Down Memory Lane including away days with the Arsenal Supporters Club

Nostalgia Part Two, including away days with the Supporters Club by Jon Fox

Many Gooners will know about, or even be members, of the Arsenal Supporters Club. I joined this club whilst still at school way back in 1964. Club night was Tuesday Evenings – it may still be so, but I have not been there for a few years now. It is in a large house on the corner of St. Thomas’s Rd and mere yards away from our old stadium, and still of course just a minutes fast walk from the new one. Starting in 1949, the Arsenal Supporters Club members were numbered consecutively, and I was member number 7000 and something. In latter years the house was extended, and a still popular bar was installed where fans flock to before and after matches.

They used to run coaches to away trips from Highbury Corner and may well still do -though I am well out of the loop these days. In those days we could get to the West Midland games for 10 shillings return fare! I kid you not! The Northern trips ranged up to around 15 or 16 shillings from memory. For Newcastle and Sunderland we used to travel overnight,leaving Highbury around 10.30 PM. Usually there would be a few coaches, two, three or occasionally four, and we had rude singalongs quite regularly. Being a “good little boy” but quite grown up nevertheless for my then tender age, I used to listen to the words, usually involving Roedean School, a Girls school, of course, and a pupil named Dinah! For reasons of taste which I eventually achieved, though rather later in life, I must leave the rest to your imagination!

There were several well-known and popular characters who used to travel, and some were stalwart members of the Arsenal Supporters Club, including Barry Baker, widely known as Joe Baker, after our star centre forward of that time. They were not called strikers back then, and true strikers were what Union members used to be, never footballers. Barry in time became the club secretary and I much hope he is still around. Another regular traveller was Old Flo Burgess. She was an Arsenal nut and a pensioner. For home games, she would always stand right behind the North Bank goal and she knew all the players. She used to shriek “Jiiimmmmy” at Jim Furnell, our keeper, during the warm-up prior to kick off and he would turn around and wave and she would throw him a toffee or some other sweet. All we regulars knew and liked her and when, later on she was in hospital, our then manager Bertie Mee, together with a posse of players went to visit her there. She knew all the players’ birthdays and used to send cards via the club. Old Flo would even join in the football kickarounds we youngsters would organise on the motorway service stops and also on Blackpool beach on at least one occasion. Whenever we played at Blackpool the tide was always out. How did it know we were coming? Easy! God is a Gooner, though I do wish he would hurry up and answer my regular prayers to rid us all of Kroenke!

One time we had travelled to Sunderland and the snow was thick- no prior media info back then about whether or not the game was on. We met Billy Wright, our manager, with some players in the town and ended up doing our best to clear snow from the pitch but to no avail and the game was postponed quite close to scheduled kick off. Undaunted, we ended up at the local Bowling alley, wet and bedraggled, and I vividly remember one chap entering the ladies loo by mistake and the expression on his face was a picture as he came out and saw us all laughing. Ah, happy days!

Other memories are of going to Belle Vue, after Man Utd games, and catcalling at the wrestlers shouting “fake” and such-like and being hurriedly thrown out. Also, of raucous boozy evenings spent with Newcastle and Sunderland supporters’ clubs after the games which, at least at Newcastle, we always seemed to lose. On another occasion, not with the Arsenal Supporters Club, I went by train and we lost 2-1. On the same train back home and no later than 6.pm either, at the train bar was a half-sloshed George Graham saying tipsily to Colin Addison, another forward, “It wasn’t a penalty” and his words were already slightly slurred. We fans were hurried through to the next carriage and we saw whole the team in the adjoining carriage with no less than Bob Wilson – my all-time Arsenal hero, whom I simply “worship” for his bravery and sheer humanity – laying the law down to Radford and Sammels across the train table. We fans tried to linger but were hurried through.

In part three of my Nostalgia articles I will tell of how we met the great Brian Clough in 1972 and of other memories that I will always treasure, including my long list of bogus names for our “esteemed friends”, ahem, at Tottenham!

STAY SAFE MY FRIENDS

Jon Fox

8 Comments

  1. Ingleby says:

    Yes – I remember Old Flo. She became an Arsenal fan because her husband was supporter – she caught the bug and that was that even long after he had passed away. Had many conversations with her (I’m the same age as you, I think) and she always addressed fellow supporters as ‘mate’. Lovely person.

