Thomas Edward (Ted) Wheatley was born at Badsey in 1921, the youngest of 13 children of Horace and Lucy Wheatley. He grew up at "The Poplars" (demolished in the mid 1960s) where his parents kept a butcher’s shop. In the 1950s, he started a garage on the opposite side of the road to "The Poplars", which existed until the late 1980s (the current-day Poplar Court is now on its site). Ted and his wife, Peggy, retired to Wickhamford, where he died in 1996. We are grateful to Roy Page of Green Leys, Badsey, for bringing our attention to these memoirs. Roy first heard about the memoirs when he was talking to Ted’s widow, Peggy, some time after Ted’s death. Roy told Peggy that Ted was the first person he met when he came to Badsey in 1948 and that he had worked with and knew the Wheatley family very well. Peggy suggested that Roy might like to read Ted’s life story, which he had written in 1990 after he sold the garage, and gave him permission to give it to others to read. We also wish to thank Ted’s daughter, Anne, for giving permission to publish the memoirs on the website.
My mother and father, Horace and Lucy Kate Wheatley, were born in the late 1800s. Father lived with his mother and father at Parriss House in Evesham Lower High Street, which was a boot and shoe shop plus the sale of sewing machines, established in 1838. Grandfather was a maker of footwear and had the honour of being appointed to make boots and shoes for the Duke of Orleans and his family; this meant journeys to Wood Norton for the measuring of feet and then returning for the fitting. He was also, at one time, shoemaker to the Marquis of Hertford at Ragley Hall, Alcester.
One of my grandfather’s sons named Alfred was married and he and his wife were managing my grandfather’s butcher’s shop in Bewdley Street, Evesham, on the corner behind Manchester House; on the opposite corner was the old Sladden & Colliers Brewery. At this time, my father was going to work on horse-back to the Cookhill Bakery (Quinneys) where he was a paid apprentice; for his services his rewards were two shillings weekly (10p) plus his lodging with meat and drink; I know this to be true as I still have his apprenticeship certificate dated 1st February 1892.
While in the Cookhill area, he met up with my mother. Miss Lucy Kate Hunt was a dressmaker and lived with her very large family (her father and mother and twelve brothers and sisters) at The Paddocks, Cookhill, a two-up and two-down cottage with a large garden, out-buildings, wash-house and outside lavvy.
About this time, my Uncle Alfred at the butcher’s shop and his wife decided one Saturday evening that they wanted to be up and away and open their own shop; they eventually found what they wanted at Gloucester. Without a word to anyone, they packed their few belongings and were gone, leaving the shop with all the meat still laid out on display. Of course, when grandfather turned up at around 11.30 which was closing time on a Saturday night, to help count the takings and to lock up the shop, he had a very big surprise. On looking round he found a letter explaining that they were going to start their own business and hoped that one of the other sons would carry on with the Bewdley Street shop.
My father, on arriving on Sunday at his home, was hustled into the parlour where grandfather asked him if he intended marrying this Katy Hunt to which he replied that he did but did not know when. Grandfather soon decided when he told my father to get on his horse and get off back to Cookhill and to tell her that we are getting married right away and if she agrees then the two of you will be running a butcher’s shop in Evesham.
Father made his dash back to Cookhill and, after giving Katy his news, they sat and discussed the drawbacks, the main ones of course being the fact that he was a baker and she was a dressmaker, but after a lot of consideration they decided that they would give it a try.
Father had to go and see Mr Quinney at the bakery and explain the situation and luckily but reluctantly agreed to let him end his apprenticeship. The next call was to the Vicar to immediately put up the banns of marriage. The following Monday morning, Father was in the butcher’s shop open for business. After three weeks, with a special licence, he had half a day from work to get married in the church at Inkberrow and then back to work. Shortly after this time, all but two of my mother’s brothers and sisters emigrated to Alberta, Canada. Some years after, mother’s younger sister had to return as they had lost everything in very strong winds; one of the brothers came with her and bought some Shire horses to take back for breeding purposes and apparently made a great success of his business and became very famous for his horses.
My father had one sister and three brothers. There was Bill who moved right out of the district to London where he became an accountant, but must have got a bit fed up with the profession as he gave it up and sold eggs on the wholesale market. The second brother, Jack, was married and he and his wife also had a butcher’s shop in Port Street, Evesham, right opposite the Regal Cinema; he specialised in pig meat and chitterlings, trotters, brawn, faggots and lard. The third brother was of course Alfred who was already settled in his shop in Gloucester. The sister Dolly married a Broadway man, Ernest Warren, who had a hardware shop about two doors up from the Lygon Arms Hotel.
Meanwhile, back in Evesham, my father had settled down very well in the butchery business, trade was picking up and he reached the situation where he employed his own slaughter-man who I believe was a Buster Marshall.
By now mother had four children; this meant a lot of work for her, as not only looking after the family, she had to look after the shop as well because Father intended extending his business even further. He purchased a horse and cart suitable for the meat trade and went round the local villages supplying them with meat; on Saturday nights it was usually around midnight when he reached home. At 8 o’clock on Saturday evening, my mother would collect up all of the unsold meat and wheel it on a barrow and stand beneath the town hall arches; from here she would sell it off cheap to the men leaving the public houses on their way home. She would wait there until she heard Dad’s horse clip-clopping up Bridge Street.
It soon became apparent that the living quarters at Evesham were getting a bit cramped so Father started looking around for larger premises. He eventually found what he hoped was the right place. It was a fairly large house with a small cottage on the end, No 1 Old Post Office Lane, Badsey, opposite the Manor House in the High Street. Father turned the little cottage into a butcher’s shop so was now a proprietor of two businesses. He travelled to Evesham to supply the Badsey shop with meat from the slaughter-house; later on he employed a man to run the shop at Evesham and he himself looked after the Badsey business for which I think Mother was very thankful.
While at Old Post Office Lane, Mother had three more children. With the family growing, this meant looking round for a bigger property again. Luckily, a larger house had just become vacant, so the family moved to The Poplars in High Street. This was a Georgian-type house with three storeys, eight bedrooms, a small parlour, a large parlour, a very large living-riom which Father furnished with a full-size billiards’ table and a dining table of equal proportions, and still left space for the rest of the furniture required. With the house came a walled-in market garden, an orchard on the opposite side of the road and some outbuildings at the back of the house. A low wall ran round the orchard topped with stone copings (of which I still have half a dozen). It contained a lot of very old fruit trees, including a conference pear, Bramley apple and a Blenheim apple, a very large Horse Chestnut which is still standing on the corner of High Street and Brewers Lane. There was also a Catalpa tree which at the time of planting was thought to be a rare tree in this country; unfortunately, this tree was removed to make way for ground development. The only building in the orchard was a fairly large dovecote which also had to give way to development.
The Poplars was to be the final move for my father and the rest of his family were born there, 13 children in all. A very large room at the front of the house was fitted out as a butcher’s shop. Beneath the house was a very large cellar which Father found extremely useful for the curing of meat such as salting the bacon and beef pickling. Not only was it a home for meats, it also housed a good stock of home-brewed cider.
My Father had built up a large butcher’s round in the early years with his horse and cart plus a bicycle in the surrounding villages including the Littletons, Bretforton, Honeybourne, Pebworth, Wickhamford and Aldington. One of my brothers, Enoch, was now the slaughter-man and all of the animals were killed in our own slaughter-house which was in one of the buildings at the rear of the house.
I well remember when I was young watching him slaughter. In those days, all the cattle were killed by pole-axing. Enoch was a real master at this and never missed to kill with one sure stroke. A knife was used for the slaughter of sheep and pigs. After the killing of the cattle, my brother had to haul them up with pulley blocks and skin and dress them, the skins were packed in salt and collected weekly by a firm from Worcester, the pigs were treated differently and needed a lot of really hot water which was available from a large furnace in the back yard. A big tub in the slaughter-house was filled with the hot water and in went the carcase, this made it easy to scrape off all the hair. All the innards were removed and this meant a job for Mother or one of the family as they had to be thoroughly cleaned and made into chitterlings and sausage skin. As well as this Mother made for the shop, faggots, and how well I remember them. They were in very large trays, about 40 faggots to a tray and on top of each faggot was some caul which apparently came from the inside of the pig; faggots were made two or three times a week.
