My 25 Years in Handsworth by Ken Bibb

Ken Bibb 12 years old

I was born in July of 1933 the eldest of what would become three boys and one girl in Greenhill Road Handsworth.

My first recollection was when I was going on five and my mother asked me if I would like to go to the nearest school which at the time was the Catholic school at the top of the road in which we lived, after seeing the nun's in their habit I remember saying NO!! So of course I then went to Rookery Road and stayed there till I was 15 (by just missing the rise in leaving age by 4 months from 14 - 15). I do not remember a great deal of early school life, two things stick out. One was being told that we had to knit a square 4 inches by 4 inches to use as a duster for our chalk boards, I went home and (my mother who was a very good knitter through her lifetime) showed me how to cast the stitches on and knit the square. ( I was 5) the other thing that has stuck in my mind was having to do a play when I was about 8 or 9 in the junior school ,and because I didn't know the lines I developed a bit of a stutter which I found very embarassing. I was always small in stature only 4 feet when I was 11, I did get picked on a bit, but then who wasn't.

Up till I was about 13 the things that have stuck out in my mind have been, being evacuated to Bell Broughton for 12 months, the air-raids, my Gran being bombed out in Rookery Road, having to go to Grove Lane school when Antrobus Rd was bombed, having our front glass window being blown out a couple of times. When I look back to the war years as a kid it was fun being able to rummage through the bombed sites looking for schrapnel going down the air-raid shelter etc, but for our parents it must have been a very traumatic time, and then my Dad having to go and serve in the RAF for three years. Mom worked I remember at a factory in Austin Road by Handsworth Dairies spot welding chain. I used to help my uncle who was only 6 years older, sell bundles of sticks for starting the fires. We used to operate from a shop at the bottom of Greenhill Rd I think it was Jackson's, we used to get the wood from a woodyard in Windermere Rd. I did a paper round later had to have a medical at 13 ( the bag was nearly as big as I was). Mrs Burton the newsagent in Rookery Rd was bombed out and she operated from a wooden shed in front of her brother's butchers shop ( Osbourne's) and then moved in front of my Gran's (as my Gran lived behind a shop in Rookery Rd.) opposite the Purus bakery shop on the corner of Newcombe Road.

For the next couple of years before I left school I used to help the local milkman, go with my Dad on his bakery round he worked for Scribbans bakery from Hockley, help a school mate on a Saturday who worked after school for Jefferson's greengrocery on the corner of Newcombe Rd knocked about with a group of lads who lived in Newcombe Rd played in a football team with them at Perry Hall playing fields and of course we walked everywhere in them days. Roller scated on the footpaths, in the school grounds everywhere, went to the Rookery Rd Picture house Saturday morning matinee 4d see 'Flash Gordon' etc.

The Tram only went as far as the 'Grove Pub' in Grove Lane in them days, then the buses came up Oxhill Road, to as far as the 'Uplands Pub' which made things better because before the buses we had to walk up Oxhill Rd to Greenhill Rd. Other things that bring to mind whilst sitting here writing are, Grove Lane swimming baths. Two baths the new had cubicles but the old only had curtains, females Tuesday's and Thursday's I think!. The Outer Circle 11 we used to travel around and try and get in the front seat on the top. Then there was the Lickey Hill Tram, you could catch it from Selly Oak but it was best from Town. We sometimes climbed the back wall at the 'Farcroft Hotel' Rookery Road to watch the Aston Villa players play bowls, also we were never at home in the school holidays like the kids these days, playing games at the Tank field, walking the lanes, playing at Wosson Pool, riding the coal tubs on route from Jubilee Pit to West Bromwich, the mind boggles what we used to get up too.

I remember the winter of 1947 and the snow was around and lasted for weeks, we had fun in them days mainly sledging at Sandwell Park in Island Road.

On leaving school at 15 I worked for my uncle for 12 months but that didn't work out so I went to work at the B'ham Co-op on the milk round which I enjoyed until I had to do National Service in 1951. During that 3 years 15-18 we used to hang around a bit in Handsworth Park which was a delight in those days. A few chaps and girls, we had a great time used to have a lemonade at the Holly Cafe on the corner of Thornhill Road, go to the Grand pictures on Soho Road, walk the monkey run. It was then I met my future wife of today, I didn't know then of course but later when I was in the army things eventuated. After doing two years in Germany I was demobbed in 1953 went back to work at my old job. My wife came from Mary Road off Boulton Road and we got married at Saint James's in 1956. After a trial living in the rural Minworth we moved back to Handsworth for while until we were able to get housing with the Co-op and so we moved to Small Heath.

My connection's to Handsworth ended with the deaths of my parents in the early eighties.

Hope you enjoyed "My 25Years in Handsworth"

Ken Bibb