Things I remember from my childhood
I remember Lizzie Salt, who helped my Mother clean the house, when we were living in 43a Horace St, used to take me up Sedgley Beacon, because the people in those days believed the air under the reservoir tanks helped anyone with breathing problems.
Grandfather Addiss once took me to see the reservoir at Shaver's End, he had to carry me back to Grandma's.
Being taken to Hurst Hill Infants School, the Governess was Miss Barnett, some of the teachers I remember Miss Bailey, Mrs Allen, Mrs Cox. Later when I moved to the Senior School the Headmaster was Mr J Dunton, later it was Mr T.B.Davies and he was succeeded by Mr Smout, some of the teachers were Messrs S Parkes, W. Nicholls, Williams, Misses Holmes, Wilkes, Howse, Dunton.
My Mum, because she had a shop used to visit warehouses in Birmingham, W.C.Smith, Bell and Nicholson's etc., usually on a Thursday so when we came out of school I went down to Grandma's until Mum came to fetch me.
Grandma always baked her own bread on a Thursday so she would give me a piece of bread and butter off the end of a loaf while the bread was still warm saying I hadn't ought to do this, warm bread isn't good for your stomach so don't tell your Mother. I remember some of the meat at Grandma's being cooked on a meat jack (this was a clockwork gadget which was hung from the jib on the front of the blackleaded coal fire) It rotated clockwise and then anti-clockwise, she also used a toaster which later became known as a Dutch oven. Any bacon, sausage, pigs pudding my Dad cooked was always in the toaster, one of the benefits of cooking with the meat jack or the toaster you could always get a piece of dip.
Going down to Gospel End during school holidays, we were taken by Joe Griffiths who was Annie Pugh's Father. We took a bottle of pop made by Mrs Hill in Lime Street, some pieces of bread and butter and jam. Mr Griffiths took his billycan, some tea, sugar and milk and we got water from a spring that gushed out the wall of what is now the Limes Nursing Home, today that spring is piped and still evident. We played in the wood on the opposite side of the road to the then Gospel End Common, now part of Baggeridge Country Park, that is where we collected wood for the fire to boil water for the tea. Mr Griffiths showed us how to whittle sticks so on the way home through the Seven Corn Fields we had a stick to throw. The wood at the opposite side to the common which went down to Penn Common was cleared by Italian prisoners of war of the 1939-45 war.
I can remember going to Bilston with my Mother on one of "Sixtie's Brakes" this vehicle was a four wheeled cart drawn by two or sometimes four horses, dependant upon whether it was market day. On the way back at the Timberyard Bridge all passengers except nursing mothers and small children had to get off the brake while it came over the bridge, men passengers were expected to push to help. The journey was finished at Joe Large's, (the White Horse Public House). No attempt was made to ascend Cann Lane bank, the correct name of Sixties was Hopkins & Aston who were coal merchants. The boast was they had an eighty seater brake, Sixty himself (Hopkins) and twenty passengers. On arrival at Joe Large's passengers alighted, Those waiting to go were then allowed on to the brake and so it went back to Bilston and that was the service.
I remember going to Kinver as an outing from the Coppice Chapel, we went to see the Rock Houses, I think there was one still occupied, we had our tea at Robinson's Tea Rooms, which was up towards the Church. We then went to The White Hart Hotel where the adults had refreshments, my treat was a packet of Smith's Potato Crisps with the little blue packet of salt.
I remember going to Bridgnorth on an outing from the Chapel, it was on one of Davenport's coaches, I think it had solid tyres and when we got to Hermitage Hill both going and coming all adults had to get off the coach, it had a canvas top but no side curtains.
I remember being taken to Dudley on a tramcar by uncle Bill, the trams ran between Wolverhampton and Dudley, and were replaced by the trolley buses, which because a few people were knocked down by them because they were so quiet in operation they became known as "Whispering Death."
I remember being taken down the Straits to Himley Wood to hear the nightingale sing.
I remember the Coppice Chapel Sunday School party being held on Whitsuntide Monday each year, There was a procession headed by the Chapel Banner, which was quite recently evident in the room above the Sunday Schoolroom. We walked along Clifton Street, up Gorge Road, along White's Drive to a field opposite what we called The Belgians (there were wounded Belgians soldiers housed there during the 1914-1918 war, its proper name was Turl's Hill House. The field we went to belonged to Mr Simeon Perry's brother who was a coalman and also had a shop on the opposite side of the road to Pitt's shop on the end of Claremont Road. The table tops and the trestles were fetched from the Chapel on the coal wagon and returned the next day. One of the highlights of the day was the hot air balloon, Mr Webb who was then the organist at the chapel made one each year, they were made with a wire frame and coloured paper, a pad soaked in methylated spirits was located at the base of the mouth of the balloon and when lit the heat generated inflated the envelope, when it was fully inflated it was released with a stamped and addressed postcard tied to it asking the finder to post the card saying where the balloon had come down.