Another great favourite was the rosemary lard and scratchings, all of these were cooked on a very large old-fashioned range with a big open fire and ovens on either side and water boiler at the rear; the fire seemed to be continually burning as there was always some cooking of some sort to be done; the smells were delicious.
Enoch was the sausage-maker and used a sausage mill that was driven by a station engine. The mill chopped all of the meat and was then mixed with bread and meal and his own herbs; after this the mixture went into a cylinder with a spout on one end; the meat was forced through the spout into our own made ropes and then plaited into strings of sausages as we know them.
My oldest brother, Arthur, was a very small man and Father decided that he was exactly the right size for a jockey, so off he went to be an apprentice and my Mother used to tell me about how the first time that she and Father visited him they found him fast asleep in the horse’s loose-box. Mother was quite upset over this and cried all the way home. Later on my Father decided that my brother Harold would also make a jockey, so he too was sent off as an apprentice; he became a very good over the sticks’ jockey. Arthur turned out to be an excellent flat-racing jockey and at one meeting rode all six winners in one day and was presented with a gold watch.
After the First World War, Arthur, now married, lived at Gladstone Cottage, High Street, Badsey, and then later moved to Upper End Farm, Bretforton, where he and his wife, a Miss Maisie Brearley (daughter of Brearleys, the pop-makers) set up farming. They also delivered milk in the surrounding villages. In those days, the very large families were so poor but could buy the skimmed milk at next to nothing; although they had nothing, they were always very generous in their offers of cups of tea. Arthur and Maisie had four children: Seymour, Patrick, Diane and Nina.
When Harold finished horse-racing, he and his wife, a Miss Barbara Bell, decided that they too would try farming, so bought a farm at North Littleton. Their family consisted of two children, Jack and Jim.
Badsey about this time, 1927-28, was a great deal smaller than it is now, 1990. From the Manor House in the High Street, up to the top of the Pike (this is where Bretforton Road runs along the top) were council houses on either side but behind these houses was empty ground.
Badsey used to have its own bus service; this was owned by a Mr Jack Hartwell who lived in Brewers Lane. I think the bus was called the Reliance. Mr Hartwell used to run regularly to and from Evesham which was of course a very handy service in those days.
At that time, Badsey also had a garage along the Bretforton Road, owned and run by Mr Cyril Bird to serve the few cars that were in the village. He had a petrol pump and a hire drive car; he could also repair the cars in the locality, bicycles too could be taken to his for repair and he sold new bicycles. After a time, he gave up the car repairs and sale of petrol and just concentrated on the bicycle trade. When that got too much for him due to loss of some of sight, he changed the business completely and became a village shop-keeper selling groceries, sweets and cigarettes.
Badsey had two bakers. One was Mr Cull; his house and bakery was next-door to Lucy Ryman’s (now Meadows) shop; we bought our bread form him as it had to be the best bread in the district and his dough cakes were the real thing. Even now I can taste those dough cakes, we used to be standing waiting for them to be taken from the oven as they were best eaten hot; very indigestible I expect but well worth the discomfort. Old Granny Cull was a grand old lady who was always dressed in a man’s flat cloth cap, but the poor woman had a disfigured face caused by being kicked in her head by a horse. Their deliveries were made by the same method as everybody in those days, horse and cart, and when Mr Cull retired from the business, his sons took over, Basil and Edgar. Edgar was the one who made the deliveries but I’m afraid his sense of timing was not very good. We lived next door to the bakery and should have had our bread in the afternoon but it was usually about 9.30 in the evening he finally reached us. I guess he looked forward to some of whatever was on the stove as he usually had supper with us and a good old natter; it was bed-time when he went off home.
I nearly forgot to say about Mr Cull’s sense of dress; he was always very smartly turned out and would rarely be seen outside without his bowler and highly polished boots and leggings. In alter years, Edgar could be seen dressed very similarly to his Dad.
There was another bakery in Brewers Lane owned by the Brewer family who also ran a provisions shop. They had a very large delivery round which included the villages and Evesham. This business was later taken on by my nephew Jack and his wife Beryl who was a Miss Bearcoft; they kept the shop going until the mid-1980s when it finally closed down. The baking buildings were converted into residential buildings. This was to be the first of a few changes of trade buildings over to private residences in the village during the 1980s.
But to get back to the time of which I am writing, there were three more shops in the village selling sweets, cigarettes and groceries: Dungworth was in Chapel Street opposite the rear entrance to the church, Salters was at the bottom end of High Street, opposite the Wheatsheaf Inn (this shop is now a ladies’ hairdresser). Mr Salter always tried to serve the customers himself even though he was blind; but it was said that he very rarely made mistakes with them money. The third shop was owned by Mr & Mrs Jones; this is the business now owned by Mrs Lucy Meadows who took on and ran this shop when she was only 14 years old. She came to live with us at The Poplars as it was too far for her to go home to Gotherington where her mother (my sister, Betty) and father lived. Mr Jones could always be seen wearing his plus-fours when out walking his dog; kid-like we used to call him "Bag-arse" (excuse the language). What Mr Jones was really known for was his ice-cream which was absolutely scrumptious; I think his recipe must have died with him.
I think that Badsey must have had more shops than a lot of other villages. We also had two butchers, my father’s at The Poplars and Mr Hartwell, we knew him as Elgar, he was in the end of a little cottage on the opposite side of the road to the Wheatsheaf Inn. He was more a pork butcher; during the week he worked in a Birmingham meat market and returned home at the weekends. His wife looked after the shop while he was away; when he came home to run the shop, he used to go round killing and dressing the pigs which people would keep in a sty in their back garden. This was quite an occasion as bits of the meat was given to friends in the hope of getting some in return when their pig was killed. We even had our own undertaker in the village, Mr Lou Stribblehill; his premises were in the High Street, between Mrs Meadows’ shop and the butcher’s shop. He would make all of the coffins himself and with a hand-drawn hearse known as a bier attend the funerals and lead the mourners into church. As well as a coffin-maker, he was a wheelwright and would repair the horse-drawn carts and drays, in fact anything that was wooden and needed mending, he would tackle.
Building was taken care of by two firms locally, one in Brewers Lane owned and run by a Mr Charles Savage, later taken on by his son, Fred Savage. After Fred it passed into the hands of a younger relative, Graham Johns, who is still keeping the business going today. The second builder, Mr Bert Brazier, traded from The Laurels in High Street, opposite the church. Later on when his son, David, took on the business, he opened up a fair-sized DIY shop which villagers found very handy as it saved running into Evesham for lots of the handyman’s needs. Unfortunately, this was another business to disappear from Badsey.
Of course, we must not forget the village smithy, Frank Caswell, a very busy man, at the beck and call of the market gardeners refixing new handles to their various tools; the asparagus growers especially found him useful as he could make them a special knife to cut the grass (local name for asparagus). This knife had a forked end which would cut the grass down below the soil surface. Another hand-made product of the blacksmith’s was a specially shaped piece of metal with which to keep open the brussel sprout nets which made life easier for the pickers. Dick took over the smith from his father. Later on when he left school, Dick’s son, David, joined the trade to help his Dad. David is still in the profession and even now is still making the asparagus knives of which some have found their way down under in Australia.
Badsey was a very large market gardening area, almost every family had a small plot of ground and managed to make a living from it, apart from the produce, a few hens were probably kept to provide some eggs, and of course the occasional chicken dinner.
There were about four or five big growers in the area employing a dozen or so men and some women. These were J Barnard, H Johns, Stewarts Bros and Arthur Sears who originally used horses and drays, as the growers progressed they turned to the motor lorry. The men were taken to work on the lorries which had no covers on them, they were seated all around the bed of the lorry with legs dangling no matter what the weather, rain, hail or snow, then after a very cold journey they probably had to stand waist high in a sprout field picking frozen sprouts and no waterproofs in those days.
