A black country kid`s early life.

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is my early life, It could be the same story for many other black country children from a large family.
We were the baby boomers
It is a prequel to a short story about my early life in the British Army.
It is as accurate as I can remember and researched to the best of my capabilities.
Apologies if I offend anybody.

It was an unusually bright mid-September day, the birds were singing there was joy in the air, a slight warm southerly wind enveloped the surrounding area and a promise of long spells of an Indian summer sun put all in a good mood.
That`s the bullshit over with, it was a miserable day, had been for several weeks. heavy thunder and lightning filled the sky and wet people with dread.
My mom was hoping to born me on her birthday on September 21st, but a sign of what  I was to become beckoned the midwives to my mother's bedside.
"This one is impatient Alice, no time for anything just wants to pop out."
Alice May Stringer my beloved mother was quite used to being pulled and pushed about but my eagerness to get into the light surprised her.
Mother was a very strong-willed and physically strong woman.
I was to be boy number three having already had John and Harold in the last three years or so.
A baby named Elisabeth had not survived the trauma of being born in post-war Walsall and mom never went into detail of her demise.
I imagine it bore heavily into her mind.
The only saving grace that apparently I was a strong well-proportioned baby and had no birth problems for anyone to worry about.
Within a couple of days, we were whisked off to the family mansion [Mom had other kids to worry about without fearing dads loss of earnings].
The then family home was a disused pub on the Pleck road named the Park Tavern.
With accommodation, very sparse one entrepreneur had converted the pub into two residents.
Part of the pub was rented by Ma and Pa and the other by an uncle Harold.
Uncle  Harold had dated my mother for a few months before my dad Arthur stole her away from him.
Harold was a merchant seaman and was frequently away from home.
My mother got fed up of waiting and took up with my dad.
Dad was an ex-Royal Engineer and had been discharged because of a medical problem, Flat feet.
Many years later mom told us he was working a flanker to avoid being sent to the front line and I can`t say as that was wrong. Too many wasted servicemen fighting for stupid reasons.
Harold was a funny bugger, having left the merchant navy he signed up for the army and was sent as part of occupational forces in Germany.
In his wisdom, he fraternised with the frauleins and indeed married a certain Freda.
On returning to Great Britain she was subjected to a lot of understandable racism. A lot of people lost loved ones to "Her kind"
With the intolerable sniping and backstabbing, they both opted to get on the available immigration to Canada. Harold only to be seen again after the death of my father in 1977.
After the initial shock of leaving the relatively hot Manor hospital, I duly arrived at the delight of all in my bitter cold draughty run-down house.
If I could have climbed back into mom`s womb I would have done and reemerged in the following summer.
The naming ceremony started immediately with Arthur [the third] being the most obvious as my guaranteed I was going to be the last one.
This suited my dad and his dad but deep down they were hoping I was to be a girl at last. You couldn`t pick and choose I was here and here I was staying.
Dad was in the construction business notably a bar bender come steel fixer, fitting all the reinforcement steel to bridges and tunnels.
A highly skilled job but like all building work subject to adverse weather conditions.
A couple of uneventful years later, still at the pub, the highlight of the day was finding many dead mice trapped in the fireguard mesh not that there was a lit fire to worry about.
By now we were a family of six, mom duly delivering what will be her last child, a girl Alice May.
The house was basically in a slum clearance area, time to move but still not the thousands of council houses promised but not yet delivered.
The cellar was a good play area but was frequently flooded due to the high water table.
It was a nightmare because to load up the gas meter somebody had to wade through two feet of water to reach the gas meter.
I was too young and when one of my elder siblings dropped the florin or two-shilling piece in the water we had to face the wrath of dad scurrying in the murky cold water to retrieve the coin.
Six people living in such desperate circumstances often produced cold and flu symptoms.
One of the enjoyable things of Pleck road was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II which was celebrated by an enormous street party with a plethora of cake, jellies and custard. We did pig it and not much was leftover.
Finally, we were rehoused around the corner into 109 Bridgeman street, a two up two down terraced house.
Not a big house by any means but at least it was more modern and dry.

Dad has never been out of work for long as there is a booming construction industry but it is always subjected to weather conditions and everybody is aware of English weather.
If he is laid off for too long it means a walk to the local labour exchange and gets in a big queue with all the other skint people and the obvious workshy, generally, the teddy boys who think it is demeaning to work.
It is always the same employers using the labour exchange hoping to pick up on some cheap labour IE the desperate ones.
My dad is a skilled worker and it is not long before he is back to work.
Tarmac is a large reputable employer and he has worked for them regularly.
The Pleck area of Walsall is a diverse combination of many trades and a heavily industrialised and manufacturing area.
He finds a job with a tube making company at Green lane The Talbotstead tube manufacturers.
It is not his kind of work but it is work, he prefers the outdoor life.
It will do for now.
Around Bridgeman street is a magnetic minefield for kids to explore albeit trespassing.
It is not long before my elder siblings incorporate me into the being in the wrong place scenario, I`m too young to know better.
Jumping from one forty-five gallon drum to another is thwarted with danger, the more dangerous the better.
