A Tauranga club whose elegant rooms sit like a green oasis in the commercial hubbub of First Ave has celebrated its 80th birthday.

Founded in 1937 to provide a forum for women ''interested in social, public and scientific affairs'', Tauranga's Lyceum Club continues to provide a haven of friendship.

''It is a club for the women of Tauranga. It is about fun and fellowship,'' president Margaret Asbury said.

The growth of Tauranga's downtown has swamped the clubhouse, which now sits framed by two magnificent trees in 1st Avenue.


''We are very lucky to have such beautiful rooms.''

When the club purchased the house in 1954, the street was still residential and husbands regularly retreated to their own men-only clubs.

And while times have changed, the fundamental attraction that underpinned the worldwide network of Lyceum clubs has stood the test of time.

Asbury said the club continued to care deeply for Tauranga, although all the formality demanded of earlier generations of members had gone.

''In the old days, the members wore hats and gloves and all the rest of it.''

Things were more relaxed nowadays, with the 105 members tending towards the older age groups.

''We are trying to influence younger women to come in. It's slowly working.''

Asbury said Lyceum clubs drew on influential women who had made a difference to the communities they lived in.


''We have tried to keep up their ideals. This spirit has been maintained in the form of strong friendships.''

However, she stressed that the modern club welcomed all women - not just those whose efforts had benefited the Bay. Women new to Tauranga and not sure where to go could come along and see what the Lyceum Club had to offer.

''We make women feel very welcome. It is a nice starting point for women to meet like-minded women.''

The international organisation's roots went back to the strong-minded suffragettes, who campaigned to give women the vote.

''They fought for the right to be independent women, and the spirit lives on.''

While it was not a fundraising service club, the members always made an effort to support Foodbank.

''We are a wonderful group of women.''

Monthly lunch and dinner meetings featured either guest speakers or entertainers.

The club, situated next to Alimento cafe, featured a well-stocked library and the rooms were available for hire. Membership cost $125 a year plus $30 per meal.

''It's worthwhile being a member just to get convenient parking in town,' Asbury said.'

Lyceum Club activities include
- Games: Bridge, mah jong and rummikub
- Singing group
- Book group
- Garden group
- Craft and collectibles group
- Painting group