Gerald (Jed) Hapel. “A Tribute”
I knew Jed as we all knew him for over forty five years.
As one of the original members of the “bashing fraternity” known as the “Birmingham Road show” in the mid 1970’s, he remained a permanent fixture in the Birmingham railway scene until his recent death.
Jed was a character whom a lot of people couldn’t understand. I knew that as a young man and a worker, he had an “issue” which profoundly affected his later life.
He had a problem in that he said what many only thought and that occasionally got him into a bit of bother.
Still if I may quote a Latin saying “de mortuis nil nisi bonum” which translates as “of the dead nothing unless good”. Do not speak ill of the dead as they can’t speak back.
Jed was noted for his appearance being a tall and well built man.
No one kicked sand in Jed’s face unless they were suicidal!
I’ve heard normals refer to him as “Giant Haystacks” after the wrestler. Some bashers called him “The Yehti” to most of us he was plain Jed.
With the advent of travel cards in the late 1970’s Jed gave his name to the off-peak West Midlands card as the “Jed-Card”. He would be out on the Wolverhampton-Coventry “corridor” nipping home around 3.30 pm and back out after 6pm. In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was always a chance of something “turning up” and Jed didn’t was to miss anything.
He could be helpful if you were about and needed to know about a particular working. He would give you the “gen” but did become a bit awkward if he thought that you were with-holding something. Can you blame him?
He coined a new phrase to describe a lack of “gen” from somewhere as being “A Black Hole”.
The early morning coach from Birmingham to London was christened the “Jed Liner” I think it came from Manchester and “Doomsday Derek” from Hyde gave a vivid description of a huge figure boarding the coach in Digbeth at “stupid o clock” in the morning. Jed was a regular user of the service.
Jed certainly got about a bit and on one occasion trekked up to Boness for a DRS 66 on the preserved line. He was not happy when shortly after it worked a return rail tour from Carlisle. I won’t repeat his quote!
Jed certainly could not be called a fashion icon! I certainly never saw anyone wearing a torn overcoat with gaffer tape holding it together.
The problem with the coats is that as Jed got older he got bigger as he couldn’t really exercise. He did try and did gym work and swimming.
Earlier the coats fitted him and I can claim to have seen Jed with the coat off! It was one Christmas in the late 1970’s and the road show was in the Mercat Cross pub Jed came in and the said overcoat was taken off to a massive round of cheering.
Jed always wore boots and I’m glad they never came off!
At this time a small group of us were invited back to his house for a slide and film show. I can still remember the huge pile of empty Rothmans cigarette packets on the mantelpiece, I never found out why. Jed smoked in those days and then went on to roll ups and finally stopped.
As a reformed smoker myself (forty two years) I can applaud Jed for his willpower.
Do you remember Jed on rail-tours? He would not buy coffee or tea and who can blame him. He would bring his own teabags/coffee and milk and cadge hot water from the buffet.
You may ask why Jed came out every day and went on “sentry duty” at Solihull? I think that I can answer this quite simply.
Jed needed to get out for his own sanity; at home in Edgbaston he probably felt the walls closing in. Goodness knows what the pandemic did to him.
I used to see him at Moor Street and Solihull on the odd occasions I was out there and would always advise him of anything interesting or what freights were out. In turn he would pass me little snippets of information.
Saturdays I would have an early morning run from The Hawthorns to Stourbridge Junction and back. Jed would seek me out. I think he realised that I understood things and took any mild ragging from me in fun. I put a smile on his face
Some of the younger bashers took to Jed. I think they saw him as a mentor.
Jed was an eccentric during his lifetime and it felt strange at Solihull the other day with no Jed there. At that time I had not been told of his death. If I had I would have downed a second pint for him in the White Swan (Solihull Weatherspoons).
I was not surprised at Jed’s passing as I had seen him slowly “running down”. However he did affect a lot of people’s lives and I think for the good.
He was active right to the end and was chatting to other bashers on a rail tour quite recently
I still smile when I recall him and some of his doings and sayings.
The Giant is a now “upstairs” and no doubt in receipt of a new overcoat and a perpetual “Jed Card” and automatically booked on the Late Mr Farrows rail tours.
Rest in Peace Mate.