Towards the end of 1945, I used
to stay with my Nan most weekends and Fred, who was 17 years old by now, met
his future wife Barbara. She came
from Wheelwright Lane in Holbrooks. We
grew very close and they would often take me to the pictures. She came with us
on an outing to Southend one day when Nan got tickets for us to go with the
British Legion. As soon as we got there, David vanished and we spent the entire
afternoon looking for him. He was
found eventually watching the motor cycles go round on the Wall of Death!
I think the bus must have broken down, because I remember us getting home
at about 2 o’clock in the morning. Christmas
that year David and I became the proud owners of a scooter each.
The whole thing was made of metal, even the wheels and they made the
devil of a racket as we scooted along but we were really pleased with them.
It was the first Christmas after the war, that there were things like that in
the shops. I think Dad got them from Barnby's which was a well known toy shop in
Coventry at the time, but closed down in 1979. The shop was a magnet for every
child and although it was only quite a small shop, it was the post was
equivalent of Hamley's or Toys are Us! I used to scoot down to my Nan’s at the weekend.
She could probably hear me turning the corner of Coundon Rd. and Barras
Carol and Ernie's blessing at St.
George's church wedding group .
On the right
is the family at the reception at my Mum's. L.to R:- Uncle Frank, Autie
Kath, Auntie Bertha, Auntie Flo, Uncle Bert, Betty, Uncle Ernie, Auntie
Carol, Me, Dad, Unknown, Mum with David. Cousin Lorna is standing at the
front holding Kath's hands.
In the spring of 1946, Auntie Carol who had married her
Ernie in a London Register office, returned to Coventry to have their marriage
blessed at St. George’s church. I
was a bridesmaid. Mum made me a
beautiful mauve taffetta dress for the occasion and gave them a lovely reception
at our house. After this they
returned to live in London. Soon
afterwards, it became noticeable that most of the housewives in the district had
started to wear very loose smocks over their skirts.
Including my own Mum! I was
to learn that they were all expecting babies.
We went on our first real holiday in June of that year.
Uncle Bun, Dad’s brother was in the Royal Navy during the war and he
was billeted in a house in Clapham Rd., Lowestoft and he suggested that Dad
write to Auntie Blanche, as she became, to see if she would have us all for a
holiday. This was the beginning of
a long friendship for us all and we were to spend holidays there for many years.
The first time we went, we had to go by train to London, Euston, get a
taxi to Liverpool St. station and another train to Lowestoft.
It took us the best part of a day and when we arrived, we asked a
fisherman the way to Clapham Rd. It
was to turn out that this gentleman was the husband of Blanche and he was to
become Uncle Fred. Dad took
us down to the beach that evening and it was wonderful to see the sea, although
there were restrictions as to where we could go, as the beaches had not been
entirely cleared of landmines from the war.
There were warships in the harbour as well as trawlers and dredgers.
The fish market was around the corner from the harbour and if one awoke
early enough they could watch the haul being unloaded and sorted.
There was a curing factory at the bottom of the garden, where one could
order kippers or bloaters to be sent home. The kippers were beautiful!
Fat and juicy, with a lovely blueish tinge to them.
Auntie Blanche had a daughter named Gladys. She was engaged to an
American airman and was to marry him the following year and go to America. We
discovered the following day that there were boats all along the sand and the
off duty fishermen would take us out to sea in these rowing boats for 1 shilling
(5p ). We went out every
day. We also went on a trip up the River Waveney to Oulton Broad.
It was a wonderful holiday!
at Lowestoft in 1946. Left:- digging in the sand.
In the electric boats in Kensington Gardens
During this summer, we had the builders in to repair the war damage that
had taken place in our home. The
walls and ceilings had been very badly cracked since the blitz in 1940.
During the war, it was impossible to get wallpaper, so Dad had to paint
the walls with an awful water-based paint called distemper.
This came in plain basic colours, pink, cream, blue, gold and an awful
shade of green called Eau-de nil. All of the walls in the house were painted
with this and the ceilings whitewashed. Dad
would try to brighten it up by using a stipple brush and various borders which
were obtainable but they were only about an inch wide. During that summer though,
we had the men in to do the decorating. They
had to re- plaster all of the walls and ceilings and after this, they papered it
all. They were there for about four to six weeks, and while they were working,
they listened to the Cricket test match on our new radio.
This was England playing Australia. It was the first time that it had
been played since before the war, so there was much excitement.
Australia won the ashes in the first test after the war. I
remember that the English hero was Len Hutton and the Australian one was Don Bradman. Sometime in late 1945, our radio
had given up the ghost and we were without
one for quite a few months. This was frustrating because all my friends at
school used to be discussing Dick Barton, Special Agent, or Paul Temple, a
detective serial as well as a children’s serial called Just William.
Of course I had no idea what they were talking about but to my great
delight in early 1946, Dad rented one from Radio Rentals for about 2/6d a week.
He bought a new wireless licence and I was subsequently glued to the radio again
and able to join in the discussions at school.
Mum used to turn it on first thing in the morning and listen to George
Elrick’s programme “Housewive’s Choice” which was a programme of record
requests sent in by housewives. I suppose you could call him the original D.J. but we
didn’t use that term in those days. It
was on the radio from 9 o’clock until ten and gave us an idea of the most
popular music of the day. A bit
like today’s Top of the Pop’s I suppose.
At 10.30 we would have “Music While You Work” a music programme with
different bands every week playing popular music of the day.
This originated from during the war when it was played for the factory
workers to keep up their morale and continued to be popular into the 1950’s.
Mum had our three piece suite re-covered in a bright green plastic material,
which was the latest thing at the time time. It did look smart, especially with
our new wallpaper, on reflection it was pretty hideous but at least the hole
that David had burned in it was no more.
Captains of England and Australia, Len Hutton and Don Bradman. There was
much excitement in the Summer of 1946 when the Ashes were fought over for
the first time since before the war.
played a lot with
Jeanette Fisher during that year. We
used to play at “Banks” or Post Office in her back garden.
