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Growing Up In Brum - Roy Blakey Inspired.


Super Moderator
Staff member
I suppose that it was all a normal state for many of us, especially if we only had the dimmest of memories of prewar life. Perhaps we were lucky in not having anything to compare that present life with.

I remember asking my elder sister, who was the font of all knowledge and wisdom in my eyes, whether there were still wireless news bulletins in times of peace. "Oh yes" she said, "when ships sink and things like that" - so not so different from wartime bulletins. She also told me told me that on the wireless in peace-time you could hear a man telling you what the weather tomorrow was going to be like. This seemed to me to be as much like an impossible miracle as the appearance of a banana or an orange which I thought I could remember but wasn't quite sure.

I was just six when my older brother went off to war in June 1942. A few months later, after training and embarkation leave, he was shipped off to goodness knows where. Complete silence ensued. It was then that I first saw my mother cry, as she stood in the kitchen - it was six weeks since she had had any news of him. Relief when we learned that he was in Tunisia and for the next two and a half years we knew pretty precisely where he was at any time due to an ingenious coding system in his letters which he had agreed with my father before his departure. North Africa, Sicily and then all the way up the Italian peninsula. I can still see my father decoding one particular letter in the spring of 1944: M-O-N-T-E-C-A-S-S-I-N-O. There was deep worry about him, I could sense that, and this always came to a head when there was a knock on the front door and we saw it was a telegraph boy.. Then a flood of relief when the telegram proved to be something innocuous.

By the time I started to take a close interest in the progress of the war it was all starting to get a bit exciting and encouraging. D-Day and then, a few months later, the papers started to publish, every day, the number of miles we were from Berlin, counting down, 150, 100, 90..... Interrupted for a day or two when some of the camps were liberated and the papers were full of the horrors of Belsen. My parents tried, unsuccessfully, to hide the paper from me on that first day, under an easy chair. But finally the wonderful day when I was in our back garden and saw our neighbour, whose husband had been marooned on Malta for the last four years, holding out the Evening Mail through the fence to my mother and saying "Freda, it's all over..." The image still brings a tear to my eye.

What they went through, our parents, and how they protected us from an appalling world. I only started to appreciate it and think about it when I had children of my own. Our troubles of today are absolutely nothing compared with what they endured when the world, and everything they held dear, had collapsed into chaos and cruelty.
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master brummie
If I was growing up in Brum in the 1950s and went to town with my mates to buy something priced at 10 Guineas and I only had the amount shown below in my wallet, how much would I need to borrow off my mates to make it up to 10 Guineas and buy it ? ... ;)


master brummie
£3. 13. 71/2.
Well done Eddie.
OK guys, can someone work this out ( I can`t )
A line of soldiers 50 yards long at the traffic lights A line of cars, also 50 yards long at the same traffic lights. The lights turn to green & the order is given quick march to the squaddies, & the first & last squaddie move off at exactly the same time. Why don`t the first & last cars move off at the same time? I tried to Google for an answer but couldn`t figure out how to phrase it. I know it`s off topic but hopefully it can sneak in under the radar.

norfolk brummie

gone but not forgotten
Hi Eddie, That was quick, I hope you did not use a modern 'spreadsheet' to work it out !
If everyone agrees we can give him a gold star .... :D
Quite enjoyed that!

In spite of my old age, one of the things I have never forgotten is how to add, and subtract, in old pounds, shillings & pence. I suppose some of my schooling must have rubbed off!


norfolk brummie

gone but not forgotten
Well done Eddie.
OK guys, can someone work this out ( I can`t )
A line of soldiers 50 yards long at the traffic lights A line of cars, also 50 yards long at the same traffic lights. The lights turn to green & the order is given quick march to the squaddies, & the first & last squaddie move off at exactly the same time. Why don`t the first & last cars move off at the same time? I tried to Google for an answer but couldn`t figure out how to phrase it. I know it`s off topic but hopefully it can sneak in under the radar.
I guess that if all the cars were ready, in first gear, and all saw the green light, at exactly the same time, then moved off, simultaneously, in first gear, at exactly the same time, and at exactly the same speed, it is possible. Much like Formula 1 cars at the start of a race.

Smudger: You have got my brain working overtime for a Monday morning. The £.s.d. was bad enough!



master brummie
£3. 13. 71/2.
Long ago in Perry Beeches Junior School Miss Dogood taught us about money and rapped us sharply over the knuckles with a stick (causing bruises) when we got things wrong. Here is Eddie's answer in a pic, but Miss Dogood would not be pleased because I rushed it a bit.

