Irish Jack made mention of Shepherd’s Bush Market as a failed record seller. I became a frequent Saturday morning visitor. It was home of the famous WG Stores who also provided records for QPR. I was a frequent visitor to the Store and to the stall in the Market which sold ex-juke box records. I also visited the stamp dealer who had a small table in the same area of the Market. I think I also purchased my first Mod shirt from a shop in the Market. Irish Jack would have been proud of me ! The trick of the Market was to time your visits to a certain area containing a stall demonstrating waffle irons, precisely as he finished the cooking procedure and was offering samples. This added to the sounds and smells which I can still remember after all these years.
As mentioned in the first part, football increasingly became part of our lives, both playing and watching. Kerrins will probably correct me but I think I first started following the R’s in about 1959. It was a real labour of love in those days and we had few expectations of success. I suppose we were true supporters of our team and we had not succumbed to the lure of more glamorous teams (Ray Wannell take note !) The Ground had changed little during the time my father had supported the R’s before me. The floodlights were a joy to behold. Looking like someone had searched the White City Estate for old car headlights. They struggled to illuminate even themselves but it all added to the ‘Old World’ charm of the place.
My big treat for important games was to forsake my mates and to be ‘treated’ by my father to a seat in the old Ellerslie Road Stand. I say ‘treated’ as this was a dubious pleasure as it was of timber construction and roofed with corrugated metal. This would have been fine if it was not rusting away and footballs did not go above Stand height. Sods Law always intervened and balls frequently hit the roof above your head showering you with rust ! The Kelmscott gang and various others usually congregated in the same place. We moved at various times and I can recall that we even entered the scrimmage for the much prized elevated bit of the Loft End near the Main Stand. These were the days when Brian Bedford always seemed to get his head to corners and spectators needed danger money if rattles were being used.
We started to go to away matches as a group. This demanded absolute dedication to the cause as away wins were rare events. Undertaking away trips, mostly by train, was a risky business in the winter periods as communications were not as sophisticated as today. We relied on messages being given to train staff if a game was postponed and we arrived at several Grounds only to find that the match was off. I can recall one trip to, I think Swindon (Kerrins will correct me ?), in the depths of winter with snow and ice everywhere. Much to our amazement the game was played, under protest from the R’s and I understand that the pitch was so frozen they had to purchase trainers.
I should also mention that it was during this period that a certain contributor to this Site who will remain nameless, (my lips are sealed Kerrins…oops), spent much of the train journey placed on the luggage rack and placed there by his so called friends. I think that on at least one occasion, someone entered our compartment with him still on the rack ! One momentous event in 1963 was the visit of Coventry City. We lost 6-3 and it was as if aliens had landed. Their appearance and style of play made us look like we had stalled in the 1930’s. The Sky Blue song was also prominent and it was to be a couple of Seasons before we dragged ourselves to their level. We were open mouthed at the performance which was a tribute to Jimmy Hill and his vision.
The rest is history.
(The image of the Gaumont in the Bush is used with permission from mysite.wanadoo-member.co.uk. The team photo is from my own collection – Steve Russell)