Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Fred's Club."

Fred's Club.
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During the 1920's and 30's there were at one time over 30 Night Clubs along the Thames or close to from Maidenhead Bridge to Cookham. The Thames and Maidenhead were at that time was the place to be seen at weekend's by the London Social Set. During those lazy hazy summers any boat that was afloat and could be hired could be found anywhere between Bray and Cookham Locks. There are many photographs of a very crowded Boulters Lock on a summers afternoon, with the men in their whites and blazers and straw boater hats. The ladies in dresses that looked as if they were going Ascot with large brimmed hats and always a parasol.
"Fred's Club." was not the resplendent building that you now see in the photo above, it looked like a very quiet suburban house, but it was the last to exist till the end of the war. It was run by a Mrs. Betts, a very quiet person, who when the war came and the other Night Clubs were forced to close due to the fact that the majority of the staff were considered to be aliens because of their German or Austrian background. Mrs. Betts then kept it running and opened it up as a club for locals in the Maidenhead Court area. To keep it as a club and under the licencing laws, she charged them a small membership fee. This allowed her to have flexible opening hours.
I remember when during the war one evening the air raid warning had sounded and the drone of enemy aircraft could be heard. So she suggested that her patrons stay and have another drink till the all clear. All of a sudden there were three explosions as bombs fell in the orchard at Sheephouse Farm. One of her patrons was a farm worker by the name of Stanmore. He and his wife were both there, when after the all clear he got home to find that all his windows were blown out by the blast and when he went to bed he found a large piece of shrapnel in his bed right where he would have been lying.
With the return of peace and the change in peoples habits, Mrs. Betts retired and closed the club, and so ended an era.

2 comments:

國昆國昆 said...

It is no use crying over spilt milk..................................................................

TimKerr said...

I note that from your article you give the impression that Fred's Club closed soon after the end of the war.
In fact I became a member in 1970 after being taken there by a friend who was already a member. The barman, a large gentleman who we took to be Fred, was a good host. We were by a margin of 20 to 30 years younger than the majority of members and spent considerably less. He always treated us well and on one occasion probably kept us out of trouble. One afternoon two very smartly dressed, heavily built men came in from the car park at the rear. They sat at the bar and ordered two pints of brandy and milk. This was clearly normal as Fred knew how many shots of brandy to put in before topping up with milk. They demolished these in short order before ordering a round of something else. They were clearly known by others there and were lavish with buying drinks. When we went up to the bar Fred said in a quiet aside not to get friendly with them and to avoid accepting a drink. It was clear that the were not the sort with which we should be involved. Although I moved to Marlow in 1971, and ceased going to Fred's, I am sure it continued into the early 1970's. My parents-in-law lived in Court Road and although I did not go into Fred's again, the signage was up for some time. I think at one time someone ran a used car business from the carpark at the rear using the lockup garage as an office. I may be mistaken.
There was another " club " that I visited with the same friend. This was totally illegal. I can't describe the exact location, the building/s do not survive. But if after crossing Maidenhead bridge you turn right, down River Road, it was one of the group of two storey houses that fronted the road and were three storey on the river side. The ground floor on the river side being boathouse and cellars. You entered a door into what would have been the boat portion to a crudely outfitted bar. Apart from a few tables and chairs plus a small bar at the far end, that was it. There was no sign outside and no name inside. All it sold were bottled beers and spirits with mixers.
The only reason we went there was for the frisson of drinking entirely illegally in entirely illegal premises!
I only went with my friend on two or three occasions. On the last occasion we had already been to The Bear until afternoon closing, had been to Fred's and decided to call in to this dive on the way home. As my friend waited at the bar to be served I realised I needed the gents and asked him where it was. He pointed at a door in the wall to the left of the bar, so leaving him I went through it. I found myself in a cellar with nothing but crates of beer and mixes plus some cases of spirits. Just then the door opened behind me and my friend came through. Pushing me forward he guided me through a door less archway into the next cellar, which would have been under the front of the house. He then pointed at the wall and at a drainage gulley in the middle of the otherwise empty cellar. This was the gents.
Despite the frisson mentioned I felt that this was a step too far! I declined any further invitations!