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Factories & Wartime

Is this the ammunitions factory that stood in Wellhead Lane ? My nan lived in Wellhead Lane, & I remember one day there was a huge bang & the whole house shook...there'd been an explosion at the factory. Can't remember the date.....maybe early 70's?......Terry

"Writing with stubby pieces of pencil" reminds me that my father always kept an old round tin with pens, nibs and pencils in it, but also a number of small diameter metal tubes into which the short lengths of pencil were fitted, and therefore extended their life expectancy ! Much like the smoker whose cigarette burns down until it burns the lip.........Fred

I believe this habit started in the first war trenches when soldiers fitted pencil stubs into the end of spent .303 rounds (the brass bit of the bullet). Waste not,want not! ......Brian

Now that is something you don't see today. Men with Cigarettes burnt right up to the lip. Also, all the old soldiers with war wounds. It would fascinate me to see all the old men with missing limbs. Now Bearwood always seemed to have more than its fair share for some reason !! Men with an empty sleeve pinned to the front of their jacket or an empty trouser leg folded at the knee and pinned. No artificial limbs for them! And the kids with a Guy Fawkes on Bonfire night. They would be on every street corner........Andrea

I was told that Uncle Job WHEWAY had been wounded in a war, and had a hole in his back so big you could put your fist in (skinned over it was of course!)......Chris

Castle Vale,This was where the Spitfires were flight tested after being built across the road at a Castle Bromwich factory by women workers. There were more Spitfires built at that plant than anywhere else. I worked for a time on the Castle Vale building site and it coincided with the removal of the two remaining aircraft hangers. Once this had been done, a Spitfire and Hurricane flew over the site in memory of the workers. I believe there is a plaque somewhere on the estate referring to its former use.

Are there any women out there who worked on the Spitfires? Is it true that it wasn't all drudgery!

Toys & Games we Played

How come no one has mentioned the dolls and prams and the Mobo Horse that really walked. I have still got my dollies pram and Colin still has his Mobo Horse, and no we don’t still play with them 8-)). Did any one have a hoola hoop? Could do with one today as my waist line could use it. We used to say Arley Barley when we wanted breathing space.......Jean and Colin

I've tried a hoola hoop fairly recently and I can tell you they don't work like they used to. I used to be able to do over 100 circles but can't do more than one now. Must be something in the manufacturing process they use to make the hoops these days. I can't think what other reason there could be.
Mentioning horses reminded me of Muffin the Mule and I have a photo of me (with bow and without balaclava) taken with Muffin in Lewis’s.....Mary

Do you remember Larry the Lamb and Mr Grouser "it's disgraceful" and dear old Uncle Mac before the days of television You do ? then you must be old . [ A silver surfer].......Jack

I am trying to remember songs that we sang to skipping games ? I'm sure some of those were regional.In this day and age, if my children have a friend to play, they are locked away in the back garden or in the house where nobody can abduct them. And yet our childhoods and those of our ancestors in Birmingham were spent outside in all weathers. We must have been very self sufficient to go out in the morning and only come back for half an hour at lunchtime before it was back out to play all afternoon. No cycle helmets in our day. Riding on the handlebars of friends bikes was the norm......Andrea.

Both of these games we played to chants of "Nebbuchadnezzar the king of the Jews, bought his wife a pair of shoes ..."

There was the old tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor and one about getting married but I cannot for the life of me remember the words......Linda


Also, when skipping in a group (with a few girls skipping in the long rope held and turned by two others) the girls would wait their turn to be called while we chanted
"In, in, a bottle of gin, I call my friend Janet (...) in" etc.
When the rope was overcrowded, the chant went
"Out, out, a bottle of stout, I call my friend Janet (...) out". and
"All in together girls, this fair weather girls, when I count twenty the rope must be empty".
The rope used to be put in water for a bit before using it - was that to make it heavier so easier to skip with or to whip the legs of the girls who were not up to the mark?
My sister would come home after a day of 'playing out' with the backs of her legs covered in red weals - and the answer to my mother's "where on earth have you been?" was always a simple "skippin'"......Chris

The chant I remember best is 'jelly on the plate, jelly on the plate, wibble wobble wibble wobble, jelly on the plate'. Next verse 'sausage in the pan' etc. Can't remember the rest though......Erica

Did anyone use this one?
All in together girls, this fine weather girls, when I count 20 the rope must be empty, 5,10,15 20
If you were caught in the rope it was your turn to turn the rope until someone else was caught.........Margaret.

