In the course of researching the history of St Joseph's Church and School, Nechells I met and interviewed Phyllis Arnold who had been a pupil at the School during part of the 1920's. I was so taken by her enthusiasm and sparkling memory I obtained from her many of her memories. The following, I included in my book. Other similar memories I will publish in the not too distant future. I called this particular set of memories "Always look for the light" I hope they are of interest to you. I myself find them both enlightening and whilst on occasions sad, there are many whimsical items, drawn from her memory of the old Aston and Nechells of not too long ago.
Phyllis Arnold, nee Farina, was a pupil at St Joseph's from 1923 to 1928. Whilst the following will touch on occurrences at the school, it also seeks to highlight how life was for her and her family at that time. You may want to consider it was also a reflection of many other families, both indigenous and immigrant, in the inner city of Birmingham.
Born in 1914, Phyllis Farina was the eldest child in a family of eight. Her father Marcus had immigrated to England from Casserta, Sicily, with his father, mother and several brothers and sisters when he was 12 years old.Like many Italian immigrants at that time they went to live in the Bartholomew Row area. This area near to the junction with Fazeley Street, was known as Scratchems Corner.
At this time Phyllis's mother, Ada, lived at the Duddeston end of Bartholomew Row being one of a family of 9. They would eventually meet, court and get married. One of Marcus's younger brothers would eventually fight for Great Britain during the Second World War in the Battle of Monte Casino, Italy not too great a distance from the home of his ancestors. He was injured during this action though thankfully he recovered.
Like many other families at the time Phyllis was brought up in a small back-to-back house in Lichfield Road near to Aston Cross with her father and mother. A two up one down house, as she described, never posh but always clean. The family had to use one of the three toilets situated at the bottom of the yard. A facility they shared with six other families, all of whom had many members. The yard also contained the "Miskin" or rubbish tip. This would eventually be replaced with the coming of the dustbins.
In the early days at the bottom of the yard was the rear of a Gas Mantle Shop, which was run by two ladies. Their sole business was of selling gas mantles, which went over the flame of the then gas lighting ensuring a glow. The cost of a mantle being 4d (About 1.1/2p). The ladies had a large residence in Vicarage Road Aston which contained its own stables. In this they would keep a large black carriage. They could often be seen riding around in the carriage being pulled by a very black horse. They also had their own driver who invariably was dressed all in black, even to his top hat The only thing not being black were the gleaming brass fittings adorning the horse's straps and harnesses.
At this time Phyllis was attending Vicarage Road School. She recalls often having to wait whilst the ladies in their splendid horse and carriage came out of the stables and into the road. The house also boasted a nice garden, which contained many beautiful flowers. One day on her way to school Phyllis decided that she would help herself to a bunch of dahlias. These she would present to the school and tell them they were from her own garden. Needless to say the subterfuge was quickly seen through. Back to back houses did not have the room for gardens. When asked why she had taken them, she truthfully said, "Please Miss, because I like them". It was clear, even at this time Phyllis was enchanted with the beauty of the flowers and the greenery, both of which were sadly missing from the environment in which she was growing up.
This is never more evident when in later years she recalls a class she was in at St Joseph's would occasionally take a field trip to Birches Green. A tram would take the class from Aston Railway Station on the Lichfield Road to Erdington from where they made their way on foot. Once there, they would play sport or draw by the pavilion. Phyllis could never get over the vast green area with its freshness and pleasant surroundings and often compared them with her own everyday environment.
She can recall that on the journey home she would always endeavour to go to the upper saloon of the tram and have the fresh air blowing on her face from the open front. She retains a strong memory of that experience to this day. Her father worked as a goods delivery driver with a horse drawn lorry in those days for the Railway. It would seem that due to his desire to learn, he would often read late into the night, thus making getting up the following day a little bit difficult. Hence he was often late for work. Help was at hand however.
His younger brother Louis, fancied himself as an inventor and came up with an idea of a water alarm clock. He believed that by taking an alarm clock, adapting a picture frame to accommodate a jug of water on the alarm going off, water would drip onto father's face and thereby wake him up. This experiment would not be continued after Phyllis's mother received the contents of the water jug, too many times for her own liking. Neither a domestic, nor commercial success.
