Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BORN IN THE 50's - A COVENTRY TALE - A STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS

I wrote this for my Coventry Music Archive site - Hobo - named after a music magazine I ran in Coventry in the early 70's. Although its not directly related to the school, it should resonate with those of you born in Cov in 1950's. I didn't start at Cleobury until 1962 but might follow this with one based on the sixties which will include the school. So this is a starting point for a new forthcoming 'chapter'!



BORN IN THE 50's - A COVENTRY TALE - A STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
by Trev Teasdel 2007

Coventry being rebuilt in the 1950's
Woolworth's still under construction in the 50's
Toddling with my mother and father round the city centre, a chaos of post war Coventry scaffolding, construction and clearances, seeing the Woolworth building, at first the market end, the other end was True Form, later buying a mega silk screened tie for Sunday best, mum thinking it too big and flash but it was smart, nothing packaged like today, gaunt cranes and towering buildings, ever changing every Saturday visit, seeing British Home stores and Marks and Sparks emerge, a brand new city centre taking shape as I slowly grew and the Phoenix rose from the ashes of war, being taken into Timothy Whites, the half- timbered hardware store in Trinity street, walking around the back by the old market, fish smells, meat market, haberdashery, 2nd hand books, slow crowds hovering around stalls, tall folks, adults, long 50's overcoats and hats, grey and sober, the sound of market mongers flogging their wares - their's was always best, always an angle, through quiet parts of the market, finding an exit, clear air, all in a temporary flux of giant change, the smell of something emerging, just like me, growing up, a new city for a new age, the 60's, full of hope, looking to peace and love and creativity, hope for mankind, "A Leap year for Planning" said Alderman Hodgkinson in 1954, old Fords and Morris Minors "any colour so long as it's black" new car shapes emerging and new brave colours, Rovers, Rileys Jags and Daimlers, Humber Hillman, Sunbeam, Singer - car city booming production lines, asway with buses, cloth-capped, fag in mouth city sidewalks, the Coventry Evening Telegraph sellers standing like Socrates outside the Acropolis of the National Bank, one of the biggest city centre buildings that the bombs were too scared to hit, their megaphone voices defining our world for history in half-audiable headlines. New brave city, a sense of space, a sense of modernism, a sense of regeneration, triumph in austerity, a symbol of world peace where the Lennon's would soon choose to plant their acorns, centre stage in times to come for little Broadgate Gnomes planting creative seeds in bomb holes and wandering musical hobos, the arena of the forthcoming Coventry music scene but meanwhile back in the 50's

Being 3 or 4, moving from a flat in Allesley village to a council house in Meadfoot Rd. Willenhall where the Coventry to Euston line ran aback of the houses, waving -  flag in hand to the Queen as she passed on the Royal Train, from the sandy embankment, while some boys threw stones and were caught by the coppers, the age of steam was giving way to the age of diesel as the 50's shunted on, you could witness technology fast-track from the back of your house, speeding down the lines to the innovative 60's while out the front it was the 10.am break from hoovering the hall and dusting the sideboards, sitting on the red polished doorstep, my mum and Pat next door, the morning gossip, Players and Woodbines, jiving in the street to Rock Around the Clock on the radio, chugging down the line to full blown youth culture, "See you Later Alligator, in a while Crocodile" was the catch phrase, a wake-up call to dormant youth, the first sproutings of the Coventry music scene, there was a sense of excitement, a sense of fun in the music a sense of life on the world's martian cultural landscape, I felt sandwiched between the pace of the trains outback and the pace of the music out front, on board to make some changes myself, waving flags to our highest aspirations.

Sitting on my fathers lap, watching the Six-Five Special,(Hear it on this site), trains and rock music were
synonymous, for none more so than Pete Waterman of course, growing up over the other end of Coventry, digging rock and soul and loving trains, you could feel it, it was in the air, there was a change to come, you didn't know the destination, how it would pan out, but the 60s were defining their character in the fifties, each year was a station on the way.

Learning to read pre-school with my mum via the TV Comic, watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men (who later moved to San Francisco!), Sooty and Sweep, reading the Beano, the Dandy and later the Eagle, Dan Dare, the Lost World - Conan Doyle, watching Dixon of Dock Green, the Army Game, Sunday afternoon war films, Ealing films, George Formby, Sunday Night at The London Palladium, Juke Box Jury ("I'll give it 9"), Oh Boy, I was a TV addict in the fifties, never wanting to miss anything by going on holiday, but when I got there, I didn't miss it, strange because after the fifties I was never again that interested in TV, remembering the Radio Times and at one stage, mid fifties it went on strike and it was replaced by an economical news paper form for a little while, seeing an entry about Elvis and his hips on the Ed Sullivan show, sounded exciting, wanted to watch it but my parents, although they liked rock n roll, did their parental duty. Although Presley's music must have been all around, I don't recall much else until 1964 when I started to became a fan because everybody else was going bananas over the Beatles and I so hated being a clone! I did love the Beatles but I refused to wear the badge as it were until the Beatles became a whole lot more interesting to me! I more remember Cliff and the Shadows, Tommy Steel - the British rockers. Ah but the fifties flipped by like carriages,  and me running up the hill at the back of the house where the digger trucks dumped the soil from Willenhall Woods, trees felled for houses, a new council estate where we would live in the 60's, now a no go area I'm told but then a brand new and peaceful estate, sliding down the hill, wearing out our trousers, playing hide and seek, cowboys and Indians, making daisy chains, riding your bike over the mounds and through the long-grassed waste ground that was living in fear of concrete and another new estate being built on it.

