Growing up in Brownhills part 2
Around the time I started at the Junior School, my grandmother passed away, and we moved house to live with my grandfather, further along Coppice Side at No 77. Compared with No 55 the new house was like a mansion. Our new abode was a four bedroom coal board house with a large garden, which included a pigsty.Downstairs accomodation, consisted of a large walk in pantry, a living room, kitchen and washroom. With only a cold water supply, and the old universal black leaded grate to fulfill our cooking and kettle boiling in the kitchen, the washroom boasted a coal-fired cast iron boiler, where copious supplies of hot water could be provided for bath nights, again using the zinc bath tub. Toilet facilities were provided by the brick-built toilet across the yard, no improvements there then. Attached to the house was a 2 stall stable which we used for coal storage and tool shed. The large garden, which already had an apple tree, damson trees, gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, was cultivated for vegetables, and we decided to use the pigsty and rear a pig. Down to the market to buy a piglet, which we fed with kitchen scraps and boiled potatoes, until fully grown.
Upon maturity ” sticker” Russell the local pig killer would call and the animal would meet its maker. After gutting and scraping, the carcase would be hung by the back legs from a hook in the washroom ceiling, with a bowl under its nose to collect any drips of blood.
After a few days of hanging Mr Russell would return to complete his work. The carcase would be cut up into sections, salted for preserving and wrapped in muslin. No deep freezers in those days. I remember a side of bacon hanging on the wall, and rashers sliced off when required. A treat at this time was to have the pigs bladder, which was inflated and used as a football.
Our first television was purchased in the early 1950’s. A large Ariel was erected outside, and the TV which was a Murphy had a 9” or 12” screen, sat upon the chest of drawers. Transmission was by BBC only with 1 channel covering afternoons and evenings, finishing at 9-00 pm with the epilogue.
Entertainment in the Brownhills area was limited to the Regent Cinema in the High Street, the boy scouts, or one of the local youth clubs.
The youth club, held in the Methodist Chapel by the Rising Sun, was just a short walk across the common from Coppice Side.
In 1952 my education moved to the Central boys School on Brownhills bridge, alongside the Railway line.
After three years at the Central, I successfully took the entrance exam to Wednesbury Technical College for a two-year course. Situated in Holyhead Road Wednesbury, the College was accessible using the No 37 or No 38 bus’s operated by Walsall Corporation Transport from Bradford Place. Getting into Walsall was by means of the No 11 bus from Pelsall Road. Walsall Corporation operated a fleet of Guy Arab,s at that time.
The College had a strict uniform, badged blazer, tie and the dreaded cap, which was kept folded in the pocket until the last-minute. most lessons were carried out in Holyhead road, but for practical metalwork we travelled to the workshop in Darlaston. Physical education lessons and school dinners meant a walk to the main College in Walsall Road. Bus times on the 37/38 routes were every 10 minutes, but the No 11 to Brownhills was every half hour. Most days I just missed the No 11 by a small margin, and had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. A bag of baked spuds from Ant’s mobile stall, outside the Imperial picture palace, made the wait more bearable. Winter periods in that era meant thick foggy nights and sometimes the dreaded smog. On a few occasions, due to the thick fog, a long walk back to Brownhills had to be made, as Walsall Corporation stopped the bus service on safety grounds.
After two years at College, it was time to seek employment. A visit to the Youth Employment Office in Brownhills High Street, by the CO-OP store secured an interview at BIP Engineering at Streetly, for an engineering apprenticeship. After a successful interview I started at the Aldridge Road factory in August 1957. The large factory site, which also incorporated Streetly Manufacturing was serviced by Dunn & Hale coaches from the Brownhills & Burntwood areas, and Walsall Corporation from the Walsall area, bringing in workers by the hundreds. A nominal fare payment was deducted from the participants wages to help cover the cost. After 12 months in the training school, I signed my indentures as an apprentice draughtsman on an initial wage of £3-4-7d for a 44 hour week, and started a day release ONC course at Walsall College. Works transport changed as Harper Brothers bought out Dunn & Hale and took on all their contracts.
In 1960 the houses in Coppice Side were compulsory purchased for industrial development, and our family moved to 171 Pelsall Road, opposite the Jolly Collier Public House. This 4 bedroom Council house had a downstairs bathroom, and hot water on tap. The hot water was by means of a back boiler mounted behind the fireplace in the kitchen, which by capillary action heated the water in the galvanised tank situated in the kitchen at a higher level to the fireplace. Although the toilet was still outside, a verandah enabled us to make calls of nature trips, in the dry and warm.
In 1962 I met my future wife,and our first outing was to the Regent Cinema in Brownhills High Street, on the last day of opening. The film we watched was, The Man who Shot Liberty Valance.