Looking Back on the Past


There were two major disasters which marked the first half of the 80’s:

In 1981, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported unusual symptoms in many people throughout the states, and by 1982 they had christened it “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” or AIDS. Since then, AIDS has spread worldwide and has become one of the most dangerous diseases ever, killing over 30 million people and being the 6th most deadly disease ever.

On 28 January 1986 the Spaceship Challenger exploded during lift-off in what would have been its 9th mission. All seven crew members were killed.

Back in South Africa, although sport in general should have been a happy pastime, it was at best dismal and often merely a projection of world strife and turmoil. The prospect of gaining international favour was as remote as ever.  Any tours by rebel sporting stars from overseas did little more than upset the anti-South African antagonists resulting in harsh banning of SA tourists in their own countries.

No organiser of sport could hope to accomplish anything without a sponsor which unfortunately distorted the original spirit of sport.  It was disappointing for the sports fans to watch players strive for as big a share as possible of the sponsorship cake or to get their photographs and names in the newspapers which overshadowed the joy of sport participation and competition.

The year 1983 was indeed an unhappy time for the public at large with the worst recession in five decades.  The downturn in the economy resulted in a reduction in the usage of the Club facilities as a lot of businesses and individuals decided to either scale down events and parties or not hold them at all.  For the Club this was very serious as the revenue from such events was its main source of income at the time.  The Club did, however, remain a social magnet to the members who continued to frequent the bars and restaurants.

As if the recession was not enough to have to deal with, a prolonged heatwave with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius day after day hit Johannesburg with no respite in the way of rain.  This in turn made the swimming baths at the Wanderers Club a very popular place to be.

With a prolonged drought withering the countryside since the end of the previous summer and temperatures hitting the 30°C mark day after day for months on end, the Club’s grounds and gardens could not escape the ravages of the climate.

Apart from the lack of rain, it had been a thrilling time at the Club as far as cricket was concerned as many rebel tours were arranged at the stadium with attendance from local cricket lovers being remarkably good.  The Stadium project was originally undertaken by the Wanderers committee at the request of the Transvaal Cricket Union with a view to hosting international games every two years, in addition to the provincial games.  But because of politics this did not materialise and the stadium became more of a liability than an asset. However, the South African cricket authorities went ahead with their rebel tours and were rewarded with huge crowds.  The stadium on those exciting days was indeed a window on the human race, and this alone was worth the admission charge.

wanderers club The History of The Wanderers Club, Part 14 1

Cricket days at the Stadium 

wanderers club The History of The Wanderers Club, Part 14 2

A good day for vendors and peddlers 

 In a Club as big as The Wanderers, it is only to be expected that most members were totally unaware of the way it was run, let alone its history and traditions and they therefore tended to take its smooth operation as something to be expected.  In fact, the people who did run the Club did not profess to be geniuses in administration and management and were very conscious of their shortcomings, but they were club-minded people and ready for service when required.

All committee work at Wanderers is and has always been voluntary and depends entirely on the enthusiasm and loyalty of members.  If the members wish their Club to be run democratically then they must take an active interest in who they elect to committee positions so that they can carry out their wishes on their behalf.   The administration of the main club as well as that of the sub-clubs  involves several members, all of whom work tirelessly for the benefit of the thousands of members who enjoy sport and social interaction with like-minded people.

At the 1983 Annual General Meeting the Wanderers Club Chairman, Herby Hadfield, delivered a disheartening speech regarding the Club’s finances, particularly in respect of bar and catering income, stating that the Club had begun to feel the pinch caused by the economic downturn during the last quarter of the financial year.

As winter crept in, depression and drought continued to torment daily lives and at Wanderers people became more conscious of their unfortunate effects.   1983 saw the longest and worst rainless spell for almost 200 years. Water restrictions were levied, and the grassed fields looked as they did mid-winter.   Although there were several boreholes on the premises, all but one was situated on the golf course, so the Club was mainly reliant on municipal water which in turn increased the costs.

The rains eventually came in September, enough to raise hope again but nowhere near enough to dispel the effects of the devastating drought.  Wanderers and the surrounding countryside remained dry and lifeless and were desperate for more rain.  It was a serious situation which faced the Club’s committee and management as summer sports were scheduled to begin.  A borehole situated on the south side of Corlett Drive had been used to irrigate the bowling greens and only these stood out amongst the other grassed areas of the Club which remained parched and dry.

Harsh water restrictions had been imposed but luckily plans had been made to share water from two boreholes at the stadium and two at the golf course which, although a temporary solution, would benefit the Club greatly until a permanent solution could be found.

Towards the end of November, a contractor was commissioned to sink ten boreholes at the Club (four of which were successful) and once the system became fully operational there would be sufficient water for the playing fields and swimming baths.

wanderers club The History of The Wanderers Club, Part 14 3

Sinking of boreholes  to search for water on the Club property

After such a traumatic year of drought, both committee and members alike were unanimous in their belief that Mother Nature could never again be so cruel and she would favour the Club with bountiful rains once more!

To be continued /…15