Saturday, 26 December 2009

Life in Sherborne Street


Everything was in close proximity to the street, the shopping area, Broad Street and Five Ways, and even the City Centre (Town as we called it), was only a short walk away. Shops along Broad Street sold all manner of goods; all the old business names that have long since disappeared, Wrensons, Maypole, and MacFisheries, also such quality shops such as Barrows Stores, Kunzles, the cake maker and patisserie. All the shops one would ever need were located along Broad Street. Shops selling fabrics, ironmongers, newsagents, china shops, theatrical costumers, butchers, grocers, radio and electrical shops, car sales and repairers, others too numerous to mention; there was even a craftsman in the area making and repairing violins.

The accumulator shop deserves a special mention here, for that was the place where your accumulator would be refreshed, after its power had been discharged; the accumulator was in fact a wet-cell battery. In the absence of mains electricity, the battery would be used to power the radio. I would take this battery to the old gentleman in the shop, who would exchange it for one fully charged; he would then re-charge the old one, ready for the next customer. Care had to be taken when carrying the battery home, as it weighed a few pounds and contained corrosive acid. Television was a rare commodity in those times, and people relied on the radio for their news and entertainment. As time went on, we were able to afford deliveries of essentials to the house, milk, bread and coal; all the deliverymen used horse-drawn vehicles. The bread and milk were delivered daily. On more than one occasion, we could not afford to have the large quantity of coal or coke delivered, at those times with the aid of a barrow, a smaller amount could be either collected or delivered from the local coal yard. In doing this, I think the cost must have been less; in order to earn a few coppers, some of the young lads in the district would make the deliveries to the house.

As a footnote, the owner of the coal yard later became related to our family; my sister Betty married David Blount, the son of the owner.

There seemed to be no lack of public houses within the streets and on most street corners. Most had been a legacy from Victorian and Edwardian times and eventually they would be lost in the re-development. We had the choice of four cinemas (picture houses) within a short distance; the New Regent, the Lyric, the Crown, and the Edgbaston; each showing consisted of two films plus the newsreel, and the programmes changed three times every week. Before television the cinema was very popular, the cost of going to the Pictures was 10 old pence, or in the case of the Regent, 7 old pence.

By the time we moved to No 26 Sherborne Street, I was almost at the end of my schooling days, so it was decided that I should stay on at Oakley Road in Small Heath. It was an excellent school, and the standard of education was very high. I spent four happy years there, until at the age of fifteen, when I finished my full time education. Every weekday it had been a long distance to travel but fortunately there was a bus that ran from Ladywood to Small Heath. For his final year brother Kevin went to the Oratory School. Initially Pat, Betty, Brian and Dennis were placed at Saint Peters school, Broad Street, but then finished their education at St Thomas’s in Lee Bank. In those times the level of education continued until the age of fifteen years or to the next term following the fifteenth birthday.

When my brother Kevin finished his education at the Oratory, he lost no time in securing a job as a bellboy at a hotel in Temple Row. The uniform supplied by the hotel was quite smart. He was not a very tall lad and looked very cute in his pillbox hat. I believe he held that position perhaps for twelve to eighteen months, after which wanderlust took over. We were proud to see him join the Merchant Navy and he was able to see many parts of the world; he remained in that service for many years.

So the family all settled down to life in Sherborne Street, especially my dear mother who had come through some harrowing times. From this bitter experience, she always said that if nothing else got paid, or if only little food was on the table, the rent must always be paid. It was a very happy street in which to live, no one was competing with one another for material goods, we still did not have a great deal of money, but we all found contentment and peace of mind in Sherborne Street.

One event, which took place at that time, is highly amusing, and deserves to have a mention. Mother decided to treat the family to a radio with record player. She visited the local electrical Shop Curry’s and signed the deal. Fortunately she was accompanied by a friend who pointed out that mother’s house had no electricity and that the item could not run on the gas supply. Undaunted by this setback, mother arranged for a wire to be run through the bedroom window from the house next-door. She reimbursed the neighbour for the small amount of electricity consumed, and so after all that was able to secure power for the unit.

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