In a previous article I wrote about my family traditions of organising street parties in Shepherds Bush. And in another article I wrote about the 1908 Olympic Games that were held at the White City Stadium.
One of my earliest childhood memories is being at a 1953 street party organised by my parents. And by coincidence my other early memory is being at the Searchlight Tattoo at the White City stadium.
As a small boy the stadium was massive and I remember in the pitch darkness a flying saucer picked out by searchlights descended from the roof to land in the centre of the arena. I was not scared but it impressed me so much that even after 60+ years I can still picture it.
For the 1908 Olympics the centre of the stadium was used for field events (note the swimming pool on the right). Surrounding the field was the running track and also a cycle track. The following postcard gives you an idea of just how imposing the stadium was:
I went to Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School (now the Phoenix Academy) and in the 1960s our yearly sports days were held at the stadium. I think that at one stage the stadium’s official seating capacity was 93,000 and our school of around 1,500 boys was pretty well lost in the stadium.
Although the stadium staged some very large and very important athletic meetings I don’t actually remember going to one, although I do remember going to at least one of the International Horse Shows.
Greyhound racing was hugely popular and the White City was home for the English Greyhound Derby, the Greyhound Grand National and the Greyhound Oaks, Although too young to bet I do remember going to several of the charity gala events. Between races film and TV stars would parade around the track. In 1964 there was a film called the Yellow Rolls Royce and in one of the following years it was driven around the running track with celebrities on board, one of which was Barbara Windsor.
It was at one of these meetings that I first encountered something called a hamburger. A company called Wimpy had a stall selling these unfamiliar fast food snacks. This was around 10 years before the first McDonalds opened in the UK. However, my favourite was a ‘Doozledog’ which was a 12” long hotdog. The seller walked around the stadium carrying a large wooden box, hung from his neck by a leather strap, shouting ‘get your Doozledogs here!’ It was the only place I ever saw them sold and I often wonder if they were really as tasty as I remember.
A next door neighbour used to work as a steward on dog race nights and when I became old enough to bet I remember winning handsomely on a tip he gave our family for the Greyhound Derby.
In my late teens and early twenties there were too many other distractions and I went many years without setting foot in the stadium. One day in 1976 I was suddenly made redundant. Luckily in those days it was pretty easy to find a job, and in many cases you didn’t even need to have any experience. I sent off a numerous applications to a very wide variety of jobs, several of which called me for interview. One of those jobs was to be the Assistant Greyhound Racing Manager at the White City Stadium.
It was a strange interview somewhere in the bowels of a deserted very quiet stadium. Strangely, the Manager interviewed me wearing his bedroom slippers. The job would entail checking the dogs racing ‘passports’, overseeing weigh-ins and working on race nights.
Shortly after attending several interviews I was offered two very different jobs; the one at the White City Stadium and one in the Fingerprint Department at Scotland Yard. I took the latter as it seemed more exciting and glamorous.
Had I taken the job at the White City I would have found myself redundant once again when the Stadium closed in 1984.
As over 30 years have passed, many of you probably have no idea where the stadium stood so this map shows the location on the junction of Westway and Wood Lane.
By Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer