Hello. My name is Deborah Norrey and I’m recording for the History at Hobmoor project. Today’s date is Thursday the thirty-first of August 2017. I’m here with Ted Roberts, who I will be interviewing today. Good afternoon, Ted.
Ted, can I start by asking you, please, your name, date of birth and where you were born please?
Yeah, my name is Edwin Arthur Roberts. I was born at 1246 Coventry Road on the eighth of July 1927. Um, it was a post office and a newsagents, which I believe my father had bought not long before, he got married and settled there. His father was a doctor and I believe his father was s, struck off the list for drinking too much and he went to Wales and left them all. The family was six children and a wife, who came to Birmingham with er no money hardly and went to a Mr Muscat [ph], who lived in Waterloo Road, who was a JP, and explained what had happened and he lent him the money … Homer Muscat [ph] … to buy this property. And, and they all worked in the shop. There was the six children. He was one of the children, of course. He was the oldest, my father was, and it was a post office and it was the m, head office for the district. They even delivered to Sheldon from this place at Hay … not Hay Mills. Hay Mills. Yes, it was South Yardley post office called. And um, they had men mainly on bicycles. I can remember climbing up a tree in the back garden and dropping coal onto the postman’s head as they went by to the back, never thinking they could, go and tell my father, but, er, it was a big, big, biggish property, you know, an attic and sort of, er, three or four bedrooms. Um, he afterwards bought the house next door, which was a café shop, and one of the aunts went there and his m, mother went there, and I don’t remember his mother. She just sat in a corner. That’s all I can remember. So um, I was born with a … had a twin, twin brother born at the same time and we were very close. We… if one cried, the other one cried. We had, you know, sort of empathy between us. Went to school, to Harvey Road when I was five, er, both of us in the … in the juniors. Harvey Road, yes. That’s right. I was just trying to think of the name of the school. Um, Church Road school but it was the juniors. That’s right. And I stayed there until eleven … about eleven years, ten years, and where I took examinations for grammar school and of course passed, and then went on holiday and the war broke out.
So can we just go back to your um … well, can we go back to your twin, twin brother first, Ted, and…
Oh yes, James. Yes.
Yeah, I was going to say. What’s his, what was his name?
His name was James …Roberts.
James. And was he the older twin or the younger twin?
Oh, we were tw, we were the same. I think I was the … I think he was the older one. Yes. I was the bigger one, though, so it makes me wonder if I was the oldest. But he was … seemed to be brighter and everyone liked him better than me. I was more artistic. I could play the piano then and he couldn’t… but there was a school orchestra I remember, you know, at Harvey Road for the children, only playing about, but he was the conductor ’cause they made him so, and I was playing a, a cymbal or something at the back whereas I could play the piano. I should have been conducting, I thought. [Laughing] But unfortunately he, he got, um, a mastoid, which, which was considered quite bad. Most people used to get this er disease of the ear, the inner ear, and he had to go to hospital for it. He had a s, swollen glands and, in his throat and I think he had a vein break and after a couple of years in hospital it must have cost them the earth, they had to pay in those days, there was no National Health and, er, blood transfusions and operations and then he had meningitis and died. Then of course I was sent away, not to be at the funeral, and, er, I went to Malvern, I remember, on my own. I was ta … I don’t know whether they came with me. I… They may have. One, somebody must have come with me to take me there, I think, but then I was left there.
How old were you then, Ted?
Seven. Seven years old.
And you were left in Malvern at seven on your own?
Yes, that’s right. Yes. Yes, and I quite enjoyed it. I, I felt peculiar at first but it take, didn’t take me long to find my way, way around [Laughing] the hotel and then looked out into the, into the hills and they, they were all friendly to me. I think they knew. They must have been told why I was there, because in those days they didn’t think it was good for the children to go to funerals and see their mothers crying and so on, you see. It’s probably wasn’t. I don’t know, but I enjoyed it. I remember bringing back some marmalade they gave me at … from the hotel. Little [Laughing] tins of marmalade. I still remember that. That was mine. My big brother wanted it and I said, ‘No, you can’t have it. It’s mine.’ [Laughing]
So if we go back just, just a little bit, Ted.
What, what was, um … so there was you and your twin brother and then you had an older brother also?
I had an older brother, yes. Homer William.
If you can tell us just a little…
Beg your pardon?
Just tell us a little bit about your family.
Well, his name was Homer William and he was named Homer after Homer Muscat [ph], who’d given them the money for the, for the … to buy their property. Um, he was not very well. Trouble, suffered with his chest a lot. Um, but they never th, thought they would rear him, I don’t think, but they didn’t care about me. I was pretty well, well built, I think, at the time. [Laughing] Um, I didn’t get on very well with him ’cause he used to tease me too much, but later on when I got to know him, yes, much better. Um.
So what do you mean by used to tease you, Ted?
Well, he’d come up… We had our … I had a separate bedroom but he’d open the door to, at night, just … and put a trilby hat half through the door and say, ‘Black Owl is going to get you!’ and I’d be, ‘Ooh!’ you know. [Laughing] Be frightening me in the middle of the night. Things like that. And at the table if we were eating and we weren’t allowed to talk a lot because of Victorian sort of manners, he’d be leering at me going [growls], you know, with his neck and I’d say, ‘Dad, he’s looking at me!’ ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake,’ they’d say, ‘Just be quiet.’ You know, ‘Get on with your meal.’ [Laughing] And it… You know, he was taking the mickey out of me, really. Pinching things off me and oh … not important, really. Now I know it was just fun but it … fun to him but not to me. [Laughing] I, I always … and I always had the things that he was cast off, I had, ’cause he was growing, so I had to have the things. Then he kept having new things and he’d rub it in that it was new, you know. ‘This is mine and that’s yours now,’ you know. [Laughing] So I always felt a bit, er, a bit jealous of him. But I suppose …you can’t grumble.
So, so other than that, what was your home life like?
Well, it was, it was all right. We’d got, we’d got a nanny… who used to push us out in the pram. I can remember that, being pushed out, but she always used to meet boyfriends and they’d talk for hours, and I’d all be watching these men’s spats. They all wore spats in those days on their shoes and looking away. ‘When are we going to see the ducks?’ you know. ‘We want to see the ducks.’ Supposed to be taking us down there. And I believe she lived in at the back in one of the rooms, a back room, and I learned afterwards that she used to sometimes get locked out and she’d have to climb up the, the pipe in the back to get into her room. They had those windows that you could push up and down, you see. Victorian sash windows. And she could get up the drainpipe there and get in that back. [Laughing] But that, ch, didn’t last long with those people but there was always somebody in the house. My mother had always got someone, you know, to … helping ’cause I suppose, twins. I don’t know. It wasn’t a lot, really. My father was… Mother, I don’t think my mother worked in the shop. No, don’t think so.
So where on the Coventry Road was your shop, Ted?
It was more or less opposite the allot, allotments that were…. just past the, er, Bull’s Head. Big pub. The Bull’s Head. There was a big pub there with a clock, and in front of that place I can remember there was a great big trough, which was used for the horses to drink. It was like a coffin. It was as big as a stone, big stone coffin. I’ll never forget seeing a horse there that had to be shot. It had gone into somebody’s… glass somewhere, a car or something, and it had its vein and it was pumping out this blood and we go and watch and a man came with a gun and shoot it, you know. It’s what they did in those days. So I remember that. So you get all this. And I also remember funny cars in those days, that had got coal underneath and, and it was spitting out water and we used to run along the side because they couldn’t go very fast. We could run as fast as they could go along the Coventry Road. [Laughing] And we thought it was fun. It was ever so … blowing out dirty smoke when I think about it, it must have been not good for anyone, you know, breathing that in. They talk about diesel. This was coal sort of stuff.
It’s raining. Is it picking it up? [Laughing] I’m sorry about[Pause] No. Anyway. Pause for a minute.
At, at that time the trams used to run up the middle of, er, Coventry Road, but the, there was two, there was like a, a road each side of the centre, you know, for the ordinary traffic. Um, it used to go up as far as Tiger’s Island, I think, after a bit, which was up in Sheldon, but they used to turn round at the Swan, a lot of them did, and all the rails… The old Swan. There wasn’t an island there. I remember that. There was, oh god, builders and all sorts. Hemming’s the builders was up there at the top where the island is now. There was no post office, you see. There was, um… The doctor’s was there… but, um, just past there, there was a builder’s, Hemming’s, and there was, um, a saddlers for horses that did saddles and on the corner was Robinson’s, which was a sort of chemist and everything shop, and there was a post box there. Then across the road there was Harding’s the bakers. They were on the corner and they had a shop there, and next to them was a … what the built the … Oh, I can’t think of the word. [Laughing] Um, it was two lovely pots they had with geraniums in it, and they used to shoe the horses there.
What? Not a harrier.
Farrier. Yeah. And we called it something else. Blacksmith, we called it, yeah. The blacksmith. And I, I can remember that was interesting, a bit, to us boys, but that was a little bit too far. We’re not supposed to go up, right up there, you know. Yeah. [Laughing]
Um, I can’t… [Laughing] No, but we weren’t, we weren’t supposed to go too far anyhow but I don’t know why. Up there, there was a cinema. I think that was already built or it was a newish cinema. It was the Tivoli, which we, I know, ’cause we used to go to this other cinema down the road, the Adelphi, but I didn’t like the cinema. Frightened to death when I was seven or eight. All everyone else liked it. I, I got a vivid imagination, a brilliant, sort of too brilliant, [Laughing] and I remember seeing Joe E Brown in an aeroplane and there was a great big warship underneath and he fell out of the aeroplane and fell into a dustbin on the, on the warship, you know, and they put the lid on the top. And I couldn’t stand it. I had to go home. I was frightened me … frightened me to death. So they left, let me go for three months and I didn’t go for three, and I slowly went, you know, when I was told it was pretend. I, ‘cause as far as I was concerned it was real. D, it was terrible, that was. I still remember it, you see. Horrified! [Laughing] It must have had a big effect on me. Um, but then it was all right. Every Saturday we used to go there. But we went in the posh [play 14:15], I think. We used to go upstairs there, I think, and throw things on the kids underneath. Oh, dear. When I think about it, but it was nice. It was something to look forward to. We used to have our Saturday penny to go and spend. You could … two ounces a penny of sweets, you know, something like that. Can’t believe it, can you? For a penny. Um. It was busy time. There was …a block of shops that we were in. There was erm … Young’s is still there. That was on the corner of Flora Road and next was Derby’s on the other side, which was like a grocer’s shop and, um, then there was, there was… I don’t, can’t just remember what there was now. Oh, there was a draper’s shop next to us. Whitehouse’s, their name, and next to them was the café of my mother’s and the aunts, and then a florist that did, um, wreaths and things for funerals and next to them there was two houses before you got to the other shops, where there was Mr Scragg [ph] was the chemist. All these little shops there and McKenna’s [ph] of course, the furniture shop. They were quite big. And um, on this… Then I’m thinking of much later on. McKenna’s. Er, my father had the… There was a big er building at the back of the house where the postman used to come and they’d got those old, er, sort of carriages that they pushed the parcels up in and they used to put the … take them up in the bag and the men used to come on the bikes. And there was the sorting office there in this thing. Is, is it all right? Sorting office in the… Er, we weren’t suppose… we did go up to it but we weren’t supposed to go up to it, not really.