    1. jon fox says:

      Ingleby, Yes she did call us all “mate” and wasn’t she a lovely soul, kind, generous and spunky too. Did you by any chance used to go on away trips with the AFSC in those days or stand on the North Bank right down the front, as I did in those times? I have many more memories and will send them, if fans want to read them but not otherwise.

      1. Ingleby says:

        Jon, I didn’t get to many away games (although Peterborough, Blackburn, in FA Cup are indelibly stamped for the wrong reasons) but did attend all the homes from when I started in Sept 1962 until I got married (first of three!) in the early seventies. Three wives (consecutively) and very happily still with the third for 25 years – but Arsenal has outlasted all of them so far!!
        I did stand on the North Bank about 15 steps back and just slightly to the left of the goal where one of the downward paths ran. I think that put me almost directly behind Flo for most home games.
        I recall almost literally running into her one foggy evening as I was walking up Blackstock for a pint in the Gunners. She came running (yes, actually running) out of the fog and said “Can’t stop mate, I’ve just been watching the youth team” (I think) “and I want to catch the first team result on the news.”
        In those days, of course, something like the 10.00 evening news on the Home Service might give out a result for a mid-week game if lucky.

      2. Ingleby says:

        Inspired by your Supporters Club comments, I’ve just located my old membership card for 1962-63 which says I was member number 28867 – cannot match your ‘7000’ I’m afraid!

        1. jon fox says:

          Ingleby, Thats very odd about your membership number, as I think I joined in 1963 too and mine was definitely in the seven thousands. But you set me thinking , was mine in the 27000’s though, but I really don’t think so. Do you remember George Carroll, the main man there at that time? Oh, and Tuesday evening meetings? A little later on but not much later, I used to get Pat Rice’s elder brother Danny to cut my hair – he had the barbers shop in the parade a few yards along, as you turn left out from the supporters club, near the fish shop which I think is still there on the corner.

          Also when I was older I moved further back , probably a little further back than where you stood and also left of the goal. Years later, I sometimes used to walk up from Highbury Corner with the Cockney actor Arthur Mullard who sold flowers and the local paper at H and I tube . He used to stand in the West stand, when there were no seats lower down. Do you remember when we played Glasgow Rangers in a frindly and all the jocks caused trouble and brought half beer barrels onto the terrace, round about 1966 or 67 from memory. I became a Celtic fan that day and used to sometimes hitch hike up to see the Bhoys and I still support them, as my Scots team(unless they play us, natch!)

          1. jon fox says:

            Perhaps it was early in ’64 when I joined and not ’63. Not totally sure after all this time.

          2. Ingleby says:

            Jon – yes, I remember that Rangers match. They were all plastered when I arrived on the North Bank and it seemed as if was raining bottles the entire match.
            The names of the supporters club people elude me, I’m afraid, but living as I did in Upper Holloway I used to see Arthur Mullard around quite often.
            Pat Rice went (I believe) to a school off the Cally named St Catherine Labouré. My school was in Brewery Road, also off the Cally and named St William of York. We used to play Pat Rice’s school at football and easily beat them. He couldn’t get into their team! It shows what hard work and application can eventually achieve, doesn’t it?

  2. ken1945 says:

    Jon, another trip down memory lane and, as you reveal these memories, I find it even harder to understand how you were able to give up your season ticket, knowing you would never get it back!!!

    I do understand your “corporate views” and (I hope as time goes by) your negative thoughts regarding Arsene Wenger.

    Still, admire your convictions re. the above two, for me that precious piece of plastic (apart from family of course) will be in my possession until I fall off the edge of the earth.

    Never got involved with the Supporters Club at all, I guess because my support of The Arsenal from a tender age was tolerated by my spud ridden family, but it was confined to being able to attend Highbury only (or whl if I wanted to be educated, so I was told).

    Do know the fish shop you refer to, my daughter and I always got our fish and chips there and they were the best around for miles!!

    Love Dan’s trip down memory lane and you reminded me that I hadn’t responded to your post, my apologies.

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