School Years

Well then, let’s see what happened - we came back home and of course we’d got no home at all. So we went to live with Grandad and Grannie Stevens. This was the most terrible part of my life. It was horrible. That was at Albert Cottage, Newbridge Street in Wolverhampton.

Newbridge Street. Courtesy of David Clare.

Well then, Grannie Harley sort of came back and made her peace with Mother. Of course, you’d got to get out of the army when the war was over in 1918. To come out of the army you’d got to have a job to come to. So of course, Grannie Harley had got the business; she was parted again from Grandad. She’d got a coal business and at that time she’d got an office and there was a canal basin at Can Lane Wharf, which was off Broad Street. Well, Railway Street came off Broad Street, and you went over a bridge to continue to Wednesfield, and under this bridge was the basin for Can Lane Wharf.
Well, I think there were about seven coal merchant operators on that wharf, and she had an office there. She managed to get Dad out by saying that he was needed for the firm’s help, and then he worked for about 12 months. Dad was ever so popular and he got a lot of business, whereas his brother Jesse - I mean he wasn’t at all popular. Nobody liked him. Anyway, Grannie had to get rid of him, Dad, because Jess got jealous of him because he was bringing in more business. Grannie said he was earning more than they could afford to pay him. Then that was when he went to work with the local authority at Hereford. Then Grandad Stevens bought Mother that house, 158 on Newhampton Road and from there, of course, we were growing up and Brother went to Grammar School and then I went, ’cos it was time for me to find a job, then I went to live with Grannie Harley.

An advert from 1930.

She lived in Clifford Street. Before you got to 158 Newhampton Road, Riches Street went off, and further back again was Clifford Street. Grannie Harley had a retail coal business there. She opened up and then I went to live with her, because quite frankly Mother and I never got on. I don’t know why. She seemed to take a sort of dislike to me and, as I say, we couldn’t see eye to eye with each other. I know her outlook was very, very narrow. As I began to get older, I began to see things in a different light and, let’s face it, Grannie Harley was quite a clever and astute business woman.

I learned a lot from her. She was one of those persons - what she wanted she got. Gradually, as I got older, I related more to the conditions she lived in than to my own parents. Poor Dad, sad to say, he was hampered by rheumatism, and then he left Hereford and went to Nantwich in Cheshire. He followed the surveyor of Hereford. He asked Dad to go with him and Dad was the assistant. He was a very nice laddie. Dad liked him very much and they got on very well.

Anyway, as I say, I came back and the three of us went to St Jude’s School. It was a really good school. It was considered to be the second best school in the town. St Peter’s took first place. I’ve heard Grannie Harley say that St Peter’s - when the boys got older, they went to St Peter’s School - she used to pay nine pence a week for them.  The Headmaster there was named Johnson and he was a Professor. When they brought in free education, he resigned. He wouldn’t stay. I can’t remember what year free education came in. I don’t know who took his place.

We had some marvellous teachers, especially Fred Taylor - he was out of this world. I can see him now. He used to put his hands behind his back and when he used to get mad, he used to say: “You sit there looking at me with eyes like dead cod fish!”

He’d got the most marvellous sayings, you know. And yet in those days I never saw him use the cane. There was only one that I ever heard of using the cane. That was a man named Reynolds. He wasn’t very nice at all. None of the kids liked him and he was the only one I ever remember using the cane at all. But there were mainly women teachers. Two of them married Australians, then left and went out to Australia. But both of them were really lovely, particularly one named Miss Smith - really everybody adored her.

So far as Fred Taylor was concerned, he didn’t have any family of his own. I don’t know that he particularly loved children, but he’d just got that knack of getting your attention. It was a mixed school - boys and girls. It went as far as form seven. Well, he used to take form six, but Brother never got further than his form, because, you see, he went to the Grammar School. Mr Liddell (?) had to get permission for two of the boys, because Brother wasn’t eleven until 13th August. Well, the exam was taken at the beginning of July and Mr Liddell had to get special permission for Brother and another boy. His father was a tailor in Wolverhampton. I can’t remember his name now. And the other boy came in first and Brother came in fourth in the whole town. Then I left. I stayed on until I was fifteen.

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