And where on the Coventry Road was your Post Office, Ted?
It was right where, right, um, on the Coventry Road. It was one of the block of shops, you see, where the post box is still there. It is. 1246 was the number. That’s all I remember. 12… And it… not quite opposite the Bull’s Head. The Bull’s Head was much nearer the … nearer the Swan, you know. Just a little bit, anyhow. Um, opposite, there was allotments, which we had one allotment there. And I can remember going there. We used to go. There was a newting pond. No, there was, there was a newting pond, we could catch newts and things in there but in our own little place we’d got a well in our garden, in our little allotment, and I went there and I fell in. And I, I remember lying back and I could see the sky but I was going round and round and round, and I didn’t… and luckily, the other twin, my other twin, went and got a man and the man came and pulled me out. Otherwise I think I’d have, I’d have gone then. And took me home wringing wet. [Laughing] I didn’t…
I have to ask, Ted, how did you manage to fall down the well?
Well, I think I was play… I must have been looking at things in the water. I was always interested in everything, anything that moved. That was probably… And it was a slee, a slope, you know, and you just sort of fell in. Kept putting… and broomph, you’d gone, you know. No cover on it or anything like that. [Laughing] I’d forgotten that but it just came back to me then.
How old were you then, Ted?
About five. Five. Yeah, five. We were about five. Must have been. But we used to go over there a lot, you see, over to the allotments, and we used to go… I was friend, I was friendly with my cousin more than I think with Jimmy because, yeah… I had a cousin. Younger cousin. You… there was two, like. My mother’s sister, married my father’s brother, so we were very close. Two sisters married two brothers. And they lived in Flora Road and he was, he did something else. I can’t remember. Yeah, he l, he was a car mechanic in Acocks Green somewhere. They’d got a garage right near the station, opposite the station in Acocks Green they’d got a garage and he, he was there, but they weren’t as well off as we were for some reason. He was younger, I suppose. But the younger …was more my age. He used to use a scooter going down Flora Road. So I wanted a scooter. I remember that. And I had a scooter. It was lovely ’cause you could go down Flora Road right to the bottom, just shoo all the way down. Great. I prayed for that and had it for Christmas. I can remember. It was there at Christmas. So they, so they were quite good to me in a way, you know, even though they were strict. Um, and we used to enjoy the house as well, running all over the house, upsetting the, the nanny or whatever she was. I don’t know. [Laughing] I think they were… From where they came from originally, I think that you used to get these girls, you know, who were … who wanted a job in Birmingham or something like that and would come to us first and then they would go and get a job somewhere else, I think. But they used to help out. Occasionally pinch money out of the shop, I believe. [Laughing] I can, I remember hearing things. Another thing was, we had, used to go to the church a lot. We were, there was church. My father was church, um, a choirmaster. He was also the treasurer. He was also on the watch committee of Birmingham. He was well known everywhere, so very, quite famous sort of person. And…
So what was your dad’s name, Ted?
William Arthur Roberts. WAR, War. My name is Edwin Arthur, Ear. Mine’s spelt EAR. And he was WAR, War. My brothers didn’t spell anything. [Laughing] Funny. Anyhow, we used to have choir practice. We had to go to the… the choir, you know, even when we were little. Started church morning, afternoon, evening every Sunday, and it…
And what church was that, Ted?
It was St Chad’s, just up Waterloo Road. It was called St Chad’s then, and we … that was a, a tin hut. I remember it. A corrugated green, biggish t … well, it must have, it probably seemed big to me ’cause I was small, and it was always full. Absolutely full of people. You wouldn’t believe it. And they built this other church. We all had to do things. Buy a brick, you know. Make … to have this new church that’s there now. But it’s no longer a Church of England, it’s a C, Congregational I think have bought it. But we were, we were in the choir there and everything, and oh, I don’t know. But they used to have musical evenings at home then, because the choir miss … the organist, she would come, Alice, Alice Bayliss [ph], and she’d play the piano at home and they’d all do their turns and we’d be sitting up the stairs listening to them, you know. Some of them were supposed to be rude but we didn’t think they were, you know. We didn’t, we didn’t know. [Laughing] And it used to be quite good fun. We weren’t supposed to be there, of course. Just like the, um, Sound of Music, you know, hiding up the stairs. That’s just the same thing. I don’t know. But it was I suppose…. And she did show me how to play the piano a bit, and that’s all I had was a few lessons with, with her. I could play. Like, don’t know why but I could. I could just tell going up and down. It wasn’t anything marvellous but no one else could seem to play in the house. But they said, ‘Don’t …think you’re going to do that as a job,’ because all musicians, when there was a … well, of course when there was a problem with the economy you know, where the whole country went down, or … musicians were the first ones to lose their jobs in those days, ’cause they didn’t get paid much, and so they said, ‘Don’t think you’re going to do that for a living. You can do it as a side-line but you must get a proper job,’ you know. So I was always told that. But they did give me lessons later on, just a bit. Couple of months. Just before the war broke. And the woman next door, that’s when we’d moved to a new house. Oh, dear. Terrible, isn’t it? Moved to a new house then in Willard Road, which was built, by a friend of my father’s, Mr Hemming. And he got this post office built as well, got this one, and he was postmaster here then and he had a big counter there with about six or seven girls and all the men as well. He was in charge of the lot. We had the house two … he didn’t want to be next door … two doors away from there in Willard Road, so that was our house then. And my aunt stayed down at the shop running the post office, one of them. Anyway, that war came and I was off then to Evesham, sent away to Evesham.
So Ted, before we touch on that, that period of your life, can we just go back and can you just tell us just a little bit about your, your time at school, what it was like being at school?
Oh, it was lovely. Yeah, I was all right. I can remember learning er the alphabet. You know, we did it properly. A, A, A, A, you know. They had, had a big blackboard with all the letters on, a capital A and a little a, and a B, big B and a little e. And, um, she got a big ruler sort of thing that … and she kept pointing to things and … all over the place and we had to say exactly what she was doing. And that happened, you know, couple of … well, it seemed ages but it probably wasn’t. It was probably ten minutes. And also we learnt to add, you know, add up easy things. Two times table. All the tables. Slowly learning everything. We learnt everything in those days, I think. Um, I can’t remember much about… I think we had to trip in. We had to st, stand in a queue outside to come in and someone would play the piano and I think we had to put our hands on our hips and all trip into the school, you know, like a load of blinking fairies or something. And…[Laughing] ’cause my brother used to go, ‘Huh,’ yeah, ’cause he was in the bigger school, you see and they didn’t do that there. [Laughing] Used to take the micky out of us doing this. But it was always, the bell used to go and you had to get in this queue and trip in and all go round and sit down, that was it, in your place. I can remember that. And music again. Yes, we had [Pause] oh, yeah. I can’t remember who the mu, musicians were there then. But erm, for us being evacuated I missed a lot of … except I was grammar school, wasn’t I, then, so perhaps… I, I remember it was nice. We’d got a field there. We could come out of school if it was sunny and you’d just go into this bit of a field, which is now all built up. There’s towers and things. And if it was a nice day they would take us out. But I can remember, yes, being taught mainly that. The reading, writing and arithmetic. Reading, bit of writing. Writing the letters, you know.
So, so what sort of pupil were you?
I was a bit slow. Slow at reading, definitely. Yeah. I could read all right, but I was slow and I think I’m still slow so I’m probably dyslexic and didn’t realise it. Um. [Pause] I was interested up to a point but I’d rather someone read to me and that was lovely, yeah, ’cause it was audio and I could understand it somehow. It registered with me much better than me reading the book. I will say that, my father used to read every Sunday when we had Sunday tea after the… going to the Sunday school in the afternoon. We’d have tea at five o’clock and he’d read a bit of one of the classic books, you know. Kidnapped or something like that, or Treasure Island, and we’d all be there sitting up quiet while he read the lot. And I reckon he enjoyed doing it. He did. We all sat there and we couldn’t wait till next week for the next instalment to come. [Laughing] I’m just trying to think. I’d forgotten that. Just talking about it. But we did enjoy that. Um, and everyone … no one dare make a noise. You weren’t allowed to get down from the table till everyone had finished. We were all sat there and you’d say, ‘Dad, can I get down?’ ‘No, you wait till everyone’s finished,’ sort of thing. [Laughing] That was mine. But they were… Yeah, I don’t know. They didn’t take us to school or anything like that. We had to go on our own. We walked through the park. We used to come back in the dinner hour. How we did it I don’t know ’cause it’s quite a walk through the park. And the grass used to be long in that park. But the … we weren’t allowed in the playing fields. That was… this little part here was the playing fields just for this, for the, er, schools. Schools’ playing fields. That was locked up. You weren’t allowed in there unless you were in with the school, but walking through the park we used to dawdle a bit, I think, you know, just to… ‘Quick,’ be told off and run back. [Laughing] I think sometimes my mother did take me if she wanted to. She would go round the road, though, I dunno, and I’d look at the shops. [Laughing] Want things out of the shops just like all the kids do, really. It was a pleasant enough life, but you didn’t know any different. You just took it for granted. Whatever they gave you, that was it. You were told what to do. Um, I can vaguely remember tests at school but they were nothing special, you know. Must have been, I must have… By the time we were eleven, you know, to pass that exam, I must have learnt quite a lot. But, um, they didn’t think I was very bright, but I had good health. That was the main thing. Everyone else seemed to have bad health in those days. My brother was always away from school, luckily. [Laughing] Um, I got good friends. Made friends easy. We had bikes. I can remember us having bikes, and go to, um, Chelmsley Wood, which was the wood. Pick bluebells up there. [Laughing] Or ride round on the bikes. Don’t know. We were allowed to do that, which was good.
It’s a long way from here.