Not last night but the night before 24 robbers came knocking at my door
They ran In and I ran Out .......Chris

Blue bells, cockle shells
Evie,ivy, over!
Mother's in the kitchen doing a bit of knitting
How many stitches did she drop?
One, two, three........Chris Ramsbottom

Did English girls play 'snake', skipping rope wriggled on the ground between two, you had to leap from side to side of rope and you were out if you jumped on the rope?
One skipping song - chanted in NZ
" One two three, Mother caught a flea, put it in a teapot to make a pot of tea,
flea jumped OUT!!Mother gave a shout, in came Dad with his shirt tail OUT!!!
So many of the children's games etc were brought with new emigrants, its difficult to tell whether they started here or had origins in U K.......Helen Verrall

Used a variation of that here in London to decide who was going to be 'it' - for instance for hide and seek.
One two three, mother caught a flea, put it in the teapot, made cup of tea.
One two three spell out.
Haven't thought of that for along time Wonder what they do now?........Derrick

I remember another rhyme. It was all done to 'bumps'. That meant the rope had to go around twice before your feet touched the ground.
My name is:
Adder, adder, chickadie, chickadie, ooley, ooley, ompompooley, whaller whaller whisky, Chinese whatnot.

Another one.
A house to let (bump on the end of each line)
No rent to pay,
Knock at the door,
And run away.
Then the whole thing repeated each work skipped to a 'bump'. At least we got plenty of exercise. No T.V.
Remember the one about Old Daddy Dixon's a nice old man?......Jea

You wrote "That meant the rope had to go around twice before your feet touched the ground."
We used to call these "doublers"!.......Chris

One of our skipping bump games was P.K. penny packet first you chew it then you crack it (meaning blow a bubble with the chewing gum and burst it) then you stick it on your jacket P.K. penny packet.
That was in the days that chewing gum was a penny a packet of 5......June

Oh dear, that has stirred my memory:
"Nebuchanezzar, the King of the Jews, bought his wife a pair of shoes,
When the shoes began to wear, Nebuchanezzar began to swear,
When the swearing began to stop, Nebuchanezzar bought a shop,
When the shop began to sell, Nebuchanezzar bought a bell
When the bell began to ring, Nebuchanezzar began to sing
......"
I'm sure someone will remember what comes next.

Amazingly there is a version on the Internet -- not at all what we sang in our playground:
Nebuchadnezzar the King of the Jews
Sold his wife for a pair of shoes;
When the shoes began to wear
Nebuchadnezzar began to swear;
When the shoes got worse and worse
Nebuchadnezzar began to curse;
When the shoes were quite worn out
Nebuchadnezzar began to shout.

I never realised what a lot of references to shoes there are in the Old Testament. I will stop now! But I must just mention another Biblical one I've been reminded of -- it's a playground riddle:
I saw Esau sitting on a see-saw, How many "esses" in that?.......Sally-Anne

Does anyone remember a complicated game -- more of a dance really -- performed to "In and out the dusty windows."?
Where children linked arms in a circle, and then someone ran through the linked arms?
Or another game where two children held hands, both of them, to make an arch. I think the song was "The Good Ship sailed on the Ally ally o" and it ended with "Here comes a chopper to chop off your head..." whoever was caught between the chopping arms was OUT.......Sally-Anne

In and out the Scottish Bluebells (x3)
I am the leader
Tappa-rappa-rappa on your shoulder (x3)
I am the leader

This was a chain game: you formed a ring and someone weaved their way in and out of the ring, when they reached the 2nd verse they stopped and started tapping your shoulder, and then you became the leader. It carried on this way until all the kids were out of the ring.
I remember the "chopper" bit as the last verse of "Oranges and Lemons":
Here comes a candle to light you to bed
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head........Chris

I remember both 'In and out the dusty windows', only in the version I remember it was bluebells, not windows. We also played 'the good ships on the alley alley-o'. It was 'Oranges and Lemons' that ended with 'here comes a chopper to chop off your head.
The complete rhyme was:
Oranges and lemons say the bells of St. Clements,
You owe me 5 farthings say the bells of St Martins
When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be? say the bells of Stepney
I do not know says the great bell of Bow. Here comes a candle to light you to bed
and here comes a chopper to chop off your head.

