the news was broken by the Express & Star of October 2 1930.
In one of
the worst mining disasters seen in the region for years, 14
miners perished in an explosion at Grove Pit, Norton Canes on October
& Star reported how the anxious crowd showed "extreme reverance"
as the bodies of the men from the afternoon shift were carried up
from the pit to the carpenters' shop which was used as a mortuary.
The large, modern
pit employed 1,000 miners and a rescue team led by manager Mr N.,
Forrest worked for ten hours before the first body could be recovered.
One widow told
reporters of her loss: "He was a good husband and a good workman.
"He had never
worked afternoons before, and it seems so cruel that he should have
gone this time and not returned."
Within 24 hours
an emergency fund, started by the Express & Star with a £50 donation,
had reached £85.
By the end of
the year it stood at more than £6,500.
1930 - when
dad got his cards for being 21:
millions of Britons, the 1930s were a time of terrible hardship
as the worldwide Depression spread. Tom Gilbert, (right) of Chasetown,
born in 1925, remembers hard times:
"My father was
an apprentice engineer but was given the sack when he was 21 because
he had come of age and was entitled to the full man's wage.
pay it. He was out of work from 1930 to 1937 and had to sign on
at the Labour Exchange every week.
"I used to go
with him. There were long queues of men, thousands of them. You
could be in the queue for five or six hours and you had to sign
on or you wouldn't get your dole money.
"My father found
work in 1937, three days in work for 35 shillings and the other
three days on the Labour for which he received 30 shillings.
"His total income
was £3.25 in today's money. That had to feed a family of seven.
two boys and three girls and we all shared the same bed, three at
the top and two at the bottom. It was the only way to keep warm.
"My father had
my name put on the works register to start work as an apprentice
engineer. I did this in July, 1939, aged 13. I picked up my first
week's wages the day that war broke out.
My father had
to pay one shilling and ninepence a week to the Ideal Society to
cover my mother should she have to go into hospital to have a child.
"There was no
National Health or maternity benefits. There was nothing except
the means test and the soup kitchen.
"My first week's
wages were nine shillings and eight pence. I got one shilling pocket
money and from that I had to save sixpence. Woodbines were fourpence
for ten, tuppence for five with two matches.
"As a boy at
school, I had to collect horse manure then sell large bunches of
flowers for three pence and lettuce for one penny or a halfpenny
each. I then had to wait for my pocket money.
My father gave
me a halfpenny. He'd say: Don't waste it!'.
"You never heard
of murder, mugging, rape or robbery. A murder in this country was
world news. Everyone helped each other. Houses were left open.
"A police officer
was always in the vicinity and very respected. If you were caught
doing something wrong you would get a clip round your ear and be
taken to your father who also gave you a clout around the ears,
sometimes the strap, and sent to bed without tea.
"There was a
lot more respect for people in those days."
days in Walsall: In
1930 Olga Martin of Walsall was nine and busy exploring town on
foot. Nearly 70 years on, she recalled the old town as clearly as
""In the 1920s
and 1930s, I used to walk from Kinnerly Street in the Chuckery down
to Blue Coat CofE School, where the new bus station is now.
"We lived next
to a butcher's a grocery shop run by Mr and Mrs Spruce, and opposite
was a bakery and cake shop. Produce was baked on the premises and
their cream cakes were out of this world.
"There was Mr
Clarke, the chimney sweep and nearby The Royal Oak where my dad
was to become manager and where I was married from. Opposite was
Ditchfields bakery, the best bread, pork pies and fruit pies in
Street began with a pub on the corner and then a few shops which
lay back: Hall's a butcher, Miss Ridgeway's a sweet shop (6d a quarter),
Dolman's corn and pet shop and a very nice dress shop on the corner
of of Goodall Street, which led to the police station.
Bridge Street was Grays on the corner of the square which ran through
to the market place and contained a superb greengrocers, a music
shop and Farmers news-agent, the Palace cinema, the back entrance
to the Empire cinema, a flower shop and more that I am unable to
with Sister Dora, the clock in the middle and the policeman on point
duty. The Midland Bank with a manhole outside where the snow was
shovelled into the Tame and the Blue Coat Schools. Mr and Mrs Whybrow
were the caretakers and you could obtain a small glass of hot milk
for a half-penny at playtime in their kitchen. Oh, what happy, happy