Sometime we would play in my garden, as Mum had thrown an old table out
and we pretended that it was a stage and gave impromptu concerts for the
neighbours, singing the latest song and tap dancing on the “Stage”.
We were definitely stars of the future!
One evening we fell out and I bent Jeanette’s finger back.
She went in crying to her Mum. Her Mum came out and gave me a smack on
the top of my arm, which raised a few wheals so I went in crying to my
Mum. Much to my amazement Mum took
off up the entry like a rocket, marched up Mrs. Fisher’s back garden path and
clouted her across the face! Of
course, Jeanette and I were bosom buddies again the next day.
was by now in the penultimate class at Southbank Rd. school.
Next year I would be taking my all important Scholarship examination but
in the meantime, in Miss Harrison’s class I continued being my usual “
lively” self. I know this,
because Miss Harrison used to punish wrongdoers by putting them over her knee,
pulling their dress up and smacking the tops of their legs and I seem to
remember taking up this position frequently!
Not that I didn’t like Miss Harrison—no really she was really nice.
She was a very smart lady and her shoes were always two- toned court shoes.
She had them in every shade! Navy, brown, green and oxblood and white.
Now I wonder on reflection, how she could afford the coupons for them ?
She used to wear smocks like all the ladies who were expecting but she
wasn’t ! On Thursday afternoons,
we used to be out in the gardens. We
all had our own plots that we shared with another class mate—in my case a girl
called Doreen Braim who lived in Cedars Ave. next door to my Auntie Kath’s
sister, Mabel. Doreen and I were
good friends but unfortunately she was to be killed in a car crash in 1957 at
Blackdown Nr. Leamington. She
married an estate agent and lived in Thomas Lansdail St. in Cheylesmore and they
had a little girl aged 6 months when she died.
She was 21 yrs old. Such a waste! However, I digress yet again! At this time, Doreen and I dug, planted and gathered our
produce. We grew the biggest
cabbages! Mum used to be so pleased
because Miss Briggs, who used to be in charge, would let us buy our produce at a
very cheap rate. I kept the family
in vegetables that summer!
As September drew near, Mum and Dad were preparing for the new baby who
was due to be born on the 22nd. Much
to my disgust, Mum had been knitting pink outfits for the expected infant and
Dad had planned to call her Barbara Ann-----I ask you !
Barbara Ann Batchelor !! Initials B.A.B.! “ Well”!—I
thought---Serve her right if she’s a girl ! I did not want any girl usurping MY
position as no. 1 girl in the Batchelor household!
The 22nd came and went, no baby had arrived.
I went to bed on the 25th. The
next morning, Dad came into my room and said to me “ Come and see your baby
brother”. I went into their
bedroom with him and Mum was in bed and next to her, in a lemon coloured
carrycot was a tiny pink-faced person with a fuzz of white-blonde hair.
It was instant adoration! Whether it was because he was a little boy or
not, I cannot truthfully say but I suspect that was the reason in retrospect.
They gave him the name Roger Kenneth.
aged 3 weeks with Mum (left) and Rose Kirkman our next door neighbour's
Dad had managed to get
him the best pram that was then available on the market.
It was a “Pedigree” top of the range, fully sprung Rolls Royce of a
pram and I couldn’t wait to take him out and show him off.
The weather was kind, so when he was two days old, they let me parade him
around the streets. I remember one or two of the neighbours sniffing in
disapproval because he was so young but Mum and Dad said that it was O.K. and
that was good enough for me. I
thought that they should mind their own business!
Dad worked with a friend, Eric Penn, who was chief photographer for the
Council. He was engaged to his future wife, Gladys. They, along with Auntie
Carol were chosen to be Roger’s Godparents.
Soon after he was born, they bought me the first doll that I had owned
since 1940. She was dressed in a
pink outfit and when I used to take Roger out I put her into the basket that was
on the front of the pram and away we would go ! By
now, all of the other expectant Mums had given birth.
There were at least four or five for my friends to take out at this time
and we used to take our charges down to Pake’s Croft Park.
In those days, it was a lovely little park, with tennis courts and a
putting green. It was really nice
to be able to take our babies there as it wasn’t too far away. I delighted in
looking after my new brother and I enjoyed giving him his bottle.
Of course, inevitably, the novelty wore off after a few months! Mrs.
Watts had her niece Ira from Wales staying with her and one day when I was
walking up from the shop that used to be on the corner of Cedars Ave., after
going to buy some sherbet (that you could get without coupons) I saw—horror of
horrors! Ira was wheeling my brother down the street!
I flew into the house and lay the law down to my Mum, who quite rightly
put me in my place! “ Jealous little cat!” I think was the term she used.
She was quite right, although now I would term it “ Dog in a Manger.”
is very much like Roger's pram.
son Bill had an almost identical one to this.
don’t recall much
more of that year, in fact I can’t remember that Christmas, although I think
that it might have been the time that I discovered my presents at the top of
Mum’s wardrobe (I was continually rooting around where I shouldn't!)and began to have second thoughts about “Who was Father
Christmas?” My friends by now had
sussed that it was their Dad but I didn’t believe them up until then!
In fact I was still reluctant to believe that for some time afterwards.
how bad the snow was for the first three months of 1947. Left:- A couple
clearing their path in Newport, Monmouthshire and Right:- People on this
train in Sheffield had to spend the night trapped in their carriages.
It was exacerbated by the fact that there was a coal shortage that winter
What can I say about the beginning of
1947? It snowed, and snowed and really froze! Through a child’s eyes, it was
fabulous but for Mum and Dad it must have been horrendous.
There was a fuel strike on which made it difficult to obtain coal for the
fire, I think that it was rationed to four
a month, which was four bags.
This really was not enough, because normally we would use six bags.
Fortunately we were able to go down to the coal wharf near Coundon
station with an old pram or something similar to buy a couple of bags of coke.
