When we were kids…..

at The Haven, Blakenhall.

We went back to our childhoods with memories of carts made out of wood, orange boxes, string and pram wheels- Joe still knows exactly how to do it and if I can get the materials I’m sure we could make one! Gwen told us about ‘liberating’ pram wheels from the Tansad factory in Tipton, one child would hop over the wall and throw wheels back to their friends.

Whips and tops and decorating them with the foil from cigarette packets, which led us to ask- when did they stop putting that foil in the cigarette packets? and led us to anther conversation about Capstan, Senior Service and the vouchers you got in Players No 6, so you could collect them up and get ‘gifts’ from a book, and then on to green shield stamps.

Back on to childhood toys with hoops and sticks and playing ‘tip cat’, then the inevitable ‘fire cans’. Health and Safety officers stop reading now because children really did poke holes in old tins, light fires in them or put fire embers in and then swing them round their heads on string or wire. Everyone assures me that no-one ever got burned.

If that wasn’t bad enough we them got on to knocking doors and running away (‘red apple’ or ‘rosy apple’) tying door knobs together and knocking both doors, and the bad tempered old woman who would come out with a knife in her hand shouting “I’ll get hold of you lot!”

A safer subject was dolls, old porcelain ones and home-made ones, and jigsaws (Joe has lots of framed ones) and cuddly toys- Tony went to get his (rather large) black panther, Cyril.

The conversation took several more turns then came to coins, and old money, and when did farthings go out? and when did decimal currency come in?      (We found out, do you know the answers?)

Joe took us back to Walsall town centre where  two women, Joanie and Mary,  (friends, apparently) would have a fight every Saturday night, with an audience gathered that included the local constabulary.

Other random information was that Featherstone was known as Chinatown, and Gwen was remembering all the pubs from Ocker Hill to Wednesbury. The Crown and Cushion, Silent House, The Boat, Dartmouth (top and bottom) and The Nelson……. can you add any to the list?

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Wendy’s gloves

wendy's gloves

You might remember we talked about gloves at Finchfield a million years ago.
Wendy had scanned the nylon gloves she wore on her wedding day. She said looking at the scan made her think of Ladies in Crinolines and it inspired this artwork.

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Award winning sausages

Emmie's award winning Great Grandson. thanks to the Express and Star for the photo

Emmie’s award winning Great Grandson. thanks to the Express and Star for the photo

Can you remember the post about Andy and Mrs Brown’s Boys? In it I talked about how sometimes the conversation is about now and not the past. Well Emmie at Woodcross wanted to do something about her Great-grandson who is an award winning sausagemaker. Here is her collage!

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Ann’s collage

Ann did this fantastic collage with help from Dawn who is usually in the kitchen getting lunch. The background is her husband’s christening veil that has been in the family for years. The text is one of the songs he sang as a Bevan Boy during the war. The shoe is one of her own children’s shoes.
Great collage Ann. We need to scan it full size at the museum.

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War Bride

Tony's collage.  Like the lipstick Pat!

Tony’s collage. Like the lipstick Pat!

Tony the bingo caller at Woodcross did this great collage from Photos of him and Pat dressed up at a WWII day at Bantock House last year. Tony is dressed as a pilot and Pat as his War bride.
Makes a change from bingo calling!

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Who says its talking about old stuff

ANdy's collage of his favourite tv programme 'Mrs Brown's boys'

Andy’s collage of his favourite tv programme
‘Mrs Brown’s boys’

We have conversations in the conversation clubs; sometimes they are about things that happened a long time ago; sometimes they are about something that happened last week.

Andy at Tong Court wanted to talk about the TV comedy ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. This is the collage he made.

Sometimes talking about last week is as important as talking about 50 years ago.
Its about the talking.

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The Yodelling Whistler

Image

When I was at Woodcross before easter I didnt have chance to hear Ann’s cassette of Ronnie Ronalde, the yodelling whister.

I have heard yodellers and I have heard whistlers but I have never heard of someone combining them

I can wait for the next session

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Jack’s collage

Jack's collage

Jack’s collage

I want to share with you the story of Jack’s Collage. Jack spent quite a few years in Kenya. He had some photos of various members of his family from then that he was keen to have a go combining into a family collage. The original photograph involved an incident when an elephant marched through the garden of where they were staying. This was a bit of a scary experience and one of his daughters, Ruth, freaked out and locked herself in the car and refused to come out. This story was the basis for his collage.
Jack had the idea of combining separate individual photos of his wife and children into one collage and had a good go at doing this. He had this great photo of Ruth sat on a wall and he put her sat on the back of the elephant. He was struggling with the different sizes of people in photographs and could change them in his photo viewing software so I suggested that we could take away the backgrounds and resize his family using Photoshop.
We worked together using a tablet and pen mouse which is a bit tricky and Jack had a bloomin’ good go at this. I finished them off at home and then on the last session Jack was the Creative Director, telling me where to put people and how big they should be. Cheeky Michael peeping out from behind the car was a big hit with the other members of the Tong Court Group
I think it’s a smashing collage. What do you think?

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David Attenborough and back again, via the Scenic Route!

Jean brought in the Mail on Sunday television magazine as there was a Q&A with David Attenborough where he names Deanna Durbin as one of his favourite singers, there was even a picture of her. Strange, we said, how you don’t hear about someone for years but then we were just talking about her and here she is! Apparently she retired from showbiz in 1949, going to live with her husband (a producer) in Paris. Internet research backed up Jean’s very astute recollections. Greta Garbo was mentioned- and of course someone said “I vont to be alone” as you have to say that when anyone mentions Garbo.

