Colin Proctor's story
Later on, hooked on life at my club, I became a programme seller. Then I used to take pails of water to the old changing block (green corrugated tin huts, where the Habbin is) for the players to slop down after the muddy games. I used to help Frank Pettit and his son Alan pull up the long grass around the outside of the pitch. We also used to stand on the back of the old rollers, adding a little more weight to try to level off the ground. Grass was at a premium in those days, not like Ian’s perfect pitches of today.
Geoff Proctor handed the Tea Gardens over to the supporters' committee to build a clubhouse for supporters to have somewhere to meet and drink. Frank Pettit was also a head man at Watts wood yard on Newmarket Road, where PC World and MFI are now. One day he was over in his works lorry at St Andrew’s Road, Chesterton, where Pye TV were pulling down some old buildings. Frank asked one guy what they were going to do with the very large asbestos roof. ‘Throw it away,’ he said. ‘Can Abbey United have it then?’ Frank asked. The guy said yes, so Frank arranged through his work to pick up the roof and bring it to the club.
A team of fans got together and brick by brick the clubhouse was built to the size of the roof, a feat that would be hard to achieve today. The clubhouse opened in early 1951 as Abbey were turning into CUFC, as the town became a city through Her Majesty the Queen.
The clubhouse was a great idea, as at that time no one under 14 could go into public houses, but babes in arms could go into clubhouses. Our club was full Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and it proved to be a great monetary success. After the games the players would come into the clubhouse and we would get autographs and pictures of our heroes. This has always been a family club.
Each match our wooden stand (where the main stand is now) was full to the brim with 500 fans, and the tea hut on the right of the stand always did a brisk trade. Ginny Morgan looked after the tea hut and when we scored she rang her big fire bell, which could be heard deep into the local area, letting everybody know we had scored. When we won our matches, ‘Coconuts’ was played, letting the Town know we had won.
In 1951, Bill Whittaker became manager after playing with Charlton Athletic. That was the making of the present club. Bill had his own way and brought in many seasoned professionals, and the club moved into a higher dimension.
We had many great games at the Abbey. In November 1953, watched by nearly 8,000 fans, we played Newport County in the First Round Proper of the FA Cup at the Abbey, drawing 2-2. That was the first time we played a Football League club in any competition. Stevens and Crowe were our scorers. We went to Newport by coach and train (from Barnwell Junction) and won that game 2-1, Stevens and Saward scoring our goals. In the Second Round we drew Bradford Park Avenue and our ground burst at the seams with over 10,000 fans turning up. We fought to the end but lost 2-1, the great Bill Whittaker scoring a penalty. They were great times to be a fan.
After starting work in 1956, at WG Pye in Newmarket Road, I then became a member of the Supporters’ Club and that link is still there today. In 1969, a few members of the Supporters’ Club got together and formed the Vice Presidents’ Club (as it is today): Bill Boutell, Bob Pininicar, Stan Cutter, Graham Nurse. The club was formed with 19 members and I joined through my neighbour Sid Parsons in 1971.