I remember being taken to The Belgians (Turls Hill House) to see my Mother's Aunt Anna who had rooms in the building, to get to where she lived you had to go up a wide steel staircase, I think her name was Caswell.
I remember keeping bantam fowl, the banty cock could fly from the roof of the slaughterhouse at the back of 43A, into what we called Granny Beach's yard and then found his way back along the street to the top yard. If we didn't find the eggs the banty hen had laid, and there were many places she could hide them, she would go missing and would appear with her little brood of chicks and then the banty-cock would fight anything.
The Midland Red Buses ran from Wolverhampton, through Monmore Green, past the Manor Works, up to the White Horse and then back to Wolverhampton, they weren't capable of going up Cann Lane, the buses were made by Tilling-Stevens and had solid tyres.
I remember an overhead railway affair which carried hardcore from what we called the Cinders, it passed over Biddings Lane and overhead to Ettingshall where Tarmac Ltd. was in those days. There was a hermit with a donkey who we called Danny Kissbump, we used to throw stones on to his shelter which was built with galvanised sheets, you can imagine what it must have sounded like and so he always chased us.
On 9th November 1927 I remember marching down from school to see the then Prince of Wales drive along the Birmingham New Road to open the road to traffic, he later abdicated in 1936 as King Edward VIII but was never Crowned.
Uncle Charlie Beach had the butchers shop on the corner of Horace St and Rifle St, the slaughterhouse for some time was the one at the back of 43A in the top yard, there was also a sheep pen, a pig sty, a stable and shelter for the float, the horse was a grey mare called Dolly. I delivered meat on a bicycle before I went to school when I was old enough and worked in the shop on Friday night and Saturday. I went to the cattle market at Wolverhampton with Uncle Charlie standing in the float, there wasn't any seating. He also bought for Uncle Joe "Captain" Flavell, his shop was on the corner of Caddick St and King St, so usually you had to stand with sheep and pigs on the way back, if he bought any cows then Frank Mills and Bill Weaver would go to drive the cattle along the road home. When he had bought any cows we always used to call in to the Aunt Anna's for a cup of tea and to give the two lads who both lived in Rifle St some time in front for a rest.
Uncle Charlie at one time had two Dalmatian dogs, one with black spots end one with brown spots.
Seeing the Graf Zeppelin from the doorway of 43A, it flew through the smoke of the then steelworks at Ettingshall and then the railway line towards Birmingham, (the Black Country Bugle issued November 1989 quotes the date as 1935 which was later corrected to 1932).
The first radio set my father had was built by Uncle Bill Whitehouse, it occupied half of the sideboard in the living room with a horn trumpet on top of the sideboard, the batteries/accumulators had to be taken to Copes garage (beside where Job Horton's is now) later they were taken to Jack Nicholls in Clifton street and lastly to Rennie Greensill in Ivy House Lane.
At the farm in White's Lane, Joshua Payne, they kept a cows milk especially for newborn babies, the cow was called Dolly , I collected milk from there for Hazel.
Having to take cigarettes to Tom Smith in Cinderhill, Beck Hughes down the "backside" (Walter St), Arthur Wright in Hartland Ave, The Druids Head, The Queen's Arms and the Old Gate, and sometimes to Florrie Martin's, she used give me cigarette cards, if you went for Mom's beer either to Adams or Martins they had to put a sticky over the cork in the bottle. they wouldn't serve a juvenile beer in a jug. Later Mom had the beer delivered by Davenports.
Being taken to the engineering department at Cannon to see a model railway engine which been built for Mr Douglas Clayton, one of the owners of the company in those days. It weighed 6 tons and could pull a load of 30 tons at 40 mph. It ran on a 15" track around the grounds of Hardwicke Manor, Near Tewksbury, the foreman of the department gave me one penny telling me to give my brother half, his name was Mr Arthur Aston and lived in Meadow Lane.
Carrying dinners to the Cannon, when I came out of school and to be at the Cannon before the siren blew at 12:30 dinner time, Dad's was always in a basket made by Mr Vince on Bunting's Bank, Uncle Edgar's was in a bag. Their dinner was in an enamelled basin wrapped in a red and white handkerchief and then a towel to keep it warm. I was supposed to get sixpence a week off Aunt Mary but she conveniently forgot it on many occasions, my Mom told not to ask for it. We took dinner four times a week because Monday was washing Day and no cooked dinner on that day.
Father was foundry foreman and also the pot warehouse, sometimes I had to go and visit people to tell them whether to go to work or certain days or not, names I remember, Joe Hickman, Bill Harris, Job Allen and Jennie Langford, she lived in a bungalow in Swan Village, Woodsetton which was the last surviving Toll House in this area, it was demolished brick by brick in 1988 and rebuilt in The Black Country Museum at Dudley.
