The First Year
The Elmbourne Young People's Club held its first full season of treasure hunts in 1958. The hunts were an instant success. The flavour of that first season is captured in the following four articles which appeared in the November and December issues of the club magazine News and Views.
A dozen or more Sundays during the alleged summer just ended has found groups of our Club members assembled at various suburban stations about to embark on treasure hunting expeditions. It was all started by Cllr.Leonard Daily who adapted a services idea for the benefit of members of the Balham Rotary Club. Cllr.Fred Dickson, keenly interested, invited me along to join in the fun. The cycle hunts as the next stage of its evolution for use for the club did not prove particularly popular, but when it reached its present form, an event for walkers, it proved a winner.
It would be simple to fill the magazine with stories of these events, and maybe during the winter, some of our friends will recall their own favourites for your benefit. Stories like the one of one of our latest stunts, where Andy described one particular stretch of the route as a dusty path, when in fact it proved to be a raging torrent. As drenching clouds lashed Reigate Hill and poured unnecessarily large quantities of H20 on the assembly soaked to the skin. It forced our young ladies to make strategic withdrawal, for an extended period, to the powder room, and us blokes to the male equivalent.
There are still a number of our members who have not yet joined in the fun: members who have not yet been bitten by the bug, which causes them to look in every hollow tree they happen to pass. Unless you are actually on the hunt, the formidable questionnaires, which you might have seen around, which seem to demand not only expert knowledge of higher mathematics, history, geography, and botany, but a smattering of Greek and Classical Mythology, appear as menacing as Einstein's Theory.
In actual fact, many tricky posers and obscure clues have been solved with little difficulty, but more important, with a lot of enjoyment by many of us who make no bold claims to oodles of grey matter.
And next spring Andy's natty headgear, Frank's walking stick, Derek's long black coat, and that blonde which I have taken on all our hunts, and all of which have featured on the Surrey landscape for months past, will again appear on the scene.
Let me now say thanks to my organising colleagues who have spent a lot of time energy, and money, in providing us with some excellent days out, and too, to our girls, Pat, Brenda, Betty, Reta, Lorraine, Roma, Sheila and another Betty for supporting us so sportingly. The girls have, on many occasions, shown up the male sex with their unreliability and half promises.
Let us look back on these hunts and see what they have given
us. There is a saying which tells us to join the army and see
the world. Join a Treasure Hunt and you see lots of things besides.
Through lanes, paths and fields we've seen views never thought
possible so near at hand.
Fitness? Yes, we've climbed steep hills through rain, mud and snow, and how some of our lady members have overcome some of these hazards I do not know, whilst certain males have not had the strength to get out of bed.
Fun, tales and thrills in plenty:
Betty and Brenda have gone the wrong way to find themselves at a at a very queer house.
Derek has had a fierce row with a level crossing keeper, who he accused of pinching his bonus.
Andy has been seen falling down Colley Hill, and John the same thing, better, down Box Hill.
Clues have mysteriously disappeared, and Jack and mate have been found asleep in the grass.
The surprising things found include:
Conkers with spots on 'em,
Cash in plenty and,
Ducks sitting in tin hats.
Why not join in next year and find these things for yourself? Next month I'll tell you about the haystack that wasn't there.
During many a club evening passed I have been sitting, lost in my own industrious little world, idly clicking my knitting needles together, only to look up and see the end of John Cooper's finger poking in my face, his eyes peering through a thick cloud of smoke and remarking on the fact that I have never submitted an article for the Club magazine.
On these, too frequent, occasions I have pushed this aside with the excuse that I had nothing to write about. But as our friend is so persistent, the girl's going to have a go. After wracking her brains and biting her finger nails down to little stubs, this hitherto unknown authoress has decided to tell her fellow members all about treasure hunting in readiness for the next season. Herewith then some hints on the sprints.
One, first, must be agreeable to rise early on about 12 Sundays of the year. After shaking off the effects of the 'Saturday night out' during a B.R. journey you are expected to walk a course of 10 miles at about 2 m.p.h. This walk is undertaken in the sweltering hot English climate through several varieties of mud to find clues. Now these are usually little rhymes written on flimsy pieces of paper and usually number about 16. On most occasions they are hidden in the most awkward places, on top of l2ft. brick walls, outside public conveniences, inside pigsties and outside public houses which shut five minutes before you arrived. You are expected to scratch about until you unearth the now soaking wet clues.
With these you get a Bonus Question Sheet, a piece of foolscap bearing 25 or so questions known among the hunters as the 25-plus examination. If you haven't had time for revision you must have a first rate knowledge of Classical Mythology, large size Latin numerals (XLIMNOC), Phoenix Life Insurance, the map of the British Isles (inside out and upside down). You should be able to sing a few bars from Madame Butterfly and other well-known operas, understand foreign accents and know that Wales is a new foreign power threatening to overthrow the United Nations.
Apart from this the course itself is usually more suited for army manoeuvres and endurance tests, with trees among which Virginia McKenna could play dramatic havoc with thousands of German spies. But, joking apart, I have spent many pleasant. Sundays on these hunts. In fact, so much so, that we are planning a league for next year and in which Elizabeth and I are going to arrange our very own treasure hunt.
By reason of knowledge accumulated in the recent Treasure Hunting season our keen students of mythology will be fully aware that Daphne was a nymph who was changed into a laurel tree when she was chased by Apollo. One of our members who rejoice, too, in this name, to wit, Mrs.D.A.Wilmot, has also earned an honourable mention in the annals of history. Somewhat belatedly we add her name to those other young ladies who have supported the clubs Treasure Hunts in 1958.
Another serious error in my last epistle on this subject was the failure to record for posterity, whoever he may be, perhaps the most prominent feature of the season's events, the deservedly famous voice of Mr.Roger Heath. What voice, of one manpower, measured in decibels, can compete so favourably with a pneumatic drill, what voice reminds one so forcibly of those job it is to call home the cows over the Sands of Dee, what voice is there, which, tho' lacking in resonant timbre, has such a penetrating foghorn quality to become the envy of ambitious sergeant-majors. One guess only allowed. And for the duration of the winter this voice is stilled in the Surrey countryside. The birds, the bees and the natives can come out from their places of hiding in safety. It's so quiet.