History of the Whangamata Club
By the late Jack Bennett, former Committee Member, President and Life Member
Try to visualize Whangamata if you can in 1962, a village of around 500 permanent residents, a town already laid out with plenty of scope, bounded on the east by two miles of beautiful ocean beach and at the northern end of this beach an excellent and safe inland harbour. To the west also are the bush clad slopes of the Coromandel ranges running for a hundred miles to the end of the peninsula.
This was Whangamata at the time, a poor place, the only access by narrow winding dusty roads. Many people had bought cheap sections here and built small holiday bachs, the town was beginning to wake up.
Whangamata from the air, 14 April 1965
Credit: Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
It was at this time on Sunday, 4 November 1962 that a group of men met and held the first meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a Club in Whangamata; those men at this meeting were: W Groom, DW Millichip, P Blackburn, J Findlayson, L Jamieson, T Harlow, A Aitchison, and RA Houston.
This was the group who were to battle away for the next six years with limited funds. They were the founders of our Club.
The original Whangamata Club members
From left to right: A Bowden, R Blackburn,
L Jamieson, T Harlow, D Millichip, W Groom
During the first three years with loan debentures and a gift from one member of one hundred pounds and a loan of one hundred pounds from another the committee were able to purchase one section where the Club now stands. A large tin shed about 9m x 8m situated where the bar and cool room now stand, with a new men's toilet erected where the ladies toilet is at present. Behold! We had our first Club Room. The snooker table which had been purchased was installed in this shed, add a row of banana box lockers down one side wall, a long wooden stool down the other side, a small table with an honesty open cake tin in which to put 2 pence in for a game of snooker. Could you ask for more?
The committee made a concentrated effort in fundraising by way of raffles and debentures, then in 1968 we finally had the first stages of the new club rooms up. It was really only a shell with toilets, there was no bar and the locker system still prevailed. Members had to order and pay for their supplies this week for the arrival next week. Membership had risen to 200, but 130 of the members were from outlying districts.
During the hot months, the beer was quite warm, so the committee purchased an old cooler. If one wanted a cool beer after work, he had to go down to the Club earlier, put his name tag on the bottles he required and put them in the cooler. This had its drawbacks, as the early bird in the afternoon who had not cooled his beer simply changed the tag onto his warm beer and took the cold beer making sure of course it was the same brand.
The question of Lady Members had been discussed in 1964, and again in 1967, but owing to lack of amenities it had twice been deferred to the future. In July 1971, a rule was added, that Ladies be admitted on Saturday nights as long as they were accompanied by an escort.
At the AGM on the 3rd June 1974, a motion read that subject to suitable alterations being made to the club rooms, that it take action at the appropriate time to amend the rules to admit lady members. This motion was met by heated discussions and some members had to be called to order. Comments like "men only clubs are the last bastion of mens "independence" were used. One could almost imagine men on the battlements with stones and boiling tar to pour down on the amazons below armed with battering rams. After a lengthy discussion a show of hands was called and the motion was lost by 32 to 38 against.
It wasn't until 1977 that ladies were voted in as members. This was the most significant and important change in the history of the Club. Some of the men were quite disgruntled for a few weeks but soon things settled down and many came and apologized and said how wrong they were.
Our first and only (to date)
When the second stage of the Club building was officially opened on the 23rd October 1973, there were close to 500 members, and by 1987 - the 25th Anniversary of the Club, it has escalated to 800 with a backlog of applications.
At present our membership stands at 4813, a far cry from the original eight.