Bartholomew Row (Lower Dale End near to where the new Millennium Point building now stands) became synonymous with the Italian immigrants arriving in Birmingham. Considerable information about this area, called "Little Italy", is well covered in the publication, "Bella Brum". It also refers to Phyllis's grandmother, Angela Farina, who is identified as a lodging housekeeper.
It would seem that for some reason or other, the local police considered them to be anarchists and bomb makers. In any event the police always patrolled in pairs.
For two officers their fears appeared justified one night when on walking past a solitary figure, they heard a ticking sound. Letting the figure walk a considerable way past them, and now considering themselves safe from any bomb blast, they questioned him from a distance. The feared bomb carrier was no other that Phyllis's Uncle Louis who had been carrying a clock, no doubt intent on some other marvellous invention! Later, satisfied, the officers allowed him on his way.
The gas mantle shop at the end of Phyllis's yard eventually closed. It would open again as Arthur Thompson, Pork Butchers. Added problems now arose as an abattoir was now at the rear of the premises. The screaming of the pigs being led through the rear yard to the butchers shop became a regular sound.
The arrival of the butchers affected the Farina family more than the rest as Thompson placed his sausage- making machine against their one downstairs room's outside wall. Now on this particular wall was a large painting of Mary Magdalen. Needless to say nearly every time the machine started up, the picture fell off the wall. Despite being given the bill for the repair to the painting, Thompson never paid. When she was later confirmed, Phyllis took the name Mary Magdelen.
One benefit the butchers provided was that the children in the yard would receive a blown up pig's bladder to use as a ball. Even this had to stop though when officers from the Public Health Department came and put an end to the practice saying these were a health hazard.
Phyllis's time at Vicarage Road School came to an end with the arrival of Father Murphy at St Joseph's. It would now be about 1923. He wanted to ensure that all Catholic children in the area attended St Joseph's School. To that effect he went door to door seeking those who for some reason or other attended other schools. On arrival at Phyllis's home, the instruction was, " Monday St Joseph's" There was no room for negotiating!
As directed Phyllis attended on the Monday morning. The first question asked by her teacher was "Did you go to Mass yesterday" Her reply, "Please miss, what is it miss?" saw her removed to the corner of the class where she was forced to remain all day with her pinny (apron) over her head. This was to the amusement of her new classmates and provided Phyllis with a complex, which she has never forgotten. Phyllis had never been to the church and of course did not know what a mass was. She was in effect, punished for her parents' omission.
Father Dennis Murphy who brought about Phyllis's move to St Joseph's proved to be somewhat of a remarkable priest with considerable foresight.
In September 1931 he was moved to Yardley Wood. At this time the area was described as a lovely piece of countryside. There were very few Catholics living in the area and the parish was served by an ex army hut which was rented for £2.00 per week. They were required to share this hut with the local Anglican Church parishioners.
Father Murphy's brief was to make provisions for a large influx of Irish people expected to move into the South West of Birmingham. He obtained lodgings with a local lady by the name of Mrs Callaghan.
By 1936 he had negotiated the purchase of land for a school near to Trittiford Lane. He also obtained a one acre site fronting Highters Heath Lane and Glenevon Road. The total cost being £5000.00.
This was very astute purchase, as this was to lead to the building of Our Lady of Lourdes School, Church and Presbytery.
Gaining further success with the building of the first St Jude's Church at Druids Heath, Father Murphy died in 1970. When this land was eventually sold it realised sufficient monies to fund the building of the present St Jude's.
To return to Phyllis, during the following years Phyllis carried out her learning in an atmosphere, she describes as very strict and often seemed unkind. In considering that, high standards were set and reached, she does however feel that certain elements make her sure she did receive a degree of animosity from both staff and pupils because of her ethnic background.
She excelled at English and always did well even though, "Her pen could not keep up with speed of her brain". This had the effect of her writing being thought to be Greek.
A memory that has been an inspiration for all her life came in an art class. The teacher was a very tall man, who was not a resident at the school.
Having started the class he would place an object such as a vase on a table and tell the class to draw it. After inspection he would allow them to paint their drawing. After one such lesson he inspected Phyllis's effort and informed her she had missed something. He pointed out to her that the painting did not show where the light had struck the object. He said everything reflected light and she should always look for it. Since that time she has always looked for the light in everything
Despite the fact that her father was working, the family always looked for ways to bring more money into the house. This task often fell to Phyllis as the oldest. One such task would be to break up broken cases that her father would bring home from work at the railway. These would be broken up even further and put into small bundles, which she would then go door to door in the local streets to sell for 1d a bundle. (Less than 1/2p).