Yes, it was, but I, I think there was someone who lived there who was at the school, so I would probably go to his house and have tea or something and then, you know… Quite good. But it wasn’t the grammar school, because… although I did have a bike later, going to the grammar school, ’cause I passed for Waverley. I passed for the big King Edward’s, but there were so many people had passed that year that you had a second choice and my brother had been to Waverley so I went to Waverley as well, and, um… That’s right. I’d been, been there about six months, had a break for the holiday and then the war broke out. So even though we used to cycle there for about twelve months before we went away, but I was on holiday again, wasn’t I? [Laughing] We were lucky. We didn’t realise. We had a month down there at holiday in those days because the war broke out and they expected us to be bombed like mad, and my father had to come back to do the blackout, to black out all the curtains, the windows here. So he left us down there with my mother and her sister, and there was all the lads, you know, all the whole tribe of us there. [Laughing] And, er, I think when we came back I’d got to go off to Evesham. It was all right. Um, we were … went there about two years and then we were back again because the bombing had stopped. Then we were sent away again and I went to Melton Mowbray the next time, which was beautiful. Um, that was the same. They had to come and pick us. [Laughing] But that was a wonderful time and, um, these people had got a house right by the river, a big house. Well, it was rented but I didn’t realise it at the time, but, um, they wanted anyone I wanted to come from Birmingham and there was a … I’d got a friend in Birmingham and I, I sent a message to him to say to come. ‘It’s great,’ you know, ‘you’d like it.’ And his parents then let him go because they knew me. I used to go round there quite a lot. Um, and we… w, I don’t know, we had him and then we got someone else, another lad, so they had three of us in the finish. And they were only… They’d got, um, two children as well. Twins, a boy and a girl, they’d got [Chuckles]. And we had quite a good time there. What a difference from being at home! We used to have whist drives and things in the house, playing whist, you know. Far … all the kids used to come from all over. [Laughing] And I’d got my accordion, ’cause I hadn’t got a piano so I got an accordion. I used to play that there. We went to the cinema. I suppose you don’t realise what a good time we had. We did do some, um… plum picking from you know, when we were at Evesham. We, we went to, on a harvest camp. Because of the war, they needed people to come and pick the fruit, so we, at thirteen or fourteen, whatever we were, about thirteen I suppose, went and picked it, plums but we didn’t … we also did potatoes. Now, potato picking was terrible. It was bad for your back, you know. Even us little ones, we didn’t like picking potatoes up from the ground. But the plums, yes, because you could eat them as well. We all had upset stomach, we all rushed it. In the middle there, we got a big campsite with tents and everything there in this field outside, just outside Alser … Alcester. I say Al-ces-ter. Outside Alcester. Um, there was a great big house there and we were allowed to go in there and swim in the lake. And they were … I don’t know whether it was Lord or somebody but it was a great big mansion and this lake they had, and we were told not to go near the back of the house because there was a cassowary there who would probably … could kick you and probably kill you. It was like a great big emu thing. It was there. We could see it through the thing, this great big … just like an emu. But we … I learnt to swim there in ordinary water, you know. It was like a boating stage where you could walk along and jump in at the end. It was quite safe, I suppose. I don’t know but I learnt to swim. That was it, so the first. I, and then I started going to the swimming baths after that. I could swim thirty yards, thirty lengths, I remember, at one time. It was… [Laughing] That was enjoyable.
So what about your schooling while you were evacuated, then, Ted? Did you continue with that?
Yes, you had, er the teachers had come as well. So it wasn’t so good. We were in different hou… in big houses, sort of taken over, given for the school. But, um, all I can remember is being milk monitor. We all had milk. We didn’t have orange juice in those days but we had milk, school milk, and they were in little bottles, and it was my job to tip the milk out into cups ’cause we didn’t drink from them. And I used to tip one, er the cream out of every one and that was mine. I just had cream [Laughing] at the end. But we were all doing it. But… I don’t know. We all looked fit. I think we were fitter than ever being on rations, hardly eating a lot. It kept us fit and, you know, I think everyone says we were fitter than all the people are now who are eating too much. We didn’t have… We had a sweet ration, which you were just allowed one thing, you know. That, that’s all you could buy. A bar of chocolate and that was for the week on the tick, tick coupons during the war. But I think er … but I can’t remember much about the teaching. It was all about the fun, you know. [35:46] See, I, I was lazy. I was a lazy learner. I did … it came easy to me. That’s why I didn’t realise people were working. I j, just, just took it in like a drain [Chuckles] and I could reel it out. I did all right. [Sighs] The only … Yeah. We did come back then, but I can remember there was a swimming club at Melton Mowbray. I remember that we used to go across there… That was lovely in the river. But there was crayfish there, great big crayfish, and you used to be a bit petrified of these if we saw them. I remember there. I remember …there was a crowd of us, you know, all from the school, going there and suddenly as you go through these woods up to the, the lake thing, and there was a crowd of other lads that was big, tougher than us. Great big, burly ones. I didn’t know this but the one had been … one of our boys had been …shouting something at one of the, the little fellow and then all these big people came out, you see. And he … he said, ‘Come on, mate,’ and they all came out. ‘Come on, gang,’ you know. He said, ‘Come on, gang,’ and we all went [I’m not next to 37:00] these great big fellows. And they decided they were gonna fight me, you see. [Laughing] I said, ‘Oh, I don’t care,’ you know. They … some of them didn’t like… didn’t know. He says, ‘Why don’t you fight him?’ you know. ‘You’re [the cox 37:13]’ sort of thing. And I thought, right, I’m going to be fought. Because I used to be fight … could fight quite well because I was used to all the rows with my brother. And in then … in this great big…[Laughing] I decided to run, anyhow. I ran over the bridge and they were all chasing me. Over the bridge, over the river, up in a field. They debagged me… took your trousers off, and there was a man and a woman and they were looking absolutely disgusted. They said, ‘How disgusting!’ This man was going … big fellow was … got his fists in my face and he said, you know, ‘We’ll give it you next time,’ or something. But that was all right. I put my trousers back on and this woman said, ‘That is absolutely disgusting. Where are you from? What school are you from?’ You know. I didn’t tell them, I don’t think. [Laughing] But they would have reported us to the school, you know. You gotta be so careful. Which was … this would be nothing now, wouldn’t it, really? I don’t, I don’t know. Anyhow, we did enjoy that.
Er, I did see somebody drown once there. The first drowned man I’d ever seen. They pulled him out. I think he was a soldier. Pulled out. He’d been d… I don’t know. He’s been swimming in the, the river but his face was purple and you watched it all, you know. ER … learned things. When you’re little, you’re quite inquisitive and not so shocked as people think. People… think… That’s what happened when I was seven, when my, um, twin brother died. I remember I went to school and everyone was sort of whispering round me, and I said… No. And I thought, well, now I’ve got to look sad, you know. I must remember ’cause they’re expecting me to look sad and they said, ‘Oh, we’re so sorry your…’ I said, ‘Oh yes, Jimmy’s dead. Jimmy’s dead.’ But I wasn’t feeling it. I was acting it. Because I hadn’t seen him for two years. He’d been in hospital for two years. My mother had gone there every day. I hardly see him. I went to see him and he didn’t want to see me. He just wanted ‘mum, mum’. Called for mum, you see. So and I, I didn’t really miss him. But I did hear people say, ‘What? The nice little one has died. Oh, the nice little one.’ And then somebody said, ‘Shush. The other one’ll hear you.’ So I heard all this so it went in my head, you know, [Laughing] and I did hear. I thought, yeah, I’m not the nice little one [Laughing]. Though I can’t remember… We came back anyhow to Birmingham and I was back in the school.
So, um, were you away for the whole of the war, then?
Well… no. No. … No, I wasn’t. Not for the whole of the war. It was … you see, it started in ’39. ’39. Year at… erm ’40, ’41, say’42, ’43 we came back perhaps in ’43. It went on till ’45. Another two years. But …the teachers were all in the army when we came back. We came back to Waverley and I used to do fire watching then. Do you know that? When I was playing the piano and I used to tell my parents, ‘I’m fire watching.’ And I used to stay at my other friend’s house ’cause it was Holy Week, I think, and they weren’t supposed to … we weren’t supposed to do anything like that. They were strict about that. They d … I said, ‘I can’t play the … can’t play on Friday,’ you know. This job. We got a job. A gig, as… We called them gigs then. And, um, they would write a letter, you know, saying, ‘Would you … could you please do fire watching?’ or something, and I’d give that to me… ‘I’ve got to go fire watching again.’ They said, ‘Well, you were ley[ph] there last week.’ I said, ‘I know, but he wants me to. Somebody’s not very well,’ or something. I said, ‘I’ve gotta to do it.’ And I used to have to take a piece of toast and an egg, to cook when I was there in the morning, you see, at the school. And we had to walk on the roofs and put out any fires and there were plenty, believe me. Incendiary bombs.
So where did you fire watch, then, Ted?
At the school.
At the Waverley School, yes. Er, but the headmaster was there usually. We were all … it was camping out in a way, if there was no bombing. It was lovely. But there was most … quite a lot of, of bombing, really.
So when, when you went away, you were evacuated and you came back…
You must have saw, like, the devastation, the, the change of the city.
No, not really, because it happened mostly when we were there. Most of it had happened when… Even Coventry, I came through Coventry the night after, from Melton Mowbray. I caught a bus at the weekend to come home and I went through Coventry and it was still all smoking and terrible. That, that was, er, shocking, really. Even though we’d taken a round route you could see it was all still steamy, like with smoke. I did go and look at that afterwards. But of course Coventry’s so small compared with Birmingham. There was more bombs dropped in Birmingham than ever there was in Coventry but it was just so … just one, you know. The fire. Terrific. I was in … when they were bombed I know I was there and then we came home. It must have been a bank holiday or something after it and it was still smoking. Mm, frightening. But, er… we, you get used to it. You get used to the war. I used to go to the … when we were here, we used to go to the, um, air raid shelter every night. It was, as soon as the sirens went, we’d be off to the air raid shelter, and we’d got one in the post office that my father had built for the postmen and it was… used to smell horrible. It was like, damp and, but I can remember the smell. It was sort of new sort of concrete-y smell. But we used to go there and there was shrapnel and everything going everywhere, and of course there was guns right, in Henry Road. Guns. There was the big guns in, in, er, the playing field here. And my house was in Willard Road then, you see. I’d moved to, we’d moved to Willard Road, right next to, and the guns were so, so noisy that it used to nearly make the house shake. There was loads of girls, AT. Not ATS. Is it? Yes. They were there. The ATS girls all billeted there and there were the big guns there. I can remember that.
Were, were those the … like, to fire at the aeroplanes coming over? Is that what the guns were for?
Yeah. They had a searchlight there and they got a big gun there and they got a balloon there I think, out there as well. But of course they were trying to bomb… there. They did. They bombed the girls at one night. All the ammunition went up and you could hear the girls screaming. It was terrible. Could hear that.
And that was on the park?
The, no the playing, it was this playing field here, which is the park now.
It was nearest Church Road. That was where, they were. Um, of course I wasn’t here. I was … I was sitting in Willard Road but, um, my aunt was still at the shop. She had a, a … a what do you call it? An incendiary bomb go through the roof there straight into the toilet, into the upstairs toilet! [Laughing] She had them in the front, all the … b, what do they call them? … the boards at the front where they put the… the newspaper. You know, they used to put the … what do you call them? I can’t think of the name. The boards where you advertise news and things, those … you know, put the paper in. And they … those were all alight I know, so she had quite a job putting all the light things out. That made a mess in the bathroom, [Laughing] the toilet. They had to have a new toilet, I think. Te, it was terrible, but it was lucky, wasn’t it? Just straight through the roof. Burnt through and… Yeah. [Laughing] I’m sure they were aiming at her. But I don’t know. There was a lot of that. I had an incendiary bomb for a bit. Kept it. [Laughing] Shouldn’t have done. It hadn’t gone off . It was a… It hadn’t gone off and it was a long tube of, like, um, aluminium about … what? … fifteen inches long, with a thing at the top. I loved this thing. It was like… If it, it had gone off, it would have… set fire, I know. I don’t know what happened. I think we had to give it in somewhere… and finish. Someone found it.
And where did you find your bomb?