Roy Blakey

master brummie

A scenario that I guess never changes.
Take little Charlie and his older brother Jack ( both in bed a bit early on Christmas Eve ).
Little Charlie : " How does Father Christmas get down our chimney Jack ? "
Jack : " Cus he's got magic that makes him small sometimes so that he can squeeze down, that's what I think "
Charlie : " Does he get dirty when he comes down then ? "
Jack : " Na, he's got special clothes that don't get dirty "
Charlie : " Why don't our presents get dirty ? "
Jack : " Cus he's got a special present bag that keeps em clean "
Charlie : " What will happen if our Mom's forgot to send our messages to him ? "
Jack : " It will be okay Charlie our Mom ain't forgotten. I seen her writing a letter not long ago and I'm pretty sure it was a Father Christmas letter "
Charlie : " If I do get a colouring book do you want to help me colour some in ?"
Jack : " Yeah, we can do some together if you like "
Charlie : " I don't feel very tired Jack, why have we come to bed early? "
Jack : " I dunno, but we better get off to sleep cus he ain't gonna come if we're still awake "
Charlie : " Why don't he bring presents when we're awake Jack? "
Jack : " Just be quiet a bit Charlie. The quicker we get to sleep the quicker he might bring our presents "
Charlie : " I hope we get some of those fizzy sweets in our stockings like them we had last year "
Jack : " Wo up a bit Charlie. Stop scratching your leg. Get back under the bed clothes. Just lie still and shut your eyes. See you in the morning then, okay? Goodnight our kid. "
Dad : " They're still awake Eth, I can still hear them talking away up there "
Mom : " They'll drop off soon, not to worry. We're nearly done here, we just need to do the stocking filler bits and then I think we can treat ourselves to a drop of Sherry to celebrate, the kids will have dropped off by then you'll see."
Dad : " Hope they don't wake up too early Eth,you mind last year they tried to wake us up at six in the morning "
Mom : " I don't mind George, I love to see their exited little faces "
Dad : " Ar, you're right love. Happy Christmas anyway. Bottoms up, and cheers ".
Wishing a MERRY CHRISTMAS to all the participants on the Birmingham
History Forum.
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OldBrit in Exile
The PILLOW CASE Never forget that one. No fancy scamcy gift wrapping like now! left under the tree. Loved to try tell what was in the pillow case by the shape of it!! Gifts hand made by Dad on his fretsaw.

norfolk brummie

gone but not forgotten
My mother would always have the chimney swept prior to Christmas, and she always said that it was done so that Father Christmas would not get his red uniform dirty. We always believed her.

A pillow case, an orange, and three shiny brand new pennies.

Magical times.


Roy Blakey

master brummie
" Strip Down ".
Period : 1946
I recall, for a fair number of " kids / young men ", that this was the period of that year when they returned to their home made Cycle Speedway tracks to tidy up the racing cicuit and begin practicing for the coming new season of competitions.
Stripping their bikes down to maximum lightness, off would come saddle bags, mud guards, lamps, tyre pump, bell and all front and rear brake parts.
Our bunch of lads ( the team ) used the Alexander Sports Stadium, Perry Barr " Car Park " as our home racing circuit.To mark out the cicuit we used spaced apart building bricks.
Home made cycle speedway tracks sprung up all across Brum. Teams competed against one another in " league" competitions.
There was one aspect of the " Skid Kids " stories that's worth a mention.
Many of the competitions were held in the evenings during the " light nights "of early to late summer and many of the young men competed after doing a day's work in their factories, offices or shops. In general, throughout the season, a team rider would race in a couple of league events each week. One at home and one away.
" Away " meetings sometimes required fair distances to be travelled.
I recall distances from Perry Barr, across the city, to " Harborne " or " Bromford " as examples.
Now taking into account that the majority of these " competition " bikes were not adapted to " on the road legal requirements "levels. ( No Brakes, No Lights ).
How did the competitors get themselves and their bikes to the race events ?
Straight answer was that they rode there and back on their stripped down bikes.
How for instance was their " stopping speed " achieved and controlled whilst using their bikes on the highway ? Answer : Mainly accomplished by placing one foot between the rear bike frame and the the rear tyre, applying varying pressures on the rotating tyre to achieve either slowing down or stopping.
I recall riding to some " away " venues whereby it was a balance between trying to use the minimum of pedal power to get there and getting there in time to get a bit of " puff " back before we started racing.
How we all got away with the Highway " illegalities " bit I'm not sure but I think that the combination of using the less conspicuous and the less congested routes helped a bit.
( Back streets and Parks were useful in this respect ).
I also favour the thought that in some cases the good old local " Bobby " turned a blind eye to some of the " skid kids " antics,
Photo: Bit of luxury with this one. Hired a Charabanc. Piled all the team bikes in the back. Team and supporters sat comfortably up front. Journeyed from Perry Barr to East London to race against " The West Ham Hammers " cycle speedway team. Great day.
Big crowd. Came away with a creditable 45-45 draw.
Here was our team photo just prior to the event beginning.
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norfolk brummie