Across the road from her home was a small café. A woman called Mrs. Whitehouse, whose son worked at Rudders and Paynes in Cheston Street, owned this. As the school dinnertime in those days was noon to 2pm the lady asked Phyllis's mother if she would take a bowl of dinner each day to the son.
This of course meant catching the tram to and from the factory. Phyllis remembers that the bowl was always wrapped in a red cloth on top of which, were two small plates with a pudding between.
The journey always had to be very carefully made so that the gravy did not spill. For this the family received 1shilling (5p) a week. This procedure was carried out for two years until Phyllis left school.
As part of the then school curriculum, classes from St Joseph's attended the nearby Charles Arthur Street School for Cookery and Laundry lessons. The first cookery lesson completed was cottage pie. She recalls taking one potato, one onion, one slice of corned beef, one oxo cube and a dish. It smelt so nice it was nearly eaten before she got home.
The laundry lesson provided her with the harsh lesson of how cruel other children can be. Each pupil had to supply one item for washing. Phyllis had been given an old pillowcase. Her class colleagues could only laugh at her finished result as due to its age it would never be fully white again. As she says," What did they expect? We were poor".
She is reminded that having few clothes, she always had to wear a pinny (apron) over her dress so that it would remain clean all week until it again could be washed.
Like all children, Phyllis and her school friends got into many scrapes, one nearly proving fatal. A group, were taking a short - cut across Johnny Wright's sports-field on their way home, a place where they should not have been. Coming to a steep incline they all ran down. One of the girls in the group being unable to stop at the bottom ran onto some iron railings piercing her chin. Luckily the wound, though serious did heal but caused her to be away from school for some time. They never went that way again.
Whilst she did not take part Phyllis remembers that many of the local youths used to go swimming in the canals on a Sunday. She frequently heard the screams of mothers who had just been informed that her son had just been drowned.
Whilst still from poor homes all the children were expected to make donations to the "Black Babies" fund. The money going to provide care for children in far off lands, being cared for by the Missionary Orders. As a result all the girls had black dolls with which to play.
In one school raffle, Phyllis won a prize that kept her and all her family happy for one night at least. The prize? A chocolate doll!
As no biology lessons were given in the school the girls in the final year of the school, shortly before leaving, were as she puts it, "Taken into the back office and given a talking to".
Leaving school at 14 years of age Phyllis's first job was at Powers Enamellers, Rocky Lane, later to be, The Hercules Cycle Factory. It lasted for one week. Her task was to solder cycle lamps. However the burr on the rough metal cut into her fingers, the solder got into the cuts and quickly caused infection.
During the First World War Phyllis's mother had worked for Buttons Limited, Portland Street. Whilst there, the foreman, a Mr Green had promised that her that her first borne child could always have a job there if she wanted. As Mr Green was still at Buttons, Phyllis was despatched to see if he would honour his promise. He did and she started her new job.
In order to raise more money for the family, her father became involved in the sale of Irish Raffle Tickets (An illegal practice at this time). From this he was able to obtain a little commission. After depositing a considerable amount of lottery money he received just over £14.00. Going to Phyllis's mother, he said he was going to buy her a feather bed, knowing it had always been her wish to have one. Sadly after the arrival of the bed her mother was only to sleep in it once before being taken to hospital where she later died in 1932. She was 39 years of age.
As the oldest, Phyllis now had extra responsibility in the family. She moved to a better-paid job at Dunlops Holly Lane, Erdington working either the 6am-2pm or 2pm 10pm shift. Her sister then took responsibility for the younger children in the family.
A vivid memory of this time is standing by the clock at Aston Cross at 5.30 in the morning with a 6d (2 1/2p) workmans return ticket, waiting for the first and only tram that would get her to work on time. She knew full well that if she was late she would be sent home and no pay would be earned that day.
At Dunlops she worked in the inner tube department, a very dirty job. Everybody would get covered in the chalk dust that was used in that particular process. As she was still wearing the customary black following the death of her mother it was not long before the foreman advised her to wear different coloured clothes for work and use the black at the weekends.
Responsible for her own food at this time she quickly identified that if she bought a 6d (2 1/2p) pork chop and a 3.1/2d cottage loaf, she could make a doorstep of a sandwich, which would provide her with the energy to get through the day.It was somewhat ironic that at 18 years of age she was now earning more than her father who by this time was driving a 12-wheel vehicle for the Railway.
