When Queen Stella ruled the Firs
In the late 1940s Stella Cook was the queen of Norwich speedway - and as Derek James discovers, she went on to become an actress on the other side of the Atlantic...
More than six decades ago she was the Queen of Norwich speedway...today she is a fiesty 83-year-old grandmother living beside Lake Ontario in Canada.
My speedway story a few weeks ago included photographs taken in the late 1940s when Stella Cook, now Evans, was the beauty queen of The Firs and a much-loved celebrity in the city.
I was delighted her hear from her husband Jim in Canada who is pleased to report that Stella is still in reasonably good health and looks back on those heady days with so much warmth and affection.
When she was 17 Stella joined the ATS and during the war was working in the War Office in London.
After victory she posted in Germany and it was then her sister entered her for the title of Norwich Speedway Queen 1947.
'When I was demobbed I came home and then this letter arrived telling me I had been accepted for the final, which I won,' she said.
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Stella was a silver cup and she was picked up for every meeting, watched the speedway from the directors box and met the likes of George Formby and other visiting celebrities. She was friendly with the riders, local heroes, and travelled the county visiting the various fan clubs where she would hand out spot prixes during dances.
She always had a great love of drama and in 1963, just before the The Firs closed, her husband Jim was offered a job in Canada so they so they set off for a new life. First in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then Toronto, where she became a professional actress, appearing in many films and stage shows.
Her acting name is Stella Gaye
Stella never turned her back on Norwich. She has visited every year. She got homesick in 1996 and came back to live in the city, appearing in shows at the Maddermarket Theatre.
She now lives in Oakville, beside Lake Ontario and is still active in the movie actors guild. She has four children, Dianne, Barry, Zoe and Richard.
Thank you for all your memories of those fabulous speedway days when thousands of men, women and children would turn out on Saturday nights to cheer on the Stars.
Watch this space for more stories and pictures from the glory days of the fabulous Firs.