was born in Little Park Street on 30th October 1943 to Elsie Rose Billings and George Billings at Court 16, House 4, which was opposite the entrance of which is now the Telephone Exchange (south of Middlemore's and Lucas, where the Police Headquarters Car Park now stands). See photo below. The house was a typical ribbon weaver's or watchmaker's with large windows on the top floor. It was in a block of six, with six others on the opposite side of the court. Behind our court was an alleyway leading to another court where my Grandmother on my Father's side lived. (Sarah Billings and my dad's sister Gertie). Mum was a Bus Conductress during the war, while dad was in The South Wales Borderers as a cook. I was baptized in Holy Trinity Church in December 1943.
I used to play, 1947-48, on the bombed site where the Telephone Exchange stands now. It was a huge area stretching right up to Cow Lane, and I remember the area was covered with the concrete floor of the former building with large holes in the floor through to the basement which was full of rubble, timber & water as it was open to the elements. The other side of Cow Lane the Registry of Births, Marriages & Deaths used to stand just before Kirby House. On the opposite side of Little Park Street stood a pub with an open courtyard, the name of which escapes me. Opposite the Council House, on the corner of Little Park Street, were prefabricated temporary shops which continued into Little Park Street. To the left of Middlemore's was a Nissan hut style building, and I always wondered what it was used for. To the left of the entrance to the now Telephone Exchange was a walk through to a temporary coach station, towards St. Patrick's Road, which was used while Pool Meadow was being rebuilt. The Coventry Transport buses still use Pool Meadow.
When the houses were being pulled down to make way for the new Police Headquarters we moved to 55 Walsall Street, Canley, and I went to Sir Henry Parkes' Junior School (Sadly no longer there) in Prior Deram Walk.
y Grandmother & Grandfather (Elsie Whitehouse nee Edwards and John Joseph Whitehouse) lived in the house at the rear of Fennell's Music Shop, 158 Spon Street. Access was through the arch under 159 Spon Street, and was situated on the left of the yard. I remember it had 10-12 wooden steps up to a veranda to access the front door. The house was on two levels but I never knew what was under these floors as the access showed there must have been a ground floor room of some kind. To the right of the entrance was a bathroom with enamel bath and toilet, while straight ahead were the stairs which lead to three bedrooms (always dark & gloomy I remember). To the left of the entrance was a small hallway before two steps down into the kitchen with the lounge/sitting room further on - light in the evening being provided by an oil lamp.
To the right of the yard were workshops, which were occupied by a timber merchant whose circular saw was always a fascination to me as he went about cutting the wood to the required lengths before planing. The rest of the workshops were used for the storage of timber, and I used to look through the grimy windows to see what was stored in there. At the top of the yard on the left hand side, behind Nanny & Pappies, was a low wall over which ran a court of old houses (Court 38?) which was accessed from an entry between Bird's and Fennell's. They were in ramshackle condition but were soon swept away to make way for The Naval Club along with Fennell's and Nanny's house. Nan moved to Fenside Avenue in Styvechale.
Opposite Fennell's was the GEC factory, and it was fascinating to watch as the workers left to go home in the late afternoon. To the left of the building was a dark passageway always gated off. Nan told me it was used as an air-raid shelter during the blitz. Further down Spon Street was Goddard's the newsagents. I used to go there to collect my Comic Cuts, and was disappointed when I was told that it had stopped publication but a new comic The Eagle was out that week. I replaced my favourite comic with The Eagle from that day, and I still have my membership card from joining The Eagle Club.
At the top end of Spon Street, before the traffic lights at Barras Lane, was Phyllis' the bakers where I always loved buying the miniature Hovis loaves. Next door was the Butchers where the old fashioned Bacon Slicer always fascinated me. (How did they never lose a finger?)
undays were always Sunday School at Bethel Evangelical Church, along with my sister Margaret, at Spon End, and an occasional trip to the Swanswell Pool to catch tiddlers. Playing marbles or hopscotch and riding our bikes were our amusement in those days along with going for a walk, which I still enjoy today. Pappy was a member of Cox Street Working Men's Club along with my mum's brother Tim and we used to enjoy the parties at Easter & Christmas which were for the benefit of members' children, and also the coach trips out to places like Wicksteed Park, Kettering. Such happy memories. Pat Collins' Fair on Hearsall Common was also always enjoyable as a lad growing up during the rock 'n' roll era.
The Coventry I knew as a boy provides me with such good memories and I'm proud to be a Cov Kid and am immensely proud that I was born within the walls of the old medieval City of Coventry, which makes me a true Coventrian. Coventry is a very special place full of history. Everyone has heard of the Legend of Lady Godiva and "Being sent to Coventry", which makes it quite unique in folklore today. It makes me proud to be British.
If anyone remembers Mick or would like to reminisce with him, you can correspond using this address... firstname.lastname@example.org
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