Calling time with two fingers

Some of the line-up from Portsmouth Technical College in 1947 with Mel  third from the right in the front row. Below, Membersof Portsmouth Athletic Club and Mel Barfoot.

Some of the line-up from Portsmouth Technical College in 1947 with Mel third from the right in the front row. Below, Membersof Portsmouth Athletic Club and Mel Barfoot.

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When Mel Barfoot saw the photograph here of the ASWE team at Fratton Park he dropped me a note as he was in the line-up.

But he also told me he had a photograph of the Portsmouth Technical College which was three feet long and contained all the boys, about 300, at the school in 1947.

Barfoot atheltic''Some of the members of Portsmouth Athletic Club with trophies.

Barfoot atheltic''Some of the members of Portsmouth Athletic Club with trophies.

It was one of those long strip photographs which unfortunately can’t be published here so I have divided it up and will include different parts over the next few weeks. In this photograph we see Mel third from the right in the front row.

On leaving school Mel joined ASWE on Portsdown Hill and retired from there as a project manager.

Mel also had three brothers who all attended the technical school over a 12-year period. They are all in the family photograph here.

Apart from being a good footballer, Mel was well-known in athletics circles as he ran for the Portsmouth Athletic Club based at Alexandra Park.

Barfoot Denmead''Melvyn Barfoot today.

Barfoot Denmead''Melvyn Barfoot today.

He says when he started running the track was just turf and dirt and later a cinder track. Today of course, it is has an all-weather track.

Mel later became an athletics referee officiating for the Hampshire Athletic Association. I asked him about old time time-keeping and hand-held watches.

He says: ‘I am glad to say I never had to do that but the time-keepers, all in a line one above the other at the finishing tape, would have top-of-the-range stopwatches.

‘As the runners approached they would press on the button to take up any slack with the middle and ring finger joints and as the runners breasted the tape the watch was stopped and the time recorded.’ Just think: the first sub-four-minute mile was recorded in this way.

Today runners are recorded in hundredths of seconds by hugely sophisticated computers.

I expect, like me, you thought the judges used the index finger.

Mel, who lives at Denmead and is now in his 80th year, refereed athletics until recent times.

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