Serious problems arose when the younger sister, who assisted Phyllis with the family, decided to go to Dublin to work for a cousin. This of course threw the responsibility back at Phyllis who, if she had to care for the family, would lose her job.
On her own initiative she contacted the Welfare Department of Dunlops. In charge were a Captain Monk and a Nurse Morriarty. They, seeing the problem, arranged for all the youngest children to be taken into the care of Father Hudson's Homes at Coleshill. This greatly upset Mr Farina, who of course wanted his family to stay together.
It was fortunate that this awful predicament did not last too long. Her sister came back from Dublin, the children came home and Phyllis continued to work at Dunlops.
During the outset of the Second World War, several of the younger children would be evacuated to Ashby de la Zouche and billeted with families there. Contact has been retained to this date with friends they made whilst there.
Phyllis moved away from the house in Lichfield Road for the first time when she married in 1935.
She had again looked for the light and found it.
At the time of putting these memories together, Easter 2002 has just passed
In those days Good Friday was a very special day. All the factories and shops closed. It did not seem to matter what religion you were, everybody seemed to eat fish that day. You could get fish and chips for about 2 pence (1/2 p) or if you had been to the market you could have bought a large cod fillet for 6 pence (2 1/2 p)
The Saturday before Easter Sunday would be spent getting ourselves prepared for the following day. Our best clothes would be ready and our shoes made to look new, using a whitener of course, not leather shoes for us in those days. There would be Easter eggs of many different kinds.
We would expect to visit grannies and aunts and of course a picnic might take place. A picnic recipe might be 1 tall tin of Parsley Brand Salmon, about 1s 9p (just under 10new pence). 2 cottages loaves and ½ lb of best butter in a tub. There would also be several bottles of R White's Lemonade, Sarsaparilla and herbal drinks. All purchased from Wiseman's at Aston Cross.
My next real recollection of Easter is round about 1932 when I was able to buy an Easter egg, which was as big as a shoebox. I can remember paying 4 old pence (Approx.1 ½ p).
Being the eldest of 8 children in the family, I did a lot of the shopping for my mother. At that time Lichfield Road had many shops to choose from. My mother had all her own favourite ones, which I was instructed to use.
I can remember some of them. It was always Mountfords, for the dripping cakes at 4 for 3 ½ pence (approx 1p) Egg and bacon, were from the Irishman's on the corner of Portland Street. Meat, from Simms, near Aston Station. 2s 6p(12 ½ p) would buy a nice leg of lamb. From Smith's at the end of our yard you would get freshly made cottage loaves, and from Thompson's, the pork butcher, you would buy the Rosemary leaf lard, to spread on the bread when it was cut.
I was usually still hungry after my lard sandwiches so I would ask my mother if we could have bread and margarine for the last slice. That usually filled me up. On Sundays we would have some Madeira cake from Perks's near to where we lived at 5 back of 92 Lichfield Road.. Though we were quite poor, we never went hungry.
I do remember that in 1935 I joined the Co-op and even today, still recall my dividend number, 100325. Any " Divi" that was received invariably went on family clothes for school.
In 1939 the war came and Good Fridays and Easter Sundays never seemed the same again. Fruiters had to try and produce all day and night. We always had to queue for all types of food, especially fish, because it was not on ration books.
On one occasion I remember buying whale meat, from a butchers. It looked like liver and was 2s 6p (12 ½ p) a llb. We cooked it with onions. We used to get tins of fish, some times red and pink salmon. This we would mix together. We would also mix the little bit of butter we received, with margarine; I suppose this was to make us think we had best butter.
When English tomatoes came into the shops I would queue to buy one. This would be cut up very thin and go to making 4 sandwiches.
One weekend it was my turn to be able to buy meat, as opposed to the corned beef, which was on ration. However a bomb fell in the Roadway outside Midlands Counties Dairy. This in turn threw all the trams lines up in a figure of 8 shapes. Everybody came to look at the shape. It also fractured the gas main. No meat on that occasion!
As my mother directed me as to which shops I was to obtain certain produce from, I still find I do the same when my family call to help me with the weekly shopping. Old habits etc..
During the latter years of my working life I became a State Registered Assistant Nurse at All Saints Hospital, Winson Green, Birmingham.
