the athletics community as the Centre Starter. He was a quality official. Fair yet strict. Those were the days when the athletes had to have their tops tucked in. Charlie spoke of practicing at home in front of a mirror to get the correct timing and process for the start commands. He regularly travelled to Melbourne to work at meets. In addition Charlie was a lead starter at the Victorian Country Championships for over 20 years.
Charlies officiating was not restricted to the track. He was the Centre Starter for the Winter Cross Country and Road Races and in recent times worked and an official on Sundays for the Bendigo Athletic club where his son Leigh and grandsons Josh and Jacob competed.
One task that Charlie took on that not many were aware of was the running of the VRI Bingo on Saturday nights. This for over 20 years. He organised the Bendigo clubs to support the Bingo helpers on a roster and the funds from this were for Bendigo Region, then Athletics Bendigo, to support the maintenance of the Epsom and then Flora Hill facilities including fitting out the venues with high quality equipment. This fundraising laid the foundation for the Centre remaining to be, over 40 years after Charlie was first involved, in a sound position both with a quality venue and financially.
In conclusion although Charlie was immensely proud of the “black track” at Epsom he had the vision to realise that the new track at Flora Hill was a progressive move by Athletics Bendigo and the amalgamated regional councils into the City of Greater Bendigo. He continued on working with the venue hire for a couple of years and as the Starter however before retiring from Athletics Bendigo he made sure that there were processes in place for equipment hire and most importantly someone could take over his prized guns.
When the Centre was at Epsom the Pavilion was named after him. The Charlie Nolan Pavilion. To continue on the memory of his contribution the meeting room at Flora Hill track is called the Charlie Nolan Room and Athletics Bendigo presents an award each season to the Outstanding Official *The Charlie Nolan Award” to recognise this officials contribution to the Centre and perpetuate the role Charlie played as an athletics official in not only Bendigo but also Victoria.