Steve Magro's Speedway History

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Steve Magro's History of Speedway - The Roaring 20's and 30's

The Roaring 20's & 30's

Vic Huxley, Frank Arthur, Ron Johnson

In the beginning....

In 1936 the first world championship was staged at Wembley in London.It was, however, six years earlier when inspired promoters of the day brought together the star Australians - including Vic Huxley, Frank Arthur and Ron Johnson - to race against a team of Englands best.

In the summer of 1930, England played host to Don Bradman's inspired Australian cricketers. Such was the interest between the two nations that it seemed ripe for speedway to enter the fray. Newspapers ran big stories, posters were put up all over the city.

Frank Varey, Jack Parker, Gus Kuhn

And so it was on Monday evening, June 30th, 30,000 eager fans bustled through the turnstiles at Wimbledon Stadium to see an English side including Frank Varey, Jack Parker and Gus Kuhn -take on the "Kangaroos" in the very first official test match. Outside, the traffic was chaotic and the start was delayed for 45 minutes in order to get everyone inside.

The Englishmen lost the match 17-35, but carried on to win the next four encounters, at Belle Vue (twice), Stamford Bridge and Wembley Stadium before a combined audience of 150,000.

In following years the tests were held at Crystal Palace, Leicester, New Cross, Harringay and West Ham before ever increasing crowds: in September 1932 - in the midst of The Depression - 82,000 people flocked to Wembley Stadium to see England win, 51-42. Although they repeatedly came close, the battle-hardy Australians couldn't manage a series win until 1934.

Tiger Stevenson, Eric Langton

At the end of 1934 the first English team set sail for the antipodes. All but one of the five tests were held at the huge 1/3rd mile Sydney Showground, (the remainder in Melbourne), however the visitors picked up victories in two of the five matches. "Tiger" Stevenson captained the squad, alongside Joe Abbot and Eric Langton, (Langton enjoyed Australia so much he later settled there). Although British circuits were most often smaller (often erected inside greyhound tracks), Tiger was said to have preferred racing at the Showground.

Billy Lamont

An estimated 50,000 squeezed in to watch Sydney's first test. Spectators hung themselves over the wooden 'safety fence' during the races, contemporary reports saying: "From close quarters they waved their programmes and absorbed the exhilarating sight of their heroes, the deafening noise from their machines and the unique smell of burning castor oil." Daredevil Billy Lamont was particularly well known for his leg-trailing exploits; racing his machine just inches from the fence, he became known as "the programme snatcher".

In later years, test matches were also held at the 1/4 mile Sydney Sportsground (next door to the Showground), Melbourne Motordrome and Olympic Park. The tests also carried on in England, where they continued to be a major drawcard right up until 1939 when World War Two began.

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