y parents, Bill and May Toseland, were married in 1936, and I am sure they had certain plans for their future because my grandparents, on my father's side, were at that time running the Binley Working Men's Club, so it was no surprise for the newlyweds to wish to take over the Fox and Vivian Public House in far Gosford Street. However, this was short lived as my father had a motorbike accident so they went to stay on an uncle's farm in Wasperton whilst he recuperated. My mother was a country girl having been born in Barford, but as the saying goes 'love conquers all', so wherever dad went, of course she went too.
By the time the twinkle in his eye came along, namely me, they were living in Lime Tree Avenue, Tile Hill and dad was working at the Standard Motor Co. I can imagine with the impending war, raising a child at that time was a major worry. I was born in the May 1939 and as it is known the war really hit Coventry the following year in the November. I can remember well seeing concrete bomb shelters here and there and big mounds appearing in back gardens, but my main shelter was under the stairs all snug and I had no fears at all. The children's gas masks were not too bad but the adults looked rather like aliens faces. Another place of safety for us was down in the cellar at the Newlands our local pub. I think mum helped out behind the bar on occasions. Dad was in the home guard so had to shuffle shift-work between that and the Standard. Whenever I watched 'Dad's Army' I had to chuckle as I wondered if that was what it was really like! I don't think I ever wanted for anything. There was an ice-cream man used to come around the streets on his bike with a large metal box on the front, obviously a cooler of some kind. Dad kept chickens, ducks, and grew veg whenever he had the time.
It was 1947 when we moved to Welland Road, Stoke. Mum looked after a little shop in King Richard Street and every morning she would have to walk across Gosford Park to open up but one winter morning I was thrilled because I did not have to go to school. We had had a very heavy snowfall the night before so I had to go with mum that morning. The traffic was at a standstill and most of the residents in King Richard St. were out shovelling snow. Mum had help getting into the shop and needless to say she was late opening up that morning. Every Saturday afternoon the male customers would leave their bikes parked in the small garden at the front of the shop, nip in and buy their 'Woodies' cigarettes and then walk up Highfield Road into the football ground. I think that year must have gone on record for the severe snowfall we had. It was that Christmas I remember the most because we had the best Christmas tree ever. Dad had arrived home late that evening with it tied to the side of his bike. You could not see the bike for its branches. No one asked where it came from, and me being so young could not have cared. It was placed in the front window in the front room in a crepe covered bucket filled with sand and the top had to be cut off to get it into the house. It cut out most of the daylight in the room, but who cared, it was beautiful. Mum hung my Christmas stocking on it, one of her nylons actually. There was an orange in the foot end and the rest filled with nuts and sweeties and little toys of some sort. Then there were little candles pegged on which mum lit on Christmas eve. It's a wonder the whole thing did not go up in smoke. Mum then spent the rest of the holiday moaning about all the pine needles dropping everywhere.
It must have been only a couple of years later when we moved to Batsford Road, off Holyhead Road, to another grocery shop, but this time we lived behind and above the shop, a little more up market you could say. Mum managed the shop whilst dad was still at the Standard still using his trusty steed, namely his bike. I am sure that was the general use of transport in those days and you could park them on the kerb without being stolen. I do not remember seeing many cars parked in the street. Another Christmas stands out in my mind when we went to an after hours Christmas party at the Wine Lodge, on the corner of the Burges and Corporation Street, I was the only child there and mum and dad knew the licensees. There was a man on the piano, and we were all having a sing song, and then played musical chairs, obviously for my benefit no doubt. I won, of course, and was presented with a lovely ribboned box of chocolates. I don't think I put it down all evening, and it must have cost a lot of sweet coupons too. I am still wondering if that public house still operates under the same name.
Still at Batsford Road, I attended Moseley Avenue, primary school but it was not long before I was old enough to go to St. Joseph's Convent in Kenilworth. I will never forget my years there, also my friends. On leaving when I was fifteen I started work at Alfred Herbert's, Red Lane, learning shorthand and typing also doing a stint in the telephone exchange. It was at this time my parents decided to buy their own home so we were on the move again to Beake Avenue, in Whitmore Park. Dad had now left the Standard and they both worked at the Unbrako Socket Screw Co., for a while and then dad managed the Alvis Social Club; he did not have a car yet so I am sure he must have know every route in the city by now. Well, I was a teenager and did what most teenage girls do, I met the boy of my dreams. I was only seventeen and we met at the GEC ballroom, a popular dancing venue on Saturday nights. After a few weeks we started to go to the Rialto Casino where Ricky Gerngros (a little unsure of his second name) was the resident band, and we had the most wonderful Christmas and new year dances ever, and it was during one of these evenings that Tony and I became engaged.
