I was born in May 1947 after one of the most severe winters Britain had seen in many years. The date set for my birth was 20th April ’47,  but my mother had other ideas. Dr. Abdul Hadi, mom’s doctor, had to go away and my mother said “I’ll wait for you to get back before I give birth”, such was mom’s trust in Dr. Hadi, who replied, “I don’t think so Mrs. G!”. Dr. Hadi went away and came back nearly three weeks later, mom, true to her word was ready. Twenty days after the original due date I came into to this world at around 3.50 a.m. weighing almost ten pounds. This birth was of course pre NHS and I cost money to bring into this world, below is the invoice from St. Margaret’s Nursing Home. I don’t think Walsall FC were paying that much for players back then…..some say nothing has changed!

St Marg's bill

In 1900 Sycamore House was home to the Walsall Commercial College which I think later moved to Lichfield Road opposite the Arboretum.

In 1900 Sycamore House was home to the Walsall Commercial College which I think later moved to Lichfield Road opposite the Arboretum.

The first 26 years of my life were spent in Sandwell Street, Caldmore in a little terraced house and I have so many memories of growing up in that area. The street was a place to play, not many cars to spoil our game of cricket or football in the late 50s, a quick cry from one of us, “car coming” was sufficient to halt the game and allow the offending vehicle to pass safely. Common sense prevailed in those days. The rugby pitch, Follyhouse Lane, Palfrey Park, Hill Street, Dandy’s Walk, Orlando and Newhall Streets, the cemetery in Bath Street, Bescot, so many places to play and enjoy yourself. Between our houses in Sandwell Street and those houses in West Bromwich Street there was a piece of land separating the two streets, my granddad used it as an allotment and beautiful it was too. The summer months the place was full of flowers and shrubs of all sizes and shapes, buying vegetables wasn’t necessary, they grew in abundance in Sandwell Street and picking something grown by yourself was a real thrill. The sound of  industry was never far away, factory hooters four times a day, with the wind in the right direction Matthew Harvey’s factory came into earshot and the smell of hops from Highgate Brewery filled the air. Every New Year’s Eve the enginemen down Bescot blowing the loco whistles as the clock struck twelve and a week earlier the bloke who lived on West Bromwich Street playing his bagpipes on the afternoon of Christmas Day. Every year my dad threatened to “murder him” as bagpipes were not his favourite instrument, I thought they were rather good and after all, it was only once a year.

My grandfather, William Moseley and my mother in the beautiful gardens at the rear of 226 Sandwell Street

My grandfather, William Moseley and my mother in the beautiful gardens at the rear of 226 Sandwell Street

If you lived in Caldmore back then, Walsall town centre was a place you went for a change of scenery not necessity……or the pictures on a Saturday morning. Millers and Sellars for meat, Stanton’s for fish, Bedworths for fruit and veg’, Happy Anniversary for toys and Graingers for models, Dolmans for pea shooter ammo’ or if you were hard-up, hawthorn berries…….but don’t suck! Seems strange to think nowadays, our favourite games were cowboys and indians or commandos and gerries, not the china sort under the bed, the German sort. We had our own “Stalingrad” set, the remains of houses on the corner of Dudley and Bath Streets complete with cellars, although the set lacked blood and body parts, to us it WAS “Stalingrad”, especially in the winter after a snowfall.

From Whitehall Infants and Junior Schools it was off to the delights of Chuckery Seniors, the price of not working hard or diligently enough! In later years I always referred to the school as The Chuckery Academy For Young Gentlemen and now the schools are called Academies!

Having worked for over 45 years as a graphic designer I semi-retired in 2007 and continued to work from home. Instead of working on commercial projects I concentrated on producing books for local history societies, something I continue to do today. The tally of completed books is now around the forty-five mark. As well as producing books I also enjoy researching local history and collecting old photographs and ephemera about Walsall, and just so I don’t get bored I enjoy painting too, some samples of which you will see as this blog develops.

I began collecting old photographs in the early 1960s when the terraced houses on the one side of West Bromwich Street were waiting to be demolished. One Friday night I decided to explore these now derelict properties. In one house, just down from the opening that allowed access to Caldmore Gospel Hall, I found a bundle of what I now know to be Victorian carte de visites in the cupboard that ran from floor to ceiling in the living room. I thought it was quite sad that someone had  thought these twenty or so images of their ancestors were not worth keeping, I still have them but unfortunately I am still none the wiser as to who any of them are. This discovery one summer night around 1961/62 lit the blue touch-paper as it were regarding old photographs. Over the next fifty-five years or so I have continued to collect images from the past to the point where I now have several thousand in all shapes and sizes, carte de visites, cabinet cards, glass negatives, film negatives both colour and black and white, colour transparencies, postcards and of course photographic prints.

In 2002 I began work on a calendar called Walsall Lives, over the next ten years I produced a further eight editions of the calendar. The problem is you need twelve main photographs (or six, depending on the layout) and finding new ones to illustrate the pages was getting harder by the year. The intention is to continue along similar lines to my calendar with this blog, in other words, text will be supplemented with images and ephemera and anything else I consider to be of interest. In these early days I must say, print is far easier to understand but then I have over 45 years experience in that field in comparison to a few months on websites. Mistakes and edits will be in abundance no doubt but I hope you will stick with me as I attempt this new field.

