A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE 

Looking Back on the Past

1987 : One more year to the Club’s Centenary and preparations are

already underway!

  • Between 28 and 30 September 1987, the central and southern parts of Natal were ravaged by floods that were amongst the most devastating to have occurred in South Africa
  • South African Airways Flight 295 crashes into the Indian Ocean near Mauritius due to a fire in the cargo hold, killing all 159 passengers and crew
  • Sweden announces a total boycott on trade with South Africa

The year 1986 made its exit with a record overflowing of turbulence, trouble and distress, the like of which has seldom been matched in the history of mankind.   With the world in its present mood of irreconcilable differences between people and nations, it did not take long for the brand-new year to have its expectations shattered by atrocities and acts of violence and terrorism which had become daily occurrences in news media.

As 1987 dawned, the same old picture emerged of the growing division between nations, races, communities, and factions all striving for different goals and ideals.  So as 1987 came into focus nothing had changed in a world where intolerance had led to intimidation and freedom had become an excuse for suppressing the liberty of others with crime becoming just another avenue of livelihood.  People found it necessary to be always sceptical and suspicious in order to avoid being drawn in by all the information, disinformation, propaganda and lies which came their way. The country looked more like siege warfare by the day and one of the many imposed sanctions was the barring of landing rights in the USA of the South African Airways.  This had been a bitter blow and apart from its inconvenience, it was also insulting to South Africans who liked to travel.

Back at the Wanderers Club sportsmen and sportswomen had little to look forward to, apart from moving onto the centenary next year.  It was a frustrating and depressing sports scene from an international angle and priority was given to the difficult job of maintaining Club amenities for members to continue to enjoy club fellowship.  With its wide range of facilities, a fine clubhouse and extensive premises, the Club’s general aim was to foster sport for either to participate in or support by watching, while keeping in mind that it was an exclusive club for members only which relied heavily on their subscriptions.

The Wanderers could never have been accused of not looking after its junior membership with nearly every sub-club having a junior section, some of them even bigger than the senior sections.  In winter or summer, a walk through the premises, especially on a weekend, would reveal young people being taught the tactics of rugby, soccer, or mini hockey.  Little league baseball, badminton, tennis, and swimming were also popular with the juniors and the tennis section ran the biggest annual open junior club tournament in the country.

The balance between junior and senior sport has certainly shifted at the Wanderers in the past two or three decades, and the gymnastics club is now a completely junior section. One wonders where the adults went!

The same was happening at the swimming baths where juniors were exposed to rigorous coaching, mostly on weekends and school holidays, which in turn upset those members who just wanted to splash around in the pool and lie in the sun and have a relaxing time. Unfortunately, many members left the Club due to their restricted times of gaining access to this facility. Movable signage was placed around the swimming baths indicating the areas that “Casual” swimmers could use. This was deemed unacceptable to many members who defined the word “Casual” to mean “accidental, irregular, undesigned, careless, unconcerned, uninterested”. The consensus was that this had not been a suitable word to have used when addressing a Wanderers member.

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Subscription income, even though increasing year on year, was soon used up due to spiralling costs and the Wanderers could ill afford to lose members at this time.  Many clubs were spending a lot of time and energy trying to secure sponsorships and a few clubs disappeared, some merged, and the rest struggled to stay afloat due to their financial difficulties.  Sub-clubs found themselves having to fund routine maintenance projects and unavoidable improvements that would have been previously paid out of Club general revenue.  In some instances, the scale of sub-club levies reached proportions not originally intended for them.

At the  June 1987 Annual General Meeting it was indicated that even though an overall subscriptions’ increase of 33% was needed, the committee proposed a 30% increase.  The Chairman explained that this would cause an unavoidable loss of members if endorsed and at the end, only a 20% increase was approved which was in line with the Club’s constitutional mandate.

The year 1987 brought abundant rainfall which gave the Wanderers environment a tremendous boost and made the sporting facilities once again green and inviting.  Springtime is normally a quiet time at the Club and does not draw members to its premises and this year had been no different as even the bowlers took recess in Spring.  One of the most noticeable areas were the tennis courts wherein the good old day’s court space had always been at a premium.  Sport had unfortunately become a field of personal ambition and prestige, computer rankings, tournament points and press interviews and gone were the days of ordinary people seeking healthy and social recreation for its own sake.  Club sport had dwindled considerably over the past few years and club committees were finding it difficult to keep their members motivated.

With crime having become one of the country’s major industries and most people concentrating in varying degrees on the subject of security, the changes in the city and suburban scenery told an eloquent story of its effects.  Concrete walls, barbed fencing, burglar alarms, property protection devices and signage abounded in every street, building and home, yet the crime continued with increased boldness.

The Wanderers Club, due to its extensive premises, was highly vulnerable to visitations of unsavoury criminals and the people in charge of management and administration had to become even more security conscious, resulting in this item becoming a permanent feature on agendas of meetings.

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Ian Arnott – Wanderers Club security officer

As a result of this, since 1984 the security at the Wanderers had been supervised by Ian Arnott from Edinburgh in Scotland.  He had been educated at St Andrews and had seen war service with HM Scots Guards.  He had a long career in security and spent the majority of his career in Northern Rhodesia overseeing security for major mining companies.  The Club considered itself fortunate to enjoy the expertise of a man of such calibre and experience.

He supervised 15 staff members who resided in the club’s hostel and they worked in shifts around the clock watching over the main clubhouse, swimming pool, squash courts, change rooms and the Sable building.  Security was a very costly necessity but if neglected, the club would have been open to excessive criminal abuse.  Car theft became commonplace when big cricket matches were being held at the stadium as at times as many as 1000 cars were parked on the Wanderers Club premises.

With preparations underway for the Club’s Centenary celebrations in the next year, one could not help but reflect on the past and feel proud to be a member of such a prestigious club.  It had survived many trials and tribulations over the years and yet had always managed to uphold its superb image and tradition of being the best sports and social club in South Africa – mainly due to its conscientious and honourable leadership.

Let the celebrations begin ………………….

To be continued…/(21)