David and I used to go down to the Allesley fields and take our sledges with our friends. We had a wonderful time taking the
sledges down a steep dip. Everyone used to congregate there.
One day, David
went there with Peter Watts, his friend but I wasn’t there that day, he came
home and his eyelashes
had icicles hanging from them. Mum put him straight in the bath to thaw him out
but she had to put 4 shillings in the meter to get the water hot enough to
school. there were icicles hanging from
the roof that were between 12 and 14 inches long and they were about 2 inches
thick at the top. Heaven help anyone who was in the danger area when there was a
thaw, or so I believed, not realising that a thaw came gradually and the icicles
melted slowly. I had visions of being stabbed to death by one!
In the meantime, I was sharing a bath with the two girls that lived next
door but one. With the fuel
shortage that was implemented at the time, it was more economical for us to
share a bath and so we used to take it in turns to do this.
It was at about this time that the government introduced a new conception
in Health Care. The National Health
Service. At the time it was a
marvelous concept. Mother’s
started getting Family Allowance. 7s.6d
a week for each child after the first one.
Mum used to send me up to Westhill Rd. post office every Tuesday to
in a rowing boat rescue inhabitants of Spring Lane, London, where flood
waters reached alarming heights after the River Lea burst its banks in March
1947. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty images
weather continued well into March and it was followed by
severe floods everywhere, then
a record Summer. I had
been doing mock exams for some time but in May, came the real thing.
Dad lent me his new pen to do my exam with.
It was a new invention by a man named Lazlo Biro and a revolutionary one,
in as much as it didn’t have a nib, but a small ballpoint and specially
adapted long lasting ink and it cost about half a week’s wages. Of course, we now know it as a ballpoint pen and they are
about 10p. each ! Unfortunately I
was not to be allowed to use this unique masterpiece, because Miss Briggs
stipulated old fashioned pen and ink only !
I found the exams to be quite easy, which wasn’t to say that I thought
I’d passed, I had to wait until
the Summer holidays until I found out the
Watts our former air raid warden and neighbour worked in the coal pit at
Keresley colliery and one evening coming back from work, the bus crashed and
toppled over. He was sitting
upstairs and although he was not badly injured at the time, the shock of it
brought on a bout of ‘flu soon afterwards, except that as time went on and he
didn’t get any better, it was discovered that he had contracted cancer of the
lung and he died in June 1947.
Mum laid him out. He was 46
years old and left a 14 yr. old girl, Joan and 8 yr. old Peter.
Dad was ill again, so Mum,
David, Roger and I, went to Lowestoft together.
We went for three weeks in July. During
the third week, I received a telegram from Dad, confirming that I had a place in
Barr’s Hill Grammar School. He
had promised me a watch or ,a camera or a bicycle if I passed.
I finished up with all three! My
parents were over the moon. It was at about this time that I had my first
education in birth control, or “safe sex” as it is known in today’s
jargon. I was rooting around one afternoon in my Dad’s wardrobe, being nosey
as usual and I spied a packet with the words “Durex” on them.
I opened the packet and found these balloons.
I took them outside to share with my friend Joan Londcaulk and we sat on
her front garden wall happily blowing them up.
Needless to say, after about ten minutes of this performance, Father came
marching over and I took it that he wasn’t the happiest of Dads! Steam was almost coming from his ears! “Get in that
(What have I done wrong?)
After the inevitable sending off to bed
and punishment, Irene, Joan’s
elder sister explained to me what the offending objects were! (How did she
after we got back home from our holiday, Dad had a win on the pools.
I don’t know how much he won but Mum took me to Birmingham and bought
me a whole new outfit. It was the
first time that I had ever been there. We caught the bus from Pool Meadow and
got off in the Bull Ring and walked up the hill to Corporation St.
pavement up the hill were shady looking
characters with open suitcases selling
nylon stockings for 10s.0d a pair(50p) and loud flashy men’s ties with ladies
on them who were almost naked. These
salesmen I was to learn were called “spivs”.
They were black marketeers, originating in London. Petty gangsters and the
like. Mum took me to C&A.. where she bought me a lovely tweed coat in New Look style, complete with shoes,
gloves and the ubiquitous hat ! If
ever I had a new “ rig out” I had to have a hat. I also had new underwear
and a new dress. Soon after that,
Mum took me into Coventry and bought my uniform for my new school.
I had everything on the list. I couldn’t wait to go there.
The late actor, Arthur English began his career as a comedian who always
dressed and spoke like a "spiv"
Christian Dior's "New Look" introduced in 1947 when clothes were still
rationed in England. The government banned Vogue from advertising it,
to little effect, as we all did our best to adapt our clothes to "The New
When Christian Dior launched his first Parisian collection
in 1947, the world was stunned. After years of austerity and utility, (no
more than 3 buttons and no pockets!) and in England clothes were still rationed,
to see these beautiful creations with 16 yards of material in the skirts was
something that no-one could comprehend. The most famous one (illustrated)
was called simply "Bar". The jacket with a peplum and cinched in waist,
was made of Ivory silk hussor and the very full skirt was in fine wool. To say
that it set the world on fire, is an understatement. He remained the top
designer until his death in 1957 and ladies fashion was never the same.
This was the year too, when Dad bought
me a piano and I had lessons given by a lady who lived in Redesdale Avenue, Mrs.
Penrose. My friend Jean Owen had
been attending her house for lessons for some time.
We used to practice together. I
don’t think that we would ever have reached Concert Hall status, more your Les
Dawson on a bad day, but we thought we were good when we were banging out “
Chopsticks” or “ Dream of Olwyn”. I did a mean rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “
Piano Concerto in B Flat Minor! ” ----The simplified version for beginners.
By the time that I had progressed to “
Drip, Drip, Drip Little April Showers” from Walt Disney’s “Bambi”, I
felt that I was quite professional! Mrs.
Penrose was a plump lady, and she had cataracts in her eyes, so how she could
teach us, goodness only knows but she
went into hospital to get them removed, and gave up teaching piano lessons.