A week’s pay at this time was about £1 8s 0d (£1 40 p) and house rents were from 3s 6d to 8s per week, but no one went short of food as a few very good meals could be produced from a rabbit which were in plentiful supply and what could be made from a piece of scrag end of lamb was magic.
Mrs Cull, a lady from Bowers Hill who lost her husband when her children were quite small used to have a horse and dray. She would collect the garden produce from the smaller growers and take it to Evesham market each day, so making a living enabling her to bring up her family.
Another man who did the same as Mrs Cull was Mr George Marshall, but his goods went down to the Littleton & Badsey railway goods yard and from there to a Birmingham market. Poor old George was disabled with a club foot. He was OK while sitting on his dray but not so good on his bike. It was very difficult with one leg shorter than the other, even though it was not easy for him; this didn’t stop him from getting around and he ran a few cattle down at a place called "Packs", otherwise known as Blackminster meadows.
Then there were the railway carts, the Badsey one was driven by Percy Crump who lived in a little cottage in Old Post Office Lane that had been my father’s butcher’s shop at one time. The railway always had the very best cart horses and hung from the rear of the dray was the horse’s feed bag known as a nose bag. There were a lot of these big horses used at the saw mill in Evesham; they were used to pull the timber carts and we kids were in our element watching these giants pulling massive loads of timber. When on the way to Evesham with their heavy loads there were always two teams of horses, one team of six horses to each timber wagon. At the bottom of Horsebridge Bank they would stop and join all the horses from both wagons on to one and this enabled them to get up the hill; as they pulled the load the horses would slip and slide all over the road and it was all very exciting for us lads to see the sparks fly from their shoes, having got the first load to the top they returned for the second load. The timber was being taken to the Evesham saw mill which was in Elm Road, so called because of a large elm tree in the middle of the road by Offenham turning.
The early lorries to come round our village were steam-driven and mostly owned by the breweries to deliver the beers to the public houses; these vehicles had solid tyres and it was good to watch these lorries pulling big loads, the smoke would pour out from the top of the roof and burning coals would drop with lots of flying sparks from the firebox below.
Other vehicles driven by steam were the engines used for ploughing the ground; two engines were needed for this job, one at either end of the ground. The plough would then, by means of a steel cable, plough up the earth which was attached to the plough and then to both engines work backwards and forwards across the field. One such pair of these engines could still be seen at work after the last war at a farm in Long Marston.
Considering the size of Badsey, we were well catered for when we were in need of refreshment as there were three public houses: the Wheatsheaf whose landlord was Tom Marshall who was followed as landlord by his son, Harry, who ran the pub with the help of his wife, Connie (Wixey); he also had a small milk round making his deliveries the same as everyone else by horse and cart. I think Connie helped him with these deliveries. The Bell Inn was just round the corner from the Wheatsheaf; that landlord was Mr Tom Warmington; he too ran the pub with help from his wife. This pub had a very good cellar which kept the beer at a nice cool temperature as there was a spring running through it, very appreciable on a warm day. The third public house was the Royal Oak run by Mr Ernest Mustoe. This pub too was taken on by a descendant, in this case Mrs Harwood a daughter who ran the business through the last war year until her brother, Les (nicknamed Buster) returned from the forces to take it on. While Les was the landlord, he became very well-known for his asparagus suppers and eventually got the name of the pub changed to the Round of Gras. Les spent about 40 years as landlord until his retirement.
A man in the village, Allan or Allen Russell, was an unauthorised vet who must have learnt the job as he went along, but certainly knew how to cure animal ills. He was able to make up his own medications but they always worked. My father had no hesitation in calling him if he had any sick animals. He lived in an old tumble-down cottage which has been pulled down to extend the churchyard at the rear of the church.
Next-door to this cottage was Badsey Fire Station, which of course housed the fire fighting equipment, a hand-pulled pump manned by local volunteers. The village blacksmith lived next to the Fire Station, a Mr Frank Caswell. He was very much in demand as a farrier due to the fact that such a large number of horses were in use in those days. The repair of the gardener’s hand tools kept him very busy, too.
In the late 1920s, general household foods could not be bought in the local village shops so these goods had to be purchased in Evesham. Early in the week, the grocers shops in Evesham would send out their salesmen to collect orders; later in the week, the orders were then delivered to the customers. Our family’s particular grocer was Foster Bros of Port Street, Evesham. If goods had not been ordered and delivered then it had to be brought home from Evesham, the best way that could be found, usually on foot. I very well remember one really nice old character who used to tour the villages selling oranges and different little things to tempt his customers with. He rode a three-wheel bicycle with a wicker basket attached, his home was a small cottage next to the Talbot Inn in Port Street, Evesham; his name was Mr Andrews but everyone knew him as Kick Pudding, I just can’t think where a nickname like that originated. People loved bargaining with him and trying to get as many oranges as they could for their few pennies. I think that he enjoyed the haggling as much as his customers did. Later on in his life, it was very sad to see him trying to push the bicycle up Horsebridge Hill as his feet had got so painful that he was finding it difficult to walk.
Another man who comes back to my mind was a chap called Jack Fell who would journey to Birmingham in one of the very early Ford lorries and collect large blocks of ice and deliver it to people in the area with fridges. My father had a fridge and had two ice deliveries a week, outside the fridge, it was important to have a container to catch the water as the ice melted, it had to be remembered to keep the container emptied or people were paddling. On one of Jack Fell’s visits to my father’s, he had quite a large number of children with him. While his back was turned they dropped the keys from his lorry into the petrol tank. This put poor old Jack into quite a flap and by the time that he had fished around with a bit of wire and retrieved his keys, I think the kids wished that they had never thought of the idea in the first place, he had reduced them all to tears.
Badsey had now got a road-sweeper by the name of Jim Kyte. He could really keep the village clean and tidy with just a broom, a shovel and his barrow. In those days the road sweepers used to edge the grass verges and very nice they looked, his work also included cleaning out the road drains. It was a full-time job but these men always took pride in their work and always seemed to enjoy doing it. Men in those days stayed with their employers for years. Two such men worked for my father, one was Harold Kettle who lived with us and was almost like one of the family. What I remember most about Harold was that he would take us younger members of the family to bed which we enjoyed as he would tell us stories. Tommy Perkins was the other chap who worked for father. My mother used to say that she never once heard Tommy complain, yet he might have had cause to as he had a very bowed leg but did not let this prevent him from doing his work. He would help my father on the horse and cart delivering the meat and on the days that no meat was to be delivered then he made the sausages, clean the animal innards for sausage skins and clean the tripe and any other job that was required of him. On a Saturday night it would be about 10 o’clock before he got back from the deliveries; that never seemed to worry him though. He would sit down and enjoy a good cooked supper before going home to his family.
It has to be remembered that at this time there were no street lights and the cart only had two candle lights to show the way. This did not seem to worry the pony, Reuben; even though his driver might have fallen asleep on the way home, they all arrived safely.
My father used to take my brother, Enoch, with him to market to buy sheep, cattle and pigs as Enoch was a very good buyer. These animals had to be driven home along the roads as there were no cattle trucks in those days. This could be a very long and tiring job because if one of the animals decided to go through an open gate then all of the others would follow. They would be away across the fields and probably into private gardens, then all hell was let loose trying to round them all up and back on the road. Sometimes drovers were hired and other times my father took some of my brothers to do the job. When I got older, I was allowed to help to bring the animals from the markets at Beckford, Alcester, Stratford and Evesham.
Badsey School, even years ago, was quite a large school for a village and had a very good teaching staff. Mr Amos was the headmaster and know locally as Boss Amos. He had been wounded in the First World War and had been injured along the side of his face and behind the eye but this did not prevent him spotting anyone behaving in a mischievous manner. He was a very strict Headmaster. His wife also was a teacher, then there were the Miss McDonald sisters, Miss Bird and Mr Sealy.
