I'm a Born and Bred Handsworthian by Sue Bonner

Sue at 2

Born in 1957, in 'rooms' in Thornhill Road. I'm told that the midwife was just about to start her dinner, when she received the call to inform her that 'I was on the way'. She tried to delay the visit, but my Dad wasn't having any of it........he told her to get on her bike and HE'D cook her dinner........which he did!

I already had a brother - 5 years my senior - John. It is to him that the blame lies for my name, Susan, he was allowed to choose it! Most people know me know as Sue, my mother and brother still refer to me as 'Susan', as does my husband, when the mood takes him. I forgive him though, he knows no better, he's an Astonite! My arrival meant that rooms, were no longer large enough to accommodate us, and we moved to rented accommodation in Crocketts Road.

This was a large terraced three bedroom house, my brother and I shared a bedroom, as the 'box room' was often occupied by the manager of The West End Cinema. My dad, worked there, and the income from this sub letting, helped with the rent money. Later on in

My Brother

my childhood, I recall attending the West End. I particularly remember watching South Pacific, and I think I was the only child in our neighbourhood who could sing 'I'm gonna wash that man right outta ya hair' word perfect, even if slightly out of tune. Still can actually!

A person who influenced me greatly during my 15 years in Crocketts Road, was a neighbour - Miss Underhill. She was a spinster, and I cant recall anybody really visiting her. She lived with gas lighting, a big black range, and had an amazing gramophone which was lined with velvet and had a big silver horn.

Mom and Dad Hall

 I remember the 'smells' in this house being very special, particularly from the range, the stews and bread and the irons heating.....I loved to watch her ironing, and spitting on the irons, she was so prim and proper, yet it looked natural to see her spit. She fed me brown bread and honey sandwiches, still a passion of mine, and read to me relentlessly. She taught me all about the bible, bought me my first bible, which I still have, and took me to church, Emmanual Hall on the Holyhead Road.It was leaving church one Sunday, that I head butted a car whilst crossing the road, and suffered severe head injuries, cracked teeth still tell the tale, no 'caps' offered then.When I eventually regained

Sue and Sandy

consciousness, I was more concerned about my 'best hat and coat'. I also wondered why God had let that happen to me while I was coming out of church! Miss Underhill was my spiritual guide throughout my childhood. She certainly taught me right from wrong, indelibly.

Around 5, I knew that I was going to become a nurse. Not only did I care for Miss Underhill if she was unwell, my dog- Sandy - was a very patient 'patient'. There were not many parts of Sandy's anatomy that hadn't brandished a bandage at some point. I must have been reasonably gentle with him, cus he always came to me, tail wagging, if I donned my uniform and bag.

The friends I remain in contact with now, remember me for my birthday parties, they weren't lavish, but great fun. Like my Nan's house, it was an open house and all were welcome.

During school holidays, I went to my Nan's house in Hamilton Road, there I had another group of friends. We played hide and seek, and most of us had home made stilts. Stilt races were popular on the 'duck-egg' islands, that linked Regent Road to Westbourne Road. The lads made go-carts, and occasionally let us have a go, but the 'women driver' phenonomen is inbuilt into men at a very early age, and they were very protective of their wooden boxes on wheels!

Another special treat, was being taken to 'The Uplands' pub for a bottle of vimto and a bag of crisps - the ones with the salt wrapped in blue paper. The grounds of this pub seemed immense. It was bril for playing hide and seek in, lots of nooks and crannies.

Birthday Party

Along with all the other kids in the neighbourhood, I attended Cross Street Infants school, before progressing to Wattvillle Road Juniors, where I fell in love for the first time. Mr Brettel was our Class 9 teacher, and myself and Elaine Wheeler fought over him day in day out until deciding we would share him, I cant remember whether I had the left or right side now. Eventually we all split to our chosen secondary schools, mine being Handsworth New Road Girls School.

When we were not at school, we usually went to Black Patch Park, in preference to Handsworth Park, it had a climbing frame and what we called 'a witches hat'. Handsworth Park seemed more geared up for adult activities. If we had a bit of money, we did venture to Handsworth Park - Birmingham Dairies (opposite) had a cracking ice cold milk vending machine.

The Regal Cinema, was the local flicks. Dr Who and the Darleks was very scary on the big screen. I was only comforted by the pickled onion and the bag of batter bits, I collected from Boothe Street fish and chip shop, on the way home.

At 15, we moved to Wellington Road, where Handsworth borders with Perry Barr. I took a part time job at Pendry's greengrocers on the Soho Road. It was here that I first came in contact with ackee, salt fish, yam and green banana, the Caribbean influence had hit 'The Main Road'.

I never really had any romantic liaisons with the local boys, I have subsequently been told that I was thought of as a 'mate'! I'm sure this information was designed to comfort me, unfortunately it did not have the desired effect.

Sue at 21

Having finished my exams, I was still on track for nurse training, and was so fortunate to be supported by my parents to attend further education, in a polytechnic - remember them? I took a part time cashiers job in an Aston garage, to try to ease the financial burden on my parents. A year later, I was in a pink striped uniform, a cadet nurse at the then - Dudley Road Hospital.

Tony, my husband

At 19, I met my husband to be - an Aston lad, and five years later we were wed, at St James Church, Crocketts Road, where I'd been christened 24 years previously. For the first time I moved from Handsworth to Harborne...........and couldn't settle, a year on we moved back to the north side of the city, Great Barr.

Little did I know as a child that I would never really leave Handsworth. During my training, I was meeting people from Handsworth, Aston, Winson Green areas. On completion of my training, I found myself wanting to nurse people in their own environments, and guess what, only Handsworth and the surrounding areas would do for me!

Although I have nursed in a variety of settings since qualifying, I always find myself back in the place that I love. People say that Handsworth has changed, and it has, but look hard enough and you will see that there remains qualities that have always been there. Handsworthiens were special people, in my opinion, they still are.


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