That must have been in about 1950.
Roger learned to walk when he was
9 months old, and from then on, there was no stopping him! If he could
find a well hidden newspaper, you bet your life he would and it would be torn to
shreds in seconds.
aged 9 months. He was walking by now and into everything!
started Barr’s Hill school in September 1947 My first teacher was an Australian
named Miss Bolton.….she came from Brisbane in Queensland.
This was interesting to me , as earlier that year, Dad was contemplating
emigrating with us to Oz., and Dad was thinking about going
to Brisbane. At that time
families could emigrate for £ 10.00. They were called assisted passages.
This idea didn’t materialise though.
Miss Bolton was a very nice teacher.
I don’t know how old she was, as her hair was pure white but she had a
very young face. She went back home after my first year there.
Before we started at the school, we were sent a list of extra lessons
that we could take, that had to be paid for privately.
There were music lessons (violin, cello etc.) , elocution, drama, among
others. Guess which one my dear
Father decided I would be allowed to take ?
Yes! Elocution!! Believe it
or not, I passed the first four R.A.D.A. examinations! The elocution teacher
lived in Clarendon St., in Leamington and we used to have to go to her house to
take our exams. We also had to go
on stage at Leamington Town Hall and read poetry! Yes! Me!!
Imagine me standing on the stage
reciting “ Slowly, silently, neoow the mooon, Walks the naight in her silver
shooon” ( Walter de la Mare’s “
Silver” ), or, “ Ai most go
dine to the sea agayne, to the lonely sea and the skaii” ( John Masefield’s
“ Sea Fever” ) Stretches the imagination a bit, dunnit ? I can’t say that I
can prove it to you either, because I no longer have my certificates. My Mum’s
zealous habit of throwing away all superfluous rubbish put paid to that!
used to travel to school on the bus during the winter, catching my bus at the
“Cedars” and paying my 1d fare to the conductor or conductress who would
give me a ticket from a machine strapped around their neck.
This machine had a sort of telephone dial in which they would dial the
appropriate amount, turn a handle and out would come the ticket.
I got off the bus at the Gas Showrooms in Corporation St., walked up Bishop
St. passed the policeman who was conducting the traffic at the junction of
Leicester Row, King St., Radford Rd. and Bishop St.
Now of course the Ring Rd. has taken the place of these landmarks.
I would continue on up the Radford Rd. until I got to school.
In the summer I used to ride my bike to school as they had cycle racks in
which to store them during the day when we were in class.
I travelled down Barker’s Butts Lane, turned left at Moseley Ave.,
around Cramper’s Field, right at Nethermill Rd., down Brightmere Rd., past the
house in which I was to live nearly
25 years later, little did I realise at the time, around Hewitt Ave.,
right at Bridgeman Rd. and
walk up the embankment to Radford Rd. then on to school. My best friend at the time was
Irene Londcaulk. (Yes------she of the birth control explanation). We were both avid
film fans and would go to the pictures two or three times a week.
Irene was the second youngest of five
girls that lived across the road from us in Evenlode Crescent.
She was two years older than me and we had been friends since we were
Elizabeth got engaged to Prince Phillip Mountbatten on July 9th 1947(see
Left). They were married on November 20th 1947 and this year (2007) it
will be their diamond anniversary. I was lucky to go to Buckingham Palace,
in August 2007 to see their presents and the bridesmaids and wedding dress.
Also some of her magnificent jewellery.
One aspect of my life I haven’t mentioned, is the admiration that I had
for Princess Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the King and Queen .
I had watched her and her sister, Margaret broadcast for Children’s
hour on the B.B.C. , during the war. It
was shown on the newsreels in the cinema and my interest spread from then.
She got engaged in July 1947, to a Greek Prince, Philip.
His family were actually Danish but his Grandfather was offered the Greek
throne sometime in the 1800’s and he was born in Corfu.
His family was exiled from Greece and he was brought up by
his Uncle, Lord Mountbatten. Without
going into details of his history, because it doesn’t apply to my story, my
princess had fallen in love with him at the beginning of the war and
their engagement was announced in July
1947. I had started a scrapbook
with all the cuttings from the
Daily Express, which was the newspaper Mum and Dad used to have and now everyone
was anticipating their wedding which was to take place on November 20th.
Of course there was still no television at this time but it was to be
broadcast on the radio. I discovered that one of the girls from my school was
going down to London to see the wedding.
She was one of these people that tend to brag a lot and I didn’t like
her very much anyway but when I heard that she was going to be there, I WAS
JEALOUS!! Of course nobody ever
knew this but I really thought that, because I loved Princess Elizabeth so much,
that I had more right than she had to be there.
However, I had to content myself with collecting my photographs and
sticking them in my scrap books, which by the time of the Coronation, totalled three thick ones and
eventually after a few years, went the same way as my elocution certificates.
I wrote to Princess Elizabeth soon after that and received a lovely
letter back from her ( lady-in-waiting ), which thrilled me to bits and made up
for the fact that I was unable to go to London to see her wedding .
Alas!------ See above!
Elizabeth came to Coventry in May 1948 to lay the foundation stone for the
new Broadgate, that had been destroyed during the blitz. She also visited
the Cathedral ruins and the War Memorial Park. She was 3 months
pregnant with Prince Charles.
There is a
happy ending to the above story though, Princess Elizabeth came to Coventry in
the following May to open the new Broadgate, which had been devastated during
the war, along with most of the City centre.
Mum took me to the Memorial Park, which she also visited and we had a
wonderful sight of her. We were
really close and she was so beautiful! She
is, like me, an old lady now but my admiration for her has never diminished and
it never will ! She was dressed in a lime
green suit in the New Look style with white hat, shoes and gloves.
It was around about this time, during the
spring, that I got interested in biology at school. We were at the stage of dissecting worms and other bits of
anatomy, such as pig’s hearts. When I was playing over the Allesley fields one
day, with one of my school friends, we had a bright idea.
