Skip navigation

Palace supporter Connie Mullins shares stories from her "first 100 years"

Features

Crystal Palace supporter Connie Mullins turns 100-years-old on January 20th, 2022. She has lived in SE25 since 1934, followed the club since 1951 and had a Season Ticket from 1969 until the pandemic prevented her attendance.

Here, in her own words, she recalls the stories of “her first 100 years”.

I moved to SE25 with my family when I was 12 and I have lived in the same house, overlooking South Norwood, for nearly 90 years now. We didn’t know the area at all initially; our relatives would ask: ‘South Norwood? Where on earth is that?’

I was working at Hartley’s, the jam manufacturer, when the war broke out and continued to travel to London Bridge each day. I remember walking from the station one day to find Whitworth Road in complete chaos after a bombing raid; it was unrecognisable, and I needed help from someone nearby to find my way across Whitehorse Lane and get back home.

The disruption the Blitz caused to train services became so bad I found myself waiting in massive queues at Forest Hill for two hours, so the Hartley’s staff slept at the offices on weekdays.

One evening the building suffered a direct hit, leaving my colleagues and I stuck in a lift. Some of the men died when the bomb hit their part of the building but thankfully most of us were safe. I have avoided the use of lifts ever since!

After the jam factory bombing I decided I would like to go into the airforce. I joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), which was established as a female auxiliary of the Royal Airforce in 1939. Here I am in my new uniform!

I served in the WAAF from 1943 to 1947; first at a large RAF base outside Cambridge called Waterbeach. There I learned to ride a bicycle. During the war I moved to two other bases, Mepal and Marham, also in East Anglia. Mepal played a major role in the war as it was the base where the Lancaster bombers started their raids.

I flew out to Dresden where they were photographing the terrible effects of the bombing and was horrified at the sight, but realised it was similar to what I had seen in London earlier in the war.

Later in the war another bomb fell even closer to home, damaging several houses on my road. Our house lost its roof and every ceiling except the dining room. My mum had left a meat pudding slow steaming in the kitchen while she was at work and, unlike the roof, it stayed intact after being flung to the top of the road. Our neighbours set about eating it!

When I left the WAAF in 1947 I returned to live with my parents and got a job with the Croydon Times, and then the Phoenix Assurance Company.

But life was to change when I met George in Jersey with my friend Joan in 1948, my first holiday after the war. I married George at Parchmore Methodist Church in Thornton Heath, in 1951, and our son David was born in 1955. Like most companies at that time, the Phoenix didn’t employ married women, so my work in accounts ended until much later in my life.

My marriage also opened the 70-year chapter of my life involving Crystal Palace.

Connie and husband George on their wedding day in 1951
Connie and husband George on their wedding day in 1951

George was a keen football fan and supported Arsenal from a distance in Jersey before the war but, after moving with me to South Norwood, had a football ground right on his doorstep. He started going to matches and, eventually, around 1951/52, I thought: ‘Why not join him?’

At first we stood on the Park Road terrace, but took our first seat in the Main Stand when I was expecting David. George was not used to sitting down at football and got cramp in his leg - he had to get up and stand at the back!

When David was born my mum and her friend Jesse used to look after him on Saturday afternoons so George and I could go to the games - now back on the terraces. David joined us when was old enough, and has been a Palace supporter ever since!

The three of us gradually saw Palace move up through the Third Division South, Fourth Division and Third Division with Laurie Scott, Cyril Spiers, Arthur Rowe, Dick Graham and later Bert Head, who got us to the top-flight for the first time in 1969. We used to have some nice trips to away matches like Norwich and Peterborough.

Over the years we gradually moved around the ground as improvements were made and new stands were built. From the Park Road terrace, which was quite high in those days, we moved to the new enclosure in front of the Arthur Wait stand built for promotion to Division One.

Connie and husband George in Jersey in 1948
Connie and husband George in Jersey in 1948

Later we moved to a seat in the stand itself. I remember the away fans were often quite close to us in what is today the away section. I can still remember the shrill voices of some Leeds supporters; a challenge to ‘Joyce the Voice’, who was our celebrity ‘shouty’ Palace fan on the old enclosure at the front of Arthur Wait.

Finally we graduated to the Main Stand. We started in the wings but in recent years moved to the Stanley Stephenson Lounge, where some of Palace’s most mature supporters reside! Just in the row in front of us sat Phil, who was already 100 when he attended his last game against Brentford at the start of this season before his sad death in early December 2021.

We had Season Tickets by 1969 when we reached the First Division. I remember the first match was at home to Manchester United, with Bobby Charlton (one of my very favourite players, who scored that day), George Best and Denis Law. It was hard to believe this was happening to Palace after so many years in the lower leagues - even more so as we managed a 2-2 draw thanks to Roger Hynd and Gerry Queen!

We were on holiday in the Isle of Wight until that Saturday morning but dashed home on the train to Waterloo to pick up our Season Tickets from the doormat just in time for kick-off; a benefit of being an SE25 girl, living so close to Selhurst Park!

Another highlight came in 1990 when we went to Wembley for the first time; again the opponents were Manchester United. I remember the long coach journey around the North Circular and, of course, Ian Wright’s two goals which had us within a hair’s breadth of being cup winners.

My next trip to Wembley for the Zenith Data Systems final a year later against Everton was even more rewarding with a 4-1 win. I remember David, George and I stopped off at the Beulah Spa on the way back for a celebratory meal. There was much red and blue there that evening!

In 2015 I had just had an operation to remove a melanoma from my face when Palace played at home to West Bromwich Albion, a team I had never taken to! That feeling was reinforced when the West Brom full-back hoofed a robust clearance 20 rows into the Main Stand and connected with my head.

A few matches later I was introduced to one of my all-time favourite Palace people, Mark Bright, who, together with co-owner Stephen Browett, presented me with a ball signed by the Palace first-team as a memento of my ‘header’ [lead image].

There, in summary, are my first 100 years – starting in 1922, moving to SE25 in 1934, picking up Palace in 1951 and continuing today.