Cheryl Button, the daughter of former Balham Cycling Club (BCC) secretary Ken Smith, was in London in November and she had a surprise gift for the soon to be relaunched club. Ken was a member of BCC between 1936 and 1957 and before his death in 2013, compiled a scrapbook of his most treasured club mementoes and photos. It also includes his memoirs spanning 21 years of life as a South London cyclist.
Cheryl presented Balham CC 2017 with his scrapbook and the club is honoured to be able to share it with you on this blog. Cheryl said, “I spoke to the family and we thought about keeping it but this is what Dad would have wanted. He would have loved to have heard that the club was reforming.”
We’ll be publishing his memoirs and photos of accompanying treasures over the coming months. Memorabilia includes 7 annual club menus, over 30 photos of club runs and tours, photos from his time with the Phoenix Pedallers in Calcutta during WW2 and race result cards including one for the Balham Rough Stuff, the first one the club has managed to obtain. A fascinating insight on their own but it is Ken’s accompanying words that are the most revealing.
From Balham to Canada
Ken Smith was born in North London, but brought up in South London by his mother who ran a corner store in Balham. Ken joined the Balham cycling club at age 16 and started his racing career marshaling the Balham Rough Stuff.
Ken joined the RAF in 1940 and served with 257 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. He moved to military intelligence in 1943 and was posted to Algier and then again to Calcutta, India, as a sergeant with the Military Police. It was here he formed the Phoenix Pedallers Cycling Club.
After the war, Ken returned to his job at the brewer but he soon moved on to find new employment with the plumbers union.
Ken resumed cycling with his Balham club mates, and on empty roads enjoyed club rides on a tandem with wife, Nancy, and daughter, Cheryl. He took on the duties of newsletter editor and club secretary, the latter he retained along with his job at the plumbers union head office until his emigration to Canada in 1957.
Once in Canada, Ken latched on to the Toronto cycling scene, where he met up with a bunch of British émigrés and joined a local cycling club.
In 1971 Ken was offered the job as executive director of the Canadian Cycling Association. He was in office during Canada’s first golden era of cycling, when the country hosted the 1974 world championships and the 1976 Olympic Games. Later, Ken became director of ‘non-resident sports,’ looking after the affairs of the sports that didn’t have enough participants to warrant an office and staff.
Ken continued cycling well into his 80s. Cheryl said that he often talked about his days at Balham with great affection. The new Club is very honoured to be able to share his love of the sport and his old club on these pages. Look out for future blogs.
Have you or any family members got any photos or club memorabilia from the Balham CC? Do you remember Ken Smith? Email me at email@example.com or drop me a line in the comments box. I would love to hear from you.
With thanks to Cheryl Button who I had the pleasure of meeting in November 2016 after a number of email exchanges about her father. All photos from the scrapbook.
With thanks to Les Humphreys a long time friend of Ken who was a great help in connecting the BCC Blog with Cheryl. He had a few copies of photos that have been used in previous blogs most notably club dinner menu article. Les also wrote a fitting obituary in the Ottawa Citizen and we’ve pilfered some of his words for this article.
Canadian Cycling Magazine also wrote a very nice piece on Ken in 2013 and I’ve borrowed a few paras from it