Tom Walker – Nonagenarian Toffee

In April 2022, Rob Sawyer and Sarah from Mint Collective caught up with venerable Toffee, 93-year-old Tom Walker in a café near his home in Upton.

Rob Sawyer 26/11/2022 15comments  |  Jump to last

In April 2022, Rob Sawyer and Sarah from Mint Collective caught up with 93-year-old Tom Walker in a café near his home in Upton. This venerable Toffee, accompanied by his son, Graham, discussed all things Evertonia, dating back to the 1930s. Below is an edited version of Tom’s the vivid recollections which originally appeared in The Black Watch fanzine (sold outside St Luke’s on selected matchdays by Tom, the editor)


Tom Walker

My dad used to go to Goodison with my Uncle Colin, they were staunch Evertonians. Dad taught me to be an Evertonian. He’d seen all the big players - he’d talk to me about the likes of Torry Gillick. When I was eight, he took me to see Dixie Dean play for the reserves after being out injured – he said that he couldn’t take me to a first team match as there were too many people there. So, I saw him in that one game – but I don’t remember it!

Before I started at school, we lived in Tuebrook, and grandmother lived in City Road – just along from the football ground. Mum would go and clean for her on a Thursday and Grandad would say: ‘Come on son, let’s go and see.’ So, I saw them extending the Gwladys Street stand [1937-38]. Grandpa used to go to matches – the two of us were waiting for him afterwards, so I saw part of the building work.

War broke out when I was ten and things changed rapidly. The Football League stopped, and we had the North and South war leagues, playing against local teams. My dad let me start going to matches on my own when I was eleven – he stopped going as he was an air raid warden and on fire watch with his company, so he was always tired. We lived in Page Moss, Huyton. My bedroom window faced Liverpool, so I’d watch the bombs falling and exploding on the docks. For matches, I’d catch the bus or tram from our house to the bottom of Green Lane and ran from there to Goodison. There were no programmes at the ground, just a piece of paper with the teams on. They never knew until very late who they’d have playing as they were stationed with the forces. I saw some wonderful players – Scottish, Welsh and Irish internationals who were stationed locally and came in to play for Everton. So, you could get mixed teams with Scottish international players and all sorts guesting. Once I saw ‘AN Other’ on the team sheet and asked Dad who he played for – he burst out laughing and explained what it meant.

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TG Jones will always be my favourite footballer – the greatest I saw. He was even better than Joe Mercer – and he was great. Joe could dribble through a defence as easy as that. Cyril Done of Liverpool and TG had the greatest of battles. If you let Done have a shot, he’d take the net off. Jack Humphreys was another centre-back, and he was great, too. Tommy Lawton was brilliant – in one match he scored five goals. In another, against Liverpool, he headed the ball against the crossbar, and it was still shaking minutes later. I saw a few of the older players like Billy Cook (‘nobody shall pass’) and Norman Greenhalgh on the other side of the defence. Alex Stevenson was a little forward, he was funny. If he was knocked down, he’d lie on the ground, pull a face and drum his fingers on the ground! It was so nice to see. I saw Cliff Britton playing, and Matt Busby for Liverpool. They were great players. Now they are too anxious to get rid of the ball – that’s not football.

Tom Walker

They got a lot of players in after the war like Peter Farrell and Tommy Eglington. Peter never stopped, he was one of those players that kept going, whilst Eglington flew along the wing. I saw Harry Catterick play. Jock Dodds was so slow with his weight, but he could push them away and then suddenly spin and, ‘bang’, it went into the net. He scored many brilliant goals. I saw Dave Hickson play with blood running down his face. Did he go off? No. He stayed on and played. He wasn’t an outstanding player, but he was a 90-minute man, he never stopped and scored goals. The wingers could flash right down the wing and cross the ball onto the head of the striker - it was amazing how they did it. I used to see Jackie Grant on the tram on the way to matches, he had his football boots round his neck. He was about 5’4” in height and was the toughest fella I ever saw – he knocked Billy Liddell flying over the wall at Anfield. I admired Liddle, a brilliant player; he lived near me, and I used to see him pushing the pram with his twins in. A nice fella and a good footballer.

When the clocks went back, the kick-off was moved to two o’clock because of the [fading] light. It was different when floodlights were introduced, but they were very poor at first. I used to stand in the Gwladys Street end, near the church (which is where I am now in the wheelchair accessible section). I wouldn’t get in the Boys’ Pen as it was terrible, and you’d be lucky to get out of it. It was probably nine pence to get in. The Everton Bugler used to sit in the top of the Bullens Road stand and sound the charge if we were attacking. You could walk round three parts of the ground, then – depending on which way they were kicking. Only the Paddock was separated. But there was never any trouble at all – especially when playing Liverpool, there was just banter.

