Tag Archives: Football

Scrap Book Project – Leicester City and Four Disappointing Cup Finals

Football was always important to dad and from about the time I was seven years old he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers.

I can recall quite clearly going to the matches because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares.

In the past dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Priemiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspurs who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.

They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 (26th April) and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.

There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

Scrap Book Project – Ivan Petcher, Sports Reporter

Dad used to like to keep scrap books and journals and although I don’t have the first two volumes I do have volume three of his book of footballers that was started on 7th March 1947.

Dad was keen on all forms of sport and I have been looking through the old school magazines from Wellingborough Grammar School to see if I could find any reference to him in the sporting sections because he was a keen sportsman and a follower of all types of sport.  I was slightly surprised to find no reference to him at all because I know that he was an especially keen cricketer and a cross-country runner.

His favourite sport was football but Wellingborough being a grammar school didn’t encourage soccer and concentrated instead on rugby or rugger as they preferred to call it.  I can’t imagine that he would have liked rugby because he was small and lightweight and not built for the game at all.  I can sympathise with that because I had to endure the same fate, going to school as I did in Rugby, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.

I know that he was playing football because for the season 1948-49 he was keeping a journal of the matches of his team the Higham Swifts for whom he was a regular, playing on either the left or right wing.  The records show that he was on the selection committee so I suppose he had some sort of choice about his position.

In this journal he wrote match reports that give an insight into the team and its players, how well or badly they played and his own personal contribution.  In that season they played eleven matches, won seven and lost six and scored forty-six goals and dad bagged eight of them.  The reports are eloquent and imaginative, his use of English is immaculate with perfect grammar and no spelling mistakes and with this impressive writing skill it surprises me even more that he left school without his passing out certificate.

These are some of my favourite extracts from the reports:

11.12.1948, “Late in the match the Swifts tried hard and had an apparently good goal by Petcher disallowed on the grounds of hands” – Surely he knew if he handled it or not!

6.11.1948, This was really serious stuff, “A Pasilow was transferred today from Higham Juniours to Higham Swifts and will play on Saturday in the outside left position” –  The fee was not disclosed.

18.12.1948, “Knifton had a grand game but had little support from Petcher who was injured and remained a passenger for most of the game”

no date, “Higham swifts were humiliated by Rushden St Mary’s by 14 goals to 2, in the squelching mud of the home teams ground, a sticky mess of a pitch which resembled a glue pot”, a fairly emphatic defeat by the sounds of it and a lot of excuses!  But let’s not forget that by playing on mud was exactly how Derby County won the 1st division title twice in the 1970’s.

12.2.1949, “The Swifts fielding once again their strongest team we saw football at its best “ – self praise indeed

He was also playing cricket and between 1947 and 1949 he maintained a similar journal for ‘The Bats Cricket Club’ and here he did even better because he was the club captain (he was probably on the selection committee as well).  He liked cricket and later on was always in the Council twenty overs side that played regular cricket during the summers.  He was a good all rounder who batted left hand and bowled with his right, which was a bit surprising because he was a total left hander.

He is the one in the middle at the front, I am sitting next to him.

Later on he continued to keep a sports journal for the County Offices Football Club for the seasons 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56 and then they stop.  Again he wrote passionate match reports and here are some of my favourite extracts:

10.10.1953,  “Late changes in the County offices Team when Petcher was forced to retire with a cold” – what a wimp he might have at least called it man flu!

31.10.1953, “Petcher missed a glorious opportunity when perfectly placed at less than three yards he failed completely to connect and the ball rolled by”

5th December 1953 a hat trick against Brighton Rovers

January 1954 – Injury crisis: “Hubbard, Baxter and Petcher all declared fit.  Willis out for the season. Parker now visiting infirmary for treatment.  Landon has decided to hang up his boots.  Howes and Topliss unfit for at least a week.  Bodicoat should be alright for Saturday (cold).  Henson still has slight limp.  Gardner’s leg giving trouble.”  – These must have been awfully tough matches!

