Erith Veterans Club takes pride in its history.
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Launched in December 1942 at The Avenue Hall, Avenue Road, the Erith Veterans Club was established to cater for men over 60 who had retired and were without occupation and the companionship enjoyed during thier working life.
The term “Veterans” in this instance means Veterans of Industry and Commerce, men of 60 and over who, their industrial work done, find themselves without occupation after a busy and hardworking life.
During that period they have daily been doing their bit in helping to maintain the corporate life of the town, using either hand or brain, praying their way and adding something to the town’s advancement.
Then at 60, there arrives the sudden slacking off. Not only is the mental occupation with the work cut off, but also the brotherly companionship of those associated with that work. Fortune indeed is a man with a love for, and access to, good books, but there is a large percentage of men who cannot somehow, turn to books. It is the companionship and experience of their fellowmen that is most desirable.
In public places and park one finds elderly men form habits of meeting each other for a chat, the environment of each other company and reminiscences. This attracts other old friends and is facilitated by fine weather and sheltered corners. But a less kindly time of the year comes along and the men are then driven home to what be equally uncongenial conditions. They may not be living with sons or daughters, with young and boisterous families, or in lodgings where the landlady does not expect them to stay in all day, nor perhaps do they wish to.
Veterans’ Clubs are not a new institution- there are many up and down the country supplying a need that is not catered for in any other way.
It was with the idea of trying to help our old townsfolk that the Rotary Club of Erith together with support and co-operation of Erith Borough Council and inspired by the splendid success of Dartford Veterans Club and many others, decided that Erith must not lag behind in the overdue provision of a Veterans’ Club.
The first essential was a suitable hall and as a new building was not possible during the war time it seemed that the scheme would never come to fruition. But many setbacks and disappointments were overcome and at last a hall was found which could be rented for the period of the war.
Once this was done many willing hands were anxious to help and in December, 1942, the Erith Veterans’ Club was opened by His Worship the Mayor, Councillor J.E.Burgess, and the venture was happily launched at the Avenue Hall, Avenue Road, Erith.
It was an instant success and before the day of the opening ceremony was over 40 Veterans had enrolled as members. This start, good though it was, was almost overshadowed by the way membership increased and in less than six months after opening its doors the Erith Veterans’ Club had 250 members with the numbers growing daily.
The biggest surprise was perhaps reserved for the organizers- they realized a need existed but not one had imagines the need to be as deep and widespread as it quickly proved to be.
Membership cost 1/-(5 pence) per year and is open to all. Men of all classes are invited to join this fraternity and a welcome is there for all who are qualified to be Veterans and who seek recreation and good fellowship.
Wives, sons and daughters have regularly mentioned what happiness the Club has brought to, not only the father, but to themselves in finding him more contented in having somewhere to go and also meet men of his own age, with interesting experiences.
To the man, who late in life becomes a widower, the Club serves its purpose splendidly. Every secretary can give illustrations of this.
Thus the present situation is gratifying but the future is, unfortunately, not so clear. The present premises can be rented until the end of the war when the Veterans’ Club, so encouragingly began, will be faced with the problem of finding new premises.
It is for the purpose of being able to meet this contingency, when it arises, that the Erith Rotary Club and the Erith Borough Council jointly issue this appeal for funds to enable a building, worthy of the present Veterans, to be built where Erith Veterans, present and future, can have a club permanently for their use and where companionship, recreation, rest and good fellowship will be theirs.
The Erith Borough Council has generously offered a piece of land in Erith Recreation Ground Avenue Road, where it is proposed to build the new Club. It will be adjacent to the Council’s Bowling Green and set in the peaceful surroundings of the Recreation Ground where the “old fellows” can sit and play or read, never far from the centre of town but far enough away from the noise and bustle of the workaday life of the town.
Will you help the Organizers with a generous gift for the new Club building to be?
Donations should be sent to:
Erith Rotary Club,
The target is £2,500 and we must not let the Veterans down. The present Veterans’ Club would welcome interested visitors- why not call and see for yourself what is being done and what is hoped, through your help, will be continued.
