January 2004

OUR FUTURE AS A CLUB

shapeimage_1We are proud of being the second-oldest Probus Club in the world, or, for all we know, the Universe. In a couple of months it will be 36 years since we started and in all that time volunteers have come forward to help fill our various parts. One of the fine things about the Probus movement is that each and every Club runs itself, without interference from a remote headquarters. This keeps down our costs and allows us to play the field just as we like. We can make up our own rules and form our own administration.

Last month, our Chairman Brian Blakeney caused a notice to be put on the board headed “Probus is closing” Well, it aint, not by a long chalk and It was just Brian’s way of reminding us that in a mere seven weeks’ time we shall be electing a new Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary and a Committee to steer us through the coming year It’s not long and there are several positions to be filled. The new Chairman will be Bill Brinkley. That’s automatic, he having been Vice-Chairman this year in preparation for advancement in March.

We shall be needing a volunteer to be Vice-Chairman, though, with the assumption that he will become Chairman m a year’s time. Malcolm Ruscoe-Pond is prepared to continue as Treasurer, bless him and will stand for re-election; Reg Baker will continue to organise our luncheons and the Ladies’ Luncheons, thank heavens, perhaps the most onerous job of the lot. Just about to achieve octogenarian status and having done the job for the second time around, George Davis wishes to be replaced by someone else as Secretary. George has done a tremendous job and we thank him for his past service. There is work involved, largely comprising preparation of the minutes of each meeting and keeping an up-to-date list of membership and their ages, so someone with a word processor would find it easy, once the current lists have been transferred. It is too early to consider other retirements; there may be one or two, but that is no reason why you should not offer your services. We have a number of valuable and reliable newish members, ideal for the work, so please consider how best you can help us into a golden future, with no more talk about closing.

Our Christmas Party

On December 7th. last we started our Christmas celebrations with a special meeting. Early in the season of goodwill, but very welcome. When I was a lad it wouldn’t have started before my birthday on December 8th., partly because I needed the income thus generated to buy necessary presents, but also because it was difficult getting my head round the promise of something so ridiculously far into the future. A passing thought: In two years’ time my wife and I, and also I see, Ray Harris, will be ‘Seventy-eights’, making us sound like a bunch of old gramophone records. But back to our party. The first thing we noticed was that the tables were set out horseshoe-like. Different, but perhaps a thought for future meetings of the more normal kind. The food, as always, was truly excellent and impeccably served by the best team of waitresses in the business. The chef. Lorraine, had surpassed herself with the turkey and all the trimmings especially, in my opinion, the sausages wrapped in bacon. Plum pudding and cream, mince pies, coffee and mints, everything in fact to fill the belly with festive fare. Crackers were cracked, whistles blown and the jokes moaned at Paper hats were worn, dIsguising thinning crops. Old friends were there to be talked With as always, and somehow that is even better at Christmas. Our Maitre d’, Reg Baker, rising to the challenge as always, was congratulated and applauded for his efforts. No speaker this time, and no four-part harmony from Les Girls. Instead we were amazed, astounded and astonished by the sleight of hand of James the Magician. How could he perform his tricks in the middle of the audIence? Wouldn’t half of us see behind his back and spot the hidden card or whatever? Well, his first turn was to go from table to table, each being the subject of several very clever turns. All very well, we thought at the last table to be visited, but what do we do in the meanwhile’ Time passed easily, though, with another glass of wine and more conversation.

James then took center stage with large-audience turns that needed the equipment he had brought along, all of them excellent and giving him the opportunity to show off his fine sense of humour. I don’t know where Brian Blakeney finds them, but he always comes up with the right entertainer. The girls would have been nice, though.

Today:

Our very own member Roger Brunton with a talk entitled “With a handcart to the land of the honeybee”

February 5th:

Again our own member, Tony Simpson, in the matter of “Shipbuilding, past and present”

March 4th:

The AGM already. Want to volunteer for a job for the Club’ Our continued success depends on willing members for the jobs that need doing Tell George Davis, if you wish to help.

Obituary
W,Cdr, Sam Hall, OBE DFC

The death has been announced of our long-standing fellow Probean Sam Hall, peacefully at home in Andover, aged 90. It is several years since he was able to attend our meetings, though a lucky few of us did occasionally meet him for lunch at The Mint in Banstead. Typically, with Sam present, we became known to the management there as ‘The Hoohgans’, simply because of the cheerful noise we generated, swapping memories of shared times past.

