By John Marletta
I stopped by the Cricket Press recently to take a few minutes out of Harry Slade Jr.’s busy schedule to have him reminisce about his experiences in The Manchester Club just before and after World War II.
When Harry joined the club, boys of high school age were allowed to be members. He joined on January 1, 1939, having just turned 19 years old in October of the previous year. A year later, he was elected president.
The Manchester Club leased several large rooms on the second floor of the Blaisdell Block downtown (now occupied by Mahri Jewelry). Members each had a key to come and go as they wished, during the day and into the evening, socializing, reading, shooting pool, playing cards, listening to the radio, playing the player piano, fixing a meal in the kitchen and so on.
Other than junior members, they generally dressed in shirt and tie at the club. Smoking was allowed but no alcoholic beverages. Harry recalls that liquor was first served at an anniversary party after the end of the war. He guesses that the leased space could accommodate up to 50 members. When some of the junior members became unruly, damaging tables and furnishings, it was decided to exclude adolescents from joining. To keep them out of mischief after school, bowling alleys were available under the building which was once The Harborside Restaurant, or basketball gamed could be played in Horticultural Hall (where Go Fish is now located). The Manchester Club sponsored or assisted through the Youth Aid Movement many youth leagues for baseball, basketball and bowling.
Friday nights were especially popular for socializing. Al Marshall, who ran a meat market on Vine Street, would provide cold cut sandwiches and coffee. Once a month, a speaker of prominence would attend to discuss current events dealing with state politics, the justice system, town government, and the like.
The 40th Anniversary of the club was held in August 1945 when about 100 members and friends sat down at Tuck’s Point to a chicken pot pie dinner, a sing-along accompanied by piano and accordion, and talks by various returning military personnel and politicians.
Shortly after declaration of war on December 7, 1041, Harry Slade Jr. was drafted. He trained at Camp Edwards on the Cape with the 101st Field Artillery and did coastal duty, erecting gun emplacements and lookout towers (including one on Town Hill in Manchester).
Having been educated at Wentworth Institute as a printer and having worked with his father at The Cricket, he soon found himself in charge of the bindery at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, where he finished his military obligation. He returned to The Cricket which eventually, he ran with his brother, Dan.
By Past President John Marletta, fall 2007