Alan Mills – Back in Leeds – Football and Dancing

Despite the country still in the grip of war, in some aspects we tried to tick along as normal as we could although it wasn’t always possible.
The football league had to be suspended after three games, probably just as well as Leeds were bottom of the table with only a point to show for their troubles. So Everton who were the 1938-39 champions held the trophy for seven years, ironically they were also champions when the first world war broke out. I’ve held my breath ever since when they’ve won the league.
Regional leagues were organised but many players had joined up and stadiums became military bases. Also there was the small matter of thousands of people congregating in one place, which was a worry from a security angle.
From time to time there were exhibition matches between the Army, Navy and RAF. the proceeds of which went to the war effort. Many players had joined as PT instructors so the forces all had teams full of internationals. One such game was held on Boxing Day 1944 at Elland Road. I went down with a friend, hoping to see the likes of Raich Carter, Stanley Matthews, Tom Finney and Nat Lofthouse. I wouldn’t know if any of them played, there was a real pea-souper which prevented us seeing anything from our spot in the Lowfields. I don’t see how the players could have strung two passes together, so bad was the fog. All we could hear from the pitch were the odd isolated calls for a pass and the referees whistle. We gave up at half time and got the tram back to my friends house in the Skeltons. His Dad was listening to the radio as we went in, “Sounds like you saw a cracker this afternoon, end to end stuff!” We were dumbfounded and wondered if his Dad had drank one too many.

About twenty five years later, I was driving on the motorway and an interview with former football commentator Raymond Glendenning came on the radio. He was asked which hadbeen his most difficult commentary. That’s easy he replied, a fog bound Forces game in 1944 on Boxing Day at Elland Road. He went on to say he was given a long lead to go with his microphone and had to literally follow the referee to keep up with the play and still try commentate on the game. It’s fair to say his creative side came out rather strongly. The game couldn’t be abandoned as it would have alerted the German Luftwaffe to the weather conditions over here. Any news which could give the enemy even the slightest advantage was censored.Careless Talk Costs Lives, we were constantly reminded.
Around the same time, dancing became the vogue. I spent many happy Saturday afternoons and evenings at the Astoria Ballroom on Roundhay Road and theCapital Ballroom in Meanwood. Both had really good dance bands who were very popular. A bit further afield, just off Burley Road was the legendary Mark Altman’s Ballroom. Mark and his wife compered from start to finish, showed the dance moves to beginners and acted as match makers, ‘there’s no wallflowers here,’ they said before pairing couples off to dance whilst commenting on their dress sense, the state of their shoes and generally having a laugh at their expense. I’ve often wondered how many marriages they were responsible for.
One wintry evening three of us went to the Capitol Ballroom, inside the foyer was a large welcoming blazing log fire together with a great band. (Jack Mann I believe) I paired off with this girl, well after 2 or 3 quick steps and a few Foxtrots, we came to the last waltz, Glen Millers Moonlight Serenade. This was great, she was great, the atmosphere, the music, everything was great. I waited for her at the cloakroom and outside I asked her if I could walk her home. Where do you live? Middleton, she replied. Goodnight, I said. I had no intention of walking all the way to Middleton then back to Harehills. A few weeks later I found out she lived a few streets down the road from me.

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