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Granddads 'Memoirs'

EmmaLL

knowlegable brummie
In the mid 90's. My grandad started jotting down his (what we all jokingly called) Memoirs. Sadly he passed away suddenly so only scratched the surface. They were packed away as my Nan found them upsetting and after she passed we found them. I deciphered his squiggly handwriting and typed them up. A mere 8 pages but I found the a lovely read and very entertaining. He talks of his school days and growing up in Kingstanding. A few local streets, pubs and businesses are mentioned. The attachment is too large So i'm going to copy and paste, and add a few pics at the end.

Written in his own words bv Norman Wilkinson.
My parents came from large families. From the information gained from my mother, she was the youngest of 12 children and my eldest brother tells me my father was the eldest of 13 children. Which probably explains why my brothers and I did not get too much love from them in our childhood: they had possibly had enough of kids by the time they were married, but they were devoted to each other in their own way and loved us three boys in the same way. They were private persons, almost never visiting their own parents, brothers or sisters. Visits to my mother's. Mom were almost non existent and to my Aunt Ada,the eldest of the sisters in my Mothers brood and the only Aunt I got to know, one could have counted on the one hand. ln later life my Aunt Ada said to me "How your mother ever managed to rear you three boys I'll never know" a statment which at the time I refuted but on reflection is possibly true. Visits to my Fathers family were even less. I learned in later life that my Grandad lived in Halfords Lane West Bromwich alongside the Albion Ground. ln our search for or fore bearers it seems like both sets of my familes worked and resided in the Smethwick area. During our search we visited the 'Old Church' in Smethwick, a most pleasant old building hence the name, where my Parents signed their vows in September 1918. The Vicar;was so helpful showing us around the church and letting us look in the parish records. On this genealogical search we have obtained my Parents birth certificates and their marriage lines but I don't know the birth, marriage or death dates of their parents my grandparents, this is proving a bit hit and miss at the moment. So following the advice of a book'5 ways into Birmingham past', my wife and I took ourselves off to the central library on 2 or 3 occasions. Firstly we studies the names of Wilkinson on microfiche, having no joy we managed to book a microfilm reading at St Catherines registry to see if we could find any record of a marriage between my grandparents for the years prior to my fathers birth. (he being the eldest) Once again no joy! We looked at microfilm for 3 years prior to my Fathers Birth (1892) still no joy Kinestanding It holds so many happy memories for me. lt seems to have been born out of the depression of the 1920's-1930's. the population of this suburb was largely made up of people re-housed from the Aston slums. My Family consisted of my Father Alfred (Bill) William. Mother Martha (Pat) My Brothers Ronnie, Stanley and Myself Norma?r being the youngest. Poverty was the order of the day-everyday! We as a family arrived at Crayford Road via Halesbury Grove and Abingdon Rd Perry Common. So it seems I have always lived in the area. I can still recall my first experience of infants school, being at Hastings Rd School. My mother sternly informing me my childhood days were over and shoving me through the steel barred entrance. However I had other ideas and I soon found my way to another entrance from which I quickly made my exit. I was home before my mother! After this we moved a few times over the next few months and I also attended Hawthorn rd, and Cranbourne rd (now Knigsthorrn) Schools. Finally attending the newly opened Peckham Rd school (now Kingsrise) until I ended my school days. I recall while I was in infants school being in the draw for the Daily Mail's free boots, jumpers and trousers which were charitably provided for the needy. A casual observer may have been forgiven for thinking this was our school uniform as there were so many children sporting this attire. We, the lucky recipients of this uniform were glad to be wearing it, we weren't too proud. ln my case the studs on the boots were grand to slide around on. Another recollection of these times was my drooling over a fellow pupils banana sandwich and being rewarded with a bite! All the time inwardly thinking of how rich this boys parents must be to afford bananas. On my progression through the system to senior school, I was at that time of the opinion that the teachers were more interested in the children whose parents could afford to spend money on their children's clothes. I always had excellent attainments at school, in the top 4.
 