Our work at school was marked in grades, the top mark was A+.
I often managed C- but more often than not, it was E for effort.
Well---that’s what I thought it was, although I must admit that I
didn’t make a lot of it! Anyway, we decided that we would surprise the
teachers and let them know how much we had learned in the biology class.
We decided to catch a large frog each and take it home, kill it humanely,
boil the flesh off it and wire the bones together to make a skeleton. A great
idea in theory! I can’t remember how I killed my frog (or even if I did)
------not very humanely I wouldn't wonder, for all my good intentions, but I do remember putting it in the kettle to boil.
As the frog stew was boiling merrily away, Mum came home from shopping.
I soon found out that the idea was definitely not good!
Mum went ballistic and that was very unusual for her so I knew she was
angry. I couldn’t understand why,
when all that I was doing was working for the benefit of science! Anyway, Mother, kettle, frog stew and what remained of my
“bright idea”---namely the skeleton, marched up the back garden path to the
dustbin! I couldn’t understand
why Mum threw the kettle away, because she had only bought it the previous week!
On reflection though, perhaps that’s why she was so angry.
Needless to say, my dreams of getting an A+ for biology didn’t
My friend, Jean Owen
with Aunt Blanche's dog, Don, in their back garden in Lowestoft in 1949.
The building at the back of the garden, is where they cured the kippers and
my parents introduced me to something that was to become a large part of my life
for the next five years. The
Brandon Bees!! Speedway racing. I
followed this sport religiously for the following five years, becoming one of
its biggest fans. My father went
into hospital again that year to have a final operation on his stomach.
He went into Keresley Hospital and was there for about three weeks.
He had half of his stomach taken away and was unable to eat large meals
afterwards but he never again suffered with his ulcer.
His office had moved yet again to the old Technical College in Little
Park St., just about where the court buildings are now.
I often used to go in to see him whenever I was in town.
At the top of the stairs was a model of the architect, Donald Gibson’s
idea of how Coventry was to be rebuilt after the bombing. http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/postwar/model.php
The link takes you to a fine picture of the model on Rob Orland's page, in
The original plans were really nice, and the plans for the Precinct,
Market Way and Smithford Way were implemented but for some unknown reason,
halfway through the rebuilding Sir Donald, as he was by then, retired and
another architect took over the job and a totally different concept emerged.
That is the reason that the City centre has so many different types of
buildings. What started out as a
brilliant plan, finished up as a hotchpotch of ideas.
Well- that’s my opinion anyway!
were the famous Kunzle cakes. They were made in Birmingham and the
picture on the right is of the ladies decorating them. They would be far too
impratical to make and sell these days as the price would be far too
expensive, given the cost of the ingredients and the labour now.
sometimes used to
meet Dad for lunch and we would go to the Domino café, where we would have
frothy coffee (espresso ), with a Kunzle cake. (
These were fancy cakes with cream on them and on the top was a type of
jelly sweet. The "Showboats" were chocolate shells that were filled with sponge
cake and jam and beautifully decorated on the top with cream and a jelly sweet
or a chocolate button. Dad always took one of these home at night
for Roger and he used to hide it in the bureau drawer until Roger Said
“ Ta !” They became known as “ Tatty cakes” The Domino café also sold
ice cream that came out of a machine. This was a new innovation, as was the
American style juke- box in which one put a penny and listened to the latest hit
record. It was great fun!
This café was in one of many pre-fabricated shops that were built during
the war to replace the shops that were bombed.
It was in Jordan Well, just a little way up from the Gaumont cinema
(later the Odeon). The Gaumont had
a café on the first floor and my friend, Jean Owen used to have her birthday
party there which was an occasion in itself, as all of my other friends had
their parties in their own homes. Jean was always different though.
She was an only child and she went to private schools as a child.
Stoke Lodge when she was in the juniors and Bremond College in the
seniors. This was a school run by a
lady called Mrs. Morash. It was a school for girls only and they wore a brown
and yellow uniform and a brown mortar board hat on their heads.
This headgear led to a lot of mickey taking and poor Jean used to be
called “Mortar Board Fanny” behind her back.
We remained good friends for many years.
was in the November of 1948 that I reached puberty.
The previous month our gym mistress, Miss Palmer gave us a talk about
what happened to girls at that time. I
told my Mum that evening what she had said and Mum said “Oh yes, and they stop
when you’re expecting a baby” Those sage words were the sum total of my sex
education! It’s a good job my
school pals talked about these things in the playground, otherwise I would still
be thinking that babies were placed under a gooseberry bush by the stork!
We were totally innocent in those days though and girls who went out with
lads used to warn each other off if a boy moved his hands above or below the
waist! Kissing was O.K. as long as
the boy didn’t open his mouth while doing it.
Anything else was totally taboo!
had joined the cubs by this time and was a keen member of the 79th Coventry pack
who had their headquarters in a field in Coundon just off Norman Place Rd.
My friends and I used to congregate at this field on most nights during
the summer months. David used to
have a good voice and was picked to sing in the Gang Shows.
He went camping quite often with the cubs as well.
By this time, I had joined the guides at St. George’s church.
I too had an experience of camping life and it was at Whitsun in 1949
that we went to Tuttle Hill in Nuneaton (of all places)
for four days. It put me off
the experience of life under canvass for the rest of my life! Not only did it
rain most of the time but we had to go out in the middle of the night to go to
the toilet across a field. I awoke
in the early hours with the most excruciating cramp in my legs.
It was horrible and I was glad to get back home.
Needless to say, after this, my days with the Girl Guides were numbered!
also in the Sunday school choir by now, as well as the choir at school.
I used to sing in church three times on Sundays.
Perhaps the fact that I had a huge crush on one of the choirboys had a
small part to play in this religious fervour, because when it became time for me
to be confirmed into the Church of England, at twelve years of age, I chickened
out as we had to learn the catechism and the Nicene Creed off by heart .