John the eldest and wisest does a mighty leap to one container only to find the lid is loose and his leg is immersed into a gooey oil solution.
have to be grateful it was not an acid-based liquid.
Realising his situation he kicks out an manages to tip over the part filled cannister with the resulting mess spilling over the yard.
A wipe of the leg and a very quick withdrawal is carried out but it is too late and we have been spotted.
It is not too long before we are traced with the foreman giving us a good dressing down.
We are not looking forward to dad to come home.
It is six o clock gone and we can only hope he has decided to visit one of the many pubs in the street.
Luck has ignored us and the heavy footsteps of an angry man climb the stairs.
He is wielding his heavy leather belt and starts laying into us with John bearing the brunt of his anger.
We won`t be doing that again, well not for a few days.
With so many people occupying a small house accidents are frequent and it is one of my days.
Dad is doing a fry up and casually saunters between the kitchen and the large dining table.
playing with siblings I somehow manage to hit the pan with my head knocking the hot oil down my neck and onto my clothes.
Did I scream, wail makes a fuss or sulk in the corner, You can bet your life I did. Doctor dad decided that my third-degree burns were not serious enough to warrant a hospital visit or to the GP. Today would have been a blue light job accompanied by a social investigation into child negligence.
I lived to get into trouble another day so all was well.
At the bottom of the street, there is a bridge which carries the railway and underneath is a sunken road," the Subway" and it is notorious for floods after any rain.
An obvious place to visit while waiting for some unexpecting motorist to drive through it who looking at the raised kerbstones does not appreciate that he will soon be in four feet of water.
We take this opportunity to meet Dad from work and suck up to him a little.
As time passes the flood has engulfed the footpath as well.
It is a long way around to bypass this flooding and it is getting dark.
We wait for dad when we can at least walk in safety.
He is not too pleased to see us and decides to carry us along the flooded footpath as it is only about three inches deep at this time.
Two trips later we are making our way up the hill to home.
I t was about this time that mom realised that Harold [brother] affectionately known as H or Haichi had an earing problem
On investigation, it was discovered that he had a perforated eardrum with severe loss of hearing.
This had serious ramifications in later life as he developed " Why are they talking about me " syndrome.
Consequently, he was always in some sort of scrape and got a reputation of somebody not to mess with.
Just up the road from us were Walsall`s last lock and the cut, a prime play area because we had been warned not to go there.
It was alright to scavenge for spilt coal but not to play there.
It was only a matter of time before one of us was going to fall into the canal; Step forward H.
Luckily some older boys were nearby and after finishing laughing at the situation realised H could not swim so dragged him out.
He had to endure waiting for his clothes to partly dry or have some explaining to dad why he was wet in his best clothes, It was Sunday.
Sunday meant gong to the small chapel near us to get some religion and understanding but mainly for the food that was given out.
After eaten and going home we were instructed to get out of her way.
Little did I know she was well into another pregnancy with Sheila.
Took me fifteen years or so to realise mom was not a fat person naturally but always pregnant.
As I previously mentioned a small house with many people accidents are sure to happen.
Today it was dad`s turn. Never one to be interested in Xmas decorations mom had moaned and moaned until he agreed to put up some crepe streamers, a simple twisted roll of crepe paper cut int ribbons and stretched from corner to corner via the central light fitting.
Easy enough one would think but with no step ladders, the choice was the table, not the sturdiest of furniture. Mother made him remove his dirty boots, "we have to eat off there."
Our part of the chore was to pass the drawing pins to dad to secure the streamers. Having  Alice as the attendant made her day so in her wisdom, she put the pins loose on the table. It wasn`t long before barefoot dad found them and demonstrated an early version of break dancing with some very loud words.
That was the first and last participation he did with anything Christmassy
Strange the previous week he had fallen sixty feet off the tower scaffolding and pierced his back rather deep with remnants of his shirt embodied in his gaping wound. Again not serious enough to get medical help
There was always a constant supply of concentrated orange juice but preceded by the super drug Cod liver oil. Who thought of these tortures could not have had this stuff regularly put down their throats.
Back to the cut for a little trespassing or should I say a leisurely afternoon stroll.
Our part of the cut included a narrow bridge where the hosses were disconnected from their barge and moved over to the other side towpath.
The barge having been stopped in the lock need to be pulled as fast as the poor horse could manage so it would have enough inertia to reach the other side of the bridge and reconnect to said horse.
seven or eight young kids approaching the lock and the mighty shire horse a ta fast trot was going to cause problems, not to the bargees but us kids.
We needed to get out the way and pretty quick.
This was not the time to realise you had not fastened your shoelaces properly.
My shoe came off, I panicked, I fell I was in trouble.
H was going to be in trouble explaining his wet clothes, how was he going to explain about me being crushed by a ten-ton horse.
Eyes shut awaiting the mighty hooves to finish my short life I felt myself being lifted. No, not a Godly intervention H had grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and pulled me out of danger.
I have always a slight fear of big horses since.
Luck was finally on our side, an unexpected heavy thunderstorm enveloped us. The logical reason for the wet clothes, we were all wet.
On arriving home one of our neighbours awaited us.
"Your mom has cut her hand on a sardine tin she was opening and your dad has taken her to hospital in an ambulance."
