In 1955 Mrs Brown and Mrs Massey had daughters doing calisthenics (physical culture as it was then known) at Gardenvale. They discussed their desire to have calisthenics available in their local area and so, along with Mrs Munce (representing the Bentleigh Presbyterian Church), they approached Mrs Vera Binstead to establish calisthenics tuition in the Bentleigh Presbyterian premises. Mrs Binstead agreed to assist them. Shortly thereafter she was joined by her daughter Sandra who, though still at school, was nevertheless proficient enough to teach calisthenics. So began a long and successful calisthenics partnership with Sandra.  In order to devote more time to travelling with Norm on his many trips Mrs Sandra Iddles resigned in 1982 after winning the Junior “B” Aggregate at Ballarat.  Sadly Sandra passed away on March 7th 1991.

After Sandra’s resignation the Committee faced the need to make a decision – hire another teacher or close the club and go as a group to another club. The decision was made to continue the club. With help from VCTA a search for a new teacher was commenced and in 1983 Robyn Sharp (now Robyn Riley) was hired to teach the Juniors. Lorraine Bamsey (a Bentleigh senior) was hired to each all of the other sections. The move to two teachers was quite a radical step in those days. In 1983 there were insufficient girls for a senior team. At the end of 1983 Lorraine left to teach calisthenics closer to her home and Robyn accepted the task of teach all sections of the club. In the same year, 1984 Robyn’s sister Liz Sharp (now Liz Carroll) undertook to teach the seniors, at no pay, so that Robyn could work in the team and so build up the numbers. The seniors also chose to be a non-Ballarat group. Their success as “A” Special Seniors resulted in a decision being made to rejoin the ranks at Ballarat, winning C Grade aggregate in their first year.

In 1987 Liz started to teach the Inters as well as the Seniors leaving Robyn as the teacher of the younger sections. In 1991 Kristen Flegeltaub (now Kristen Skinner) was appointed to teach the Juniors as Robyn wanted to have some time to herself and in 1992 Sherryn Foster was appointed to teach the Inters when Liz also decided she need a little private time. In 1994 Janine Daniels was appointed as the Inters teacher. This year, 1995 the club has 102 girls (17 of whom are soloists) coming from as far away as Beaconsfield, Berwick and Eltham.

Bentleigh Calisthenics College has much to be proud of
  • Mrs Vera Binstead was instrumental in establishing the training of adjudicators.
  • Mrs Vera Binstead and Miss Vera Hopton were the only two recipients of the LPCV (Licentiate Certificate of Physical Culture in Victoria) and could use these initials after their name – no other person was considered qualified enough to receive this! (An interesting tit-bit is the fact that Vera Hopton was Mrs Binstead’s bridesmaid).
  • Mrs Vera Binstead was the first person to dress the girls radically for South Street. She actually dressed them in black velvet shorts, white satin blouse with no socks on their feet only ballet shoes! Prior to this all competitors wore a short tunic with slide splits, ballet shoes and socks.
  • Marilyn Edwards came third at South Street in 1967.
  • Marilyn Edwards came second at South Street in 1968.
  • Marilyn Edwards came first at South Street in 1969.
  • Donna and Joanne Gabriel teach at Emmanuel Calisthenics.
  • Andrea Pallot (nee Edwards) teaches at Balmoral Calisthenics.
  • Val Moore (nee Edgar) is the Secretary of the Canberra Calisthenics Teachers Association.
  • Liz Carroll
    • 1989 – recipient of the Vera Hopton Scholarship
    • 1994 – Coached the Victorian Intermediate team – aggregate winners at the National Titles. Finalist in the category of Female under 30 Victorian Coach of the Year.
    • 1995 – Appointed coach of the Victorian Intermediate team – aggregate runners up at the National Titles
  • South Eastern Solo Competition, run by Bentleigh Calisthenics, for calisthenics best type was commenced in 1992. By 1994 a limited section of graceful girl was added and in 1995 it was further expanded to accommodate 253 solo competitors

Since 1982 the club has won many local, CVI and Ballarat aggregates, historical results include:
  • 1976 – Sub Juniors B Grade
  • 1982 – Juniors B Grade
  • 1987 – Juniors E Grade, Seniors C Grade, Sub-Juniors C Grade (runners up)
  • 1989 – Juniors Division 5 (Runners up)
  • 1991 – Inters Division 4 (Runners up)
  • 1992 – Sub –Juniors Division 4, Inters Division 4 (Runners up)
  • 1993 – Sub-Juniors Division 4, Inters Division 4 (Runners up), Juniors Division 5 (Runners up)
  • 1994 – Juniors Division 5 (Runners Up)

CVI achievements (historical)
  • 1987 – Overall Division 5 CVI winners. Inters team invited to participate in CVI State Championships Winners concert.
  • 1992 – Seniors won the Cadbury Trophy for the highest Aggregate points at the CVI championships. Bentleigh Calisthenics awarded the Vera Hopton Memorial Trophy for the highest club aggregate points at the Mountain District competitions.

