Using our Heritage to Shape the Future

Phil Shepherd, Memories Of ‘The Gower’ …..

I suppose it could be said that my involvement with the Gower started even before I was born because my mother attended the board school as it was known then along with her five other siblings, there is even a strong chance that her father also went there because he was also born just up the road in the Barley Mow pub. In September 1964 as soon as I became fourteen I started to attend the then Oakengates District Youth Club (ODYC).

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Myself, Mother and Father


 

At that time the youth club leader was a gentleman called Chris Strawford, Looking back Chris in my mind was the perfect type of person for the job that he was doing, he had a kind nature and somehow had an authority about him that everyone respected. I think it was on my first or second visit he asked “Philip are you fourteen”. “Yes Mr Strawford yes”. “That’s OK then”. He was a stickler for things being right.

In the coffee bar there was a record player with all the latest records for anyone to play and in the far room there was Table tennis and a football table that got plenty of use from myself and others, and later there was a pinball machine installed.

In the large hall we played shinty, and would hobble out with bruises to the ankles from being hit with the sticks, and bruised thighs from crashing into those cast iron radiators (health and safety eat your heart out) but we would still come back for more and because there was always the football outside on the yard area in front of the building

I have lots of fond memories of events and trips that I was involved with, be it going to support the football 5 aside team in inter club challenges, pony trekking on the Long Mynde, trips to Silver Blades Ice rink and 10 pin Bowling both of which were in Birmingham, Climbing up Snowdon (by the hard route) and Cadair Idris to a week in Scotland with Dawley Youth Club and many more.

I also used to be involved with the building of the carnival floats that were entered in to Oakengates and St Georges Carnivals. One year I recall we entered 2 or even 3 floats into one of the carnivals. The one that I remember the most was the one we built in 1969, the year man landed on the moon, it was a large silver rocket and I was sitting inside with a crash helmet on as the pilot we went down Oakengates main street singing “we all live in a silver rocket ship, silver rocket ship, silver rocket ship, “we all live in a silver rocket ship, silver rocket ship, silver rocket ship to the tune of the Beatles yellow submarine.

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As we became older we started to acquire our own cars and formed a car club, we used to arrange for people to come and give talks about servicing and repairs or rallying. We also started arranging our own car treasure hunts. Word soon got around about how good these events were and members from other youth clubs started to come and join us.

After a few years of attending ODYC Chris Stawford moved to the then new Shrewsbury Youth Centre, and David Fitzhugh took over followed by Arthur D’eath and lastly by Brian Jones. I think it was around the time of Dave that myself, Robert Grice and Brian Gwillam were approached about becoming voluntary assistant youth leaders and then after about another three years or so we were all elected onto the management committee. It was about the time that this committee was disbanded our first son was born so my involvement with the club ceased.

I always enjoyed my times at the youth club, meeting up with lots of new friends, one such person that I became friends with was a young girl by the name of Lynne Mansell now known as Lynne Shepherd because in 1973 she became my wife.

It was about twelve months after myself and Lynne had become married that we were asked by Brian Jones if we could assist him and his wife Avril in taking a party of club members on a trip to Spain. We were supposed to look after them and keep them on the straight and narrow but thinking back I’m not too sure who looked after whom but that’s another tale.

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Fast forward some forty years and I find myself involved with the old building again after turning up to the clean-up days and supporting as many of the other events as possible, I now find myself on another committee. This time for the restoration of the poor old girl after years of neglect and vandalism she is in a very sorry state but I do feel strongly that with the passion of the people involved on this project it will succeed, it will take time but things are now beginning to gain momentum. As with all projects of this kind and size the detail is in the preparation, this must be got right for it to work as there is no point in getting things wrong and having to go back and redo them again because this would take even longer and cost a whole lot more.

So back in March this year (2016) a group of us started the daunting job of getting the building fit for purpose for which it was built. To serve the community.

We then moved to the outside rear of the building to start the renovation of the children’s play park which is now well underway, the site as now had 10 years of undergrowth and rubbish removed and hopefully the necessary expert contractors will be on site August/September. There is still a lot of gardening work to be carried out to create an inviting environment for young children to play for many years to come.

So for me, the process of meeting up with old friends, and making even more new friends and memories has started all over again due to this lovely old building.

We are on site most Thursdays mornings and sometimes on other days or weekends so if the gates or open and you wish to come and see what is happening or even get involved and give a hand please come on in, we will willingly explain all.

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