The Policeman was PC Pidcock he lived in Clifton Street and like other boys I played Kick the Can, Knock Peg, Holla Bolla, Knock the Door, and even Football in the Street. Haywards cleared the schools and would always tell the policeman if you had been in the playground when you shouldn't, so he would come along and if you were doing anything you shouldn't and started to run he would-run beside you and with his folded cape he would sweep you off your feet, he ran for Staffordshire Constabulary so really he could run faster than any of us. I remember him catching Freddie Mills and hanging him on the school railings, telling him to stay there until he came back, but we went and told Mr Mills who came and lifted him down.
I remember swimming in the canal by Coseley Tunnel and by the Steelworks, the water discharged from there was quite warm, someone once told my Dad so when he came home from work I got a good talking to and a clout across the back of the head.
The first time I remember going to the seaside for a holiday was to Blackpool, we stayed with a Mrs Maulin, the arrangement was Mom bought the meat etc Mrs Maulin provided the Potatoes and vegetables, I don't think Dad went with us but we were with Aunt Julia. We also went to Rhyll for Holidays, Here we stayed with a Mrs Philips at 32 River St, Sometimes when we went her daughter Nancy would be on holiday from Aberystwith University and they would Speak in Welsh. Many happy hours were spent fishing in the river Clwyd, Standing listening to the Billy Parkin's Show up by the Pavilion, and sailing my model yacht which I christened Shamrock, Sir Thomas Lipton raced yachts in those days he called all his yachts Shamrock. We also went to Blackpool and stayed with the Misses Shaw at Dorion House, it was up the street passed Uncle Tom's Cabin, it was very Strict Baptist there and I was expected to play the piano for hymn singing on Sunday evening after coming out of the nearby chapel.
"Poor Ben" Flavell and Ernie Jenkins used to come around the streets selling wet fish from their cart, Poor Ben had a cry to warn of his approach "God Bless the Little Babbies" In the district there were three brothers hardly referred by their correct name Joe "Captain", "Poor Ben" and "Poor Bill" All were Flavells
Brook Bond tea vas delivered to the shop in a Two Stroke Chain Driven Van which was painted red it was built by Trojan. Bread was delivered by Cookes by horse drawn van .
At this time there were only 3 motor cars in the district Billy Mobberley, whose registration number was always DA 213, transferred from one car to another, as was the radiator cap a horse and jockey, Major Mobberley, his brother who also had a belt driven Triumph motor cycle which had quite a big fly-wheel on the crank case. Dr Millington, it was said he couldn't drive and so he was chauffer driven by Mr Len Rudd.
There was a Blacksmith with his forge in part of Mobberley's brickworks, his name was Mr Bridges. Sometimes he would let you bellows for the fire, he always made you stand well clear of a horse that was being shod.
In between the top and bottom parts of Mobberley was Victoria Firebrick Works there was a small railway track, this was used to transport the mixed fireclay from the clay mill to the moulding shop, it was a series of four wheeled trucks pulled by a horse, the horse drivers name was Mr Price.
Across the Brampits there were three football pitches, Bunting's Bank, The Sixty, and Fanningley, the locals referred to it as Fanley, I've played football on them all, in the summer we used to play cricket on the Sixty and with some of the bowlers it was quite a dangerous wicket. Across the Brampits there was also the Black Bank which we used to slide down on old trays etc, not very good for the trousers if you came off the tray and went down on your backside.
My Dad once had an AJS motor-cycle combination and with my younger brother, Alan in the sidecar and me on the pillion wert for a ride, we finished hitting the wall at Four Lanes End, both of us got cuts. After repair the motor cycle was put into the slaughterhouse at the back of 43A until I think a scrapman took it away, while it was there I spent some happy hours playing on it.
I remember having to fill the boiler in the washhouse (the brewse) from the well in the top yard ready for Mom to wash on Monday. There was no hoist, you just dropped the bucket attached to a rope down the well, unfortunately sometimes the bucket came adrift, then you had to fish for it with the grappling iron, which was an arrangement with three hooks.
A Mr Elwell a local scrap merchant tried to drain the second open works pool by pumping the water into the brook, he failed but we used to put something over the outlet to see what we caught, the second openworks is now part of the Bramford Estate.
I used go over the New Forest (which is now Sedgemoor Park Estate, Lanesfield) and stone the newts or catch Gudgeon fish, we didn't realise what we were doing killing the newts apparently they were Crested Newts, now an endangered species, in fact before any building was started the pool was partially drained so that the newts could be netted and taken to a local nature reserve.
Going up to the Wren's Nest and going into the Seven Sisters caverns, and some of the others caves, one of which we called The Bottle Cave, it was opposite to the house where Roberts used to live. To get into this you needed a rope to get down to where it was, on occasions it was Mom's clothesline.