6th January 1954,  “an entertaining match marred only when County Offices new goalkeeper was carried off with a broken nose” –  See what I mean!

13th January 1954, a 13-0 thumping, brother Peter in the team, Dad playing in defence; “Poor Petcher for the 3rd week running put through his own goal”. …Better to go back to the forwards then.

20th February 1954, “Although the ground was half under water the referee decided play was possible” – I’d liked to have seen that!

17th September 1955, in a match they won 6-0 “what a pity the office team became over confident and fiddled and fuddled about in the last fifteen minutes.  They ought to have had a bucket full!”

Although I regularly played cricket with him I don’t remember him playing football except on one occasion in about 1978 when at work the Finance Department (my team) played the Planners (his) in a friendly and he found his old fashioned boots at the back of the garage and although he was forty-six and certainly not match fit he filled his favourite position on the wing and showed glimpses of the talent that he had when he was a young man.  I played full back for Finance and I know he gave me the run around a few times!

Scrapbook Project – Leicester City Football Club

Football was always important to my dad and from about the time I was old enough he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers in April 1965 and Leicester won 2-0.   The team photo above is from around about that time and is one of many in the Scrap Book.

I think I can remember them all: Back Row: Riley, Norman, Cross, Banks, McLintock. Front Row: King, Appleton, Gibson, Stringfellow and squatting down  Sjoberg.

I can recall quite clearly going to the matches in my blue and white hand knitted scarf and bobble hat because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares which he considered to be an unnecessary expense.

In the past dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Priemiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there in the crowd that day cheering them on?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspurs who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.  They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.

There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs.  I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind and to the left of the goal with room to swing my heavy wooden rattle.  This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.  This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me.  In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.

In 2002 Leicester City replaced the Filbert Street ground with a modern new ground close by and called it the Walkers Stadium after the club sponsers.  The last time that I watched Leicester City play with my dad was sometime in the Spring of 2003 when we went to the new ground to see a match.  I don’t remember the opponents or the score and I haven’t been since because he died in October that year and going to football matches without him would just never seem the same.

Margaret Thatcher Takes a ‘Hell of a Beating!’

Norway doesn’t have a much of a football team and although they are big hitters in the economic and social world league indexes their football record in World and European cup competitions is nothing much to brag about.  They compensate for this however by having possibly the most famous bit of football commentary ever.

The Norwegian broadcaster Bjørge Lillelien most famously reported on Norway’s unlikely 2-1 victory against England in a World Cup qualifier in Oslo on 9th September 1981.  At the end of the match he was almost hysterical, no, he was completely hysterical and, alternating between English and Norwegian, he screamed into his microphone:

“We are best in the world! We have beaten England! England, birthplace of giants”,

And he followed this up by taunting a roll call of famous English people:

“Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana we have beaten them all, we have beaten them all! Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!”

Away from football interestingly Norway has a national cricket team that are ranked a credible thirty-eighth in the World out of one hundred and five and a rugby team that is not so successful being ranked eighty-sixth out of ninety-four.

Norway – Europe’s most expensive country

Leicester City and Four Disappointing Cup Finals

Football was always important to dad and from about the time I was seven years old he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers.  I can recall quite clearly going to the matches because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares.

In the past dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Priemiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspurs who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.  They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 (26th April) and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.  There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

Ivan Petcher Sports Reporter

Dad used to like to keep scrap books and journals and although I don’t have the first two volumes I do have volume three of his book of footballers that was started on 7th March 1947.

Dad was keen on all forms of sport and I have been looking through the old school magazines from Wellingborough Grammar School to see if I could find any reference to him in the sporting sections because he was a keen sportsman and a follower of all types of sport.  I was slightly surprised to find no reference to him at all because I know that he was an especially keen cricketer and a cross-country runner.  His favourite sport was football but Wellingborough being a grammar school didn’t encourage soccer and concentrated instead on rugby or rugger as they preferred to call it.  I can’t imagine that he would have liked rugby because he was small and lightweight and not built for the game at all.  I can sympathise with that because I had to endure the same fate, going to school as I did in Rugby, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.

