Sports Day : they also serve who stand and wait

One of the best things about old photographs is that we don’t necessarily look at them with the same interpretation of what is happening as the person who took the photograph in the first place. And at sports events, the activities might seem a little boring but the spectators never are. The Reverend Stephens has left us here a good few glimpses of the School Sports Days of the past…and the people who watched them. Here are Messrs Madden, Neville and Foster in 1957:

On the same day, he snapped Messrs Chett, Symonds, Grauberg and Lush. But just look at the cars! Left to right, a Ford Prefect, a Hillman Minx, a Morris Minor 1000 and I really don’t have a clue, but it’s definitely old:

By 1960, things haven’t changed very much. The starter signals that he is ready and everybody else waits for the bang:

Mr Powell doesn’t look too happy as he goes off to see somebody at the other end of the track:

Things were very similar in  1961. One thing that I can’t understand in this picture is the leg in the same lane as the athlete finishing second:

But what’s attracting all the attention in 1957? A small crowd seems to have formed:

Why! It’s a baby!! And Mr AJ Walker just can’t resist!

And how could he resist a child who can lick a finger in a world class way?

Of all the photographs we have of Sports Day, these two are the most thrilling. Why did this not happen when I was working at the High School ? Let me point out too, as you gasp at the size of the queue, that ice cream was not rationed at this point. It’s just a wonderful thing to eat, the Food of the Gods:

Here it is again!:

I cannot explain why there is this sudden rush. I would like to say that the ice cream man’s buxom young daughter has had a wardrobe malfunction, but I really don’t know.


Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School

23 responses to “Sports Day : they also serve who stand and wait

  1. A great set. When photographing events I always focus on the crowd

  2. haha, the crowd action is odd. You had the best possible reason!

    • Yes, those people frozen in their time never fail to please. Sports Day lasts quite a long time, and a lot of the spectators begin to lose interest, and then they start to find interesting things to look at or talk about.

  3. When and for how long was ice cream rationed?

    • Jan

      I don’t think ice cream was ever on the ration: it was just unavailable. In fact the war had a rather strange effect on the UK ice cream market. With all the post-war shortages the big manufacturers Wall’s, Lyon’s, Midland Counties etc (remember them) largely replaced dairy with cheaper and more readily available vegetable-fat in their recipes and the general public pretty much forgot how real ice cream tasted. The ice cream companies were happy as their vegetable-fat based product was much more profitable. They continued selling it well into the 1970s when Common Market food labelling regulations meant they could no longer describe it as ice cream. Margaret Thatcher’s first job as a newly graduated chemist was to find a way to whip more air into the ice cream mix and so bulk it up with a free ingredient. She was milk snatching even then.

  4. What’s great collection! Maybe the queue for the ice cream was as a result of it being ‘happy hour’! Although looking at the faces of all those young boys I think your suggestion may well have been the cause after all!

    • I think Sports Day was a little too serious for many of the boys and that was why a diversion was always welcome. Back in the Victorian era, they use to make Sports Day a little more interesting by running for prizes, in some cases, quite valuable ones, such as a writing desk or a table and four chairs. Many of the athletics races involved handicapping, and I think you can guess the implications of that! People were betting on the outcome as if it were a horse race.
      Other means of diverting the boys were sack races, egg and spoon and three legged races. It must have been quite a fun day!

  5. Great nostalgic pics, love the old cars, the whole atmosphere of a carnival day, must admit I couldn’t decipher the leg in the same lane bit mate.
    Great post.

    • Thank you, you are very kind! If you look at the picture of the race finishing, and look at the boy finishing second. There is the foot of what looks to be another athlete in the same lane as him, but on the other side of the finishing line. I suppose he must be a spectator fooling around, but I was surprised that teachers as strict as they were back then allowed him to wander on.

  6. Ahhhh …. those were the days, right, John? Great set of pictures, every one of which brought nostalgia to the forefront. Thank you for another wonderful post!

    • My pleasure, Amy. Everybody seemed to like a chance to think back to their own sports days as a child. Ours was in a nearby town two miles away and we all walked down there for the big day. No wonder our school always lost. We were tired out before we started.

  7. Chris Waller

    Wonderful photographs. They perfectly crystallise the essence of 1950s England.

    • Yes, the Reverend Stephens often seemed like a bit of a bumbling ecclesiastic but he has left a real legacy behind him. Moreover, it is a legacy of informal moments rather than the many formal ceremonies that public schools celebrate every year.

  8. It is really nice to look at old photos and speculate about them. Thank you for sharing.

    • My pleasure. I’ve been trying to find the name and the photographs of a gentleman from Nottingham who went to India in around 1850 and took many spectacular pictures of what was truly a different world. I came across the name Charles Shepherd but I was not sure if this was the right person, although his photographs are very lovely and well worth googling. Eventually, I discovered that the Nottingham man was called Samuel Bourne. Just look for images on google by Samuel Bourne and you’ll see what I mean. Stunning photographs of an amazing country.

  9. Jan

    Anyone who knew him “knows exactly” what is going through Sandy’s mind. He must have caught sight of a boy not wearing his rrrregulation grey suit. Chas’ captured his essence in that instant.

  10. Yes, Sandy always took things very seriously. I sometimes wondered if such things were worth all that energy but he seemed happy enough to do it.

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