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MEMOIRS 1939 to 1945 - Stacey Simkins

Monega Youth Club

Monega Youth Club

Not long after the beginning of the war, somebody started an evening youth club which was held in one of the halls at the school I used to go to, Monega. That's where I got to know quite a number of the lads that figured later. Let's see who I can think of... there was Martin Crowe who I knew because he was working in the same firm as me; Lenny Smith, who for some reason had no hair and always wore a trilby hat, or a beret if he was playing football or anything; there was another lad named Bobby Badkin; and a Geordie called Tommy Dean who was living down here with his family: he eventually joined the Navy, but we always thought that he ought to have joined the Tank Corps, because when he got on the dance floor, nobody and nothing stood in his way as he ploughed on regardless!

There was also Ronnie Hayler, Charlie Griffiths, and a fellow named Cyril Brown who was always known as Squibbs for some reason that nobody every knew (even his mother called him that!). There was Bert Impey, and Bemie Elliott - he was a useful fellow to know because his sister was married to one of the West Ham football team. We'd quite often go round to his house and would sometimes meet his brother-in-law Norman Corbett, and another Corbett who also played. Of course we got to know the players, and as a result we were able to occasionally go to West Ham football ground to do a bit of training - which consisted of running up and down!

Bert Impey had two older sisters, Connie and Jessie, and both of their husbands were in the Army. They lived together in a house, one upstairs and one downstairs, along with the little boy that Connie had. The house became a gathering place when there was no youth club or anything, when some of the lads would go round there with Bert to have a chat and a drink and a laugh.

There were also some others who were not in the immediate group, such as Freddie Cornell and Hecky (Hector) Collar and various other lads, and eventually a Monega Youth Club football team was set up. It turned out though that all the people who got into the team were lads who'd been to another school, Sandringham, who were great rivals of ours. (Funnily enough this is the same school as my wife Gwen's dad went to when he was a boy; and so, strangely enough, did Alf Warren, the Chairman of the Torbay Air Gunners.)

We were a bit narked about this, so being idiots we decided we'd set up our own football team, which we called Manor Park United. We all bought our own kit, but somebody – I think it was Bernie Elliott - had used a bit of influence and got us a set of second hand shirts (or they might have been 32nd hand for all we knew!). They were really rugby shirts because instead of stripes they had hoops.

We used to play at various places - sometimes we had one of the pitches on Wanstead Flats, other times we were right up the other end of East Ham by the river at Goosely Lane, and occasionally we used to play in some park which was right on the borders of Barking, so we were well spread out. We had friendlies to start with; the first one played was against Monega Youth Club and they thrashed us 10 - nil! Later on we joined a local league in which Monega Youth Club also played, and we managed to thrash them 10-1 - so they only beat us by one goal in the end!

After the first season, in which we didn’t do too badly, we entered for a local competition which was called the Thompson Cup after a mayor who'd presented it in gawd knows when. We actually got through to the final, and although a lot of us had disappeared by then, I had played in the semi-final - although I was in Bridgnorth when the final was played so I missed it.  But they did win the cup, so we thought that was quite good.

Other games we played at the youth club included cricket in the summer, although that was all a bit of a lark because we just mucked about, hurling ourselves all over the place even when the ball was nowhere near us. A lot of us learnt how to play badminton, because after the youth club was finished the badminton court - in one of the other halls in the school - stayed open a little bit longer, and they supplied the rackets and shuttlecocks.

We also played table tennis of course, but as they only had one table you didn't get all that many games. One of our favourites was called "round the table", which consisted of having one person at one end of the table with a bat and the ball, and another person at the other end with a bat, with the rest of us lined up behind one or the other. The one with the ball would serve it, then he'd have to put the bat down and nip on smartly whilst the second one in line would pick up the bat to hit the ball back, with the people at the other end doing the same - so we kept going round and round only having one hit each. Every time someone hit the ball into the net or off the table, or missed it completely, they had to drop out until eventually you were down to two people, who played one point to see who the winner was. The worst bit was when it was down to three people, because you had to rush to pick up the bat and hit the ball then rush down to the other end before the fellow at the other end hit it!

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