I know that he was playing football because for the season 1948-49 he was keeping a journal of the matches of his team the Higham Swifts for whom he was a regular, playing on either the left or right wing.  The records show that he was on the selection committee so I suppose he had some sort of choice about his position.  In this journal he wrote match reports that give an insight into the team and its players, how well or badly they played and his own personal contribution.  In that season they played eleven matches, won seven and lost six and scored forty-six goals and dad bagged eight of them.  The reports are eloquent and imaginative, his use of English is immaculate with perfect grammar and no spelling mistakes and with this impressive writing skill it surprises me even more that he left school without his passing out certificate.

These are some of my favourite extracts from the reports:

11.12.1948, “Late in the match the Swifts tried hard and had an apparently good goal by Petcher was disallowed on the grounds of hands” Surely he knew if he handled it or not!

6.11.1948, This was really serious stuff, “A Pasilow was transferred today from Higham Juniours to Higham Swifts and will play on Saturday in the outside left position”.  The fee was not disclosed.

18.12.1948, “Knifton had a grand game but had little support from Petcher who was injured and remained a passenger for most of the game”

no date, “Higham swifts were humiliated by Rushden St Mary’s by 14 goals to 2, in the squelching mud of the home teams ground, a sticky mess of a pitch which resembled a glue pot”, a fairly emphatic defeat by the sounds of it and a lot of excuses!  But let’s not forget that by playing on mud was exactly how Derby County won the 1st division title twice in the 1970’s.

12.2.1949, “The Swifts fielding once again their strongest team we saw football at its best “, self praise indeed

He was also playing cricket and between 1947 and 1949 he maintained a similar journal for ‘The Bats Cricket Club’ and here he did even better because he was the club captain (he was probably on the selection committee as well).  He liked cricket and later on was always in the Council twenty overs side that played regular cricket during the summers.  He was a good all rounder who batted left hand and bowled with his right, which was a bit surprising because he was a total left hander!

Later on he continued to keep a sports journal for the County Offices Football Club for the seasons 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56 and then they stop.  Again he wrote passionate match reports and here are some of my favourite extracts:

10.10.1953,  “Late changes in the County offices Team when Petcher was forced to retire with a cold”, he might have at least called it man flu!

31.10.1953, “Petcher missed a glorious opportunity when perfectly placed at less than three yards he failed completely to connect and the ball rolled by”

5th December 1953 a hat trick against Brighton Rovers

January 1954 – Injury crisis: “Hubbard, Baxter and Petcher all declared fit.  Willis out for the season. Parker now visiting infirmary for treatment.  Landon has decided to hang up his boots.  Howes and Topliss unfit for at least a week.  Bodicoat should be alright for Saturday (cold).  Henson still has slight limp.  Gardner’s leg giving trouble.”  These must have been awfully tough matches!

6th January 1954,  “an entertaining match marred only when County Offices new goalkeeper was carried off with a broken nose”.  See what I mean!

13th January 1954, a 13-0 thumping, brother Peter in the team, Dad playing in defence; “Poor Petcher for the 3rd week running put through his own goal”. …Better to go back to the forwards then.

20th February 1954, “Although the ground was half under water the referee decided play was possible”, I’d liked to have seen that

17th September 1955, in a match they won 6-0 “what a pity the office team became over confident and fiddled and fuddled about in the last fifteen minutes.  They ought to have had a bucket full!”

Although I played cricket with him I don’t remember him playing football except on one occasion in about 1978 when at work the Finance Department (my team) played the Planners (his) in a friendly and he found his old fashioned boots at the back of the garage and although he was forty-six and certainly not match fit he filled his favourite position on the wing and showed glimpses of the talent that he had when he was a young man.  I played full back for Finance and I know he gave me the run around a few times!

 

Football Matches

Football was always important to my dad and from about the time I was old enough he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers in April 1965 and Leicester won 2-0.

