by John Sparling
It must have been a Sunday when the barrage balloon landed. It had to be a Sunday because I was sat on the kitchen table having my brown shoes laced up, and brown shoes were only worn on a Sunday.
We had just moved from 110 Lennox Street, down to my grans grocery shop at number 72. The houses opposite were laid out like a three-sided rectangle with the open side on the road. The barrage balloon, which had broken away from its moorings, fitted perfectly in the space, with its sides touching the windows of all the houses. I cannot remember if it exploded, smashing all the windows, or was just deflated and taken away.
I did not have a happy childhood, for reasons, which became apparent later in life, and as a result I have wiped away the memories over the years. However, this is one memory of my youth which stands, out and I will use it as a starting point to try and turn back the years.
I have never written anything longer than letters before, and leaving school at fourteen, with a pass in woodworking, and dyslectic, isn't the best background for producing a literary masterpiece, so I will write a jumble of memories as I think of them.
Our house was one of those allocated to have the Anderson shelter for the area. I remember helping dad to dig out the hole, which replaced the lovely flowerbed in the picture.
Over the wall was the back garden of the house in Clifford Street where Dennis Howell, the MP used to
live. I remember throwing stones at him, but I think I missed.
I was not a nice little boy.
School was Gower Street Secondary Modern, with the playground on the roof. Tuesdays were the only days worth remembering, that's when the local shop had its weekly delivery of ice cream. Little round blocks wrapped in paper, I think they were called Melrols; you had to get there by 12.30 or they would be all gone. The journey to and from school was the best part of the day. We played "gutters" with marbles, which simply meant playing in the gutter. No cars to get in your way in those days, at least not in Lozells, and I can't remember the rules. But the best fun was collecting the shrapnel from the air raid the night before; a piece with lettering could be swapped for a dozen marbles.
On the way to school we would count the gaps where houses had stood the day before. The Germans would bomb Joseph Lucas in King Street where my dad was a foreman, but they usually missed and hit the surrounding houses instead.I played truant most of the time, heading down to Aston to stand outside the Globe picture house for the afternoon matinee, prices were 4p and 7p. "Take me in please mister"
I did a paper round for a shop in Wheeler Street, but I always seemed to have a lot of papers left over, so down the drain they went. Mom couldn't understand why they asked me to leave. I then delivered groceries on a big bike with a basket on the front, for Perks of Wheeler Street. It was very heavy, and each time I went round an island I fell off, and the customers orders got all mixed up. Mom couldn't understand why they asked me to leave.
Our shop was opposite the Brook Tavern where mom and dad used to spend a lot of time, by the time I was ten I was allowed into the "smoke" for a half of mild. But my main enjoyment came from climbing into the bombed buildings to see what I could find. The remains of the picture house on the Lozells Road near Six Ways, was a great favourite.
My first job after leaving school was an electrician's mate working in the jewellery quarter. Mom didn't like this so she didn't tell anybody. My second job was an apprentice draftsman at Wolsey Sheep Sheering Company in Aston. Mom liked this a lot so she told everyone.
My life changed quite a lot when a workmate invited me to join the local athletic club Lozells Harriers. How I loved my red running shoes with the long spikes. We trained for the track at Salford Park, and for the road races we used the back room of a pub at the top of the Soho road. The coach was Phil Cox.
I am sure that given time, and someone to jog that lump on my shoulders called a brain, I could remember a lot more memories of the childhood I tried to forget.
I was in my mid teens when my mom told me that she wasn't my mom, and my dad told me he wasn't my dad. I ran away from home, joined to R.A.F. and did not return until after I was married.
I was 65 when I decided to try and trace my natural family. Was I an only one, or did I have any brothers or sisters, were my parents alive, was it possible to find that missing something so late in life. However, that's another story, if anyone is interested.