Trev and Dad (when a bus driver) in the 50's - GEC estate - Actress Billie Whitelaw's
childhood home behind them
My dad learning to drive on Coventry buses, we'd walk each morning to the Binley Hotel Terminus with a flask of tea and sandwiches, me and my mum along the the very wooded St.James Lane, before the trees made way for an estate, sitting on the bus behind the drivers cabin, my dad's cabin, while he three-point-turned the bus around, him handing me a new dinky car out from the sliding window panel, sitting with his conductor Whiskers, an older man who was the life and soul of the bus with his patter, you got your money's worth on that bus, he'd make you laugh, he'd even sing, the No11 Binley to Glendower Avenue bus, passing Binley colliery, the GEC Stoke works, the Humber car plant,

Gosford Green to the city centre and on to Glendower avenue up in Chapelfields. You could change your job every year back then and walk into another, no CV's, Personnel officers, training schemes - there was always someone to show you what to do,;my dad driving for Frances Barnett - motor bike firm in Pool Meadow, me going on some of the trips delivering motor bikes in different parts of the midlands, later him working  at the GEC, bringing home discarded phone exchange switches with counters to play with, the discarded cream telephone of the refurbished Queen Elizabeth ship, when most phones were custom black, me an only child until I was six, learning to occupy myself or play with Sandra and Pauline next door, collecting leaflets later in the fifties when my dad was in the electrical trade, of electrical goods, cars and all-sorts, used to sort them and dream of owning what later would be called a superstore selling everything, the lateral thinking involved led to developing cross arts
forms.

Willenhall Wood c 1960
Going around to see John Alderson, later guitarist with Wandering John, our mums were friends, he had this great collection of Corgi cars and his pride was a Studebaker or Chevrolet's - I only had Dinky or Matchbox and very English cars, there was something much more meticulous about his collection, something that would carry over into his brilliant guitar playing and guitar making much later in the 60's - his dad worked at the Rover plant -most people worked in the car factories in Coventry. My dad had a new car every year, at first a motorbike and side car, an old black Ford Popular and a brand new beige coloured one - much like an upturned pram towards more sixties styled cars - cars were changing too - his pride and joy was a second hand Daimler, remember the owner test driving it for us, I think he was trying to break the world speed records, I'd never gone that fast before, my dad was always a responsible driver having been trained on Coventry buses.

Writing a novel at 6 / 7, my dad getting me to read Treasure Island, which I enjoyed, and then Kidnapped. Kidnapped just didn't get my attention and so I decided I could probably do better, my first attempt at creative writing, I gathered sheets of paper and each night before going to sleep worked on the first chapter which I was quite pleased with but I just didn't have the experience to follow through with it at that age and eventually admitted defeat but something hung back although I didn't remember this early writing experience until something triggered in recent years, but writing became my thing. I mostly think of it as having started at 15 writing my first songs but obviously it began much earlier! but that was the key point in my life - i knew that if things weren't there that you liked you could create them your self - or at least try, it was the same with songs, I wanted to hear songs that said what I wanted them to say, on the music scene people used to moan that "they" weren't providing facilities for musicians - my perspective was always, 'then we'll create them', albeit with a lack of resources, our creativity is the resource and hopefully if successful, 'they' might see the need and help us out - maybe!!

On Sunday afternoons we'd go for a Sunday afternoon drive to places like Drayton Manor Park, Alton Towers, Banbury Cross, the model village at Moreton on the Marsh with the people next door in the Morris Minor shooting break, - my dad building me a crystal radio and it worked and introducing me to National Geographical magazines, I collected them and looked through them, reading some of the articles wondering what kind of world I had entered where there is plenty on one part and starvation in another, my dad asking for the issue back with a picture of Burma on to give to a Burmese family that had moved in a couple of doors away, it was late 50's and I came across none of the racism that reared its head later in the 60's, they sometimes looked after me and vice-versa, so nice that families from different cultures could co-exist so amicably, they had a daughter and year or two older than me, I had  a soft-spot for her, doing my best to deny what the adults had sussed because of embarrassment, she was nice, fun and intelligent but it was explained about arranged marriages and any way we were moving soon to The new estate Willenhall Wood, then brand new, peaceful and based on the American style with the trades men's entrance at the back and a traffic free green out front with trees where we would spend the 60's.

We were post war kids, with no direct experience of the war but picking up on the vibes, the sadness of the airaid shelters and the new emergent optimism, wondering what kind of world we had entered, tripping over the double values and wondering if we could change things for the better, if we could dare to dream of a better society with out war and and starvation, exploitation, and seeing a window of opportunity through the sixties began painting rainbows on  the sky towards the summer of love - could we change things, we had to try, with no maps or certainty, things could be better but for now it was the end of the  fifties and I personally was still only 9 in 1960.


1 comment: