Mum’s joy at 100-1 Derby win

This week, ex-paperboy George Brunning recalls Evening Star readers waiting to digest the horse racing results in the “late news” column of the paper, and watching dancing in the street after a win on the Derby.

George said “At that time the Evening Star cost one old penny. Then there was no television and few had a ‘wireless’. Gas lighting was slowly being replaced in the homes by electricity.

“Beer was four pence a pint and it cost a ‘tanner’ or sixpence to watch the ‘Town’ play football and you could get in free at half time. Dare I say it was a darn sight better team than we have today?”

“There were few vans lined up in the narrow road alongside the newspaper offices and printing works in Little Colman Street off Carr Street.

“The Star was then mostly delivered to newsagents by about twenty paper boys’ whose bikes leaning against the red brick building while their young riders crowded into a large room with a long counter, behind which was a little grey-haired man who we called ‘old grey bonce’ whose job it was to dish out Stars to the boys from the various newsagents in town, straight from the press.

“This was all done in strict alphabetical order of newsagents. The boys would be noisy, chatting and laughing as they waited for the press to start.

“The little grey haired man had the answer to this, he would reach under his counter and produce a large cane, not with the intention of hitting anybody with it, but he would wham it hard on the counter top and bawl out “quiet you young hooligans”. This had an immediate effect and the sound diminished considerably.”

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“A small cheer would erupt as a workman would appear from the door leading to the machinery room carrying the first bunch of Stars from the press.

“As my turn came up and he bawled “Foster” I shouted “here” and he had put my order on the counter in front of him and “I’d stagger away to a bench and put them into my bags. Then the fun started as I dumped my bags on my bike, pushed it through the crowds in Carr Street and jumped on the saddle as I entered Upper Brook Street and rode like the ‘hammers of hell’ for the Stoke area of Ipswich and home in Wherstead Road.

“I had two or three minutes start on the boy from Halliday’s newsagents who was our rival newsagent over Stoke, and my route was turn right into the Buttermarket where you rode “with due care and attention” especially if it had been raining as the road was laid with wooden blocks, turn left down St Stephens Lane and skid to a halt where a man in a white overall waited.

“He always gave me a penny for a Star and a penny for myself. The same thing happened at Cranfield’s Mill near Stoke Bridge. These ‘bonus payments’ meant I had an extra ten pence a week in my pocket.”

“The law at that time did not allow street betting, but all the bookies had their “runners” who called on the pubs and little confectionary shops for the punters betting slips.

“This is where the Star came in, as in each day’s “latest news” column they would stamp in blue ink the winners and final betting up to the 3.30pm race.

“With no ‘telly’ and very few people had a radio, the Star was the only means of finding out your luck until the daily papers next day.

“When I arrived with the Stars at the newsagents there was always people waiting for me, and if I was late they were very abusive. They were the punters who bought the Star for the racing results”.

“I recall an amusing episode about my dear old mum. All the women of that era were no different to those of today, in that they had their crushes on film stars. For mum and her friends it was the actor Tom Walls. He had a race horse in the Derby called ‘April the Fifth’, a rank outsider at 100-1.

“We lived next to a little confectionary shop and a bookies runner would call there and collect the betting slips. Mum decided to back it, together with her couple of friends, each with sixpence each way, all having scrimped it out of the housekeeping.

“Dad called her a fool and said it was a donkey and didn’t have a chance. It romped home at 100-1. The next day I was coming up the road on my bike and wondered what the commotion was about. They went into the middle of the road celebrating with bottles of Milk Stout from the Great Eastern Hotel, which was at the corner of Webb Street and Croft Street and amidst shrieks and laughter started to dance the “can can”, or rather tried to.

“It was not a very attractive sight, for they had their skirts up revealing their long bloomers, which came down to their knees.

“It was just as far from the “Tiller” girls as you could get, but they were happy, having won as good as an extra week’s wages. I knew I’d get a poor dinner that day, probably fried ‘taters’ and corned beef”.

“Each days Star came to a sad end as it was used to light the numerous coal fires or cut up into approximately eight inch squares and hung in the outside lavatory!

“This meant you had to be careful not to use the bit with the “Latest News” on, as that bluish ink would rub off and without realising it you would have the winner of the 3.30 on your backside!”

Were you a paper boy in your youth? Do you have an amusing story to share? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star or e-mail kindred-spirit@eveningstar.co.uk

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