It must have been some serious cut for mom, a brave woman to accept going to the hospital at all.
It was indeed a serious cut when she came home a couple of days later carrying Sheila Mary, the final baby.
Many months passed with H and his fighting, school days at Wolverhampton road and rusty dad again.
Work had started on the Reedswood power station and dad was in his element back on the nippers [pliers] and erecting the cooling towers.
There were going to be a few good years without the worry of being out of work.
Us kids had discovered the Arboretum and were fascinated by the lake, the swimming pool and the play equipment.
We could get lost for many hours and meet up with school friends to explore the "Lion`s den" with its reputation of many courting couples using the long grass facility. Heaven knows what they got up to, sounded a bit boring to my friends and me.
I daresay I would find out at a later date but the witches hat needed me.
The Viking boat and rocking horse were awesome playthings but were taken over by older boys and screaming girls.
A paddling pool was awaiting with an island in the middle to race to.
The arboretum used to have an annual display of illuminations and dad was coerced to take we three boys out of mom`s way for a few hours and don`t go to the pub.
These lights were originally part of the mighty Blackpool set up and were exciting for three young lads.
Entry was free but there were donation boxes scattered all over the park.
They were very difficult to get your hand to the money, but we still tried anyway.
An emergency dad needs the toilet. These toilets were adequate as long as you had your own paper which dad did not.
"Go and find some paper for me," no mention of what sort of paper.
Icecream wrappers were not really what he had in mind but he should have been more specific. The profanity was pretty specific.
Dad used to treat the elder kids with a visit to one of the many cinemas. Snow White and the seven dwarves were today`s treat. I`m sure dad wanted to see the films more than we did but we tagged along anyway.
We saw many of these classic Disney films. Dad at this time was a smoker and in his wisdom, he offered us all a fag. The idea being that the ghastly things would be enough to put you off smoking for life.
Well, it worked for me, I was feeling sickly, John was not any better but it backfired with H when he asked for another one. It was the start of his long term addiction to cigarettes.
Another surprise at home the arrival of James Leslie, the very last one.
Jim shared the same birthdate as mom so no excuses to miss moms big day. A very sickly child by all accounts. If something was going around Jim would be first to get it.
Mom was sick in bed with Jim shortly after his arrival and Sheila in her wisdom had found something to choke on. Against all advice about staying tied to the bed, of course, she went to the rescue and ripped out stitches she had.
The midwife tried to give mom a roasting and insisted that she should have left Sheila to her own devices. That did not go down well and she was duly told to "Fuck off ."
Strange how welfare workers and midwives who do not have kids of their own are very fast to give a very experienced mother stupid advice.
A scheme to get children out of their unenviable lifestyle was taken up by myself and Alice and we were whisked off to a healthier environment in Edgbaston.
A type of care home where fresh air was more abundant but come off it, who wants to be lumbered with a younger sister.
However, that was not to be. Unbeknown to me Alice was showing the signs of "St Vitus dance syndrome" or Rheumatic fever. A problem with fidgetting and associated heart risk.
It did not mean much to me but the poor girl was dogged with it all her life and spent many years at special schools including Reedswood special school and a hospital school at Marlborough.
I`m not sure how long we stopped there probably a month to six weeks.
I was introduced to pyjamas, how strange, nothing like sleeping with the warm shirt you had had on all day. The progress I suppose. To this day I still don`t wear them, its bare buff or underpants.
On arriving at home town Walsall we were going to a new strange place certainly not the Pleck.
Welcome to Blakenall a relatively new council home development to the north of Walsall.
By now another sibling had come from somewhere, welcome David Stringer born on the fifth of the fifth 1955. You certainly could not forget his birthday
This was luxury, a four bedroomed house with a bathroom inside the building. Afront and rear garden with schools aplenty.
Staghill road was our new abode, a street offering three, four and possibly five bedrooms. This was going to be bliss.
With large houses came the large families and the inevitable  "Do you want to be in my gang," culture. Well no I don`t and neither did any of our family.
With several pubs within a few hundred yards, dad was very acceptable to its location.
The Reedswood power station had been completed so the old man was on the job hunt.
There was work to be had at the new Walsall swimming baths with the intention of making an Olympic 50 metre long, six-lane pool to accompany the old Brine baths.
He stayed there till it`s completion in 1961 so quite a long time.
A major cockup in calculations did not allow for the Walsall`s notorious water table and the concrete pool was found to be floating and many tons of extra concrete was needed to weight it down so no longer the desired 50-metre length.
There was always the Goscote sewage treatment plant with ongoing modernisation.
I did my obligatory junior school time at Harden junior and infants school and took the 11 plus exam at the senior school where both John and H were already studying.
It was not long before mom was in the family way again. This was a problem when you did not have a television to watch.
Time for the big school after the welcoming of Dennis the absolute last-child mom is having.
We are all assembled and the line is subjected to the inspection of potential teachers.
"Not another Stringer, how many more of you are there?" Donald Bolton`s welcoming words to me.
Little did he know a further six might make his day for him again in the future.
Our First-year form teacher was a quite scruffy Mr Martin who also was our french teacher.
