Looking Back on the Past

As the 80s are proving to be most interesting, let’s stay with them for a while longer ………. 

  • September 1984 witnessed widespread disturbances against the Apartheid system in the Vaal area (now Gauteng Province) and in many other parts of the country.
  • The position of Prime Minister is abolished and PW. Botha is inaugurated as the first executive State President of South Africa.

In 1984 The magnificent new Ellis Park stadium had been very much in the news, not only because of the events held there but also because it had transformed the once-wealthy Transvaal Rugby Football Union into a multi-million Rand debtor that was seeking financial accommodation from the owner of the land, the Johannesburg City Council.  In the news reports, a condescending reference had been made about the subsidy paid by the City Council to the Wanderers Club for the maintenance of the stadium.  The stadium had in fact been built by the Wanderers Club in 1954 on its own property mainly for the purpose of providing the Transvaal Cricket Union with a headquarters but they subsequently had been forced to move to Ellis Park upon the expropriation of the Wanderers grounds in the city centre.

Back at The Wanderers Club, the festivities over the Christmas period of 1983 were the quietest the Club had experienced in a very long time.  The season saw copious rains and there was little to be seen or heard apart from a few bowlers or tennis players and some swimmers and sunbathers at the pool area. In the clubhouse, however, there was a hearty note of liveliness as members and guests gathered in significant numbers to the inviting glitter of the festive round of parties, dinners and dances.

It was again the time for annual subscriptions to be paid, albeit with the usual increase, but as was the norm, there were members who overlooked the timeous payment of their subs with the customary excuses.

At the end of January 1984, the membership numbers stood at a massive 14 274 with constant pressure on the Club’s diverse amenities which meant that sub-clubs were restricted from having any additional participation in leagues.  Consideration was given to closing the membership, but this was abandoned due to the uncertainly arising from resignations and high turnover of members.

As a result of the number of members the agendas of the parent committee and its sub-committees were burdened with matters relating to the running of the Club and its maintenance as the sporting and social home of the Wanderers community.   There were an incessant number of meetings held on a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly basis for many committees but this did not deter those involved from continuing their efforts to keep the Club in the best possible shape. Some large projects were undertaken including the renovation and upgrading of the external lighting system and the resurfacing of the tarmac roads and parking areas in the Club.

At the last AGM a proposal had been put forward that the Club should convert the main bar into a unisex bar for both genders.  While this did not go down well with some of the male members, there were many others who believed that such exclusiveness was outdated and that a mixed bar would be far more desirable.

wanderers club Looking Back on the Past, Part 19 3

The consensus was that the Elizabethan Room would be converted into a casual bar for men and women on an experimental basis for one year.  No children were allowed, and the dress code was in line with that accepted in other members’ areas of the clubhouse.

When Winter 1984 came, the Wanderers members were well into the groove of their competitive endeavours and were a lively presence at the Club, which proved once again that Wanderers was the hub for sport and recreation for thousands of members, both in summer and winter.   There was a noticed change at this time regarding members not taking part in social activities as much as they had in years gone by.  The social calendar was pretty empty for most of the year apart from the occasional after-match cocktail parties, dinners and braais.

The 1984 Annual General Meeting managed to attract 107 members, just enough to warrant the required quorum.   The Club was heading for its centenary which would be celebrated in 1988. The parent committee together with the older sections such as athletics, gymnastics, tennis, soccer, cricket, and rugby were all gearing up for this momentous occasion.  The rugby and cricket clubs were actually in existence even before the main club came into being.

The Wanderers Club magazine made its first appearance in August 1924 and in 1984 celebrated its diamond anniversary.  The magazine had various editors during its tenure and served a multitude of purposes, one of which was to keep those members who could not attend AGMs abreast of what was happening in their club.

Under Nick Ratcliff’s lively editorship, the magazine developed rapidly, its scope was expanded and various correspondents were appointed by the sub-clubs to contribute news.  When Joel Mervis was appointed as joint editor, the magazine benefitted considerably from his journalistic experience.

The magazine was not only a good medium for spreading club news to thousands of members scattered all over South Africa and further afield but also for recording the ongoing history of the Club and received a lot of positive feedback.  It was also instrumental in creating an awareness in new members of the Club’s great history and traditions.  The old magazines made fascinating reading by revealing changing times and recalling countless personalities, some famous some obscure, who had passed through the Wanderers Club throughout the years.  While the magazine attempted to cover the widespread and diverse activities of Wanderers members in the sporting and social fields, it was not always successful in its objectives as some of the sub-clubs were not forthcoming with news and were sometimes omitted for months or even years on end.

It would appear that little has changed, as even now in 2022 it is still proving a challenge to get all the sub-clubs to participate in the Club’s monthly newsletters.

To be continued…/(20)