Our Century

Pride in the park . . .

Fred CoppellFor Fred Coppell, now living in Tettenhall, the war years were years of pride. For his grandad, Fred Teague, was head park keeper in Dudley.

"They were immaculate parks," recalls Mr Coppell, born in 1934. "I grew up in Grange Road, opposite Grange Park.

Immaculate parks
Fred Coppell pictured above with the picture of his grandfather, which is reproduced here in detail.

"There was a bandstand, two crown greens in wonderful condition, neat hedges and everything cut to perfection. Everone in Dudley knew Fred Teague. He was a great crown-green bowler. I was so proud of him.

"He took over all the parks for the war years when the younger men went off to fight and he stayed until 1947 when he retired.

"I moved away but in 1998 went back to look at Grange Park. It was heartbreaking. There's just a concrete stump where the bandstand was and the bowling pavilion had been burned down. It was such a disgrace. I was just glad he wasn't alive to see what had happened to his pride and joy."

Bus stop: Wolverhampton Trades Council was told in July that buses were unable to go out on their routes because conductresses were not turning up for work.

The women were snitched on by a male bus driver who said that they were as unreliable as it was possible to be.

The council decided to get more information on the problem of absenteeism by the women.

Local boy makes good in US: It was reported in July that a Willenhall man, once sacked for asking for a five shillings a week rise at a Wolverhampton company, was named as one of the seventh highest salaried people in America.

Roland Chilton, eldest son of the well known Midlands author, Herman Chilton, was consulting engineer for the famous aeronautical firm, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in New Jersey.

He earned 268,59l dollars, about 1,150 a week.

Heading the list of the big money earners was Louis B Mayer, of the MGM film corporation, with 704,426 dollars. Six of the other ten people named were either film executives or stars.

Roland Chilton went to America in 1924 and was followed by his brother, Allan Chilton, in 1932. He became a progress engineer.

Ukelele parties' at work: Workers at a Midlands Government factory were accused in July of "incredible abuses" after allegedly holding ukelele parties during work time, playing cards and, in the case of one worker, weighing a load of sand three times because he was too lazy to tip it out and put another load on.

The practice came to the attention of Major R F P Monckton, a former master of the Albrighton Hounds, who told a Stafford meeting his Home Guard officers had informed on the workers.

The Major said the workforce also left engines running on lorries while they had their lunch breaks and a percentage of the younger men just were not working at all.

He added that when the foreman was asked why he didn't do something about the situation, the answer was that he would get "such hell" if he tried to do so.

The major felt a Government inspector should be sent into the factory and if he found men of military age not working, he should have the authority to conscript them.

Cycling pioneer Sharpe dies: Wolverhampton businessman Frank Sharpe - a British cycling pioneer who won many championships on the penny farthing - collapsed and died in August travelling on a bus. Mr Sharpe, from Tettenhall was heading for his office in the town centre when he died.

The 74-year-old learned to ride a bicycle at the age of eight and in later years competed in all the leading meetings in the country - winning five championships and 190 other prizes.

An enthusiastic motorist since 1906, Mr Sharpe had wrestled and had been a keen rugby player. Since the outbreak of war he had taken an interest in local prisoners of war.

Real worries of war: "Don't you know there's a war on!"The words of the air raid warden in TV's Dad's Army brought a taste of the times to modern audiences, but concerns were all-too real during the war years.

In April, the Ministry of Supply ordered a "much stricter watch" to be kept on an unidentified West Midlands factory after an Express & Star reporter strolled around inside for 10 minutes without being challenged.

In May, members of the Wolverhampton Home Guard were praised for their enthusiasm and skill as they trained to take over an anti-aircraft battery.

Later that summer Staffordshire County Council were ordered by the Regional Commissioner to set up invasion committees "wherever they may be considered necessary" in the county.

And in the same month of June, Wolverhampton Aircraftman Harry Neals, back from serving with the first RAF unit to go to the aid of the Russians, reported that the eastern Europeans were "flat out in the war effort".

Evacuation and doodle bug days in London: Maud Beaver (pictured) of Fordhouses recalls her wartime experiences

Maud Beaver"When the war started my brother, John, and I were evacuated to a farm in Wiltshire. I was 12 and he was only five.

"It sounds lovely but it wasn't. We had to get up at 5.30 every morning to help with the animals.

"We hated it and, after a couple of years my mother collected us. We went back to London. When we arrived the bombing was going on and it was burning all around us.

"At night we used to sit out in the Anderson shelter in the garden. There were six of us children, plus mum and grandad, so it was pretty tight. Some of the bombs fell very close and the next street to our was hit. My dad was an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) warden, out on the streets at night.

"We didn't fancy sheltering in the Tube. Anway, the nearest one was a fair way off, so sometimes we sheltered in the house, four of us kids sharing one bed.

"The streets were absolutely pitch-black because of the blackout.

"Later we had the V-l flying bombs. They were terrible. The sound of them coming over was bad enough but the worst part was when the engine cut out.

You had no idea where they were going to land. All we could do was scatter into the nearets shelters. They made a huge bang.

"After them we had the V-2 rockets. You had no warning.

"One landed quite close to us. You didn't really think about getting killed because you had so much to do."

Judy Davies
The families used to save their scraps to feed a communal pig...

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