2 players would hold hands and form an arch, and the others would pass through the arch in turn. When it came to the last line, whoever was caught when the 'chopper' came down would be out.
I'm a relative 'youngster', being at school in the '70s and '80s, and we used to play them then......Bridget

Just a few more -
In, In a bottle of gin
Out, out a bottle of stout.
(jumping in to the 1st line and out to the 2nd)


As I was in the kitchen
Doing a bit of stitchin'
In came the bogy man and I ran out.


Teddy Bear Teddy Bear turn around
Teddy bear Teddy Bear touch the ground
Teddy Bear Teddy Bear climb the stairs
Teddy Bear Teddy Bear say your prayers
Teddy Bear Teddy Bear turn out the light
Teddy Bear Teddy Bear say good night
(doing the actions as you skipped)


I like coffee I like tea
I like -------in with me.
(in the 2nd line you called someone else to skip in the rope with you)......Margaret

Seems everyone has their own interpretation of "in and out".
We used to sing:
In and out the dusky bluebells (x3)
Who will be my master
Tippee tippee tap tap on my shoulder (x3)
You will be my master
We stood in a circle too with one person weaving in and out of the upraised arms and the tippee tapping. The person who was chosen was then the one who carried on. My son who is seven says the "girls" still play this in the playground at his school but apparently it has gone all politically correct because the "master" has been replaced by "partner."
I had completely forgotten about "I wrote a letter to my love".......Linda

We used to play "tig" where 1 person had to chase and catch others - and in some versions you could gain a breathing space by yelling "ackey" and you were immune from being caught......Tony Knight

When I moved to Rowley Regis the chant was "Leeky one two three". I wonder why?.......Chris

Anyone into "Scrumping" and playing "Knock down Ginger" - or did we live a very wayward childhood in London? ......Brian

We had an orchard at the end of our road, my brother used to go scrumping with his friends, don't know why because we had an apple tree in the garden. There was a row of nailers’ cottages and one very large house belonging to two old ladies where the apples grew, perhaps they tasted better! As for "Knock down Ginger" we used to tie front door handles together so that when we knocked one several used to go together......Margaret

I have been finding these memory lane messages very interesting; coming from London they are all much the same. I notice most come from the ladies about skipping and the blue shh…. ( we mere males could not discuss such things)-- that I keep forgetting to post me interests in Birmingham. By the way, who played marbles along the street on the way home from school, or with dabs or 5 stones?.......Derrick

Was that a game called snobs with the 5 stones? Ours were made of clay and some we made ourselves and baked in the oven......June

All these childhood memories from Birmingham folk have made wonderful reading. Not so different from my childhood in Northampton in the 1950's and 60's. I was thinking about my early days of being a 'Family Historian'. The day I marched into the local Register Office and asked to look at the Birth Certificates! And wondered why I got a frosty reception. They didn't even advise me to go to the library! I knew nothing of the Census or Parish Registers! When I finally got to the Record Office with my daughter we were given the original book which recorded the Baptism of my grandmother on July 1st 1883. We stared at the entry for a long time and my daughter whispered 'I wonder if it was a nice day and if they had cake and sandwiches for tea?' From that day I was well and truly hooked and had to find out more. So many surprises were in store, about Granddad in the Workhouse, his illegitimacy and his tragic baby brother! The Criminals and Bastardy cases! Well, you all know how interesting it all is!.......Janet

Does anyone remember the go-carts made with old pram wheels and placing a> book on a roller skate and sitting at the top of the hill (in West Heath) and whizzing to the bottom. Still got the scars to prove it......Jean and Colin

I remember the book on a roller skate and I've also got the scars, we had a big hill in Southend on Sea opposite our house, with a big bend at the bottom, met someone once and ended up across the main road and carried on, on my bum across the path and into a wall, 'cos the skate hat hit the kerb and stayed there !.......Mick

