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We used to start collecting wood for the bonfire weeks before bonfire night and store it in the right of way (gully) at the back of our house, nothing was safe if it was left out. We even found someone's car mats hanging on their fence so into the pile of wood they went, the owner of the mats, who had just left them to dry, came searching for them a couple of hours later and much to our disgust took them back. My best mates Father new someone who worked at Perry Hall playing fields, where all the tree pruning's were stored, so we always ended up with a couple of lorry loads of wood for the bonfire. One year a stray spark set light to the box of fireworks stored in my mates garage, we lost all the fireworks and almost lost his Fathers garage.
I lived in Watney Grove just off College Road Kingstanding. Me and the other kids would collect timber for weeks before Bonfire Night and build a fire on the centre of the Island in the middle of the grove. They would end up 20 feet tall or even higher. I remember,
a) Mom and other adults making baked potatoes
b) The grove and College Road so full of smoke we could hardly see !
c) Taking mini rockets and rather than attaching the launcher to a post we would hold it in our hands and fire them at the College Arms Pub over the road, even got one through the Bar Door one day.
d) climbing to the top of one bonfire and falling off (must have been 25feet tall)
e) Holding bangers in our had when they went off (Holding the very end)
f) Buying Cannons and binding them with selotape so they were even more powerful !
Thanks, everyone, for bringing back Bonfire Night memories (good and bad). We used to accumulate fireworks for several weeks before the "big night", and I loved just looking at them. I can remember wheeling a guy around in a cart, begging "Penny for the guy, mister?" Then the "big night" itself: we usually went to a community bonfire somewhere, thrilled to the spectacle of the fireworks, and relished the baked potato or sausage on a bread roll (and probably Bournville cocoa). The year I turned 13 (1962) disaster struck. Some "bad lads" were letting off sky rockets along the ground, and one hit the shoulder of a man standing next to me and rebounded into my eye! Instant agony and two weeks in the Eye Hospital: no long-term effects though.
After we emigrated to Australia in 1964, "Bonfire Night" became "Cracker Night" and was on the Queen's "birthday" in June, not 5 November. Nowadays it's all very tightly (and probably rightly) controlled, and huge professional fireworks displays are usual on occasions of special celebration. But I can still feel the thrill of Bonfire Night in Birmingham and Sutton all those years ago.
One of the best memories i have of Guy Fawkes(Bonfire) night was in 1963 .our School All Saints Hockley held the biggest bonfire in the area we had spuds hot from the fire and they treated every child to a box of ( Bingle/Bingel )matches..the teachers were brilliant that night
Here is a great photo I have just scanned from a negative. My brothers used to build a big bonfire with their friends opposite our house in Blackberry Lane, Four Oaks. The neighbours and family would come and Mom would cook all day for it. The other interesting thing in the photo is the background with open fields now all houses.
Interesting photo Wendy. Like you say, you had fields around, so lots of wood for the bonfire. Looks good too with a lot of thin dry wood to get a good fire going. Our bonfires in more built up areas would be built with parts of rotting old fences, boxes scrounged from local shopkeepers, old furniture, in fact anything that would burn. A good fire, a box of fireworks (loved Roman Candles) and a few potatoes baked in the fire, well, what more could you possibly want? Viv.
Nice photo Wendy, looks like a lot of bushes from around the area made up that bonfire. I seem to remember from the 40s and 50s that the bonfire was the main feature, the few fireworks we had didn't last long especially one night when a spark got into the cardboard box and they all went off in one go. Neighbours gathered round the fire, chatting, mugs of tea, sarnies, and always blackened smoky baked potatoes if you could find them in the fire.
This thread reminded me of the bonfires and fun we used to have in the back to backs around the city.
My parents were publicans - and on 5th November each year, the piano would be wheeled out of the pub bar to form the base of a bonfire in the yard next door. All sorts of bits of wood were added and the locals would pack in the yard to watch it go up whilst eating charcoaled potatoes and sharing a jug of ale etc. Health and safety would never tolerate that today!! Then Dad would trot round to the second hand shop the next day and a new (old) piano would become the entertainment focus for the next year until the following Guy Fawkes night!!
I wonder if anyone from Edward Street remembers my Mum's faggots and peas (at the Ivy Green public house)? There used to be a great long queue of people each carrying their own bowls to the outdoor hatch. She was quite a pioneer in pub catering then - and still will not give up the recipe!
I am not sure of the date of the photo but may be 59/60. The reason there are so many branches the local council workers would drop off all the tree and bush cuttings, not sure why maybe my brother can explain. Lovely times no one messed with the bonfire before the night.
Great memories all. That's right, we didn't get lots of fireworks, just a few. The bonfire was the magical part, staring into the red/orange flames. I once got burnt by a rocket. One of the shower of sparks landed on my hand. So not a great fan of fireworks. And yes the spuds would be burnt but the insides.... mmmmm ... yum. I still like the smell of bonfires in the cold wintery air, even today. Suppose it's the primeval in us all! Viv.
Yes Wend your right about the council workers dropping off their branches ect. But also the field we had the bonfire in belonged to farmer Juxon (All his land is now built on) and he and the farm workers would also put hedge cutting on to the pile.