There has been a vey warm and thoughtful response to my featuring instalments of Reg ‘Aer Reg’ Fullelove’s life story here on the blog, with Reg’s warm and intimate writing stirring many fond memories of Brownhills.
This week, it’s my pleasure to publish the third instalment of this remarkable story, where Reg notes the changes brought about by the onset of the Second World War and fondly recalls Christmas celebrations of his childhood. There’s also a clue to how Barnetts Lane got it’s name.
Once again, my humblest thanks go out to Reg, for being Aer Reg – whatever form he arrives in today – poet, commentator, historian, wit. You are a remarkable man with great passion and generosity and thank you from all the community for sharing what you know and love.
Please do comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks!
Reg Fullelove wrote:
Sadly, as the shadows of war time grew, the Memorial Hall’s face was to change. The musical sounds of the Melocord, John Neenan and Fletchers Five Piece Band were to become memories of more happy days. A boiler house was built at the rear and a Wardens post to the left. The maple floor became became nursing units under the guidance of Iris Arnold and George Clews. HRP unit were set up under the leadership of Jack Brew and Mr Udaul.
Local council officers became leaders of volunteers. Later some of these men created the Home Guard, later on named L.D.V. (Local Defence Volunteers). The hospital unit, thank God, did not have any major crises, it was mainly hygiene and cleanliness which was stressed. The fear of air raid, people slept with clothing on and created a skin condition, scabies, which sadly, could have been contagious so the smell of carbolic soap filled the old bathroom walls. The billiard room continued to be in use and dad and Bert carried on with their duties of keeping the trustees informed of the state of buildings etc. The tennis courts became unplayable for tennis but became a great place for adventure for us children playing football, Cowboys and Indians and I must confess to climbing the sandbag protection of the Hall and Wardens hut, being chased off by Jack Brew. Oliver Twist had his small farm adjoining the Memorial Hall, Barnett Lane, Limend Lane to the right, led to a small group of houses.
The name Barnet was among the families who lived in this little community. Then there was Narrow Lane, no houses just hedge rows among which occasionally you would see a hen from Olivers, sitting in its banks on eggs. This was our wonderful world of freedom. Eye brows may raise at the thought of birds nesting but rarely were the eggs taken. It was a triumph to share with mates “I know where there is a spudjucks nest” (Sparrow).
Occasionally a big adventure was going down the “Chem”. the “Chem” was the tarworks of Josiah Lane and his brother Reg, It had a mighty high stack which could he seen for miles around. It stood along the ‘cut’ (canal), an area of commerce with its barges from surrounding cities, carrying coal from the Cannock Chase coal fields, also useful to us as our illegal fishing ground, swimming pool, and yes, if you could scrounge it a ride from the bottom lock on a boat. The canal was alive with boats, some horse drawn, some by tugs. There were canal houses andhorse stables at the Lichfield Road Basin. Onthe subject of illegal fishing, we made our rods and tines from willow tree branches, our favourite bait was grubs (worms) for perch and bread for roach. If you were lucky also a net and jam jar tor bannocks and tiddlers (minnow) and off angling you would go hoping Harrythe lock keeper would not catch you. He was the water bailiff, part of his job was to check fishing tickets. On the cry “Harry’s coming” panic would set in, and the end of a days fishing. Home you would run, running as last as you could go.
Christmas times were very special, decorations for children just as they are today, hut the atmosphere was so different to today. It was so much a family way of life.
The Christmas dinner was full of calories, the only people that had turkey were the upper class. One feast was the poor old cockerel we had reared in the back garden pen, its origin a gift from the rag and bone man in exchange for clothing. A common sight in the council houses was a cardboard box in the hearth or to quote its common name, the “Ess-hole”. In it. would be the rag and bone mans fattened chicken to grace our Christmas table, later on in the year. A special treat was a large bottle of ruby wine or sherry. The empty bottle was often used afterwards by miners to take water, with his snap, to the pit. Inside some of the miner’s coats was sewn a large pocket for his ‘snapin’ and also to bring home a nublin of fire wood. A ‘nublin’ was the name given to a piece of wood cut off a pit prop. It also had a naughty phrase which I will not repeat. Decorations were mainly hand made, paper chains, the school Christmas calendar often stuck together by flour and water glue, selotape had not yet been invented. If money was available a Christmas tree stood in glorious candle light, no Health and Safety in those days. An alternative was the hoops of the grocers butter barrels for that’s how butter arrived at the shops, and sugar came in sacks known as erdan. If you could beg a sack, with the use of a dolly peg, this could he turned into a hearth rug with old clothing.
But back to Christmas, Father Christmas came just for children, just one present depending on finance, if it was good a doll or pram, a game, Ludo, Tiddlywinks, Snakes and Ladders, a Caseball (football) or maybe if you werelucky and dad was in good employment, a three-wheeled bike. But if money was tight a home made aeroplane or a hand knit pullover or cardigan. One thing we all had in common was to hang up the stocking, the contents on Christmas morning were nearly always, orange, apple, sweets and yes, a shiny new penny. In my case mine used to have a few dead coal ashes, To this day I still wonder why.
The evening meat was the banquet, jelly, trifle, tinned fruit, the leftover meat from dinner, cucumber and onions in vinegar, and for mom, dad, grandma and granddad only, a drop of whiskey in a cup of tea. My run up to Christmas, at times, were lonely. My Mom and Dad were members of the choir and each year a box would arrive from an orphanage. In it would be collecting tins and carol sheets. These would be used by the choir to travel around the local dignitary’s homes and local venues while singing and collecting funds for the orphans. Christmas cards were not used on the scale of today, just for the direct family, except if you had money. Dad would receive each year a large catalogue. In it were copies of private cards you could order, I think it was called the VALENTINE card book, and dad, being secretary to various public groups, would take orders for individual posh folks. You knew Christmas was over when the holly, tree and trimmings were stuffed up the chimney and set on fire. Another festive season was over and the chimney was swept for the New Year. Yes, those were my childhood days. God bless.
Reg Fullelove gives great talks, too, like this one in 2001.