Green Barmy with Gordon Sparks
LAST week's Green Barmy featured the construction and installation of the original floodlights at Home Park in 1953.
As far as lighting was concerned, there were other areas of the Home Park stadium that also needed consideration.
With the floodlights covering the area of the pitch, safety procedures had to be taken to ensure all requirements were met before the advent of football on dark evenings could be played.
With the proposals drawn up by the illuminations manager of the General Electric Co Ltd, ancillary lighting and emergency plant were agreed upon with the electrical contractors and the company's Plymouth branch.
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As well as the new grandstand dominating the Central Park skyline, the rebuilding of Home Park also provided the club with the opportunity to not only improve facilities for supporters, but also members of staff.
Although the grandstand had been built and was already accommodating spectators, not everything within was fully complete when it opened.
In September 1952, work lasting three months began on the fitting out of the home and away dressing rooms and also the opening of the players' tunnel.
The changing rooms, having virtually kept the same shape to the present day, provided a much improved space for the players to prepare for matches. At the opposite end of the corridor to the home dressing room were the steps that led down to the tunnel, which gave access to the pitch at the half-way line.
On July 1, 1953, plans were submitted for the new administration block and supporters' club, the building which is still in evidence today inside the main entrance to the stadium.
At the east end would be the manager's office with the adjoining secretary's office. The former would, in later years, be moved to the western end of the block.
On the opposite side of the secretary's office would be the general administration office and counting office, conveniently situated next to the ticket office and pay-in hatch.
With a window looking out to the east side, this would become a focal point for supporters wishing to purchase tickets advance, and also where queues were formed when tickets for big matches became available.
A direct link between the football club and supporters was made to highlight the importance fans were to the club, and the need for direct communication with Argyle. The appointment of a public relations officer saw to every need, dealing with all enquiries, and complaints that may be forthcoming and even dealing with lost property.
The supporters' club also had offshoots in the shape of club huts which were open around the stadium on match days and became a one-stop for all requirements.
Travel tickets could be purchased for away games, some of which required overnight travel in those pre-motorway days, but breakfasts were included in the price.
The supporters' club also became something of a travel agent.
The club's allocation of tickets for international matches was sold to members – and not just for home games.
One example saw a trip to the USSR for England's game against Russia in Moscow in 1958, with the price for a two week trip, including all travel, accommodation meals and match ticket for £87.
In addition, some Argyle fans took advantage, a month later, of a 13-day trip-of-a-lifetime to Sweden.
For £58, not only all travel, meals and hotel but also tickets for both World Cup semi-finals and the final.
Also on sale were souvenirs which came in the shape of ball point pens, badges, brooches, club ties and the favourite of the supporters – the annual Argyle handbook.
The minimum cost of an annual subscription to the supporters' club was one shilling (5p) which gave the opportunity to buy the embroidered blazer badge for one shilling and threepence. Regular dances and social evenings at various venues around the city were also arranged for members.
There was one huge benefit for members, many of whom had no doubt been persuaded by their offspring to join the supporters' club. Each year, club members were invited to make written applications for their sons to become ball boys – an opening that also became available to the newly created junior section.
All applicants had to be 12 or 13 years of age, and also had to submit their height when submitting their name for consideration. Nine boys were chosen for each season's games, eight of whom would appear at every match on a rota system.
Even the needs of incapacitated supporters were considered, thanks to the Toc H football broadcasts.
With commentaries provided by volunteers from the grandstand, Argyle's home matches were relayed to eight hospitals in Plymouth as well as a selection of old people's homes at a total cost of £260 per annum.
The service was recognised by the parent club who, in 1957, made a donation of £75 and also gave permission for a bucket collection to be made at a home game to raise much needed revenue.
Still inside the confines of the grandstand, further improvements took place with the opening of a new members' room, the directors' room and also the tea lounge. Those additions, in July 1957 were completed at the same time as a feature that was would become more immediately visible to the majority of fans were first proposed.
But, as with the construction of the grandstand a few years earlier, the scheme suggested for terracing at the Lyndhurst Road entrance to Home Park was not given instant approval by the city fathers.
In February 1959, there was a case of deja vu when the first application was submitted for improvements at the Barn Park End of the stadium.
The reply from the council offices stated that the planned exit consisted of "a very unsatisfactory set of steps in a ramp". Furthermore, it was requested that the "new scheme should be based on modern design methods and greatly improved."
For supporters of a certain age, the Lyndhurst Road and Barn Park episodes can be hereby traced to the emergence of the famous 'TEN STEPS START HERE' signs that became clearly visible.
April 1959 was the date that saw the erection of a reinforced standing space on the northern side of the stadium which became known to Argyle fans as 'The Popular Side'.
The 1950s was a decade that had seen vast improvements to a stadium with the comfort of each supporter paramount in the minds of the board of directors.
It is also worth noting that the work was completed while keeping Argyle's financial head above water.