Roy Langford - Article No.29 (10/02/2014)

I will now bring my story up to day about starting work in the tool room at Ewarts Ltd, Burnt Tree Works, Dudley on Wednesday 5th July 1961.

I must add that I had a restless night with the prospect of starting my new job as Tool Room Metal Hardener and Steel Storeman, and it beats me why I should have been at all nervous about taking up this new position today, because I was well acquainted with most of the work force in the tool room, which included some footballing team mates from when I played for the Vono Sports FC a couple of season's ago they were: Fred Morris, Terry Slater, Geoff Acaster, Eugene Bishton, Reg Clarke, and Jimmy Waterfield so I should have felt at home working along side these great sporting characters.

But it was with trepid footsteps that I made my way to work on that life changing Wednesday morning and reported to my new foreman Arthur Moore (who I might add was one of the nicest person's anyone would wish to meet, even though he was in constant pain with severe arthritic conditions) after our light hearted introduction to one another, Arthur took me to meet some of my fellow workers who would be calling upon my services in the immediate future in my role as steel storeman and hardener and these said people would play a big part in helping me settle into my new job, they were Ike Mason, Norman Fox, Big Dave Sheldon and Dave Burns to name but a few. My last port of call was to be introduced to my tutor on the hardening section, a lad not much older than myself named Bernard Tandy, whose job I was now taking over and without further ado Arthur left me in his company, within a short while together I found Bernard was a likeable easy going sort of person who showed me the basic rudiments of the job and gave me various booklets and charts on a whole range of hardening and tempering different types of tool steel, which he handed into my safe keeping which had now become my sole responsibility.

After a short while together my inquisitive mind asked Bernard why he had given up what seemed on the surface a good steady job, to work as a centre lathe turner, his sheepish reply was that he was fed up with the hassle on this very busy hardening section and also being responsible for looking after the steel stores, with this answer hardly having time to sink into my mind, Bernard gave me a guided tour of the said steel stores which was adjacent to the hardening section stepping inside I could now take in the hassle Bernard was talking about, before me was a totally unorganised mess of steel stores with literally tons of metal blocks and steel bars left haphazardly piled dangerously on steel racks and left lying around the floor on the stores, amongst all this chaos in one corner of the stores was housed three power saws with an overhead gantry crane, which was used to lift the heavy bars of steel on to the saws to be cut up to the required lengths for use by the tool room personal.

With all the hustle and bustle I now faced in learning my new job and putting the steel stores back into shape, I also had the added task of still fitting in my training sessions after work with my Tipton Harrier mates, John Brimble, Andy Fereday and Dave Fereday because my next big athletic meeting was only one week away on Wednesday 12th July 1961 at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton, in the last of the 5 match series of the Stourbridge and Wordsley District Track League. Tipton won the track league last season, but this year the title would go to either Wolverhampton Harriers or Bilston Town AC who were well clear of Tipton in the points stakes.

That coming week soon sped past and on that Wednesday morning I started work early at 7 am to make up for leaving work at 4 pm, because Mr Barrington was true to his word about letting me leave work early when I was competing in any athletic meeting, and it wasn't all plain sailing about tonight's meeting with plenty of rain leading up to the meeting at 7 pm, which left the cinder track in rather a rain sodden condition, I just hoped it wouldn't spoil tonight' last track league meeting.

The Last Track League Meeting of the season of the Stourbridge and Wordsley District Track League

This meeting got underway at 7 pm with the track still soaking up the torrential rain we had prior to the start of the meeting, and not surprising Andy, John and myself didn't take kindly to these weather conditions, but we still set about our usual warm up session with great gusto, in the welcome company of two Tipton lady sprinters namely my great friend Joy Gray and Geraldine Lovesy who's stalwart performances over the track season had been highly praiseworthy and just hoping for some more brilliant performances again tonight from these ladies.

The teams that made up the track league were: Tipton Harriers, Bilston Town AC, Wolverhampton Harriers, Halesowen AC. Smethick and Stourbridge and Wordsley Harriers.

The Men's Senior 100 yards Race (A) brought the crowd to order at 7 pm, and this was my opening event, and I was up against 5 other runners with my main rival as always being Jack Cole of Halesowen AC, the bane of my sprinting life, would I ever beat this great sporting legend from Halesowen, well I hadn't up till now anyway, would my luck change tonight, I was about to find out as the seasoned starter Mr Sid Hodson called us up to take our positions on the starting line, with the cinder track still wet I didn't expect a fast 100 years time as we then settle into our starting blocks, those few seconds dwelling in our starting blocks seem like an eternity before we explode from our blocks with the sound of the starter's pistol fire ringing in my eardrums, which instinctively sends six fit young athletes tearing down the 100 yards cinder track, all thoughts of the wet track are swept aside by the crowd cheering our every stride down the track, it provide to be a very excitingly close run race with literally only inches separating Jack Cole, Peter Hingley (Wolverhampton) and myself, in our desperate charge across the finishing line with neither of us knowing ho had won the race, after what seemed along debate by the track judges the unconquerable Jack Cole (Halesowen) was declared the winner, with Peter Hingley judged in second place, with a somewhat dejected third place for myself, but it wasn't all bad news because the time keepers vindicated how close the race was by clocking all three of us at the winning time of 10.2 seconds, what a great opening race to start the match off with, my partner in the Men's Senior 100 yards (B) race was a lad named Graham Whettall in his second season with Tipton Harriers, he gave a good account of himself in this (B) race to finish a close up second to Michael Mansell (Wolverhampton Harriers) winning time 10.4 seconds.