That was the end of my formal church activities for another 50 years or
so . Although I always said my
prayers every night when I went to bed and attended numerous weddings, funerals
and Christenings, my real church attendance left much to be desired.
We used to have school assembly across the road from school in St.
Columba’s church every morning, during which we would sing hymns and say
prayers though, so my religious education wasn’t entirely neglected.
Although, one morning the girls were waiting outside church to start
assembly and a friend and I decided to have a challenge.
There is a flight of about eleven steps outside the church, so we thought
that we would while away the time by seeing how many steps we could jump down
and I led the way! I cleared the
until I got to the second step from the top.
When I attempted to jump from this step, I caught my foot on the bottom step
and sprained my ankle really badly. I
was off school for three weeks with it. Even today, my right ankle is bigger
than my left one.
After I stopped going
to church on Sundays, I started to go on cycle rides to Kenilworth, Warwick
and Stratford . I used to take
sandwiches in my saddlebag and I had two water bottles on my handlebars in which
I kept my drinks of pop. I started
out from home at about 10o’clock in the morning reaching Kenilworth at about
10.30 Sometimes I would stay in Kenilworth, looking around the castle, or
meeting up with friends in the Abbey fields, I knew some Kenilworth lads from
going to the speedway. Sometimes I
would carry on through Kenilworth, down the main road, past the clock and on to
Leamington, to have my picnic in Jephson Gardens, or to Warwick, through Leek
Wooton to St. Nicholas Park. A
couple of Sundays I got more adventurous and carried on to Stratford and go to
the park there, near Shakespeare’s theatre.
I always went on my own but invariably had company on the way back,
usually boy cyclists that I had met on my travels.
It’s amazing, looking back, how safe I was. In those days there was very little traffic on the roads on
Sundays and the roads were little more than country lanes compared to today’s
motorways. How many parents would
let their twelve year old children cycle so far these days?
In June of that year, Dad got a job in London. It was the same job that he
was doing in Coventry ( ie. Structural Engineer) but he was upgraded.
He stayed with Auntie Mary’s mother in digs in Brock Rd., East Ham. It
meant that Mum had the task of raising the three of us children for a while. She
took us on holiday in July to Lowestoft and we took Jean Owen with us. Roger
was not three years old until September and we were on the beach with him one
afternoon, when I noticed him take off towards the sea.
Mum was doing her knitting sitting in a deckchair and didn’t notice him
. Luckily I followed him, because
as he ran into the water, a large wave came in, swept him off his feet and
dragged him under. Fortunately
I was able to pull him up before he came to any harm but it was a scary moment
for us all. Somewhere around about this time, my friend Jeanette Fisher
emigrated to Canada with her parents. We
had been really close friends since we were babies, as there was only a week
between our birthdays and we’d grown up together and played all through the
war, so I missed her an awful lot when she went.
I have tried to get in touch with her over the years, to no avail.
Basset Green's statue of Lady Godiva, unveiled in July 1949. It stood
on a beautiful Island in the middle of Broadgate for many years, then some
bright spark in the early 1990's decided to put it under the "tent" outside
the 22nd of October 1949, the Godiva Statue was unveiled on Broadgate Island.
This was a lovely island in the centre of Broadgate designed by Sir Donald
Gibson as part of his vision of the new Coventry City centre.
William Basset Green had designed the statue and it was unveiled
by the American Ambassador’s wife. It
was quite an exciting occasion. Roger
was fascinated by her. I took him
to the pictures one afternoon to see Toad of Toad Hall at the Gaumont and he
insisted that he wanted to see “ Lady Diver”.
It was the same afternoon that he embarrassed me by filling his pants and
I had to take him home on the bus. It was dreadful!
don’t remember when Dad returned to Coventry from London but I do know that he
still lived there in November, because he invited me down and I was to stay at
Auntie Carol’s for the weekend. I
had the most wonderful weekend! After
school on Friday evening, I went straight to the station to catch the train. The
ticket was 12s.6d return to Euston station (65p).
The journey took two hours on the express train.
It was very exciting, as I had never travelled alone before. It was the
first time that I had been to London as well.
Dad met me at the other end and took me to Auntie Carol’s by
underground. I could hardly contain
myself for the excitement of it! That
night, after tea, they took me to Auntie Carol’s sister’s house, the one who
had stayed with us at Christmas 1944. Her name was Aunt Dolly. They had a
bonfire and fireworks in their back garden as it was Bonfire night. We had a
lovely time. The next morning she took me shopping to Brixton and later, Dad
came to take us out. We went to
Madame Tussaud’s to see the waxworks. We also went to Lyon’s Corner House in
Piccadilly Circus for a knickerbocker glory and to Trafalgar Square to feed the
pigeons and see the fountains where there was a man selling hot chestnuts and
jacket potatoes that he was cooking on a coke brazier and later, when it was
dark, we went back to Piccadilly to see all the neon lights. I’d never seen
anything like it! Of course we
travelled everywhere by tube train. Although London was still badly scarred from
the wartime bombing, to me it was the most magical place that I’d ever been
to. The next morning they took me to Buckingham Palace to see the
changing of the guards and other London sights and landmarks such as St Paul’s
Cathedral. St. Paul’s was still
bomb damaged by the East window but it was very impressive. That weekend started
a love affair with London that endures to this day, although of course a lot of
it has changed drastically since then, with the post war building, there is much
of London that has remained unchanged for centuries.
School photo of Roger and Me. My hair had been permed for Cousin
Pearl's wedding, where I was a bridesmaid. It is so awful that I only
put it on my page because of the nice one of Roger.(1949)
Television set similar to the first one I ever saw.
must have returned to Coventry soon after this, because he was home for
Christmas. This same Christmas morning, Jean Owen and myself went to a house in
Eversleigh Rd. with a message from her Mum for someone. It was the first time
that I had ever seen a television set. The screen was a small nine inch one in
the middle of a huge wooden box. There
was a church service on and I was fascinated.
