grew up in Coronation Road, Hillfields, one of five children I was the second from eldest. My earliest memory is of being taken into the air raid shelter in Primrose Hill park, by my Mum, I recall feeling scared and lots of kind ladies telling me, "you will like it down there".
When I was five I started at Frederick Bird's School, my Mum took me there and my older brother Alan was supposed to see me home at lunch time, but as I recall he was with some friends and I had to walk on the opposite side of the road from him, as he was busy chatting to them. I also recall going on a big rocking horse on my first morning and banging my head because I was being too energetic.
The head teacher was Mrs. Beasley in the infants' school; she used to play the piano and was a very nice lady. I always went home at lunch time, and when I went back to school the dinner ladies used to come around with left over bread and butter, which we could have. It always tasted lovely to me.
When I went into the juniors some of the teachers I remember were Mr. Williams, Mrs. Bullock and Mr. Hartwell, who taught us maths and smelt of moth balls. He scared me to death as I just couldn't grasp decimals and fractions and he used to keep me late at lunch time. If any of the boys misbehaved he would get them to the front of the class, make them touch their toes and then hit them with the blackboard rubber on the backside.
The head teacher in the juniors was Mr. Lewis, who was a nice man. I was doing PE one day and had forgot my pumps, so was made to do it in my socks. We were walking along shiny planks, when I slipped and knocked part of my front tooth out. Mr. Lewis sent for my Mum and was very kind to me.
Senior School was where I became a bit of a rebel. Myself and my friends Linda, Judith and Ann used to sneak out of class when we were having science in one of the huts. We would wait until Miss Bonnell had her back to us, writing on the black board, and then sneak out one by one. Off we went to the boiler room where we roasted potatoes, pinched from Mum's supply, and we puffed at cigarettes that Judith had sneaked from her older Sister. These we cut in half to make them go round.
The girls and boys shared the same hall but took lessons in separate buildings, divided by a brick wall and the girls' toilets. This was a popular meeting place for both sexes. We had to do PE in the hall in our bottle green knickers and felt really embarrassed when, as happened regularly, the boys walked through.
The Headmistress in Senior School was Miss Chinn. She had a cane on the wall in her office and you could always smell iodine in there - she was not very popular. If she was going to cane someone she used to bring her black book into the classroom, call out the offender, write in the book the date and how many strokes she was giving them, then cane them in front of the class. I was lucky not to have the cane. Some of us took great pleasure in letting her car tyres down on the day we finally left school, I was so glad to leave. My Dad used to say you are wishing your life away, you will soon wish you were back there, but I never did. The boys' Headmaster was Mr. Harris and there was a Mr. Douglas. I can't remember any of their other teachers.
As children playing in Hillfields we had great times in the Summer holidays, which always seemed to last forever and were always hot and sunny. We would have different activities arranged for us in Primrose Hill Park (pictured below). There would be stilts, hoops, balls and beanbags to play with. There was a big hill in the park and we would run up to the top and then down again at full pelt, arms outstretched - such fun. The bomb sites were always a favourite place to play, and in Coronation Road where I lived there were three. The one we played on mostly fronted on to the park, and we would make pretend houses from the bricks we found, and then we would tie up the long grass in bunches and we were farmers, harvesting our field.
Our house was opposite the Slipper Baths, and as we didn't have a bathroom when we were children, as we got older we would nip over the road with our towel, pay the attendant and get our butter milk soap, which was included in the fee for having a bath. My friend Tricia and I usually went together and got a cubicle next door to each other. The attendant would run the hot water then leave you to put the cold in. The baths were enormous cast iron ones on feet, and as we chatted to each other it echoed all over the bath house, such fun. Before we became old enough to use the public baths Mum used to have to get the bath down that hung on the wall outside and fill that from the kettle and gas boiler to get us clean - a hard job with so many of us.
We also used to play on the bath steps in the evening when it was closed, and as there was always a good supply of coke outside the boiler house it came in handy when Mum was running short. We had to watch out for Paddy the boiler man, who lived at the back of the baths, as he would chase us and threaten to put us in the furnace.