When Mick mentioned earlier about roller skates, I recall I was a real "whizz" on mine, then came "skeelers" (now called in-line skates) well never did get the hang of them, fell over and smashed my elbow, on my way out of the hospital. I was so impressed with this plaster cast I missed my footing on the steps , fell over and broke the other one! neither healed very well. I blacked my eye with my pogo stick when I missed it! Skipping was never my strong point, for reasons I won't go into on list. But could race anything on my spacehopper! I loved my go- cart, dad put the lawnmower engine on the back, think that’s what started my love of speedy cars...........Melli

As I was a bit of a tomboy, what about your "barranarra" (or as mother kept correcting me "No darling, your bow and arrow".) And pistols with the gun caps.......Andrea

Any one remember these homemade toys The shape of a gun stock was hewn out of wood, then a piece of metal tube to represent the barrel was cut from an old bicycle frame and fixed to the stock. An empty "Mansion" furniture polish tin was fixed crossways in a position at the end of the stock underneath the barrel to look like a magazine. Then about a 2 inch six pointed star was cut out of wood, Elm if possible. A hole was drilled in the center to take a round headed wood screw (Black Jappaned made in B'ham) then fixed to the side of the stock so that it still rotated. A second screw was left protruding from one of the teeth of the star to act as a crank handle. The clever bit then was to use the half piece of hacksaw blade that broke when you were cutting the barrel from the old bicycle frame, and fix it to another piece wood on the side of the stock.Then when you cranked the star, each tooth would lift the springy blade hitting the old tin. This would produce an Ack-ack sound increased by the empty tin. I spent many hours playing in a spinney with my mates, the teeth on the star would often fail, the winner was the holder of the still working toy. The broken star was usually fixed overnight.......Bill

How about water bombs - newspaper folded so that it would hold water which could then be thrown. The bigger the better if it didn't burst on you. And cushion fights and pillow fights oh for the days before we were infected with 'political correctness'........Derrick.

Dabs was a good game - specially post war when one could buy differently coloured 'proper' dabs; much better than the home made ones. Remember baking conkers too? And cats-cradle with lengths of wool. How did we know what 'season' it was - how was it that every kid turned up at school with 'fag cards' or marbles on the same day!!?? Someone recalled spending pretty much the whole day 'out playing' - we did didn't we? Great fun on the bomb sites. Remember looking at the different wall papers on the remains of the houses that had been bombed? I also remember we used to stand at the top of the concrete steps to the Air Raid Warden's shelter and yell down "What's the time Mr Warden" when we thought it might be time to go home for tea!!.......Brian

What about the whip and top....used to use chalk to colour the top and it looked great as they spun!!! I used to push the top between the paving slabs....wrap the string around and pull. We used to have competitions seeing who could keep their top spinning the longest!! :-).......Diane

And did you ever break any windows with the window breaker top? I did and couldn't sit down for a week!!......June

The food we ate

Sugar sandwiches late forties/fifties and condensed milk sandwiches in the Royal Navy. What about bread and dripping during the war??.......Brian

We used condensed milk in tea when we had no proper milk........June

Can you remember 'milk tablets' there was allsorts of flavours strawberry, lemon, blackcurrant etc. that was in 1956.......June

Mom also reminded me that Nan ate sugar sandwiches, and my grandparents too! Is this a Brummy thing or does it stretch far wider? Personally I used to look on in disgust.......Linda

This isn’t such an old custom. My mother used to give me and my sisters sugar sandwiches in the 60's. I can also remember trying to toast them in front of the fire. This was quite messy but delicious when you got it right! Ah happy days ;-)........Bill

Hah! And I thought it was only this side of the Pond that was daft. When a kid my Nan and Pop (the 1st pure Irish, the 2nd pure English . . . and that's a whole sage in it's own right!) *refused* to buy cereal when we kids stayed the weekend. So we sometimes sat until nearly lunch struggling to get down my Nan's toast with milk on it. Neither my brother or I were fond of milk period, let alone warm milk poured over burnt toast squares and doused with sugar . . . ugh! It so turned me off on breakfast I refuse to eat cereal to this day!
Nan's afternoon tea, however, was different story. We could take or leave the tea (sorry folks, we're Yanks) but you *had* to have that hot cup of tea to dip those sugar sandwiches (bread, buttered and sprinkled generously with sugar then rolled like a jelly role and dipped in the tea!) in . . . one was no good without the other.....Kathleen

My father use to eat this, we called it mush. He also loved Tripe cooked in milk and every Sunday we had Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding........

