A Country Boy

by Barry Sunderland

I was born in a small back to back house in Ladywood. We had no garden and our own toilet across the yard, which my mother guarded against any unwanted intruders. Games were played in the Yard, usually between the washing lines and woe betide us if our football should dirty the washing that had just been boiled in the brew house.

I thought I was in the country on my weekly visits to Summerfield Park but even then we were not allowed on the grass as the Park Keeper would shout “ can’t you read” and point to the notice warning “ Keep of the grass”.

When I was aged nine my parents said we were moving to the country to a place called Quinton, which I had never heard of.

Our new house had a front and rear garden, an island of grass facing and an allotment at the back. Best of all we had a real bathroom and an inside toilet. No more keeping the Kelly Lamp alight to save us from frozen pipes.

My first Quinton School was Woodhouse Juniors. There was a Spinney where we could have nature study naming birds and plants etc. This is the same Spinney that has been reopened to school visits.

I then moved to Four Dwellings Senior Secondary Modern Mixed School. There was a special bus that would take you to school which went from the top of Gorsy Road all the way round West Boulevard and Ridgacre Road, Ridgacre Lane to Four Dwellings picking up on route. This took too long so instead of paying bus fare we walked across the fields on a good day or round the roads when the weather did not permit.

Worlds End was a small farm, there was a brook running down the other side of the road beside which a gentleman built a wooden shed to be used as a paper, sweets and tobacco shop. The cottages backing onto the brook had watercress beds and the owner sold lettuce over the garden fence for 2d each.

Four Dwellings Farm

Four Dwellings Farm (the school can be seen behind)

From the bottom of Faraday Avenue to Four Dwellings School was fields and when we arrived at school having trudged across the fields our shoes were inspected to see if they were clean (of course they were not) and you were told off for not having cleaned them.

In my last few years at school the gardening teacher put us in charge of our own plot of land where we grew vegetables and bedding out plants. The plants were sold for 2d a score and the profits went to school funds. When we did the gardening we were provided with wooden clogs, which of course we had to clean when we had finished but this did save our shoes. This is where I gained my love of gardening.

You could not obtain wood for the woodwork class as during war time and after it was only sold under licence so our woodwork class would take delivery of ammunition boxes which we would strip down to make pipe racks, towel holders etc. for our parents.

In my last year at school I was put in charge of the projector and films. I had to collect the films on Monday and take the list of films around to the teachers to see if they required their class to see them. Usually they took one film, except one teacher who required all five. He only had a certain amount of time to show these films and so would speed them up thus men would climb up mountains at breakneck speed or swim the channel in double quick time (all in black and white of course and no sound).

When autumn arrived we were taken to Beckitts Farm, which is where St. Boniface Church is now. This was on a voluntary basis and suited me fine. We would be picked up from school in the morning on the back of a tractor our milk crates containing a third of a pint of milk each). On arrival stakes would be put in the field at regular intervals and two boys would be allocated to clear the field between the two stakes. Half the class would be on one side of the field and half on the other and the tractor would come down the field and turn over five rows, race along the bottom of the field and then up the other side and if your side was not clear by the time the tractor arrived there was trouble and you were told to work harder by the Beckitt Sons, Ray and John. Sometimes the stakes would mysteriously move so the other lads had more work to do to clear their area. Luckily I worked on the potato cleats for over wintering and this work was not so hard. We were paid the grand sum of 5d per hour.

I also did a paper round morning and evening with over 150 papers per night including the Mail and Despatch. Sunday was a bad day as it took two loads to deliver the papers and then we had to go round and collect the money owed. One gentleman at the top of White Road had a dog and insisted that the papers were not to be pushed through but left in the porch. If I forgot and the dog got to the paper first I went without my 6d tip for that week.

We did not need diets or an evening at the Gym just hard work.

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