Still living in Beake Avenue, mum and dad decided to apply for a tenancy to enter into a pub of their own and so we then moved into the Broomfield Tavern, in Spon End. Well, I was not surprised - it was in their blood after all, and my fiance seemed happy with that. I am sure most Coventrians reading this would be familiar with the Broom. It is a very old pub, built middle 1800s, and judging by the bathroom had not changed much. It was full of local characters including Annie or rather 'Annie in the snug' as she was known, also Geoff the young barman. If you are reading this Geoff, we have not forgotten you.
t is now the swinging 60s, '61 to be exact, and I got married from the Broom. The regulars gave me a wonderful send off that day, they made me feel like royalty. Tony and I went to live in Lincroft Crescent, Chapelfields, but he would go and help dad behind the bar now and again. There was a little verse hung behind the bar which read:-
It's nice to sit and think and fish
and fish and sit and think
and think and fish and sit and wish
that you could get a drink.
Around a year later mum and dad made the transition to the bigger Navigation Inn on the Stoney Stanton Road. Even the bathroom was a big improvement! Dad was in his element at last and it was not long before he had organised a Harvest Festival for the regulars to show off their finest fruit, veg. and flowers which were all on display in the marquee on the back lawn and then blessed by the local vicar. The produce was then judged by the honorary members of the committee and then later in the day sold. We were blessed with the rain too because it never rained. Mum was able to practice her catering skills, then to crown it all there was a birth there as my daughter, Tracie, was born upstairs in the August 1962. She had waited until closing time, so it was drinks all round for the regulars next morning. I do believe mum and dad enjoyed their years at the Navi, especially the Saturday night gigs. Jack Hardy (on trumpet) was the resident band, but I recall the Baron Knights appeared a couple of times during their early days before stardom, also the Flamingos.
What with weddings and other social events, there was always plenty to keep them busy. Mum was in the darts team, which gave her a break from the usual crowd, and they visited the Bricklayers Arms quite often, even brought home the Cup at one stage. Of course dad had his car by this time and took a close friend, Reg, on a camping/fishing trip for the weekend. Well it rained most of the time, and by the time they returned home - but in a jovial mood, minus their socks - when asked where they were, they said they could not remember where they had left them to dry out. Probably on some hedgerow or other. They did not bring home any fish either!
Our local pub on the corner was the Three Spires at that time, but it was renamed the Jules Verne after some renovations, incorporating different eateries. Dad came and looked after it for a while whilst the manager went on his holiday. It was lovely having him just up the road.
It was inevitable, I guess, for dad to want a pub of his own, and this he did by moving to Kettering. A lovely old pub called the Wheatsheaf Inn.
It was an Inn/Coachhouse originally, many, many years ago. At that time I remember thinking it was a little too quiet for dad, but he had some ideas up his sleeve. We used to visit every couple of weeks for the weekend, and Tony loved to help behind the bar - what son-in-law wouldn't? And dad had arranged for some of the young regulars from the Navi to come and have a friendly game of football with some of the NOT so young regulars at the Wheatsheaf. Apart from nearly drinking the Wheatsheaf dry, and a good supper catered for by mum, a good time was had by all. The lads all had to be hosed down after the match after playing in a field of mud but they enjoyed themselves and that was all that mattered. Sorry, but I cannot remember who won. Another event there was the birth of our son, Ashton, in the April of 1968. His first trip into the outside world was a ride with his granddad, out for an afternoon tea to the village of Ashton. There is a beautiful little pub there called the Butterfly Inn, and that is where they hold the conker championships every year.
My parents stayed at the Wheatsheaf for a few more years before retiring to a little country cottage in Denford. I daresay all of us at some stage dream of a little place in the country, and for them it was a far cry from the Fox and Vivian back in the 30s. It was not until 1974 that Tony and I decided to emigrate to Australia, and it took another ten years of persuasion for mum and dad to follow us out. Their little Yorkie had to go into quarantine for a few months but they were all reunited, and in the end we all lived happily ever after. Oh, some might ask what happened to the in-laws; well they stayed at the same address in Dickens Road, Keresley for all those years, even surviving the blitz....
....Time Gentlemen Please.
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