Well I used to have cocoa and sugar mixed and spread on bread!! Yummy!!! :-).......Diane

And talking of sandwiches, I remember Fried tomatoes cooked in Bacon Fat until they were a pulp. then dip in the Bread,then removing it and you've got one of the best breakfasts in Brum. I remember there was a cafe by New Street Station/Central Tech. that served them.in the early fifties.....Dave D.

My mother ate sugar sandwiches and my brother and I were always made to eat bread and butter with our tinned fruit. I lived in Northfield for 30 years where as children we played out in fields all day only going home for food. ......Margaret

How about boiled eggs with vinegar poured inside? Our Saturday lunch at nan's was always a boiled egg from the cellar with bread & butter, and Dad always filled his two eggs with vinegar. Was this a quirk of my Dad's, or did others do this?......Terry

Do you remember 'hard tack' biscuits in the army ration packs, i was in the army in the middle '70's and we used to spread the condensed milk on ours ! Miscoloured chocolate bars ! I also remember sugar sandwiches, or buppy shugs, and bread and dripping. Also bread cooked in gravy 'cos we didn't have enough money for 'meat'........Mick

Did anyone ever make 'kali' - a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar and Andrews Liver Salts? Such a treat when sweets were non-existent, not to mention the best regulated bowels in Birmingham. Because butter was scarce it was always mixed with margarine to make it go further (not to mention disguising the horrible taste of the "marge".......Jeanagh

Then there was cocoa and sugar in a match box - and lick your finger......Bryan

I remember having cocoa and sugar mixed in a bowl to dip fingers in as a treat during the war as sweets were on ration. What about the kali that could be bought in little triangular bags. I used to love that. The kali used to turn your fingers yellow!.......Judy

We also had sugar in a bag and dipped a rhubarb stick in place of sweets.......June

I was born in Toronto. My granny was born in Birmingham. We always had pork pie for Christmas breakfast! Mr. Petre, had the best roses compliments of the milk man's horse. There was a rag-a-bones man. We called evaporated milk ‘sticky milk’, we put it in or on just about everything. My favourite was sticky milk on the raspberries my granny grew in the garden. Butter and sugar were rationed, when my mum was married in 1944, she didn't have a wedding cake, my granny made a pie.........Jill :)

Did anyone have "bread and ifit"?........Chris

Yes if we got it you can have it...oh yes and condensed milk, yummy would eat it by the spoonful............Jean

Reading memories of special treats, does anyone remember a tonic bought at the local chemists in Birmingham and labelled 'Parish's Food' ?......Kenneth

I certainly do, and if I remember correctly the name was Parrish's Chemical Food, and yes that is what it tasted of......Jeanagh

We were given Parrish's food all winter. I tried to get some for my kids this winter and DRAT they don't make it anymore!! It had the same effect as Rhubarb in the mouth........Carol

I remember Parishes Food, and syrup of figs.......Sombra By the way, yes to pork pie for Christmas morning for me living in Erdington but not for my wife, whose family used to have Easter eggs at Christmas due to the Mother in Law working at Cadbury's and having access to the Chocolate Shop, which was where they sold off misshapes etc......Jon

Oh, yes, I had an aunt who worked at Cadbury's and used to bring us misshapes in those yellowish paper bags. In my family history researches I have found that several of her cousins came up from the country, Leintwardine in HER, to live with the 'town' family, go to school and then take an entrance exam to work at Cadbury's. This was a very good start in life compared to the country option of going into service.
Does anyone know what was in that Cadbury exam?......Vivienne

