I first encountered Johnny Hodges some 43 years ago when I was a 17-year-old apprentice electrician.
He was the young star-performer in the planning office, surrounded by ‘suits’.
But John, in his baggy green cardigan, with his un-fussy and uncompromising ‘skinhead’ haircut, and three-day growth, preferred to spend the morning tea-breaks down in the workshop among the electricians and fitters, his friends, sharing our refreshment and conversation about anything sport and politics.
I remember being so impressed with his ability to name every winner of the Epsom Derby, every FA Cup-winning team, as well as every World Heavyweight Boxing Champion that had ever existed.
Within the context of our daily banter, his knowledge was regularly tested: I can never remember him failing.
This was to be the embryo of what became a life-long fascination with, and admiration for, this man.
During my mid-20s, I was to once again encounter John at close-quarters.
I joined the Silverhill Club in 1981.
At that time, John was the secretary.
Well, that was his official capacity: but a more accurate description would have been ‘Mr Silverhill Club’.
Over the next few years, he held every elected position in that club, and, more than anyone in its history, single-handedly promoted and progressed the institution to the maximum benefit of all its members.
For the duration of his tenure, members enjoyed what was, in effect, ‘half-price drinking’!
In his most recent role, as my representative on Hastings council, his sense of duty and fair play as well as his enthusiasm and efficiency were undiminished.
I know for a fact, and as a result of personal experience, that he would attend the Town Hall every day, to receive his incoming correspondence, respond immediately to it, and attempt to resolve it as quickly as was humanly possible.
As will, no doubt, be stated elsewhere, John was passionate about his home town, and, in particular, its people and history.
He was also a collector of legendary status.
He was at his happiest, looking for artefacts from the past in second-hand shops and boot fairs; before relating what he had found, over a pint of real ale.
He was truly a man of the people.
Over the course of the last 40-odd years, I have known John, and without being in his constant company, would regard him as one of the best friends I’ve ever had: a man to be looked up to.
He was knowledgeable, intelligent, compassionate, and diligent. To be in his company was stimulating, interesting and good fun: because above all else, he was just a bloody good bloke.
All Saints Street
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