Margaret enjoyed Mamma Mia “you sang all the way through Mum”- apparently there’s a singalong Karaoke DVD. Pierce Brosnan can’t sing, though. Colin takes his son to the pictures and has seen a football film called ‘Goals’ as well as films like 102 Dalmatians. The last ‘grown-up’ film he can remember seeing is (probably) ‘Fatal Attraction’. His Dad was a projectionist at Woods in Bilston.

It’s expensive to go to the pictures these days- in the old days you got a cartoon picture, coming attractions, Pathe News, the main picture and a second film. All for 1’9”. (That’s one shilling and nine pennies, about 9 pence nowadays).
There were two picture houses in Market Harborough. Wolverhampton had loads of them! Jack went to Bentley Bridge once, he used to go to the Lighthouse. He liked comedy films- George Formby, Will Hay. Laurel and Hardy were very good, too. Everyone agreed on that.

Jack knew a bit about Stan Laurel, his birthplace, Ulverston, make a lot of the connection- Jack grew up not far from there.

The next big question was “Was Charlie Chaplin born to a gypsy family in Smethwick?” We talked about Rita Hayworth, and Petula Clark (she was also in the MoS magazine, and she’s wearing well, too) She married a Frenchman. Kenneth More was good- he had Motor Neurone disease. He was in Genevieve, the film about the London to Brighton vintage car run. Larry Adler played the theme tune on his Mouth Organ.

Jean said Britain’s Best Brain was a good programme, Jack said things like that taxed his mind too much. He wasn’t a fan of any quiz shows, not even Mastermind.

Jack used to teach maths to engineers at the old Polytechnic.

We started to discuss what images would be good for the creative work. Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin- someone interesting, not just ‘film stars’ . Some of the old silent stars were just slapstick, some more complex. Chaplin had depth. He got into trouble- we checked on the computer to make sure of our facts and we were right, he was left the United States after being accused of being a Communist sympathiser and lived in Switzerland. “He was a clever bloke”.

Whistle Down the Wind, that was a good film. Evan got us onto wildlife (back to David Attenborough) and “are zoos cruel?” “Well there’s not so much need for them now as you can see all the animals on the television”. Apparently, a former dolphin trainer had said how he realised that what he’d been doing was cruel. Pat saw dolphins in Australia. We talked about Born Free, George and Joy Adamson, how Evan was used to seeing ‘The Big Five’ regularly when he was in Kenya. The grim subject of poaching and how the market for ivory and medicines was taking its toll.

Evan likes The Beatles, Bob Marley, Little Britain, Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys. And also the actor who played Idi Amin in the film. And Miriam Makeba, and Boney M. And football, and boxing.

Everyone liked the image of Tong Court that’s in the Cosplay exhibition at the gallery (by David Hancock) and would like to visit to see it.

Jack later emailed me later about games and ‘do-it-yourself’ entertainments, such a lot of material that it deserves its own blog post, which it shall have.

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Making our own entertainment….

We went from clinging to a set of drawers listening to ‘Journey into Space’ on the radio (no, we weren’t really, we were listening to Pat telling us about it) to having an operation on the kitchen table in the bedroom -we didn’t really do that either but it was a riveting tale from Jack.

In between we covered Coronation Street, ‘old time’ music on the radio in Jamaica, Deal or No Deal, Jack’s current project of recording his memories for his family (he’s scanned hundreds of slides) to ‘making your own entertainment’.

For Pat this might be going to the barn to see her Dad making and fixing televisions. He had a TV shop and would often be busy soldering- “we used to be amazed when it actually worked!” He had brilliant idea for a generator, put it in the cottage over the road. Pat and her brother would go and fetch paraffin, they used a broomstick carried between them, with a bucket on it, walked 5 miles to the hardware shop, working together as a team. That generator was very noisy. A quieter version was based on an old bike and they’d take turns to pedal. “If we stopped pedalling or slowed down the picture on the TV screen would start to flicker!” That really does count as making your own entertainment!

Other pastimes often involved playing outdoors, Andy played in the Jamaican countryside with his friends, Pat played in the river, making a dam with cement bags.They used to run down to the water with soap and a rag to have a wash, “it was very social, a good way of meeting people”. Jean played in streams, using a piece of wood for a boat. Friday night was fish and chips- “we’d stuff umpteen bags against us chests, under our duffle coats”.

Colin grew up in Bilston and played football in the street “there wasn’t a lot to do indoors, we preferred to be out” You could stay out ‘til 10 in the summer. Pat’s Dad made a flat above the barn for her brothers, the girls envied them- they’d got a tv and record players.

Jack had no radio, there was no electricity in the house. The neighbours used an accumulator battery, that you had to take to be charged up. Every Monday night was Henry Hall, “Dad used to like that” and there was a detective, the theme was by a Russian composer, always sounded a bit spooky. It may have been Paul Temple. Or may not. Colin was looking on his phone, thought it might be Coronation Scot- Alan looked on the laptop but we couldn’t quite resolve the mystery. It might have been Rimsky Korsakov’s Scherezade.

Jack listens to classical music, and goes sometimes to Birmingham Symphony Hall. Several people like the Yesterday Channel, and the one that had old programmes on.  Tommy Handley was good, and George Formby made you laugh.

Jack’s operation (to remove his adenoids) was on the kitchen table, but it had been scrubbed and carried to the bedroom specially. It was before the NHS and everyone had to be paid. Luckily his parents had put money by with the ‘Friendly Society’.

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