Shortly after football came back on TV, with empty terraces but with crowd noise, one Sunday afternoon I happened to see Nottingham Forest versus Huddersfield Town. Being from the Nottingham area I was pleased Forest won 3 : 1. While watching the game my mind wandered back to the time I played on that ground. In those days, in the mid-1950s, the City ground, as it is known, had a much smaller capacity. Although Forest won the FA cup in 1959 the glory days of winning the European Cup twice under Brian Clough and Peter Taylor lay many years ahead. One thing I do remember is that the only thing that separated the fans from the pitch was a low white wall.
At Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County, on whose pitch I also played that same year, it only had a wooden picket fence. The days of Health and Safety regulations were very far in the future.
Was I a budding football star in the making? Certainly not. My ancient grammar school played rugby (we used to call it rugger) and, except for Eton Fives and cricket, a round ball was not even permitted on the school grounds. So what was I doing playing on both of Nottingham’s famous football grounds?
I was in the band that played at half time. This was not any band but the Bugle Band Champions of the Nottingham Battalion of the Boys’ Brigade. And I was a proud bugler.
In those days whenever the Boys’ Brigade, affectionately known as the BB, went on a church parade the local populace of my town of Beeston, a short way from Nottingham, would come out of their houses to watch as the band led the company of over 120 boys. I was desperate to join and managed to gain entrance before the correct admission age of twelve, helped by the fact that my mother’s uncle was deputy captain.
I didn’t know then how the 17th Nottingham (Beeston) Company of the Boys’ Brigade would have a major influence on the rest of my life.
Having its own substantial premises the Beeston Lads’ Club had been founded by a local industrialist in memory of his son killed in WW1. Unlike most Boys’ Brigade companies ours was not affiliated to a specific church. With a fulltime warden, an ex-Grenadier Guards officer, always known as “Skip”, the building had both junior and senior games rooms with snooker and table tennis, a gymnasium, drill hall with stage used for sell-out pantomimes and upstairs there were craft rooms to teach Morse code, Semaphore and First Aid. There was a Bible Class room used for morning service on those Sundays we did not go on a church parade.
Open five weeknights I headed there after finishing my school “prep”, joining several classes which required commitment as badges were only awarded after two or even three years of application. And not only that, the benefactors had presented the club with its own sports field for football and cricket. The Scouts and Sea Scouts, who had their own boat on the River Trent, just could not compete, especially with not having a band.
Repeating the success of being Bugle Band Champions I was also a member of the drill squad that became Battalion champions which resulted in me becoming a member of our Colour Party. By now I had gained various promotions, was a sergeant, and had recently been awarded the Queen’s Badge. This highest honour then gained me my position as a management trainee with a large and famous printing company in the city. I didn’t know at the final interview that the managing director was the President of the Nottingham Battalion of the BB.
And that commercial printing company had involvement with just about every other industry in the country. Consequently, the graphic arts kept my interest for the next forty-nine years. Over this time, working in various parts of the country meant my three children were all born in different counties. My last position as a salaried employee, with a grand title, took me around the world three times but it came to a shuddering halt with a world financial crisis in 1992/3. I arrived in Basingstoke for the last twelve years of my working life, as the owner of my small business, Kall Kwik Printing, which stood at the corner of Winchester Street and New Street.
But the interest in all industrial and commercial undertakings was maintained because there were very few businesses in Basingstoke, and also the great and good, that we did not have some relationship with over the years. And none of it would have happened if I was not the holder of the Queen’s Badge in the Boys’ Brigade.