It was in the garden, I think. [Laughing] In the garden. But there was always shrapnel. I was always … we were always picking up shrapnel. What was nasty, though, was you’d go to school the next day and there’d be certain people that hadn’t come and they’d, they’d been killed. One had his … an incendiary bomb drop on his head, now, when it’s on your head, you see. Boomp. And that was one we knew quite well. On his bicycle it happened. He was on his bike and that… Boomp. Can’t believe it, can you? There was a lot of… but things that nobody knew about that, that wasn’t reported, never reported. I believe there were cinemas where the whole audience were killed in one go. The blast had killed everybody and they were all sat there still in the seats. But that wasn’t reported, you see, which was 500 people or something like that, you know, though. ’cause it kept things just to keep your morale up. And I remember that was the … it was on the Stratford Road, I think. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. That happened, I know … erm …
So can I just clarify with you, then? So people in the city all knew that that stuff was going on, it just wasn’t being reported in the newspapers?
Yes. We found, found out by word of mouth. People who knew. You know. There was always somebody who knows.
So can you elaborate on other things like that, that didn’t make the newspapers? Were there er other things?
Well, I think, I don’t know. There was lots of… They didn’t… Ha, houses being bombed wasn’t, wasn’t… they were, it was everywhere so it wasn’t worth reporting. They always made out that we’d done, er, so much better, you know, with … and all our bombers had come back and they reckoned they didn’t all come back. You know, there was people who… And there were a lot, there was a lot, we lost a lot more than they made out, so… They always did. They didn’t report the … the, all the ships that were getting sunk, you know, with the… that was kept fairly quiet to keep the morale up. No, I don’t know. It was a thing. I suppose it was a good thing to do. Now, they tell too much, I think. Er, having this, being brought up… they tell them and that’s just what the people want. They love it, to hear that what they’ve done, you know, instead of just keeping it quiet. I don’t know. That’s what I think. But people seem to want to know everything now. But just think, er, that was a good way. And we did get used to people being killed and that was it. Just… you know… And I think everyone lived, for the moment, so they’re having a great time of… I remember going … when I was seventeen, that was, I was going to a dance at the Wheatsheaf up in Sheldon, and it was full of … air force, Americans, Canadians. There was every nationality there and I was about the only civilian there, you know. I went with … I think it was some of the girls from the post office who were working for my father and, and they … worked behind the counter and they went and I went with them, and I can remember I got drunk that night, the first time ever. There was a tray full of whiskeys that all these men had bought, and it was all left there and I thought … and we were going out and I thought, you can’t leave all that, at seventeen. I thought, no. I just started drinking it, you know. They’d all gone. They got called back, a lot of them. They … they… what they did, now they started … they started cutting people’s ties. You know the tie. Cut a bit off the tie and give you a bit off their tie, and this happened. I was left with nothing. They’d all got bits. I’d got all these bits of American ties and everything. I was going to make a tie out of them but I didn’t, you know. And if I … Wasn’t it funny? [Laughing] When I think about it. That was lovely, though, that sort of atmosphere of friendship. They were so friendly, you know. Everybody. Especially with, to me ’cause I was English there in that pub. They were being called out, you know. ‘So-and-so Trotter’ and somebody’d come and say that over the microphone,’ you know. ‘Oh, we’ve got to go,’ they’d say. That was it. Yeah. That was a long time ago. [Laughing] I’ve forgotten about it almost. It’s just coming back. Um. Of course the … that droning noise, you did get to know really when there was an aeroplane that wasn’t, wasn’t ours. That funny noise. It was slightly different, the sound of the engine. You could tell. But even when I went to Evesham, supposed to be safe, down the High Street there was a Messerschmitt came down fairly low and he just er set the machine gun on all of us all the way down the High Street and it was just the bullets were going everywhere. In … in, in Evesham. Can you believe that? It’s… [Laughing] Nobody got killed. Just, just amazing to… holes in the wall and the glass in, in the shops. We were all ducking anyhow. Couldn’t believe it. You could hear this thing. He must have been going back. He wanted to get rid of his ammunition. Well, he was going back to somewhere in France I suppose. [Laughing] I don’t know. Yeah. This is going right into the war, isn’t it, instead of doing my life?
That’s fine. That’s fine.
But, um, there was a tank there at Evesham, I remember that, from the First World War that was in the grounds there, and we used to go inside that. I remember that. You’d get into it. It was horrible. Used to stink, this whole thing. [Laughing] But we were doing things like that. Um, Melton Mowbray was very nice, though. I don’t think I was playing the piano there. I must have been. I was always playing the piano. But, er, the C, Corn Exchange. I remember those girls there that we all had to go to their, their church. They were singing. They were sort of… there was a … we got a crowd of us. All … all, they were all nice girls to us all. Our own girls we didn’t like, from the school, but the … the li, the girls from Melton Mowbray, they were all nice. They all followed us round and we just got on like a house on fire. [Laughing]
Did you have a girlfriend?
I did. I did have a girlfriend. Betty. And I was trying to think of her name. But funnily enough, when I was in the army, I was going … I had been in the army and been in the band and I was going back to do a job. On the way, in the train, who should be sitting there but this girl that I knew? ‘course she was married and everything. Got children, I think. But she was very posh, and I never realised they were very posh there at Melton Mowbray. All these… You know, she… ’cause I remember the people we stayed with weren’t posh, but they, when they knew I was going with this Betty, they were, ‘Oh god, she’s, they’re very wealthy. She’s very posh.’ You know. I said, ‘She’s not. She’s just normal.’ You know, to us she was normal. And I, it’s funny that I met her again and that was funny. I didn’t … couldn’t really say much, but still. It was a long time after. Er…
So let’s, let’s move on then, Ted, to, um…
… after the war when you came back.
I came back and I was at this house. I’d… Well, before the war, yes, or while the war was on, I didn’t go do my military service at eighteen because I was in the post office. My father had put me in the post office at seventeen ’cause I didn’t want to go to university. I did the sixth form and, er, that … I wasn’t… I went with the school t … one of the school teachers. She took me on holiday and I used to get on well with her and she must have told my parents they thought that I’d be better off out of school now. Whether it suited her, I don’t know. Probably. But she got a boyfriend in the RAF, but Joan Pratt was her name. [Laughing] Joan. She was the biology mistress and I used to… You know, she belonged to the church as well, came to the church, and I went on holiday with her. We went everywhere. We used to … instead of sports day, we used to go skating at the skating rink in the other side of town, and then on the way back we’d call in at all the pubs and I’d try a different liqueur every week so that I got used to knowing what the drinks were in the pub, you see. Bad influence on me, she was. [Laughing] Ah. And I remember she’d be … come from Harrogate. We went up to Harrogate and we went swimming there at Knaresborough in the river. I remember that. God, I’d forgotten these little things. You know how you do. And I did play the piano at Harrogate in the town hall because there was a dance going on and there was an interval and I … we knew the band or she did and they got me just to play some boogie-woogie or something on the piano. I did that. So I did. That was in Harrogate. But they’re very posh people up there. Not nice at all. They used to turn you out of the way if you were walking … if you were talking in the street, a woman would come by with a stick. ‘Out of the way, out of the way!’ [Laughing] ‘Don’t stand in the pavement!’ [Laughing] But that was Harrogate. I expect it’s different now. But we stayed with friends of hers, anyhow, at Leeds. Um, I got… I was thinking. Um, I went in the post office, post office telephones, as a youth in training. I used to do up the lamp … up the telegraph poles and underground and I was training all the time there and, um, when I was twenty-one I was passed out and then I had to go in the army ’cause it was still on, and I … I didn’t want to go in the post office. I’d had enough of the post office. I didn’t like it at all. My father thought … he said, ‘You will get… There’s so many trades there. You will get… There’s everything, everything you want. You’ll learn everything there. You can move, be a … anything. Architect. You can be a driver, you know, driver, or you can go on the counters. You can be on the telephones,’ which was BT, you see. It was all post office telephones. So I did go through it but I didn’t enjoy it and, er, when I got in the army I didn’t like that ’cause I was two years older than everybody else and they all thought I was posh ’cause I was talking this blinking accent through the school, the grammar school. It was terrible. They made you… I couldn’t say OK. I remember saying OK and I got told off something terrible, and I kept saying OK. ‘Don’t say it again.’ ‘OK.’ [sucks in breath] I found myself saying OK every time to them, you know. Oh! Dreadful, that was. But at least I did get to know … learn a lot of things. But now it annoys me when I hear the people talking on the radio. I get so upset, and I wouldn’t be upset if I hadn’t been told. I think, why they, can’t they…? They can’t sound their Ts now. And I thought, well, I know what ought to happen. I hate to say this but if they were at school and they learned a lim… not a limerick, a tongue twister, you know. ‘Betty Batter bought some butter and she said, “My butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter it’ll make my butter bitter.”’ Can you imagine what it would be like? [imitates unclear speech] You just couldn’t do it. So they have to do it, to make it clear. I thought, they ought to do that. That’s what they ought to start teaching them at school. ‘Betty Boater,’ or something like that. ‘Betty Batter bought some butter and she says, “My butter’s bitter”’ … ‘bu’er’s bi’er’. ‘“If I put it in … if I put it in my batter it’ll make my butter better.” So she put it in her batter and it made her butter better.’ And they would be much better off. I can’t understand it, you know. And everything else. Ooh, I don’t know. Language. That’s why they call them grammar schools, but it didn’t do me any good at all. It’s made me very upset with the way the language has gone now. But anyhow, I came back from … from the army. I was… Oh, I got in the … I was in the, er… what do you call them? The ordinary army. I first of all went straight … er, no I went to Budbrooke Barracks. Where you did, er, your six …weeks, I think it was. And then I was going to go in the Signals, and I didn’t want to go in the Signals ’cause of the … so I … I said I’d failed the [59:05] exam on purpose. I did it. And er I w, went into the infantry so I was sent up to Strensall up in … near York, to do, um, everything at the double. Well, that was all right. I was quite funny with that, I decided. I, mind you, I used to dream a bit, I’m sure, because one time I looked round, the room had gone. They were all running. I had to quickly dive through a window and join them out the back. I dove through the window. And anyhow, while I was there, the band came, the Warwickshire band came to play for the passing-out parades and things, and they said to me… I was talking ’cause I playing in the … in the rafa[ph], in the NAAFI, just playing pop tunes to the kids, and one said… ‘I’m in the band.’ He says, ‘There’s a … they’ve, they’ve lost the pianist now. They need a pianist for their dance band. So if you tell … I’ll tell the bandmaster and… if you’d like to do that…’ I said, ‘Ooh, yeah. I don’t particularly want to go to’ wherever it is the others were going to, Israel or something like that, er, you know, even though I was marksman on the Bren. I was marksman on the Bren [Laughing] but that’s another story. [Laughing] I was marksman on the Bren because we used to go up to the butts and, to fire the range and …what happened this time, I was on the Bren gun and the, the, the boy … we were all in a line and the boy next to me was firing at my c… my, um, target, and I was firing at my target, so I, of course I’d got so many hits on my target that I was a marksman. So I, I [Laughing] was a marksman on the Bren and I was given a badge to wear on the thing. I had to go up and get this badge from the commanding officer on a big parade, and he said, ‘We need men like you,’ he says, ‘You know you … the, definitely, you know. Here.’ And I thought, god, if only he knew. [Laughing] So I was glad to get in the band, really. I didn’t want to go and shooting. Although I did all that with the bayonets in the… In, out, en garde, overhead. I did the lot. But I was fit so it didn’t matter and everyone else was falling over and fainting. [Laughing] Oh! Anyhow… the band master came. Er, er, er, he said he wanted to see me in the NAAFI playing the piano, so I played ‘Ain’t Misbehaving’ and he said, ‘What key was that in?’ I said, ‘E-flat.’ He said, ‘Oh, all right. You can start.’ Just like that. Because … ’cause he knew I knew the key and he must have watched my hands, you see, and I was in that key. And, ‘Oh yes, that’s all right.’ So I started in the band then. What a difference. [Pause] Big band, it was. Nice. I had to play something in the military band and they decided I should play the cymbals… and in the marching band. Well, that gave me bigger muscles. I was getting quite tough then, I… [Laughing] Only these cymbals. Anyhow, that was all right until I was on parade one day and I could see a wasp coming down and I’m scared of wasps. And it was coming down, slowly getting nearer, [Gasps] until I couldn’t stand it any longer and it came. It was crash, bang and I was out on a charge. Put on a charge, you know, which meant … and I had ten days’ jankers … which meant you gotta go and report every morning at a certain time, seven o’clock or something and, er, clean the … the toilets and things like that every morning, do things, do, peel potatoes and … you know, for ten days, but that was all right. [Laughing] But it did frighten me. Oh, it was ridiculous! I’m still a bit scared of wasps. I’m … I believe when I was four I got stung all over by them but I don’t remember that so it’s …gone. Can’t remember though … why can’t I remember that? You know, probably such a trauma. I don’t know.