The school not only served Badsey; children from Wickhamford, Bowers Hill, Aldington and Littleton used it and had to walk as there was no transport in those days. There were very few absences in those days as Mr Bayliss the School Attendance Officer was soon after anyone who was away from school too often, but I do think that children were more healthy then after walking to and from school. Another thought comes to my mind, if Mr Amos found a pupil being naughty in school, he usually had a piece of chalk in his hand which he would whack at us (myself included) and his voice could be heard booming out.
I well remember in my young days when the Badsey brook used to overflow after a heavy rain and flood the nearby houses. The ones that really suffered were down the Mill Lane and as the water rose the residents had to move upstairs and live there until the water level dropped. The Back Lane into Evesham would fold and have to be closed and all the market gardeners grounds would be under water and livestock had to be moved to higher land. The livestock of course was not the larger animals like cattle and sheep, but perhaps geese, ducks or hens which the gardeners would keep for the eggs or perhaps chicken for Sunday lunch or maybe a goose supper.
My sister Lucy died on 25th May 1929 in her early 20s. She had been ill for a very long time and I remember she used to be in bed in the front room facing the road. She was a lovely girl and had lots of young men and girls calling regularly to see her and was very popular with the people of Badsey. After her death, May seemed to be a very unlucky month for our family. When I was about 12 years old and in May again, my eldest brother, Arthur, was delivering milk on a motor-cycle and side-car when he was involved in a very bad accident at the Badsey Pike with a lorry and was killed; he was only 33 years old. He left a widow, Maisie, two boys, Seymour and Patrick, two girls, Diane and Nina. After his father’s death, Seymour came to our house to live with us and he and I became great pals and could always be found together.
At about this time, my father rented a big orchard at Bowers Hill. He wired it off into sections and bought a lot of sow pigs. I took on the job of feeding and looking after them. This I had to do morning and night before and after school. My reward for doing this work was to be given the smallest pig from a sow when she farried. I would feed this piglet on father’s pig food until it was sold. Whatever the pig was sold for, I was allowed to keep for myself. My one big ambition was to own a pony, so asked my father if he would get me one. All he said was that he would think about it. After that I did not dare mention it again as I knew that the most likely way to have my wish granted was now to keep a still tongue in my head. One day, while Dad was out, he met Mr Dan Perkins, the local slaughter-man who collected dead and live animals. Dad asked him if he would look out for a pony. As it happened, said Mr Perkins, he just happened to have a pony in one of his fields and that if I could catch it then it was mine.
On returning home, Dad told me about this pony and where to find it but to be very careful while trying to catch it as it was not broken and had never had a bridle on. He suggested that I take someone with me to help to get it. Well, of course, there was only one person that could join me on such an exciting escapade, Seymour. We planned to go get the pony on the following Saturday. That morning we were up early and off on our bikes to Weston-sub-Edge and found the animal. Well, after an hour or two we realised that we had quite a job on our hands as that pony just did not want to be caught. After being there nearly all day we were so tired and decided to go home. Seymour said that if the pony had been as tired as they were, he would have been only too pleased to have allowed himself to be caught; this gave me an idea.
During the next week we got a lot of our mates to agree to come and help us on the following Saturday, so come the great day we all set off with some long ropes to help us. When we reached the field we split up into groups and in turns the groups ran the pony round and round the field until he was extremely tired, then with the aid of the ropes, we managed to corner and catch him, with the rope round his neck and all of us boys on the other end, we managed to get him home.
My brother Harold told us all about how to break him. We soon got to work on him and had him mouthed and got him used to having a saddle on his back. After this came the time when one of us had to try and mount him for the first time. In turns we got on his back and were thrown off much quicker than we got on. Anyway, we did not let him get the better of us and eventually broke him and started to ride him regularly and thoroughly enjoy it.
Now going back to the month of May, in 1933 my brother Charlie was working for our father on the farm at Aldington. I think at the time he was about 16 years old. Dad said that he would have to leave us and go to run the farm at Bretforton where the widowed Maisie and family were still living. It was a big job for a lad of his age to take on but Charlie packed his bags and off he went to take on this mammoth task with the help of a cowman, Dick Tombs.
Another brother of mine, Jack, started work in about 1929 as an apprentice electrician. At that time not many houses had electric light. I do know that we hadn’t any. When he became qualified we were one of the first houses to be wired up by him. After this he got quite busy doing the same for other people. Jack managed to persuade our father to buy a new radio which in those days was a crystal set operated by a cat’s whisker, obviously not a real whisker but something similar. The drawback with these sets was the fact that only one person at a time could listen in with the aid of ear-phones so as soon as the more modern radio came on the scene, Jack again decided that we really ought to have one. The new radio was much easier to operate than tickling a crystal with a whisker; it just had two knobs, one for on/off and the other for selecting a station of which there were only two. Power came from a high-tension 90 battery, a low-tension 9 volt battery and a wet battery called an accumulator which had to be charged. It was very miserable if any of the batteries ran out during an important programme.
I think Jack’s first job was working for a Mr Harris who had a little shop in Bretforton. Later on he worked for the Electricity Board. There was plenty of work for electricians then as more and more houses were getting wired up to receive the power. Jack had to travel all over the surrounding villages including the Cotswolds which was no joke on a bicycle with his bag of tools and rolls of wire, etc, but he managed this for quite a few years. He eventually finished up as a self-employed electrician with his own shop in Chipping Campden selling electrical goods.
About this time in my life, it was one of the periods which I often think about being part of a large family, especially going into the kitchen at meal times. This was a very large room with an enormous kitchen range at one end, a big open fire in the centre and a large oven on either side. Mother was a wonderful cook and meals were always something to look forward to but had to be eaten without speaking unless we were spoken to. Whatever we had asked for on our plates had to be eaten up otherwise there was no pudding. Even with such a large family to control, our parents never once laid a hand on any of us. As punishment for doing wrong we were sent to bed and only allowed back downstairs after saying that we were sorry and giving our parents a kiss.
As ours was a very large house, my mother needed help with the cleaning of it so would employ girls from the village. I remember that some of them were the Chamberlain girls from Willersey Barn, then there was a Miss Jelfs and a daughter of a man who we knew as Shiner Knight; her name was Emily, I believe, she was with us the longest.
One of Emily’s jobs was to bath us younger kids in a bathroom which must have been converted from a very large bedroom. The bath which was also outsize looked quite lost in the centre of this room, but it did mean that we could all get in at the same time. With so many to bath the hot water soon ran out, so Emily would have to cart more from the range downstairs. One occasion on the way back up the stairs she slipped and fell with a large bucket of hot water and scalded herself, but thank goodness not too badly.
Emily was courting my brother Charlie’s cowman and they eventually got married and lived in Bretforton. This left mother on her own again, but not for long as along came Emily’s mother to give a hand; a grand old lady, she had had a very hard life, but had a heart of gold. All the ground floors of The Poplars were of flagstones and when she had finished cleaning them we could have eaten off them.
I haven’t said much about my two sisters, Betty and Norah. Norah would help my mother to run the household and worked in the vegetable garden. She would also dress the poultry for the shop until she got married and then helped her husband, Bill Sears on his market garden ground.
Betty, who didn’t like housework, did a little bit in the house but was mostly outside at work. After helping to write up the meat tickets and cut up the meat, she would be off on the delivery bicycle around the village. To earn herself a bit of extra money, she ran a Universal club. This was a great way for people to buy household goods and clothing by paying a certain amount each week. Betty and Norah both got their bottom drawers this way, as did a lot of other young women.
My brother Bill was the first son to work for Father. He helped out on the ground until he left to marry a Miss Dowdswell from Bretforton and then set up his own market gardening business at which he was very good. This then left my brother Fred to do our market gardening for us until he left to get married.
My Dad was a great one for going to the sales and used to come home with all sorts of objects but was always able to sell them to someone; he seemed to know what would sell well. His favourite purchase was property and he bought quite a lot in Badsey. Claybrook Farm was bought from Jinks’ small holding, about ten houses in the village including a row of cottages. He also owned three cottages in Brick Kiln Street in Evesham. He always used to tell us that bricks and mortar were a very good investment.