I never saw the point of french, why should we learn it let them learn English. Yes, I was a bit naive then and no European community to worry about.
After the obligatory morning assembly, we were shepherded off to our first Secondary education at the much-acclaimed W R Wheway named after one of Walsall`s former mayors and dignitary.
It did not matter much to me the history of the school I was hell-bent on doing my time and move into the real world of earning a living.
English with I believe was a Miss Alcock, must avoid jokes for a short time.
She was a fiery lady with a wicked aim with the blackboard rubber.
It only took an hour or so for my first altercation with her and the rap on the knuckles with a wooden ruler. That hurt more than expected.
No more incidents with her today but she mumbles something about not being like my elder brother, H I assume.
Milk was still an available commodity and it was full-fat milk, a sin in today`s world.
We plodded on till the dinner bell [not the lunch bell].
"Fight, fight ."
Only our first morning and someone was in the thick of it.
I might have guessed it had to be brother H.
With his poor hearing, he was convinced the opponent had been laughing at him.
A couple of punches later and it was all over.
When it was realised that I was H`s brother the inevitable taunting and  "Are you going to fight or tell your big brother?" 
As an eleven-year-old and already streetwise it did not take long for me to mix with the wrong crowd, not that they were bad kids just playful cheeky and a bit of a pain.
I knew some of my classmates already but there were a few unknowns and he soon became obvious they were teacher`s pets. Not my kind of friends.
September that year was quite cold and I was one of the few still kitted out in short trousers, not wearing skidders [underpants] was a bit of a wake-up and the constant teasing had me dreading to go to school.
It was time for our first french lesson with Mr Martin our form teacher.
It was bad enough to learn English so I didn`t appreciate the value of french; I still don`t.
After all these years I still have never had to utter one word of it.
Mr Martin although a fine teacher was not the best dressed or hygienic and constantly had stained trousers which we assumed to be urine.
In later years having realised he was a leach for all the young ladies, we assumed that the stains might be something else.
His dirtiest of habits was, unfortunately, picking his nose which probably accounted for him speaking in a nasal tone.
Picking your nose for all to see is one thing but getting rid of it was dodgy for all the class.
A certain Ocker Hollowood, a copper in later life was the first to be bombarded with the green lumps of snot.
He quickly retaliated with a loud "Who`s flicking snot,"
A perfectly asked question. Of course, we all knew but nobody out up their hands. Detention was on the card for his outburst.
Science was a subject I could get myself into and a magnificent Mr Gutteridge was our mentor.
He quickly got to know the plight of his pupils and his generosity extended to donating clothes to many kids where he had a fondness for our H.
I think he saw his early self in H.
Carpentry, metalwork and technical drawing were all subjects I could get into.
History with weedy looking Mr Smith was another of those topics I could and would not ever understand along with religious education.
I was frequently slippered by the Weed as he became known for not paying attention.
Miss Alcock became our RE teacher and she made the mistake of asking pupils to read from the bible.
My turn for her wrath was when she asked me to read a paragraph from Deuteronomy [If I remember correctly] which contained the word "Bastard", and I went to great lengths to exaggerate the text.
Time to meet the head or in my case the deputy head Mr Bolton.
He was certainly a master with the tawse, three/four-fingered length of leather designed to be administered on the behind or on the hand.
I was to have six so I opted for three on each hand.
The first time the pain is excruciating but I did not fancy him stroking my ass not wearing underpants.
Talking to the main recipient of punishments H, he said next time put some paper down your trousers and take the ass punishment. Too late now but I will bear that in mind next time as I am liable to be sent to the head a lot.
Having met most of the teachers the next main step was Lanky Mr Mcshane the PE teacher.
A fitness fanatic but dogged with ill health he led a culture of working them till they drop. Them being us.
Being taller than most of my counterparts I was singled out as a potential team player probably football.
Before long I was involved in numerous sports, not any that I wanted to be part of.
Football in my early days was a hard winter sport, none of this light plastic-type balls no they were heavy leather panelled with a hard exposed lace.
Kicking the thing was bad enough but if you were stupid, you could chance the odd header. This was not recommended on a cold wet day.
My first and almost last game for the school was versus TP Riley a slightly posher school than ours.
They must have had the biggest, heaviest twelve years old centre forward in the country.
I was quite big but he towered a good six inches above me. I figured he was more like sixteen.
Their kick-off and this giant is passed the ball, whereupon he gives it one almighty kick from inside their area. I saw it coming towards my head as a left-back and contemplating taking one for the team.
Somehow it sailed over my head into the goalie`s face and took him three feet into his goalmouth.
Less than one minute and one goal down, we were in trouble.
I asked the goalkeeper what had happened and he admitted that he thought I was going to stop it so looked away for a second. a big mistake and a very sore face.
In my defensive role, it was my job to stop this giant and I did with some superior footwork and sliding tackles.
I realised that he had never been challenged before and became very dubious of coming by me preferring for some other player to suffer my wrath.
They gave us a bit of a trouncing but I had marked his card for future meetings.
Of course, the big bug bearer with PE was the obligatory shower and the inevitable towel whipping.