That was a big plus about living in Birmingham, especially if you had relatives and friends working at Cadburys. Every Friday night would be Cadbury night. Opening all the yellow bags of mis-shapes. My favourites were lime barrels.
I don't remember anyone taking an exam but was always told that on your first working day at Cadburys, you were told that you could eat as much chocolate as you wanted. By the end of the first week, you were so sick of chocolate that you would never touch the stuff again. I'm not sure if that is right?........Andrea

I worked at Cadburys for 15 years and remember taking an exam. It was very easy, simple arithmetic, a bit of geography etc. As I worked in the office I did not have access to free chocolate but I believe those that worked in the factory did. Of course I made lots of visits to the chocolate shop to buy bags of mis-shapes. I still love chocolate but actually went to work at Cadburys because of the excellent sport facilities that they had then........Margaret

I am afraid that our family just had to be different - we had glorious, left-over from Christmas Day, well-laced sherry trifle served straight from an ice-cold pantry. It certainly warmed the cockles of your heart. We lived in Alum Rock, about a mile or so from the Metropolitan Cammel factory at Saltley and our lives were punctuated by the 'bulls' going off. These were the sirens they used to warn people that they only had five minutes to get to work, and when the shift had started/finished. I also remember an old man coming around with his hurdy-gurdy and a little monkey dressed in bright knitted clothes. How many ladies remember being forced into those hideous 'liberty bodices'? If anything was mis-named, those were. By the time mum had done up all those buttons and fastened up your stockings with its dangling suspenders you couldn't breathe. To think I am part of history, what a shock, and I don't get my pension until next month!......Jeanagh

If you were behind the times we in Nottinghamshire were too. Our local butcher stated to make home-made individual meat pies with gravy (you took your own jug) mum used to call earlier in the morning with the jug and order the pies for dinner and I would pick them up on the way home from school they were delicious.......June

Rag n Bone and Horse Tales

Of course you did have to run home for something if the rag and bone man came. My Mom always gave me something but with the warning "Don't come back with a fish". I hated that because I always wanted a fish and I had to have a balloon instead. My husband lived in Solihull and his rag and bone man shouted "Old Iron". I wasn't as posh so ours just shouted something that sounded like "IIIIIIIIRRRRRRRNNNNNN".....Andrea

OURS had a long black coat and pushed a hand-cart piled high with old clothes etc and had nails with small bags of goldfish suspended from them. We were entertained with 'RAAGBOOOOOONE'. In fact, he wouldn't have looked out of place in 'Oliver'.......Jeanagh

Our rag and bone man shouted 'Any old Iron', but it was all one word and sounded like 'Ennyarddaarn'. I was scared of him, but then I was scared of the coal man too - but I loved the Milkman's horse and the Chimney Sweep was fun. We had skipping games galore. We must have been super fit, we spent hours skipping and chanting (forgotten now the chanting rhymes - perhaps someone will remind me) and two ball, a kind of juggling with two rubber balls, no good with tennis balls. I could always beat my girls at that. Two years ago I started to write a book about my childhood, then abandoned it, all this nostalgia has spurred me on to go back to it.......Janet

Our rag and bone man blew on his bugle and shouted in the loudest voice I have ever heard, " rrrrraaaaaaagggggggg nd Bone". My Nan lived in Kingstanding then and we thought her rag and bone man was posh because he had a trumpet! He shouted "Iron"......Linda

On a different note, does anyone remember the old men furtively hiding behind a hedge and clutching a bucket and shovel as they waited for the coalman's horse to come up the road? The quickest amongst them had the best roses in the street!.....Jeanagh

Oh Jeanagh, this one had me smiling. It wasn't the coal man when I was a child (he had a lorry by then) but the rag and bone man. After he had gone up the street, all the gardeners would rush out.......Linda

Never mind the man with the bucket and spade....I used to have to go out to collect the horse manure for my nan's gladioli. :-)) The horses name was Corky......that was because we always gave him our apple cores and he was a lovely placid old fella!!!.......Diane

There was nothing furtive about my Grandad following the milkman's horse up Cotterills Lane, Alum Rock, for the sake of his Chrysanthemums.......Mary


Back memories Index

Original page Created by Pickard Trepess . Maintained by dcdudley Revised: 12 August 2001
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