This year’s report detailed the ‘modernization’ of the surrounding area and changing national landscape:
‘Since last year new flats across the road from the Florrie have been completed and everywhere the story is the same. Old, decaying, terraced houses being pulled down and in their place are rising new blocks of modern flats. Antiquated schools are being replaced by bright, contemporary ones and a fine new Health Centre, one of the first of its kind in the country, is being built; for Mill Street is part of the Corporation’s Comprehensive Redevelopment Scheme for the South-end of the city.
Of course the Florrie is to stay to serve the needs of a new generation of boys and it was because of this that the Management Committee decided to modernize our fine old building. The work was put in hand during the summer months at a cost of some £2,000, and all who saw the results when the Club was officially reopened were amazed at what had been achieved. I know that the Warden be delighted to arrange for you to be shown round the Club, any evening during the Winter months, and then you can see for yourself the extent of these improvements. There can be no doubt that we now enjoy the finest premises of any youth club in the city.
It is not only Mill Street that is changing, it is the whole country, and especially the young people of this country. Present-day teenagers know nothing of the war and its privations and they have grown up in an affluent society, with good money of their own to spend. Statistics illustrate the millions spent annually by teenagers on records, clothes and luxuries unknown to earlier generations. This teenage affluence had led to a superficial self- consciousness and a whole complex of business geared to the exploitation of the teenage market. Coffee bars and jive clubs now compete with youth clubs for the leisure time of our teenagers. Can we afford to let the devil have all the best tunes? It is not time that we looked at the traditional boys’ club and asked whether it was really what young people want to-day? Perhaps we might also wonder why only 30% of teenagers belong to any sort of youth club.
Liverpool boasts a hundred boys’ clubs affiliated to the L.B.A. with membership of some 10,000 boys, but are these clubs attractive enough? The short and painful answer is NO. Too many meet in dilapidated premises with second-rate equipment, amidst a seedy atmosphere pf decay. Keen and enthusiastic helpers are everywhere struggling under this unnecessary burden, and the effect of such surroundings on teenagers accustomed to modern schools and the expensive atmosphere of commercial dance clubs can only be surmised.
Is it surprising that young boys over sixteen are something of a rarity in too many boys’ clubs? This is the age when lads should be taking some responsibility in the administration of their clubs, but in too many clubs they are just not there- they are probably in a nearby coffee bar with their girlfriends. There is a pressing need for really good clubs boasting first-rate facilities, perhaps even a swimming pool, and run by enthusiastic young men who know what they are doing and do it well.
Some people may say this is a council of perfection; maybe it is, but I have seen it work and work well. I have seen boys’ clubs in the United States with such facilities and a nightly attendance of 900 and more, yes, you may say, but it couldn’t happen here. Why not? Already the Ministry of Education and the local Education Authority pay out millions a year in the service of youth. In Liverpool alone nearly all the clubs receive some sort of official support, whilst a few, such as our own, already have full -time leaders. What is needed is a greater concentration of resources. More first-rate clubs and fewer second-rate ones. There is no need for a club on every street corner- a good club should be worth a short bus ride. We must concentrate such money and first class leadership as we have on raising the standard of our bigger clubs, not dissipate it ineffectively throughout a hundred lesser ones.
Whether such super clubs will come within the next few years, or even whether they will ever come in England, no one can tell, but in the meantime everyone at the ‘Florrie’ is working hard to prove that we really are the finest club in the city. Our successes have been plentiful during the past season, but it is of the loyalty of the people of Mill Street that we are most proud. This loyalty is revealed in the enthusiasm of our voluntary helpers, in the support we receive from our Old Boys and the people of the area, and in the amazing attendance of some 500 local well-wishers on the occasion of the reopening of the Club in September.’
Yet despite obvious challenges the Florrie was a bustling place; weightlifting enjoyed a ‘boom’ year- this was put down to the popularity of the weekly television appearances of ‘Cheyenne’, after whom the section named their group; the Canteen was described as ‘a wonderful place for a gossip, a laugh or an informal gathering. The place where the ‘grapevine starts. One hint dropped in the Canteen reaches the ears of the lads far quicker than a dozen notices on a board, a most illuminating thought.’The report was celebratory and at times frivolous in tone: ‘An excellent ‘Lord Mayor’s Night’ took place in March this year with some wonderful displays and exhibitions that aroused much interest from our parent and friend visitors. We shall long remember His Worship ‘bridging the gap with a sausage snack’ by courtesy of the Adventure Club.’
The Senior football team had taken a tour of the Continent at Easter, ‘ a party of sixteen, including four staff, left Speke Airport on the way to Ostend and ultimately Holland and France. A most interesting week on the Continent was thoroughly enjoyed by the party and, comparing our party with others travelling during the same period, I was most gratified to see the standard of behaviour and dress of the senior boys, which in the main was absolutely beyond reproach. What can one say in a short sentence to convey the atmosphere of the of the visit? The magnificent hotel and its wonderful head waiter, Alphonse. The civic reception we got from the Mayor and officials of the little French town of Mouvaix. What hospitality! The flushed, excited and exhulted (sic) senior whom, when we returned to our hotel bearing as proof our progress at football a wonderful silver cup, ordered champagne for the whole hotel on our expense, but forgot to tell the rest of the party..’
Lucky members of the Adventure Club spent a fortnight on the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. Highlights included a sighting of a deer foraging for food, watched a tiny Manx Shearwater hatch, and found a lair of half-wild kittens in the ruins of a crofter cottage. These were memories that ‘only a real camp can bring to a boy from such a depressing dockland area like ours.’
Budgie Breeding was added to the list of club activities.
THE FLORENCE INSTITUTE
Registered Office: The Florence Institute Trust Ltd, 377 Mill Street, Liverpool L8 4RF. Charity Registration No: 1109301. Company Registration No: 05330850 (registered in England and Wales).