Some of the oggling by the PE staff was a bit off-putting but we had never heard of the likes of Jimmy Saville and Gary {Do you want to be in my gang} at that time. The real embarrassment was to be pushed into the girls changing room, not that I would mind in later years.
Some of these girls were a little weird with strange bumps and the like.
Sports meant afterschool training and I had things I wanted to do.
John my eldest sibling was ready for the workplace and H had his own mind so I was the designated younger children minder.
Trying to occupy young kids when you want to go out with friends was a ball ache and ingenuity was needed to get out of it.
Detention worked for a short time but they would still be waiting for my arrival.
Around this time I was interested in bicycles and building them from scrap parts located at the local scrap merchant Lonsdales.
being a kid they gave me the parts for scrap value which was only pennies.
I was extremely proud of my racing bike painted in the colours of the big-name football team at the time " Juventus".
It did not take much time for the racer to go out of fashion to be replaced by cow horn big-wheeled tracking bike; The predecessor to the modern-day mountain bike.
There were a few places to go barmy on your bikes but one of the favourites was Park Lime pits plus the adventures of exploring the lime caves even the flooded ones.
It was quite common at the time to take a group ride to Bridgenorth.
A nice ride there with long winding hills but the same hills had to be climbed on the way back.
Not being at home I had the "Where have you been? pop to the shops and get me twenty Park Drive."
Although only a five hundred yard round trip  you could wager on my return "And I need some bread and cheese."
It was no use arguing, mom was quick at the clip around the ears.
Of course, I was then lumbered with looking after the kids.
As much as I enjoyed football there was a time and place for everything and out neighbours from two doors away from the "Carringtons" another large family had no concept of time.
Eleven or twelve o clock at night they would still be kicking something about under the lamplight, unfortunately under our front window.
It was time to give them a lesson in kicking things other than balls.
Farley`s rusk biscuits, a wheaning product for growing babies came in a fairly large packet conveniently the same size as a half end ducker[ half a house brick].
Placing said brick into the said packet and leaving it on the footpath knowing the Carrington's would not resist an almighty kick was just too tempting not to set up.
If only we had today`s camera technology and the "You have been framed "Shows, not even BeadlesAbout.
Before long there is one of the family approaching, Colin a streaky bag of shite as my dad used to call him.
He spotted the box and with the Gusto of Cannonball Taylor, a Walsall footballer took the bait and the awaiting penalty. The box soared a good ten yards with the "It`s a goal,"  before he realised that he had severely hurt his foot.
There was no night football for a while.
The only positive thing to come out of the fifties in our house was the introduction of television, what a fantastic piece of technology.
This meant that instead of mom bugging me to babysit we could plonkl them in front of the telly.
Looking back some of the programs were pretty naff although I did like "I love Lucy, Gunsmoke" and some of the available documentaries.
The younger kids liked Andy Pandy who was sacked for Muffin the Mule.
Mom`s firm favourite was "Lunchbox" With the "Crossroads "matriarch Noele Gordon  followed closely by the first of the American imports "Dragnet."
When sent to bed instead of sitting on the stairs listening to the likes of Dan Dare we could listen to lots of different media albeit only a couple of channels.
Many times we begged to come into the room and watch the old black and white films on black and white tv.
I was particularly interested in "No room at the inn" and I am still awaiting the repeat.
A couple of years passed I was thirteen I needed a paperboy job to get some money in my pockets.
Expecting mom or dad to pay us any pocket money with all the kids was a no-no.
I worked at small newsagents called Gallaghers for a few weeks when H was joining the workforce and his job at Hewitt's newsagents was available so off I went.
As I said pocket money was an unknown thing to a large family although I did suspect the girls were getting preferential treatment. No, I never mentioned it more than once, my ears are still burning.
Here was a chance to have my own money, alright the early hours were a nuisance but I would soon be rolling in it.
It was not long before I was allocated the best paper round also the largest but concentrated into four or five streets so relatively fast to deliver.
By now H was part of the wage-earning fraternity and also had special privileges like being allowed out at night as long as he got home before the regimental locking of the front door.
I had the advantage of being first out the door in the mornings, no matter the weather.
I was fast at marking up my newspapers with pencil but soon knew the addresses and just took the correct number of papers and periodicals [magazines], with the need to address them.
Many of the delivery staff were unreliable and there was always the extra round to do if I wanted.
consequently, I was doing two rounds in the morning and most times two at night.
The big bonus was the money collection on Friday nights with plenty of tips from many satisfied customers.
There were many times when my tips exceeded my earnings.
Nobody worried about being robbed and could put up a fight with most of my peers.
Dad was being inquisitive one day and I thought that was strange, he has never asked me about anything before.
I soon found out, he asked me to pay £2.00 per week to mom to help her out. Thirteen years old and having to pay board and lodging. I dare not refuse but I kept my business to myself henceforth.
Christmas was a wonderful time of year for tips and I took Nineteen pounds one year, no I did not brag about it.
Aged fourteen I was a big boy now and had got into the habit of smoking, not that I enjoyed it but all the film stars smoked and I wanted to look the business.
The long flowing locks and fag in gob to impress worked on some of the girls. Yes, I had discovered the opposite sex.