gone but not forgotten
South side of 'Brum' included Sparkbrook, where, around 1946/47, on the fields behind Golden Hillock Road School, Basil Wainwright was king of the cycle track. A hard man to beat. Very physical, and aggressive. Off the track, we were great friends. Interestingly, the James Motor Cycle Company, also used the field for their motor bike testing. So the cycle track was sandwiched between the B.S.A. Works, and the James Works.


Roy Blakey

master brummie
I think it would be reasonably fair to say that during the 1930's period many Birmingham children did not have the slightest chance of a holiday " at the sea-side ".
So the " bucket and spade " , the bare foot play on the beach and the " paddles in the sea " was not to be for them.
To-day, this sort of story probably sounds a little sad.
Having said this though, I think that many of these kids, of this era , had inventiveness and creativeness to concoct " adventures " around their own living area's and were able to come up with their own " substitutions" for the equivalent of " the sea-side ".
I recall how our little gang found the near enough perfect replacement for the " day on the beach ".
Our little group at the time consisted of ages ranging between seven and ten year olds.
The period was around 1938.
It was during one of the school holidays and we were out on one of our adventures in Sutton Park.
We were having a little " reconnaissance " round the back of Longmoor Pool and came upon the little water stream that ran across Longmoor Valley and fed into the main Longmoor water.
I remember, we sat on the bank of the stream watching the slow flow of water as it made it's way to the main pool.
I recall it all started with a couple of the gang find ing a few stones from the bank of the stream and then throwing them into the water to create " splashes ".
Someone in the group then took off their shoes and socks and went into the stream and began collecting these loose stones and began to try and form a little "dam " with them.
Everything took off from this.
It was boots and socks off all round.
Build a " dam " was our target.
More stones, bits of fallen " twigs " from the trees and plenty of " mud " from the wet banks began to form our dam.
" Working like a load of Beavers " would have pretty well have described it all.
With the dam reasonably constructed, we waited patiently for our little pool to fill up with water.
A few minor dam repairs and there we had it.
We " paddled " and " Splashed about " in our dam pool for the remainder of the day.
Finally the dam was broken up and we watched our pool flow down stream.
It was time to go home.
Compared to " a day at the sea-side ", I bet there wasn't much in it. Our own " paddle and splash day " had been absolutely great.


Staff member
smashing post roy thank you...i think even up to the 70s kid were making their own play time..no mobile phones..computers or computer games back then..i am glad i had my childhood when i did..plenty of very fond memories for me..:)



Ex-pat Brummie

That brings back memories of both my own childhood and that of my children many years later.

From the early 1940s until 1950 my younger brother and I and our parents lived in Knowle Road, Sparkhill. On one side of us was bomb site at the back of the Springfield Cinema & the Springfield Ballroom - both still there, but with different uses and houses have since been rebuilt to fill the gap - and opposite was to the huge allotment area and the River Cole that stretches to Formans Road. Admission to this area is now denied unless you have an allotment, but in those days there were no restrictions. We would spend hours damming the River Cole, only for it all to be washed away when rain came. No harm done and the river had quite a run on it anyway at that point.

Forward to the 70s and for our holidays we quite often took advantage of the inclement weather in North Wales. We rented a converted water mill near Lake Bala which had a small millstream overflow a few inches deep and four or five feet wide. Those that know that part of Wales will know that it rains more often than not in the summer and the only way to escape it is to drive down to Barmouth where it is likely damp and uninteresting after a couple of visits by young children. So the kids would nearly always opt to stay up at the mill, and dam the stream. From 8:00am they were out there and we had a job to get them in for mealtimes or at 10:00pm for bed. It was absolute Heaven for them, irrespective of the rain. At night, of course, the rain would wash away the dam ready for them to start "construction" again in the morning. Idyllic times! Thanks for the memories, Roy!