A growing Wood…

Great friend of The Brownhills Blog David Evans (who I currently believe to be away) submitted this piece a week ago, for which I thank him profusely. I’m sure you’ll agree that David ‘s writing is just getting better and better and I love this piece. I hope the author doesn’t mind, but rather than the picture he supplied, I’ve trawled youtube for some interesting video links instead.

I’m sure I speak for all blog readers when I thank David for his hard work and wonderful contributions, and implore him to keep it up. This is exactly the kind of thing I started this blog to do.

Now, over to David…

Post-war Walsall Wood had begun to experience gradual, but numerous and irresistible changes, as had most local communities. After the initial relief that the global hostilities of the awful  Second World War were over, and with  the slow trickle of the  return of  demobbed servicemen, there was the hesitancy of the  period of a false start to a new peace. Rationing was still in force with many goods, some of the basics we take for granted nowadays were in very short supply. My grandfather’s comment that ‘We have all  fought to get through  the war, now we’ve all got to fight to get the Peace going’ echoes in my memory still today. His generation had endured two World Wars. The local working men had slaved hard and long in the coal mines or in the other reserved occupations. Their wives had worked hard and had joined in the country’s back-breaking six years’ struggle for survival and victory.

Now, a calm, interlaced with hard work and determination saw new jobs being available in the new industries which were appearing locally. New classrooms were quickly added to schools; housing estates were planned and construction had started with the military efficiency gained during the wartime years, and often using the proficiency of former military personnel to ensure this.

The pre-fab bungalows had been completed, and were desperately needed, and appreciated. Each unit had facilities undreamt  of in the Victorian terraced houses of the older parts of Walsall Wood. The common land between Salters Road and Holly Lane was going to be the new part of the growing and expanding Walsall Wood .

People began to ‘have a bit more money’ in their pockets.  Suddenly a new additional and previously unknown word, ‘leisure’, introduced itself into the local post-war vocabulary. Until then the family radio set had been the only ‘Voice of the World’ into the homes.  Dick Barton, a very special agent, The Archers, an everyday story, Mrs Dale’s Diary, Workers’ Playtime,  Forces’ Favourites  all of which had previously  been  a necessary part of children and parents’ daily and weekly  listening, had been trounced and kicked into touch  by that Logie Baird Box of Tricks with knobs on.

Television. In its Bakelite cabinet, and in glorious black and white blurred images, 405 lines, ‘Chips in a pan’ quality sound, the clipped pseudo Royalty/Polo Clab/Henley Regetta accents of the starched television presenters, the bowtied and dour faced news reporters, that ‘Twinkling Tiara of Words’ spinning round the television mast at Ally Pally at the end, and the National Anthem played at the end of the days’ broadcasts. ‘A New Age is definitely dawning’, I was told.

Yet amongst this there were light-hearted and welcome television moments.. Wakey Waaaakey! Or, for the sweet little children, Andy Pandy or that Muffin the Mule!  There were the “Flower Men on their Potties” as the local kids called them, to the inexplicable mirth of their parents!

There was the advent of the private Motor Car. More and more families were able to buy a car, of sorts. A car! A real car! A second-hand, pre-war car, in most cases.

Austin Cambridge, Ford 8, Morris 8, Austin 10, Jowett, Bradford, Wolseley, Lanchester, and my favourite, our very own Morris VIII, King of the Road….at 30 M.P.H. (downhill!)…

The little family two-door four-seater had room for four people, well, two grown-ups and two (preferably legless) children. Side valve engine, whatever that meant, must have been something very serious given the way this phrase was uttered, cable brakes (oh how we lads yearned for cable brakes on our bikes, or any brakes!) a three speed gear box (gears! And no chain? So you don’t have to pedal? Great!) 30 m.p.h. How far was thirty miles? Pelsall? Cannock? Lichfield?…and all in one hour, without having to get off for the hills?

Saturday became a post-war leisure-day. The weekly afternoon at the match, whatever the weather, became a thing of the past. There was the tempting glory of beautiful countryside and  green fields, trees, crops, sheep, cows, steams, woods, farms, villages, fresh, clean air and blue skies. Another world was so close but had been previously unknown until then, except on the infrequent summertime family cycle rides, limited by the shortness of children’s legs, hunger, and the daunting slope of Shire Oak Hill on the return!

The close-knit mining village society was beginning to change… for ever.

David Evans  November 2011

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3 Responses to A growing Wood…

  1. Kate Goodall says:

    Fantastic David – and the clips were great too Bob. Reading this was brought back memories of my Mom and Dad reminiscing with their brothers and sisters. You didn’t mention the baker’s boy delivering a loaf though; unwrapped and just placed on the windowsill!

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Great work again, Bob. The first video appears to be a promo for Laing’s Easiform housing. These turned out to be among the most durable of the non-traditional types – I think they were around in the 1930s, too. It would be interesting to see if there was similar promotion of Airey houses (there were some in Castle Street), which became unsaleable after serious structural defects emerged in the 1970s and 80s.

  3. The WS5 Blog says:

    Very interesting read, indeed.

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