One of seven children, I had four brothers - Harry, Ernest, Alfred & Harold, and two sisters Eva & Leah.
Mom and Dad - Leah and Harry lived in Kitchener Street for most of their married life. It was certainly the home that I spent most of my childhood in.
From the age of 5 until I was 14, I attended Handsworth New Road School. When not at school......we all spent many happy hours on the Black Patch Park.We played on the swings most days and watched the gypsies with their everyday life.
The Gypsies who lived on the Black Patch, were very quiet and private people. No-one was really frightened or worried about their choice of location, they were just accepted really.The gypsies would travel round the houses during the day, selling lucky charms and pegs, and of course the
obligatory fortune would be told. It was a while before people cottoned on to the fact that the fortunes were the same for everyone. When the gypsies eventually left, Pre fabs were built on the land.
Every Sunday we would be marched off to Sunday School, at the little chapel beside Black Patch. We would be given a penny for the the collection plate..............often I would withhold my penny and use it to hire a bike for half an hour, until someone 'shopped me'. I got into real hot water for that. All the youngsters who attended the Chapel, were required to take a pledge, I can remember the words as if it was yesterday..........we were instructed to raise our right hand and reel off.........."I PROMISE WITH GODS HELP, TO ABSTAIN FROM ALL INTOXICATING DRINK AND HELP OTHERS TO DO THE SAME" For this we were awarded a white ribbon badge.
I only really recall, one set of neighbours, Mr and Mrs Hancox - my main reason for remembering them is the nickname that was awarded to their son.........DROP GUTS.............because he could down a freshly made boiling hot cup of tea!
For a special day out we would be taken to Wasson Pool, by our Dad. We would take Jam Sarnies and a Jam Jar to put 'tiddlers in', we would pick bluebells to bring home for Mom, they had usually wilted by the time we got home, but Mom was always a happy recipient of them, what ever state they were delivered in.
Dad had an allotment in Anne Road, every Sunday we all visited him and had our tea there.
We also had occasions at the Grand Picture House on the Soho Road, and spending our 'coppers' in the market on the Soho Road was a special occasion too.
Grove Lane baths brings back a very vivid memory. My mom made me a scarlet swimming costume for my first visit to the baths. I 'wore' the costume for a week.........the colour ran and it stained my skin. Seems funnier now than I recall it being at the time.
Soho Road, known as 'The Main Road', to Handsworthiens, offered a wide range of shopping establishments. Austin's pram shop offered a wide range of perambulators and accessories, and was a popular stop for 'mums to be'. If you purchased your pram there, you qualified for a free dolls pram in exactly the same make and colour.
There was Mapps the Pork shop and Baines the Bakery.
Another venue on 'the Main Road' was the Soho Clinic, it was the family outing of the week if the school nurse had called and found 'visitors' in your hair.
My childhood was a very happy time and made all the more special by the people of Handsworth.
Hilda Ward ne Tomkins