My dad used to tell me, ‘If you go to a match, he said, you watch two teams, not one. If Everton are beaten by a better team, that’s fair enough. If you see better players in the other team, you accept them - you don’t jeer or curse them. You learn football from them.’ I’ve seen a lot of good players over the years like Stan Matthews and Tom Finney - that’s the way to watch football, none of this screaming and throwing things on the pitch. Back then, some teams had people who were a bit lippy, but most supporters were happy to mix. It riles me to see the anger in people’s faces now. I don’t think that it’s good for the sport at all.

We did go to Anfield, too I remember watching Liverpool playing and seeing Jack Balmer playing for Liverpool. All week he was pushing a handcart around doing repairs to properties. Those players were just fit, not super fit like now. If they went down, they got up again, there was no acting.

There was a green refreshment hut in the corner, between the Bullens Road stand and the Park End. My Aunty used to serve Eccles cakes and cups of tea, there. So, I’d go up to it and, not letting on, she’d say ‘What do you want son?’ Then she’d give me my money and a bit more back, saying, ‘Don’t you dare tell your mother!’ But I worried how I’d explain how I got the money. Walking back to Green Lane I’d stop and have a milkshake and chips to spend it before I got home. Then Mum would shout that tea was ready, but I wasn’t hungry. She’d wonder why! Later my friend used to do programme selling outside Anfield, and then they used to give me a handful of copies, so I’d pretend to be a programme seller and get in for free!

There were many great players in the 1960s – how Alex Young got that high in the air I don’t know. And Ball Harvey and Kendall. When we won the league in 1963 my dad I were in the old main stand – and there were tears in his eyes.

Tom Walker and family

Win, who became my wife, was evacuated to the Isle of Man when they announced the war but returned to Liverpool to finish her education in Liverpool. When I first saw her, I thought, ‘She’s the one.’ On VJ night I went along to a street party on Southdean Road, where she lived, hoping she’d be there. She was, and I asked her for a date. When she said ‘yes’, I did a lap of honour round the tables. And that was it – we knew from then that we were suited

When we were courting, I said to Win: ‘If you are going out with me, you’re an Evertonian.’ So, she became an Evertonian! If the football was on telly, she’d say ‘Oh, not again’ but she’d then be watching and doing knitting at the same time and she’d suddenly call out ‘foul!’ or ‘offside’. She was great - a character - so calm but with a sense of humour that you wouldn’t believe. I was an electrician and did shift work at Tate and Lyle for 23 years. She was a Girls Guide leader and made the clothes for them and our children. I would get home from work at half past ten and she’d be on the sewing machine, making stuff for a concert. At 1am the machine would still be going – she wouldn’t give up. We had 11 children - four girls and seven boys - and the clothes were clean on the kids for school every day.

All ofthe children are mad Evertonians. I said to them when they were younger: ‘If you don’t support Everton, you don’t eat!” Now I have 51 grandchildren and great-grandchildren – most support Everton! Win and I were married for 69 years. She died three years ago but I can’t let her go, she is always there with me.

Tom Walker at Wembley in the mid-1980s

I had some good fun following Everton with the kids in the 1980s. One thing I remember when we won the cup against Watford in 1984, we came out of the ground and a supporter said: ‘Photograph please’ and these two big fellas grabbed hold of me. One was Gordon West and the other was Brian Labone. Someone still has that photograph and is wondering who the fella in the middle is! When we came back on the train from Wembley, the team were in the next carriage. Derek Mountfield, Peter Reid and Alan Harper came down with the trophy as Peter’s aunt was in the same carriage as us and he came through with the trophy. The train had to stop on the way for more ale. The team got off at Broad Green, where they had the welcome home coaches ready for them, but we had to go into Lime Street and back out.

We have been fortunate in going to a lot of European games. When we played Nottingham Forest in the Simod Cup Final (1989) we went into London we were stood with our scarves on by traffic lights on Oxford Street, having a drink when this open top sports car came along and two fellas in it were trying to take the mickey. The next moment their car was full of empty cans and half-empty glasses! In the 1990s Duncan Ferguson was brilliant.

