Old Quinton in the 1930s

By Eileen Groeneweg-Jones

Let me introduce myself, my name is Eileen Jones, born on 15th April 1931. My father was Joshua Charles Jones, who was a fireman in the Birmingham Fire Brigade.

We lived in the Albion Street Fire Station when the new Fire Station was opened in 1935 with the subsequent celebrations. After falling through a glass roof and breaking his right wrist, so badly that he could never use it properly afterwards, my father was transferred to lighter duties in Quinton in 1938.

We were sent to live at 517 Ridgacre Road. There were only two other firemen and one engine in a wooden shed, just across the road. We had a telephone, which was just for the alarm signal.

The other two men were both older than my father. Mr Elwell lived in Bissell Street (probably in the original house occupied by the Masters family?). Mrs Elwell died of cancer and Mr Elwell retired and left in 1939. The other fireman, Jack Penny and his wife lived I think at no 521 Ridgacre Road.

When the fire station was closed at the beginning of the war, my father was sent to an emergency station in Ladywood and we hardly saw him.

My brother Peter was born in April 1939.

The entrance to the narrow part of Quinton Park was almost opposite our house and I spent most of my time there. Between the entrance and the fire station was a big, quite modern house, which I know nothing about.

On the other side was an extremely ancient cottage, lived in by Granny Reeves. At that date she was over 80 and the only person I ever saw with pockmarks from smallpox. She had relatives living in Bissell Street and I believe she died in 1939. Next door in Meadow Road was a dairy run by Perryís.

Between Ridgacre Road and Meadow Road were the Green cottages, the Ingram family occupied one and the other one was used as a laundry, run by Thelma Mucklow, she was Mrs Ingramís sister. Behind the two Cottages were an enormous garden, then a dividing road, opposite the New Inns. Then another piece of The Green with another row of cottages.

Our house was the last of a row, which stretched right down to High Street. Across High Street was the cottage bought by Arnold Parkes after the war. Before and during the war the Round family occupied it. Two of the children were Jean (my age) and John. Then came a more modern house occupied by the Crump family, the children were twins Marjorie and Sylvia and their younger brother John.

The only other child was my great friend Tony Armstrong. He lived with his grandparents, The Hancocks, at no. 509. Mr Hancocks was a private chauffeur and always wore a brown uniform with boots. They were Methodist and had a Pekinese named Sam, who bit me, I was never allowed into the house after that.

Our next-door neighbours at no 515 were the Rudge Family, Ernie and Nora with a teenage daughter, Marion. Ernie was a builder, and he had sheds all along one side of the garden with his ladders lying on the entry wall. The house on the other side was double fronted and occupied by a market gardener, Mr Harber. After they both died the daughter sold up to Mr Ellis. The land stretched behind the other houses with the entrance in Bissell Street.

In High Street the Shepherd family lived in the first house with a rose covered sidewall. They were very busy with a transport business. Next door to them was a shop run by the Misses Field. They were three old ladies, always dressed in black, the shop smelt awful and closed soon after.

Opposite was the fish & chip run by Mr & Mrs Hill in their front room. When they opened on Friday evenings, there were queues up the road. They were delicious.

Next door to Fields was a row of houses only obtainable from the back. The Coley Family lived there, they had several children, and the eldest was Cathleen. Next door to the outdoor, Jack Masters had his butchers shop; I recall he was a great joker.

We all went to the Church School, played together in Quinton Park or in Watery Lane in the willows. It was an idyllic place to grow up as a child.

Already mentioned by someone else we went to George Dixons grammar school. Mary Rose was one of my classmates. Marjorie Cutler was an older pupil who helped me fold my hatband correctly. The school terrified me, after being used to such a small school. I had nightmares of not being able to find my classroom before each lesson.

My father was invalided out of the Fire Brigade in 1948. We were offered the option of buying 517 Ridgacre Road for £1500 or moving to the new estate by Four Dwellings. Ridgacre Road needed a lot of money spending on it so we opted for a house at 36 Pitman Road and moved there in 1949.

There was still a big builders hut there and Mr Compton asked me to start a Sunday school there, which I did. He and his curate Mr Sammons did their utmost to get St Boniface church built and instated. Mr Compton asked older inhabitants of his church (from the pulpit) to help the new occupants with plants from their gardens.

Iíve tried to give some information on what it was like growing up in Quinton as briefly as possible. I have lots more memories and would be glad to share them with you. As a member of the Y.S.C. I shall be most interested in Doreen Crowder (Willetts) story. I would very much like to receive the Oracle and will arrange for payment soon. I think itís wonderful starting the QLHS and wish it every success.

With Friendly Greetings
Eileen Groenewig-Jones

Edís comment- I never cease to be amazed as to how far the Oracle reaches.

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