As good as today has been I have been saddened by the news of the passing of a local legend. Now the word legend is banded around a lot these days and I’m not sure what the quantifiable definition of the word legend is, as a noun it means extremely famous, but as an adjective it means very well known – what is the difference, I do not know. What I do know however is since the news broke today that Les King had passed away this morning my social media page has gone into overdrive on stories of him. Not one person has had a bad word to say about him and he really has been a popular Wymondham Legend for generations.
Recently Les arranged a charity football match for his 80th Birthday. He reunited Wymondham Town Players of old (some very old hehehe) he convinced everyone who played, a number of spectators and anyone else who was passing to donate funds to Star Throwers Cancer Support Charity he was their Patron and very proud to wear the chain he had for being patron. The truth is he didn’t need to convince any of us to contribute such was our fondness for this gentle giant.
Long before my lifetime he was a local boxer and knowing him his hands were like spades and he had a real power and frame. Growing up my earliest memories were of his involvement in a number of things in Wymondham, he had a removal firm, was the manager/owner of Regal Cinema in the town (the site of many a first kiss for the people of Wymondham I am sure), his involvement in the local sports scene and in particular Wymondham Football teams, and then as the King of Sport when he owned a sport shop in the town with the same name. My entire childhood Les King’s name was synonymous with Wymondham and business in the town and he would always talk to anyone, I never bought something from his sport shop without being there for over 15 minutes he was just that type of person.
However it was the size of Les’ heart that is remembered most fondly and why he touched so many people’s lives. There was an article in the local evening news on the 13th May 2013 that really summed up the type of man Les was. His Proudest Achievements was his charity work and he worked tirelessly with a number of local charities, completing sponsored walks, and various crazy things all for local charities. A kinder and more gentle a giant I have never met.
He never seemed to forget a face, and even now I am bald, twice the size I was once whenever he saw me in the town he would stop and ask me how I was and we would catch up. My fondest memories of my childhood from Les were either playing football with him in all weathers, joining us for snowball fights in the days we had proper snow and trips to the cinema. Les has published many books about Wymondham, his charity work and little pieces of history. If you were in his book he’d let you go to the cinema for free, if some of my older mates won man of the match awards at the weekend they got in the following week for free and it inspired us younger kids to want to work hard and play well. Sometimes he’d let you go in for free just because that was the man, the gentle giant that he was. If you were a few pence short he’d tell you to make it up another week and you would offer it and seldom would he take it.
Once inside the cinema he had strict, well fair rules that you were expected to uphold. However being kids we sometimes forgot ourselves and got noisy and boisterous. For such a big man he moved with stealth in the cinema. Suddenly if you were messing around a torch would be shining in your face and you would get a stern talking to. He would then walk off chuckling to himself at the way he’d made you jump out of your skin, embarrassed you and your mates or worst of all in front of a girl. Two stories stick out in my mind at the cinema.
Once when hubba bubba was all the range I’d rammed a whole packet in my mouth and had managed to blow several bubbles, of which when they burst were loud. Proudly I’d got one the size of my face, or so it seemed, and simultaneously with my mate Birdie popping it so it stuck all over my face in my eyebrows I had that torch beam in my face. I was terrified and Les just laughed and calmly said no more bubbles lads!
Another time a few of us were on dates (it closed when I was around 15/16) and we may or may not have been trying to impress a bit, we were being a bit noisy, had our feet up on the rows in front (not with anyone sat there mind, we’d never have done that), all of a sudden without warning he’d cuffed me round the back of the head. I nearly crapped myself and dropped whatever sweets I had on my lap, usually Rhubarb and Custards from Jepson’s and some sort of bag of wine gums from the cinema – these were the days they didn’t mind you bringing in your own sweets. After being told to keep our bloody feet off the seats off he went returning a few minutes later with a bag of sweets to replace the ones I’d dropped. He let kids and the youth be kids and young, he had standards but to me he was always a fair and kind man.
I’m going to finish with some of the tributes others have paid to Les today on social media;
RIP Mr Wymondham, Les King.
I would like to use this post for people to share their personal memories of the Great man.
For me there are many, but perhaps the one that truly sums up his character was about 30-35 years ago. A group of us lads were playing football over Browick Rec, in snow a foot deep and he came over and joined in with the game. I know it meant a lot to us kids. Probably why i can still recall it so vividly all these years on. – Mark Banham creator of Wymondham Matters Facebook Page
I have loads of memories of the great man. I know its early days , but wouldn’t it be great if we had a statue of him sitting under the market cross or somewhere so we could sit with him and future generations would still know about all the things he done. – Hayden Fricker
“Get yer feet down”
“I know your father”
“People have come to see the film, not listen to you!”
RIP Les, you are a legend. – Gary Cole-Wilkin
My first job when I left school was working for Les at Olympic removals. It was a YTS so didn’t pay much, so Les gave me extra work at the Regal to bump my wages up. A true gent who will be very missed…….. I think he deserves a statue. RIP Mr Wymondham. – Adrian Mansfield (This reminded me of the jingle I’ve probably not heard it in decades but it was “For removals and Freight, Les King is your Mate”)
I met Les through Star Throwers. He was a gentle giant personified. Such a kind, big heart. For all he did for Star Throwers I will miss him the most for the times he would just sit and chat with me for a few minutes about anything and everything. RIP Les. – Steven Ho
Les was a good lad. First met him over 30 years ago, he watched me and some mates playing tennis in our road, and came back an hour later with new rackets and balls. Always said hello when I bumped into him. RIP Mr Wymondham. – Tony Hannant
A massive loss to Wymondham. Lived close by to Les for years. Have some great memories of him. Always used to call me Trace never changed it ! Bless him. Thank you Les for all your hard work in the town over the years, also for the wonderful work you done with Star Throwers, sleep tight legend x – Shelley Brice
I’ll never forget him did a lot for my 2sons in local football and for that I’ll be forever grateful wonderful man. How about naming the Kings Head Meadow after him – The Les King Memorial Field – Joan Parry
Very sad.Remember him and Olympic Removals, the van he used to come round in hiring out videos in the 70s, the Regal and always seeing him in the pool at Park Farm.A great Wymondham character and fund raiser.Will be missed – Anne Hamilton
One year when Chapel Road School was in need of a driver, Les drove the school bus and took my son to school and back every day. He would bring the kids all sorts of stuff, including Santa hats at Christmas, and they could not get on Les’s bus without their hat on. If they were early they would always drive to the train line to watch the trains. I don’ think I have ever met anyone with such a big heart, and I doubt I will ever again. Goodnight Les, and God Bless – Fran Young
More tributes can be read on the the local Evening News Website