Dad was a bit of a gambling man and liked a bet on the horses. I remember when I was about 10 years old he told Jim and met that he had been given a good tip for a horse that was running and he had put a £1 bet on. Jim asked him that if the horse should win would he buy us both a new bike? He told us that we could have new bikes if we were willing to walk to Sammy Bright’s the same evening to collect them. If we were not willing to do that then we did not get our bikes. If Dad said something he really meant it and no way would he change his mind.
Just after tea, we heard that the horse had come in first at a very good price. The reason that I remember the name so well is that Dad had written all along the kitchen wall, Play On for Jim’s sake, Play On of course being the horse’s name.
We set off towards Evesham in the dark but did not get very far as every step we took made us more and more scared. Believe me, it was dark as there was not much traffic about to light the roads and nothing in the way of street lighting between Badsey and Evesham. Eventually we turned tail and ran all the way back home; we never did get our new bikes.
Towards the end of our summer holidays from school, our gang used to start thinking about collecting rubbish for bonfire night. We used to start early enough so that we could get plenty for a real good big fire. As we did this year after year, we knew who would let us have their unwanted wood and anything burnable. The first call was on Mr Vic Cockerton whose yard was next to the church. We would find Mr Cockerton and promise to clear all the leaves which had fallen from his walnut tree if he would give us his rubbish, he would sort out his broken pot hampers and what were locally known as sieve baskets, these were small round wicker baskets carried by the porters at the markets on their heads. Mr Arthur Sears would provide us with the same sort of burnable materials. Harry and Fred Stewart was another good place to call at as he could provide us with plenty of wood.
After collecting the stuff from the growers with our horse and dray we would go all around the orchards and hedgerows and collect firewood from the hedges and from under the trees. The asparagus bower made a good centre for the fire and also the runner bean crates.
Until 5th November, the bonfire material was kept in our back orchard, then a day or two before the big day we built the fire in our walled-in garden. Not only had we been collecting for the fire but saving for fireworks for months and then it was off to Mr Jones’ shop to get them. Dad was very strict about the lighting of the fireworks and would not allow anyone to play around with them. I think this was because one of my brothers burnt an eye with a sparkler, but luckily not too bad.
We all looked forward to the time when the fire had died down a bit and we could put the potatoes in the embers to bake, stick sausages on the end of pieces of wood and cook them over the live embers. To enjoy food properly it needs to be cooked over a bonfire and eaten out in the open air, especially if it happens to be a frosty night. We seemed to get the whole village along to join in, it was an absolutely great night.
While still at school, one of my jobs was delivering skimmed milk round the village. People with very little money could only afford the skimmed milk. Anyway, on my round one day I noticed an old motor bike which belonged to Mr Harry Green who lived in High Street, Badsey. I asked him if he ever used it and he told me that it was of no use to him now and was a nuisance. When he knew that I would like it he was only too pleased to let me take it away so long as it was OK with my mother.
I could hardly wait until I had finished the milk round to ask mother. When I did get home it took a lot of persuasion to get her to say yes, but eventually she did. The gang helped me to collect it and push it round to our orchard. Between us all we managed to get the engine going and what fun we had riding it round and round the orchard. At the bottom of the orchard was a brook. It was obvious that someone would end up in the water. At one spot there was a deep cut-out ditch through the bank for the cattle to go down to get a drink. The lad who went too near the edge was Dickie Butler and over he went. As he fell the handle-bars cut his neck. We rescued him and cleaned his wound up with rather grubby hankies and water from out of the brook. We dared not make too much fuss or the motor bike would have been taken away from us and that would have been a calamity.
Badsey was always and still is well known for its football team. In its early days the games were played on ground known as Elsewhere Park. This was a field off the Back Road to Evesham just over the little bridge. Later on they moved to Badsey Recreation Ground in Sands Lane about 1925 as near as I can say. It is still there and has grown a lot and still plays good football. In my young days, the team was managed by a Mr Harold Cave who lived in Badsey Fields Lane. The trainer, Edgar Salter, also lived in Badsey Fields Lane. I can always remember where Edgar lived because one night we had a terrific thunderstorm and he had a thunder bolt drop down his chimney. One of the local referees was Tommy Knight, nicknamed Tommy Diddums; he was a very little man and he used to walk very fast and seemed to be always walking somewhere. He was a buyer for a Birmingham firm and the local growers called him Barney man as that was the name of his employer in Birmingham.
During my school-days, I would get together a football team with my mates and we played a team from the top end of the village which was run by Les Malin. I made a shield which we would play for in a field called Packs at Blackminster. I saw Les a few years ago and he asked me if I felt like a game and told me that he still had the shield over 50 years later.
About June/July time was hay-making season, another enjoyable time and also another chance to eat out in the open. First job was for Jack Pratt from Bretforton to come and cut the grass with a mowing machine drawn by a horse. After it was cut and had laid for a day or two, the grass had to be turned with what was known as a tedder machine and then after another few days was turned by hand with a pitch fork and left for another day or two to make; this means that it had to be thoroughly dry as if it was ricked while even slightly wet it would heat up in the centre of the rick and would get so hot that it would eventually set fire.
When it was made it had to be drawn up into long rows which made it easier to be picked up by the men with horse and drays. To load the dray was quite a skilled job because if it was not loaded properly, the whole load would come toppling off. The same skill was used on building the rick or it could finish up a bit lop-sided and start falling about. I remember one old chap who used to come and help us with the hay-making was a Jim Dorkins who I believe retired to Badsey from Birmingham. I think that he had a very happy time in Badsey.
While the hay-making season was on, we stayed in the field all day long and as it was very thirsty work. The cider barrel was in place, we kids loved that because we were allowed to have a drink or two. At tea-time the grub arrived from the house complete with a big bucket of tea. There were no leftovers as we all had a very large appetite after working hard and the food in those days was really wholesome.
The plum-picking came later in the year, mostly Pershore Egg plums which were picked green and put into large baskets called pot ompers by the locals. Most of them went to the Smedley’s canning factory in Evesham and to the Littleton & Badsey Growers to be tinned or made into jam. Believe me, Pershore plum jam, especially if homemade, is mouth-watering. The local women used to bottle them and seal the jars with hot suet fat to preserve them; they were delicious. The price paid for picking one of these hampers was between ninepence and one shilling.
Pear-picking was a bit more difficult as the trees were much taller. One such tree in our front orchard, a strawberry pear, was very large. My brother Fred was the person to pick this tree and would tie two long ladders together making them about 60 rounds high. In a good year he would get about 50 hampers full, beautiful pears for stewing.
I think that it must have been about 1927 when Dad got his first motor vehicles, an Essex car and a Ford van. I well remember the van as when it had gone beyond repair it was parked in the middle of the orchard at the back of our house, quite handy for us lads who used to spend hours playing in it. At that time, petrol was supplied in two-gallon cans and delivered round the villages to anyone who needed it. Later on the old Essex car was exchanged for a Crossley. Dad was now the owner of two Model Y Ford vans.
In the early days, Dad, who had never learned to drive, used to get my older brother to drive him around and at weekends would drive the whole family visiting Aunts and Uncles. These journeys were not without the occasional breakdown and then somehow we got in touch with Cyril Bird to get us home.
One of the extra special runs we had was to Birmingham to see a Christmas pantomime and afterwards going to the Central Hotel where we all enjoyed a meal of plaice and chips, the highlight of the outing.
Another great outing in the car was to Weston-super-Mare, having a picnic on the Bristol Downs. Mum would pack a marvellous picnic hamper, a visit to the sea and then on to Weston for a bathe in the sea; the tide was in that day. A visit to the ice-cream parlour for our favourite, knickerbockers glory, returning home very tired but so happy.
Thinking of cars reminds me of the first one that my brother Jack bought. It was about 1936 that he purchased an Austin 7 at the unbelievable price of £2 10s. After a time he swapped this one for a later model, still an Austin 7. He was very proud of this one as it was as good as new and cost him £15. Unfortunately, this car did not last as long as the first one as Jack had an accident with it at Weston-sub-Edge crossroads. I remember that he was very upset over losing this car.
