History of The Wanderers Club (10)

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE – LOOKING BACK ON THE PAST

Fast Forward to the 70’s and its many challenges …………

“In the seventies we had to make it acceptable for people to accept girls and women as athletes. We had to make it okay for them to be active. Those were much scarier times for females in sport”

The Wanderers Club, well known for its excellence in amateur sport, had rarely excluded women from playing sport as can be seen by the results that they achieved in a wide range of activities.

The women at Wanderers showed what they were capable of when in the April of 1971 they organised and ran two major sporting events, the South African Women’s Masters, and the National Bowls Tournament.  Their enthusiasm, drive and attention to detail proved that women had undeniably attained equality with the men when it came to organisational skills.

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For a full two weeks the Club was inundated with ‘women in white’ all wearing the mandatory hat bearing the Club’s colours and assorted badges.  The bowlers’ lounge was transformed into an operations room with women catering to every need of the bowlers and spectators alike.  For the Masters’ Singles, stands to seat 1200 people were erected on the north and south side of A Green and these were sold out long before opening day.

Other pastimes were introduced at the Club during this time and in April 1970 a toastmistress workshop was held.  The initial training session covered three assignments closely associated with toastmistress clubs – invocation, grace, and inspiration.  Each of these had a different pattern and each required careful voice modulation to carry its full meaning.  All participants were required to read aloud and were then expertly evaluated.  The exercise was completed with great satisfaction considering that this had been the first attempt by most of the members in the art of vocal unrehearsed discussion.  At the end of the evening an address was given by a guest speaker explaining how to gear future meetings to fit an overall scheme which would give each member an opportunity to participate.  The toastmistress motto was ‘To love our language and to use it with grace and facility’.

The 70s started with little promise of excitement as far as South African sportsmen were concerned as the international ban on South Africa meant that only domestic sporting events could be held, and Wanderers was not likely to see a packed cricket stadium for many years to come.

For a sport that was facing strangulation at an international level, South African cricket had some stimulating moments.  In February 1971, the Currie Cup match between Transvaal and Western Province was held and the stadium was packed to capacity and in fact even broke the record of attendance for inter-provincial cricket.

Another hurdle to be faced in the 70’s was the rising cost of playing and watching sport and some popular games were now proving to be very costly to play e.g., golf, and unless one had a background of family riches it was virtually impossible for the lower classes and students to even contemplate.

Watching sport also became extremely costly and even with heavy sponsorship from commerce and industry admission prices continued to rise.  An example of this was the National Tennis Championships that were held at Wanderers, where the cost of a season ticket for the fortnight of the tournament cost more than a senior Wanderers Club subscription for an entire year.  Money had indeed become the domineering factor in the promotion of professional sport.

At the 82nd Annual General meeting of the Wanderers Club held on May 27th, 1971, the then chairman, Herbie Hadfield, made a startling announcement that the Transvaal Rugby Football Union were considering leaving Ellis Park and that the Transvaal Cricket Union were in negotiations with the Johannesburg City Council to transfer their headquarters to Ellis Park at the end of their lease on the Wanderers Stadium in 1976.   This left the parent committee with much to think about regarding how this would affect Club finances.

After some research it was agreed that the stadium was a huge fund-draining asset and that a Special General Meeting be convened to discuss a way forward.

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The Special General meeting was duly held on July 13th and the members approved the parent committee’s decision to dispose of the stadium site (including the stadium hall).   The proceeds from this disposal would secure the long-term future of the main sports club and the golf club while at the same time reducing the Club’s borrowings and improving its amenities.  The Chairman and committee promised to try to negotiate an agreement that would ensure that the stadium would continue to be used for sport and that only as a last resort would a sale to property developers be considered.

1971 had in fact been a gloomy time for sport with many countries cancelling tours by the Springboks due to threats of violence. Many visits by leading sportsmen to South Africa were called off through persistent pressure from anti-apartheid movements.

Already in the world of sport these negativities had laid in ruins tours and tournaments which had been well-established factors in international relationships for decades, but it seemed that this ban and the treatment that accompanied it was not going to go away any time soon.  It was a disappointing time not to be able to play against traditionally friendly nations in test matches but at least it gave the Club the opportunity, in the absence of huge spectator affairs, to practice its own sporting pursuits i.e. inter-league competition, leagues, friendly games, etc.

Many sportsmen were therefore forced to seek fame and fortune within the confines of South Africa.  The Wanderers Club during this year had continued to fulfil its role on the South African sporting front by hosting the Currie Cup and Gillette inter-provincial cricket matches and many other large events at its premises, but the potential loss of the Wanderers Stadium did not help to alleviate the general gloom which was being felt on the South African sporting scene.

Apart from its sporting endeavours, the Club continued to flourish on the social side with toastmasters, toastmistresses, bridge, photographic club, and the stamp club all thriving with their loyal members and the monthly cinema shows still attracted capacity crowds.

The Wanderers Club, in its 83rd year, continued to remain the hub of recreation and fellowship in the City of Johannesburg.

To be continued /11 ………………….