Le Cercle Sportif Saigonnais (The Saigon Sports Circle)
The Saigon Sports Circle (Athletic Club)
55, Chasseloup-Laubat Street
( now 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai )
Tél : 20.385
Bar : 20.288
It was in about 1896 that the Cercle Sportif was established, but its status wasn’t officially recognized until 1902 and its activities ceased in 1975 with the fall of Saigon.
The C.S.S. occupied a space of about 5 hectares (ca. 12 acres) which belonged to the Saigon-Cholon area and which it rented. It consisted of several colonial style buildings :
The swimming pool was inaugurated in 1933 and was much used by the French and later by the Americans (among which the ambassador of the United States Henry Cabot Lodge during the ’60’s.).
"Our swimming pool, the pride of Saigon" was the motto of the bi-monthly magazine "la Revue du Cercle".
Ten tennis courts, eight of which were lighted.
Having returned to Saigon in 1968, General of the South-Vietnamese Army Duong Van Minh was a regular on one of the tennis courts of the Cercle Sportif Saïgonnais.
Football and rugby fields with bleachers that could hold 12,000 people.
Gyms for martial arts, calisthenics, fencing, etc…
The library was created in 1933 and in 1950 held 5,000 volumes, and the reading room had numerous newspapers and magazines from France. Periodicals arrive by sea, and newspapers by air.
our or five balls took place each year (the first was given on February 28, 1920!) to mark the visit of athletic teams; two parties were held around the pool; the grand ball at the end of February on the on the slippery floor of the courts was one of the most enjoyable social events of “Saigon’s gentry”. Christine Chanut.
The tennis courts at the Cercle Sportif in 1938
The tennis courts at the C.S.S., the colonial-style building and the spacious veranda on the ground floor and the magnificent terrace on the first floor were built in 1919.
The C.S.S. swimming pool in 1938
The swimming pool in 1938 was the only one in Saigon.
A football match at the Cercle Sportif in 1949
June 5th, 1949: a football match at the Cercle Sportif : a Siamese team versus a selection from Saigon.
Presentation of the teams on the field to President Huu.
Memories of the C.S.S.
On the left: the envelope for the general asssembly election of May 26, 1954.
On the right: the third prize breaststroke medal won by Joëlle Lazard in 1963 at the Cercle Sportif Saigonnais. (Saigon Athletic Club).
The C.S.S. swimming pool
Of this vast complex, the swimming pool is the most beautiful gem. Immense trees surround it, composing a symphony with the water tinted green by the jade-colored tiles that line the large pool, upon which the purple stains of the bougainvillea and later, in May, the violet clusters of the “bang-bang” which resemble a flow of amethysts sprouting from the foliage..
Tel : 20.408
© The color slides were taken by Mr. Emile Poizat in 1955.
Poolside ball at C.S.S.
Nighttime party in January 1950 by the pool with men in dinner jackets and women in elegant gowns shimmering with a thousand colors.
Master Vatin at C.S.S.
Left photo : Fencing was taught at C.S.S. starting in 1910, here Master Vatin teaches his skill to two young children during the 1950’s.
Right photo: He was also a swimming teacher, seen here with his "groupies".
Il would also MC the evening of the Grand Ball in 1955.
M. Vatin was also a swimming teacher, on the right photo he is here with his "groupies".
Il would also MC the evening of the Grand Ball in 1955.
Henry Cabot Lodge at C.S.S. in 1966
Study of the Ambassador
Here's a Saigon poolside study of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge. Much still active, Lodge was 63.
The Cercle magazine in 1955
The “Revue du Cercle” (Magazine) was a bi-monthly published in Saigon which related all the activities at the C.S.S.
The opening of the Grand Ball in 1955
On the program : Meritan and his orchestra, Jimmy Bex and his large ”Jade Palace” ensemble, Régine and André Berny, acrobatic dancers from the “Arc-en Ciel”, and Nicole and Marie Triem..
The official presentation of a check to H.E. Minister Pham-Van-Huyen, commissioner-general for refugees..
The Annual Grand Ball
Saturday, March 5th, 1955
Around the World in one night
Left photo : The annual Grand Ball of the C.S.S. on March 5th, 1955.
Right photo: A particularly successful evening with Madame Vincenti, Colonel Bachelot, US Naval Attaché Lacy, and Madame Ravel.
Price list of the Annual Grand Ball of 1955
For the Around the World departure:
Have a cocktail:….”Paradise” or “the Little Devil”; $50
CHAMPAGNES (bottle): $300 (Bolinger, Charles Heidsieck, Dry Monopole, Krug, Moët & Chandon, Mumm Cordon Rouge, Piper Heidsieck, Pommery, Veuve Cliquot).
WINES: $150 (Traminer, Muscadet, Tavel Rosé, Arbois Rosé) $100 (Côtes du Rhône, Beaujolais).
VARIOUS OTHER DRINKS: $75 (Cognac, Peppermint Schnapps, various others), $100 (Scotch Whisky, $45 (Beer 33), $30 (¼ ltr. Perrier).
COLD BUFFET: $120 (Paté in aspic), $40 (Ham sandwich), $80 (Cold Cuts), $50 (Poached egg in aspic with ham), $60 (Rabbit in pastry crust), $30 (Fruit tart), $30 (Apple, orange), $40 (Pear), $15 (Coffee)..
Prices shown are in Vietnamese Piasters.
The Big Night of the Cercle
by Jacques Chancel
Jacques Chancel on the right in this photo.
It was a beautiful night. Spotlights and lanterns light up the Cercle. It wasn’t quite 10 p.m.