When I started the Matron and her Deputy were Scottish. I remember that you could never speak to them unless they addressed you. All very strict, severe and formal.
After a while they left and a man became Head Nurse. After that things took on a more of an informal nature, with male nurses being allowed to work on women's wards and female nurses on men's.
I was still at the Hospital when a Miss Jean McGloughlin became matron. I found her to be an extremely well educated lady, who was also a very good teacher. I found that she had a far- reaching view on Mental Health teatment. She would say to us, "In the future a considerable amount of patients with mental illness will be treated within the community". 40 years on she has been proved to be right.
I think I am right in saying that one young lady, who worked in the Hospitals Admin Department went on to be part of the Applejacks pop group.
My time in the Hospital taught me many things about people in particular and life in general. We sometimes moan about how life is for us and how it could be so much better. Having spent so much time with too many unfortunate people with mental illnesses, I know we sometimes do not realise how much good fortune God has already given us.
After my mother died in 1932 my life was taken up looking after my brothers and sisters and working at Dunlops on both the 6am-2pm or 2pm-10pm shift.
This continued until 1935 when I met a fellow who seemed a lovely sort, so I married him.
We lived in two rooms for four years before the Council gave us a house in Bromford. It was lovely a semi-detached, with a garden. It cost 10/4d per week. (About 51½ p). By now I had three daughters. I remember thinking how lucky we were to get the house. In those days you would only get them if you were in regular work. My husband seemed to enjoy a considerable amount of bad health. The allocation of the house came at a time when he was working. ( I do not think we would have been allocated if they had been aware of his health record).
On the 13th August 1940 the war had been going on for just under one year, when a whistling bomb hit the house wrecking it. We had been in it for 13 weeks. Everything in the garden was destroyed, except a dahlia, named "Pride of Berlin" which was the only plant that had remained standing after the blast. Under two bricks we also found our Canary safe. It would later die during a thunder- storm.
My husband was sent to join the RAF. However due to his on going health problems he was posted to a site high up in the Welsh Mountains. Here there was a mock up of Liverpool Docks built on straw bales. It was hoped this would act as a decoy for German bombers seeking to bomb the real docks. It would seem it never came into use and was demolished after the war.
After suffering three years of air raids, queues and coupons, I decided to take my children to live in a bungalow, (it was actually a holiday chalet) in Wales near the seashore at Prestatyn.
Here we were able to sleep peacefully at night. This though, was not always the case. Because we were near to the shore, there were a lot of high fences and mines to protect against sea invasion. Occasionally a mine would explode for some reason or other and cover our home in sand and other bit of rubble. The explosions would also blow things off our shelves. Just nature's way of reminding us, we were at war.
Come 1946 and we could return to Birmingham with the promise "Peace forever". My younger brothers came back from Ashby from where they had been evacuated to. My other two sisters had been with the Land Army.
I still think back to the early tragic days for the little ones of my family. When my mother died in 1932, four were under school age. Knowing that many other families suffered similar situations, I often think we received very little help from either councils or churches.
In 1970, when I was 55, I was diagnosed with Cancer of the Colon at Birmingham General Hospital. I was frankly told, "A bag or a box". I though I would put my faith in God and decided to have the Colostomy operation. I was warned I would probably have another 20 years. On reaching 80, I thought I cant' push my luck too far, I had better get prepared.
I contacted the local Co-op funeral Parlour and said I wanted information about pre-paid funerals. They said they would send someone to see me. On the day arranged, a very sombre man dressed in full funeral black turned up to discus the arrangements and necessary cost. I could hardly keep a straight face, as living in and old age pensioners block, I wondered if he had come in a funeral car and that this might be upsetting my neighbours who would be trying to guess "who had gone".
My tip to anyone who does not want to be a burden on the next of kin, do what I have done. I paid it up over one year. So now have now worries. Only one problem, you do not get any "Divi".
In talking to Phyllis it has always been clear that she had very strong memories of her childhood and early teens living in the Aston area. With that thought, I asked her if she would like to draw up a list of the shops that she remembered on the Lichfield Road, near to where she lived.
This list has now been completed. Phyllis is of the opinion that it is fairly accurate, but adds, time does sometimes play little tricks on the memory as one gets older. She would like you, if you can, to let her know, through me, if she has missed any, or placed them out of order.
