Growing-up With Southall From 1904 (Memories of R.J. Meads)


Sports and Parties. 

                        Sport in the town was very well catered for. There were bowling greens at the “White Swan”, the “Plough Inn”, Norwood Green. and the “Northcote Arms”: also the Gas Works green in The Straight and the Maypole Green. In cricket Norwood Green C.C. and Southall C.C. were the best known, but most works had teams. In football Southall F.C. had a very good team in the Athenian League and again most works and clubs had teams in the junior leagues. For fishing there were three clubs in the town, Southall Anglers, Working Men’s Club A.C., and Northcote A.C. Tennis was mostly played on private courts. There were already in the town a Working Men’s Club, a Conservative Club and a Labour Club, and now there was to be a new one, for in August 1919 the newly formed British Legion opened at the “Romans” in the Green. This incorporated the “Old Contemptibles”. 

                         One event which used to draw a crowd on August Monday, and raise money for charity, was the battle for the Bat, a cricket match on Norwood Green between teams of customers of the “Wolf” and “Lamb” pubs. The winners retained the large bat, about 6 ft. long, which was displayed on the front of the pub. Another sporting incident recorded about this time happened at a cricket match being played at the Gas Company’s ground which runs parallel with the railway. During the match a Mr. Dandridge gave the ball a mighty swipe and it landed in a railway truck going west. Only a six could be given! Although not in Southall Botwell Mission Football Club, which played on Hayes F.C. ground, were having a great deal of success and used to draw a large number of supporters from Southall. 

                         There was great excitement in the football circles of the town when Southall F.C. reached the final of the Amateur Cup and played Clapton on Milwall’s ground at New Cross, loosing 2 -1. I think most of Southall’s males were there. Dad and us three brothers saw the match. Southall’s success had made it very difficult for secretaries who were running other teams in the town, their players preferring to watch Southall’s cup rounds.The result was that Minor League fixtures got well behind. 

                         Due to workers moving back home the population of Southall had only slightly increased over 1914 figures, to 29,000 in 1920. 

                         Things in the town were getting back to normal, and the Maypole works party was to take place on the second Friday in January. Each employee was issued with a ticket which included tear-off slips for refreshments. Work finished at 2 p.m. Part of the factory had been cleared and catering contractors moved in and prepared for dinner, which started at 6.30. It was beautifully laid out like a banquet. When everyone had finished and the various toasts had been rendered, we all moved over to the Institute where the management made speaches and any presentations. Time was then allowed for the wives and families to settle in, and a first-class concert would be staged, with all well-known London artists. This would go on till 11 p.m., after which the hall was cleared and dancing would go on till 3 in the morning. Besides all this a beer bar was installed in the womens’ canteen, the beer coming straight from the barrel ad lib. All forms of gambling took place, and you can guess what the atmosphere there was like. Everyone was paid for any time lost, and work was back to normal with the night-shift Sunday night. Those who had to work through the party week-end were taken to a dinner in London and a show of their choice. I attended four such parties, and they all followed the same pattern. At the first one after the concert, not being able to dance I with my mates drifted over to the beer canteen; and you can guess the result, I had just enough to be merry. On the Monday morning back at work, a lady in the same department had something to say about it, and it resulted in a group of us going to dancing classes held at the Institute, so at least some good came from it. 

                        Among other things the firm did was to allow broken boxwood to be sold at 6 pence for a truck load. You had to have your name put on a list kept by Mr. Watts, maintnance foreman, who told you which day was your turn. On two occasions I took a truckload to Elthorn Park Road, Hanwell, for an elderly man I worked with.