Memories of the old Football Mail

Bob Hind on the steps of Lloyds Bank in Havant, where he sold the Football Mail in the early 1960s
Bob Hind on the steps of Lloyds Bank in Havant, where he sold the Football Mail in the early 1960s
Signal box - The bleak and isolated siting of the Idsworth signal box illustrates the loneliness of the signalman's lot

THIS WEEK IN 1970: Time runs out on the lonely reign of a signal box man

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Bob Hind looks back with fondness at Saturday nights spent selling the Football Mail

With the last edition of the Sports Mail rolling off the press last Saturday, I thought I would put a few memories down about the paper.

Of course, to me and many other people, it would always be the Football Mail and nothing else.

The readership back in the 1960s was immense, with people queuing up to buy the paper as soon as it arrived in the shops or at the street-sellers stands.

I wonder if anyone in the Havant area can remember a young lad standing outside the Lloyds Bank that was, and still is, on the corner of North Street and West Street in Havant, some 50 years ago?

There is a flight of three steps leading to what was then the front doors of the bank.

On a Saturday evening, from 6pm until 8.30pm, there was a lad aged 10 or 11 sitting on these steps selling the Football Mail and the Evening News. Most customers asked for ‘News and Mail please son’.

Well, that nipper was little me and I had the pitch for two seasons as I remember - 1960/61 and 1961/62.

It all seems somewhat Dickensian now and I can remember when my own son was aged 10. What was my father thinking of, letting his son sell papers on a street corner at the same age!

The past is, of course, a different country with different ways. But it was where I learned to have conversations with older people and how to talk to people.

The Football Mail of that time was a colour between green and blue as I remember - maybe aquamarine? In those days Pompey’s result was always placed on the top of the division, even if they played York Town away. There was no alphabetical order.

They tell me that when the paper was computerised they could not do that and Pompey had to be placed in the actual alphabetical order of the day. One step forward, three steps back eh?

I wonder who else living in the Bedhampton/Leigh Park area can remember the man with the carrier bike with the black box on the front? His cry was ‘Mail Football-all the finals, football’.

His shout was so loud it could be heard through people’s windows and over the television. They would come out in their droves to buy the paper.

The man was my late father, Jack, who started selling the Football Mail around the area in the late 1950s.

After I finished with the Havant stand I was commandeered to have my own round, along with my late brother Arthur. This was the 1962/63 season after I finished at Havant. We used to meet the train at Bedhampton and have four quire (eight dozen) papers each, plus two quire of Evening Newses.

I remember snow started falling on Boxing Day 1962 and didn’t appear to stop until some months later in 1963. I delivered the Mail at gone 11pm on a Saturday night, I kid you not.

The snow was so deep and we were so cold, we just pushed the papers through the letterbox and collected the money the following week.

We arrived home cold and wet with freezing feet, but we had delivered the papers which was the main thing.

I think this is why I tend to get short with people who complain about when the going gets tough and I remember back.

I was once mentioned in the paper in the local football reports, but not for the right reasons. I was playing for Foxleigh Athletic in the Meon Valley League and we went down something like 15-0.

The reporter said ‘It would have been more like a cricket score but for some fine play by the Foxleigh goalkeeper R Hind.’

I was the butt of a few pals’ jokes after that one, I can tell you.

So alas the Sports Mail is no more, but it will live on in many a reader’s memory - especially mine.