This is the modern world

It’s been a while since I featured a David Evans piece here, so I thought I’d feature this one, which seems oddly appropriate for a sunny spring Saturday. As ever, I thank David for his tireless work and contributions, which are always a delight. Now, on with the show…

The final death throes of the Coppy Pit, and the realisation that the way of life which had been associated with the close-knit mining village of Walsall Wood could never return, strangely coincided with the exuberance and the thrust of the 1960s. Indeed, the finality of the silence where there had been coal trains, the stillness of the canal waters where they had been barges, and the quietness of the footpaths that had echoed to the stomping of hobnail boots in former years, sad though it was, belonged to a long-gone age to that of the rapidly changing, brash ,1960s.

Television was now part of every home. Its intrusion and effect was accepted possibly because of the ease and passivity of  the instant entertainment and information that was on offer.  The choice of programmes was expanding, too. Bernard Miles, Hughie Green and their ilk were pushed to one side. Now there was Wrestling to replace that Saturday afternoon walk to watch the local team play their football match. Television News,  beamed direct into the box in the sitting-rooms began to replace the purchase of the  daily newspaper at the bus-station in Walsall, or from the local newsagents in the Wood, ‘What’s my Line’ and other panel games replaced family board games. Gradually and imperceptibly the world of personality and commerce was creeping into every home. Documentaries, variety shows, and ultimately the soaps all replaced the social chat in the grocers, the friendly chat at the Post Office, over a pint in the local or whilst  waiting your turn in the doctors’ surgery in Beech Tree Road. The base  fabric of the community was changing.

New styles and fashions of everything descended on the society. That pair of shoes, that dress, that overcoat, all suddenly needed to  be replaced to keep up with the latest fashion.  Skirts became shorter and more expensive.  Shoes? Winkle pickers or stilettos, please. That full-length raincoat or overcoat? Duffle coat or Parka. No time to waste. Appearance and image were paramount.

The family car went through osmosis from basic vehicle to fashion accessory. Style over function! The Austin (Baggypants) A55 changed into the two tone Austin Pininfarina. That brilliant car designer and engineer, Issigonis showed that four people, folded up a bit, could be transported, sardine-like perhaps, in a vehicle that measured  only 10 feet long,  and at a cost of one penny per mile in petrol. Instant success! Other manufacturers took note. They had to… Everybody had to have one, and would then ‘personalise’ their car. Local lads put aside their powerful motorbikes and bought Mini cars, or Minivans. Their girlfriends and other passengers could now travel in warmth and out of the weather!. Girls’ bouffant hairstyles and lads’ Elvis flicks kept their look.

Walsall Wood saw new housing estates constructed; pretty little detached units affectionately nicknamed ‘dog kennels’ and ‘rabbit hutches’, and more traditional semi-detached houses, all built on the slopes of Shire Oak Hill. The Wood was moving up in the world in every sense of the word. High density housing units were built by the canal on what had been long Victorian gardens. Big gardens were no longer needed. There were the new supermarkets, at Streets Corner and in Brownhills Shopping Centre, where all was instantly available without the need of gardening and tending the vegetable patch, or rearing the chickens and the pig. No need to queue up in individual shops any more. This was the age of self-service and pre-packaged foods from all over the world  appeared on the store’ shelves. ‘The more you spend, the more you save’.

[You’ll never know just how hard I looked for a Victor Value advert to place here. Victor Value were, of course, the first supermarket in Brownhills, other than George Mason, more of a traditional grocers. Victor Value opened at the top of Ravens Court, and were later absorbed by Tesco. – Bob]

There was greater leisure time, and greater affluence.  Elmdon airport in Birmingham became the departure point for holidays abroad, to sunny Spain and Majorca, with the thrill to flying in a BEA Viscount aeroplane.

The local playing fields in the village were destined to change into a ‘leisure Centre’ with its  own indoor swimming pool. No need for lads to swim in the cut anymore.  Static family-sized caravans on new caravan parks in Wales, or by the river Severn, were within easy and affordable  reach. Weekends would be spent there.

The community spirit of the former mining village was rapidly fragmenting. There would be few communal events. The new Walsall Wood residents lived in the village, but, to a large extent, worked away. The age of the commuter was emerging from the darkness of the post-war years. Owning a motorcar, which had once been a dream, was now becoming a necessity. The trusty two wheel friend, the working man’s bike, was to transform itself into what would become a multi-gear, all-terrain vehicle, over time.

The interiors of homes had to reflect the fashion of the Age, too.  The television set, the stereo-radio set, the upright vacuum cleaner, the fridge, the dramatic wall-paper, the eye-straining colour schemes, the fitted wardrobes, coloured bathroom suites (champagne? chateau plonk, perhaps), the rubber plants up to the ceiling, near the front window, to be visible, of course! No more Grace Field’s biggest whatsit in the world, or Grandma’s ‘Mind your Own Business’, not in the homes of the 1960s.

In Walsall Wood a new secondary school was built to replace the old one near to Streets Corner. This would be built on the top of Shire Oak Hill.  The colliery yard was becoming a modern industrial estate and the original settlement of the village had expanded  and had changed beyond belief.

David Evans

December 2011

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10 Responses to This is the modern world

  1. Mike hawes says:

    Looking at the brilliant footage of the Viscount at Elmdon I was shocked to see a bloke running full pelt between the still turning prop and the mobile stairs been pushed into position. What was he doing? and how close was he to the blades!

    Love this blog , can’t get away from it!

    • Hi Mike

      Thanks for all your lovely comments lately. Sorry, I don’t get chance to reply top as many as I should, but you’re very welcome.

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog. If there’s anything you’d like to ask or contribute, please don’t hesitate.

      Best wishe


  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    many, many thanks for finding the wonderful videos and for all your hard work in assembling and collating the materials to make the presentation excellent.

    kind regards


  3. A splendid piece, Bob, especially for those of us of a certain age who remember Kent Walton and (emits a low, lascivious growl) Jean Shrimpton.

    There is, however, one small and very nerdy point. The aircraft featured at Elmdon is not a Vickers Viscount but is in a fact an F27 Fokker Friendship. It was common in those days to mistake the F27 for the Handley Page Herald but as any podgy, speccy schoolboy from way back then will tell you, the Viscount had four turboprop engines and not two.

    I really should get out more.

    • Hi Hippo

      What you are observing here my friend, is the very real difference between the true enthusiast, and a nerd who just bangs ‘Elmdon airport’ in YouTube.

      I know nothing about planes. It was black and white, and looked sixties. I’m ashamed to say, those two facts ticked the boxes for me…

      Thanks for the clarification, I’m always grateful for such things. There’s so much I know nothing about, and rely on the readers to help keep me straight. Thanks, old chap. I always learn a little bit in the pocess, too, which is useful.

      Best wishes


  4. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    there are three Viscounts parked in front of the control tower, seen just as the F27 lifts its nose wheels on take-off, I believe, They have a distinctive V tailplane. The F27 was also used on the Silver Arrow route from Gatwick to Le Touquet for some years.
    Jackie Pallo, Mick McManus. Oh the wrestlers’ pain,always facing the camera, of course!
    Good fun!

  5. John says:

    Just been up pool road towards chasewater they are knocking the old farm house down

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