I know. N, and I’ve been stung lately and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was just … it was bad but it wasn’t that bad … because I’ve jumped off buses almost. I have got off the bus when there were one in bus. Anyhow, then what did I do? Came back. Erm, I didn’t wanna go to the post office and they didn’t know what to do with me, so I painted the house at home. I think I had tracts from the aunt who taught me the bit of piano, from the church. She used to send me little tracts saying, ‘Work maketh man,’ and things like that, you know, and I’d just think, yeah, but I … or, I am doing things. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Funny. I couldn’t decide, you know.
So did you just do the two years in the national service?
I did two years, yeah.
And then you came back, back to Willard Road?
Yes. And then … yeah. And then, um… my aunt, was ill. Not my aunt. My father had had a heart attack and he was … had, he’d retired but he was working in the, the post office still. It was still a post office down there with my aunt. And they said, ‘Well, you can come and help out at Christmas. Do … so at least sell some postal orders or cash some postal orders and do that there.’ So I went down to the shop. The next thing I know, my father was not well. He was … stayed up there, you know, and my aunt… I decided I could do it and the aunt who showed me the piano was also out at the post office. She taught me how to do the post office and I … so I started doing that there… and then my aunt gave it up and I was left, so I put in for the post office and I got the post office, but I didn’t really want it, you know. I wanted to play the piano.
Anyhow, I was still playing the piano, in jobs here and there. But I started… doing that well, and then I’d got a friend who had been left plenty of money, who’d gone and lived in London for a bit and now he’d come back and he got a car and everything else. And he reckoned he would come and do the early morning papers if I wanted to go and play the pi-… I said, ‘I can’t play anymore because I’ve got to get up too early.’ You see, playing late at night… open at quarter-to-six so you got up half-past-five sort of thing, I couldn’t do it. So I did, I gave up playing and I was doing this thing, and I …I first of all, I got him to do something Wednesday afternoon. I could go to the warehouse if he could just look after the … the shop ’cause the warehouse wasn’t, um … the post office wasn’t open on a Wednesday afternoon. So he did that and I did … and then he said, ‘I’ll do more.’ He was slowly getting in, you see, to it. He said, ‘I could, er, I could do the early morning papers,’ you see. And I said, ‘Well… you could try. Oh, try it. You might not like it.’ But he did. He did it. He did it. And I thought, great. I can go. I can play the piano now. So I was going out late at night. I was terrible, two or three o’clock in the, morning. Going to nightclubs as well afterwards, you see, ’cause, ‘cause you needed to unwind after you’d played till twelve. You needed to go somewhere. I used to go to the Prohibition in Birmingham. I got to know them all there. They were all kind, people, the owners. I used to play the piano there and they always got drinks for me
there. Terrible, really. Anyhow, that’s how it went for a bit.
Where … sorry, where’s the Prohibition? Where was the Prohibition, please?
Oh, in the centre, in the Bullring. It was up above … I can’t remember the name of the… It was Park Street, was the corner of Park Street. The entrance was there. Erm, it was even broadcast from. It was quite famous in a way. [Pause] Um, got a lovely piano there.
So did you play with a particular band or just with anybody who wanted you? [Laughing]
I played, um … let me see. I was playing probably at the Barn then. I played at the Barn … that’s at Hockley Heath … with Al [Shervington [ph] 1:07:07] and a bass player, and called Al Shervington [ph] Trio because he used to, he could talk to the bosses and get more money and so on. I did that. We … I played there quite a long time. But… Oh, that’s complicated. I got my piano there. I got a grand piano. Big grand piano. I’d taken it from the shop. [1:07:30] the shop. That’s right. Um, and I took that there and they used to pay me a bit extra for the piano every week. They couldn’t give me an extra wage, more than Al, but they gave me two pound a week or something for the piano and had it tuned all the time. And, um… that was before… That was… the … and while I was there, another friend … this is complicated … had got, er, a job. He wanted to go down to London, to Geraldo, for an audition and he wondered if I’d come and play the piano so they’d get the job, so they always with the … So I said I would, you know. Went down there… saw Geraldo. Well, it wasn’t. It was Geraldo’s agent. Played. [Pause] What was so funny, the drummer didn’t turn up. There was another drummer there and he said, ‘Can you come and…?’ He was like this, Roger. ‘Can you come and join us?’ you know. He said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ So this fellow who we didn’t know at all came and joined us. We were [treated as a 1:08:30] trio and I just a played a few of the things and he was playing the bass, you see. And he got the job. It was just for one crossing on the QE2 and back. Ten days. And I thought that was it. So I went with them and I did that crossing. I told the, um… Well, I d, I don’t think I told… I did tell them at the Barn I couldn’t do it for that short time. That was all right. I got permission from the Post Office. They said I could. ‘Oh, yeah, but you’re still in charge if anything goes wrong.’ So [Laughing] I went on that. That was quite good. And there was another trio on there, who I met. Ooh, I met loads of people on … just on that short crossing. Went to New York. Yeah, great. Came back. Um, about six months afterwards a letter came. ‘Could you possibly come and join us? Our pianist is…’ um, is … is ‘ill,’ or something. ‘We haven’t got a pianist.’ This was Mike Negal Trio. And it was for six months. And I thought, ooh, I can’t do six months. How can I leave the post office for six months? ’cause I was doing the accounts still on a weekend. I was still doing all the accounts and they were all serving, and it was always money short. They were all helping themselves, you know. This is what … barmy me. I was letting them get away with it, as well, ’cause I was putting the money in to get it right. I say, ‘It’ll come right in time,’ but it never did.
Anyhow, I did do this. I thought, I will. I’ll write to the Post Office and they said yes, I could do it. Six months ‘but you’d still be in charge, you know, of your post office if anything goes wrong.’ And I thought, oh, well. I will. It’s a chance in a lifetime, isn’t it, to do six months? It was going to start from New York, go all round the Caribbean to different islands, taking people from New York down to South America. Come back again and pick up more people up from New York. And I thought, yes, I’ll do that. So we went, went … went there on the QE2, this great big ship, you know. Everyone began to know me and, er, what I didn’t tell you was… they gave me … they wanted us to go, the same trio. They wanted us back on the things and I, I said, ‘I can’t do it, Roger. I can’t. I’ve got a post office.’ He says, ‘Well, give me the ticket. I’ll get my wife,’ or his girlfriend. He says, ‘She can come on and, you know, it’ll do for her.’ He got on and told them that I didn’t turn up… you know, on the ship, and, er, he got her this job. It didn’t last very long. They tipped him off not far away ’cause his wife couldn’t sing. [Laughing] Terrible! I don’t know about the drummer, and they hadn’t got a keyboard player. You see what I mean? And they were doing j… Dreadful. Anyhow, they lost the job and, um, they thought that I’d let them down and they… I said, ‘No.’ I said I, ‘I told them I couldn’t do another job’. They said, ‘Well, we didn’t think you’d do that.’ The captain and everybody were all round me, you know. It was ever so funny. Anyhow, it’s a long story, all that, though. I don’t think you want to go into that, do you? The, the er, QE. ’cause there was four or five orchestras and trios and pop groups.
So, er, so did you … is that what you then went on to do, then? Did you leave the post office?
I left them there to do the thing, yeah. N … but I got… There was… Arthur, who was supposed to be …doing the shop part, living there. There was Elsie Prince, who… came and looked after the shop. We’d got her there working, anyhow, as a clerk. I’d got Mrs Neill [ph] was there on the other side. It was quite a big shop. And her son Michael …Neill [ph], he was a paperboy at the time but then he became working behind the … and he could also do the post office. They could all do a bit. They were all sharing it amongst themselves, you see. But I missed out a few of the people I had before, before Arthur came. I had Mrs Shire. She was in and outdoor, down floor, around, she came to help me. I had her living there for a bit. [Sighs] Ah. And that –
So how long did you work… did you stay with the post office? I take it, you left eventually.
Thirty years, probably.
I think it was thirty years. I’m guessing, now. Twenty-one, fifty. Yeah. I was about fifty when… This is all, you know… I was… it …
So, so coming to that point then, Ted, ’cause you … this was the post office that your dad had originally.
I’m getting… Yes. It was the…
And I, I took it over.
I was paying rent and then I bought it in the finish.
And had it enlar, I enlarged it.
While, while you were working there, you would have had all the changes going on around the Swan area.
Oh, yes. My fir… oh, it was in the –
And the Coventry Road.
Oh, yes. Of course. Well, before that we had trolleybuses. Now that was marvellous. Why they got rid of the trolleybuses I don’t only know because if they … they could have kept those. It was marvellous. I’ve never known such a service. If you went… You could… If you walked onto the Coventry Road you could look down the Coventry Road and you’d see probably one, two, three, maybe four trolleybuses going on, and then there’s another one coming and you’d get on the next one. They were coming all the time. They couldn’t overtake each other and they kept, you know… Er, it was cons, constant. There was no waiting at bus stops. They were there all … The only trouble was, I think, if anything happened in the road, like a bomb dropped, they couldn’t get round it. They had to take the …wire … ’cause of the wires, they were running off the overhead wires, and it, the, I think that’s what stopped it, really. Any blockages, you couldn’t get a… whereas a bus could go around it. Um, but that was marvellous, those trolleybuses. I, s, I could never get r… They were quiet. There was nothing, you know. Have you ever been on one? No.
In the museum? Oh, blimey. Well, these … those are trams more. These were, with those two things, it was lovely and comfortable as well. Everything. Upstairs and … nice. I can’t … never understood why they got rid of it…[draws breath] because it wasn’t costing as much as the petrol, I don’t think. I dunno. Anyhow, they used to turn round. They used to have a job getting them round the Swan sometimes. Have to take those … the, the big arms. You could fold them down somehow, twist them round and put them on another one. And that was… At the top there was, um… I was trying to think. Col, Colliers Court. Colliers was there, big, selling sh, cars and things. That was there. The Swan.