On a Saturday morning Mum would give us six pence and we would go to The Globe picture house in King William Street. We would watch Superman, Roy Rodgers, The Cisco Kid, and in the interval we would sing "We come along on Saturday morning" and "Ten green bottles".
Out on the street we had many games that kept us occupied; marbles, five stones, rat a tat ginger, hide and seek, tag, and we used to skim the cardboard milk bottle tops along the ground and collect cigarette cards. As our house was quite near Highfield Road Football Ground, on a match day the street was tail to bonnet with parked cars and we would offer to mind any near our house for a penny.
he Swanswell Park was also a favourite with us. We would take a jam jar scrounged from Mum's pickle supply, get a fishing net from Porters the paper shop, and off we would go to catch tiddlers. Some of the other shops that I remember in King William Street were the Maypole, Brightwalls, and there was a lovely ice cream parlour called Di Di Mascios, you could sit inside and have some lovely creamy ice cream in a glass dish - delicious.
A couple of doors away from Di Di Mascios was The Howitzers Club. My Dad was there every evening and Saturday and Sunday lunch times. Quite often on a Saturday night we would get taken along with Mum and Dad, and with a bottle of pop and a bag of crisps we would watch Dad play Bagatelle, and sometimes he would let me move the arrow on the score board for him. In the Summer Mum used to whiten our sandals and put them outside on the shed to dry, and we used to get really excited knowing we would be going to the club that night.
They also used to have concert and film nights there, which we enjoyed immensely. Once a year we used to get taken on the children's outing by the club, which was usually somewhere like Wicksteed Park. Sometimes we were taken to Skegness and we would wait excitedly at the Railway Station until we heard the train come puffing in, then we would cower back as the noise and the steam got nearer. The club supplied us with a packed lunch which was usually gone by the time we got there.
Next to the club was a fish and chip shop and an off licence. Sometimes when Dad went to the club in the week he would bring us some chips home wrapped in newspaper and bring them to us while we were in bed. We thought that was great, but I don't think Mum was very impressed.
My first Saturday job was in a cake shop in King William Street. I can't recall the name of it but the bread and cakes were baked on the premises and the owners were a very large lady and her husband was the exact opposite - very weedy looking. I enjoyed working there because I was given a bag of leftover cakes to take home at the end of the day.
Our first television didn't arrive until I was around 10 years old. The man turned up in his van then he went on the roof to put the aerial up. He brought in the very bulky Sobell television set, which Mum was renting, and then he spent ages tuning it in. Eventually to great cheers from us kids the test card appeared and we sat looking at that until the start of Children's Television. One by one our friends came knocking at the door wanting to see the telly, as we were one of the first families in our street to get one. So when Dad came in from work there were about six extra children as well as his own, glued to Children's TV.
My first full time job after leaving school at 15 years of age was at BTH in Lower Ford Street. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I just went along and asked if there were any vacancies. I was interviewed by Mr. Ellis and he offered me a job on the assembly line, helping to make electric motors. This job was quite dirty and very boring but I stuck it for a couple of years then left to work in Sketchley's Dry Cleaners, first of all in Earlsdon Street, where I met my late Husband and then in Far Gosford Street.
After a couple of years I got bored again and went back to what was BTH, only it was now called AEI. I enjoyed this job as it was a very cushy one. I was in the offices and working on Stock Control, so I was sitting down all day. I stayed working at AEI until I left to have my first child.
I will never forget my last day there, as when I went back after lunch, I had to close my eyes before they would let me enter the office, and then my friend Jean led me in while they all banged on their desks with rulers. Of course, they had done a collection and bought me some lovely baby presents, which made me cry!
Some of the places I used to enjoy going out to at the weekend to with my friends were, The Locarno (pictured right, now the Central Library) and the Police Ballroom. I recall queuing all the way up the steps to get into The Locarno dance hall - we had some great nights there. The Police Ballroom was also very popular at that time. There was no bar there, but in the interval everyone would dash to the nearest pub to quench their thirst. We made lots of new friends there, happy days!
I now live in the Green Lane area, and have noted all the changes that have taken place in Hillfields, generally not for the better. However I still have very fond memories of the time I spent growing up there.
To find out more about life growing up in Hillfields in wintertime without central heating, see Jan Mayo's memories, Part II.
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