The creation of the previous three parts of this series has had a remarkable influence on my brain ! I seem to remember more events the more I commit to paper ! So a few more observations of the life and times of the Kelmscott Gang follow (collective groan from all)
I have covered more or less our exploits of following the R’s but, at the same time we were committed to playing football ourselves from first light to dusk. We had few complaints from our parents as these were times you could trust your kids to return safely. I say few complaints, as no doubt my team mates equally sustained clips round the ear as I did for the mud encrusted jeans ! This is ‘jumpers for goalposts’ football, using that wonderful creation, the Frido plastic football. I say ‘wonderful’ as it had a life expectancy of a couple of sessions, if we were lucky. They used to deflate with monotonous regularity so prematurely ending many a match. A swift trip home followed to attempt a repair, tool iron heated up on the cooker to attempt to seal the hole. It was either that or pumping them up a dozen times a match !!!
The use of the Frido ball was infinitely preferable to the alternativethe dubbin treated, uncoated leather football of the time. This needed a supreme effort to move it more than a few inches in muddy conditions and heading it was not to be recommended unless you wished to have brain damage ! How players of the time such as Brian Bedford could attack the ball with such gusto with their head and still be able to put enough words together to order their next Hot DogI do not know ? We usually had enough for an eleven to play kids from other areas in Ravenscourt Park or in Stamford Brook, on an area of grass which was called ‘The Dogs Park’. I have no idea why it was called this unless it was a result of the local dog population increasing the failure rate of the Frido ball !!! No doubt other members may remember ?
The matches were generally without malice and free of the ‘gang warfare mentality’ of today. The only arguments usually involved the invisible crossbar and if the shot had passed over or under it. One good thing of playing with such a ball was the fact that being light in nature, they improved your dubious skill level as you had to battle anything above dead calm ? It was a nightmare for goalkeepers as a shot would sometimes seem to progress through 360 degrees before reaching you. Somewhat like the balls used in todays League matches. The second good thing was that if it hit you, especially in the nether regions, a full sex life could still be anticipated. We became superbly fit ‘athletes’ which must have countered the copious amounts of Hot Dogs with doubtful pedigree that we consumed during Rangers away games. We all appear to be still around so maybe that should be the next diet fad ?
NB. In attempting to get a picture of the said Frido ball, I have found a list of toys etc and the year of release (Toy Retailer) It states that Stanley Matthews endorsed the product in 1959 but no mention of the part we played in increasing sales. Such is life !
One other summer pastime was to travel to Wormwood Scrubs, on a Sunday morning I think, to watch the Army Parachute jumpers launching themselves from a Barrage Balloon. I must confess that we secretly viewed this as a blood sport, waiting for the next jump to go wrong. The local Hammersmith Hospital must have had an ambulance permanently on standby ! Sunday mornings were a source of some amusement to the Kelmscott kids as a Catholic Church formed part of the boundary to the Estate. We were fascinated by almost the entire congregation transferring to the local hostelry after their visit to the church. Even at our tender years this seemed a bit odd ! At the other end of the Estate there was a garden which had a few apple trees. This was the scene of my very short scrumping career ! With several others, the virgin scrumpers scaled the wall to the garden. Gleefully picking the apples, I turned to find that I was alone and having decided that this was not a good idea, I beat a hasty retreat over the wall and into the arms of the local PC Plod ! A swift cuff signalled the end of this fledgling career !
If the R’s were at Home or playing away beyond the reach of our pocket money, Saturday mornings were taken up by trips to Shepherd’s Bush Market and mainly to acquire the latest records in WG Stores, or if you were lucky, an ex juke box copy on the stall in the market. You had to place a converter in the middle of 45’s to make them playable on our record players. I can remember picking up a copy of The Beatles ‘Love Me Do’ in this waywish I still had it ! Does the WG Stores still exist ? It seemed to be mentioned in the Rangers programmes for many years. I can still remember the rumble of the trains above when you were making your selection. As I have mentioned in previous parts, the sounds and smells of the market remain with you forever. I can remember the old lady selling bags with her, “Ah two bob a bob shopping bags” call.
I frequently visited the Marble Arch Stores in the Goldhawk Road for bits and pieces, especially after I became the proud owner of a yellow, soon to be rust coloured, 105E Anglia. This extended my range and ability for away matches, subject to the brakes functioning, a rare event in that model ! I can recall one trip home from a night game at Fulham when it would have been more efficient to have put my foot out of the door to slow us down !
It has been fun putting these words on paper and I hope I have conveyed the life and times we lived in and enjoyed so much. We lived in a time of little pressure on the individual. We made our own fun and our love for the R’s ruled our lives.
(Included above is an old postcard from my collection of Ravenscourt Park which pre-dates Colin’s time but I think the Bandstand was still there – Steve Russell)