Steeped in history and tradition, the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverein was officially founded on 3 February 1928 when approximately 80 people met at the German School in Hillbrow. As the name implies the early activities centered around gymnastics, athletics and ball games. The young ladies of the time were quite successful in gymnastics and won the South African championships in Pretoria in 1932. But the gymnasts did also very well and Otto Tarnow was a six times South African champion in the years 1930 – 1935. The first club facilities were built in 1934 on four acres in the Johannesburg suburb of Mountain View and officially opened in 1936. These facilities included a soccer field, four tennis courts and an athletics ground fully equipped with gymnastic apparatus and change rooms.
Tennis had been part of the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverein before for just one year (1929/30), but 1934 can be regarded as the official start of Tennis. In 1935 the Tennis Section had 58 members and joined the Southern Transvaal Lawn Tennis Association. Unfortunately only a few records are available from the earlydays of the Tennis Section and all we found were the following results of the Club Championships:
Mrs. Helmrich – Miss Block
6:3 and 6:2
Mrs. Dykstra – Mrs. Lauf
6:2 and 6:4
Mr. Helmrich – Mr. Steidle
6:2 and 6:4 and 6:1
Mr. Helmrich – Mr. Blum
6:2 and 4:6 and 8:6
During the days of the Second World War (1939 – 1945) it became rather quiet at the Club. Many members were either interned or had to leave the country. Luckily the facilities at Mountain View could be kept and in1945 an extraordinary General Meeting was held to continue with the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverein. However, it took till 1947 to start again with the sport activities of the Club. The Tennis players were the first ones who got permission to start playing tennis again. The gymnasts needed a special permission, but in the meantime brought back the gymnastic apparatus to the Club from the Baviaanspoort internment camp. However, the interest in gymnastics was not as enthusiastic as before. Tennis became the “in sport” and the courts were crowded. Nevertheless the committee of the Club tried very hard to inspire younger people for gymnastics. A certain success was achieved and in the early sixties the gymnasts recorded increased activities. One of the highlights in this period was a 3 week trip of the gymnasts in 1965 to what used to be in this time South West Africa (now Namibia).
Also in 1965 it became very obvious that the Club facilities at Mountain View were too small to embark on projects like more tennis courts, a swimming pool, a new clubhouse, etc. The committee thus started proposing a German Country Club outside the city of Johannesburg on a new and bigger site – the idea of a German Country Club was born.
In the same year the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverein started playing with a men´s team in the Tennis League. The team won its section and the subsequent promotion matches.
We are in the year 1965. Our men´s tennis team with Richard Stöckl, Jimmy John, Herbert Seitz, Willi Paulsen, Axel von Sametzki and Rolf Gudegast have just won their section and were promoted. The idea of a German Country Club was high on the agenda of all committee meetings. Eventually a 17 hectare site was purchased approximately 25 km north of Johannesburg adjacent to the new Johannesburg – Pretoria highway at Halfway House.
The Deutsche Klub and the Deutsche Turn- und Sportverein joined on a 50:50 basis to provide the money for the purchase of the land and the development of the German Country Club. In August 1969 the Club was officially opened with some 400 members and guest being present. Apart from others a Bavarian Gymnasts´ Team provided a spectacular performance on the Centre Court as part of the opening ceremony. The activities in the seventies included not only Tennis at the new Club but also gymnastics, handball, a 3,5 km road run at the Club once a year and a multi-discipline competition between the seniors of the Deutsche Schule and the Club. In addition to these sports activities there were ongoing building activities to improve the Club. These included a swimming pool, a children´s playground and last but not least and most important the bar.
In 1973 the men´s first tennis team beat Blairgowrie A and was promoted to the highest section of the Central District Lawn Tennis Association. In the same year the first edition of our Club Newsletter was published. With a circulation of some 2000 copies it was a welcome source of information for the German community. Tennis became more and more the dominating sport at the Club. In 1974 a tennis team of 15 players visited Windhoek and in the following year the players from Windhoek came to Halfway House.