We used to drive into Liverpool via the tunnel and park up near Anfield Road. We’d call in the Abbey for a pint – now we have one at the Winslow. The fans are so nice to you in there – they move and let you sit down. When I turned 90, my son Graham and the other kids arranged for the players’ coach to be at the end of my road to pick me up. Ian Snodin was on it. Then they drove to Lime Street to pick Peter Reid up and then on to Sandhills to pick Graeme Sharp up.

Tom Walker reading an issue of The Black Watch fanzine

Then we drove to the Winslow where everyone was waiting for the team coach - and I got off! When they told everyone who I was they were all cheering. They had a table for us, and this young lady sat by me, had a chat, took a photo and put it on Twitter. From that, I had a letter from Bill Kenwright to say that it’s amazing how long I have supported EFC. He promised me a free season ticket for as long as we’re at Goodison Park.

What does Everton mean to me? It’s part of my life. If Everton are relegated, I’ll still support them, I’ll still go. I do remember it happening last time, in 1951. Goodison is my second home, there’s no doubt about it. And when we leave it will be a big wrench. But I am looking forward to the new ground – I just hope I live long enough to see it!

 

An ode to Everton – by Tom

I’ve been a Blue for 83 years
Had my smiles, and also tears
Watched through the war with players away
When T.G. Jones was the star of the day

He led the team with resolute ease
Encouraging players with charm and appease
Oh, for the days when the winger crossed
Precision passes to talented tops
Goals to remember, they came a lot
To be a Blue is a privilege earned
I’m hoping to see our new stadium, so yearned

 

Acknowledgement

Thanks to Tom and Graham Walker for their time and for the use of family photos.
Photo credits: The Walker family, Rob Sawyer, Mint Collective.

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Reader Comments (15)

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Tony Hill
1 Posted 26/11/2022 at 13:12:17
Fabulous work. What a superb Blue is Mr Walker.
Dave Abrahams
2 Posted 26/11/2022 at 13:16:19
A great story from a great Evertonian, told with a smile and a twinkle in his eye was the way I read it, and I remember the way Tom saw football because I saw it the same way, may the best team win was the way lots of football fans saw the game, now it’s win at at any cost, cheating is cheered, as long as it is not against your team!!

Ihope you get your dream of seeing the Blues in Brambley Moore Tom, very best wishes and good health, what an Evertonian.

Paul Birmingham
3 Posted 26/11/2022 at 17:10:45
Thanks Rob. That’s a fantastic story, and epitomises the Evertonian spirit.

David Greenwood
4 Posted 26/11/2022 at 19:02:20
Fantastic article. That's what being an Evertonian is all about.
Jon Harding
5 Posted 26/11/2022 at 21:51:56
Thoroughly enjoyed reading that, thank you
Especially the bit about Dave Hickson - my dad's favourite player
Rick Tarleton
6 Posted 27/11/2022 at 07:21:19
Thank you, Tom, I share many of your memories.

I'm a stripling of 76, and my first Everton team was the team that won promotion in 1953-54. Dave Hickson was my first hero, but I was 16 when Young and Vernon won the League and that team remains my touchstone for all things Everton.

I did meet William Dean, my dad was a friend and my Uncle Nel, who was a great boxer of the '30s and '40s, was a close friend and used to tap dance with Dean for charities.

I also remember going to both Anfield and Goodison, whoever was at home that week, we watched when my dad was on shore leave, he was a merchant seaman.

In the mid to late '50s, Everton were a bottom-half team in the old First Division and Liverpool were in the Second Division. At times, I can remember the crowd laughing at the comedic value of the teams, rather than the skill.

It's lovely to reminisce about those times when football was a gentler game and supporters were not quite as vitriolic as they now seem to be. When you strolled to the game on the day, paid your 1s/6d and entered the ground.

We had our "spec" at both grounds in the Paddock, but in 1961-62 season, for my birthday present, I was bought an Everton season ticket for the Paddock. It was a marvellous gift – especially as my dad and 90% of my family were Reds. I kept it for three seasons before I went to university.

Thank you again, I do wish I'd seen T G Jones play, Tom. I remember his picture was on the side of the old tiddlywinks football game "Shoot".

Gerry Quinn
7 Posted 27/11/2022 at 09:16:52
Lovely story, lovely memories, Tom. I will be 72 next birthday, so have a lot of catching up to do. Despite seeing Young, Ball, Kendall, West, Wilson, etc., my favourite player is still Colin Harvey.

Funny that my affection and respect for some Everton players since those years has at times deteriorated to the stage where I begin to wish one or two of them were not there. Not many, but can't seem to take to the play-acting and attitude of todays lack of loyalty and money-driven allegiance/aim - and it seems to have become even worse with this WC.