About 1931 was a lovely time, especially during school holidays because then most of my time was spent out of doors as there were so many things to do; a lot of my mates would join me if they had no household chores to do. I would ask my mother if I could please have some of her dripping fat and some potatoes and then tell her that we would be out all day and would not be getting under her feet. My pals and I would all meet up in a potting shed which was in our orchard. In this shed was an open fireplace and we had some old pots and pans. We used to cook big pots full of potato chips and if we could scrounge them, eggs and sausages. Besides my brother Jim and myself there seemed to be dozens of other kids. This was a regular thing with our gang. The mothers of these boys always knew where to find their children.
Father also knew where to find us if he wanted any jobs doing, like picking up windfall apples. They have to be put into sacks ready to make into cider. The cider mill was in the corner of our front orchard. It was Dad’s building but Mr Ernest Mustoe’s cider-making machinery which was used by Ernest’s foreman, Joe Crane.
I remember that a window in the cider-making building opened on to the footpath and on their way to and from school, the kids used to look in and cheek Joe for a drink of his cider. Sometimes old Joe would let them in and dip their heads into the open-top barrels to drink the nice new sweet cider. I expect that their mothers had the same job to do as my mother had; that was to wash their dirty trousers. Another of the jobs that we kids were expected to do was bed-picking. This was picking up the dead stalks from the asparagus beds and then there was the topping of the runner beans.
I think our favourite job was the radish-minding which meant keeping the birds off and making as much noise as we possibly could. The primitive but effective implement consisted of a lot of pieces of metal hung up on a rack with a piece of metal behind. The larger piece of metal had a piece of string attached which had to be continuously pulled to rattle against the smaller pieces, just the sort of job enjoyed by noisy boys.
The radish-minding was an all-day job so of course we had to take along all our cooking pots and pans and any grub that we could scrounge. Food never tasted better. The ground where we did this radish-minding was known as Jinks’ Ground and is now a housing estate, Green Leys. A little foot-bridge made of railway sleepers ran over the water and we used to lie across it and reach down to rinse our hands. Very near to the bridge was a deep hole dug out by my brother Fred from which he used to get water for his greenhouse. One day while us lads were lying across the bridge, I thought that I would frighten one of the boys by picking him up by his feet and threatening to duck him. Unfortunately, my grasp of him was not very safe and he slipped forward head first into the hole and I almost drowned the lad. It took three or four of us to pull him out. What a mess, he had a mouthful of mud. I can’t remember now, but we must have managed to clean him up somehow. I can still remember that his name was Baggy Crane and I bet he hasn’t forgotten Ted Wheatley. On this same piece of ground, my father planted an early piece of runner beans hoping that there would be no early frosts. They were flourishing extremely well and in full blossom when one night a frost was forecast. Father had to try and save his beans somehow. Mother had the answer with a lot of odd rolls of wallpaper, so off we all march to cover as many beans as we could. As it happened, the frost did not materialise but a fairly strong wind arose during the night and blew every bit of paper away. Badsey was covered in wallpaper.
I think that people would have said we were right little devils in those days, as we were always up to some sort of mischief such as the times we used to play in the Manor House which was empty for some years. It might be asked how did we get into the house when it was always kept locked. Well, there are other ways of getting into an empty locked house. There is usually a broken pane of glass in a window somewhere and trust us kids to find it. Luckily there was a tree just handy and tree-climbing was one of our pastimes.
Of course, we did not always get into the house unnoticed by the village bobby who would take his belt off to us and we would feel it around our back sides. This included his own son who was one of us. I can’t say that it cured him any more than it did the rest of the gang; it just slowed us down for a few days.
Fox and hounds was a great favourite of ours to play. The chosen fox was sent on his way and told to run as fast as he could as we would soon be after him. We gave him about four or five minutes and then with a lot of whooping and hollering we were on the chase, through people’s gardens, jumping hedges and fences, across the market gardening grounds and fields until we caught him. My goodness, we were not short of exercise in those days.
One of the naughty tricks we got up to was door-tapping. We thought this great fun but the owners of the doors did not think the same as us; their threats just went over our heads. Two doors next to each other would have a piece of rope loosely tied from one door handle to the other, then bang on both doors then run as fast as our legs would go round the nearest corner where we could safely watch. The first door could be fairly safely opened but the second door opening nearly pulled the hand off the first door opener. After a few nights of this silly prank the copper was after us and our parents were asked if they would please try and control their kids.
I am sorry to say that even the local vicar, Mr Allsebrook, was not safe as far as we were concerned. He used to leave his old car outside the church and us lads would ram a potato up the exhaust pipe then go into hiding and wait for him to come out of the church and try to start his car. Of course, when he eventually got it going there was the usual loud report from the exhaust and a large cloud of smoke. Was nothing sacred to us?
May 1934 was a very unhappy time for my family. My father had gone with my brother, Enoch, to Andoversford market and suffered a stroke. He was brought home but died soon after. I was 13 years old at the time and it had been Dad’s wish that I should go away as an apprentice jockey but after his death my mother did not want to let me go and instead arranged for me to become a paid apprentice mechanic when I left school at 14. I started with Vic Morrall in Port Street, Evesham, whose garage was half-way down Port Street on the left.
It cost my mother £100 for my apprenticeship which was rather a lot of money in the mid 1930s. My wage for the first twelve months was five shillings per week (that is 25p in today’s currency), the second year the wage was doubled to ten shillings, the third year brought me 15 shillings and the fourth year the grand sum of £1 was my weekly earnings, but in those days it was possible to save a little bit and I was able to buy two young sows in pig (pregnant) with a view to looking after them in my spare time. My mother had said that I could use one of her fields at the bottom of Old Post Office Lane. It was not too long before I had a herd of six. During the evenings when the growers digging their root crops, potatoes, parsnips and beetroot, I would call and see them and offer to pick up all the very small stuff which was no good for the market. They were usually only too pleased for me to do this as the ground had to be cleared ready for the next crop.
After picking up and bagging the vegetables, I would fetch my pony and trap and transport them home and stack them in a shed until I had the time to cook them in a big furnace which we had in our back yard. When cooked they were put into wooden tubs and covered over with a piece of sacking. In this way it would keep for months to feed my pigs a certain amount of the vegetables would be mixed with some bran and a few pig nuts.
When the sows were ready to farrow, a close eye had to be kept on them to make sure that they did not lie on the little ones after they were born. The litters were between nine and twelve per sow, the little piglets were to be kept for eight weeks and then sent to market where hopefully they would make a good price.
I was still breeding pigs when I was called up for the army when the war started in 1939. I had to leave it to my brother Enoch to sell them for me when he thought the price was right. After two attempts to get a fairly decent price, he finally had to let them go for 5 shillings each (25p).
Now to get back to my work for Mr Morrall. The man I had to work under was a Bill Johns, the motor-cycle foreman mechanic. I stayed with him for about two and a half years and learnt everything there was to know about motor-cycles. After this I was put under Mr Manning’s care, the foreman car mechanic who taught me all he knew about the repairing of the four-wheeled vehicles. Now here I was, a fully-qualified mechanic and could keep our own vehicles on the road.
In about 1936, Morrall’s garage was the largest in Evesham and I can remember that they were selling quite a lot of new cars and motor-cycles. When the old motor-cycles were taken in part exchange for a new model, they were always put upstairs in a loft. Mr Morrall had a very large collection up there. I think when I left his employ, there were about 60 or 70. I often wonder what became of them. The cars which were part exchanged were made good use of if the chassis was good, the body was cut off behind the driver’s seat and a flat wooden bed fitted to the chassis and made into a little pick-up which was a very popular and cheap vehicle for the local smaller growers. The best car for this conversion was the old Morris Oxford and Cowley models.
