THE IMPORTANCE of Chichester Boys’ Club was illustrated in a recent article in the nostalgia section in the Observer.
A further account now comes from Jack Hood, who was 14 years old when he left school and joined the Chichester Boys’ Club to further his boxing career in 1946.
He said he was in the club alongside Bern Baker, who would become the south area champion and Johnny Weller, who would one day box for England.
“The gym was not very big, so about ten of us would take turns to use the two punchbags,” he wrote. “Nevertheless we managed to do plenty of exercises and sparring.
“We went all over the south to boxing shows. In those days one was not always presented with a cup or medal, but more often than not with cutlery, a biscuit barrel or a tea set.
“The main venues in Chichester were the Drill Hall in East Row and the Royal Sussex barracks.
“The main Bognor venues were the Rex Ballroom and the Pavilion Theatre.
“At some shows (just after the war) the Rev Godfrey Wells would officiate as timekeeper.
“He would boom out in that rich voice: ‘Seconds out, first round.’
“Then with a big mallet he would strike this six-inch shell case which was suspended from a wooden frame.
“I had a number of contests for the boys’ club.
“I was entered for the NABCs, won the Sussex Championship, then lost in the regionals. After that I went in the ABAs and reached the semi-finals of Great Britain and got beaten on points by B Harvey, from Cardiff.
“These championships took place at the Empire Pool, Wembley Stadium, in February 1949.
“In the 1950s, the boys’ club was expanded by the building of a large gymnasium, thus enabling the club to put on shows – and eventually in later years dinner shows, organised by ex-member and rotary club member Martyn Phillmore.
“The gym was officially opened in 1955 by Chris Chataway in the presence of 150 people, including the mayor, Leslie Evershed-Martin, the Bishop of Chichester and the MP for Chichester, Lancelot Joynson-Hicks.”
He described the club’s membership in the 1950s as ‘strong’.
In 1967, Jack returned to the club at the age of 35. He had been approached by Gordon White, the club’s boxing competition secretary, whom Jack had known at school, who asked him to help glove-up the boxers for an upcoming boxing show.
From this Jack eventually went on to coach at the club for 25 years.
He coached a number of people from all around the world, who attended colleges in the area.
One boy he coached in the 1980s was Paul Forbes, who after a couple of years of joining became the ABA middle-weight champion.
In the 1990s another ‘outstanding’ boxer joined the club, according to Jack, called Gary Booker, from Midhurst.
“He was a mild-mannered chap (as most boxers are), but in the ring he was a firecracker, as many of his opponents will attest.
“He took part in numerous contests and won the southern counties championship at senior middleweight (which was a strong division), under the tutelage of Norman Millyard and Jimmy Cairns,” Jack wrote.
He also said in 1993 the club’s management committee voted to discontinue boxing from the club’s activities.
However, the chairman gave the coaches the option to go independent and pay rent to hire the gym.
“This we did, and boxing became more popular than ever,” said Jack.
He said now the current management committee were very much in favour of the sport.
The coaches carried on the work of the club, and Jack took up the post of chairman, honorary secretary and treasurer of the club.
Jack wrote he wished to pay tribute to the number of boxers he had come into contact with over the years.
He apologised for those he had not been able to include in the report.
“After 40 years service I cannot include everyone,” he wrote. “It would run into hundreds.”