MY EARLY YEARS. Childhood.

A childhood in Selly Oak

I was born in 1948 to Ethel and Harold Perry. I was the second child, after my sister Rita who was born in 1945. Cynthia followed in 1950 and Clive in 1953. Dad was a tram driver at the time, on the fast trams along the Bristol Road towards Longbridge. They closed the tram system in 1952 and I never found out why he did not transfer to buses. Instead, he stayed with electric vehicles and became a milkman at TASCOS at the bottom of Umberslade Road.

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Electric trams at Selly Oak depot                   State of the art electric milk float 1953

We had been given a prefab at 94 Umberslade Road, Selly Oak (but closer to Stirchley). They were well-appointed with modern features, a fridge and a built-in ironing board. By 1953 we had a television and watched the Coronation on a black and white fourteen-inch screen. With our growing family, we moved in the late fifties further down the road to a semi-detached three-bedroom council house at 134 Umberslade Road.

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The type of prefab we lived in.                        Our council house was the next one round
Ours was new when we moved in.                 round the corner on Umberslade Road.

I went to Raddlebarn Primary School, played in Muntz Park, watched trains from the bridge next to the Country Girl, was sent to collect bread from Ford’s Bakery, worked for Bert Sharp cleaning his car and at his newsagent’s shop (later Bennett’s). I also worked for F. A. Parkes, the butcher.

Sharp's newsagent JPEG

Bert Sharp’s newsagency, later Mrs Bennett’s. My sister, Cynthia Allen, and her husband Ken later managed it for Mrs Bennett.

11 Raddlebarn Road Mrs Entwistle

Mrs Entwistle’s shop at 11 Raddlebarn Road. Here we bought basic groceries such as eggs, tins, sugar, flour, jam. You still had to go to Ford’s for bread, Beryl’s for flowers, Harston’s next door for cleaning materials, the sweet shop, the butcher, the chemist etc etc.

Although I grew up on the ‘other’ side of Raddlebarn Road, with semi-detached houses and the green spaces of Muntz Park, I seemed to spend more time among the red brick terraces. My father had grown up in Dawlish Road and after the war my parents were also living in the same road. At Raddlebarn Road School, my classmates often came from the same streets. I went to St Wulstan’s church in Exeter Road; my best friend, Roy, lived on Hubert Road and we went together to the church as choirboys.

This was the centre of my world as a child. Even as I grew up, it did not extend much further. My family could not afford holidays except for once when we went to Southsea. I was able to go to the New Forest with the Wolf Cubs when I was eight years old. Apart from that, my world was limited to how far I could walk. School, church, shops, the park, the doctor, hospital, work, the cinema were all within walking distance. Our family outings would be a picnic in Cannon Hill Park, just within walking distance. Once in a while my parents might take one or other of us to town on the 41 or 45 bus at the bottom of the road to go to the Market Hall and the Rag Market near the Bull Ring.

In 1960, as I turned 12, I went to King Edwards Camp Hill School. This was still just within walking distance but a slog up Cartland Road towards Vicarage Road. The 27 bus only cost a penny or so but I might walk and buy sweets instead. Eventually I bought my own bicycle, on hire purchase for instalments of 7/6d paid for by my paper-round.

My world grew bigger. I cycled to Stratford-on-Avon and spent time on my bike in the countryside round Wythall. My friends at Camp Hill came to school on the Outer Circle bus. I would visit them occasionally and reached as far as Acocks Green and Sheldon. Later, I bought a Vespa and reached the south coast for camping holidays in Lulworth Cove. And once I went with Roy’s family to Weston-Super-Mare.

My travels did not even take me out of England except once for a weekend camping in Llangollen. The first time I visited London I was en route to see a girlfriend in Walton-on-Thames who I had met in Lulworth. Arriving at Euston, I went to Waterloo by underground. I saw the sights, Bond Street, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, as platform signs on the tube.

When I finally left for London in 1967 I was ready for new experiences. I had no idea what to expect but I was willing to try.

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