In early November 1958, there was only one topic of conversation: the hula hoop craze. This had swept through the Unites States, flown the Atlantic and even reached Norwich, a semi-forgotten outpost ‘somewhere north of London’. A gallery of photographs in the Eastern Evening News highlighted the enthusiasm with which hundreds were joining in the fun but the undoubted star of the city’s hula hoop scene was David Hampson (aged 12) of 15, Bartholomew Street who claimed 19,572 hoops in a 2½ hour session.
Five days after his remarkable feat of flexibility and endurance, only half a mile from young Master Hampson’s home in the ‘village on the hill’, 13,960 loyal supporters traipsed down to Carrow Road to watch Norwich City - in Ken Nethercott’s 399th appearance for the club - go 1-0 down after 27 minutes to the amateurs of Ilford in the first round of the FA Cup.
What followed is known to Canary supporters of a certain vintage and for one seven-year old boy (me) and his grandad it was the first step in an adventure that was not only to captivate the city and the county but – in the early months of 1959 - the nation. Sixty years on, it is difficult to reconstruct the atmosphere of the early stages of this amazing story but it was low key. After recovering to beat Ilford 3-1, Norwich drew in the second round at Swindon, necessitating a replay.
A quiet Sunday followed; in the late 1950s, Sundays preceding Christmas were exceptionally quiet although, in an increasing number of households, the goggle-box in the corner offered some limited viewing hours. Monday morning: work, school, the wash-tub and the mangle – each to their appointed task although, for housewives in more affluent households, the traditional tools had been superseded by the washing machine which droned at one frequency while Housewives’ Choice purred at a higher pitch.
At 12.30 pm, those of the City’s men, women and children at home for their dinner with the radio tuned to the Light Programme would have had little sense of anticipation until the announcement was made: Swindon Town or Norwich City... will play... Manchester United. The headline in the Eastern Evening News wrote itself: "If Canaries win replay, it’s BUSBY’S MEN AT CARROW ROAD."
Suddenly, Canary supporters forgot about hula hoops.
To be continued...