This paper is part of a series that will be published by Playing Pasts that reflect the sport and leisure activities that the students and staff took part in at the Cheshire County Training College, Crewe. The extracts are taken from the Old Student Magazines which were published on a regular basis until 1974 when the College merged with Alsager to become Crewe+Alsager College.
On June 23rd, 1955, four very excited people ambled onto the London train on the most notable of stations – Crewe! and started on their journey to Wimbledon, as we can now justifiably call it – “Wonderful Wimbledon”. The members of this memorable ‘expedition’ were Miss Denman, Mrs Peasgood, Miss Wakefield and myself – the captain of the tennis team for 1955, Miss Joan Price. (Quite able ambassadors I think you will agree!!)
The usual topic in any English conversation was bought up frequently on our way down, or is it up, to London, viz – the weather. A few dark clouds loomed overhead, but these soon went and the sunshine greeted our arrival at London. At Southfields station there was a special bus waiting to convey al; the tennis enthusiasts, that included us, to Wimbledon, where we alighted, still brimming with excitement, but nevertheless hungry! We immediately occupied our seats in the Centre Court stands and there we dined, undisturbed by the milling crowds walking around outside.
It didn’t take long for the stands to fill up, and by 1:50pm – only ten minutes to go before the start of play, practicably everyone had taken their seats, the Royal Box occupied by Their Royal Highnesses the Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexander.
The first match was between Trabert and Stewart; a game packed with expert play, producing much excitement and many thrills. Trabert won the match but only after a very hard fight. The second game was equally as exciting to watch as was the first one. The twenty-year-old English player Wilson (making his debut at Wimbledon this year) and Patty (USA) also played an excellent and hard game. Hopes were high when Wilson took the first set, but Patty, after really turning on the pressure, finally won the game.
Following this game came another Men’s singles between Hartwig of Australia and Segal of South Africa. The seeded player Hartwig, was completely “off-form” and was beaten by the South African, but only after many hard attempts at fighting back. The final game on Centre Court for that day was the game between Hart (USA) and Shilcock (GB). This being a Ladies Single match it was a much slower game than the previous ones, but nevertheless equally accurate. The newspapers remarked on the gay and pleasant way in which Doris Hart had captured the admiration of the Wimbledon crowds, and this day was no exception! On court she is a determined fighter, and fight she did, beating Miss Shilcock in what was a good and inspiring game to end our day well.
Bad light prevented further play that day, but we left feeling that we had really had our money’s worth.
To talk of Wimbledon and not mention fashion, or should I say ‘vogue’, would indeed be fatal. All of us thought of how we would look clad in the creations we saw – then we though again. Hats strewn with flowers and fruit (but not vegetables) were seen everywhere, and we even designed Miss Denman’s hat for the upcoming Garden Party. (This incidentally was far too beautiful for public show, but I am sure she would let you see it if you asked her nicely!) Anyway, the majority of fashions we saw had to be seen to be believed, and that goes for the men as well.
To say we enjoyed our day would be to say the least. It was the first time that any of us had ever been to Wimbledon, but I can honestly say it won’t be the last. In returning to College we were all keen to get on court and try out some ‘Wimbledon stuff’ (NB – ‘try). We did however gain some inspiration to try harder and practise conscientiously, but there was one snag – TV had just been installed in College, and then the romance of Wimbledon came back to us – and we pined a little, so much so that we all determined to go there again.
Joan E Price (Tennis Captain – 1955)
Article © Margaret Roberts