Club History
The large estate at 4 Circular Road, registered in 1899 with Calcutta Municipal Corporation, was a favourite haunt for the Tagore family of Jorasanko. They had acquired the property from one Mr. Gallstone – quite known in the real estate business in the neighbourhood including what would be the Park Street. In the beginning of century, he had converted the entire property including a large waterbody (now Auckland Square Pumping Station) with the address of 47A Theatre Road. The property, was given on rent, to several consecutive tenants. Then, in the year 1924, the various Swiss commercial houses in Calcutta, engaged in confectionery and watch making businesses, got together and hired the property from Maharaja Hrishikesh Law, the then landlord. The monthly rent then was Rs. 875/-. Thus, the Swiss Club was established on 11th of December 1924.
 

The erstwhile Swiss Club immediately devoted itself to tennis, bowling green and skittle. The skittle alley had its distinctive feature. The skittle alley was constructed in the beginning of 1938.The concrete floor was subsequently replaced by a wooden floor in the same year. The official opening, of the renovated skittle alley was held on April 13, 1938. The arrangement was the only of its kind in the eastern part of the country if not the entire country. The Club bar was well stocked, and the kitchen, used to be exclusive. The Swiss missed their home but not their food. Therefore, Fondue parties were regularly organised. Goulash in the menu but one had to order for the Cordon Bleu in advance. People requested friends, who were members of the Swiss Club, to invite them to sample the succulent beefsteak. A sense of competition did exist between two clubs, the Swiss Club and the Bengal Club, to excel in the expertise on cooking steak.

 

The Re Christening Saga

Those were the days when a large contingent of Swiss National resided in Calcutta. While quite a few came here to work for various European companies and Swiss Consulate, many had set up their own business as well. Those were in diversified professions. For example there were tearooms like Flury's, Arizona, Ferazini, PAX which served excellent Cakes, Pastries and Chocolates. Then there were some firms dealing in Swiss Watches. Ch. Abrecht was certainly the Premier. Some members may still remember Volkart Brothers, which eventually merged with Tatas and called themselves Voltas.

In 1942, all these Swiss people decided to start a club of their own. They named it Swiss Club. The club took over the entire premises of 42 Theatre Theatre Road (now Shakespeare Sarani) on rent. The premises comprised of both the floors of the building and possibly two more Tennis Courts. The property belonged (still belongs) to the famous Law family of Calcutta. Mr. Mihir Law is still on of our revered members.

Soon The Swiss community was joined by their continental Cousins-The German, French, Dutch and others. Quite understandable since culturally they were more akin to the Swiss. The other Clubs in Calcutta were predominantly English. Moreover, the continental foods that were served here attracted people of continent. Swiss club steak was talk of the town and Fondue was a real craze.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

After independence however the member of Europeans in Calcutta started dwindling. Many of the business units owned by them merged, sold or packed off. In the meantime, some Indians were inducted in the club as Associate Members. Like any other Club, the Swiss Club authorities made sure that the numbers of such members remained a minor percentage of ordinary members.

In spite of gradual diminishing members of members, the club was carrying on. Around October/November 1969, the Ambassador for Switzerland in India, in a letter to Swiss Club management requested them to meet him. A two-member delegation was formed. This included the then President of the Club - Mr. H S Van Wijk and another committee member - J. Keusch.

When the delegation met the Ambassador, he told them that he had received a report that Swiss Club in Calcutta was practicing Colour Bar.

Later, in his reporting to the Club Committee the President said that he vehemently opposed the erroneous report and he informed the Ambassador that out of 14 existing Associate members not less than 10 were Indians. The history however is silent as to what extent the Ambassador was convinced with that solemn objection, particularly because no Indian those days had access to ordinary membership. Such a category was open only to the Europeans.

 

There was a separate exposition from Keusch. He said, when the ambassador heard that Keusch, was the only remaining Swiss member of the Club and possibly the only Swiss National living in Calcutta, the embassy would prefer that the Club not to continue functioning under the name Swiss Club. Otherwise, there might be some political repercussion.

The committee heard both and decided to give the matter a further thought. In the following committee meeting, the President persuaded other members to agree that unless further development occurred the matter should be treated as closed. Keusch did not attend the meeting. He was absent on leave.

 

Therefore, the committee decided to sleep over the issue. The slumber however was not deep enough. On 4 June 1970, there was a reminder from Swiss Ambassador. The committee woke up. The rules had to be gone through in details and amended wherever necessary. Orr. Dignam - the Solicitors were consulted. Thereafter a special General Meeting was arranged in October 1970.

Whereas, the record shows in June 1970 there were Seventy-one ordinary members, Seventeen Associate members, Three Lady members, and fourteen outside members. Twenty-Two members including one Indian Associate member - Dr K C Chatterjee (our late Kironda) attended the special General Meeting

During the meeting, the member who attended where asked to submit new names and later vote thereon.

The suggested name and voting results were as follows:

  International Club - 9 Votes

  Eidelwiss Club - Nil

  Cosmopolitan Club - Proposal withdrawn since there was already a club by that name

  After Eight Club - 5 votes

  Ambassador Club - 1 vote

  Europe Club - 2 votes

  Cosmos Club - 1 vote

  Phoenix Club - 4 votes

  All Nations Club - 1 vote

The Chairman declared that the new names of the club would be International Club since it got the maximum vote, I still wonder as to why the proposer of Eidlwiss Club did not vote himself for the name he suggested.

After the following resolution was passed:

"In consideration of the views of the Ambassador for Switzerland as conveyed in his letter dated the 4th June, 1970 that the name of the club which is no longer an association of Swiss Nationals should be changed. It is hereby resolved, that Swiss Club be renamed and henceforth be know as International Club and shall continue to function under its rules and regulations as in force or as may be amended from time to time at the General Meetings of the Club."

 
Thereafter the meeting had a short break. The members rushed for a quick binge. Did the members present realise that at that moment they entered the history page, for they had the first round of drink International Club ever served! It was 16 October 1970.
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