I've been asked many times by younger people what we sports minded youngsters did in the village on dark winter nights, with no TV and few cars to take us about. They seem surprised when I tell them how lucky we were to have the YMCA; it was an old wooden structures building standing on the Oakfields estate in front of the Oak Tree.
It housed two snooker tables and a table tennis table, and these were booked up every night. People of all ages used it as a meeting place. You were allowed to be a member at fourteen years old, and with older members there the younger ones were made to "toe the line". Card games and dominoes were popular. Snacks and drinks were on sale, non-alcoholic of course, these were available at all times.
It was also the headquarters of the Football Club. Most players turned up on Saturday evenings to play the afternoon's games over and over again. The it was across the road to the 'Oak Hotel' to celebrate. The late Sid Maggs told me on many occasions how he had captained the YMCA Eastern Counties Shield in the 1930s. It was a very good achievement. Snooker, billiards and table tennis teams were entered in the local leagues against other youth clubs.
The old building was heated by an old tortoise shell fire; as there was a large building to heat, the early comers got the best seats close to the fire. Percy Spencer was the Steward and was greatly respected by all. He was also the Scout Master. On the lighter side, concerts were a regular feature.
On the death of Mr Spencer in 1949 it ran for several more years with a strong band of helpers. Len Barnes, Harold Maggs, Soly Lambert and Eric Secker come to mind, among others! Trophies were bought in memory of Percy Spencer and I felt honoured to have won the snooker trophy in1952. It's nice to think the younger generation have so many sporting facilities to compete in and have their own transport to travel in, but even without these facilities we still enjoyed our sporting lives at the YMCA.
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