s an absentee "Coventry Kid", (I moved to South Devon in 1970) Coventry still holds most of my memories. I was born at 24 Heath Crescent, Stoke Heath in January 1934, and after a few temporary homes moved into 63 Hartland Avenue in Wyken; this is where my first memories begin. In those days horses and carts were still very much in use, and all our daily deliveries were made that way. Our bread was delivered from Savages' bakery on a cart pulled by a horse named Spider. He needed no instructions as to when to stop and start, and knew the round as well as the delivery man.
The same applied to our Co-op milk delivery. Even the dustcarts were horse drawn, and as the cart filled up it would be collected by a three wheeled lorry, which brought an empty replacement. The full cart would then be taken to the "Wyken floods" (alongside the river by Wyken church).
This tip was a treasure trove to us kids where we would scavenge and take home other peoples rubbish. This area is all built over now but I wonder if people realise the antiques that are buried there?
Talking of "the floods" reminds me that in those days, the area around the bridge over the River Sowe in Wyken Croft road, near Blackberry Lane, (known as the millers brook in those days) used to flood so often that a permanent raised wooden walkway was in place for about fifty yards either side of the bridge, as the road became impassable to pedestrians. This was painted white so obviously it was always known as "the white bridge".
The river near the bridge had a sandy "beach" and in the summer was a popular spot where mums would bring their kids for a swim and a paddle. If they tried that today they would need hospital treatment afterwards I'm sure.
When the Second World War started, an army gunnery site was established alongside Torcross Avenue going right across to Blackberry Lane. This contained several ack-ack guns as well as the new rockets. Torcross Avenue was at that time an unmade road from near Dartmouth Road to its junction with Wyken Croft, (which was, incidentally, still a gated road). I well remember the army camp inviting local kids in for a feast, (we were on strict rationing at the time) and we were allowed to sit at the anti-aircraft guns and wind them round aiming at imaginary planes in the sky, and afterwards given sweets to take home. How could I ever forget? There was also a barrage balloon site at the old Turners farm in Blackberry Lane, and I remember seeing a balloon struck by lightning and coming down in flames. These sites were to protect the old Morris factories which were heavily involved in the manufacture of munitions and were an important target for bombers.
My brother and I stayed with our parents throughout the war, and would be woken most nights by the sirens and hurry down the garden in pitch black to the "safety" of our shelter, where we would watch as bombs fell all around us, sometimes for hours. Going to school after a raid we would collect pieces of shrapnel and at school we would do swaps for the more interesting bits.
At Stoke Heath school we would start lessons with our gas mask drill, and it was compulsory to carry them wherever we went. As well as the three "R's" we had lessons on identifying various bombs and grenades. When it was considered too dangerous for too many children to be together we were split up into small groups and a teacher would try and give lessons in various houses near our homes. I guess it was better than nothing and certainly did me no harm.
Not many people would remember that the Devonshire Arms in Sewall Highway was, for a while, a storage depot for Unexploded Bombs, and as kids we would sneak in past the guards and try to pinch bombs. My brother Bill got one out on his trolley - but was caught halfway up the road with it.
s a teenager after the war, many local people may remember when I kept a pet monkey, which used to ride on the back of my motor bike holding on to my hair. His exploits when he used to escape are too numerous to mention. (See photo on the right).
As a lorry driver in my teens I worked mainly at Robbins & Powers flour mill by the Swanswell, and it was there that I met my wife Jackie; we are still happily married after over fifty wonderful years. Robbins & Powers also had their own transport, and amongst their lorries were a couple of steam driven vehicles which did mostly local deliveries, and I can remember one of their drivers telling me that when they drove to Bedworth they would set their wheels in the tram tracks on the Foleshill road, and then cook bacon and eggs on the boiler fire. Can you imagine that with today's traffic?
My last years in Coventry were when my wife and I owned the Island cafe in Torcross Avenue, (now a Chinese takeaway) which was a favourite with local bikers belonging to the "Longford Rockers". They were a great bunch of lads despite their reputation and never gave me a moment's trouble. (See photo, approx. 1968.)
Wonderful memories; I'd better stop now or I'll go on for ever.
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