The first 50 years by Eric Blanch
Founded in 1945 and still going. Quite an achievement for what was almost a junior discussion group.
April 1945 two or three girls asked the Vicar (Reverend Spackman) of St
Alban’s Church, Acton Green, if they could start a junior discussion group.
He gave his blessing and suggested a more general club and St Alban’s
Youth Club was started.
the inaugural meeting to discuss the club were seven girls, Barbara Hill,
Eugene, Eileen and Winnie Slade and Olive Buche. The two others are not traced.
the second meeting on 19th April 1945 membership had risen to twelve
- still strictly feminine – and at the next meeting: Chairman - Olive;
Secretary - Barbara and Treasurer - Doreen Smith were elected.
It was to be a mixed club (the girls always knew what they wanted) ages
15-30, and they agreed to apply for a food permit (a what?).
The following week the first two male members joined.
I was privileged to join in September 1945.
the end of 1945/6 as Newsboy once put it “a refugee from the RAF” walked in.
He introduced himself as George Richardson and offered his help.
As an ex-serviceman he was that much older than us and soon proved to be
very much wiser. He soon became
Chairman and guided us and gave us his priceless understanding and advice and
from then on we did not look back, all turned to gold.
We soon replaced the dartboard that darts did not stick in, the
gramophone with a broken spring and the table tennis table with the collapsing
trestles with a new dartboard, an electric record player and amplifier and a
real table tennis table.
Our activities were many and varied, teams in the youth table tennis league, netball and darts leagues, camping, swimming, hiking, rowing, theatre trips and coach outings. An excellent choir and a first class dramatics section were formed (in 1953 we wrote and produced our own review) and in November 1949 the first edition of the “Clubgoer” was produced.
also went ballroom or folk dancing almost every week.
1950 George changed his job and stood down and Derek Hill became Chairman.
George was elected President. His
interest never waned to the day he died in 1978.
Like most of our members, I learnt a lot from this very talented,
understanding and gentle man who was a very good friend to us all and
particularly to me.
a couple of years I inherited the Chairman’s job from Derek and continued in
office until 1983 except for short breaks for Wes Whitehouse, Tony Farrer and
Vicar of St Albans, Mr Spackman, died in 1953 and a new Vicar was appointed.
In 1954 he told me “I’ve never met a club like this – it can’t
work” and at Easter we were asked to leave.
We did not agree with him and got new premises at St Thomas’ Church
Hall in Bromyard Avenue and changed our name to THE
OAKS CLUB. We lost members due
to the move and by now we were losing others due to club romances coming to
fruition and the altar and moving out of the area.
In those days the only transport was a number of bikes, 2 or 3
motorcycles, 2 cars and small builders van.
Have you ever tried climbing on and off buses and trains with rucksack,
tent and a felling axe, or a club cricket bag (complete with bats, pads, stumps,
etc, etc) together with your own bag? We
did!! Due to changes in membership
TT and cricket rapidly became the prime activities and proved quite successful
(6 TT teams) but cricket finally failed in 1958 due to the difficulty and danger
of playing on poor wickets.
1963 another change of Vicar saw us move to Acton Hill Methodist Church, former
stamping ground of The Good Companions YC and more members were lost.
In 1969 a move to Acton Garden Village Tenants Association in Noel Road
saw a further loss of members. Firstly
only 3 teams and then in 1971 with just 2 teams left we moved to Hartswood lawn
Tennis Club. With only one night
and one table we just ticket over with 2 teams and no way to expand.
During the time we were there we had no choice but to recommend everyone
who asked to join us, to join Hartswood who eventually had seven teams.
1977 the Hartswood secretary died and a new committee came into office and
kicked us out, all their own teams as well as us.
As the season 1977/8 approached no premises were found despite our efforts. Even an article and photograph of us all looking miserable around a table put up in our garden produced nothing and the Acton & District League gave us permission to rove.
matches we guested this at GWR, Scotch Common, and then at Christmas we heard of
the about to open Holy Family Community Centre (the former Hanger Hill Country
Club). A couple of visits to see
Father Barry and Tom Malley, the Chairman, and in the New Year 1979 we were
welcomed as members.
is said that were it not for the Centre we would have folded up.
That might be so, but reviewing our past problems, I wonder.
We have always had something – a will to survive, a spirit, a
determination – call it what you will, but something has always seen us
through all our problems. The same
spirit has existed through all the 50 years (and having been a member through
all of them, I know). We have
always thrived on being friends working together for one another, forming a
united team with a common pursuit.
1948 George and Derek, in their wisdom, drew up a constitution (which has been
amended). The object was
“to provide facilities for its members to develop their personalities in a
friendly atmosphere”. It is now
“to provide facilities for its members to develop their personalities in a
pleasant and sociable atmosphere”. The
object hasn’t changed much and neither has the atmosphere.
The next 50 (!) years by Gill Lesh
Father Barry (who had been so supportive since we moved to the Holy Family
Community Centre in 1979) retired in 1995.
At the time of our 50th Birthday Dinner Dance we did not know
how the “yet to be appointed” incumbent would envisage the future of the
Centre. “A problem we would meet
when it happened”, said my father, Eric.
did we realise that within a year we would again be looking for a new home.
We were told that the new priest had not left his managerial position in
banking to run a business!
were lucky as the Salamander (British Gas) premises in Twyford Avenue were
looking for small clubs to use their facilities and so we moved in just before
the beginning of the 1996/97 season.
We applied for a couple of grants and were thrilled when our 5 top of the
range, nearly new tables (having been used for the World Championships in
Manchester for just two weeks) arrived along with nets and clamps and barriers.
our stay at Salamander, the club was put under unnecessary strain by several of
the club’s newer members causing undue stress to the club’s very loyal and
hardworking members. During this
difficult period, Eric was adamant that the purpose of the Club was to remain
the same, “to provide facilities for its members to develop their
personalities in a pleasant and sociable atmosphere”.
This was why the club had been so successful for over 50 years.
the AGM in July 1997, Eric was re-elected as Chairman and a new committee was
formed and through their own choice, several members did not rejoin.
and through their own choice, several members did not rejoin.
over the previous 2 years we had had several small increases in rent, we were
completely shocked when we were told on 2nd February 1998 that our
rent would be doubled to £8,250 per annum (£10 per hour) with effect from 1st
March! At an Extraordinary General
Meeting we decided to dispense with our Friday social night as we had to keep
Mondays and Wednesdays for matches until the end of the season but then we could
only afford to keep just one night per week.
our eternal thanks to Eric, Babs and Mac, who looked at over forty halls in the
Acton and Ealing area, because in May 1998 we moved to our current, and
possibly, one of our best premises at Old Actonians’ Sports Association in
Gunnersbury Drive, Ealing.
Sadly we lost our Life President, Eric Blanch, in July 1999 but his spirit very much lives on at The Oaks. We have gone from strength to strength with players from Novices to County standard. Our coaching sessions aimed at Juniors, now held on Friday evenings, continue to be successful.
of our opponents and new members have commented on the lovely atmosphere we have
at The Oaks!
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