As soon as I was old enough to ride a motor-cycle, that was in 1937, I bought a BSA 250cc which I think I paid the £2 10s out of my savings. I soon passed my test and had many miles of enjoyment out of this machine and another two motor-cycles which I bought before going on to drive a car. In 1939 my mother said that she would like to buy a car and that I could use it and get rid of my motor-cycle. The vehicle she chose was a Standard 8hp, the cost of this being £132. The first Sunday after taking delivery some of the family decided that they would like to go to Portsmouth for the open Navy Day, so my second drive in a motor car was a very long one but very exhilarating. If I remember correctly, petrol was from 1s to 1s 2d per gallon. Taffy Johns who ran the Army and Navy stores in Evesham sold a cheaper brand at 11d a gallon. Most garages in those days had their petrol pumps by the side of the footpath so that the cars had to pull up close to the path to use the pumps. This meant that the fuel pipe was stretched across the pavement, therefore causing the pedestrians to walk in the road, but of course the traffic was not as thick as it is nowadays.
During the winter when there had been a great deal of rain, the river in Evesham would flood right up the road to the front of Morrall’s garage and we used to have to put sandbags across the front of the garage to prevent the water getting the petrol pumps.
When in 1939 the outbreak of war was looming, Mr Morrall decided to use part of the garage to store food for the ministry. He was sure that war would be declared and so started another business of buying and selling potatoes which he continued to do right through the war years.
It was also 1939 when I had a letter from the ministry telling me that I had to leave my employment at the garage and take a job driving a lorry carrying loads of buildings materials to build an aerodrome at Tilesford near Pershore. After six days’ work there I received my first pay packet from them for £20 clear. I felt like a millionaire.
To keep the roads of Badsey clean and also the roadside drains was an old chap by the name of Bill Cunger who always carried his pipe in his cap ready for when he wanted a smoke. Like the road sweepers in other villages, he would trim the verges and move the rubbish in his little trolley. When these road sweepers had disappeared, the villages never looked the same. Rubbish collected in the roads, dirt and dust collected over the drain covers and the roadside verges grew out into the roads. I think that nobody was missed as much as the road sweeper. Bill Cunger liked to do other little jobs to enable him to live a more luxurious life and fancied himself as a chimney-sweep. During a chat in the local over a pint of his favourite tipple, someone mentioned to him that they needed a chimney-sweep at their house. Next day, along goes Bill with his mate Edgar and rods and brushed. Bill set about the job and told Edgar to stand outside to watch for the brush coming out of the chimney pot and to give him a yell when he saw it. Bill had a little trouble getting the brush up the chimney, so Edgar had got a bit fed up waiting for it and was laughing and talking with a passer-by. When Bill had put his last rod up the chimney, he wondered why Edgar hadn’t shouted and went outside to view the situation himself. What a surprise he got. The brush had come through the chimney pot and over the road on to the roof of the house opposite. What with the mess they had made of the job and all the leg-pulling that they were getting, they decided to call it a day.
Another gentleman doing the rounds of Badsey at a weekend trying to earn himself a bit of extra pocket money was Stan Nailer who travelled on a carrier bike. He would call at the public houses with a big basket of fish and chips, which he had no problem selling. When his basket was empty, he would then cycle back into Evesham and then return with another basket full. Mind you, he had to keep one eye on the kids who were following, otherwise he lost one or two packets of his fish and chips.
One of the villagers who tried to help other people with problems around the houses, but sometimes failed, was Bertie who liked having a go at any little job. One evening while in the local pub, he learnt that someone was in need of an odd job man to fix a new pipe to replace the one which took the water to the cistern of the WC. Bertie said that he could do the job on Saturday afternoon and he knew just where he could lay his hands on a piece of pipe. Come Saturday and there was Bertie ready and willing with his bit of pipe which did not take him too long to fit, so when all was finished, he told the chap to go and try his flush. Suddenly came a great shout from the WC and I expect also a few naughty words. Out came the chap dripping water everywhere. He said that not only had he flushed the lavatory but had a shower too. What Bertie had failed to notice was a lot of very small holes drilled all along the pipe as it had been used by the previous owner for watering across the greenhouse. I think it took Bertie a long time to live this one down.
Another story of Bertie I remember is when he had a small grandson come to stay with him for a time. Apparently this lad was very lively and kept Bertie on his toes and one day Bertie had had as much as he could stand and threatened to tell the policeman of his carry-ons if he did not quieten down. Later on that day while out playing, the boy happened to meet up with the policeman and asked him if his granddad had told tales about him. On hearing that nothing had been said, he told the policeman that he had something naughty to tell him about his granddad and that was that he had no licence for his radio.
The policeman must have told this story to a few villagers and very soon everyone around knew that the policeman had great difficulty keeping a straight face while listening to the boy’s story. I think that the granddad must have had a very different expression when the lad told him what he had done as he had to immediately go to the Post Office and purchase a radio licence which, unknown to Bertie, was seen by the still laughing policeman. It was stories like this which would keep a village amused for days or perhaps weeks after.
Apart from the local tradesmen, we used to get a few callers from other towns plying their trade such as Harry Ward with his fleet of door-to-door vans and ran his business from a yard in Badsey Lane, Evesham. The driver would call once a week with his van absolutely loaded with just about everything people needed in the household line: cleaning materials, brooms, scrubbing brushes, mops, clothes pegs, washing lines, fire wood, candles, lamp wicks, lamp glasses and globes, and hundreds of other items too numerous to mention. I think that the most popular line was the paraffin which was transported in a large tank wand was measured out in different sized measuring cans, so much paraffin was used in those day, the most important being for the table lamps for lighting and then of course there were the storm lamps for going out after dark to check the animals or anything else that needed looking at. Lots of people had a heater in the back kitchen and some of them even had a paraffin cooker with two top boiling plates and an over. These were very handy in the summer as it saved having to light the coal fire in the living-room where the cooking was usually done, with this fire the burning embers had to be pushed under the oven into a space especially made for getting the oven hot enough for baking or roasting.
Another firm that came round the villages was the Worcester Glover Company. There was always a lady came with the driver who would call at the cottages in the villages each week to collect the made-up gloves and bring more materials to make up the next week’s collection. It was one way that the females in the villages could make a bit of pin money as it was called in those days. Of course, a lot of them did work on the ground either helping their husbands on their plots of land or working for the larger growing firms. This even meant picking sprouts with the frost still on them.
Walls’ Ice Cream Company would tour the villages in the summer with a fleet of three-wheeled bikes which had a large box at the front containing the ice-cream kept cold with a substance known as dry ice. The rider would stop and ring his bicycle bell to announce his arrival. He was always popular with the kids. I remember that the sign across the front of the box was "Stop me and buy one."
About this time, talk of war was in the air each day, so before war started the government stopped a lot of butchers from killing their animals in their own slaughter houses and they had to be taken to certain slaughter houses in the area. Alan Marshall from Aldington was working in Harry Byrd’s butcher’s shop in Evesham when he heard that the government was looking for lorries and drivers to deliver meat from these slaughter houses to the butchers’ shops. Alan asked me to go with him to apply for the jobs, but I did not do so as I was a bit frightened of finding the money to buy a lorry. Alan went ahead and this proved to be the start of a very successful business, "Marshall’s Transport".
Soon after the war started, lots of evacuees arrived in the village; we had a family sent to live with us. Also the army came to the village and our barns and others were used to house the soldiers. The quarter-master sergeant came to live in our house and the quarter-master stores were put in the old parish reading room that we owned which was situated behind Gladstone Villa in Badsey High Street. Our cellar was made into an air-raid shelter. I remember the first time the air-raid warning sounded, we all went down the cellar until morning. We then found out that we hadn’t hear the siren; it was the all clear we had heard so we were in the cellar for nothing. We all had a good laugh about it afterwards.
One night just after Dunkirk, a convoy of lorries full of tired dirty soldiers arrived in the village. The officer in charge was soon all round the houses looking for help with baths and hot water and for farmers with barns and clean straw for the soldiers to sleep on. My mother soon stoked up the fire and lit fires under three big furnaces that were in our large out kitchen. Soon there was a long line of soldiers queuing up our stairs waiting to get into the hot bath. Mother and my sisters got out all the towels we had for them but there were so many I think some of them had a job to dry themselves. Other people in the village were all helping to take care of the soldiers in all sorts of ways and soon after the army came and issued all new kit to the men. After a few days the troops and their transport were moving around the village getting reorganised. They took over one petrol pump in the village and there was an endless queue of lorries being filled up. They opened up the old manor which had been closed for years. It was nice to see it come back into use again after being closed and overgrown for years.
