A Few Memories by Maureen Finnegan nee Parry

I was born in Wales, and came to Birmingham when I was eight years old. We rented the top half of number 4 Arthurs Place, it was a big house we had one room for living in, and three bedrooms to sleep. There was eleven of us including my dad, and my step mom.

I remember listening to the Wizard of Oz on the radio, this was a treat for us, and going to the Lyric on a Saturday afternoon mostly to see Old mother Rily ,around Christmas time they would show Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, it cost three old pennies,3d. After the pictures we would call in to the grocery shop across the way and buy a small crusty loaf and some Brawn, and share it between four of us, mmm that was some feast.

I remember being told to get up in the middle of the night when the air raid sirens were sounding, and we would all walk up to the Bullpits where we would stay until the sirens rang the all clear. My dad was an air raid warden. I thought it was great fun, I didnt realise it was dangerous for us all, we use to have great fun, playing on the bombed sites.

An old lady by the name of Nellie Cox lived in the same house down stairs, every Saturday night she would send me to the "outdoor" with a jug, to get it filled with beer, then she use to sit on the doorstep with my dad and mull over old times. Sometimes, she would give me a penny, 1d. At other times she would say, "do you want a Penny or a drink of beer", I always had the beer!

I remember when the war was over, there was such merry making, and we had a big street party, all us kids were allowed to stay up that night. We all went into the town to see the big bonfire, we carried bin lids and was told we could make as much noise as we liked. I remember King George and Queen Elizbeth( she wasnt called the Queen mum then) being driven down the sand pits to go on up to Snow Hill Station.

We were made homeless, my mom had a huge row with the land lady,(not the brightest thing to do) so we were out on the streets. An aunt put us up for a couple of nights, she was a very good friend, but we had to call our elders aunt or uncle in those days, or Mr or Mrs.

Then came our big break, we were offered the keys to 65 Birchfield road, and how posh we thought we were. We had a front door and a back door, and we didnt have to go out side to the toilet. We didnt have to drag the bath in front of the fire, although I missed having the fire in the winter, and we had hot running water, that was indeed posh.

I then went to Lozells Street school. I was a bit of a tom boy, and didnt care what I looked like. Our house must have looked posh, but we were certainly not. My brother Ted went to Gower Street school at the top of Chain Walk. I would leave him and carry on to Lozells Street Girls School.

Every Saturday morning, during the winter my Brother two step sisters and my self, would go to the gas works for bags of coke. Two bags for my dad, and one each for two old ladys that lived down the back. I think we must have tried every coal yard in the district, some times we were lucky and other times not. We had a cart that we carried the coke on, the queues at the gas works were long and you had to get there befor they started to serve. We had our own sacks and the coke would come down the chute into these sacks, and we would make our way home, pulling the cart behind us, two of us at the back making sure the bags didnt fall off. The nicest part of this ritual was when we stopped on the way home at a house that was being used as a cafe, we left our cart out side, and we would sit beside the black grate and have a piece of bread dipped in bacon fat with red sauce on it, and a cup of tea, that was heaven. This was paid for with the money we earned getting the coke for the two ladys down the back. I even went for the coke after I'd started work, if any one saw me on the saturday then I would be teased something shocking on the Monday. We went in all kinds of weather most times it would either be raining or snowing.

Our house was situated between Mansfield Road and Fentham Road, opposite Chain Walk, we didnt have to go to far for the shops, between these two roads was a green grocers, a grocers, a paper shop, a chip shop, a butchers, a cafe, a mens clothes shop, and a ladys clothes shop. There could have been other shops, but I cant remember.  

I left Birchfild road when I got married in 1955, and moved to Handsworth for a little while, and then on to Winson Green. Oh..... One other thing I remember doing was going down Mansfield Road, more than half way down, there use to be a man standing out side a house, and I had to give him a a small package. It was only later that I learned he was the bookies man!! The pawn shop down the high street....my dads suit went in on the Monday to pay the rent on the Tuesday. We would get it back on the Saturday, so my dad could go out in it on Sunday.

Maureen Finnegan nee Parry