One of the girls in my class had a terrible attack of acne, she asked me for a date, I was embarrassed and horrified and retorted by addressing her as Tsetse Bug, a name that stuck with her for many years and to my regret gave her a good payback years later when I did not recognise her. By now beautiful clear skin and very desirable young lady.
What is that motto about "Be careful who you tread on, on the way up because you meet them on the way back down."
All schools have their bullies and I did not like that culture. I was bigger than most pupils of my age.
There is always a stirrer who questions if you think you could fight so and so. This one a certain David Reynolds organised fights but never got into them, strange I thought.
He managed to create a fight with one of the local hard nut families who lived within a few yards of our house, so we all knew each other.
I did not want the fight but being called out meant you had to do it.
Fighting pose adopted we faced each other then the ruckus started.
I got the first punch in and put him on the floor, being a clean fighter I let him get up and then managed to stop all his punches with my face.
Mike Tyson's opponents never looked this bad. From then on I vowed never to stop the punching or kicking till the other fighter gave up.
This attitude came in useful at a much later date.
When my dad saw the state of me, being the caring thoughtful parent that he was he exclaimed, "You better get around there and sort it out."
I thought about it, looked at my face and decided there and then "Bugger That".
My dad in his day was a bit of a ruffian and fighting was the normal pastime even with years of marriage and many kids behind him, he still managed to get into bother. The reputation you see and H was following in his footsteps.
The local sport around Harden as we preferred to call it was Pigeon flying or fancying, not that I saw it as a sport, but for morons.
Our other next-door neighbours, another large family, the Mansells and their neighbours the Robinsons were avid flyers and always in competition.
To me all the pigeons did was twitter and shit, Nobody ever served them up or lunch, not like today`s Masterchefs.
Where is the skill in training racing pigeons only for them to become "Roofers".
One of the nuttier Robinsons would spend hours coaching his roofers to land in the shed only to wring their necks for not coming into the shed.
Another branch of the Mansell's had mental problems had would happily gallop up and down the road patting his behind.
One of the local rogue families, [ no we were not saints either,] was the Vaughans. Senior Vaughan was the local bookmaker an illegal trade at the time who frequented many houses to take illicit bets, my mom was one of his regular clients.
Her identity for many years was simply JDD an acronym of James, David and Dennis only to be replaced by DDD with the arrival of Diane.
With her winnings, we contemplated jetting off to sunnier climes but opted for Blackpool.
Old man Vaughan got richer and we got poorer.
Their other claim to fame was their one child being the youngest in the country to be gaoled in an adult prison at the tender age of sixteen.Yes, fame indeed.
At the newsagents, if we provided a new customer with the first weeks' payment was given to us as a bonus.
At this time there was a major council house building program occurring with all the slums being demolished.
I was generally on to new customers fairly quick and indeed got so many customers that I created two new rounds.
I got most of the people living in the new Leamore Flats and the new part of Beechdale.
I was awash with money and became popular with the girls, a bit shallow but I was nearly fifteen and was going to make the most of it.
In class, I never went lower than third in the school exams and was called to the headmaster's study.
Of eight exams over four years I had topped the form five times and second twice and third once in my first senior year.
My form teacher and the head were asking me to do the fifth year which at the time was voluntary.
They were curious as to why I did not take up the opportunity to go to grammar school having sailed through the eleven plus.
The main reason was Money or the lack of it not that I knew any of the opportunity as mama and papa never told me, which was no surprise.
You can get financial help if you are in the poorer section of the community but there are many other hidden expenses to find like rugby shirts, emblazoned tops and lots of sports-related regalia.
With siblings popping out all the time there would have been no chance.
In their wisdom the teachers opted to meet up with my parents, I should have saved them the trouble.
Dad`s immortal words and many other parents," We have kept him for fifteen years, it is his turn to help with the family finances so fuck off no."
The lure of being the first pupil to maybe attend university also fell on deaf ears.
I tried many times to adjust my dad`s thinking as I was already contributing to the household budget and he finally relented.
Overjoyed I informed my teacher and my friends who were glad I would be joining them.
The joy did not last long, I was constantly being barraged with "You think you would be keen to leave school and go to work and earn a proper living."
H did not help much by waving wads of money at me on paydays.
After months of being harangued, I could take it no longer and put it into my head to leave at the earliest legal age, and regretfully that is what I did.
It was possible to leave once eighteen, at Christmas time, Easter or end of the school year, July.
I told nobody apart from my family and just never went back to school after Christmas.
Mrs Hewitt the newsagent owner asked me to take the top job at her shop running the paperboys and move into management.
I wanted a proper job with proper money and the choice of working Saturday and Sunday.
I hadn`t got a clue what to do, no qualifications, no preset thoughts only the thought of shutting my dad up.
One of my school friends told me of a job at his place, A trainee tool setter. That sounded interesting. The money was only marginally better than my previous paper job but his time mom would be taking my unopened pay packet and slipping me whatever she deemed adequate.
I had no choice I took the job but still did a large well paid for Sunday newspaper round to top up the pound per week mom gave me.
This job was boring and meant years of learning how to work the various machines and not setting them.
I lasted three weeks before I was off.