Great 880 yards race by Wolverhampton Harrier

Another early race to wet the appetite of the crowd during the hustle and bustle of the evenings athletics was the Senior Men's 880 yards race, with Roger Hughes (Wolverhampton) in outstanding form when winning his half mile race in 1 min 55.4 seconds with Tommy Moore (Bilston) and Roger Head (Halesowen) have to settle for the minor placings.

The Junior Men's 220 yards (A) and (B) races

With the Men's and Women's track league races going at full pelt, the next race of interest to me was the outcome of the Junior 220 yards (A) and (B) race, which Andy Fereday and John Brimble were waiting patiently at track side to expend some pent up energy in these two races, even though my two mates felt in great sprinting form, it was the Wolverhampton sprinters who had reached peak form for this evening's last track meeting, because Andy could only finish a close up second to Michael Mansell (Wolverhampton) in his 220 yards (A) race winning time 23.00 seconds dead, in race (B) John Brimble faired no better after running his socks off, he finished runner up to top junior athlete Alan Bradbury (Wolverhampton) winning time 23.4 seconds. These great Wolverhampton sprinters seemed to feed off the confidence of one another this evening, and it was only the Senior Middle Distance runners who fleetingly cut short their night of certain glory, and this top class race was won narrowly by Wilf Aston (Bilston) after a stride for stride battle over the 4 laps with his team mate and best made Brian Cook (Bilston) with Tipton's representative the young talented Tony Birkett in third place, some 30 yards adrift, winner time an excellent 4 minutes 21.8 seconds.

Senior Men's (A) and (B) 220 yards races

Moving on with my story another few races took pride and place on the track before it was my time to set up my starting blocks on the curve of the furlong track. I felt in a confident mood, brought on I suppose by indulging myself with some of those melt in the mouth 'Dextrosol' glucose tablets, which gave me a sort of mental ego energy boost after taking them, but they didn't stop the nervous tension always present before the start of any race. My main rivals in this race were Jack Cole, John Purslow (Bilston) and Peter Hingley (Wolverhampton) and it was almost a certain fact from past races over 220 yards that Jack Cole would win this race, with John, Peter and myself fighting it out for second spot. Six runners came under the starting orders Mr Sid Hodson, I'm on tender hooks as the starter calls out 'get set' the crowd goes silent for those few brief seconds before we blast away from our starting blocks at the sound of the starting pistol's retort. All thoughts of nerves are forgotten as we surge forward around the curve of the 220 yards track, with Jack Cole leading the charge into the home straight some 3 yards ahead of me and the other chasing runners, with the crowd going wild I tried to narrow the gap, but it was impossible, Jack was just outstanding and I was finding it tough going keeping John Purslow (Bilston) in third place, needless to say Jack Cole crossed the finishing line in first place, a few yards ahead of me, there wasn't the need of the track officials this time to sort out the placing, with Jack the easy winner, with John Purslow in third place, and when you least expect fast times on this wet track. I was almost dumbfounded at our 220 yards times Jack had clocked 22.1 seconds and I was clocked at 22.4 seconds a personal best time and the fastest ever time by a Tipton Harrier sprinter, wow what an amazing night for me.

Next race up was the Men's (B) race 220 yards which I though would be an anti-climax after our race, but not so, it was a real sizzler again with Gerald Turner (Wolverhampton Harriers) in top form, he beat my Tipton Harrier mater Graham Whittall by 4 yards in the brilliant time of 22.7 seconds.

Senior Men's 2 Mile Race

The last track race of the evening was the Men's 2 mile event and this race turned out to be a real cracker with Bilston star athlete Wilf Aston once again in brilliant form, he had the crowd on their feet clapping and cheering him home after a superb neck and neck race victory over Tipton great duo Doug Fownes and Tony Birkett winning time 9 minutes 27 seconds, and it cam as no surprise that Wilf won a special plaque for his consistent high class performances through out the 5 match series.

The matchless team of Wolverhampton AC won the Stourbridge and Wordsley District Tract League, amassing 300 points to win the league by 30 points from runners up Bilston Town AC. Tipton Harriers had a disappointing season to finish up in third place with only 206 points.

The Ladies Track League won again by Bilston Town AC

I could let this last track league meeting pass without mentioning the women's track league which Bilston Town AC won so convincingly from Tipton Harriers, Bilston amassed 357 points to Tipton's 239 points.

Highlights of the women's section of the track league was the great sprint double by my dear friend Joy Gray, she won the Ladies (A) race 100 yards in 11.6 seconds and the Ladies (B) race 220 yards in 27.00 seconds.

Star performer for Bilston Ladies was Maureen Tranter who won the junior ladies (A) 100 yards in 11.8 seconds, she also won the junior long jump with 16 feet 1 inch and completed a magnificent treble by winning the shot putt with 25 ft 8½ inches – yes a real start of the future.

The Senior Ladies 880 yards was won convincingly by Brenda Cook (Bilston) in 2 min 22 seconds yes in all, it had been another great evening of athletics, and I think I might have been one of the few Tipton athletes going away from this meeting happy and contented with their performance, well how I not be with my brilliant personal best time for that 220 yards race in 22.4 seconds.

My next story will take me back inside this stadium for the August Bank Holiday meeting on Monday 7th August 1961 for the 'Express and Star' trophy meeting.

Yours in sport

Roy Langford, Tividale