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The National Speedway Museum

I grew up in Liverpool just after the war and following the blitz when Liverpool really got clobbered. Conditions were quite gloomy, money was tight, and the Beatles had yet to emerge on the National scene. Liverpool was considered at that time a bit of a dump, a large sea port, where the people spoke funny and you left town as soon as possible.

The Chads' speedway meetings were held at Stanley Stadium. The stadium was originally built as a dog racing facility, greyhound races taking place each Saturday evening. Therefore, Speedway events had to take place on Monday nights although I think speedway racing is really Saturday night happening.   As a kid growing up, I would hope and hope on Mondays that it wouldn't rain, and that my Dad would be back home early enough from his work to take me to the track. We lived on the other side of the city; it took two bus rides to the Old Swan and a long walk down Prescot Road to get to Stanley Stadium.

The track was one of the largest in the league, a quarter mile, flat with no banking, a red shale surface, rather tight bends and long "straight aways". This configuration presented problems to a visiting team, more experienced riding on much smaller tracks. The Liverpool track was built inside the greyhound track. A visiting rider beating the Chads riders at the start of a race would crank up down the long straights and have to throttle back to make turns three and four. Many a time the visiting riders hitting the third turn at speed would have to dramatically throttle back to make the turn. This would give an opportunity to the Chads riders to hug the fence and ride around them. The best 'fence hugger' on the Chads team, in my opinion, was Tommy Allott. I recall a championship eliminator meeting, Merv Harding (Glasgow Ashfield) came roaring down the back straight away, couldn't make the third turn and slid under the fence. It took almost 15 minutes to get him and the bike out.

Remember well attending the Chads meetings back in the fifties,  we would take our usual spot on the terraces on the third turn. From the pit end came the constant roar of cranked up un-silenced JAP engines, as we were buying a programme and a copy of the Speedway Star. Often we'd visit the concession booth to buy rider photos or a badge.  The meeting was starting, a parading onto the track by the rakers in their yellow sweaters with the Chad logo, followed by the St John's Ambulance members, all marching to the rousing music of the "RAF March Past".

The floodlights would come on and the announcer would read out the Liverpool team line up, Peter Robinson the captain, Len Read, Eric Smith, Tommy Allott, Harry Welch, Reg Duval, Bill Griffith and Don Potter the reserve. The crowd anticipation started to swell, chanting "Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate....

The first race and the stadium lights dim, floodlights ablaze. Riders on their machines are pushed out from the pits end, engines catch and roar to life. The riders slowly move past us, towards the starting gate, clutches in, revving up, taking one last look down at their engines.  At times it seemed to me (as a kid) that our opponents appeared to have better equipment, their chromed bikes highly polished, black riding leathers clean and shining, team emblems so much more colourful. Our Chads, on shale covered machines, leathers and emblems needing repair or cleaning, but I didn't care, they were my heroes.

The starting gate tapes go up, the simultaneous roar of four straining JAP engines, bikes bucking up, rear wheels spinning, throwing up clouds of red shale. Crowd anticipation, who was out in front? We all duck behind the brick wall, as showers of red shale spray up in our direction. As the riders roar past, a smell of exhaust fumes in the air, are the Chads in the lead? To me it was totally captivating.

The riders pass us after the race has finished and we cheer them on, even if they didn't win. To me it always seemed strange, the Chad riders in spite of our yelling and screaming in our appreciation and support, of possibly a win, very rarely acknowledged the crowd. Hardly a hand raised or a nod of the head in our direction, this was before the showmanship days in sports. In sharp contrast to the extravagant antics of today's sports figures!

A Liverpool Supporter‘s Childhood Memories

by Richard Austin
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