LOOKING BACK ON THE PAST
The Swinging Sixties (or the Seventh Decade of the 20th Century)
“Even though the 60’s had its periods of unrest and violence, it was a great decade to have grown up in. If you don’t believe it just ask anybody who was born from 1946-1964. Try to remember when life seemed so much more carefree and slower. The music was clean and fun, and we actually understood the lyrics. We knew all our neighbours on the street where we lived.
Innocent fun was the game not violence against our fellow man”.
Way back in 1960 the Wanderers Club was just emerging from its great stadium crisis, which had blown up about three years prior with the realization that the newly erected and costly stadium was going to be left longing for spectator involvement for quite a few years to come, following the two successive and lucrative cricket tours from 1955 to 1957.
As 1960 dawned the Club committee was still hard at work trying to retrieve its position which was achieved by hard work and an abundance of Club spirit and loyalty. The Club’s facilities were still as fine as ever with members distinguishing themselves in their various fields as much as their predecessors had.
Over the past ten years there had been some tremendous sporting scenes together with national games, tournaments, festivals, ceremonies, displays, important gatherings, dog shows, horse jumps and fireworks, and thousands upon thousands of people had flocked to the Club to witness them all.
How sad it was therefore that with the Club in full stride as a source of sport and entertainment to its members and to the public, that a threat now arose beyond the borders of the Republic to isolate South African sport because of government racial policies. There was no doubt that the effects and repercussions of the protests and demonstrations against Springbok tours were far-reaching and serious.
In those early days of the decade, therefore, a big cloud hung over South African sport both at home and abroad, and through the prevailing banishment and suspensions, it could be that the new, huge stadium would inevitably stand empty for many years to come.
In the world at large there had been some tremendous events and achievements, and without doubt the landing of men on the moon had to be right up there with any human feat so far. Along with these scientific triumphs, but not always compatible with them, there were some radical changes in people’s approaches to living and working on the planet and in their thinking.
Drugs, permissiveness, long hair, nudity, political sport, insincere humanism were only a few things among a great number that had become mixed up in the ways of life, and many principles and traditions had become tattered and torn as a result.
It was a decade of violent change, more so perhaps than any other decade before it and which had altered many peoples’ mentality and thrown a lot them out of gear with their environment and fellow humans. The 60s brought with them the age of hippies and weirdos. Would these be the normal ones in 1980?
How had the Wanderers Club fared in this blast of events, trends, and changes? Thankfully it was still recognisable as the Club that had been loved and supported for so long, and it was still a place where the more old-fashioned members could feel at home, where the ideals of sport were still cherished and where fellowship and mutual respect had not been replaced by egoism, intolerance and eccentricity.
On the night of Friday 3 December 1966, the Wanderers stadium played host to the first South African passing out parade ever held in Johannesburg and it had been a spectacular sight. The event lasted around three and a half hours and was attended by the top-brass downward. The display included a brass band, rifle drill, gymnastics, and physical displays by hundreds of trainees.
There was also a magnificent display of horses and horsemanship. But, once again, what show would not be complete without the wayward dog who always seemed to turn up at such events to steal the show.
With his tail wagging he strutted his stuff along with the performers and photographers but after a while unfortunately made a rather speedy exit when the police dogs took to the stage for their act.
The attendance at the event was so staggering that parking areas inside and outside the Club were packed, together with the pavements of surrounding streets. The passing out parade and entertainments once again proved the suitability of the stadium for such events. The stadium had been in operation now for just over a year and it appeared that the grounds had at last proved their worth. At the close of proceedings, the Wanderers Club was thanked over the public address system for the use of its stadium.
The Mid 60’s brought with them a prolonged drought – the worst so far of the century. This in turn brought about a lot of difficulties for many people and the Wanderers Club took its share of punishment. Water restrictions that had been imposed in the January created great problems for the grounds staff and were kept in place until sufficient rains fell, which would only be the following summer. At the beginning of April when the fields were normally looking their best, the grass was already yellow-green, and staff were concerned that they would not survive until the following Spring. The gravel tennis courts also needed water for their upkeep and court surfaces quickly deteriorated. Playing times were restricted in an attempt to avoid further damage, a unique move for the Club.
The Golf Course also suffered at this time and players were becoming depressed as the golf committee was reluctant to allow play until such time as there was sufficient rainfall. Mother Nature had certainly been cruel that year!
Eventually good rains fell over the golf course and the fairways now had a chance to recover from the prolonged drought experienced earlier in the summer. During 1965 an amazing 32,069 18-hole rounds of golf were played.
At the 1966 Annual General Meeting Mr J Douglas Roberts, the presiding chairman, announced that the membership was sitting at almost 9000 members and attributed this number to the low subscription rates, together with the fantastic facilities offered by the Club. There was a new cocktail lounge and an excellent dining room which not only offered superb service but also lunches for the ladies. The Club was also in the process of building a new lounge from which members could watch sport, and this was thought to be of particular interest to the bowls members.
1966 was also the year that reciprocity with other Clubs, national and international, was introduced at Wanderers. This increased the Club’s popularity with its own members whilst travelling and also with visitors to South Africa. This initiative has since grown to such an extent that there are now numerous clubs in numerous countries on all continents that currently (and proudly) share reciprocity with The Wanderers Club.