Members of Victorian State Team (historical)
  • 1991 – Sub-Juniors Kylie Malone
  • 1992 – Sub-Juniors: Stephanie Searls, Krystle Westcott
  • 1993 – Sub –Juniors: Bianca Hoban, Kate Newey, Krystle Westcott

In 1955 the club was known as Bentleigh Presbyterian Calisthenics (PBC). In those days all members of the committee were required to be members of the Presbyterian church. Initially the calisthenics pupils were invited to attend a monthly service at the Presbyterian church. They sat together as a group along with Mrs Binstead.  Later on the girls participated in two church parades a year. Class were held in the old “kinder hall” and the Annual Display, for many years, was held at the Caulfield Town Hall. From there it moved to the Alexander Theatre and in 1993 the Annual Display moved to a new venue, the Phoenix Theatre. In 1970 the club name was changed to Bentleigh Calisthenics College (CBC) and the thistle motif was retained.  It was no longer a requirement to have Presbyterian committee members though the minister still was the MC at the Annual Display and chaired the AGM.

The original uniform consisted of a tartan pleated skirt, rust blazer with a thistle motif on the pocket, black shoes and white socks. The teacher and pianist wore black gloves and there was a tentative move to introduce hats.
By the mid 1970s the skirt and blazer were being replaced (briefly) by a gold and green tracksuit.  The new tracksuit was black with aqua zip up flares! (very fashionable at the time). Then came a plain fleecy black tracksuit with an aqua monogram Bentleigh CC  (perhaps a reaction to the previous trendiness?). The current tracksuit maintains the black and aqua club colours.

In 1955 the oldest girls were 9/10 year olds and there was also a married ladies class. In the 1990s there are no “married ladies” classes but there are married ladies and mothers working in the senior sections. Over the years the competition outfit has radically changed. The 1950 Bentleigh participant wore shorts and a top to class.  She complete in a princess line tunic made of aqua pin striped corduroy, with a square neckline and split sides.  The 1990 participant wears a leotard and leggings or bike shorts, to class and competes in an array of high cut leotards, with flesh coloured leggings for the older sections and leg tan for the younger girls.Over the years there have been many calisthenics “trends”. Wiglets, plaits, moppets, false eyelashes, fake tan, colour hair spray, face paint etc.  Many mothers and girls can remember rag curls, foam rollers and lubafax, the fore-runner of hair gel.  Others remember spending a week in Ballarat, having only a few items a day, having hair professionally set for each comp and walking in front of the car due to the fog over the Pentland Hills! Some can recall blithely waving to a picnicking Bentleigh family on the roadside before Ballarat only to later discover they weren’t picnicking but had unpacked the care because of a flat tyre and the wave was an attempt to flag down a car! Fortunately another Bentleigh family was more discerning, stopped and so ensured that the girls got to the comp on time.

Items have been added and others abandoned. Choreography has become more creative, girls no longer stand in one position but move around stage. No longer do 3 teams work to the same music with minor changes differentiating the work of each team. Eg. The 1st team may have done a backbend, the second team a bridge, the third team a forward bend – just minor differences which made it possible for one teacher to simultaneously teach multiple classes. Today each team has its own music and totally different choreography making it almost essential to have assistants and helpers. Back entrances have almost become the norm. Special effects, such as props, dried ice and lighting have also changed the appearance of calisthenics items.

When litigation clubs have needed to become incorporated, teacher training was introduced and clubs cannot operate without a qualified “coach”.  Assistants also need to have their teacher training and be insured.  All calisthenics girls must be registered and insured.  A team faces disqualification if any girls is not registered and this is increasingly checked at competitions. Gone are the days of wondering whether a team is late or has decided not to compete. Clubs are fined $100 and cannot compete for 12 months if they fail to notify a competition 24 hours before the start that they will not be appearing.

Many remember Sandra’s rod thumping the hall floor and Mrs Binstead patiently helping with clubs, often in her own home.  Today the teachers don a leotard and work alongside the girls, while older girls are “buddies” to younger girls.
In the early years at Bentleigh a special judging day was held. On this day girls were given a number and worked at class before a judge. At the Annual Display the results were announced and winners in each section received either a gold, silver or bronze medal. (The gold medal in the 1960s was real gold!). The winners were not known and therefore girls eagerly awaited the news at the concert.  The girls who received the highest number of points was awarded the “Webb Award” named after the club pianist.  A girl could only receive this award once.

Today girls in the Subbies, Juniors and Inters receive an attendance certificate if they have missed less than 4 classes in the year.  Aggregate trophies are given to all girls in a section which wins an aggregate at a local competition. A special medallion is given to girls if they win or are runners up at Ballarat.  No longer does a girls need to have continuous membership to receive a 5, 10 or 15 year award.

Despite all these changes the spirit of friendship and fun, that was so strong at Bentleigh, has remained.

The first club song was made up overnight and the words were:
Here we are again
Happy as can be
We are the girls of BPC
B stands for Bentleigh
P for Presbyterian
C for Calisthenics
You will soon be seeing
La d dah de dah
La de dah de dee
We are the girls of the BPC.
A later song was:
From the halls of Bentleigh Calisthenics
To the halls of Ballarat
We have come to do our very best
For our club and teacher too
Although at times we have failed to win
We’ll be back to impress you all
From the halls of Bentleigh Calisthenics
To the halls of Ballarat.
Today we have TWO club songs, one sung to a more traditional tune and the other a rap version
Hey look us over, see how we glow
Heads held high, chins proud
Our spirits never low.
True and loyal, always we will be.
To the club of old, from Centre Road
The only one form me.
We are the girls from Bentleigh
We wear the black and blue.
And if you want to join us.
You can be a winner too!
B.B.B.B.B Bentleigh!
Did you get it? No!!
B.B.B.B.B Bentleigh! YO!!