My days in Handsworth by Jack Rooke

I was born 1945 in Dudley Rd Hospital and grew up in Friary Rd Handsworth until we moved away to Tamworth in 1960. I particularly recall playing on 'the Tip' at the top of the road where it met Oxhill rd, in 'the Gully' - the rear access to the houses around us and also to those in Stockwell rd. There was a milkman who had a stable in the gully where he kept his horse and cart overnight. It was quite an adventure to shin over the fence and get into the stable to see the horse.

The gradual slope of Friary rd made ideal condition for carts made from old pram wheels to be raced. On a good day you could start from Woolley's shop and get round the corner and a good way into Stockwell rd on a good push. My father had an allotment opposite our house - number 42A and this meant that we could go down to the stream at the bottom which occupied many a summer day with damming it with clods of earth.

I started school when Grestone Primary was temporarily located in the Methodist church halls in Somerset rd, and can clearly recall the move into the brand new school buildings but cannot recall the year. I'm sure there will be others who recall the trick of jumping off the outer circle bus coming back from Soho rd as it slowed at the bottom of Rookery rd outside the shop of 'Madame Rae' whose windows seemed to be permanently covered in orange cellophane.

Local shops that come to mind are Quances pork butchers where you could get the best black pudding and pork scratchings for miles, "Dicky" Dykes the motor agent who had one of the original upright telephones on his desk at the rear of his dark little shop, and the M&B offlicence at the top of Stockwell rd where the beer engines on the counter impressed me greatly as I fetched beer with my father. My uncle Norman worked for Musson's fruit and poultry merchants on Soho rd and at Christmas, Dad would be called on to assist their staff in dressing the poultry on the Sunday before Christmas - no doubt earning a useful bonus.

Further along Soho rd was The Little Red Shop which seemed to stock everything you could need to clean and repair anything. We were regular users of Handsworth library, where from a very young age, I would study the colour photos of the world in the pages of the National geographic magazine, and as I got older borrowed books which opened my eyes to many things. Particular friends were Peter Lloyd, Peter Anderton, James Smith, David Murcott, Pat Edgley, Jean Spencer. In 1957 I went up to King Edward's Aston and in 1960 we moved away to Tamworth, but when I go through Handsworth these days it brings back many happy memories.

Jack Rooke