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Club History: Chapter III - 1939 to 1958
Chapter III
1939 to 1958

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 brought similar problems to those that had arisen in 1914. Most of the younger male members, and one or two not so young, departed to serve in one or other of H.M. Forces. They included George Cruickshank, Jim Heys, Colin Rigby, Jim Liver, Harry Meynell and D.K. Bee. The subscriptions of those so serving were waived for the duration and, by great good fortune, they all returned to play again in 1945/46. D.K. Bee, as Captain, was greatly honoured by being invited to retain office during his absence, which in the event lasted nearly six years.

The Club itself contributed to the war effort by turning the two grass courts at the top of Highgate Avenue into allotments in the Dig for Victory campaign. The Club's intended Golden Jubilee celebration in 1941 was not held in view of the war situation. Things were not going so well in that year.

Bob Beetham spent much time on the Club's affairs and, in fact, did the work of the captain during his absence. Tom Nicholson took over from Dorothy Breakell as Hon. Secretary in 1941 and was succeeded in 1942 by Alice Duxbury, who continued until 1945 when Tom Nicholson took over again for a couple of years. He was to be elected a Vice-President in 1955 and President in 1959 . An inter-club tournament in aid of the Red Cross was played on the Club courts in 1942.

Despite the deprivations during the war, including food and clothing rationing, the activities of the Club continued and occasional matches were played. But there were no Fulwood Teas for the duration. The few male members remaining were augmented by members of H.M. Forces stationed in the Preston area, who were offered Honorary membership of the Club. Many accepted, in particular a number of Army officers from Fulwood Barracks. They were made welcome and, to some extent, improved the balance between male and female members. One American officer was made so much at home that he married a Club member, Mary Lindsay. Another, a Royal Air Force officer serving at Headquarters No.9 Group at Barton Hall, A.D.Thomson, settled in the district after the war. Both he and his wife, Isabel , played in the Club 1st team for several years until they went to live in Southport and played at the Argyle Lawn Tennis Club.

When, in 1942, petrol rationing regulations withdrew all allocations of petrol for private use of cars, members had to walk or cycle to the courts. Bob Beetham had a locker made in his' works in which to leave his tennis gear at the Club and thus save carrying it to and from his home in Garstang Road!

When the war in Europe ended in 1945, things began slowly to return to a new normal. The Captain in absentia returned from the Far East and having, by good luck or by good staff work, been posted to Royal Air Force Station, Kirkham, he was able partially to resume his duties at the Club. With practically every commodity still on ration any major developments were out of the question. However, the site of the two grass courts that had been used as allotments was covered in hard core and put to use as a car park. A very small allocation of petrol had been made available for private use soon after V.E. Day. At the eastern end of the car park, space was set aside for a wooden practice wall with an area of tarmac on either side. It was not a great success and soon fell into disuse.

It was found out that parked cars did not make a good back- ground for play on the two courts opposite the pavilion and changing rooms. So, to improve conditions, The Ground Sub-committee sought and found, in Penwortham, a long length of privet hedge that was being removed for development purposes. This was acquired at no cost other than that of transporting it and it was planted in a pleasantly curved line from the gate in Highgate Avenue to the pavilion. It made a very good background to the courts and much improved the appearance of the Club. The only drawback was that it needed regular trimming. It remains in position to the present day. It had been necessary to make an entrance from Highgate Avenue wide enough to admit cars to the car park; with, fortunately, no objection from the residents on this occasion!

By 1947, all the absent members had returned from war service. Transport was still difficult and, for away matches, coaches were used to convey the teams to and fro. Good thirsts were acquired after an afternoon of tennis in the sun and it was not unknown for the coach to stop at various hostelries on the return journey to deal with them. Both men's and ladies' teams enjoyed these occasions. The ladies, who, in 1939, did not often visit public houses, had become much less restricted.

In 1947, it was decided that a joint dance with Penwortham Lawn Tennis Club should be held. For that time, it was a fairly ambitious project and an eight piece band, with an odd cabaret turn, were engaged. The venue was the Guildhall in the Preston Town Hall; the date 13th March, 1947. The dance was a success and it was a pity that the Town Hall was destroyed by fire in the early hours of March 15th.