Hilton Rex Hall – inevitably always known as Sam – was born and brought up in New Zealand, where his father was a senior staff member in the Bank of New Zealand. Sam followed him into the Bank, working there for ten years before WWII. On the outbreak of war, he volunteered for service with the RNZAF, reluctantly training as an air navigator (he would have preferred to be a pilot), the flying trade best suited for him with his bank-based ability with figures.

The RNZAF posted him to England, where he served wIth RAF Bomber Command for a 25-operations tour of duty in Wellington bombers. This was followed by a period m Canada on instructional courses, where he survived a crash landing m an Anson F I, returning to the UK navigating one of the thousands of Liberators being ferried across for service with the RAF. Sam’s outstanding abilities as a navigator resulted in hIS being picked as one of the first to serve m the Pathfinder Force (No.8 Group), the most dangerous of operations over Germany and yet again he survived a 25-operations tour, this time in Lancasters, with many a near squeak Following this duty, he was posted to HQ Bomber Command where he saw out the war. At the end of the war, Sam transferred from the RNZAF to the RAF, being sent to South Africa and the Far East on instruction duties, followed by a posting to Washington DC and to The Hague and Mons with SHAPE (Supreme HQ, Allied Powers in Europe).

He retired from the RAF as Wing Commander in 1968, living in Sutton with his wife whom he met serving during the war Sam’s operational service resulted in his being awarded the DFC and for his later service he was appointed an OBE. His enthusiasm for golf never resulted in a formal recognition, except from the many friends he made over the years who will remember him fondly Our sympathies go to his son Simon and his family.

Club News

Roger Udall is back home after a Christmastide stay in hospital (though they let him out for a few hours on the 25th. into the care of his family) He has developed diabetes and is now one toe short of a full set. Reg Baker told me about this and it reminded him to ask that we publish the recommendation, that if any member has a dietary problem with food, please let him know. The kitchen will always be glad to meet special requirements A happy, healthy, or possibly just bearable New Year to all our readers.

Letter to The Editor

Sir,
I am put to shame by your repeated requests for 500 words. Month after month I read with amazement my colleagues’ adventures – funny, hair-raising or world shaking Nothing like that ever happens to me. In case there are others in the same boat, what about a ‘Toddlers’ Corner for 100- world contributions? Here is the best I can scrape up; I guess it will not set an impossibly high standard.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Charles Hancock, Dec. 6th., 2003

Near tragedy at Tulse Hill

It happened in Norwood Road, long before it acquired notoriety as a short link in the South Circular. A fourteen-year-old was cycling home from school when he collided with a motorbike and sidecar, ending up in a tangle of metal and human components. As you would expect in those good old days, a policeman appeared from nowhere and immediately, yet sedately took charge of the incident. A small crowd of matrons collected, to inspect and give advice.

“You’d better call an ambulance” said one, “He doesn’t look very good at all” That suggestion made it even more difficult for me to disguise my shakiness. Was I that near death’s door?

“No, madam, that won’t be necessary” said the bobby, “These college boys are really tough He has only a few grazes. Once he gets home he’ll be fine.” With that, he picked up my bike, put the front wheel between his knees, twisted the handlebars back through a full ninety degrees, and I pedaled off. Apart from a small matter of 40 mph in a 30 mph zone many years later, that has so far been my only brush with the law. How grateful I am to that arm of it. He made me feel fine and he didn’t even make me promise to tell my dad.

The Editor adds: Have I ever told you about Sgt. Codd? For God, one ‘d’ was enough, but for Codd, two. The bane of our childhood, the personification of The Law in our town, I brushed with him when I was riding on the running board of the local bakery van. I saw him proceeding towards us, so I stepped off. Well, one would, wouldn’t one? Next thing, I was lying with my head in the gutter and Sgt. Codd was taking notes from the gathering crowd. I was sent on my way with a verbal, but on arriving home was confronted by my mother who had been told by my father, who added to my woe after work with a clip over the ear for my stupidity.

Produced and edited monthly by Ian Scales (01737 553704)
for The Coulsdon Probus Club.
Edition No 85.

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