My Days Spent in Quinton

by Mary Lord (nee Rose)

My Mother, Father and I moved into a brand new house in Ridgacre Road in March 1937 when I was 6 years old. I thought it was wonderful with very modern curved windows and large garden.

The bus stop was just outside and there was a beautiful blue tiled Doctor's house on the corner of White road almost opposite our new house. The 3A bus turned round at the bottom of the road at the island in Worlds End Lane and came straight back up on the other side so one could tell exactly when to cross the road to catch the bus into town.

Town for me was Lewis's, a cup of tea and a soft ice cream out of a machine. The garden was nothing but solid clay with willow herbs or ragged robins as we called them growing alongside the dividing fence.

My father immediately set to and put paving slabs halfway down the garden, dug the garden, planted flower beds and grass seeds making a small lawn. Vegetables were grown at the bottom of the garden. He built a brick garage opening onto the lane.

Several railway sleepers were found in the ground and in the house next door but one there was quite a big lime pit in the middle of the garden this house was not yet occupied so I did a bit of exploring and burnt my hand digging in the lime.

I soon settled into the school at Woodhouse Road and my brother was born in the September of that year at Selly Oak Hospital. I was sent to stay with an aunt who lived at Church Eaton near Stafford until Mother came home.

The following year on a Sunday morning just before Easter, I was sitting on the back of a leather settee swinging my legs by the open French window amusing my brother who was in his pram outside, when I fell through the window onto the paving slabs cutting my neck and chin open. Mother ran from the kitchen and slapped a wet dishcloth on my neck; my Dad rushed up the garden from the garage in his oily overalls and still with the wet dishcloth on my neck carried me over the road to the doctor's. Eight stitches were put in my neck and chin and covered with a very large plaster. I was given a boiled sweet for being a brave girl, which I couldn't eat.

A few days later I was taken to the Queen's hospital in Birmingham with zinc poisoning where I had to stay for about a week. I remember it was Easter time as a neighbour sent me an Easter egg and I couldn't eat that either. I was told off by a nurse for sucking my thumb, only babies sucked their thumbs and I was 7 years old.

Shortly after the war started my father became a special constable at Harborne Police Station, he came home with a uniform, a truncheon and a whistle.

We had an Anderson air raid shelter that my father buried very deep into the ground only to discover an underground stream and the shelter kept filling up with water. He concreted the floor (With a sump in the corner) and about a third of the way up the walls with a ledge. Wooden boards were placed across and we slept on these. He was called up in the army in 1940 and did his training at Newark, came home only once on leave and we didn't see him again until after the war.

He was reported missing for about 6 months and then we heard he was a POW in Germany near Munich. The chain link fences dividing the front gardens were taken away along with any old saucepans, pots and pans etc. that were no longer wanted to be melted down and turned into ammunitions.

A Mr. Bullock and his wife came to live with us for a short time; they had the two front rooms. M. T. Bullock used to buy me cut-out books and colouring books, which I loved. He took me into town once to see cartoon films and I desperately needed the toilet but was too shy to tell him so you can guess what happened.

I would go shopping at the Boulevard for my mother for bread and cakes at Wimbush's. Bread was 2 d and buns were five for 6d. There would be a Chelsea bun, a Diamond bun, a currant bun, a doughnut and a sugar bun. I very often took a few bits of sugar off the latter and ate it.

I often had to buy a pint of vinegar from a barrel, taking an empty pop bottle, from Mr. King the green grocer. I used to drink some on my way home. Mother used to blame "Kingy" as she called him for giving me short measure.

My friend Jean and I used to walk the short distance to school and we would look in a large wooden box near the Community Centre where newspapers and books were placed to help the war effort.

We found some very interesting reading in there, "London Opinion" and personal diaries etc. A 'Rag and Bone' man used to come along with a horse and cart shouting, "Any Rags", Jean spotted a very nice felt hat on the cart and said, "My mom would love that" so I pinched it and her mom wore it for as long as I can remember.

