Childhood memories of Jean Mercer, nee Caudren (1950 - 2003)
I spent the first ten year of my life living at 92 Dolphin Lane, Acocks Green. I think that the main thing that sticks in my mind is the fact that there was always someone to play with. There seemed to be children in every house and we all played out together on what our next door neighbour, Mrs. Gilmour, always called the 'orse road. I remember we had a bucket and shovel especially for collecting the droppings of manure from the horses which drew the milkcarts and ragcarts down the road. Dad used to give us 3d for every bucket full we collected for his roses and rhubarb, and if he didn't want it there was always someone in the road that did! As soon as we heard the horse coming down the street all the children would dart for their buckets and follow the cart until the horse dropped its manure, then we'd all scramble to be the first to shovel it up! Sometimes we had more manure on us than in the buckets, or so it seemed!
I started school at Easter 1955 at Dolphin Lane Infants at the age of four (later to become part of Oaklands Primary School). Miss Roberts was my first teacher and one of my first memories of school life was having to stand up in front of the class and say the alphabet. I was the only one who knew it all the way through and she gave me a sweet for being good. Everyone in the class soon learned that Miss Roberts always had sweets ready to give out to those who worked hard and learned quickly.
On Saturday mornings we got up early. My mum was a cleaner at the Warwick picture house and she would take us with her to work, hide us in the cleaner's room and we would stay there until the picture serials began, about 10 o'clock if I remember correctly. We'd then take our seats and watch Hopalong Cassidy, Flash Gordon and the like all morning while Mum did the shopping. We had to help her carry the bags home, in brown paper bags with string for handles that cut into our hands if the bag was heavy. If it was raining the bags got soaked and gave way and there'd be shopping all over the floor. mum said a few years later that plastic bags were the best thing ever invented, especially in the rain!
We never had much pocket money so to earn more money my friends and myself used to go and stand outside Woolworth's in Acocks Green and 'mind prams' for money. On a good day we could earn as much as half-a-crown just standing there keeping tight hold of a pram with a baby inside. If they were crying and we got them to sleep while their mothers were shopping we'd earn more. one lady gave me a shilling once, and I thought I was rich!
The favourite play area for all the children in and around Dolphin Lane was Pool Farm Road Park (Fox Hollies Park). We used to 'jump the bashes' over the stream that ran through the park. We'd find the widest part of the stream and see who could jump over it to the other side. It came in useful for my long-jumping days at school in later years, but I always managed to go home wet and muddy. My mother was not amused!
During the summer we used to have organised sports competitions in the park. Mrs. Hill, my best friend's mum, used to organise them. They lived three doors away from me on the corner of Fanshawe Road until they emigrated to Australia in about 1958. (I remember being heartbroken for I couldn't understand why I'd never see Christine or her family again). At the sports competitions Mrs. Hill gave us chocolates as prizes and so all the children from the surrounding areas, and some we'd never seen before, used to take part. it was great fun and it seemed that everyone ended up winning something, although how this was managed I still haven't been able to figure out, but we all finished the day having won at least one chocolate bar each!
There was a patch of green grass in front of some of the houses in Dolphin Lane, and I remember playing on a very old oak tree that grew there, and someone used to have apple and pear trees in their back garden and we could reach them by going down the entry between two houses. The Wragg family lived at one, and we used to go scrumping, hiding in the Wraggs' house if we were being chased by the owner of the fruit!
During my years in Oaklands Primary School I became a member of the school skittleball team, a game no longer played as netball became more popular. it was a wonderful game and we made the semi-finals of the Birmingham skittleball championships in my final year at the school.
In 1961 my family moved to 9 Boyd Grove, and a year later I began attending Hartfield Crescent Secondary modern School, while my brothers passed the 11 plus exam to attend Yardley Grammar School. Mr. Cook was the headmaster at Hartfield and he encouraged all of us to write to other children in different countries. Our form teacher, Miss Davies, had just spent a year in the U.S.A. teaching there and had brought the names and addresses of her pupils in Rhode Island back with her. To encourage us in our English lessons she made us all pick a name from out of a hat and write to the person. I ended up with a girl named Karen Larson from Warwick, Rhode Island and wrote my first letter to her in the classroom in October of 1962. I still write to her although we tend now to either phone each other or send e-mails rather than post letters to and from America. Karen has turned out to be a very good and durable friend throughout my life.
i remember mostly the people who lived in Acocks Green. Mrs. Phillips, who every Sunday morning gave me half-a-crown to go and buy her chocolate from the hut in the park, giving me sixpence for running the errand. There was Mrs. Moore on the corner of Dolphin Lane, she seemed to have hundreds of children, actually there were about thirteen, but she was popular because she always had a baby for us to take walking in the pram. It must have looked funny with all these kids arguing whose turn it was to push the pram next as we walked around the streets! I remember the Thompson twins, Janet and Thomas, from Fanshawe Road, and Pauline Yerrington from Circular Road, the Wraggs, the Cresdees and old Mrs. Gilmour. The old lady on the corner, I can't remember her name, but she had a habit of always locking herself out of the house, but she always left the small toilet window open. I was always the one she came for to climb through the window to open her front door fro her, and she always gave me sixpence for doing so!