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EmmaLL

knowlegable brummie
However a boy with holes in the arse of his trousers and cardboard in his pumps was not expected to do well. I recall in one instance being asked 'who I was copying off' and being detained to re-sit an exam. I scored even higher for the re-sit, they couldn't believe it even then! ln my Latter days at senior school I was asked for my parents permission to 'sit for grammar'. Their reply was they wouldn't be able to afford the books, uniform and bus fare it would entail to send me to grammar school. ln any case the rnoney that I would earn once I started work after leaving school would be needed in the home. My earty recollections of the kingstanding area are ones of grassy fields, and an abundance of rabbits and trying to trap them but not having any success. Most of these fields were on the great barr side of kingstanding Rd on what was then known as the Davis estate. Davis being the builder. Just before these was the houses on Dunadin Rd-Southgate rd These were being sold for under f300 each. My brother Stanley was caught by farmer Ryan stealing {scrumping} a swede from Ryan Field. (opposite the Hare and Hounds pub) My brother Stan couldn't have been much older than 9, but the farmer still informed the police, and Stanley was up in front of the juvenile court and fined sixpence ' lgt/Z p). This caused great consternation in the family because of the disgrace. Times were hard for us kids. Even when my Dad was in work, my Mom had to 'keep track' on him as he found it difficult to pass an open pub whether he could afford a drink or not. This caused many family arguments-never pleasant. I really thought in my childhood that my Father had 'shares in the brewery' as my Mom often stated. I thought the reason he spent sg much time in the pub was to look after his investments. The strange thing about those years was that our families' lifestyle was nothing unusual, most of our neighbours had similar living conditions. The community life settled around either'The Kingstanding' 'The Hare and Hounds'or'The Charlie' (King Charles pub) Dads favourite was always the Hare and Hounds- I can even recall it at its previous site. It was a time for large families, for'keeping women in their place' in today's times such a lot of us would have been candidates for social workers and children's homes at the very least. To say we had to do without was putting it mildly, but in those days we didn't know any better. We got ourselves up for school in the mornings, had a slice of bread and lard or a helping of porridge, which would have steamed in the oven with the heat of the previous night's fire. Checked that the paper or cardboard was stuffed into our pumps-then offto school. On arrival home from school Mom would already have left to meet Dad from work to either help him spend what money he had, or to see that he didn't overspend. So we helped ourselves to whatever was going, then off to playfootball in the street. I always seemed to be the last one to go in at night, get another piece of bread and lard or make a pancake (if the hens were laying). Then off to bed. No-one seemed to worry abut us, neither did we worry that was our life! Now I know what Aunt Ada meant about rearing us three lads. We never got pocket money. lf we asked for any money we were told to take the beer bottles back. The 2Ll2 (1p) per week that we had to take to school for our daily milk was given to us on a monday morning but there were certain hazards that had to be by passed if we wanted milk for the week. For instance, on the way to school we had to pass Number 10O Sidcup rd where the lady of the house had a small sweet shop set up in her kitchen. She had lovely apples on a stick. When we arrived at school there was always the ice cream man on his bike and 'the Tuck man' Who sold home made sweets. Even the penny for the plate at St lukes on sunday wasn't safe, the penny had usualy diminished by 50% by the time the plate came by. lthink the good lord will have forgiven me by now!! Holiday times were the time! One particular holiday I remember we all went as a family to Sutton park. Remember at this time we had to pay ddmittance to the