Here’s another great instalment from the series I started a couple of months ago, chronicling the memories of Walsall Wood lady Audrey Proffitt, carefully and faithfully transcribed by reader and Walsall Wood correspondent David Evans.
Audrey has gradually been recounting memories and experiences of her life growing up near Streets Corner, in Walsall Wood. These have been very, very popular with readers and the article before Christmas about visiting the cinema was the most popular Walsall Wood post of the year.
As ever, I’m keen to express my thanks to Audrey and her niece, Sheila for their openness and hard work, and also to the young David Evans, who works hard on so many great articles here.
Audrey and Sheila also helped create the fine article on the Walsall Wood Cossacks, the equine daredevils of the village which forms an interesting companion to this series.
In this piece, Audrey remembers travelling a little, the local milkman, and a cautionary tale about catching minnows without a jam jar…
Home and away, and the disappearing fish.
We never went far from home. To us being on holiday was not going to school. Going abroad was unheard of but one day there was great excitement – we were going to Sutton Park on the train. We had a little railway station at one time, about five minutes’ walk away.
I must have been about six at the time and had never been on a train. Now Dickie had a tame magpie which used to follow him around and when we walked down to the station the magpie was flying from roof to roof following us and when we were on the train waving to everyone who had come to see us off someone shouts to Dickie
‘Your magpie’s on top’
And off the train goes but he never saw his magpie again.
I was thirteen before I ever saw the sea. Morecombe bay, another ride on the train and I had sixpence to spend. I remember going into Woolworth’s which was known as the ‘threepenny and sixpenny store’.
I remember having my first ride in a car, Uncle Tom’s. He was a bookmaker and doing well. He took us for a ride up Derbyshire. I can’t put an age to this but I saw some cooling towers for the first time. I was asking what they were but no one seemed to know. I recall Mom saying
‘They look like big milk bottles’
We didn’t have milk bottles when I was very small. It was brought round the streets in churns. One milkman, Sammy Cohen, used to carry two churns on a yoke and he always yodelled as he came along to let you know he was around. Mom would give us some coppers and a jug and send us for a jugful. When they started to put it in bottles another local, Moses Bayley, had a horse and cart and delivered the milk. We could hear him going by when we were in school
‘Whoo, Kidup there’ he used to say. His horse knew every house he had to stop at after a while.
Talking of bottles reminds me of when Dad had a bad eye and someone told him to bathe it in spring water. Now there was a spring not far from us, in an area called the Vigo, so Dad gave us his pit bottle as they were called – dark green glass and filled with tea when they went to work. He told us to go and fill it with spring water, so off we went and did just that. But Dickie decided to catch a little tiddler fish out of the brook and take it home. He was going to keep it in a jam jar, so he catches one and put it in the bottle of spring water with every intention of fetching it out when he got back home. But Dad was waiting for us by the gate, a big smile on his face, very pleased to take the bottle off Dickie and straight away tipped it back and had a good drink. He told us it was one of the finest things you could drink. Well, we just stood there and never said a word about the tiddler. Dad never said he had found one when he used what was left for his eye, so we came to the conclusion he had swallowed it.
So we just kept quiet.