A working class equivalent of the Freemasons

THE working men's club felt to me like our equivalent of joining the Freemasons. It was a secret society that operated behind closed doors… until now.
EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: When the club was at the heart of the communityEDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: When the club was at the heart of the community
EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: When the club was at the heart of the community

I didn't last one day past my 18th birthday before I was called in to undergo my initiation into the club following my father's 'gift' of a membership application for me.

As a youngster I had been allowed into the family room on occasional Sunday afternoons, but this was different. Should I be accepted into this working class brotherhood (I would say “and sisterhood” but the title of said establishment didn’t really allow for that, though women were rather generously allowed in with their husbands!).

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I stood nervously at the bar with my grandad - my dad was working a late shift so couldn't accompany me, though he would be in later as he rarely missed and that included making us all go on Christmas Day - waiting to be called down into the committee room.

Looking hard didn't come easily to me, but I felt I'd better make an effort should anyone mistake me as being some kind of ponce who had headed off to do a degree. Should they make that mistake it didn't really matter as I wouldn't be in too often as I had ponced off elsewhere to do a degree.

A pint of Stones was my chosen drink and would continue to be so as it annoyed my dad due to it being 5p a pint more than Blue (whatever that is/was) and tasted not too dissimilar. Exactly the same, in fact.

The moment arrived and myself and another lad were summoned for the big interview. We had to confirm our names, addresses and ages. I stuttered through my answers, nervous at the possibility of being rejected by an organisation I didn't particularly want to join.

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I knew I was in though when the other victim listed his criminal record and was still given the nod, while I confirmed my superior performance in never having been caught for any wrong-doings I may have carried out. Well, there was that time...

Expected standards of behaviour were explained and I was issued with my member's card, my dad already having generously stumped up the annual fee of £1.35.

In spite of my reluctance, I was to become a regular, spending at least one weekend night in there, then, when I moved back home, an hour or so each weekday evening with my father, in which I would have to consume four pints or suffer interrogation as to "what the hell" was wrong with me.

I discussed politics with older people and, when my dad joined the committee, got to drink with the big-wigs and brains behind the outfit. I played the fruit machine and attended the annual general meeting which took place early on a Sunday morning and during which you would be given three free pints, whether you wanted them or not.

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On occasion I would play snooker, watch football on the TV or go up to the top room to see the turn, which would usually be a sensational solo artist, delightful duo, terrific trio, fantastic foursome or racist - non-woke! - comedian.

It was an era when people of all ages from the village and beyond gathered there to meet their mates, have a few drinks and find their own form of entertainment. Arguing, I seem to recall, was popular.

The club was cheaper than the pub, it had lock-ins (sssh!) and there was a real sense of community (trips out even), even though I may not have seen this at the time.

When my dad died I stopped going. It didn't feel the same anymore and these days I don't hear of many talking about "what happened at the club last night", though whenever I walk past I do wonder.

Anyway, I had joined the Freemasons by then. No, not really.

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