Our Century

Happy going by bike in old days

Malcolm Graham, Claverley, Born 1901

Malcolm Graham

Recalling the Black Country's newly-rich merchants, in the early days of the 20th century

"I lived with my parents in Tettenhall and we would come to work either by tram or bicycle. My father always used to cycle to the office.

"That wasn't unusual; there were very few cars in those days. There was only one car in the Tettenhall Road and that belonged to a timber merchant who used to go to his office in it.

"I had an uncle who kept a car in the stables at my father's house but only took it out once a week, and it was a big journey to take it as far as Newport and back. They spent days preparing to do that.

"During school holidays I was allowed to drive an Express & Star delivery van.

"There was terrible wheel wobble and the vehicle did well if it managed to run 30 miles without breaking down. I was given one hour's training on this Heath Robinson contraption.

"I don't remember envying anybody. We were quite happy to go by tram or bicycle. We all had bicycles.

"You see, in those days a newspaper owner wasn't thought very important. The Manders, Hickmans and Chubbs were the people with the real money.

"A newspaper owner was a grade below, then shopkeepers came after that.

"It was a very happy, small town in those days and I don't think there was any jealousy.

"Everyone knew where they were. People used to make money in Willenhall, then come into Tettenhall and were always looked down on.

"It took them a long time to realise they were the nouveau-riche. It wasn't snobbish really. It was a natural splitting-up of society. Everyone fitted in."

  • Malcolm Graham, grandson of the founder of the Express & Star, died in 1993.