I used to go dancing there. That was beautiful. I danced upstairs when I was about fifteen. I used to take that schoolteacher. We used to go … I used to go to bop clubs as well. Bebop, you know?
Like dancing jive.
And, and where were those clubs?
Er, one was Springfield. Spring, er… By the College Arms. The College Arms was a pub. This was Springfield Ballroom, I think. Er, it was owned, privately owned, and, um, I remember we used to have a few jazz musicians, I know, came. Quite famous ones came there. [Pause] But the owners weren’t very nice. They were after just money and, um, he … he banned any coloured fellows to coming in, and I was in the paper over that, wasn’t I, ’cause I, caused a big stink, and the Post Office told me I wasn’t supposed to get in politics, you know. Because they still… I mean, it was their music. They were [Pause] probably smoking… I know they were smoking something occasionally but… that was their life. They’d come over here. It was that time in the fifties, I suppose, when the Jamaicans came over. There was … they were, they all loved their music and they played, you know. And then he banned them. I thought that was terrible. And he was trying to get me to punch him on the nose. I remember that. He said, ‘You’re the one!’ you know, and he was going like this. He only wanted me to hit him, then he could have banned … banned me! [Laughing] But I didn’t, but I was in the paper over that, I’m afraid. I didn’t mind [Laughing] because I th… thought, well, it’s their music, in a way. A lot of it was, that was going on there, you know, and…
So when you went dancing at the Swan, can you tell me a little bit about that?
Yes, upstairs at the back. It was a ballroom.
But when you say upstairs at the back, where, er, where do you mean? The, the Swan pub on…?
Oh, the big … it was a big pub, and the side entrance… Well, there was … the entrance is there, the main entrance, and there was the [1:17:37], gentlemen’s only and things that there, I believe. I never went into the pub. Went into the, the back and you had to go up these stairs, you see, but it was over the top. Was just the entrance was at the s … towards Painter’s. Painter’s was there. And you went up the stairs there. Because … er, and I used to go dancing and I used to sometimes take this schoolmistress and we’d probably go there and then we’d go to another jazz club with one of the schools. It was … you know … [1:18:07].
So what was the atmosphere like there? You know, was it local people, you knew them well?
It was…the … No, they … it was all strangers but, er, we knew a few. Musicians. I … they didn’t know that I was a musician at the time. They may have done but, um, I remember taking my friend, the one, er sister, there. The … he was the one who was evacuated with me, Geoff Ware[ph]. Doreen Ware[ph], she was a beauty queen. I took her there and we … and they were doing, w… er, sort of picking the best-looking couple in the room, and of course we were there and we were there right to the end, but the trouble was there was two …er, there was two couples. The other one was, er, a, naval captain and he’s all in his uniform, you see, and she was … she was all right but she wasn’t very pretty. But they won because he was in the forces, I could see, and I was just in an ordinary suit. Civilian. [Laughing] But we was the second, and they all said … people say, ‘No!’ when they picked the other one, you know. They could see who was the best-looking. [Laughing] And I never thought I was good-looking but I knew she was. You don’t until… [Laughing] Don’t, do you? Ah, shame. Doree, Doreen. She lost her boyfriend in the war. He was in the paratrooper, over in Arnhem and he got killed. He didn’t get killed at Arnhem. He got … he was all right there. He… Paratroopers. He got over that, went to the Rhine, crossing of the Rhine, he got killed there. So she was never the same. She never had a boyfriend again. Terrible, really. And she was that …beautiful. Beauty. But she went with the mother, his mother, somehow, and they … looked after each other, I think. Terrible. Anyway, that was that. That was happening all the time.
And of course we had the VJ parties everywhere, in the roads. Fire. We had bonfires everywhere and you’d go to anybody’s bonfire. If there was a fire, you’d just go. There’d be drinks and things, you know. Seats. Sit out in the road. [Laughing]
What … that was for the V…
VJ and V … VE and VJ. Both of them. And the…
People just had bonfires and you’d just sort of wander [1:20:30]?
They had them in the middle of road, yes, and if you saw a bonfire there you could go. You’d, ‘Let’s go.’ And, ‘Oh, come in,’ they’d say. You know, everybody was friendly. I had my first… Er, I think I had … I, ff [ph], got drunk the first time when I was seventeen by the woman across the road brought over a … I don’t know what it was for … a whisky. Too much, you know. I felt sick. Oooh, terrible. And I wouldn’t drink for ages afterwards. And someone said, ‘You’ve got to have a bit of the… dog,’ or whatever it is ‘that bit you,’ or something. The hair of the dog or something, they say. And so you got to do that, and you do… but you, after the first mouthful yes, it was all right and you didn’t get drunk. Then you just … but you didn’t … you weren’t sick like you thought you were going to be sick. Ooh. Same with smoking, I suppose. Anyhow, what else? I can’t think?
Well, let’s, um, let’s touch on an … on, um…
The, the road?
So …you lived in Willard Road?
Yes. My father had got that post office built by Hemming’s and he had one of the houses, but our house is bigger than …the others that he would have it … he wouldn’t have those little ones. On the, on the one side of Willard Road they’re very small and a little garden, and my father had extra built at the back so it made all the rooms bigger upstairs, and, and er yeah, and we had a big garden. And I should have had that.
So how old were you when you moved to Willard Road, Ted?
Well I was … when they, they bought it, I was twelve. It was 1938, I think. Thirty…
Right, so when you…
’cause they were built in ’38 or ’39, I… ’39. I’m trying to think. I was twenty-seven. I’m thinking I was seven. Built in ’27.’37. ’37, would I be ten? So I must have been … yeah, thirteen, twelve or thirteen, but I didn’t go straight away because [Pause] yeah.
We kept going up to it and looking at it, and my mother was having grates and things and, you know, all the things that they wanted. Horrible, what I thought some of them were. I didn’t like the bathroom upstairs. It was horrible. I know it was separate and the toilet was separate, but it was… She had grey. [Chuckles] And it was a, grey walls. Just … it was sort of tiled halfway up but it was white, but it was grey, the top and the ceiling. Everything grey. I don’t know. It looked horrible to me. [Laughing] I wanted bright colours. And probably what I’d have done would have looked terrible, ’cause they’ve got a bit here, bright colours. I don’t know if you notice. Yeah. I don’t… [Laughing]
So… when you came back from the army and you joined the post office and you were doing … can you just tell me, um, a bit about, like, the changes to, to the area now, so, like, because they were expanding the Coventry Road and putting…
Yeah, they ruined that. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, that’s what I…
Well, there were houses opposite. Opposite Willard Road. There was Victorian houses just going up to the Swan, and then there was Collier’s … I was thinking, yeah, that was up, further up. Oh, god, of course. And there was Wall’s Ice Cream further up, but that was the other side of the Yardley Road. They used to come in b, big… I can’t think of what it was called. Doesn’t matter. It was those little trucks. ‘Buy one.’ ‘Stop me and buy one,’ it used to have on it. ‘Stop me and buy one,’ an ice cream. So that was there, Wall’s Ice Cream. That was new. Um. I can’t r… I can only remember those Victorian houses there. Opposite was the doctor’s, opposite there, and they had a great big, er, lawn. Derrington’s was the big house in Willard Road, and he’d sold all this property. All these are his property apart from where you’ve got this, big building now. What’s it called? Something Point?
Equipoint. Now, that land there was given by him to the public to be a library or something for the public. Now, they couldn’t build a library there ’cause there was already one there when they were sort of sorting it out. But it isn’t public land now. It’s a par, car park, yeah, which is used for those. They could say it was but, no, it wasn’t really. There was a man who had that. He had a boat, built a boat on there. [Laughing] Everybody used to watch … look at this boat at the end of Willard Road. Great big boat. They must have taken it to somewhere. I don’t know where they’d launch that. But [Laughing] whether he went to live in it, I don’t know. I can’t remember. That was… Yeah. That was while those houses were… Before Equipoint was built, that was, was like a bit of rough land, bit of allotments, actually, owned by one of the people. But it was a shame ’cause Derrington, he, um … they were quite rich, obviously. American, I think. I think all the children, like Willard was one of his sons, and Henry and Howard, you know, and all … they were all the sons of his, sort of thing, and, er, I … there’s… I don’t know. But it’s a … it’s a shame that that wasn’t really used for the public, I think, you know. What could they build there? I don’t know. Could have been, um, I don’t know, a community centre of some sort, but they built one down there. Slowly encroached on the park down there. There was all, um, all those little houses. What do you…? Prefabs. They were all there and they slowly… Got a school there now. And they’re still pinching little bits all the time. This park used to be quite nice, you know. The, um … old part, which was the park we walked through, there used to be a bandstand there, halfway down, and we used to go and play on this blinking bandstand. But it was nice. But I remember a band being in there once, a military band or something playing, and a bit further on was down the dell, was … there was a bit of a pond. That was dangerous, they used to say, for the children. But this, this road here, where the … Ha, Howard Road, um… Can’t think of the name of this. Anyhow, where the nursery is now, that was, um…
Boughton Road, is it?
Boughton, yes. Boughton Road, that’s right. Um, where the nursery is now, that was a, a little tennis court. Belonged, um… The church had … same church. A, a double and a single, and a little bit of a pavilion there where they kept all the, the stuff like the netting and stuff, stuff for putting it out. And we used to come up there and play tennis. I learnt to play tennis there with the schoolteacher when I was seventeen. I came up there. Um, and next to that was a little bowling green, which was, um … belonged… I don’t know. Some … I don’t know. I think it belonged to some pub. That was a little club, little bowling green. And then across the other side, of the playing fields, was the Post & Mail had a, a rugby pitch with the great big things up, and that was a nice… and then next to that there was more tennis courts, which belonged to the corporation. The gardeners, I think they… It was like a gardeners’ club. It was all sort of clubs and very well cop, kept. Even my hedge was cut by the park keepers. They used to cut … come in my house, have a cup of tea and cut the hedge all the way down and do the other side, you know. I’d cut my side a bit. They’d do the top and the other side. That was always … that’s never been done since they got rid of the park keepers. There was three of those at least.
So how long have you lived on Henry Road, then, Ted?
Er, I’ve lived here … yeah, about thirty years ago. Think [1:28:55 IA] that. [Whispering]
So did you stay on Willard Road till then?
No, I was at the park. I was at shop. I went to … after … when I became postmaster, I lived there. [Pause] Yeah.
