A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE – LOOKING BACK ON THE PAST
Let’s stay with the 60s for just a little while longer ……………………
South Africa of 60 years ago was a vastly different place than today. The changes are more than just cosmetic, such as apparel and motor vehicles. Many of the technological advances we enjoy today were unheard of then, like mobile phones or the Internet.
Despite not having had any big money-spinning events to stage on its grounds for several years, the Club was still coming out very much on the right side in the constant dilemma between revenue and expenditure. It still owed almost half a million Rand on the stadium and was also paying heavy interest charges on borrowings. Despite this and what people liked to suppose, the Club’s finances were in fact in a reasonably healthy state.
The Club itself continued to play its customary leading role in the many branches of sport. When the crisis over the stadium blew up some years prior the Club lost many members, but since that time numbers had once again been steadily climbing and, although it had not reached what it had been before the stadium debacle, the committee were satisfied that membership numbers were more than adequate.
At this stage membership was only open to persons who were strongly recommended as outstanding sportsmen, with a waiting list introduced for other applicants. As large as it was, the Club was not a public park and even the ability and willingness to pay an entrance fee and the first year’s subscription did not entitle automatic membership. Each application had to be proposed by two existing members, and then scrutinized by a number of committees before approval would be granted.
After the building of the stadium was complete the committee decided to put together a new set of financial arrangements for the Club such as fixed bond, mortgage bond and temporary overdraft facilities.
The Club was unable to arrange any finance to repay the heavy debt to the Wanderers Club Staff Pension Fund, nor was the Club able to obtain any benefit from the subscriptions paid in advance at the beginning of each year when the bank account showed large credit balances. The overall rate of interest was high as the bondholders always increased the rate when the bank overdraft rate was raised but were slow to reduce the rate when the overdraft rate went down.
The committee managed to arrange new terms with the banks and they were only required to lodge the Club’s title deeds but not to have a first bond registered in its favour. This resulted in savings and the Club settled its debt to the Staff Pension Fund in full.
Parking has always been an issue at the Club, and it appears that this stems back to the 1960s. Parking is a universal problem and one which caused much aggravation. Countless laws and regulations were enacted to bring about orderliness and decency in traffic flow and in parking, and much money was spent on this endless task. Fines were also imposed on public roads for indiscretions regarding traffic laws but, alas, this was not the case at the Wanderers Club, which is not a public place and as such those laws did not apply. Members were always allowed to park anywhere they wished but there would always be the odd member who had the attitude, ‘I’ll be damned if I am going to walk a yard to play my sport.’ Then of course there is the member who has his ‘favourite spot’ and would get very hot under the collar should anyone else dare to park there. At this time there were many designated and clearly demarcated parking spots but still some members would park their Limos (or Beetles) right at the clubhouse entrance and on blind curves.
In the past, the committee and management had occasionally been pressurized by indignant members to take drastic action against disorderly parkers. Stickers were affixed to windscreens of wrongly parked cars and their registration numbers noted, after which their owners name was traced and recorded. Should there be a repeat of the offence severe action was taken against the owner for breaking the rules of the Club.
The committee was determined to make an example of certain members in the hope that this would encourage them to choose their parking spot more carefully next time they visited the Club.
In 1963 the Club attempted to introduce many new social clubs which might be of interest to members in an effort to enlist new members. In September of that year the Wanderers’ Women’s Social Club was launched with activities such as a Bridge and Card Club, Public Speaking classes, Millinery, Sweet making, Lampshade design and Pewter work classes.
A Musical and Dramatic Society was also formed to stage plays and concerts, but it proved difficult to get players and producers who were willing to give of their time and talent. Regardless, there were shrieks of laughter during October 1966 when the ‘WEDS’ (Wanderers’ Entertainers and Dramatic Society) took to the stage for their first venture into comedy with a production entitled ‘Strike Happy’. It was a clever and entertaining play with lots of laughter for everyone, and it had been a real test of the amateur performers who did not disappoint their audience.
Another suggested group was Toastmasters which was a wonderful opportunity for those who wished to sharpen their public speaking skills to impress an audience. Many sectional dinners were held at the Club during the year and nothing went down better than a well-delivered speech at such events.
Various other pastimes were suggested such as photography, philately, astrology, birdwatching, kite—flying and model planes.
There was even (if only in jest) the suggestion of a nudist club. The Club, believe it or not, was in fact well equipped for such a group; large tracts of lawn, nice ‘undressing’ rooms, refreshment kiosks, etc.
A supplement was included in the September 1963 newsletter asking for member’s opinions on all the above and because of this the Toastmasters section was formed. As this was mainly a male-dominated pastime, and so not to upset the ladies, a debating society was created for men and women where either sex could be given the opportunity to have the final word!
A photographic society was also established, and its initial meeting was well attended where Mr Gordon Douglas, a leading photographic personality, explained some of the fundamentals of photography.
However, there had been no response to the proposal of a nudist club which was surprising as one member declared, ‘… this would certainly have solved the perennial problem of what to wear to the Club.’
Those were indeed the days ……………….