Hope to see you at BMD, Tom - go for it mate...

Danny O’Neill
8 Posted 27/11/2022 at 10:01:16
What a truly heart-warming recollection of supporting Everton over decades since before WW2, Tom and Rob.

Some great recollections of unique experiences in that magnificent story.

I like how you give recognition to players of other clubs. In my generation, I always respected Dalglish and Hansen. As much as it pains to say, sometimes as a football fan, you have to recognise talent even if they are your closest foes. Yes, I'm standing by for the incoming and saying my Hail Marys!

I also like the sentiment about losing to a better team. When I was coaching, I always used to tell the boys that as long as they do their best and give their all, if you are beaten by a better team, no-one is going to slate you. Encouragingly I've witnessed that at recent Everton games the past year or two. Play badly and they are let know. But lose and try their best, they get a decent reception and acknowledgement.

It is most certainly a privilege to be an Evertonian. I wouldn't say hard-earned though. It's a birthright.

Peter Mills
9 Posted 27/11/2022 at 11:35:17
Nice article as usual, Rob.

Couldn’t agree more with the comments about respecting players from other teams, especially in the days when there wasn’t very much TV coverage. It was always a pleasure to see players like Bobby Moore, and goalies like Gordon Banks, Pat Jennings and Jim Montgomery were given great receptions.

I also confess that despite the heartache they inflicted on us, I had a very grudging admiration for the talent of Rush and Dalglish, although I’ll be expecting at least a yellow card from Michael for that.

John Burns
10 Posted 28/11/2022 at 17:32:34
Fantastic personal historical observations. Thanks Tom and Rob. Ps I’d never heard of the Everton bugler. Bring him back!
Phil Parker
11 Posted 29/11/2022 at 00:54:20
Great stuff, Rob, and god bless Tom. Love hearing real stories about the love of our club like this. Reminds us all why we support this club.

When Paul McCartney said he used to go the game with his Uncles, he mentioned a trumpeter commenting on the game musically. When a shot went high over the bar the guy would play "Over The Mountains, Over The Sea"; maybe the same guy.

Paul also said he mentioned getting Dixie Dean onto the cover of Sgt Pepper, but sadly it didn't happen. John liked the old fashioned, and slightly humorous to him, name of another football player from our neighbours, who nearly signed for us back in the day, but he tossed a coin and went to the reds, and he did get on the cover.

Gerry Marsden is another Evertonian, as all his family was. He only changed, if he really did, when that song came out and our neighbours sang it. I always say their theme tune was sung by an Evertonian.

Danny O’Neill
12 Posted 29/11/2022 at 06:33:23
Paul McCartney is an interesting one, Phil.

Born in Speke and his mother was the local midwife. Lived on Western Avenue before the family moved to Allerton.

Apparently his father had a season ticket or used to sit regularly in the Upper Bullens. Someone else more knowledgable can confirm or deny.

But to me, he's one of those who flicks between the two teams. Maybe it's his international stardom and his latching on to the global brand they built. I don't know a lot about his actual footballing roots. He strikes me as a bit of a Kenwright.

What I do know is that, if I had his fame and fortune, and was a boyhood Evertonian, with an Evertonian father, we'd have been taken over years ago.

Dave Abrahams
13 Posted 29/11/2022 at 11:43:48
Phil (11), that player, who tossed a coin to see who he would sign for, was Albert Stubbins. He scored four goals for Liverpool against Huddersfield Town in the first senior game I ever saw, he could have scored twenty four, I didn’t need to toss a coin to choose which team I supported, fancy supporting Liverpool, it would be like losing your soul and going to Lucifer’s gaff.
Phil Parker
14 Posted 29/11/2022 at 12:35:35
Jackie Balmer was a close one as well Dave between the 2 mersey clubs. Paul McCartney went to the 68 final with Ivan Vaughan, the man who introduced Paul to John and remained a friend to both of them. Everton were crowned Champions in May 63, when the Beatles had their first number 1. Everton were Champions in April 1970, the Beatles split up. Our success, and demise, was in tune with the Beatles. The owner of the Cavern was an Evertonian, Paddy the doorman was as well. If Everton lost he would be in a right mood and knocking customers back for the slightest thing. But we never get mentioned for our success then, as our neighbours managed to get out of the Second Division at the same time.
Dave Abrahams
15 Posted 29/11/2022 at 12:48:58
Phil (14), yes I think the Balmer family had close connections to the Blues, he had two uncles who played for Everton and I think Jackie was at one time an amateur on on Everton’s book.

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