Tramping club has colourful 75 years

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Southland Tramping Club members plan trips, such as the Waipohatu Falls Track, to experience walking tracks in Southland and beyond. Photo: File

LIKE many events around New Zealand, the Southland Tramping Club has decided its 75th
jubilee celebrations can wait until 2023.

Southland Tramping Club Jubilee chairman Barry Smith said the 75th birthday celebrations
had originally been planned for Queen’s Birthday weekend but was postponed so more people could attend once the nation moved out of the Red light phase.

‘‘We figured, if they could delay the Olympic Games for a year, we should have no trouble
delaying our event for 12 months also.’’

The original Southland Tramping Club grew its roots during the depression years, starting in 1920. But the pause button was pushed during World War II.

Servicemen returning from war showed little interest in being involved with the club. Mr Smith believes it was because the men had already experienced enough ‘adventure’ overseas and were now either too old or ready to settle down.

But a public meeting in 1947 sparked something among young Southland residents and
the club was revived.

‘‘Enthusiasm was there, and riding on the crest of nationalism after World War II, meant the Kiwi Tramping Club was mostly formed by young, keen 18-20-year-olds who wanted adventure.’’

In the early stages, day trips were the more favoured outing.

However, on Labour Weekend 1947, the club broke with tradition and headed off on an
adventure on the Routeburn Track, on the Divide to Lake McKenzie section.

‘‘It took the bus all of Saturday to travel over neglected gravel roads to get to the Divide.’’

Despite encountering an unkempt, overgrown and partially unmarked track, fraught with wash-outs, the group made it to their goal to be greeted by a dilapidated and partially collapsed Howden Hut.

But a weighty gramophone, lugged by members taking turns uphill and down, provided an
extraordinary home comfort and a trip to remember.

The club, now seeking a more unique identity in 1950, changed its name to the Invercargill
Tramping Club after it was believed several ‘‘Kiwi’’ clubs had popped up around the country.

The name eventually evolved to the more inclusive Southland identity to include members
from outside the city boundaries.

Apart from the Alpine Club and Deer Stalkers, it was likely the only club to cater for the easily accessed great outdoor walks in the region, he said.

Membership reached a pinnacle of 240 members in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It now
maintains a more static 70-80 people.

The club’s milestone birthdays have been traditionally celebrated each passing decade.

‘‘We realise for many of us, because of age, this may well be the last big celebration we can attend so we want as many as possible to have the opportunity to do so,’’ he said.

Postponing the event was not necessarily a bad thing, as it gave the committee more time to trace and invite more past members, Mr Smith said.

– Anyone interested in attending the 76th celebrations can email stc75jubilee@gmail.com

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