park a penny for children, which Mom and dad couldn't afford. So we we re told to go and play outside the park gates while our parents went for'a quick one' at The Parson and Clarke. That quick one must have lasted a couple of hours and I wonder at the patience of my older brother Ron having to look after Stan and l, both moaning about not being able to play in the park. Another highlight at the time was to go to Perry Barr park and play in the river (cole). lt was the nearest we were ever going to get to the seaside. ln later years we rowed in the lake showing off to our girlfriends. As an extra special treat we sometimes went to Perry Hall park, where for a penny we could have a 'penny paddle boat'trip around the moat. When l was about 12 years old l got myself a paper round, l worked for Billy Kirton the ex Villa player. He was a hard task master. My round could and did spread from the Pheasy estate and up to the Sutton border on kingstanding road, and back down to 'The Bustler' near where Halfords is now. My Mom let me keep all the paper round money, just asking me to 'spend it properly' She also said for every €50 I saved she would match it pound for pound. This was so I could learn the value of money and to make me frugal. I saved enitialy enough to buy a bike (sit up and beg f3)from the hardware shop just below Kirtons on Kingstanding rd. Brand new the bike was, 'just a small dent in the handle bar, thats why its so cheap'That bike was surely a bargain and lasted me quite a few years. I needed a bike too, the journey from Geoerge Fredrick rd to 'The Bustler' was a long one. I also bought an ex-army bell tent for holidays by the sea. One exceptional year Mom booked a tent site in Barmouth in north wales. My Father and Oldest brother Ron were to make the journey by bike, Ron on My bike, Dad on Stans. Mom and us 2 younger ones were to make the journey by rail. We all left Birmingham at the same time, and dad and Ron arrived in Barmouth 12 hours before us! By the time us stragglers arrived the tent was pitched and everything was ready for an enjoyable holiday. We had been on a round britain railtrip since leaving snow hill. I think Mom had just got us on the first train that stopped on the platform and expected it to drop us off at barmouth! On the way home my brother Ron says Dad stopped at every pub on the road between Barmouth and Birmingham and we were home long before them. Another stipulation made by my Mom regarding me keeping ry p"plr money was that I was to clothe myself. lt wasn't long before I had the 30 bob (f1.50) saved to get a made to measure suit from 'Weaver to Wearer' in town. For an extra pound I could have 2 extra pairs of trousers! l should have mentioned that my paper money was 2/9 per week (14p) or 3/6 {17p} if we did the collecting. I left school in 1938. as each of us sons in turn left school to go to work the household chores that we were required to perform {and there were many) were excused and these duties passed down to the next in line, my duties as the youngest were passed on to Dad! Mother told each of us that she required 10/ per week for our keep and we were to clothe ourselves. I decided to look for a job with a future and soon found myself a position as apprentice shoe repairer for a 6 month trial period, with a view to signing on for a 7 year apprenticeship. The wage was 9l (45p) a week. My mother decided that she would cover my'keep' as I was the youngest and seeing how we were all at that time in work. At this time there were plenty of jobs around. So I started at'Modern shoe repairs' but at the end of 6 months I was disillusioned. lf any stitching was needed I had to take shoes round the corner from the shop in Warren Farm rd to 'Paynes' a competitors to stitch them. I reasoned that any firm that couldn't speculate on what was for them future improvement both for them and for me then they weren't worth being tied to for 7 years. lt turns out I was right. Off l went to find new work. This time at Peacocks stores on Hawthorn Rd. By now l was almost 16 and war was brewing I saw the local territorials at Kingstanding being mobilised and marching off, later to fight with the B.E.F in France and the retreat from Dunkirk.
 