And my brother lived there with his wife and my mother. So they were there. I used … we used to come up, Arthur and me used to come up sometimes for our lunch and my mother used to cook the lunch every day. That was too much when she got to seventy-odd, so we stopped that. We got a café next door, we could… [Laughing] Or we, you know, we ate at night I think. We had something, yeah. We, we’d have something, ’cause I…
So when you retired from … well, when you gave up the post office, what did you…
Well, I … my partner at the shop, [1:29:47] was a partner, had a stroke one morning. They were banging on the door. I thought, what’s going on? I’d been playing the night before. Went into the room and he said, ‘I, I, I can’t get up.’ I said, ‘What, what, what’s wrong?’ He went, ‘I can’t, I can’t, no.’ He said, ‘I can’t.’ I said… And I thought, well, there’s something wrong, you know. He said he c … When I came in late, he shouted. I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘I couldn’t … I had a job turning the television on.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re all right.’ I, I was tired. I said, ‘I can’t… I’ll see you tomorrow,’ sort of thing. I went to bed and, and in the morning there was this banging. I looked in and he was still in bed so I went, got on the phone. I had to get the, the papers. I didn’t get the papers in. I rang the doctor and he wouldn’t come … I said … I said, ‘Well…’ He said, ‘No. I’ve got people who will be waiting here,’ and he says, ‘now.’ He says, ‘Eight…’ It was late. Eight o’clock-ish, you see, maybe half-past-eight. I said, ‘But look, you know, he is definitely, you know … there’s something wrong.’ He says, ‘Oh, well, I’ll have to come later.’ I said, ‘Look, if I pay, will you come?’ ‘Oh, that’s a different thing. I’ll come if you pay.’ I didn’t pay, but he came. I thought, no, cheeky … you know, what a cheek. Er, he said, ‘Well, it could be a lot of things. It could be but it, it looks like a stroke to me,’ he says. ‘I’ll get the ambulance.’ Took another two or three hours before the ambulance came. Then it took him all the way to QE, you know. Ah, I didn’t … I couldn’t go. I had to stay at the shop. Or did I phone…? The woman who normally helped out on a Saturday … it was a Saturday morning … ‘Ooh, no. If you, if Arthur’s not here, I’m not, not staying.’ She didn’t want to know. [Laughing] I think she fancied him. That was it. She didn’t like me. Well, he always made out I was terrible to everybody, you know. If ever I… He was always fooling about and if ever I came in the shop he’d be, ‘Shh,’ to all of the customers. They’d all be… You know, he’d have about five or six women there. They were all having cups of tea along the counter. All in the shop. He was a devil. But I liked him, you know, doing that, in a way. But if I walked in they’d all be, ‘Oh, dear.’ You know, they’d all got to go. And there was Elsie doing the …post office, so it was, it’s like a proper little community centre there, and he loved it. [Laughing] And my mother liked him as well. He used to decorate her hat up and she’d walk out with her hat all decorated and didn’t know, with flowers and things on. He was always doing silly things like you know … But he had a stroke and, um, I carried on at the shop [Pause] somehow. I … yeah, I still carried on playing because… I forget who did the… Oh, I think… I don’t know whether Mick did it, Michael. Or Mrs Neill [ph]. I don’t know how they got so many helpers, ’cause they always helped. Mrs Neill [ph]. Mr, Mr and Mrs Neill [ph]. They were quite good. They were always staying. We’d always got plenty of room.
Um, can’t remember. I just don’t remember. It’s funny, that is. But I know that, um, he was there, had a stroke, home … hospital, you know. Two years in hospital. They said … first of all they said he wouldn’t never come out of it, you see, when I went. He’d been a week and he hadn’t come out and they’d tried everything, and he wasn’t gonna come round it. They’d never had anyone who would come out of it. It’s … you know. ‘We’ve tried all the tests and he’s not ..’. you know, ‘he’s brain dead,’ they said. So that was all right. And anyhow, I went back the next week and he was, come round and I couldn’t find any of the doctors who’d told me. I wanted to find out what had happened. And he’d come out of it but he couldn’t talk. But he, he, he recognised, he knew who you were, you know. Oh, it was terrible. Two years, that was, there. The QE. And I had to keep going, you know. Erm, other people went, yes. He’s got sisters. They all kept well away, you know. They’ve got their own little lives they are living, and you can understand it. They thought, no, we’re not gonna get involved there.
Um, and I don’t know what happened. It… Oh, he … then he was … he was improving and he was able to do things, he was able to do his… He was still paralysed down the one side but the speech hadn’t come back. But one day he just said, ‘Yeah.’ He could get ‘yes’ out. ‘Yes.’ And I took the dogs, ’cause we’d got two dogs, to see him and, ‘Oh, hello!’ And said hello, you see. But it still didn’t come back. But he was having speech therapy and it didn’t come back properly, but he knew what people were saying. He [began 1:34:37] to know but he couldn’t say it himself. He, he couldn’t. He often said yes, and if they said, ‘Yes?’ he’d say, ‘Oh, no.’ You know. He’d know he’d said the wrong words. But I had him here. That was the trouble. I had him at the shop first and they said, ‘No, he can’t stay here.’ I thought, well, I can’t stand this, you know. I’ll have to get … I’m gonna sell it. Before that, though … oh god, I forgot this … before that, he had gambled loads of money away and the shop money, and I’d gone and I had to borrow money to get it back. I had to borrow. You know, I just couldn’t believe it, that he’d… Well, I knew it was going but I didn’t know who was taking it, you see. And he was going to this … these gambling clubs in… See, I was playing piano at night, he was going to the gambling clubs… so I, I never saw him. He, [Chuckles] he’d go… I don’t know. Yeah, he’d go to… Then he’d still get up early in the morning, before that. Then I got him a job at the Barn. He was working there and I … and he used to er go to the… Oh, god. I don’t know. Anyhow. All I know is that I finished up with him there and, um, they came and they said he’d got to have a step here and this, that and the other, and I, I thought, well if … once we get him here, everybody was going to come round and talk to him. They all said they would. ‘We’ll come round. Don’t … you get him back…’ ’cause they were all very fond of him, more than they were of me, you see, all these, people from round the shop, and they’d all come. Yes, his sisters’d come round if he was at the house. And they did for a bit but he’s … according to the records you’re supposed to have somebody there to try and get him to talk every day. Well, it didn’t last very long and I got Catherine I was looking after as well. Catherine, who … Catherine St George. Um … millionaire who lived round the corner. I was running her to church and things like that. She, she got… Her, her driving! [Laughs] I seem to get involved with everyone. But she come round and talked to him ’cause she thought the world of him, you see. So I … and that was all right. So she became almost one of the family again, and she…psh [ph], I don’t know.
So that was here, at this house?
Yes. That was here. She helped us move. She helped… She had a lot of our stuff from the shop there in her house. This is how it started. And then she started bringing the stuff up, you see. [Draws breath] But she wanted somebody to run her to church on a Sunday, and I did that because I could do that, drop …her off at Bickenhill, where it was, and then we used to … I used… That’s right, and to take her home, come and pick her up. I used to go and see someone in, in Knowle, I think it was. I’ve got relations there. No, it was Balsall Common. Those friends as I go to now have got a farm. On a Sunday I used to go there. Um, and I’d take Arthur as well, you see. He was all right. He could travel in a car. Big lot of trouble though, getting what, chair and everything. Horrible job. I was absolutely worn out, but I could do it and the cooking somehow. [Laughing] I did the lot. And then I did get a home help. Used to come every Tuesday but she used to just do it. She liked ironing, I remember. But she wasn’t allowed to clean any windows or anything, but she’d iron anything that was out there. And he though she … it was her … it was his, you know, to tell her what to do, and he was all this, this, that and the other, you know. As long as it kept me away. I could get away and do the garden at least, get out of the way while she was there. It was ter, a terrible tie, you know. [Laughing] I can’t remember [1:38:34] really. [Away in 1:38:36] my head, thinking about it. But…[Sighs]
So if you looked at your road now, how has it changed since you lived in…?
It’s completely changed, this has. Yes, because it’s a …m, it’s… There was no cars in the road here. There was no nursery so there was no people coming up here. It was a very quiet road. There was a few cars down there, but… Er, it’s all Asian people now. There was no Asians at all. There wasn’t one, you know. Now there’s only two, like, of us left, sort of thing, of the old people left. Um, there was one just died now. So I’ve, so I’ve got to go to that funeral, I think. [Laughing] Well down the bottom. Um… yes, it’s not the same. It’s … the atmosphere’s completely different ’cause they’ve slowly taken over. They’ve taken over. They’ve taken over… my wall. I put the wall up and they use it for washing and things like that. I just… It’s, it’s not worth rowing about. I’ve told them, and he says he’ll tell them, well he does, but, they know I don’t like to s … I don’t like it hanging over my side, that’s all. Um, but you can’t do anything about it.
And what about the area as well? You know, is there anything here now …
It’s completely different, of course, the Swan and all that. All the shops have gone that were there. There was a greengrocer’s, there was everything. D’you know? They were only little ones, but they were there, you know. Those have gone. But yeah, you’ve got the supermarket so, I mean, that’s useful, but you’ve got people coming from everywhere else there, so you haven’t …so it doesn’t really help us much. I can’t really say much about it, I’m afraid. [Pause] Um. I don’t know.
So looking back, then, over your time in Yardley, what would you, um…
I can remember before these houses were built all down …the Coventry Road. All those council houses, that was a field going across, and I used to walk across there. The church was in Waterloo Road. You could walk from the Coventry Road into … not go down Forest Road. Just across there it was all fields. And further on it was fields and there was a big farm and all sorts of things. There was nothing, no buildings like there is now. [1:41:00 IA]. There must have been those old houses, I suppose. But there was… No, you could go… All those houses in Waterloo Road were, were … were built round about the time that I would have had… They were building then, I seem to remember. But there was flowers and things for … in that field. The little… I can remember the egg and… What do you call them? Egg and something plants that were there. [Laughing] Egg and bacon, I think we called them.
They were little yellow plants growing all in that field, across there, before the … those houses were built, all in Durley Road. And then there was the tannery down the bottom. That was where … the tannery was where they tanned leather, and that was where… Muscat [ph], he, he owned that, even though he was a JP with his big house in… There was one or two big houses in Waterloo Road. Have you noticed …that big one? Yes, and I knew them. Hepworths. That’s right. The Hepworths were in that nice big house. It’s offices or something. It’s still, I think the front’s still there. And the other one was further up, and then there was a couple of little old cottages there, next to the church, and in the back of the church was, was a field, you know, and we used to have fetes and things there, for the, church fetes. We used to have fancy dress. I remember winning first prize in one. [Laughing] Dr, dr, dressed as an Indian [Laughing]. Can you believe it? With a… ’cause I fancied that. I said, ‘I want to [1:42:29]…’ you know. And what was so funny, they kept a load of fancy dress there for people who hadn’t got any, and they could put them on them. And what they were was the whole set of cards, a pack of cards, you know, like that, a square piece of board with a card on. And they’d [1:42:47] over the head and it was the front and the back, and you were walking and they were all … they were always given. You knew the people so they couldn’t win a prize. They had this, marching round. And wagons, decorated wagons and everything. You can’t believe it, can you? It was before that church was built, that was. In that … that’s while they were raising money. And it was a community then. And the St Cyprian’s and St Chad’s were joined together. They were one, sort of, church. But we always didn’t like the St Cyps. [Laughing] Always a little bit of… You know, it was silly really but that’s how it was. Um. Yeah, Durley Road and all there …was fields. Was lovely, in a way, but …things change and if you look down some of these streets, like Kathleen Road from the Coventry, it looked as if you were at the seaside going down. You know, you could see… [Laughing] Just like being at the sea. Road going down. That’s funny. And the post… Of course, the police station was there.
Why would it be like that? Was what at the bottom of it that you would see, then, that you would feel that?
Well, it was … it was like, um, hedges and things but it went into the distance and you felt that was the sea. I don’t know… Do you know what I mean?
