7:00am Monday 7th March 2011
By Louise Robertson
As a 14-year-old boy, spending time in the 1948 London Olympic athletes' camp was an exciting time.
Frank Dobson, now 76, did just that when he helped his parents develop the athletes' photographs, through their business Kingston Photographic.
Now, as the borough prepares to host part of the 2012 Olympic road cycling race, Mr Dobson recalls his experiences working in the Olympic Village in Richmond Park, a converted military camp for more than 1,500 athletes.
The company, then based central Kingston, got the concession to print photographs taken by the athletes, and given the rationing that continued to grip Britain after the war, the Government gave them a special allowance to buy films.
The money raised a few eyebrows and at one point, the bank manager called his mother in for a word, where she was met by two policemen keen to know where it had come from.
Mr Dobson said: "It wasn't a huge amount, minute compared to what it would be now - the whole thing was on a shoe string budget."
He added said: "There was a real buzz around it because everything was just after the war and it was something the country needed.
"We did quite well at the Games and Kingston was very excited. It's fantastic that Kingston has the road race at the next Olympics."
The austere camp had a make do and mend feel to it, unsurprising given the entire Games only had a budget of £600,000, and even air raid shelters were converted into food stores.
Some teams left in dismay, unhappy with the conditions, but Mr Dobson said they were sparse, but acceptable, although admitted modern-day athletes would not put up with the same conditions now.
Only one of the huts still survives, after Malden Rifle and Pistol Club bought one to use as a clubhouse in 1965.
The only other trace left of the camp is a flight of concrete steps near Dann's Pond.
The Malden club that houses the hut was also where Mr Dobson himself trained in later years for his role in the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he competed in the 50m free pistol category, with two former Tiffin Boy students.
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