I can recall quite clearly going to the matches in my blue and white hand knitted scarf and bobble hat because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares which he considered to be an unnecessary expense.

In the past dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Priemiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there in the crowd that day cheering them on?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspurs who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.  They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.

There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs.  I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind and to the left of the goal with room to swing my heavy wooden rattle.  This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.  This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me.  In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.

In 2002 Leicester City replaced the Filbert Street ground with a modern new ground close by and called it the Walkers Stadium after the club sponsers.  The last time that I watched Leicester City play with my dad was sometime in the Spring of 2003 when we went to the new ground to see a match.  I don’t remember the opponents or the score and I haven’t been since because dad died in October that year and going to football matches without him would just never seem the same.

A Life in a Year – 26th April, Leicester City and Four Disappointing Cup Finals

Football was always important to dad and from about the time I was seven years old he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers.  I can recall quite clearly going to the matches because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares.

In the past dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Priemiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there?

 

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspurs who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.  They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 (26th April) and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.  There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

Football

Football was always important to dad and from about the time I was seven years old he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers.  I can recall quite clearly going to the matches because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares.

In the past Dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Priemiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspurs who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.  They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.  There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs.  I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind and to the left of the goal.  This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.  This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me.  In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch

In those days footballers were completely different from the prima donnas of the modern game; they got stuck in and played like men with a big heavy leather football, shirts that became waterlogged and uncomfortable in the rain and the mud and boots that would have been more appropriate for wearing down a coalmine.  What’s more it wasn’t unusual to watch the same eleven men play week after week because they just shrugged off the knocks that put modern players out for weeks and months.  An injury had to be almost life threatening to stop somebody playing in those days.  And if you don’t believe me, the 1956 FA Cup final, in which Manchester City beat Birmingham City 3-1, is famously remembered for Manchester goalkeeper Bert Trautmann continuing to play on for the final fifteen minutes of the match after unknowingly breaking his neck!  And I can remember in the 1960s the Leicester player John Sjoberg playing with his face wired up because he had a broken jaw.  He was a big centre half who had to head that heavy ball several times in a match and that must have been agony.

1957 – a Sister, Spaghetti, Scouting, Sputnik and Stanley Matthews

In 1957 there was big news on the home front when my sister Lindsay was born but around the world following the excitement of wars and revolutions in 1956 this particular year seems to have been less frenetic.

The Treaty of Rome established the Common Market, which was a deeply significant event that has shaped the recent history of modern Europe.  This has become the European Union and has undergone a number of expansions that has taken it from six member states in 1957 to twenty-seven today, a majority of states in Europe.  Britain joined in 1973 after a long period of being denied membership by France and in particular the deeply ungrateful and Anglophobe President de Gaulle.

Harold MacMillan became the new Prime Minister of Britain when Anthony Eden resigned over the Suez crisis debacle and this ushered in the baby boomer years of the late 50’s and 60’s when life generally improved for everyone.  He led the Conservatives to victory in the 1959 general election using the campaign slogan “Life’s Better Under the Conservatives” and MacMillan himself is remembered for his famous personal assessment of these years when he said, “indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.”

Most people were beginning to get television sets in the home and on 1st April the BBC broadcast one of its most famous ever programmes; a spoof documentary about spaghetti crops in Switzerland. The Panorama programme, narrated by Richard Dimbleby, featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. It showed women carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.  Some viewers, presumably those who were daft enough to believe it, failed to see the funny side of the broadcast and criticised the BBC for airing the item on what was supposed to be a serious factual programme.

The home dining experience was much more limited in the 1950s and spaghetti you see was not a widely-eaten food at the time and this explains how the broadcast managed to fool so many viewers.  In the programme Dimbleby explained how each year the end of March is a very anxious time for Spaghetti harvesters all over Europe because of the risk of late frosts and he also explained how each strand of spaghetti always grows to the same length thanks to years of hard work by generations of growers.  An estimated eight million people watched the programme and hundreds phoned in the following day to ask for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC kept the joke going by advising callers to place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.

