MEMBERS of the Melksham Sixty Plus Club have celebrated their 70th anniversary this month with a special party at the Riverside Club on Tuesday.

Chairman Stephen Chudley said: “The club was formed by Melksham Town Council in 1949 with the first members meeting being held on Tuesday, March 22 with 148 people attending and entertainment supplied by local organisations.

“Before the club opened, there was a committee meeting at the Citizens Advice Bureau in King Street, Melksham, on March 15, 1949 where the name Melksham Sixty Plus Club was first proposed.

“There was a committee of six and the secretary and a number of organisations were asked to send representation to serve as a co-opted member.

“These included the Royal British Legion (Ladies and Men’s Sections), the Salvation Army, the Labour, Liberal and Conservative Clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, Sandridge Women’s Institute, five different churches and, of course, the Town Council who were allowed two members.

“The Town Council agreed to the use of the Assembly Hall free of charge every Tuesday afternoon and a different local body was to take charge of the entertainment and buffet each week.”

The first club chairman was a Mr S Marchant and for the first 10 years the club prospered, with increased membership and free rent of the Assembly Hall and free entertainment with the membership hitting 228 at its peak.

In 1957, the club had its own choir, who wore red, white and black uniforms, to entertain fellow members on a Tuesday afternoon for its eighth birthday celebrations. These were visited by Mr A J Mortimer, chairman of the Melksham Urban District Council, and his wife.

Entertainment from 1949-1959 included piano solos, musical monologues, whist, pass the parcel, sketches, singers, a comedienne, skittles, games, recitations and community singing.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the club stopped having entertainment and by 1983 members were enjoying playing bingo, whist and organising skittle matches.

Mr Chudley said: “We know that in 1983 the weekly subs were 25p and the hire of the Assembly Hall was £15.75 per week and in that same year there were 120 members at the annual Christmas dinner.

“On Tuesday December 17, 1996 the club assisted the Carnival Queen’s Committee launch their Balloon Race where 250 balloons were released with each balloon having a ticket holder and prizes awarded to the balloons that get the furthest. The Chairman in 1996 was a Mr Briggs.

“Attendances were still around 100 but, due to the Assembly Hall apparently making a loss in the 80s, free rent was withdrawn and by the year 2000 membership was dwindling and skittle matches and whist had gone, leaving just the bingo.

“In 2006 the club members voted to move to a smaller hall and took up residency on a Tuesday afternoon at their current home, the Riverside Club in Bath Road.”

The club continues to meet every Tuesday at 2pm for a chat, a cup of tea and bingo and has a membership of around 50, with an average weekly attendance of 33. Members will also attend an anniversary cream tea at the Lowden Garden Centre at Shaw on Thursday, March 21.

Mr Chudley added: “If you are over 60 and looking for some social activity then you would be more than welcome to come along and give the club a try.”