EmmaLL

knowlegable brummie
My older brother Stanley was soon volunteeriing to join the army. He has married At 17 and possibly couldn't cope with the responsibility. He was later taken prisoner by the Germans and managed to escape and make his way to Switzerland where he enjoyed-yes enjoyed (for they were neutral) the rest of the war. My older brother Ron had also married his sweetheart Joan at the age of 19. He too was soon in the army. He was disillusioned with the army and it was fatal for them to send him on leave as he would never go back. The red capes would have to come and get him. He said the reason for him continually going AWOL was because they wouldn't send him to a theatre of war. He spent a lot of his war in iceland. But possibly he was right in his attitude because when the second front opened in europe 5th June he was soon in action. tn quick succession he was made lance corporal-corporal and was made sergeant on the field of battle' and awarded his'mention in dispatches' I couldn't have been prouder of him. My working at Peacocks wasn't doing much for my patriotic soul and l felt I wasn't doing enough for the war effort. So at 15 l joined the L.D.V's (local defence volunteers) later to become the home guard. I was also a fire watcher and later in the year I became a volunteer A.F.S Aux Fireman. Around this time I tried to join the Royal NaW but was told 'come back when you're old enough' I was a true patriot. The government were asking everyone to join in the war effort and get into occupations that would help the lads on the front, so i left Peacocks and went to work at'Euots' Benton & Stone in Bracebridge, St Aston. We were making parts for spitfires. Sometimes when the air raids were on I was working during the day and I was working at night too with my Aux Fireman duties for Enots. This continued till I was old enough to join the Royal Navy. It was at Enots that I met my wife Thelma-they were happy days. I don't know how we found time to sleep. Thelma and I would go dancing up to 4 times a week. Mostly at Lion Hall Lichfield Rd. Occasionally we went to Madam Amies in Chaim Walk or to Aston Hippodrome. There were plenty of cinimas and places of enjoyment but Thelma had to be home and in bed before her Grandad came back from the pub at 10 and besides the last bus to Kingstanding was 10pm from town, miss that and you had a long walk home. Everyone had the same idea and more often than not the bus was full. I still had my duites in the home gaurd to perform. However I transferred to the mounted divison {horseback) and on duty nights we patrolled sutton park. We were the only mounted division in the midlands {possibly the country} though for me it wasn't all patriotism, it was a cheap way for horse riding experience. At that timer it was 8/ {40p) per half hour to hire a horse at sutton riding school. (just 50 yards from town gate sutton) and this is where our HQ was. We were getting top class lessons from the Major {ex cavalry SDT MAJ) for nothing. industry seemed to start at the end of the Kingstanding Rd 'The Bustler' factory being the start, i think they made vacuum cleaners. Youngestrs leaving school could easily get jobs. Mostly at minimum day rate of L4/ but well in excess of that on piece work. Local factories were vieing each other for young in-experienced labour.
 

EmmaLL

knowlegable brummie
There were many factories in the Kingstanding area. Kynock (lMl) Higs Motors, GEC, Twiggs to name just a few. There were many small manufacturing engineers etc too. During the war houses that were part finished before the war (by the trees pub) were quickly finished and for reacquisition initially for British forces, but when the yanks came-so did the woman, from all parts.. These houses, post war were were de-acquisitioned and sold off at pre war prices. (f300). I at the time worked frantically to try to get the 10% deposit together to arrange a mortgage. The houses, which were our dream at the time, were soon sold off and we were devastated. lt seemed we were forever doomed to live with my parents in Crayford Rd. We saw virtually nothing of our grandparents from both sides. My earliest memory of my maternal grandmother (she was now on her 3rd husband I was when I was about 10 years old. l was made to sit on the settee and read the bible aloud, in the room on my own. She said she was going to ask me questions afterwards. I held the woman in awe. Needless to say i wouldn't have looked forward to regular'Nannie Visits'. At this time my Grans last name was Jenning and she lived in Bevington St Aston, I think 125. My Aunt Ada, the oldest of my Grans brood lived at 20 Prestbury Rd just around the corner. Visits to my Paternal Grandfather were likewise restricted. My Grandmother evidently having fled the nest some time earlier and there was to be no more mentioning her name afterwards. My first recolection of Grandfather Wilkinson was that dad had to take us three boys on a christmas visit. The grown ups escaped to the nearest pub and presumably a good time was had by all. Grandad has splashed out on a new cap each for us boys, which we were most pleased with. But our pleasure wasn't to last long. Dads state of equilibrium upon our return home was red rag to a bull to Mom and those beautiful caps, all three of them were whipped off out heads and thrown on the open fire! Grandad Wilkinson was then living on Holfords lane (204 I think) west bromwich


Photos of Martha and Alfred Wilkinson & Grandad in his home guards uniform Stan Wilkinson and some pics and notes from his 'great escape' Ron Wilkinson.
 

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oldMohawk

master brummie
Great to read it because I know most of the places mentioned in your Granddad's story and many of them are mentioned in various threads across the forum ... thanks.
oldmohawk ... :)
 

A Sparks

master brummie
Lovely memories from your grandfather :)
I'm originally from Perry Barr so I know of some of the places he mentions - it's actually the river Tame at PB, not the Cole.
Thanks for sharing.
 

