In response to our Martin’s lovely piece on Saturday afternoon wrestling, one of our regulars (Herr Cutz I believe) suggested that a nice addition to this series on non-City stuff would be a piece on Speedway.
And so, as if by magic…
As ever, the good folk of MFW were there to answer the call, and into my inbox on Wednesday evening landed a short piece on that very sport.
The gent responsible was one Mr Bernard Owen, to whom I’m very thankful indeed.
All yours, Bernie…
The Firs may sound like the name of an iconic Norwich pub, and back in the day it was, but something even more iconic shared that same name.
It also happened to be the name of the Speedway stadium in Norwich or, to be more accurate, in Hellesdon.
It was situated just adjacent to the junction of the Cromer Road with Middletons Lane and, of course, opposite the pub of the same name.
Now, this young lad lived at 108 Bush Road, which was the first turning on the right on Middletons Lane if you started at the Cromer Road.
It was no more than a ten-minute walk on foot to The Firs.
We moved into Bush Road in 1958 until Dad’s work moved us to Wiltshire in 1964, and in that time the speedway season loomed large for us. The saying goes that any sport as exciting as speedway will always hook the young kid, and it was true. I was that kid.
The sight and sound of four bikes whizzing around the track, showering the crowd with cinders from the cornering, the overtaking, the crashes, and all helped by the team in yellow and green more often than not winning their home meetings.
And then there was the smell, that unmistakable smell of Castor oil. There really was nothing quite like it. I found out years later it was Castrol R, and even to this very day that smell takes me immediately back to The Firs.
The team was known as the Norwich Stars and their outfit was a big yellow star on a green top, probably deliberately following the football team. (An early example of marketing?).
(Image: Courtesy of Graham Gleave).
And they, like the football team, were my heroes.
The best ever to ride that track was the legendary Swede, Ove Fundin, but he wasn’t the only hero. Others included Billy Bales, Terry Betts, and Ollie Nygren.
The legendary Ove Fundin.
Like a true fan, my top was decorated with badges with the riders’ faces on them. One of each apart from Ove of whom there were loads because I bought a new one of him every season.
It was a magical time and my one great speedway regret was that we moved away from Norwich in 1964 and missed their final-ever season at The Firs. It also happened to be the season the Norwich Stars won the National Knockout Cup.
Cheers for that Bernie. Lovely stuff.
If you have any memories of The Firs, The Stars, or anything else speedway related, please feel free to share.