A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE  – Looking Back on the Past

The mid 80’s was an interesting time in history with quite a few innovations and achievements such as:

Desmond Tutu became the first black man to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa.

The FDA developed a test for screening blood for AIDS.

 The first successful artificial heart transplant was performed in USA.

 As another year began it brought with it world news of unfortunate events such as earthquakes, typhoons, floods, hijackings and in South Africa the continuance of unrest, bloodshed, and a battered economy.

On the global front, South Africa was regarded as a ‘Third World’ country.  It became evident that the advantages of the sophisticated western style democracy would sooner or later fall away, and the standard of living for most people would not remain the same.  In the meantime, South African sport was being subjected to even more isolation.  The bans and boycotts also affected art and science, where anything with a South African tag immediately raised a storm of protest from political activists and demonstrators.

The South African National Olympic Committee eventually admitted defeat and announced that it was giving up its lengthy struggle to regain admittance to international sport arenas and would instead concentrate its efforts on developing talent within the country, regardless of race or colour.

Since its creation, the Wanderers Club had always been involved in catering services to the public and was for many years the only establishment in Johannesburg that had the necessary facilities to be able to do this.  Later on competition came from hotels which were established in the City, but Wanderers never lost its reputation as an excellent location for social events, and many were held at the Club.

Along with these high standards of dining came the obligation to dress accordingly as most people relate to  and show respect for their fellow man through the medium of dress.  In the 80s there was a marked trend away from the expectation of jackets among men and a general move to smart casual attire at the Club.  Dress not only identified groups of people in their daily lives but also in their chosen occupations.

Although one must move with the times, the Club attempted to not lose its tone or image by accepting certain new forms of dress.  In the restaurant jacket and tie remained compulsory but men were now allowed to remove their jackets while dining.

On the sporting front however, through rules governing different sports, there was still a rigorous adherence to uniforms for some of them.  This could be seen especially in the sport of bowls who stuck to their long slacks and shirts for men and dresses for women, all in pristine white, with hats for players and spectators alike.

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Wanderers Sylvia Dyne Tournament Team – 1986

Wanderers has always relied on revenue derived from catering to pay its way as subscriptions were never sufficient to meet the enormous expenditure required to run the various sporting sections.  In this way members enjoyed the benefits of much lower subscription rates than would otherwise have been applicable to a Club of such high standing.

The Club certainly had many ups and downs and in the 80’s it experienced one of the lowest and longest downs in many decades.  Due to the recession people were forced to cut back on social indulgences which resulted in a marked decline in the demand for the Club’s facilities which in turn was felt deeply in the Club’s finances.  Many new hotels with upmarket images were appearing in the city, particularly in the northern suburbs which presented serious competition.  The Club therefore had no alternative but to improve its existing facilities to maintain its image.  No structural changes were made but areas were painted, carpets laid, new curtains hung, and woodwork revarnished.  There were even two specifically commissioned floral murals to flank the bandstand.  All this work cost a considerable sum, but it was in the hope that people would return to the Wanderers as their venue of choice rather than frequent other establishments such as the Carlton Hotel in central Johannesburg which was proving to be very popular.

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The Carlton Hotel was a status symbol for the rich in Johannesburg; an internationally renowned establishment where the wealthy and the famous wined, dined and slept in style. The five-star hotel – in an upside-down Y-shape that abutted the lofty Carlton Centre, was South Africa’s tallest building.

Crime, it would seem, is not just the scourge of modern-day and cars were periodically stolen from the Wanderers car park. Such incidents made it necessary for the closure of the entrance into the Club from Corlett Drive (apart from when big cricket matches were in progress at the stadium), leaving the only access from North Road. Pilfering was also rife in the Clubhouse with items such as curtains, taps, brass ornament hinges, ashtrays, vases and flowers, tablecloths, glasses, crockery, cutlery and even the odd fire extinguisher going missing.

The 97th Annual General Meeting of the Wanderers Club was once again a very ordinary meeting with barely 100 members out of a total membership of 13 387 attending.  Once again it would appear that the general membership took the smooth running of the Club for granted but this was still a disappointment to the small band of committee members who gave up so much of their time and energy to the wellbeing of the Club.

As 1985 came to a close, there was little Christmas spirit around as it would seem that the world had gone mad; there were bombings, plane hijackings and other acts of gross inhumanity that made the daily headlines in a world which was overflowing with hatred, abrasiveness and mindless violence.  Happenings of the most deplorable and frightening nature were becoming common-place and mankind seemed to be reaching down into new lows of behaviour and human values with every day that passed.

Amid all this hysteria, South Africa’s good intentions towards racial reform, however genuine, were automatically dismissed by all and sundry.  In the current climate of social unrest, economic ills, trade sanctions, American disinvestment and more expulsion from world sport, there was not much to be enthusiastic about, and South Africans had to call upon their utmost resources to stay positive about their country’s uncertain future.