There were plenty of jobs on offer so you could walk out, go down the road and walk into another job easily. I did not want that kind of life. I witnessed it with dad and now with John and H.
I wanted long term and security.
John would change his job for extra tanner per hour [2 1/2 pence].
H joined john`s firm several times but not for me.
Dad was trying to get me into his type of work or at least into construction whilst he was on laid-off time due to the weather.
Using my excellent school reports for references I acquired a job as an indentured apprentice on the manufacturing of making machine tools with a Beechdale firm Brown and Wards.
A job where at least there was a future and actually using the grey matter.
I was on six months trial before I was needed to sign the indentured papers, then I was committed to five long years.
The job although skilled was monotonous and involve lots of drilling, thread tapping and the dreaded filing.
I had nightmares of filing.
I queried one of my superiors on the monetary rewards after finishing the apprenticeship and I was not impressed.
My trial was up and it was time to sign or just plod on as a labourer.
A no brainer really, I was on my way.
Most weekends I would be at the Masefield road part of Blakenall, playing football over the Hardenschool using the two outer buildings as goals and the obligatory scaling the rooves to generally mess about.
Let me emphasise NO thieving or damage was ever done although we were breaking the trespassing laws
If the weather was not too bad we would venture to Pelsall common and have a proper game.
We would start a game with perhaps four aside then eventually be joined by other youths maybe seven aside only for a few more to join to maybe fifteen aside.
After all the starts and stops we had been playing well over three hours so it was decided the next goal were the winners even if we were twenty nil up.
My main friends were a John[Fozzer]Foster, Graham Allen, Michael Whitehouse and a Johnny Brookes later joined by Gordon an older lad than us.
We were all earning a bit of money and Saturday night was living it up either going to one of many cinemas or dance halls, in particular, the Townhall or the Mayfair.
A couple of us were able to pass off as being eighteen IE old enough to drink, and we soon got into that.
Bloxwich Baths, Willenhall baths and the townhall often featured the latest pop groups of the day including The Hollies, Screaming Lord Sutch[ of the monster raving looney political party], Johnny Kidd and the pirates and many more.
It was at one of the pubs we frequented that Fozzer informed me of a job as a trainee HGV mechanic would be coming soon at his garage HW Winfields in Wolverhampton st.
I`m glad to say I applied for the job and was accepted, now was resigning from my apprentice, will that be a problem?
I always fancied myself as a petrol head so this was ideal for me to find out the basics of how motors run.
Fozzer was the dog`s body doing all the menial tasks, I figured that would soon be my roll.
The two mechanics to whom I would be eternally grateful were a stubby local man Teddy Gee, and an ex Dudley man, Johnny King.
Both were excellent mechanics and relished teaching the new boy in all aspects of engineering.
They had been conscripted into the British Army and amalgamated into the illustrious REME.
They realised that I had more interest than Fozzer and gave me more interesting jobs to do.
Fozzer was a bit mouthy to them one day and was given the greasing.
Greasing involved grabbing the victim removing his trousers and plastering his private parts with axle grease.
He put up a good fight and got away with just a headful of the foul-smelling lotion.
I soon learned most aspects of mechanics and it was pretty obvious that Fozzer was heading for pastures new.
He was not being sacked but he fancied trying to learn a different trade and joined the RAOC, the transport side of the Army.
His dad was an HGV  driver so the move to follow in his dad`s trade was an incentive.
By now I had learned the basics of driving and was allowed to move many of the vehicles around the large yard.
I needed transport! I was too young for a car licence but I could and did own and drive a motorbike.
A little BSA 125 cc, not a big bike but plenty of power to get me to and from work and be flashy with my walking pals.
Helmets were not compulsory and still being a smoker I could pose all day.
Having recently seen the Marlon Brando film "The Wild One" I was one of the boys.
An up and coming was the start of the Mods and Rocker culture.
I prefer the roar of a bike to the putput of a scooter but I preferred the fashion of Mods. I was to be the first Mocker.
At home there was a difference of opinions, H and myself got more into the motorbike culture but the similarly aged neighbour was a Lambretta fanatic, who relished revving up his piece of tin to the annoyance of all.
He was Jimmy Green one of an equally large family but was known as "Snotter Green," for his disgusting habit of spitting. His sister a very desirable lady was in my class at school.
Revenge was sweet and both of us bikers constantly revved up our machines much to the annoyance of the street.
In my wisdom, I had let my monthly insurance plan expire and it was only a matter of time before I would be stopped.
Driving with a fag in mouth I passed a police car waiting for an easy nick, today was my turn.
They followed me until it was safe to signal me to stop. Racing away was never an option.
Of all the people who could have joined the police and now stopping me was my old schoolmate Ocker Hollowood.
"You are driving and smoking, don`t you know how stupid and dangerous that is?"
Realising who I was I felt confident it would be a rollicking to satisfy his accompanying senior officer. It was not too be.
He felt it was his duty to issue me with a driving dangerously ticket and to produce my documents at the ageing Bloxwich police station.
I explained to him that the cigarette was not being smoked and I was only keeping it for later, and in my mouth seemed an ideal place to carry it.
Well, it was never going to wash even though I was telling the truth.