In 1978 even a bigger group of 25 tennis players went on a trip to Germany and visited 6 tennis clubs in the Düsseldorf area. In this period the Club had approximately 370 members and was well established and frequented by members and friends. The year 1978 marked the 50th anniversary of the Club. The festivities included a ballroom dance at the community centre in Hillbrow and the publishing of a special edition on the history of the Club. The gymnasts enjoyed a good attendance of their exercises, the handballers played in the local league, a total of 9 tennis teams participated in league matches and soccer was also played on a regular basis at Halfway House. However, first signs of a decline in the membership numbers and a deterioration of the club activities were on the horizon.
In 1980 the membership stood at approximately 300 members and only 34 of them showed up at the Annual General Meeting. For the establishment of the Club at Halfway House a financing was secured at the end of the sixties. This loan was due for repayment in 1982, but there was not enough money in the kitty. Eventually an agreement was reached to repay the money in installments. This temporarily avoided things from going bad to worse. Serious consideration started to sell the property at Halfway House and establish new club facilities closer to town.
In the second half of 1983 the Club eventually sold the property at Halfway House and started looking for new premises. Our contract for selling the property included the right to use the facilities at Halfway House till end of 1985. This was later extended till the end of 1986. The Club was thus not really in a hurry to decide on a new location and club. Different options for a location of a new club and the viability of such a club were investigated. The economy in South Africa at this time was marked by a fairly high inflation rate and a stagnation in the prices of real estates. While using the facilities at Halfway House free of charge, the Club earned quite a lot of money in form of interest and repaid the loan completely.
The property at Halfway House was sold, the loan was repaid and new premises for the Club had to be found. In the meantime we are in the year 1985 and the land at Holkam Road was purchased. First ideas for new club premises were presented by a number of architects. The building committee discussed these ideas in great detail and eventually selected Mr Weixelbaumer´s plans for further consideration. However, later in the year 1985 the Dutch Club approached us to join forces. After lengthy discussions in the Club´s committee and after an extraordinary General Meeting it was decided to go ahead with an own Club. Various sub-committees were established to investigate the viability of such a club, the construction costs within a fairly tight budget and the possibility for new members. The results of these investigations were all positive and in March the members decided to give the green light for the building of new Club Premises. From now on it was action everywhere. A contract for the building of a new Club House was awarded and construction started almost immediately.
In April 1986 the site was buzzing with activity and the members of our then building committee, namely Messrs. Rudi Schmidt, Herbert Reiner and Helmut Meyerhoff, had all hands full to do and many sleepless nights. Parallel with the building activities the interest of old and new members on the Club grew steadily. From a low of just less than 200 members in 1985 the Club had grown to almost 250 in June 1986. A Club Newsletter was started again to keep the members and friends of the German Club informed about the progress of the building and other Club activities. The laying of the foundation stone for the new Club House took place in July 1986. More than 200 members and guests attended this function amongst them the Acting Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany. One month later we celebrated already the roof wetting. Work on the tennis courts had started and slowly one could recognise the shape of the new Club. More and more new members joined the club and the number of members doubled within a few months.
In December 1986 almost everything was finished and the move from Halfway House to Holkam Road was imminent. However, one thing was still not finalised: We did not get the Liquor Licence in time. And an opening of the new Club without some beers seemed unthinkable. However in early January 1987 the desperately wanted Liquor Licence arrived. Nothing could stop the official opening of the new German Club on 14 January 1987. The response from members and friends was fantastic: We had almost 800 members when we opened the new Club. Since then the German Club has established itself as a well accepted Tennis Club, a place for German 9-pin bowling and a social meeting place for the German community and its friends. Last but not least the Club wants to pay tribute to one man. This does not mean that the many others who contributed to the management, building and well being of the German Club do not deserve also our full respect and more than thousand thanks.
But the one man is Rudi Schmidt. Without him the Club including the bar and the restaurant would not be the same as they are today. And that´s why a small section of the bar is named after him: Rudi´s Corner. Unfortunately Rudi is no longer with us.