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Newcastle United Rick Galusha

In 1975 I was a 15 year old kid growing up in the American Midwest. My father had won a Rotary Club “Ambassadorship” which took our family from Omaha, Nebraska to Newcastle Upon Tyne. At 15, nothing your parents did was cool…but this was pretty cool. When we arrived, life in Newcastle was much different than it was in Omaha. As a larger city, Newcastle had mass transportation: even at 15 one could get just about anywhere. My parents had been having some challenges in their marriage and I was just about invisible. Being invisible, with easy transportation and the beckoning of a big, NEW city was about all it took.

In the fall I was enrolled in Heaton School. Wearing a suit and tie to school every day, and standing up when a teacher walked into the room – was very alien from school at home. During that year, about the time the band Queen released the single, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ I became friends with a kid at my school, David Wilson. David had grown up in Byker but now lived in Killingworth. As we would learn later in life, David was an explorer. Together, ‘Mutt & Jeff’ explored every niche of the downtown Newcastle, the Jesmond Dene, Northumberland’s countryside and the coast line. Coming from a landlocked state, the seaside was compelling. Having access to Newcastle City Hall gave me a chance to see band’s that I would never have seen in Omaha.

Among the new experiences for me was having a professional sports franchise within walking distance. Dave and his Killingworth neighbours were massive NUFC fans. When there were games we’d arrange to meet, go to the game and stand in the Leazes Terrace. Among the singing and bedecked ‘Black and White Army’ I’d try to decipher the songs (with little success). NO ONE stood for an entire game back home, let alone SANG. This was strange indeed – yet wonderful. This was the year when Malcolm McDonald led the team to the FAC cup game in London. For whatever reason I remember other players were Kennedy, Gowling and Burns. I remember this short fella from Liverpool being quite the sensation: of course Kevin Keegan would later have a run with Newcastle. I still have a satin-like NUFC/ FA Cup sash from this era and a lapel sticker to the FA Cup game at Wembley (which David attended).

Today, due to the wonders of the internet, I often tune in to hear McDonald’s radio program on the internet. Recently I met an English fellow now living in Nebraska that also lived this era of English football. When I told him about this radio show, the tears welled up in his eyes as he shared memory after memory.

I moved back to Newcastle in 1980 to attend college for a year and to renew my affair with St. James Park. Since then I took my wife to Newcastle for our honeymoon in 1991 – which delighted Sting when we met him in 1994. We took the brood down to Kansas City to watch the Magpies play ‘Sporting Kansas City’ in July 2011. It was 107 f in the parking lot. None-the-less, it was really great to share the team and the cheering with my kids. After the halftime we moved over to sit with the sizeable number of Geordies that had made the trip to KC. As the fans sang their songs my younger son asked, “Dad, what are they saying?” “Never you mind!” I replied. Eventually the twins sat next to an English guy that gave them an age-appropriate translation of the songs. By the end of the game our whole family joined in on a few songs – which delighted the kids to no end.

In 2012 my wife and I took our three children (14/11/2011) to Newcastle and showed them the old stomping grounds including St. James’ Park. Earlier this year, David and his wife Charlotte met Barb and me in New York City. As we explored The City, it was with great delight that we espied an NUFC flag posted on the façade of a Manhattan bar just north of Times Square. Today my oldest son is a Newcastle fan (although trading Ba really tested his loyalty!) Together we watch Newcastle play on cable. All of our kids have a closet full of Newcastle gear. Soccer is becoming more popular here in Nebraska. I like to think that my kids have the advantage of being aligned with a team whose history and rich traditions are well anchored.

I love that city, its people, the history and its charm. It is a love that my wife and I are trying to pass on to our kids. We’ll see you soon Newcastle. Until then, “H’way the lads” my friends!

Rick Galusha

 

Newcastle United Foundation have a heritage project for fans of all ages called Toon Times.

 

Toon Times will culminate with a major Newcastle United exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, although in the lead up to this event Toon Times wishes to reach out to all Newcastle United fans across the North East and further afield to get involved and share their memories, experiences, photos and memorabilia what people have collected over the years.

We are supporting the project by helping to collect NUFC memories online - fans can share their memories on the Replay Football website, simply select the Toon Times tag when submitting yours.

For more info contact the Toon Times Heritage Project Coordinator, Newcastle United Foundation, gavin.ferry@nufc.co.uk

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