I have a dream – sharing a part of history with our Sporting Memories Group

In 1963, Barbara Waller (fifth from right) tagged along to a race-equality protest taking place in Washington DC with some friends she had met during her time travelling America – little did she know she was about to witness history.

Fast forward 60 years on and Barbara was recollecting this unforgettable moment in modern history to an astounded audience at the Sporting Memories club she attends along with her husband, run by Preston North End Community and Education Trust.

“Various people stood up and gave their quotes of memorable events but then I decided to stand up and mention Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963 in Washington – and to make it even more interesting I revealed to the group that I was actually there!

“At the time I was 21, I was having kind of what is now described as a ‘gap year’ as I had just finished college before I started a job – and my parents didn’t know I was going on this march and I wasn’t one for really telling them as such.”

It wasn’t until Barbara returned home that she realised that her appearance at the protest had been captured in print by one of the world’s biggest publications.

“Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, in September 1963, LIFE Magazine published a picture of the march in Washington and there I was on the centre pages! From that point on, everyone knew that I had been on the march.”

“At the time I don’t think we realised the importance of it. We knew it was a big day, with the crowd-of over 250,000 people there.

“I was travelling in America with a girl-friend of mine and we met up with these young boys, who were going on the march, even though they didn’t tell their parents they were, and they said ‘come with us’ - and we did – it felt like we were part of a select few white people who went on the march.

“I think when I look back, it’s probably one of the most important moments in history with regards to race equality.”

Being a part of history is something Barbara will never forget and she shared that experience in Washington during her career as a teacher. However, recently she has been supporting her husband who is living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Barbara reflected on how important the Sporting Memories club in Preston is not only to them both but also the wider community who attend regularly.

“I go along to the Sporting Memories sessions with my husband and they do a lot of reminiscence activities, which is great and seem to engage a lot of the people who come along. Recently, 20 of us from the group went to the National Football Museum, and I took a photo of one of the exhibitions which was about equality in the sport – which I think shows the connection between race equality and sport.

“The group is terrific for helping people. My husband played football for a long time at an amateur club, playing from when he was 16 and being involved even after 70! It’s been really helpful to come along (to Sporting Memories) and it’s been like a refuge place on a Tuesday.”

The Sporting Memories club run at Deepdale, home of Preston North End FC, is often attended by over 40 members of the local community and Barbara was keen to credit the club for the session they organise.

“My husband has made a lot of friends with people that he had never met before thanks to the club, and the people look after you as well – it’s a kind place.

“For my husband there are a lot of memories from football that stick in his mind, he is best friends with Alan Kelly senior and also remembers Mark Lawrenson, who recently came along to a session. He sometimes can’t remember what he had for breakfast but will remember going to an FA Cup final in the 1960s!

“The young leader of the group is Grace Birtwell, knowledgeable in all sports. She is very well organised and extremely supportive of people to participate in activities. Grace and the Preston team are very caring of everyone at the club and ensures that everyone enjoys it and participates as much as possible.”

A big thank you to Barbara for sharing her wonderful story of being a part of history and how she shared this with the Sporting Memories club in Preston. If you would like to find out more about the club in Preston, please contact Grace Birtwell via grace.birtwell@pne.com

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