My Early Days in Quinton

By Bryan Palser

My mother and father put down a deposit of £1 on a house in Ridgacre Road, after sheltering in the show house during a snowstorm on Good Friday 26th March 1937. They were walking (carrying me) to Clent at the time. The cost of the house at that time was £420. The repayments including mortgage, rates and ground rent amounted to 18 shillings and a halfpenny (92p) per week. My father worked two evenings a week as a relief telephone operator at Telephone House in Lionel Street to earn the difference between the existing rent 11 shillings and the repayment on the new house.

Before moving in my mother used to walk over to the house with a friend to scrub the floors, I was left in the front room in my pushchair. The carpenter, who was still working on the house, used to give me rolls of wood shavings, which I would make into funnels.

On moving in we discovered in the back garden, the path to Worlds End Farm which stood on the corner of Worlds End Lane and Ridgacre Road. In fact it was the present site of the Quinton Evangelical Free Church. Opposite the house was an open field with a stream running through. Many happy hours were spent playing in the field and fishing in the stream. I remember before the stream was culverted that during heavy rainstorms it would flood over Ridgacre Road.

Many people will remember ‘Walkers Newsagents’, when we moved in this newsagency operated from a wooden shed. A fun fair was held on Bank Holidays on the site of the Quinton Bus Garage.

My father was a founder member of Quinborne dramatic Society, at the bottom of the page and overleaf are a few photographs taken at plays performed at Quinborne. He also belonged to Tennal Gardening Guild, helped run the Citizens Advice Bureau and Poultry Club. He also did voluntary work for S.S.A.F.A (Soldiers, Sailors & Air Force Association). All these were based at Quinborne Community Centre during the war.

During the war the field referred to was the site of a RAF Barrage Balloon Station. After the War we had a VE Day Street Party. The main action of the party took place outside a house occupied by Mr & Mrs Pagett. A further party was held for local children at the R.E, M.E. depot on the corner of Ridgacre Lane and Green Lane.

I started at Four Dwellings School on the day it opened in the summer of 1940, which means that it is celebrating sixty years this year. I used to walk to school and either went up Ridgacre Lane or ‘over the bank’. The lane was very rough and, quite often, when I was running (as young children do) I would fall, because I was in short trousers I would cut both knees. I would get to school where Miss Gertrude Payton would bandage them for me. I believe Miss Payton is still alive and still manages to recall many children by their christian names. At this time Four Dwellings Farm was still being farmed by a Mr Burchell, in fact his son, Alan, was at school with me.

One Christmas during the war, it was the day of the party at school. I began to walk to school after lunch when the air raid sirens went off, I ran back home (clutching my cup and spoon). When the all clear went my father took me on his pushbike to the bottom of ‘the bank’. He had to leave me to go to school alone, as he had to go back to work, I had just started when the sirens went again, this time I ran to school. I was the only person in sight so I ran all across to the air raid shelters. We all stayed there singing “Ten Green bottles” and “ One man went to Mow”. When the all clear went again we were able to have our party.

An excursion from Ridgacre Road during the summer would be a walk ‘to the country’. We walked to Four Dwellings School along Dwellings Lane and into the fields. We would take a picnic and sit by the hedge where the playground in Highfield Lane now stands. Before coming home we would pick a large amount of blackberries for my Mother to make into jam.

In the late thirties and during the war years I used to attend the Children’s Saturday Club at the “Warley Odeon”. You paid 6d to sit downstairs and 9d in the balcony. On your birthday you received a card and you were allowed in free of charge, I think your names were flashed on the screen. I used to attend the Saturday film shows with my friend Graham Potts; we used to come home from the Odeon via all the right of ways between the rear of the semi-detached houses in Quinton Lane and Worlds End Avenue. In this right of way was a spring of water and we enjoyed “damming up” the subsequent stream although our mothers were not very happy when we arrived home wet and muddy but happy. One Saturday morning when I called for my friend Graham his irate mother came to the door, “Graham can’t come out today, he left the plug in the washbasin, the water has overflowed and come through the kitchen ceiling, so he’s got to clean the fowl pen out!

In my earlier reminiscences I mentioned Quinton Evangelical Free Church. A lovely couple called Mr & Mrs Round, who lived in Perry Hill Road, ran the church. I used to attend a service for children at 6.00pm on a Monday evening. My mother during the war did an afternoon part-time job as an invoice typist at Singleton & Cole, wholesale tobacconists. One Monday, 7th May 1945, I was on my way to my “Monday meeting” at the Free Church when I met my mother coming from the bus. She greeted me with a red, white and blue rosette. “Peace in Europe” was declared next day. For some weeks before that I used to cut out the maps from the Birmingham Mail showing the British troops advancing on Berlin. At that time I used to collect corporation tickets and my mother would give me her blue and white 4d ticket, the cost of the journey from town on bus number 3A. Many other escapades with my friend Graham Potts come to mind. In the winter evenings, after dark, we would tie a piece of cotton to some one’s front door knocker. We would hide behind the gate, pull the cotton sharply causing the knocker to operate and the cotton to break. We delighted in seeing people coming to the door and finding no one there! (Note from the Editor: Don’t they call that “Parcel Force” now).

In December 1943 or 1944 Graham and I went carol singing in Quinton Lane. We would sing two or three carols before knocking the door. After a while an old man (about 60 but old in our eyes) opened the door, he looked at us and said, “I’m sorry there’s no one in” then promptly closed the door, we fled.

Winter 1940 was very severe with heavy falls of snow. Both the milkman and baker were unable to deliver up Ridgacre Road. My father used to pull me on my sledge to collect urgently needed milk and bread. Milk in the late thirties was delivered from the churn to your own jug and the baker came to the door with a selection of bread in a large wicker basket.

Another date which sticks in my memory was Tuesday 11th September 1945, it was to be my first day at George Dixon Grammar School. It was also the day of the first allocation of bananas after the war. My mother walked to Stanley Road with me, I stood in the number 9 bus queue whilst my mother stood in the queue for bananas. She got them just before the bus came and I was allowed to take a whole banana to school. I was the envy of my classmates, subsequent allocations of bananas were cut up and shared between us - Those were the days!

©QLHS 2000 - Bryan Palser

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