Yeah. There was farms, I suppose, down there. There was something. There was hay barns. Something. There was farms. And it was called Hay Mill, not Hay Mills. Did you know that? It was originally Hay Mill, the… Yeah… Yeah. Hay Mill. And it … and they’ve … and it’s just got crept onto it somehow.
Was that … was it named after…
After one mill, yes.
Mm. Hay Mill. And that was the district, Hay Mill, the… If you… So the district of Hay Mill, it’d be called, like that, it would. But put Hay Mills on the end. It’s just ‘come Hay Mills district, I suppose. It’s funny, isn’t it? And it’s got… Well, our father always used to say that it’s Hay Mill, not an S. But it is. It’s got an S on now. It’s grabbed it.
So you haven’t talked much about your mother, Ted. What, what was your mother’s name?
Mother? Ethel. Old-fashioned name. Ethel Mary. She was a Wormington [ph]. Now, Wormington’s[ph] had a big shop at the back of, um, the market hall in Worcester Street. Um, made shirts and, um… were tailor … you know, sold gloves and things. Sort of, I don’t know, haberdashery, I don’t know what you call it. Quite a big shop. Her, that was her uncle’s shop. Her mother’s brother. And… so I, I, I can’t tell you a lot about them but I know they’re still in Temple Street. I think they’ve got a shop at the top of Temple Street. They were quite wealthy and he lived… I remember he had a stroke at ninety. So perhaps that’s where I get my, my age from. I don’t know. [Laughing] From that family. But I know they were quite wealthy and they had wealthy people living in Moseley, who used to fly. In the … they were eighty year old and they used to fly over to New York, think nothing of it. [Chuckles] In the … in the 1880s or 19-something, you know. Fancy. You know. Must have been 19-something, mustn’t it, I should have thought?
’cause when planes … not that many planes went over then. But I know she … she was … my mother was quite, what shall I say? She was very helpful. She always got somebody she was helping. Old ladies, taking them dinners and things. And she had to do that every week. She couldn’t just do it once. Was always, ‘Oh, my … my lady. Yes, I’ve got to go and take her her dinner.’ Cook her dinner. [Laughing] [Pause] Um, she was … got me interested in music, I suppose … ’cause she… My father was a choirmaster but he, he couldn’t play any instrument. Mother could play the piano a bit. But they were both educated. This is the trouble. She went to grammar school. She could talk French. She could help me with me French. She was a bit prim and proper but very, what shall I say? Wanting to be helpful for people. She… [Laughing] But she went deaf about forty, and that was awkward, really. She, she had … could hear with a hearing but it …wasn’t very good. Um, but she knew all… It was Gilbert and Sullivan. Old, you know, theatrical things she liked. And she was in the Women’s … what? … Fellowship and she was always acting then in … always the leading lady in their sort of things, you know. So, er, we had to watch that a few times. [Laughing] But I, she must have got me interested in music somehow. Took me to the pantomime. I couldn’t understand it. Used to always take me to the pantomime. Never take my elder brother. Wonder why? Not my twin brother, I mean my elder brother. He used to … he didn’t want to go, I don’t think. [Pause] Anyway, I went quite a bit. I didn’t…
So for, um, Ted.
What am I missing?
What would you like to sum up with? Is there anything you’d like to add to, to… what you’ve said this afternoon, anything that you feel you need to say.
I expect there’s loads. Loads, isn’t there? New…
Well, something maybe that you’re most proud of, of, of achieving.
Well, I was proud of, um, when I was playing the piano on the QE. There was about seven …different pianists on there. Perhaps not. Perhaps six or something. The Count Basie band came on while they… Now they were a very famous American, er …jazz sort of big band, and they, um, were on for a fortnight or … and, er, the band used to want to play a jam session in the evening, and Count Basie himself was too old. He didn’t want to do that. He did his big thing and, um, they wanted a pianist. So… none of the others, the well … none of the well-known ones, they were well-known ones, would do it because they were frightened of playing with these… So I… They said, ‘Ted, you can do it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t mind doing it.’ So I did it. I just backed these, er, musicians every night. And Count Basie came to me. He said, ‘You’re keeping my boys up at night, aren’t you? You’re the one.’ I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ That was all right. But… I, I couldn’t get anyone else to come and play with them. There was Bert Weedon, who played the guitar. I said, ‘Bert, you play on the radio. Come on, you. Get on.’ ‘No,’ he says, ‘Ted, I couldn’t do it.’ They were all frightened. Couldn’t believe that, could you? And I thought that I’ve played with that band. They all knew me as Ted. They all said, ‘Now, Ted, you’ve gotta keep playing jazz. Now, when we come over to England, you must come and see us,’ and all that, you know. I didn’t know their names. I knew, knew some of them but I couldn’t remember them. Lockjaw Davis was one of them, I think. And, um, to, to think that they thought I was good enough, you know. I couldn’t believe it. And then it was reported in the, Melody Maker¬ or one of these Birm … English papers, that the, er, English musicians enjoyed playing with them. There was only me. [Laughing] English musicians? They didn’t put my name down.
The other thing I found out, we used … I used to play for the, um, captain’s cocktails. Well, [Chuckles] we all did but, um, I didn’t realise we were getting paid. Now the rest of the band, the trio, they had the money and kept it themselves, and this captain knew this was going on, and so at the end, while we were playing, they came over and gave me the money! And I didn’t know what to do ’cause I didn’t … I’d got to work, live with them for the rest of the six months. I thought… So I just gave it to them, you know, and he said, ‘Who did that? Why did you do it?’ you know. They were ever so angry ’cause he was a bit like that. And, um, I thought, well, I’m not gonna say anything. I kept it to myself. Didn’t matter to me. What … you know, I … gave me my money there. I didn’t get paid a lot. Well, you got paid quite a bit but we … I used to spend it going out on these islands. I brought back about 700 pound. I thought that was a lot. And of course, when I found out everything was …being fiddled, it was nowhere near enough. [Laughing] Terrible. And, er, anyhow, that was good, getting that sort of recognition. [There’s Basie … 1:51:37] all wanted me to come back again. I couldn’t. They all wanted me to… They still write and want me to do it now. I can’t do it now. And, um… I don’t know. I just felt, god, to think that, that the Basie band had… I used to worship them when I was little, think they were so good. You know, the Basie … Count Basie. My word, yeah. Couldn’t believe that, er, that I played with the band as well, and that he’d come and t, talked to me, you know. He was quite a normal, nice man, you know. He was quite… And er there was other film stars. There was Natalie Wood was there, but she … I upset her because I played… something from West Side Story ’cause I knew she was in it, and she got up and walked out, and I found out afterwards, it wasn’t her singing. They’d taken her voice off and put somebody else’s voice on, so she was … she thought everyone’d know but I didn’t know that. I thought she’d be pleased with Tonight from West Side Story. Um, and her boyfriend … her husband, and, er… There, there was lots of people on there. I think there was the president of Venezuela. I had to go and talk to him ’cause I’d learned Spanish. I haven’t, I haven’t mentioned about Spanish. I, er, taught myself Spanish after, um, going there on holiday a bit, and so I had to … I was always used then on the ship for speaking Spanish to people, because there was, um, some of the captains had ladies of the night come on the ship with, er, their man in charge of them, and he was Spanish and he needed … and I had to go and sit with him while, these things were going on, I don’t know, around the rest of the ship. [Laughing] And I could just talk to him. And it was very nice and I enjoyed it. You had a drink and he did give me a little, as a token. I think it was a tape measure, but it was like gold, tape measure. All right, but, um… Things like that. And then there was other boys on the ship who’d found… Spanish women, had got them on ship, you know, and all sorts of things going on. You’ve no idea. And I’d gotta talk to… They couldn’t talk to the girls. [Laughing] They wanted to take them back to England and marry them and all that and they can’t even speak the language! But I was always put on. And the president was there once, and they’d shut the bar. What they did, if … there were so many rooms and we were in a nightclub, and if there were so many … and even less than nine people in the bar, they’d shut the bar and we’d have to shut the music and they’d have to go to another. Well, the president was there with his five or six ladies, and there was about four other people and they shut the bar, and I had to go and explain just very… I thought, that’s very rude. Don’t they under…? They’d … they got so used to being in charge, these barmen and people, they didn’t care. They were rude to everybody, you know, to any American. Like, ‘Put your sh… put your, put your jacket on,’ and things like that, to them. Anyhow, I had to go and explain… to these people, and they were very nice ’cause I had Spanish. I wasn’t that good, but it was good enough to say, ‘Oh, I’m … we’re so sorry but we’re having to shut. It’s, um, because there is less than, menos que nueve,’ you know, ‘personas en el bar,’ you know. And that was all I could say. And I [1:54:53] and I said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and the ladies all smiled. That was the president, you know, [Laughing] of a country! That’s funny, isn’t it? So actually I enjoyed things like that. And I, I don’t know. I got on well with everybody. I think I did. They didn’t want me to mix with the rest of the musicians, that little trio. The was husband and wife. But I did. I’d say goodnight to them. I’d go back to them. I’d got my own little …room, which was nice. I’d got my own cabin, and they’d got… Well … well, I’d go out, then I’d go back to there and there was all the other bands and all the people there having a great time [Laughing] all night long. Two or three in the morning. But I enjoyed that, I think.
And also … and, and your time in Yardley. You know, you’ve enjoyed your time here?
Yardley? I … yeah, I suppose I did. I liked … I liked the house here, this house, the garden. It’s a big garden. I’d be … I’d hated gardening before. It was … got me … it was something that takes you out of the situation where there’s somebody, you know… I could put him … the television on. That’s it. I could go in the garden and I knew he’d be all right watching some …rubbishy play that he’d got on tape. [Laughing] Um, ’cause he’d do that. He’d be very good.
Um, Yardley, it’s not, er, so … what shall I say? … not so …rural as it was. It’s become more of a, a mad rush, the Coventry Road. My father would have had a fit if he saw the cars whizzing by now. And you see, if you saw a car you were lucky. None of them had cars, none of the family. Nobody did. Like telephones either, or fridges, you know. It’s all … it’s all happened since. Um, I think the Swan is quite useful. That’s… useful. I’d have preferred Sainsbury’s, but still. [Laughing] Because they were gonna do a lot for me here. I’ve got no side entrance. This is my problem now. Got no side entrance. They were going to build me a room on and a conservatory and all sorts, a couple of big garages, er, give me twice as much land. I didn’t really want the land but they were going to give it me. All the way down. But, um … and Tesco were supposed to be doing a bit but they didn’t, you know. They said, ‘Well, we’ll tell them but…’ That’s as far as it gets. But otherwise, once you’re in your house it doesn’t matter what happens, is it. And there’s another …shop. We’re all right for shops, aren’t we, really? I can’t grumble. I really can’t. And, um, I don’t know. Trouble is now, all the people I know are dead. Getting old. That’s the only thing. You don’t realise. All the younger people I knew are all dying or dead. [Chuckles] I don’t care. As long as I’m alive, I don’t care. [Laughing]
Well, on that note then, Ted… [Laughing]
Yeah. I can’t think of anything else.
I’d like to say thank you very much for taking part in, in our Histories at Hobsmoor project.
Yes, for a bit.
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