Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

George's Family

I lived in Herbert Street and went to St. Mary's school, by St. Mary's Church. Just down Little's lane was St. Patrick's Church and school, about 200yards from ours. I went to St. Mary's church until I was 30. I was in the choir when I was 8 and went to church seven times a day. It was a lovely church with one of the biggest organs in Wolverhampton.

My mom and dad worked to keep our heads above water. If you missed the rent which was 4s.6d, you were out in the street with all of your possessions. Furniture was just bare wooden tables and chairs.

My dad was neither Protestant or Catholic, his mother had been married twice, once to a Protestant and once to a Catholic. He used to go into the Hibernian occasionally, but his main pub was the Four Ashes, which was lower down Stafford Street.

We had a set back. My dad lost 3 and a half fingers at Dews Brothers, in Moseley Street, where he worked. They were stock-lock manufacturers, and  used to make a lot of church door locks. In those days, church door locks had to be put into wooden stocks, with big keys. He was planing one of the locks when the stock broke. His fingers went into the rotating blades in the machine.

Looking along Stafford Street towards the town centre. St. Mary's vicarage is on the right, the church and school are behind the trees. Photo courtesy of Eardley Lewis.
There was no transport to get him to hospital, so he had to sit in the yard with his fingers covered up.

My mother worked in the same place. She was up in the packing house with the bosses. She had a job there and could almost go to please herself, as long as she packed everything that had to go that day. Things were packed in brown paper and parcelled up.

She sat with him for two hours, waiting for the cart to come back to take him to the hospital. He never got over it really. 

He used to play for the Wolves under Major Addenbrook, and of course the accident stopped him from playing again. He eventually went back to work, he had a job for life. He had no compensation, there was no such thing. Eventually Dews closed and I got him a job at Sunbeam, for the last few years of his life.

Dad also had a part time job at the Grand Theatre, to earn a bit of extra money, setting the scenery. He started work at about 7 o'clock in the evening and worked until 11 o'clock. Because both my parents worked, we were a bit above the ordinary. I got ha'pennies and pennies when others hadn't, I was a bit better dressed, had better shoes and things like that.

They all used to be round our place waiting for my shoes. "Has George finished with his shoes?" they would say. They used to put thick brown paper in the bottom as they couldn't afford to have them mended. Kids used to have to go to the offices in North Street to have their feet attended to, and the boot fund might give them a pair of shoes. It was hard, I tell you, no wonder they had corns and bunions, they had terrible feet. But that was it, they were always waiting for my shoes. "Has George finished with his shoes?, Mrs Peck, has George finished with his jacket?". People in the street used to be waiting for them.

My grandad used to sell salt around the houses. He used to have a salt about 18inches square and 2ft long, and saw it up into different thicknesses and sell pieces for a ha'penny and a penny a block. He delivered salt on his horse and cart, and I used to go with him to help. I loved salt, and would often pinch bits and pieces to eat.

He also used to make balls of whitening to whitewash the walls with, around the yards. He used to put it in a bucket with something to make it set. You used to whitewash the walls every so often around the yard. That's what he did for a living. He had a little blind donkey and a cart, and he used to go all around Wolverhampton, selling these things. Sometimes he would take me. He used to enjoy a drink, and was mad on the booze. 

The Elephant & Castle. Photo courtesy of Eardley Lewis.
He used to have a little leather bag, fastened with a bit of string, and when he earned 100 sovereigns he would not work again until he had spent it all, and you couldn't get him out of the Britannia pub. Each day he would go to the pub at opening time and treat everyone that came in. He wouldn't bother with my gran and us, he would treat everyone else; strangers.

We used to get Father D'Armady, the Catholic priest to get him out. Even the police couldn't get him out, but Father D'Armady could. He just said "Come on Johnny, time you went home". Grandad would even ask for next weeks rent (4s.6d) for his drink. He would ask my mother, who was the youngest girl. She would probably be sitting on the stairs, holding the rent. "Where's our Rosie?, I know she's got the money". He would want to spend it after he had spent his 100 sovereigns.

We had a gas meter in the cellar. As a matter of fact you used to keep a bowl of water in the cellar to fill up the trap. They used to come every so often, I don't know if it was every fortnight or every month and get the pennies out. They used to put them on the table and count them. Put them in rows and then put them in little blue bags. There was 5 shillings in each bag and they would give you two or three bob rebate, depending on how much was in the meter.

Of course that was great because it was money that you would never have, never get, never realise that you were going to have. You had to have pennies, you had to put a penny in the gas each time it started to go down. You had to run down the cellar and put the penny in. There was a tin on the meter, with a little lock on it. It was about 10" long and 2" wide, the full length of the meter.

Return to Stafford Street Return to the Beginning Proceed to Pawn Broking