By the time I was on the Committee, having joined GT’s in the early sixties, the world of travel was changing and so was the atmosphere of the Club.
The description “anaemic Wallet” was fading as people became more affluent and the ‘game’ of getting things for nothing changed into one of sharing knowledge of bargains and exotic ideas for independent travel.
After the well written and interesting pages by Malcolm and RenÃ©, my contribution is a brief summary of history well within living memory of most members.
In 1970 Paddy Conway, the secretary, presented a report of a survey of the 500 subscribers, which tried to ascertain what they wanted from the Club. This report and the suggestions it contained could well be from the recent minutes of our present committee – its similarity is uncanny!
Running through all the plans we have considered for the Club have been attempts to commercialise our activities and activate our members. However, the basic individuality of most travellers, plus the hard-pressed voluntary status of the officers, combined to keep things as they were.
1975 saw a small concession made to modernity when Allan Blackburn, a committee member and printer, offered to print the then duplicated Globe and post it direct from his works. This decision was made and the valiant members who had gathered once every two months to stuff, address and post the newsletter were disbanded amidst some mutterings about commercialism. Thus we lost a bit of our camaraderie…
But the better-looking Globe bought us more members and our numbers reached over 1,000 for the first time. This in turn brought administrative headaches.
At the centre we began to realise that the work was too much to expect on a voluntary basis and after our long standing and hard working secretary John Ainsworth resigned we began to pay honorariums to the secretary and editor, which meant that subscriptions had to increase. The policy of “running on a shoestring” continued, with Treasurer Geoffrey Drayson keeping a tight rein on the would-be spendthrifts on the committee. We could still be described as “the biggest little club” and most of the friendliness remained.
When Reg Hooper, an ex-chairperson, died his obituary quoted him as saying: “I have learnt travelling the world as a lone cyclist that ordinary folk everywhere are decent and generous. I have never been slighted or scorned. I have met more kindness in countries I have visited and from Globetrotters, than I would have thought one could meet in a lifetime.” Surely he found what we all want to give and seek!
My wife was editor when we met and upon our return from a three-year period in Nigeria we again became active members. In the past 25 years we have held most of the elected posts in the Club and taken up administrative tasks in emergency periods, again with Geoffrey Drayson keeping his eye on costs.
Now the Club is entering another stage of challenge. Commercialism has taken over the travel scene: it is big business. Can we find a place without a guidebook write-up? Expeditions and group travel compete with tailor-made itineraries. Packages make it so cheap: is it worth spending extra time and money to go it alone?
At a recent London meeting we had a talk on how to use the package holiday to get there, then trip off on your own. The German GT Club tells me they are losing members for the same reason and the Netherlands Club is facing hard times too. I am confident that we will survive and adjust our niche to just what we can manage.
It is not difficult to identify those people who have done lots of work for the Club over this period, and who have left their particular marks on the organisation or newsletter but there is a fear of missing someone! Most of us have treated the club as our hobby, gained pleasure and satisfaction from serving it as a group of both close and distant friends and gradually or immediately become one of the collection of travel eccentrics that it is.