In the mornings my mother would cross the road into our front orchard to feed her poultry and the soldiers used to call out to her, "Watch out for them chickens, missus, of we will have them in the pot for dinner." Some time later during the night, all the troops moved out of the village and so did our chickens! Luckily they never took mother’s turkeys, geese or guinea fowl. The guinea fowl used to roost in the huge pear trees and we had to shoot one if we wanted one for dinner; they had to be hung by the neck for about ten days before cooking.
Soon after this I had my call-up papers to join the army and went to Derby for training. Six weeks later on Christmas Day, I, with others, went by train to Liverpool and got on a troop ship to take us overseas serving time in India and through out the Middle East. While in Haifa, Palestine, I met my brother, Jim, and spent a week with him. It was five years before I returned to Badsey. A few days before I arrived, my mother said she had told my old collie dog that I was coming home and from then on he kept walking in and out of the yard. And right enough, when I walked into the yard, he came running to me, and no one could get near for about five minutes.
The late ‘40s and ‘50s were good times. There were plenty of jobs and everyone seemed to be happy. Not many people had cars but there was a good bus service. Badsey had a bus through the village every half an hour and a return to Evesham was only 4d (2p). At this time we had two cinemas in Evesham. I was lucky when I came out of the army. I still had my car which had been stored in the barn while I was away. Anyone with a car was very popular and everyone wanted to be your friend.
Besides the cinema in Evesham, there were lots of dances in the villages around and the pubs were all full with parties and sing-a-longs. Lots of young girls and boys – Land Army girls and soldiers all bent on having a good time. It was the thing to go to the pubs first until about 10.30 then off to the village dances the best way you could; some walked, others by bike or car, or on the back of a lorry. The trouble was most cars and lorries had very worn tyres in those days and often had punctures so they were left on the side of the road until the next day because they didn’t have a spare wheel. I remember one chap called "Wacker" who only had one leg. He had an Austin 7 and it had very worn tyres and he couldn’t get any new ones. He would have as many as six in the car and if he had a puncture he would take the tyre off and ride home on the rim.
The village had changed little in five years and after spending a few months getting used to civilian life again, I decided that I wanted to be my own boss. So I asked my mother if she would let me have the old cider mill building next to Gladstone Villa and a piece of the front of the orchard to enable me to start a garage and a filling station. She said I could so I had plans drawn up. I eventually got permission and started work. I did a lot of the labouring work and had a lot of help from a young girl called Hazel Barnard who came after school and helped me dig out the forecourt and fuel tank. Mr Charlie Savage, the local builder, did the work in the cider mill. He fitted the windows and a large door and a new floor after we had laid the forecourt and installed a 500-gallon petrol tank; Cleveland Petroleum Company fitted a new petrol pump.
Before I could clear away the last of the rubbish from the entrance to the garage, I had my first customer: a Mr Fred Salter from the local shop (opposite the Wheatsheaf Inn). From then on, until I left the business, I was never without work. I put all my savings into getting the garage open and, after paying the builder and paying for the petrol pumps and tanks, I was spent up. I had just enough left to buy 500 gallons of petrol and one 5-gallon drum of oil. It was very hard-going and a very worrying time for the first 12 months. I was just able to keep my head above water. The following year, petrol sales had increased and I found that I wanted extra storage and another grade of petrol. I could not afford another tank and pump, but on the other side of the road, outside the Sumachs (Lucy Cull’s house) was a petrol pump which they once used for their bakery business. I went to see Mrs Cull and after a bit of tough talking, I rented it from her. I was glad to have this extra pump but it was hard work keeping up with everything on my own. Working in the garage, then dashing across the road to serve petrol and often backwards and forwards for change. After a year of this, I made up my accounts; my net profit was £45 4s 4d, but I never lost heart and ploughed on.
Three years after opening, a Mr Bob Davis came to see me and asked me to take him on. I said I would like to but was a bit worried about it. He said that he had left his last job over a disagreement and understood. He asked if I would take him on on a week to week basis, to see how things worked out, which they did and he was with me until he died suddenly some years later. Bob and I worked very well together and it meant that more repair jobs could be taken on without interruptions from serving petrol. In the mid ‘60s, I took on three young lads, Reggie Arthurs, Peter Addis and Roger Brewer, and I had a lubrication bay built on the side of the garage. We were a happy gang and things were going well.
With having more help, I was able to enjoy life a bit more and Saturday nights I was off dancing which I really enjoyed. I would go anywhere there was a dance. It was while I was at a dance that I met a Miss Peggy Ktyte and some time later I asked her to be my wife, to which she agreed. After getting married, we lived with my mother at The Poplars opposite the garage for about two years, after which we had a bungalow built next to the garage. Mr Charlie Savage built the bungalow for the price of £2,250 and we moved in two days before Christmas. My mother moved in with us, leaving the old house empty.
The garage business continued to grow and we built an extension with an electric lift and another lubrication bay. About this time, we had a few customers that were real characters. I remember one saying that his car needed some work done and would I take him home and bring the car back for repairs. I offered to take him home in my car but he said no as his car had a heater in it and it was nice and warm. I said good and went to get into his car when I noticed "the heater" was a paraffin one which was alight on the back seat. I said no to his offer and warned him to the danger, but some time later he was still using it. There was another man who had a very old small lorry that he used to take vegetables to Chipping Norton. The tyres were very worn and being a very odd size were almost unobtainable. He was always in trouble with punctures. I remember one day we had to go out to him because he had three flat tyres; when we got there we had to mend 19 punctures. Yet another gentleman bought an ex army pick-up truck which was fitted with a winch mounted on the front bumper, the end of the winch cable was hooked on to the radiator guard. In the cab were a number of levers. One day while travelling along, he decided to move one of these levers to see what happened, only to find that it was the one that operated the winch, which immediately pulled off the radiator. There was another customer who had an ex army pick-up which broke down one day. He left it outside on the road in front of his house and carried on using another lorry he had. About nine months later, he asked if we would call round, bring the pick-up and repair it, which we did. After repairing it, I decided to clean out the cab. There was some old boxes and papers on the seat. I found a package which had between 300 and 400 pound notes in it. When I told the customer, he said he must have forgotten to take it out when he broke down nine months before. As time went on, the garage was coming along fine and we had some very good and loyal customers.
I think my most important happening at this time was when my wife told me I was to be a father. This made me very happy and so thankful when my wife presented me with a wonderful gift of a lovely baby girl. A little time later, my wife’s mother and father came to live with us for a short while after returning from Australia. About this time, I heard of a building for sale which was on an aerodrome at Defford. It was offered to a Mr Sinclair who bought it for £100. After buying it, he found it was too large to go into his yard. After a bit of bargaining, I bought it from him for £200. For nine following weekends, myself, father-in-law and staff went to Defford and took it apart, then brought it back to Badsey. My staff and I assembled it next to the bungalow over the next 12 months. It was quite a big job. This meant working on cars all day and the working on the building until dark. As time went on, I took on more staff; Dave Taylor and Jonathan Page were very good at their jobs as were all my workers.
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After VJ Day, there came the news that Phil Sparrow (Cocky) was coming home from spending four years in a Jap prison-of-war camp. A few of the local men got together and to celebrate they would climb the tall fir tree (the Badsey Tree) in Mr Johns’ front garden next to the church and would attempt to tie a Union Jack flag to the top of it. It was all kept Hush Hush because they wanted it to be kept quiet from Mr Johns. It was done in the dark late one night. I think it was Les (Buster) Mustoe who got right to the top. My brother, Fred, was one of many who helped him. I believe most of the time that they had to climb together, one either side of the tree trunk to keep the balance right. The same tree was climbed again when Prince Charles was married, on this occasion by, along with others, Clint Evans and Lawrence (Lol) Bindoff. This was to be the last time because, after many objections, the tree was cut down. I, like many others missed it because when I returned from being away, I would look out from the train knowing that when the tree came in sight, we were close to dear old Badsey. It was a great landmark.