South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Jack and Valerie Parham

Profile: Jack and Valerie Parham - (Jul/Aug 2004)

Jack and Valerie Parham have given service to the DA for over forty years. We have long felt that this devotion deserves recognition so we have invited them to be the subjects of our profile for this issue. Jack's 'masterpiece' as he proudly describes it to me, follows.

As I (Jack) have been cycling for a long time, I am often asked how cycling today compares with cycling in the golden years of the 1950s. Although the volume of traffic was far less then, it certainly wasn't cleaner! Any cyclist who has travelled up a hill behind a lorry belching forth diesel fumes will know what I mean. Cycles have also become far lighter and easier to ride over the years. The first cycle I bought in the early fifties was a BSA roadster. It weighed a ton. I did manage to ride to Brighton on it - in those days the aim of every keen young cyclist was to ride to Brighton.

My other heroic feat was to ride without a break from Plymouth to London. I had run out of money and the only food I could afford was a 3lb bag of sugar. In case you think I am completely mad I would point out that I didn't do this ride on that heavy BSA roadster! There have been other changes of course. The cafés that catered almost exclusively for cyclists, such as 'Sunny Banks' and 'The Big Tea Pot', have now been replaced by 'Happy Eaters', Garden Centre and Supermarket cafés. Road surfaces, especially on minor roads, have deteriorated alarmingly as a result of the growth of motor traffic and lack of maintenance. Obviously, a great deal of money needs to be spent on them.

I was introduced to cycling in my early 20s by a friend I had known at school. We cycled together on Sundays and did several European tours. In those days only the very rich could afford to travel by air - the majority of holiday makers were compelled to travel by train. On one holiday we travelled overnight to Paris on a train that had hard wooden slatted seats, lights that didn't work, and thick black smoke that leaked through the windows. It was like something from an Agatha Christie mystery novel.

We eventually decided to join the Mitcham and Tooting CTC Section. I was later to be the Secretary of this Section which became known as the 'Mitoots' (the Section disbanded in 1986). In 1961 I married Valerie who at that time, had no idea what she was letting herself in for. We were eventually persuaded to help in the production and distribution of the runs list for the DA. It was produced on a duplicator that consisted of a stencil which required considerable skill to type, an inked roller which was very messy and a handle which had to be operated individually for each sheet of paper. Valerie was told that somebody would soon take over this arduous job, but some 40 years later there is still no sign of that person.

Whilst the work has reduced nowadays to the co-ordinating and typing of the Rides List, it is still a big job for Valerie. I was later persuaded to edit the Sou'wester. In those days the Sou'wester was a more substantial magazine and with Valerie's help was produced on that same duplicating machine. It subsequently grew to become a major print production job involving the work of a team of three toiling together over three evenings. That team included at varying times, Gerald Burt, members of the Coker family, Gerry Carlo and Colin and Shirley Quemby.

I imagined that once my editorship finished, I would be a free man. But no, I never learn. I volunteered to take on the role of Social Secretary and I still hold that position on the DA Committee. Today the role involves the organisation of the Annual Barn Dance but continues to entail a lot of administrative work to book the Hall, the Band and the Caterers, the printing and distribution of tickets and getting in some attractive prizes for the Raffle. On the night there is a lot of work setting up the tables and organising the programme of activities.

I retired from work some ten years ago. I worked at a shipbrokers and prior to that a variety of jobs including laundry management, selling canned food and market gardening. I think I was lucky because, in my younger days after the War there was a labour shortage and you could afford to chance your arm and not worry too much about the future.

As for my cycling, I still enjoy it as much as ever, riding on my Dawes Galaxy which I purchased in 1974 and is still doing good service. Obviously you slow down as you get older, but I think this isn't always a disadvantage. I love meandering along the Thames towpath to relax and enjoy the peace and tranquillity. I am constantly amazed at the number of cyclists who hurtle past with a look of grim determination on their faces. Surely you ride a towpath to relax - speed doesn't really matter does it?

I ride with my 'ex-Mitoot' friends Ralph Gommon, Ken Clark and Graham Godfrey on a Thursday (weather permitting). Valerie and I are heavily involved with the local branch of the RSPCA and are members of a local wine circle. We also belong to a jazz club in Carshalton. But the cycling continues to be an especially important part of my life. I may have retired from work but I do not intend to retire from my cycling because I still enjoy it so much.