We sat and watched it for about half an hour.
I was thirteen years old by now and had received cosmetics for Christmas.
Not , you understand,
lipstick, mascara, or eye-shadow but I was allowed to have a light foundation,
powder, perfume and clear or natural pink nail varnish and I received
these as Christmas presents, so I felt quite grown up . Dad
bought me a manicure set (hoping that I'd stop biting my nails---a nasty habit
that I had and didn't get rid of until I got false teeth!) and some nice perfume
in a bottle that was shaped like Eros in Piccadilly circus.
By now the adolescent hormones had begun buzzing around and along with my
contemporary female set, I
discovered boys. Jean Owen
and I used to go into town every Sunday afternoon to meet up with the lads from
the A.T.C. (Air Training cadets) who had their headquarters in what used to be
Cow Lane in the town. It was next door to the Hare and Squirrel pub. Since the
redevelopment in the 1950’s, Cow Lane no longer exists but the pub is still
there. It is now called “The Flank and Firkin” There is a fashion in the
1990’s to re-name pubs with stupid names.
It is supposed to appeal to the young element of society.
Why?---I don’t know !
There would be a little harmless
flirting and a lot of laughs. All
innocent fun. This went on all through the beginning of 1950, until the speedway
season started and British Rail started a train service from Coundon Station to
Brandon. After this, the A.T.C. lads were cast aside and new quarry took their
place. Everyone would meet on Coundon station platform, The Londcaulks, Jean,
all our male friends from Coundon and other girls with whom we befriended.
Before I came out of the house, I would sneak my Mum’s best high heeled shoes
(they were on ration), put my lipstick, mascara etc. into a bag and when I got
to the station, I would go into the ladies toilets and put them on.
Of course after a few weeks of this routine, the precious shoes began to
wear out and inevitably, Mum discovered my secret and put a stop to that.
Although I didn’t yet have a boyfriend, I had tremendous crushes at different
times. I was crazy about Les
Hewitt, who was captain of the “Bees” and then it was Derrick Tailby.
These preceded Peter Brough and Johnny Reason.
On the way back from the Speedway, the boys used to throw the light bulbs
out of the train window and take advantage of the darkness to kiss the girls. Having no boyfriend at the time, I was distinctly bored by
these proceedings. I spent my time looking out of the open window, a pastime
that was not very sensible in the days of steam. One Saturday night I was
looking out and much to my surprise I received a smack in the face with a pair
of knickers from the next carriage! This,
believe me, in those days was almost unheard of.
Girls really didn’t do that sort of thing especially as the girl
concerned turned out to be even younger than myself but she did have a bad
reputation. Another week I was
looking out again---NO!!---I wasn’t waiting for a repeat performance!
I was looking out to see if we were near Coventry but I had a piece of
red hot cinder from the engine go into my eye and had to go to hospital to get
it attended to. I was away from
school for a few days and wore a patch for a while.
After this, I kept my head well and truly inside the carriage window.
When we used to come into Brandon Station on the way to the speedway, the train
was so long and the station so small, that the train had to pull in twice.
The kids in the back carriages would jump out on the track and walk up to
the platform. One particular night
my friends and I found ourselves in the back carriages and when the trains
pulled in for the first time, we all jumped on to the track one by one
------straight into the arms of the British Rail police!
The following week there were 36 of us appearing before the magistrate at
St. Mary’s Hall, in the juvenile court charged with this offence.
Our parents were standing behind us---in my case it was my Dad and we all
pleaded “Guilty” one by one. All
that is except for some clever dick who went to grammar school.
He pleaded “Not guilty” and his case was adjourned for a week.
We were all fined 7s.6d. The
following week after Clever Dick’s case had come before the court again, we
read in the Telegraph that he had been found guilty and fined £2.0.0. So we all
had a good laugh at his expense! In
June that year, I fell in love for the first time.
Jean and I were down at the A.T.C. as usual one Sunday afternoon and
we’d gone over to climb the Cathedral spire, as we did most weeks. When we came down, we met two boys who were known to Jean and
we spoke to them. We arranged to
meet them the following Saturday on Coundon Station to go to the Speedway.
That night on the way back in the train, the bulb was taken out of the
carriage as usual and I was kissing Derrick.
This went on for three weeks but on the fourth week he was with another
girl. I was heartbroken!
I cried for a long time and carried a torch for him for the next year.
Although I did go out with other lads to the pictures and places during that
time. I suppose you would call him my "first love" It was all totally
innocent though. On Sunday nights we used to go down the town to what was
known as the Bunny-Run. All the
young teenagers used to meet up and walk round and round the block which went
from Hales St. up Trinity St., round Ironmonger Row, down Cross Cheaping and The
Burges and back along Hales St. We would stop off at the Continental Café for a
cake and a cup of coffee. There was
no juke box in the Continental though, so it wasn’t as popular as the Domino.
It was at this time that I met my friend Pam White and her friend Pat
Wale. They were three years older
than me, so in my eyes were quite sophisticated.
are the cigarettes that started my downward spiral into smoking the "wicked
weed" The horse head says it all on the Bar one packet!
Another craze that started at this time, was the cinema at the Gaumont on
Sunday afternoons. I went with all
my usual friends as well as a crowd that we used to meet at the speedway.
There were just two showings on Sundays, 3o’clock and 7 o’clock.
It was unheard of in our house to go to the pictures on a Sunday. Mum and
Dad were horrified. They came round eventually though and accepted the situation.
It was there that I learned to smoke, much to my everlasting regret.
Back in those days there was no health warning about cigarettes.
In fact it was considered sophisticated to do so.
So there were my friends, passing along the weed to each other.
A lad called Derek Davies who lived in Cheylesmore passed me his fag and
I took a puff and blew it out feeling quite grown up.
He told me off for not doing it properly and showed me how to inhale the
smoke. From then on I was hooked.