The organizers in the Erith Rotary Club and Erith Borough Council intend to invest all monies received in Government Bonds until building is possible.Cheques should be made payable to Erith Veterans’ Club and crossed Building Fund.
On December 16th 1956, the current club was opened.
Erith Veterans Club has a new home. Flags fluttered outside the £8,500 building in Park Crescent on Thursday 4th April 1956 to welcome Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lord Cornwallis, who performed the opening ceremony.
Representatives from many local organisations who in an abundance of ways, had helped to give the elderly “one of the best veterans clubs in the country,” saw the Lord Lieutenant unveil a small plague recording is dedication.
The Mayor (Councillor Mrs H. A. Jerome, B.E.M and J.P) presided. The dedication ceremony was conducted by the Mayor’s Chaplin the Rev. J.J. Brown B.D. The Vicar of Erith the Rev. Phillip Lea, M.A read the lesson.
To the majority of the people sitting in the hall the ceremony symbolised the realisation of a dream, a dream that which had been fulfilled beyond the most optimistic expectations. The building was opened free of debt.
Unfortunately, ill health prevented many of the veterans from attending. Once was Mr. Ernest Young, an 84 year-old Stalwart, who was present at the opening of the Veterans Club at the Congregational Hall in Avenue- Road 13 years ago.
He sent a letter to his friends expressing his bitter disappointment that illness kept him from realising “one of the main objects” of his life- to be present when the building was opened. He did not know that hidden away on the flower decked platform, notices by only a few, was a tape recorder which would enable him to hear the proceedings later at his home.
The Mayor, welcoming the guest, said that the club had flourished as a result of the happy partnership between the Rotary Club and Borough Council.
Lord Cornwallis said the new premises were an example of what every person in Erith could do.
The seed of thought that had grown to reality and the work it had entailed involved about half the population of the borough.
Saying some would hold that television and other passive forms of entertainment eliminated the need for clubs. Lord Cornwallis continued: “There is one thing that more worthwhile than all those mechanical devices and that is friendship.” When working days were over friends should be able to meet in well-run, properly administered, well-disciplined clubs.
He congratulated all who had helped to bring about the opening of the new club, adding “You might well have felt daunted by the size of your task.” He hoped that in years to come, the club would be of enormous benefit to the borough.
The president of Erith Rotary Club, Mr. Horace Hale, had introduced the Lord Lieutenant and in doing so traces the History of the Veterans Club from 1942 when the need for such an organisation first became apparent.
He told how the Rotary Club, backed by the Borough Council, had been responsible for the opening of the Avenue- Road club 13 years ago. He spoke of its aims and ideals and the great loyalty of the men who became its leaders.
Eighty per cent of the materials for the new club had been donated and of that amount seventy five per cent were manufactured in Erith. The total cost, including furnishing, was approximately £8,500, said Mr. Hale.
“This must be one of the finest veterans clubs in the country.” He continued, “It has been provided for by industrial professional and business men and women from all walks of life.”
A vote of thanks was proposed by Alderman C.F. Morling (chairman of the standing committee), who said that in common with the guest of honour he was eligible for membership.
At one time when a man retired he “crawled into a hovel and died of slow starvation and there was not many people who could have cared less” said Alderman Morling. Some people set up charitable organisations to relieve the poverty which they themselves had created.
Times had changed very much. He hoped the members would enjoy years of happy retirement, relaxing in the comfort of their new home.
Mr. Edward Cross, chairman of the Veterans, seconded the vote of thanks.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, the 79-year old chairman thanked everyone who had helped to provide the building. “We have been waiting patiently, and sometimes impatiently, for the past 13 years” he said. “And now that we have it, we shall do the very best to maintain the traditions of the club.”
The Rev. J.J Brown dedicated the Erith Veterans Club.
The above newspaper articles were sources at the Bexleyheath Library Archive Centre by John Rogers (December 2010)
Over the years the club has seen many changes. We are now sponsored by The London Borough of Bexley, we invite and welcome 'The Mature' men and women from the local and surrounding areas to join us in our many activities.
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