Looking Back on the Past, Part 21

Inspiring Those Who Aspire To Be

History of The Wanderers Club (21)


Looking Back on the Past

The Wanderers Club – Centenary Celebrations

September 30 to October 10, 1988

The Wanderers Club is One Hundred years old!

It attained this esteemed age on August 18th, 1988, the anniversary of the first meeting of the Club, when a number of sportsmen gathered together in the Bodega Bar situated in the two-year-old shanty mining town of Johannesburg to discuss the idea of a consortium of sports clubs in general and cricket in particular.

A hundredth birthday deserves to be celebrated in a special manner and consequently, some extraordinary parties and other fun and games were held at the Club in early October to mark the occasion.


Some of the events organised by Trevor Stubbs’ Centenary committee

The Wanderers Club assumed a festive air, albeit somewhat laid-back and unspectacular, for its main round of centenary celebrations during October 1988 with the staging of the second national cricket club tournament on the three ovals and at the stadium.

The sonic and visual elements of the centenary celebrations were indeed spectacular and kicked-off the central programme of events directly organised by vice-chairman Trevor Stubbs’ centenary committee.   The programme was entitled “Spectacular and Fireworks” and was staged at the stadium on the clear and mild night of Friday September 30th.  It featured some notable bangs and colourful bursts in the starry sky as the finale to a show that attracted around 2000 people.

The fireworks were preceded by two hours of massed gymnastics displays in which hundreds of schoolchildren and police cadets, wove captivating ever-changing patterns on the stadium grass with their well-drilled body movements. 

Gymnastics display at the stadium on Friday, September 30th, 1988

Mixed in with the various sports at the Wanderers Club was a high degree of social life, which indeed was the prime object if not the whole exercise.  Most of the sub-clubs organised some form of social programme annually to bring members together outside of their sporting activities.  Some of it was designed to promote inter-sub club sociability and some to maintain contact with outside clubs.  Apart from the sub-clubs however there was quite a large association of social groups available to members, as follows:

  • The Ninety-Niner’s Club – one of the oldest of the groups which had been started in the ‘50s by the cricket section for fundraising purposes. They met on the first Friday of each month and their aim was to invite a well-known personality, usually in sport, to talk to members.  Over the years they managed to donate considerable amounts of money to the Wanderers Club which would then be spent on various amenities.
  • The Wanderers Supporters’ Club – founded in the days when there was a professional soccer club. They provided financial and supportive assistance to amateur sportsmen and the sub clubs.
  • The Wanderers Voluntary Services (WVS) – this club consisted of a few members who voluntarily manned the Club’s bars and performed other duties at special functions. These members were exceptionally popular on a big cricket day serving over-enthusiastic fans in the stadium bar.
  • The Wanderers Toastmasters’ Club – formed in the ‘60s this Club was a thriving feature in the Wanderers establishment. A few years later a similar group was formed for the female members and called the Toastmistress Club.
  • The Wanderers Club Philatelic Society – formed in the ‘70s and popular with stamp collecting enthusiasts.

There were a few other smaller groups like the Bridge club, the Painting group and on the first Sunday of each month a film show was presented in the ballroom.

Centenary hangovers at the Wanderers, if any, were few and brief and within a week or two the Club returned to its well-worn routine – summer sportsmen and women to their league games and practices, other members to their social habits and pleasures.

Memories of the celebrations, however, remained in peoples’ minds for much longer and they were, in the main, happy ones, as it appeared that all the planning and execution of events had thankfully gone to plan.

While we are feeling a little nostalgic, here are a few other items of interest from the past:

Clubhouses through the years –

The First clubhouse –

At midnight on Tuesday the 15th, February 1898, the stage of the Wanderers Hall ignited and the fire quickly spread to the dried timber.  Within half an hour the whole building was ablaze and nothing could be done to save it.  A breeze bore the blaze away from the semi-detached wing towards the railway and the roaring flames ignited the palings of the cycle track forty feet away.

The Second clubhouse –

The second clubhouse was built a few years after the disastrous fire in 1898.  The front of the building faced onto Allsop Road which ran from north to south through the centre of the Club’s premises.

                                                   The Clubhouse at the Centenary (1988) – Architect: Duncan Whyte


The erection of the existing Wanderers clubhouse began in 1947 and was completed in 1950. Post-war building restrictions caused several problems in the planning of the building.  From the present clubhouse, excellent views are to be had of the vast complex of sporting facilities.  Topping the high slate roof, the clock tower is a landmark in Johannesburg’s sprawling northern suburbs.

The project was accomplished in two phases.  The first section was the northern portion which accommodated the main lounge, the bar, the foyer, the snooker room and upstairs rooms.  The new bar was opened on 1st January 1948.  After some months, the remaining portion was built.  This included the ballroom and foyer, the caretaker’s flat, the kitchen, the gymnasium-badminton hall, and the restaurant.

Even more nostalgia – the Wanderers Club magazine covers through the years 

Although it had, because of its wide circulation in big sporting communities, sometimes attracted professional publishers of glossy journals which were primarily advertising vehicles, the Club magazine managed to maintain its modest ‘in-house’ character, a monthly bugle blown by members for members and about members.  Even now in 2022, the magazine continues to get circulated to the entire membership of the Club on a monthly basis, albeit these days, electronically via social media although some members still prefer the printed copies.


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