Local People

By Bert Price

Bert Price was born in Kinver on 19 May 1911. His family moved to Bissell Street when he was four. He has lived there ever since.

As a boy I attended the Wesleyan Chapel Sunday School. Mr Fletcher of Beech Lanes was the Superintendent. The organist was Mr Parkes whose wife ran the draper's shop. He held an important managerial post with Birmingham Corporation. He was killed in a car crash. That was in the 1920s. His daughter Constance ('Connie') was a fine singer. She often sang as a soloist in church services.

I had one brother and three sisters. My brother was killed on the Belgian-French border in 1918. He was in the Coldstream Guards. I remember Armistice Day at the end of the Great War. We had street parties just as we did after the Second World War, but it wasn't as joyous; too many families had lost loved ones, and anyway it was a cold November day and no-one could afford much party food. It was just a bit of a bun fight-that's all. We sometimes played football in Bissell Street with coats as goalposts, or else on Quinton Park, which was just at the back of Meadow Road. It had some fine wrought iron gates at the main entrance. There was another entrance - a sort of lych gate. It was only a small park.

I remember Bourne College. We used to go carol singing there. The headmaster, Mr Hooson, was very generous. He would give you 2d and an orange for singing your carols. He was a great gentleman - a very genuine sort of man. All the kids knew him. Once he heard your name he took the trouble to remember it always. I myself went to the Quinton C E School. It was the only one for miles around. Children came from a long way off-Long Lane, Beech Lanes ... Mr Burns was the headmaster. He had a beard and was very strict. I was fourteen when I left.

The village fireman, Arthur Masters, lived in Bissell Street. He had a lamp on a bracket over his front door with the words 'FIRE SERVICE' rather like a police lamp but, if I remember, the letters were white on a red background. An Irishman called Micky Rundle who liked a drink at the 'outdoor' took over from him. The fire station was still there through the Second World War. There were two or three firemen in the area then. I also recall the Prince of Wales (who later abdicated as Edward VIII) coming to open the Wolverhampton New Road. I missed the ceremony but I cycled along it that night all the way to Wolverhampton with Jimmy Clamp who later died at 21 of diabetes.

There used to be a laundry at the west end of Meadow Road run by the Misses Guest who lived opposite on what is now Ridgacre Road West. It was a very high-class laundry. A hired van was sent out regularly to fetch washing from big houses in the Edgbaston area. As I recall, the Chamberlain family were among their customers. The Guest sisters employed local girls and housewives to work in the laundry.

The owner and driver of the hired van was W. G. Alford, well known locally for building up a chain of newsagent shops. At first he lived in High Street and was in the Navy for a time. He then moved to Meadow Road where he bought Thomas's sweet shop which he turned into a house with a garage for keeping his van in. He closed the shop. He was a good business man. The first shop he opened was on the main road near the Danilo cinema (now the ABC).

Before the Odeon and the Danilo opened, if we wanted to go to the pictures it meant a trip to the Majestic or the Coliseum in Bearwood.

There was farmland all around. As you walked down Spies Lane, Bourne College and its sports field were to the left. On the right was Foley's Farm as far as Victoria Avenue. Beyond that was Lowe's Farm. Foley's farmhouse was beautiful. The Lowe farmhouse was near The Stag. The Foleys had no children. When they died some sisters moved in. They were spinsters.

The King's Highway now stands on the site. Its opening was delayed because there were plans to use it as a hospital in the event of war casualties. Once the worst air raids were over in the early 1940s it was allowed to open. I used to be a cabinet maker but it was poorly paid work.

My wife came from Swindon. We both found the people in Bissell Street very neighbourly. We never thought of locking the front door in those early days even if we went out. No one was going to break in. I'm not keen to talk about the war but 1 served in the Royal Artillery on mobile guns. 1 went to Windsor, South Wales and Cumberland. I was also in London during the blitz. Then I was invalided out because of problems with my lungs. After the war I didn't return to cabinet making. I switched to building work instead.

QLHS 2000

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