1957 was the fiftieth anniversary of the Boy Scouts which began in 1907 when Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant General in the British Army, who had served in  India and Africa in the 1880s and 1890s held the first Scout camp at Brownsea Island in Dorset.   Since his boyhood, he was fond of woodcraft and military scouting, and therefore, as part of soldiers training he showed his men how to survive in the wilderness.  He noticed it taught them to develop independence, rather than just blindly follow orders and so towards the end of his military career he wrote a book called ‘Scouting for Boys’ in which he set out the basic the principles of Scouting which were based on his earlier military experiences, and in so doing started the World wide Scouting movement.

I joined the Wolf Cubs when I was seven years old and after I had passed all the tests and received my Leaping Wolf Certificate moved up to the Scouts when I was eleven.  At first I was in the Paddox Troop but later transferred to the Hillmorton, which was good for me because dad was the Scoutmaster, which gave me a bit of an advantage when it came to passing tests and getting badges.  I liked the Scouts and the quasi-military organisation that came with it with the uniforms and the kit inspections, the law book and solemn promise and the fact that I could legitimately carry a hunting knife on my belt without being challenged.  It was a bit like the Hitler Youth Movement but without the nastiness!   Boys stayed in the Scouts until they were sixteen but I never saw it through to the end; dad fell out with the Group Scout Master, Harry Newman in 1969, walked out and never waggled his woggle again and that November I discovered girls and that hanky-panky was much more fun than gin-gan-gooly and that was goodbye to the Scouts, which was a shame because I was only a couple of tests away from my First Class Scouts badge at the time.

Age of innocence – Boy Scouts

Robert Baden Powell and Scouting

In a serious note there was a major train crash disaster in 1957 when two trains collided in fog which killed ninety-two people and injured another one hundred and seventy-three.  I mention this because the accident was in Lewisham in south-east London and only a couple of miles or so from the town of Catford where my grandparents lived and who we used to visit regularly.  I can remember the railway line that you could see from the bottom of the garden and I find it surprising that I was until now unaware of this fact.

In sport Stanley Matthews played his last game for England at the almost unbelievable age of forty-four.  He has the record for the longest serving England career at twenty-three years and remains the oldest man to ever play for England.  Let’s face it; it is completely unlikely that this record will ever be beaten.  He didn’t retire from football altogether at this time though and he continued playing at the very highest level in the English First Division with Stoke City until he was fifty years old when he finally retired in 1964.

To find a player in the mould of Sir Stanley is almost impossible nowadays. With all the press and media hype that surrounds today’s celebrity players such as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, Matthews was the first real football celebrity. Unlike any other players, he was able to maintain his professionalism at all times and lived only to play the game. Matthews at the time was only earning £20 per week in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of pounds nowadays.

I can actually remember seeing Stanley Matthews myself because from about seven years old dad started to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  I can recall quite clearly going to the matches because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and dad had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   Dad just didn’t like paying bus fares.

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs.  I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind the goal.  This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.  This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me.  In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.

Footballers like Matthews were completely different from the prima donners of the modern game; they got stuck in and played like men with a big heavy leather football, shirts that became waterlogged and uncomfortable in the rain and the mud and boots that would have been more appropriate for wearing down a coal mine.  What’s more it wasn’t unusual to watch the same eleven men play week after week because they just shrugged off the knocks that put modern players out for weeks.  An injury had to be almost life threatening to stop somebody playing in those days.  And if you don’t believe me, the 1956 FA Cup final, in which Manchester City beat Birmingham City 3-1, is famously remembered for Manchester goalkeeper Bert Trautmann continuing to play on for the final fifteen minutes of the match after unknowingly breaking his neck!

Off the ground there were two important airborne events in 1957 that were important for the future.  There was the first flight of the Boeing 707 which was to become important in increasing travel opportunities and in the USSR the sputnik programme began with the launch of Sputnik1, which was an event that triggered the space race between the two world superpowers the US and the USSR both bursting with testosterone and competing with each other to rule the modern world.