I started taking photos back in about 1948. My dad was always taking pictures and my brother used to take pictures, so I joined the club. The photos were never taken with the intention of showing them to other people, it was just about taking pictures of the area at the time and not realising in the years to come how things would change.
Photography was on real film back then. There were no digital enhancements at all. So you didn't know whether the photograph you had taken was going to be any good or not, if you had got the right aperture setting or if the light had got into there and ruined the film and so on.
Growing up around here we used to have lots of fields to play on. I remember it as a great time. I can remember going over the fields with friends in the summertime when the weather was nice and we would just sit there. Let the clouds go by, and we'd look for skylarks because we could hear them. You’d never see one, you'd never find where it was. We used to play on the old spoil tips and down the old quarries and climb down the face of some of the things there. It was a very interesting time to grow up. My late sister Jesse would sometimes join us. She never took pictures, but she'd always join in with us on the hills playing.
At the time dad used to develop his own pictures. He was self-taught, he never went to any schools or lessons. He learned how to develop films and how to use a canister for turning the film and he used the old bathroom as a dark room, blinds up at the window. It was not a very nice smell with some of the chemicals we used. He developed the film himself and then he had a little enlarger and he'd develop the pictures - all black and white - and then we'd all have a look at them. Then they'd just be put away and never seen again really. Over the years we collected quite a lot of negatives and pictures.
My elder brother John would at various times go around the house and collect the numerous odd envelopes with the film's negatives in to protect them for the future.
Sadly I have not kept everything that we took, I moved house four times, and every time you move you lose something or something goes missing. We lived in Throne Road until I was 24 before we moved over to a block of flats on Lion Farm Estate and mum and dad lived there too.
Shortly after I got married and we had a house in Throne Road. Getting a house was a real trial and tribulation in those days. We did have a lot of help from my employer at that time. I worked at a garage and the lady who ran the garage, well she sort of took me under her wing and she provided quite a lot of things. She sorted the solicitor out, sorted the bank out. She would pay for my driving lessons. She was very good.
I wasn't into local history so much when the black and white pictures were being taken. It was just about thinking - ‘oh that looks interesting, I bet that won't be there forever, let's take a picture.’ But I never associated it with local history or wider history at that time, I'm talking about when I was about 10. Of course, by the time 20 came on you know, my photography had gone really. In my 20s it was all about girls, shows, various other things. So photography faded away a little bit, and my passion for taking photographs didn’t really come back until after the children were born about the mid 1970s
This is from this hill because it was just at the back of our house looking up towards Turners Hill and that’s the old water tower. That goes back to the beginning of the century when that was put up and that was a radio tower. There's an even bigger radio tower there now. In the lower left is where Henley's farm used to be (pictured further up the page).
This was a quarry at the time was still being worked up until the early 1950s. So this was Portway. There was a farm up there at one time and a big house. In fact the big house there was where my wife's grandparents worked.
My mother’s name was May and she was one of 7 of her family. They came from Sutton Coldfield. I can never understand how they got together because my mother used to be in service. She also worked for one of the directors Mitchells and Butlers Ltd in Cape Hill and when he retired they moved out to Eastbourne and she went with them as head cook and bottle washer.
There was a story that my mum and dad told me. During the war, you had to go into the air-raid shelter at night time because there had been a warning, and a bomb dropped only two houses away from us here. Just two doors away in fact. But it landed in soft clay ground and there was a blast but not a big explosion. I was only a babe in arms in 1941. We think that the German bomber was trying to get the guns that were shooting at them from the top of Portway Hill. This was a big naval gun there. So this bomb dropped down and blew the neighbour's air-raid shelter up and it landed in our garden. It was flattened and when all the dust had cleared my dad went out to it. He thought the neighbours would still be in it and when he put his hand in and he felt this fur and thought it was somebody's hair! But it turned out to be was a dead cat. Luckily they hadn't been in the air raid shelter that night so they survived. But the blast it blew all our windows out, a couple of walls cracked in the house, and it blew a few tiles off the roof.
This is a photo of my sister on a winter's day. That's the blue rock quarry there and this is the Samson quarry there, you can see the distances. Isn't very far between. That's Bury Hill Park across the top there, this goes down to the Wolverhampton Road. This was taken about 1949. She was born in 1935 so she'd be about 14.
We weren't that close as brother and sister. In fact, there's a story that goes back a bit further than this where my sister and my brother made me eat grass when I was at the age of 3, in about 1943. So they made me eat grass and I ended up in hospital. And I had an operation for appendicitis. I've still got the scars to this day.
As I've grown up I do find that thing seem to change so quickly from one week to another. In some areas and I think well, I went down there yesterday and that building's now gone. A building I've seen there for many years, just gone. Just some boards up in front. That's why I like collecting some of the old photographs to look at how things were. Perhaps I am a bit nostalgic. I'm living back in the 40s you see.
I think things are better in lots of ways now than what they were. I mean you go out now, there's more greenery and trees about than ever there was in my youth. We had a good time, I really enjoyed my childhood but kids of today haven't got that opportunity. There isn't the waste ground to go and play on, there are too many restrictions on everything. Although life really is better, we live like kings and queens compared to our parents. Life moves on. Coming to an end for us soon. Well, we ain't going to go on forever are we? Well, I said I'm going to live to 95. I've got a few years to go yet.