To set the scene, Phyllis lived in Cromwell Square, Lichfield Road. This was a small terrace, which, would have been near to Upper Portland Street. You may recall that Upper Portland Street ran from Lichfield Road to Victoria Road.
In the main the area to be covered is Lichfield Road, from near to Aston Railway Station, to Aston Cross, at the junction with Park Lane.
I will commence our journey just inside Park Lane. Here was situated a Billiard Hall.
At the other end of Park Lane near to The Barton Arms, was of course the Aston Hippodrome. Here one Friday night for the princely sum of 6d (21/2p), Phyllis watched a young trumpet player, tell his audience during his show, that having been married for over 12 years, he had just been told that his wife was expecting a baby they had wanted so much. His name? Eddie Calvert. Later to become famous with the record, "O My Papa"
She would see a number of stars there. Another one being, Arthur Tracy, the "Street Singer"
Back to out memory Lane trip. As we turn into Lichfield Road from Park Lane we find several Co-op shops. These were followed by a shop, which made and sold harnesses and other such items for horses. Then came Perks the Grocers.
Some may now recall at this time, Park Road continued up the hill at the side of where Gerrard Mann, The Mercedes Dealer now is. Then of course the road carried straight down to the general direction of Witton. We will move past there now and back into Lichfield Road, still on the out of city side of the road.
Whilst the exact site the following shops may be in doubt, the type of goods or services they supplied is not.
A gramophone shop called Beresford's. Here they still had some of the old gramophones that came with the big Horn for the sound. There was also a coffee shop, where the tram drivers would stop and go in with their enamel cans to collect the tea they would drink at the outer terminus. This particular café had a lovely, highly polished brass bar, which you pushed to open the door.
Then came Wiseman's Herbal drinks. Here Phyllis used to go to collect, Sarsaparilla, which her father would take with him to drink on his fishing days out.
There was Morgan's the Butcher. It would seem at one stage there might have been an abattoir, at the back. Next to this was a coffee shop, which always had a fine display of cooked meats. No doubt supplied by Morgan.
Next there was Ladies dress shop. It was here that Phyllis, with her first pocket money from work, bought her first bra. She adds she didn't like the liberty bodices they were too tight. Then you come to Provident Westward, Grain Merchants. Here you could always see the grain in large Hessian sacks. Then another Butchers, Mountfords. Here you could purchase dripping cakes, 4 for 31/2d. (1 1/2papprox)
Then came the Cobblers Shop. Outside you would always find a side of leather. Phyllis would always take time to sniff the leather as she walked past. She can still remember the smell to this day. Her father used to buy a side of leather for 1s9d (8p approx) to repair the family's shoes.
There was the Public Benefit Shoe Shop. Here was purchased by Phyllis, her Sahara Sandals. These were very comfortable, she recalls.
We now reach the junction with Upper Portland Street. At the top of Upper Portland Street was Victoria Road Police Station.
Across Portland Street and we come to a tailor's shop called Puttsman. This would later become Whitbread's. After this was another small terrace of houses. For some reason or other, these were referred to as the, "Posh" Houses.
Next came Frost's Clothes Shop. This was followed by, Evans the Butcher. It was from here Phyllis occasionally had to collect a small steak. To eat? No. Her father used to do a little boxing to try and earn more money. He would box under the name of Mark Green. On those odd occasions he received a black eye, the steak would be put to medicinal use.
The grocers' next door was always called the "Irishmen's" Probably due to the fact 2 Irishmen owned it. Then came a licensed house nicknamed "The Widows"
Somewhere about this point was Barnes Grocers. Mrs Barnes was renowned for not giving anything away. It was therefore a great surprise to all the locals when one day she opened a large wooden box and handed out sweets. The occasion? The announcement that the 1914-1918 war had just ended.
The following shops, were also on the out of city side of Lichfield Road, Smith's the Bakers. This was situated near to Cromwell Square. The Gas mantle shop. Already mentioned in earlier stories. This eventually became, Thompson's Butchers. Hills the Drapers, eventually Goldbergs. From Jones the Grocers, Phyllis would buy some of the 1st English Apples to arrive every July. A luxury at 21/2d (just about 1p) Then followed, Keyte's the Butchers. The Guns, Licensed House.
There was then another yard with about 20 houses; it was called something like Swindler's Yard.
Next there was the Westlyn Church. The front door being in Lichfield Road, the rear door being in Victoria Road.