Fortunately no blame could be attached to the Fulwood/Penwortham festivities as the Guildhall had been used for a Police Ball on the night of the fire. The joint dance continued for the next eight years until Fulwood decided to go it alone in the future.

The Preston and District 'Nursing' Tournament was revived after the war but, in 1948, after the nationalisation of the health services, its name was changed to The Preston and District Tennis Tournament. The donors of the tournament trophies, or their descendants, agreed to allow the trophies, to be retained by the new body; with the exception of that for the Men's open Doubles. This was replaced, by D.K. Bee with a silver salver, The H.P.Bee Memorial Trophy, on which the names of all the past winners were inscribed. A great many Fulwood names appear on these trophies, which are still competed for annually. In the pre-war days when the Hon. Organisers were Bob Beetham and the Derek Bee, small silver replicas were provided to be kept by the winners. These were supplied by the Preston jeweller, E.W.Gardner, father of Sir Edward Gardner Q.C., the present Member of Parliament for South Fylde. The cost was something under 1 each!

In 1950, Bob Beetham succeeded the Derek Bee as Captain of the Club. His Hon. Secretary was Barbara Nutter, the daughter of the former Town Clerk of Preston. She had held that office since 1948 and continued to do so for another five years. The Hon Treasurer was A.R.W.Jones, who, as a pre-war junior member, had started to make a name for himself as a senior. He was, subsequently, as Captain, to do more for the game of tennis and the advancement of the Club than any other Captain in the Club's history; of which more in Part II.

The old timber club room had become somewhat dilapidated and, in 1955, it was sold for 30 and a brick building was put up in its place. This was the first of a number of major improvements that were to be made during the next ten years.

A sad event occurred in 1953. Barbara Nutter, the Hon. Secretary for the past seven years, died as a result of having eaten a bad meat pie at the finals of the Preston District Tennis Tournament at Penwortham Lawn Tennis Club. Other Fulwood members attending or playing in the finals fortunately escaped other than Isabel Thornber, who suffered the after effects for some years.

More competitive tennis was now being played and, in 1956, the Club distinguished itself by the men's team winning the Roscoe Trophy in the Lancashire Lawn Tennis Association's 1st Group inter-club knock-out competition. The club defeated was the Birch Lane, Manchester Club, which had held the trophy for the past five years. The Fulwood winning team was Eric Hall, Bobby Hull, Alan Jones, Neville Jones (his brother), Eric Robinson and Rob Walmsley. Two years later the Fulwood Ladies 1st team reached the final of the competition, in which they were beaten by the Northern Latin Tennis Club, Manchester. The Fulwood team was C.M.Cookson, J .P.Eaves (a daughter of Arthur and Winifred Eaves), J. Gill, G. Retherington, M.Ivory, B.M.Pickburn and J.M.Rainford. Also in 1958, the Club's courts were used for a Lancashire County Ladies' 2nd team match against Westmorland.

Jim Dewhurst retired as President in 1958 after twenty years in that office. To mark his outstanding services to the Club over a period of some forty years, the Club purchased a silver tankard and a silver salver, to be called the James Dewhurst Trohies, to be held by the winners of the Men's and Ladies' Open Singles events, respectively, in the annual Club Tournament. The first winners were R.H.Sheffield and Miss C.M. Cookson. Jim Dewhurst returned to the Vice-Presidents' list until his death in 1961. His wife, Mildred, also gave great service to the Club as a commitee and team member, a tea-maker. and a Vice-President for 25 years. Tom Nicholson, by now a Councellor and a Justice of the Peace, took over as President.

Bob Beetham, whose future wife, Kath Park, had joined the committee in 1954, handed over the Captaincy to Alan Jones in 1959. The Club owes a debt of gratiude to Bob Beetham, who,in a quiet and unassuming way, had done a great deal during very difficult times. In addition to his duties at the Club, he served on the Lancashire Lawn Tennis Association North Western Area Committee from 1949 to 1962.
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