Your feature on Crystal Palace (October 2000 issue) reminded me of a souvenir I acquired there at my first visit to a live motor race. A souvenir which kicked off a lifelong interest in historic racing.
As a 10-year-old in 1952, having persuaded my parents that it really was a safe day out, we took the 137 bus from outside the Orange Luxury Coach Station in Brixton to Crystal Palace Parade. You are correct in saying it was by far the shortest route into any track.
I recall going through the turnstiles and then downhill to stand, I guess, near the North Tower or Park Curve. As a local boy, I knew the place well — the lake, where we fished unofficially, and which held for some time the record for the largest pike (or was it a carp?) ever caught, and the life-size dinosaurs tucked in among the shrubbery around the boating area.
That day, either an Easter or a Whit weekend, mum, dad and I were standing one row back from the chestnut paling fence which was all that separated the spectators from the track. As the cars passed, one touched the kerb and flipped into a barrel roll, eventually landing right side up, on top of the fencing; the driver fell out as the car inverted. The car bounced off the chestnut paling and all of us fell back over one another in a panic.
While the marshals attended to the driver, and the St John Ambulance Brigade to the spectators, I reached through the fence and peeled a patch of dark blue paint from the rear end of the car.
It was Reg Parnell’s Connaught, something I only realised very recently from an article in Motor Sport.
I kept the paint patch for many years until my mother, as mothers do, threw it out along with many other boyhood treasures.
I am, Yours etc, Mark Way, via e-mail