Next came Bott's the Fish Shop. The owner apparently was always in debtors prison for non-payment of rates. It would seem he would often ensure that the hungry people of the area always had some thing to eat, often without payment. This in effect meant he made little or no profit from his shop, hence no bills paid.
Following on from there was a Newsagents shop. Name not remembered. Then came Cashmores, Glass and China. There was also Royal London Insurance Office.
Near to the corner of Victoria Road was Buckingham's Chemists Shop. On the other side of Victoria Road was Ilsley, Coal Merchants. Coal was 1/9d for 1 cwt. (8pApprox). You could borrow a barrow for 4d to take it home. There followed a few more houses.
Doctor Awad Sudki had a surgery somewhere near this point. He shared the practise with a female partner, Doctor Roseali. He had graduated from the Queens Hospital, Bath Row, later The Accident Hospital. He lived until he was 90 years old. He diagnosed Phyllis as suffering from Scarlet fever when she was 7. This meant a period in the Isolation Hospital at Little Bromwich for her. He explained to the family he believed she had caught the infection from the milk, which at this time was sold in open buckets and pails from Barnes Grocers shop. He considered that dust from the grain store and horses feed bags, had contaminated the open milk vessels. You will remember that horses were a main source of pulling power at this time.
Phyllis, who was registered with the Doctor till she was 56, remembers that the milk was always delivered in churns to Barnes Shop from the dairy in Vicarage Road. The delivery driver was a little stocky man, who had a hook where one of his hands should have been. A legacy from being wounded in the First World War. It will suffice to say that from 1921 onwards milk commenced to be delivered in bottles.
Before examining the shops from Aston Cross on the into city side it is worth mentioning that where the former BRMB Radio Studios were, stood the Aston Theatre. Here for 4d you could have watched Will Hay; from up in the "gods" There was also a Woolworth's, which in 1933, boasted everything for 6d. A post office was also in that particular area.
We will now travel out of city along the Lichfield Road, looking at the premises on our right side of the road beginning with The Golden Cross on the corner of Rocky Lane.
This was followed by Randall's', the Printers. Then a Gents outfitter, where on sales days, you could purchase a dress shirt for 6d. Then came Jeff's, the Coffee House. Then The Aston Picture House. This was near to Catharine Street.
There was then another doctor's Surgery. Doctor Gouverich, a Russian. His son would later follow in the practice. The doctor was well known around the area due to the fact he always wore a fur coat.
On the corner of Catharine Street was the Welfare Centre
If we move on to the area at the top of Wainright Street, you may remember this was a very wide expanse of road. Phyllis remembers it, as being a large cobbled area with a horse trough in the middle. It was in fact almost identical to a similar layout at Gosta Green, near to where the Sack of Potatoes Licensed House now stands.
On the other side of Wainright Street was a Chemist. From here you could purchase your Wincarnis Stout. Into this you would insert a red-hot poker. It was believed this would help replace any iron that was missing from your body.
A Fish and Chip shop followed. Next to which was a newsagents shop. To gain entrance to the shop you actually had to go down a flight of stairs. Here you could by 1 ounce of twist tobacco for 8d. It is understood that the Claribel Coach firm, which is still around today, started from these premises.
There then followed Brown's Shoe Shop. Here you could buy your patent leather shoes. This shop later became the very first Matty's Radio Shop in Birmingham. Of course many more were to follow. It would seem local residents at first complained of noise from the radios.
Next came a picture framing shop. It was to this shop that Phyllis's father would bring his Mary Magdellen picture frame for repair, after it had been vibrated off the wall by the sausage making machine in Thompson's the Pork Butchers. Next came the coffee shop from which Phyllis had to collect and deliver a lunch to Cheston Street every school day for the two years. If you have read my book "Where buildings Once Stood", you will remember these stories from Phyllis's Chapter.
We are now near to Sandy Lane. Here there were some houses called the Palisades. Also Dyson Hal, were you would go to see magic lantern shows. Other houses were present and also a picture house known affectionately as "the flea pit". This later closed and re-opened as a billiard hall. We will now end our tour at what is now the Britannia Public House.
I hope that there has been something in this chapter that has stirred a memory for you. If you can correct, alter or add anything, tell me.
Memory can and will play tricks over time. Both I, and Phyllis want this to be as accurate as possible.
Richard Scott. email@example.com