I hope to make this blog as interesting as possible without relying too much on self-indulgence, let me know if I do. The majority of the material displayed on each post is my own, if it isn’t mine then I acknowledge the owner if known.

One thing I would ask is if anyone takes ANY of the pictures or other material off Walsall Life to use on social media sites or any other sites for that matter, would you kindly acknowledge where the items came from and also give a link back to this site, thank you.There are some very ignorant people out there………please don’t be one of them!

© John Griffiths 2015

§ 6 Responses to ABOUT

  • fran says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and seeing all the old photographs bringing back childhood memories. I was born in Walsall in 1949 but now live abroad. I remember often riding on the metal horse pictured in the Arboretum and visits to the fair at the Wake grounds in Bloxwich – coming home with a goldfish in a plastic bag, and a fresh coconut. The delicious smell of the boiled sweets and the sights of them in all their lovely shapes and colours in the sweet shop in the town, gobstoppers, aniseed balls, toffee apples,black jacks and barley twists, (was it up near where the Savoy cinema was?) Going to the Flicks on a Saturday morning for sixpence and queueing up with other kids. Santa’s grotto at the co-op(?)The baked potato man with his black coal fired oven and the tins of salt on the side of his cart and the bag of hot potatoes shared on the way home of an evening. Fish and Chips from the Melba cafe after the illuminations etc.etc. Fishing for tiddlers and sticklebacks in the brooks and watching the horses drawing the barges through the locks on the canal or as we used to say “down the cut”. Running after the rag and bone man to see if we could exchange some rags for a baby chic, or to collect the horses droppings for the garden. A skipping rope across the road and all the kids skipping in and out and singing their rhymes, tops and whips and hop scotch with a piece of slate, conkers on a shoelace, a stick of rhubarb and a little bag of sugar to dip it in, eating unripe gooseberries from the neighbour’s garden or crabapples as a dare and the resultant tummy ache, those were the days, happy moments despite all the hardship. Many thanks, Fran

    • Hello Fran,
      So pleased you enjoy the blog and the memories, which incidentally are very, very close to my own. The sweet shop you refer to was on the opposite side of W’ton St to The Savoy and it was Lowbridge’s. I can see him now with his white coat, bald head and glasses, a lovely shop indeed. You also mention Santa Claus at the Co-op, now here is a coincidence, that Co-op Santa was my wife’s grandfather and he did the job for many years after retiring from working in a foundry, his name was Edward Berwick. Regards, John.

    • JOHN CARTLIDGE says:

      Thanks you have reminded me of the hot spud man with the salt and Saturday morning kids club for 6 pence old £sp 240 pennies to the pound. You are 1 year older than me but things did not change much in them days. No cars to stop you playing in the street jumpers for goal posts.

  • Nick says:

    Hi John,
    What a pleasure to read your comment, it surely proves history is cyclic.
    My own memories maybe 25 years later than your own the late 70’s early 80’s if street cricket and football were very similar. A few friends in Sandwell Street but we were a few street south, Grange St, Hawes Rd and our centre of the earth Maw St cup de sac was the best place to have few cars disturbances. The odd broken window at the eager start of the cricket. Whitehall infants and juniors led the majority to Joseph Leckie Comprehensive down to the Delves Borders.
    The large factories, such as Mathew Harvies, we all knew people who worked in them, but over our later school years they all began to close, with the grey clouds of unemployment and the 80’s recession looming.
    The coal yards we played in gone, the ‘pigaries’ full of concrete sewer tubes an amazing place to play army games and smoke our first cigarette.
    The Walsall market was a major part of our young lives and this like the great memories has long since diminished.
    I have for many years lived on the other side of the planet but will always consider myself a Black Country boy.
    The great days of our youth, and the revered times in which we lived have long since gone but that was our time and hopefully those yet to come will bring back or even cherish their informative years in such a place of history.
    Very best regards,

    • Hello Nick,
      Thanks for getting in touch, excellent memories you have listed, very similar to my own just 25 years later! I knew a few from down “your end”, Grange Street etc as they all went to Whitehall Inf. and Junrs. My Uncle Eric had a brother who had a grocery shop on the corner of Grange St and Haskell St, his name was Len Thompson, do you recall him? Thanks again for getting in touch, John.

  • David Boyd says:

    Hello John,

    On other matters I compliment you on the amazing drawings/ paintings that you have done. What a talent!
    I could not help noticing that you appear to be a Citroen Traction Avant fan….the old French police car as it was known. I have owned these wonderful cars since I was 17 and only recently sold my last one a 1939 Cabriolet RHD which we used to tour Europe these last 40 years and never a breakdown ever! Great cars and so advanced for their year.

    Love the Blog. Did anyone ever do anything on Blue Coat School which I attended as a Junior pupil and then as a Senior leaving in 1953 to pursue a career in Banking. Great school with many happy memories and I still keep in touch with one or two school pals although sadly the numbers are dwindling slowly.

    Would be interesting if anyone else could recall those post war days.
    David Boyd. Redditch.

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