Memories of Stock - Jim Sargant
Stock Harvard Table Tennis Club
School summer holidays in the years after the war could become boring for the lads of Stock and several of us who had tried the occasional 'pat ball' on living room tables had the idea of improving on this. We improvised a table tennis table in the main buidling of Stock Garage. Two sheets of plywood covered with aluminium (where did they come from ?), each about 3ft wide x 6ft long, were positioned to make a table 10ft long x 3ft wide. In the centre, the two sections were supported on a hydraulic jack, with old oil drums under each end. So we learnt on a table which, compared with a standard one, was too long, too narrow and certainly too low. There were often up to ten of us playing and we formed leagues, each of us being known by the name of his favourite football team. It was great when Chelmsford City beat Arsenal !
Among these lads was Chris Lucas. His father, Alex, was a reasonable player and encouraged us by forming a club. He built a table of orthodox size and we met weekly in the Church Hall. That was the start of Stock Harvard Table Tennis Club. Several of us began attending Billericay League matches and we entered a team in Division 3 in the 1949-50 season. We were very enthusiastic and used to to travel to away matches to support our team. We finished that season as runners-up to Hockley and were promoted to Division 2. The following year, we entered a B team (usually Roger Buckenham, Chris Lucas, Maurice Elliott and Jim Sargant) in Division 3. Our two teams each finished second and were promoted.
The 1952-53 Billericay League finals night featured an all-Stock Girls' Singles final, my sister Kath defeating Joan Harby. Both had represented the League in the Essex County Junior Championships.
The club flourished and we had a membership comparable with those of the village cricket and football clubs. To maintain interest, we had a performance ladder and arranged club championships. I still have a rather battered cup from winning the men's doubles with Maurice Elliott against Brian Cable and Laurie Tunbridge in the 1953-54 season. A club badge was designed by Barry Elliott.
We became more influential locally - standards of play improving and several of becoming involved in the administration of the Billericay & District Table Tennis League. As early as the 1951-52 season, Alex Lucas was a member of the League Selection Committee. By 1954-55, we had the following League officials - President : Mrs G. Johnson, Vice-President : Mrs Edna Lucas, Chairman : Alex Lucas, Publicity Secretary : Jim Sargant, Selection Committee members : Alex Lucas and Jim Sargant. We now had our A and B teams in Division 1, a C team in Division 2 and a D team in Division 3. We were the largest club in the League. At the League finals night, Laurie Tunbridge and Pam Wood won the Boys' and Girls' singles respectively.
Members of the club at this time included :
Alex, Edna, Chris & Ann Lucas Maurice & Barry Elliott Brian Cable
Morgan Reynolds Bill Hewitt Hans Lembeck
(ex German POW) & wife Mary
Doug & Laurie Hurrell Laurie Tunbridge Jim & Kath Sargant
Michael Makings Roger Buckenham George Owers
Les Oakley Pam Wood Peter Faulder (lived in Chelmsford)
Les & Roger Brooker Joan Harby Nick Debenham (lived in Chelmsford)
Jean Latty (lived in Goodmayes) Derek (Dick) Fairweather Patsy Collins (lived in Goodmayes)
Bill Greenwood (lived in Blackmore) Sylvia Woodgate Carole Rawles
Bernard James Wendy Hall Hope I haven't forgotten anyone)
Jean Latty and Patsy Collins came from East London to play for us. Chris Lucas and Jim Sargant, with George Wenham from Hutton YPC had met them at a coaching course run by England table tennis internationals Jack & Elsie Carrington, at Skegness. We were getting like today's top football teams, bringing in non-local players, although no money changed hands !
1956 saw more titles for Stock players at the League finals night. Jean Latty won the Ladies' Singles, Ann Lucas the Girls' Singles and Chris Lucas the Consolation Singles. The following year saw Jean Latty retain the Ladies' Singles and win the Mixed Doubles with Morgan Reynolds.
My triumph came in the Mixed Doubles in 1958, when Winifred Willis (St. Andrews) and I beat my old mate Morgan Reynolds and Winifred's sister Mary Peach. Again Stock were well represented in the Junior events, Roger Brooker being the beaten Boys' Singles finalist, while Carole Rawles defeated Sylvia Woodgate in an all-Stock Girls' Singles final.
Being one of three main officials of the League brought me into contact with more and more other players, notably a certain Jean Medley of Hutton YPC. I eventually plucked up courage to ask her out......and the rest, as they say is history.
Back at Stock, we had become more aware of the limitations of the Church Hall - the floor had a slight slope and there was insufficient room for sustained defending. Alex Lucas and his family had moved into Hope Farm in Mill Road and offered to provide the space if we could find a suitable buidling to fill it. Occasionally I had been practising at the Wickford Club which was in a nissen hut in the garden of a large house. Due to ill-health, the owner had to give up playing and offered us the building cheaply if we would dismantle and move it. So we acquired and erected our own headquarters, enabling us to practice whenever we liked.
We continued with four teams and the hut was used for weekend coaching of young players from all over the League area.
By now living at Wickford and with increasing work and other commitments, I reluctantly forsook my beloved Stock HTTC and I hope that someone will be able to complete the story.
Moving to Hockley when Jean and I married in 1960 meant the effective end to our competitive table tennis activities. But the game was to play a most important part in my life 21 years later. Recovering very slowly from a life-threatening brain haemorrhage in 1981, I tried playing again on a recently-acquired table in our garage. My balance was so bad that I had to hold onto the table, but within a few weeks, the specialists at the Royal London Hospital were amazed at my improvement, so much that they resolved to recommend table tennis to others striving to regain balance facilities. Apart from the many hours of enjoyment, those Stock table tennis times really paid off !
Jim Sargant
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