Going into Whitehouse's wood to go into the cave where Mr Whitehouse shot himself, you had take your shoes off soon after the entrance because there was a stream which ran into the brook which flowed down through Payne's and Foster's fields under the roadway by the Brook Public house and across the Brampits.
Sometimes when there were excursion trips on to the seaside Dad used to take us, it meant walking to Wolverhampton because there weren't any buses running so we used -to call in at Aunt Anna's in Monmore Green for a rest and a drink, and the same on the way back.
When I was about twelve years of age or thereabouts like the other boys in my class at school I had to march down to Mount Pleasant School where we were given lessons in woodwork, the teacher was Mr George gee who was very strict, in fact I remember him throwing the blackboard cleaner at one boy after he had warned about talking. His instrument for punishment was a flat piece of wood shaped like a cricket bat, to use it he made you bend over a trestle.
Before the advent of water lavatories, it was dry latrines, which necessitated them being emptied periodically by the Night Soil Cart, we had a little ditty which went "The corporation s*** cart was full up to the brim, the corporation driver fell in and couldn't swim."
Dad bought an Alsatian dog, his kennel Club name was Baron of Nonar, we just called him Rex he was born and bred at The Whitestar Kennels, Bridgnorth.
I remember going works visit to Cannon from school when I was getting towards leaving school and we had to write an essay about it, and when I had to go to collect the prize for the best one my Dad was sitting beside the General Manager, Mr Walter Hawkins as proud as punch, the prize was a black and red propelling pencil with the Cannon trademark on it.
Towards November 5th we used to go across the Brampits and dig for what we called bats, which were something that would burn, we had one hole by Parkes Mill which eventually fell in, I think some of the were relics from the 1926 strike, the bonfire I went to was usually up the yard where Freddie Mills lived, my Mom used to give me enough big potatoes to roast so that every child present had one.
On Good Friday some of the older members of the top classes were invited to attend a service for children at St Mary's Church Hurst Hill, Miss Schula Howse one of the teachers met the ones attending at the school because it was a school holiday, being a Baptist I had to ask Mom and Dad whether I could attend, I was never refused and going into church we were given a little tract which depicted the "Crucifixion", coming out we were given a palm cross. The vicar was Rev. Dawson, the organist was Mr Thomas Meddings whose father kept Hurst Hill Tavern at that time. They had a parrot, and he or she swore, we used go and torment him to get it to swear.
Alan Cobham bought his flying circus to a field close to the Fighting Cocks, we went through The Dingle (it was at the foot of Sedgley Beacon, around where the Woodcross Housing estate is and Dovedale Road), not only did they give flying displays they also gave short pleasure flights for 2 Shillings and Sixpence (Twelve and Half pence) in today's currency, Half a Crown was lot of money in those days.
One great pastime during the spring and summer was birds nesting, anywhere where there were trees or hedgerows, the one nest we didn't takes eggs from was a Robins, it was supposed bring bad luck.
My Dad had two wooden sledges made at Cannon for Alan and myself, they had steel on the runners, when the snow was down the fields opposite the shop we were the envy of all. He also had two steel hoops complete with handles made, we ran behind them racing others who had old bicycle wheel rims.
On November 11th all the children of Hurst Hill schools were paraded into the playground before 11am, we sang "O God Our Help in Ages Past" then held two minutes silence in memory of those killed in the Great War 1914- 1918, then the names of those who were on the Roll of Honour in the top class at the school were read out, Uncle Tom Addiss was one name, we then sang "Abide With Me" and were hen dismissed.
As children we had little bombshells in which we put small explosive caps and either dropped them or threw up into the air to make them explode, then my Dad got me a different gadget made, which was cylindrical with the centre bored out and a rod to fit into the bore, with this I could put a few caps into it and with both ends supported with string I banged it against the wall and got quite a bang.
The lamps on vehicles were carbide, were two containers below the head of the lamp, in the lower one was put the carbide powder, in the top one was water, this was then adjusted to allow the water into the bottom container which then produced flammable gas, the flame height was then adjusted, because of the motor cycle Dad had there was a drum of carbide in the veranda and 1 used to steal some, with a puddle in the gutter and some carbide I could set the gutter ablaze, until Mom caught me, then the carbide was thrown away.
Long before Aynuk and Ali or the Black Country Society there was a local gentleman whose name was Mr Tom Salt who lived in Clifton Street, he used to broadcast the local dialect under the name of Joe Gutteridge, I heard him on many occasions, he attended Upper Ettingshall Chapel but he referred to it as Sodom. One of his friends was Joseph Nicholds (who composed the oratoria Babylon) the spelling of the name was peculiar to Coppice and Sodom I am sorry to say these remarks are not in chronological order, but as they were thought about.
Thomas Harold Beach
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