I went to my insurers to get the latest six-month certificate only to find my insurance was not valid on that day, now I was in trouble.
They would not backdate it even though I had to pay the missing premium.
This mistake was going to cost me.
A court day came and I tried to explain my mitigating circumstances but "We have heard it all before," denied me any chance of being innocent.
I was fined but worst of all I was banned for six months.
I would be seventeen in four months time and applying for my provisional car driving licence. I was devastated by my out and out stupidity.
Six months came and went, provisional licence in hand I applied for driving lessons.
The school could tell that I already had some driving skills and filled in my application for my one and only driving test.
On my quest to be a super stud I had met and dated a Yvonne Woods a pretty girl [ Well I would say that wouldn`t I] from the Mossley area.
I thought Staghill road was rough but not as bad as her place.
Fozzer had joined his unit and was currently serving in Aden whilst Graham had started courting a Blakenall girl  Janet who had him well and truly under the thumb.
This girl knew my girl so she thought I would be the same as Graham.
She became a nightmare phoning my workplace up all the time.
I soon got fed up of her possessiveness and constantly missed our dates.
Surely she could take a hint but no, Next morning I am called into the office phone again.
I tried to explain that it was not always practical to meet her on weeknights, I was always doing overtime and needed to clean myself up.
"Well, you managed to see your mates at the Royal Oak  last night."
Good old Janet the mouthy cow.
"I sometimes think you prefer your mates to me."
Well, that was it, "I do actually, I`m only seventeen I don`t want to be tied down yet."
I don`t think that went down too well but at least it would be the end of my nightmare.
The sixties driving test probably was easier than today, the nearby junction 10 of the M6 had not been opened yet and a lot of roads only had basic markings at junctions and some had none at all.
Only one basic fault on the driving when my winkle picker shoes snagged the controls and I stalled the car. I kept my composure and restarted the car to the satisfaction of my examiner.
Driving over, a few highway codes were tossed at me,[ None of these theory tests of today] and I knew the answers, Viola eight lessons and passing my test first time, a fine achievement if I have to say so myself.
The licence in hand the next big step was to obtain a car with insurance.
One of the HGV drivers Tony Rubberneck Jordan gifted me a car when he updated to a better car.
My first legal car an A40 Somerset in black.
It was not the prettiest of cars but it was mine and I gave it some stick particularly as the overrun of the car created a wonderful loud roaring exhaust. Nowadays you would have to pay for such as sound.
On returning home I would overrev the car and coast down the small incline of our street making this roar, where are you snotter Green?
It was a great car but had the tendency to jam in second gear, not welcome when you are miles away.
Luckily I had mastered the knack of removing the gearbox side plate and correcting the fault. I did this many times.
Mom was still taking my wage packet on Friday night and giving me a couple of quid out of eighteen pounds or so.
I couldn`t manage not with smoking drinking and my new hobby driving.
I know she needed the money but I was contributing more than my dad and I was working many hours in shitty conditions.
I occasionally had a drink with dad and H who soon learned the art of piss artist.
I supped the last of my pint, put on my coat and made ready for home.
Dad was curious to why I was leaving so early and when I explained I was skint he asked: "How come?"
I mentioned working all the long hours and that with mom clearing out my pay packet I never had any real money to my name.
Well, dad got into a row with mom but told her I was to start paying board from then on and not wait till I was eighteen.
£4.00 per week was the going rate and I could understand why mom was a little upset, losing £10 plus per week.
A new road user, smoker and a drinker something had to go.
I got paid on Friday night, went to the White Horse over the road, had three pints and twenty Woodbines popped to the garage and purchased three gallons of petrol all for less than a pound.
The prices do seem desirable but you have to remember Five pounds per week take-home pay at my age was considered to be pretty good.
The fags had to go, not that I really enjoyed them and it was a pain, friends bumming them off you all the time, so no great loss.
I had regular letters of Fozzer and I was becoming quite jealous of his army lifestyle. He was due to be reposted to Germany and I was envious of the travelling.
Another indirect relative and friend had also enlisted in the South Staffs and he was also bragging of how good army life was. I was starting to get obsessed with the thought of joining the military but only if I could join creamy REME and get a proper trade I could use in later years.
The big Ah but was my dad, there was no way he was going to let me join as a seventeen-year-old and losing contributions to the family finances.
Here we go again "We have kept you for [insert relevant number] for you to sod off and not pay your way."
I could see his point but Walsall in the early sixties was not the in place to be.
He made a point of stressing there is no way I could enlist without his permission and that will not be happening.
I don`t know if he was worried about me being killed in action or losing a weekly wage, I suspect the latter.
However, I bugged him and bugged him until he surrendered after my eighteenth birthday.
The law was changing and I only needed to be 18 to sign my life away but I wanted his blessing.
I had already set the wheels in motion and had done all preliminary tests. 
I had impressed them in the written tests and had passed the medical, now was the time to attack dad.
I informed him that I was eligible to enlist with REME probably as a Vehicle mechanic but there were many options if not.
Reluctantly he had a day off work and joined me in the Wolverhampton enlistment office to sign me off.
The best day of my life.


Submitted: November 07, 2019

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