Vivienne14

Kentish Brummie
Enjoyed reading that Emma. Although before my time, there’s a lot that’s familiar in your grandads ‘memoir’. My parents bought their house in Kingstanding just after the war. Maybe they bought it under the post-war scheme mentioned. Quite possible as my dad always looked for a bargain.

Frequently went into Kirtons, my mum worked next door. And I loved the hardware shop further down. Remember buying a Pyrex casserole dish in there. At the time it was a trendy bit of kitchen equipment. I bought it for my mum’s birthday. I ‘think’ she was pleased to get the gift !! The shop was where I developed my love of hardware shops. Still can’t resist today - that’s if I can find one of course.

Also went to Kingsthorne School. Many fond memories of the school.

We have a very long thread about Kingstanding and there are threads about the schools too if you ever want to read more.

Thanks for your posts. Been lovely to read them.

Viv.
 

EmmaLL

knowlegable brummie
Thanks all. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this thread. I live close by to the places my granddad mentioned myself and have enjoyed many a breakfast in The Parson and Clark. There is still a Hardware shop (Imperial Hardware) on the Kingstanding rd, part of 'The Hawthorn' and I wonder if its the same premises. I often wonder if the occupants of 100 Sidcup Rd have been told they're front room used to be a sweetshop. :) I deffo be combing through the various threads over time. I'm engrossed in the family tree atm, whilst working, painting my staircase (never ending) and limited time on the PC with the kids being off school.
 

Eric Gibson

master brummie
I lived in Hurlingham Road, went to Cranbourne Road infants and junior schools and to Peckham Road seniors, Crayford Road was on my route to school.

Might have known your grandad as Crayford Road children and our lot were often mates/school mates.
I'm 85 now, left school in 1950.

Ps. The mention of the Sidcup road sweet shop reminded me, we used to know it as 'the old lady' "Going to the old lady for some pop and a Mars bar."
She used to have an old market trader's wicker basket three wheeled trolley full of assorted chocolates and sold pop but you had to bring your own bottle into which she would empty the pop from the proper bottle and top it up from the kitchen tap.
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
This is the Alldays map from the year in which Norman left school - 1938.
(Crayford Road just to the left of the Beacon Rec. Grd. Allotments).

Also.... interesting that Norman should have joined the Mounted Section of the Home Guard in Sutton. I wonder how that came about - how did he have the opportunity to learn to ride? The peaked cap bears out his involvement with that part of the Sutton Home Guard - otherwise he would have been wearing the standard forage cap. There is at least one image of this group, from December 1940, which survives.

Chris

MapKingstanding108cropped.jpg
 
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EmmaLL

knowlegable brummie
Might have known your grandad as Crayford Road children and our lot were often mates/school mates.
I'm 85 now, left school in 1950.
I think he was born in 1924, so I think a little too. You've bought the 'sweet shop' to life for me. Thanks for your memories.
 

EmmaLL

knowlegable brummie
This is the Alldays map from the year in which Norman left school - 1938.
(Crayford Road just to the left of the Beacon Rec. Grd. Allotments).

Also.... interesting that Norman should have joined the Mounted Section of the Home Guard in Sutton. I wonder how that came about - how did he have the opportunity to learn to ride? The peaked cap bears out his involvement with that part of the Sutton Home Guard - otherwise he would have been wearing the standard forage cap. There is at least one image of this group, from December 1940, which survives.

Chris

View attachment 147249
Thanks Chris. I didn't even know my granddad was in the Home Guard until I came across a photo of him in this uniform and my uncle told me. I don't think either of us knew he was in the mounted home guard. I certainly didn't. He never mentioned it or horses. I can imagine it was a sought after posting. Maybe he made connections during his time in the regular home guard or through fire watching. I'm sure he was still only 17 when he later joined the Royal Navy. He served on the Russian Convoys as a signalman on the merchant ships.
 
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