Childhood Memories of Quinton and
Granny Jones in the 1930s

By Margaret Statham

One of my earliest memories of Granny Jones's house was the sticky flypaper which always hung over the centre of the table in the living room. It was always black with flies and seldom changed. I also remember the battery operated radio which was always turned on but so faint you had to put your ear right up against the speaker to hear anything. Granny Jones was always seated on the couch and I never saw her stand up. She was extremely fat and always wore a long black skirt right down to the floor.

The house was semi-detached, 3 stories high and had a large bay window to the front room which suggested it may have been a shop at one time. The front door, which opened directly into the room was never used and everyone always accessed the house via the side entry and back door. There was a high brick wall around the property from the front footpath to the outside toilet, which was at the far corner of the triangular shaped garden. I can't remember if it was a chain-pull lavatory or a long drop, but I remember the very large wooden seat. It was shared with the other house and was a long walk from the house. I remember the black cast iron water pump in the centre of the yard. At the top of the yard, actually adjacent to the neighbours house but not used by them, was the "Brewhouse". It was quite a large building with a high ceiling and whitewashed walls, I vaguely remember a few horse harnesses hanging on the wall. There was a built-in boiler in one corner and a cold tap and stone sink and very little else. It was always called the Brewhouse and not the Outhouse so I am wondering if it was ever used for beer making.

Grandad Jones used to do shoe repairs when he was at home. He always sat in the doorway of the Brewhouse on an old kitchen chair with the cobbler's last on a box between his knees. He had a very long moustache and he always had a mouthful of nails and spit out one nail at a time between his whiskers. I was always fascinated by this procedure when I was a young child.

The Living Room was quite small and most of it was taken up by a large table with a chenille cloth. There was a black-leaded range with side oven and open fire with a large black kettle always on the boil. There was always a fire in the grate all year round. There was also a gas cooker in a very dark corner squeezed in between the range and the wooden door to the stairs. I remember going up the dark wooden stairs on hands and knees and up a second flight to the attic. Mom told me that she, Florrie and later Louie all slept in the one double bed.

The Living Room was lit by a gas-light that gave an eerie yellow light and always made a "purring" noise. I can't recall if they had electric light installed later. There was a pegged rag rug in front of the fire which was made by cutting up old woolen clothes into strips and with a dolly peg cut in half, the strips were pushed through a piece of hessian backing and back to the front again to form a tuft on the top. Hundreds of strips were inserted to form a very attractive rug. The only drawback was they held the dirt and were very heavy to shake.

The family moved to Quinton when mom was quite young. She attended the school, which is behind the Parish Church and remained there for all her schooling. She sang in the choir at the church and was married there on 19th May 1923. She bemoaned the fact that she always had to take her young brother Harry with her wherever she went. She also had to come home from school at lunchtime and take Billy and Tommy's dinner in a basin to their workplace right at the bottom of Mucklows Hill and get back to school in time for afternoon classes eating her own slice of bread and dripping on the way.

There was a sweetshop in the tiny front room of the house opposite Gran's run by a Miss? Sometimes we were lucky enough to be given a halfpenny to buy some sweets. There was no problem with us crossing the road as there was hardly any traffic in those days.

The big event in the late 1930's was the building of the Danilo Cinema on the opposite side of the road just about 100 yards to the left. I also remember an old farmhouse and stables on the right hand top corner of the lane opposite where they built the King's Highway hotel. Mom always visited the churchyard every week to put flowers on Bernard's grave. Audrey and I usually went with her, Ken seldom did. While mom was attending to the flowers I often went down into the old cemetery at the back of the schoolhouse. It was very peaceful down there with lots of lovely old trees and I was always fascinated by all the elaborate old tombstones.

On visiting the cemetery in 1982 during a visit from Australia I was very disappointed to find it almost completely overgrown and inaccessible. Some years ago all the tombstones were removed around the churchyard and the graves levelled. Mom and Dad were able to negotiate with the church authorities to leave the cement urn on the grave as it was the only grave still tended regularly. A hole was made in the stone wall around the churchyard to allow the school children to take a shortcut to the church but I don't think there was ever any vandalism to the grave. My father's ashes were interred in the same grave in 1972 and also those of my mother in 1985. My brother Ken visits the grave occasionally and recently put a beautiful bouquet of yellow and white flowers in the urn on the occasion of mom's 100th birthday on 6th December 2001.

In 1982 Ken took mom and I to a very nice restaurant in what was once a private house on Hagley Road not far south of Perry Hill Road. We were having lunch in the front room when mom suddenly said I lived in this house when I was first married, in this very room, in fact Bernard was born in this very room. There were no cooking facilities, just a small firegrate where she recalled cooking their very first meal on a shovel (a wedding present) as she didn't have a frying pan. We later spoke to the proprietor of the restaurant who was very interested in mom's recollections. She said there was an old man living nearby who was a gardener/handyman at the house and also had some fascinating recollections of the past. She said she would arrange a meeting between mom and this gentleman to talk about old times and she would make a tape recording. Unfortunately the old fellow died 2 days later and the meeting never took place.

There was an Old Men's Home on the corner of College Road in the 1930's and I often saw some of the residents taking a stroll around the corner into Spies Lane.

QLHS & Margaret Statham 2003

Eds Comment My thanks to Gladys Jones and her relation in Australia for sharing these memories with us.

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