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Number 1 Shimbun

Total Recall

No1-2018-10 04 Parade 1

A personal look back at the Club’s last move,
which took place some 42 years ago

by Geoffrey Tudor

Vietnam fell in April 1975, and with it came the return of many regular members who had been sent to cover the conflict. At the elections in June, the pugnacious Alvin “Al” Cullison final- ly succeeded in his bid for president, promising a more active Club, with an improved library, weekend operations, better promotion of events and brighter uniforms for the staff.

But a bombshell suddenly burst. The landlords, Mitsubishi Estate, wanted the Club to give up its space in the Chiyoda Annex Building for another client, and eventually offered alternative space on top of their new 20-story Yurakucho Denki Building. They sweetened the offer with a package of low rent, free furniture and other benefits . . . including spectacular views over the Imperial Palace grounds in one direction and the fabled Ginza in another.

Intense debate followed. There were loud voices against a move to the 20th floor, claiming that lunch business would suffer, as the club had always been a street-level ‘walk-in’ operation. Even the prospect of new hi-tech hi-speed elevators was unconvincing to some. But in October 1975 a GMM voted in favor of the Denki Building and plans were drawn up for the move. It was scheduled for Feb. 2, 1976, less than six months after Mitsubishi’s announcement.

Early February is usually the coldest part of the year in Tokyo and the morning of the move was no exception. It was also cloudy, windy and wet; hardly the weather for a carnival procession, but that did not deter a bunch of some 50 FCCJ stalwarts, regular members, associates and staff, from holding a celebratory march from the old Club premises to its brand new home.

The ancient Gods of Japan smiled on the FCCJ that day and
just before the noon procession got underway, out came the sun to cast some watery but welcome light on the happy band of celebrants as the column made its way down Nakadori to the Club’s fourth location in its then 30 years of existence.

The connection between ‘Scotland the Brave’ and the FCCJ was not entirely apparent but ace bagpiper Eric Von Hurst and his drummer colleague Richard Beere led the gala parade, wrote ‘A Monkey’s Uncle’, the curious nom de plume of the Number One Shimbun scribe who covered the event. Immediately behind the piper and drummer came FCCJ ‘indignitaries’ such as Max Desfor, Mack Chrysler, John Roderick, John Rich, Lee Chia and Al Cullison, bearing the Club’s banner and holding high the Club’s brass nameplate, for installation at the new premises.

As I recall from my location at the rear, the whole march took about 15 minutes, as the shrill notes of the pipes and the crisp rattle of the snare drum pierced the ears of the rather thin crowd of bemused Marunouchi salarimen and office ladies, only slightly distracted by the spectacle as they made their own march to lunch.

With the piper’s tune changing to what may have been “Whyte and Mackay’s Lament”, the happy band entered the Denki Building by the ground floor entrance and made for the 20th floor and their new home.

The moaning of the naysayers and the fears of those who foresaw rot and ruin for the Club was quickly put to rest. The hi-tech hi-speed elevators whisked members and guests in safety and comfort. On the club’s first day of business in the Denki Building, the Main Bar overflowed, while the Dining Room (now the Pen and Quill), served a record 276 customers.

● Geoffrey Tudor writes for Orient Aviation, Hong Kong.

 

Published in: October 2018

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