It was an evening, like so many others, perhaps a bit less chilly… an evening full of promises… so different from the one whose theme was “Fashion through the Ages”. Remember that awful rain… that terrifying downpour of 1954? In recalling that sad prank by Nature, I think of the justified despair of our Festival Committee. However, like performers in a “botched” entrance, the young ones, overcoming their quite natural anger and disappointment, had hoped in the space of one night that the next day would be better. It was.
Once none of this existed.
Why come back to revisit the past? In my view it’s a necessity, because supported by facts that existed it is easy to assume that the programming of such an event is one of the characteristic phases of daring. Did you for a moment consider the work done by the decorators, the costumers, the electricians? What about expenses?
What if the imponderable malicious act prevented our Ball?
Because each year the Cercle Sportif “dared”, this night became the most beautiful on Saigon’s calendar.
The night was really very beautiful.
To accomplish this speedy ‘Round the World trip, one thousand three hundred invited guests had chosen a not-very-commercial airline: the one of good humor and fantasy. This fun world had set up its décor on the tennis courts. I mentioned in passing the works of Monsieur Di, the decorator for C.S.S.: the Eiffel Tower, the foggy sky of London, the Pyramids of Egypt, the coast of Hong-Kong, the beaches of the islands, all landscapes to keep your imagination going. I saw an immense globe which rotated with the wind, and further on, a runway and a modern airport.
It was barely 10 p.m.
And this World was deserted.
Fortunately, I knew that it would soon be very lively. I would hate to have missed the first arrivals. From the terrace the immense runway lined with colored panels could have been the hall of a Le Bourget (airport in Paris), which gave its travelers a kind of picture over which to fly.
Then the long parade of cars began… vehicles of all makes enhanced by well-dressed women. A Buick: one admired its lines. A modest Renault 4 CV: its modest crew was cheered.
I had distanced myself a bit and was standing at the top of the stairs leading to the tennis courts. In this way I could better judge the effect of an arrival. Two tall, pretty young women then made their entrance. They were admirable in their light finery, in their costumes from the islands. They were noticed.
A show that toured the World
The officials in the photo : Mr. and Madame Letessier, Mr. Gruchy, Madame and Miss Gamblez..
George Meritan and his little band led the dancers. The bar attracted a few bachelors looking for a show. It was already becoming the center for all those who wished to leave their favorite table for a bit and to come get refreshments.
Finally the program began…
First came a round of masked groups…
Gypsies, Martians, various types. Then René Laporte, from Radio-France-Asie, was kind enough to explain to us what was customary to admire in a trip around the World. Photos will describe this better than any text could do. I will say, however, that I was captivated by the pure grace of the Polynesian women, and by the rhythm of the warriors. Every country was represented: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos made up a most graceful set. The Parisian woman reminded me of No. 11 Montpensier Street in Paris, near the Royal Palace, that fashion-model club that was run by the lovely Praline.
The pictures were perfect.
From the “Arc-en-Ciel” in Cholon to the “Moulin Rouge” in Paris
Having triumphed at the " Arc-en-Ciel” nightclub in Cholon for three weeks, the marvelous dance couple Régine and André Berny was kind enough to present their act during the big night at the Cercle. They were a great success. Their kindness and their grace won them a lot of admiration. They are now in Paris and the audiences of the “Moulin Rouge” will be able to applaud them. Régine and André Berny are very young… we hope they will become great dance stars. Their performance will be noted in the annals of artistic activities at the Cercle Sportif Saïgonnais.
Thanks to Monsieur Vatin
Thanks to all those who had the kindness and merit to fund this festival. Monsieur Vatin, the tireless M.C., once again very proud of his young people.
Doctor Lebon was right to trust him.
The lighting gave color to the various scenarios. They were well directed by Stein Bernard who made sure that this spectacle was a ‘sound and light’ treat...
It was a trip around the World.
But we came back to Saigon and we danced until dawn to the rhythms of Jimmy Bex and his “Jade Palace” big band.
From an article published in the “Revue du Cercle” No. 31, March-April 1955
The end of the C.S.S. Ball
A big thank-you to René Poizat who has allowed us to re-live the activities of the C.S.S. with the photos and documents from his personal collection.
View of the tennis courts and the swimming pool
from the buildings of the C.S.S.
From the railing of the big terrace of the Cercle the view extends across the length of the courts alive with the sound of tennis balls. The horizontal ochre line of the pergola with flowering bougainvilleas encircles the swimming pool..
The gardens of the C.S.S. in 1955
Mrs Poizat and his son in the beautiful gardens of the C.S.S.
Theater at the Cercle Sportif in 1963
"The Sign of Kikota"
The play, “The Sign of Kikota”, by Roger Ferdinand, was put on in 1960 at the "Theater of What’s New" (Le Théatre des Nouveautés) in Paris by Fernand Gravey and is a satire of psychoanalysis.
It was done again in 1963 at the Cercle Sportif of Saigon by Jean Proper Bied with these actors: Martine Laurencin, René Laporte, (Radio France-Asia), and Claudine Dreuilhe, daughter of the headmaster of the Marie Curie High School.
The sets were created by Claudine Dreuilhe and built by Van Di, set decorator at the C.S.S.
Dance gala at the Cercle Sportif in 1964
Dance gala at the C.S.S. organized by Madame Bachet for New Year’s Eve, 1964.
Awarding of flowers by the Director of the Cercle Sportif Saïgonnais.
The Cercle Sportif Saigonnais in 1971
"To make of the Cercle Sportif a ”House of France” where each of its thousand members can feel at home – whatever his situation – and can find all he could wish for to enhance his leisure, that is the goal always set by those who ran this vast organization. Sports, happiness, beauty, all was gathered in this privileged place where a breeze of smiling good humor blows since its opening, and where the old French traditions of friendly courtesy and eclecticism in good taste..."
From the monthly magazine "Sud-Est". February 1950, by Christine Chanut.