I spent my pocket money on a packet of “Turf”, “Bar One”
“Nosegay” or De-Reske minors----The more popular Woodbines or Players were
virtually unobtainable at the time. I hid the packet in the air vent in my bedroom, along with a
diary that I used to keep all my secrets in.
I thought that this was a really secure place. Ha!—I reckoned without Detective Inspector “Sherlock”
Batchelor didn’t I? He found both
diary and cigarettes! (Nosegay). It
wouldn't have been so bad, but the ciggies gave me laryngitis for a week! So that was
Jo in trouble again. I’ve
forgotten by now what my punishment was but soon after this occasion, I’d
pinched a cigarette out of his packet and went outside to chat to my friends
under the lamp post on the corner of Evenlode Crescent and Courtland Ave. Right
outside our house! I lit up, as
bold as brass and stood there puffing away and showing off to my friends,
when,---“WHACK”!!---Across my ear!
I wondered what donkey kicked me ! The
cigarette flew into the middle of the road and Pa dragged me back into the house
in disgrace again. My pals looked
suitably shocked but I suspect that they had a good laugh at my expense
afterwards. They must have seen my
Dad coming but none of them thought to warn me!
So much for
By this time I had totally lost interest in school.
I was much too interested in after school activities. I was in the lower fourth form and it was situated in what
was known as the “wing” i.e. not in the main building.
At the time, they had the builders in working on a new hall, right next
to our classroom. One of the builders was only about seventeen years old and I
developed a huge crush on him. I
spent more time gazing out of the classroom window admiring him than I did at
doing my lessons. This crush never
amounted to anything, I don’t even think we ever even passed the time of day
but when it came to exam time and I got my report, I was bottom of the class and
got 3 out of 100 for mathematics----not my favourite subject!
I was scared to let Dad see my report so I altered it to 23 and of course
he found out so I got into even more trouble---not only that but he initialled
it so that the teacher would realise that I had altered it as well ! From then
on, I used to “play the wag” as often as I could.
It was quite easy on Wednesday afternoons, as we had games for the last
two periods. We were punished if we
forgot our games kit or pumps by having to sit in the cloakroom while everyone
else played netball or tennis.I had the perfect solution to that scam-----forget
my pumps every week on purpose ! When
everyone else was outside, I just put my coat on, nipped out the back way and
yippee! Freedom! I walked down the
Radford Rd. to the shops, Bought myself a couple of rum truffle cakes from
Moore’s the cake shop, wandered slowly up the road, window shopping, past
Radford Common, up the High Mounts towards Brownshill Green Rd., down Scot’s
Lane, check the time in Westhill Rd. shops and if it was before 4.15 I had to
slow up, so I went down Courtland Ave. walking to and fro across the road, until
I heard the strains of the signature tune of Mrs. Dale’s Diary coming from
someone’s open window. Then I knew that I could walk into the house and no-one
was any the wiser. This went on for
months and I never got found out. I
thought I was so clever at the time, and never realised how stupid I was by
throwing away a good education but of course one learns these things with
hindsight when it’s too late!
The speedway season had started again in April, so there were no more
dances at Bull’s Head Lane. After
this our dance venue was the Rialto Casino in Moseley Ave., where we would go
every Tuesday and Saturday to dance to Arthur Will’s orchestra and fancy
different members of the band. I
fancied the male vocalist, Gwyl Jones, although I never got anywhere with him.
I was happy just to pirouette past him, gazing up to the stage, listening
to him singing the latest ballads such as “Kiss of Fire” or “Blue
Tango”. . The other vocalist was
a lady named Jean Hudson. She had a
lovely voice and could really sing a romantic song with feeling.
I used to go dancing with Jean at the time and we learned to "Tango" together. I
don't suppose George Raft or Rudolf Valentino would have recognised this
phenomenon but we thought we were great, bobbing and weaving!
these two magazines for a number of years delivered each week and at
Christmas time, someone always bought me the annuals.
still went to the cinema three or four times a week as well.
I saw Dirk Bogarde in “The Blue Lamp” a film that was the blueprint
for a long running, future series on television called “Dixon of Dock
Green”. I fell madly in love with
Dirk Bogarde. I also had a crush on
Montgomery Clift when I saw him in “Red River”,
Derek Bond when he played Captain Oates in “Scott of the Antarctic”
and John Barrymore Jr. ( Dru
Barrymore’s Dad) when I saw him in a “B” movie called “High Lonesome”,
playing an outlaw. Dad took David and myself to the Gaumont to see
“Destination Moon”, which was the “A” film when this was showing.
It was a film about a Spaceship going to the moon and four men who walked
in space. This of course seemed to
be unimaginable at the time but little did we know how prophetic it would become
in the next twenty years. We had
good value for money in the cinema in those days, because for 1s.6d (71/2) one
could see the main feature, Pathe news, Pearl and Dean advertisements, a cartoon
and a “B” movie which lasted for about an hour.
I started getting "Picture Show" and "Picturegoer" every week and sent off for
autographed photos of the film stars. I had a wonderful collection that
finished up in the same place as my elocution certificates and other things that
I wish I had now!
By the time the Christmas holidays were almost upon us, we had had a
heavy fall of snow. This was when my school and I parted company.
Footwear was still rationed and I was desperate for a pair of boots.
Mum couldn’t afford the coupons for them , so on Wednesday before we
broke up for the holidays, I was in the cloakroom, wagging games as usual when I
saw a pair that took my eye. I
tried them on and they fitted me and so they accompanied me on my afternoon trek
and I hid them up at the High Mounts meaning to recover my booty at a later
date. It didn’t quite work out the
way I planned though, because by the time I got home in time for Mrs. Dale, I'd been rumbled . The police
were there and they took me back to
the High Mounts where I had to show them my hiding place.
Dad and I had to go to see Miss Barrow the next day and she was forced to
give me my marching orders. I still
feel ashamed of myself to this day for the hurt and humiliation I caused Mum and
Dad through my own greed and stupidity.