I was happy and did well at Woodhouse Road School. We made wonderful slides in the winter in the playground; they were solid ice, just like glass and they took ages to melt. In the summer we skipped and sang, "On the mountain stands a lady";" The Farmer's in his den" was a game. I used to have a penny 'whip and top', which I kept spinning all the way to school being very careful not to walk on the cracks in the pavement, which was unlucky and crossing my fingers until 1 saw a little dog if an ambulance passed by.

Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Bullock moved out and went to live in Moseley. My aunt and two young children came to live with us. My aunt went to work and my mother looked after the house and children.

We spent most nights in the air raid shelter. The night the stick of bombs fell at the Boulevard killing Mr. Brunner and his son, my mother and aunt went up to the house to make a pot of tea, they heard the bombs falling and shut themselves in the pantry.

We were still in the shelter and could hear all the noise. I could tell by the sound of the aircraft whether they were Germans or ours. I remember being told that an aircraft crashed on the Hagley Road, I think it was one of ours, it demolished a letterbox and an aunt who lived nearby told us that not a fragment of the letterbox was ever found.

If we had a cold I was sent to the chemist for a bottle of "Three oils" it was rubbed on my chest and back and everyone knew that you had a cold but I quite liked the smell. We had a spoonful of cod liver oil and malt each morning, which I enjoyed but not the syrup of figs, which kept you regular.

When I was 11 yrs old I went to George Dixon Grammar School, or G.D. as it was called. Mother bought my gymslip from the Co-op and it was a slightly lighter green to everyone else's but much cheaper and you got the 'Divvy'.

She knitted my brother and I, two vests each out of coupon free "sea boot wool" and she couldn't understand why my vests never wore out, this was because I used to take them off and put it in my satchel as it made me itch. My vests were eventually passed down to my brother.

When I was old enough I joined the Girl Guides, meetings were held in St. Faiths Church. The vicar's wife was the patrol leader and the only time they went camping I caught the mumps and couldn't go. They went to the Lickey Hills.

When the war was nearly at an end we heard nothing from my father for about 6 months. I was nearly 14 when I came home from school and my aunt opened the door.

My mother had fallen down the kitchen step and badly injured her ankle. As I went into the living room my father was standing there with his back to the fire as though he had never been away. He had landed in the south of England and sent a telegram to say he was on his way home but it arrived after he did. He rang the front door bell but when he didn't get an answer he let himself in with his own front door key after four and a half years.

When I left school I went to work at Barclays Bank in Broad Street for 2/10s/0d per week and this was paid directly into my bank account. I gave my mother 1/10s/0d for my keep and bus fares and had 7 shillings and six pence for myself.

Later I went to the branch by the Warley Odeon. Only 3 people, the manager, Mr. Noch; a cashier and myself a ledger clerk manned the branch. My lunch hour was 11.30am till 12.3O pm. There were no calculators or biro pens, just a Burroughs adding machine. When the bank closed at 3pm. We had to take surplus cash and clothing coupons to the branch at Bearwood. This meant that two persons had to carry the money to the bank.

Sometimes I would be locked in the bank while the manager and cashier went and at other times I went with either the manager or cashier. The money and coupons were placed into a Gladstone bag and locked. One person carried the bag and the other person had the key.

We caught the number 9 bus to Bearwood and we sat apart if possible, and then walked the short distance to the bank where they had a large safe.

My sister was born in 1949, my grandma told me that my mother was expecting a baby and my father was furious when he found out that I knew, but then I was only 18.

When I was 19 I joined the forces, I was a WRAF radar operator. I met my husband and was married in November 1951 at St Faith's. My brother was the first boy to be christened at St. Faith's (the first child to be christened there was a girl).

My mother and brother were invited to the church to celebrate the 60th Anniversary in the church; they were unable to locate the girl. These are just a few memories that I have living in Quinton, some sad but mostly happy days.


Click here to go back to the Oracle page.