Whilst Australia and India battle it out on the cricket field this season it is obvious every batsmen wants to reach a Test century. For us mere mortals, the closest thing we can aim for, is to celebrate a 100th birthday. Woodlands resident William Stevens (Chum) reached that motivational milestone on January 13th, 2015. Chum happens to be my neighbour and a great friend.

Outside of cricket Chum was one of the first West Australians to visit India to play high level sport in the country. Tennis was his talent and he was one of the states and nations top players in his time. He competed and won in numerous state championships and went to nationals many times. He was just 18 when he was selected to join a touring group of players where he would get to visit India on what was as much an ambassadorial role as a sporting one. The youngster was obviously motivated and excited about the prospect when he first heard of the possibility. “There was rumours of an invitation being received by West Australian Tennis of an invitation coming from India suggesting the possible visit of a team of four players. During October 1933 the team was chosen. On the 27th of November we sailed from Fremantle.” Chum said.

There was no quick flight across the Indian Ocean in those days. Passenger airlines only flew domestically so the team of four tennis players boarded the 21,000 tonne SS Mooltan for Sri Lanka on route for Calcutta. Asian oceanic tourist cruises certainly weren’t a big industry, the ship had room for 700, only 40 were on board. It took nine days to reach Colombo where Chum and his team mates played a few exhibition matches before disembarking on the smaller British India vessel the Dumana and onto India.

One can only imagine what it was like for the young Chum landing on Asian shores for the first time. Snake charmers, elephants, festivals, the Ganges even some of the locals managing to transport a piano on their heads are all recorded in his memoirs, quite different from the sleepy shores of Perth. There was certainly not the cultural connectedness we see now. Not much was known about India by Australian’s and vice versa. “They speak such good English,” said Mr Mookerju, the club secretary of the South Calcutta Tennis Club, referring to the touring Australians and their surprising mastery over the English language.

The sporting uniform of the tennis team was modest, full length trousers for the men and long dresses for the ladies were the standard playing attire. The advent of shorts in the game didn't eventuate until the late 1930's. "It wasn't a problem," commented Chum. "It was all we knew back then." Still it must have made for a long, hot game and the top players would have been in excellent shape.

After numerous exhibition games, tournaments and functions and nine days at sea and over 2 months away the team members returned home. Chum returned with new friends and a lifetime of memories.

Chums Secrets to Reaching 100 How did Chum reach one hundred? What kept him motivated, healthy with a strong will to live? Below are his secrets.

  • Exercise: “I was active all my early days. Time on my legs made for a healthy beginning. It is really important,”says Chum.
  • Happiness: Chum is a motivated, happy chappy. He rarely complains and smiles a lot. They say behind every great champion is another half. Happily married Chum and his wife Lillian will be remarkably celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary in 2016.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Chum lives healthily. He eats well and doesn’t drink a drop of alchohol. Although he has slowed up a little now he still lives in his own home. Until a few years ago he was always active. Gardening, carpentry and walking kept him busy. He doesn’t deny things that give him joy though. Judging by the size of his cake and the amount of chocolates he got for his 100th he has a sweet tooth.
Happy birthday to a true Australian icon!