Fifty years of K&E
Piecing together the early days of the club.
Kingston Sub-Aqua Club, as we were originally known, was formed on the 15th February 1955 at an inaugural meeting held at the Y.M.C.A. Eden St. Kingston. The meeting was opened by Pauline Ady and addressed by Oscar Gugan, Chairman of the British Sub-Aqua Club. The cost of the evening was 10/6, (52.5p). A small start to a club that has been one of the most successful within the B.S.A.C., and has trained many thousand divers. It is impossible to say how many we have trained but in 50 years we have had an average membership of 140, rising to over 200 for a while. You can work it out for yourselves.
Major Hume Wallace ﾐ President of our branch from 1967 until 1995.
Hume was at the inaugural meeting of Kingston Diving Club in 1955 along with Pauline Adey, Ron Hyde, Toby Charlton, and Tom Spires, where they formed Branch number seventeen.
This is not going to be a history of the club, but I have looked at some of the older minutes and tried to find a few things of interest or amusement.
By the 15th March 1955 we had 32 members and were providing training every other week at the Kingston Baths, for the sum of 3 Guineas (｣3.15) and members charged 2/- (10p) to go swimming. The first meeting raised enough to show a surplus of 5p. Is this the only time the pool has shown a profit?
We often discuss circulating members with information and the newsletter, but this is not new. Our predecessors had the same problem and resolved it by spending the princely sum of ｣2/10 for a second hand, hand operated duplicator.
The branch had really progressed by May 1955 and purchased some compressed air breathing equipment, probably a good purchase for a diving club. Very lengthy discussions are recorded on the best kit to buy from what was then a very limited choice. There was also a decision to hold a raffle to raise funds for the equipment. It was also felt that a diving logbook of some sort was needed but no design was agreed upon. Kingston was on its way.
For some reason there is a gap in the minute book and the next record I have is from April 1960. If anyone can shed light on where these missing minutes may be I would be more than grateful. Several pints will be exchanged for information leading to their recovery.
By now we had a structured organisation and the need to identify instructors was recognised. Armbands were obtained for the instructors to wear and these would be kept at the baths. (couldn’t the instructors swim, or have I misunderstood the type of armband?) There was to be a charge of 3/- for filling a standard bottle and 2/- for a dumpy. I assume by now we had our own compressor although this again is not clear.
The Diving Officer reported that members who were not 3rd Class (sort of between ocean and sports) were going diving at Brighton without his knowledge and permission and this was to stop. (Only the location changes). In September 1960 we purchased a load hailer but there is no reason given for this purchase or what it may have been used for. The filling of bottles is a bit of a mystery as we only agreed to purchase a compressor at this meeting for the sum of ｣70, but no agreement could be reached on buying a boat. I believe this was a portable compressor and we already had a fixed compressor. There is a part of the minutes a bit later that says the compressor had not returned from Spain but again no reason for it being there and did it ever return, perhaps it is still in use in some backstreet Spanish dive centre.
A dinner and dance was to be held on the 5th December 1960, but I cannot find out if this was the first one due to the absence of some minutes. It is recorded that tickets were 15/- each and 120 tickets printed but I cannot work out where it was held or if it showed a profit. It is recorded that members were to be limited to 1 guest each.
A member who shall remain nameless was asked by the committee why he had a 1st Class Diver Badge on his swimming trunks and told them he had inadvertently bought the wrong badge; it should have been 3rd class. The reason he was displaying this badge was that his wife had sewn it on the wrong trunks. It remains a mystery to this day as to what difference it makes as to which pair of trunks it was on.
There are many more examples of purchases and decisions the club made in these early days. For example where to buy sheets of neoprene from, so members could cut out and make their own wetsuits. How to ensure only qualified divers went on dives. The costs of dives, and what to do when members did not turn up for dives they were booked on and did not pay, 50 years on not a lot has changed, although I have not seen anyone laying on a sheet of neoprene to create a wet suit pattern for a while.
I hope these extracts have given a very small insight into Kingston & Elmbridge branch back in the early days. I would like to compile a complete record of the club as there is a wealth of information and experience which may otherwise be lost. If a couple of people would like to offer their services to help it would be much appreciated. Any memories and pictures anyone has would be very useful. Details in writing would be preferred but if you want to relate some interesting excerpt from our history over a pint (your round) I will be happy to listen.