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The Aftermath of the Great War in Erdington

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
My elder brother was born in 1922 and lived in Croydon Road, Erdington. He glimpsed and recorded those times.

"My very earliest dim memories are of the long gone days of the mid-1920s, a world of gaslight and tram cars, when horse-drawn vehicles were still a common sight on the roads. The end of the War of 1914-1918 was still a recent event and the gradual realisation by the general populace of the colossal scale of casualties suffered during those years would have remained a sobering factor, even into my own lifetime. I can certainly remember my mother's hushed tones when chiding me for some misbehaviour with the enjoinder that I should think myself fortunate compared with those other little children "whose daddies were killed in the war".

My own father had served in a Scottish regiment, the Cameron Highlanders, and I can recall seeing his old uniform hanging in the wardrobe, complete with tartan kilt and bonnet. There were also sporrans which I used to call "Daddy's Pussycats". He possessed a pair of heavy hobnailed army boots which were used in the garden; and hidden away in an old cloth bag was a smuggled souvenir German pistol, a Mauser or similar, with a supply of ammunition. Occasionally I might catch him playing with it, perhaps aiming at some imaginary enemy, but I assume it was never actually loaded; certainly I never heard it fire. I believe he retained it for a long time and finally handed it in around 1945, after disbandment of the Home Guard.

Other vivid memories of those days were of the disabled veterans and others who had not found employment. Long before the days of adequate social security, they would try to raise a few pennies by performing as street musicians, not just in the shopping areas but in the ordinary housing estates also. We certainly had several in Croydon Road. One such itinerant brought along a street piano: this was a contraption mounted on wheels like a handcart and music came from it when the crank handle was turned. Wrongly, we used to call them barrel organs but those were seen less often in our district; they made a different musical sound and often displayed a live monkey, wearing a red fez hat to draw interest and hopefully swell takings. One man used to come round with a trumpet on which he played doleful melodies. Others had no instrument at all: they just stood in the middle of the street and sang.

It would be difficult to imagine, later on, just how much unemployment, poverty and squalor did exist in those times. Labour was plentiful and wages low. Thus men could be hired to do jobs which are inconceivable today. One such example was the "sandwich man" who would stand or walk the streets with a flat board on his back and another in front of him, to be joined at the shoulders by leather or webbing straps. The board would display some advertising slogan or other and would sometimes be carried around by several men, walking in single file.

As a gesture to assist the unemployed the local newspapers would carry a "Situations Wanted" column on their classified advertising sections and would offer to display items from ex-servicemen at one half the normal rate.

November 11th was observed with great solemnity. The annual street sale of Flanders Poppies was becoming an established custom. In those days the poppy emblems were mostly handcrafted, usually by disabled veterans employed by the Haig Fund charity and some of them were very collaboratively fashioned. A range of styles and prices was available, ranging in the coloured printed card version at one penny, others, more expensive, of fine silk or cheaper materials, up to a very impressive waxen creation, intended to be attached to motor vehicles and on sale at half a crown.........."


A glimpse into a "Land Fit For Heroes"........
(And the eyes which did the glimpsing).

Chris

GMPaigntonSept1924imgWE.jpg
 
Last edited:

Smudger

master brummie
My elder brother was born in 1922 and lived in Croydon Road, Erdington. He glimpsed and recorded those times.

"My very earliest dim memories are of the long gone days of the mid-1920s, a world of gaslight and tram cars, when horse-drawn vehicles were still a common sight on the roads. The end of the War of 1914-1918 was still a recent event and the gradual realisation by the general populace of the colossal scale of casualties suffered during those years would have remained a sobering factor, even into my own lifetime. I can certainly remember my mother's hushed tones when chiding me for some misbehaviour with the enjoinder that I should think myself fortunate compared with those other little children "whose daddies were killed in the war".

My own father had served in a Scottish regiment, the Cameron Highlanders, and I can recall seeing his old uniform hanging in the wardrobe, complete with tartan kilt and bonnet. There were also sporrans which I used to call "Daddy's Pussycats". He possessed a pair of heavy hobnailed army boots which were used in the garden; and hidden away in an old cloth bag was a smuggled souvenir German pistol, a Mauser or similar, with a supply of ammunition. Occasionally I might catch him playing with it, perhaps aiming at some imaginary enemy, but I assume it was never actually loaded; certainly I never heard it fire. I believe he retained it for a long time and finally handed it in around 1945, after disbandment of the Home Guard.

Other vivid memories of those days were of the disabled veterans and others who had not found employment. Long before the days of adequate social security, they would try to raise a few pennies by performing as street musicians, not just in the shopping areas but in the ordinary housing estates also. We certainly had several in Croydon Road. One such itinerant brought along a street piano: this was a contraption mounted on wheels like a handcart and music came from it when the crank handle was turned. Wrongly, we used to call them barrel organs but those were seen less often in our district; they made a different musical sound and often displayed a live monkey, wearing a red fez hat to draw interest and hopefully swell takings. One man used to come round with a trumpet on which he played doleful melodies. Others had no instrument at all: they just stood in the middle of the street and sang.

It would be difficult to imagine, later on, just how much unemployment, poverty and squalor did exist in those times. Labour was plentiful and wages low. Thus men could be hired to do jobs which are inconceivable today. One such example was the "sandwich man" who would stand or walk the streets with a flat board on his back and another in front of him, to be joined at the shoulders by leather or webbing straps. The board would display some advertising slogan or other and would sometimes be carried around by several men, walking in single file.

As a gesture to assist the unemployed the local newspapers would carry a "Situations Wanted" column on their classified advertising sections and would offer to display items from ex-servicemen at one half the normal rate.

November 11th observed with great solemnity. The annual street sale of Flanders Poppies was becoming an established custom. In those days the poppy emblems were mostly handcrafted, usually by disabled veterans employed by the Haig Fund charity and some of them were very collaboratively fashioned. A range of styles and prices was available, ranging in the coloured printed card version at one penny, others, more expensive, of fine silk or cheaper materials, up to a very impressive waxen creation, intended to be attached to motor vehicles and on sale at half a crown.........."


A glimpse into a "Land Fit For Heroes"........
(And the eyes which did the glimpsing).

Chris

View attachment 128615
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