Our Century

VIP visitors doing the rounds

There were several royal visits to the West Midlands in 1962 while Violet Carson (Ena Sharples in Coronation Street) also made an appearance with regal overtones in Dudley.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, wed just 18 months earlier, were in the region.

It was touch and go due to low cloud cover and snow on the ground whether their plane would be able to land at Elmdon.

The princess and her husband spent seven hours in the region and despite the weather conditions still arrived only two minutes late.

The royal visitors first opened the new 400,000 extensions at Dudley Teacher Training College.

They then had lunch with Sir Alfred Owen, the Darlaston industralist, at Rubery Owen and toured the weeks and finished off by visiting an approved school at Aldridge.

Actress Violet Carson visited Dudley in 1962. She was still attracting crowds some eight years later, when she visited Walsall and was presented with a bouquet by five-year-old Sonia Preston.

A new twist to dancing injuries: "He's always doing the Twist. He seems to be as good as Chubby Checker himself," said the proud mother of Old Hill soldier Tom Beckett.

Unfortunately 20-year-old Tom's enthusiasm for the dance craze then sweeping the world landed him in a hospital bed.

Tom, of Powke Lane, Old Hill, collapsed while doing the Twist at the Savoy Rink Hall, Castle Hill, Dudley, and had to be helped out of the building by friends.

The youngster, a member of the Worcestershire TA at Dudley, was taken to the town's Guest Hospital along with another lad who had collapsed at the same dance.

There had been dire warnings by numerous medical rentaquotes of the day about the potential dangers to the spine caused by twisting.

But it soon emerged that Tom's downfall was the result of appendicitis.

Walsall Saddlery
This picture, dated May 15, 1962, shows workers in the Walsall saddlery and harness industry in the precise process of splitting hide for upholstery leather and suede.

Mass vaccinations after smallpox outbreak panic: If the flu epidemic that had ravaged the West Midlands a year before was bad enough worse was to come in the early months of 1962 when a smallpox scare hit the region leading to both mass panic and mass vaccinations.

It came as a huge shock to the people of the West Midlands as it was a disease that was thought to have been all but wiped out in the Western world.

It first broke out with what was thought to be an isolated case in West Bromwich and for a few days after that almost everyone admitted to hospital was thought to be a victim.

Some actually were although the papers at the time were full of reassaurances about suspects being cleared after check-ups.

Other areas affected up and down the country included Bradford and the scare eventually became linked to mainly Asian communities.

Here the Eastern Film Society decided to suspend its traditional Sunday showing of films for Indian and Pakistani immigrants in the Black Country.

The move came after it emerged that victims of the disease had been at the Regal Cinema, Darlaston, for such shows a few days before.

At the height of the scare children were kept away from schools while other public builidngs were regularly fumigated.

In a commons statement Wolverhampton South West MP Enoch Powell - then Minister of Health - said existing health checks on immigrants at ports of entry into Britain were adequate.

Local Socialists condemn blockade: As the world teetered on the brink of the third mass conflict of the century, Socialists in Wolverhampton sent a telegram to the Prime Minister condemning the American blockade of Cuba.

Wolverhampton Borough Labour Party also had a swipe over skirmishes going on simultaneously on the India-China border.

Calling for the lifting of the blockade the telegram - also sent to the American ambassador in London - said: "American aggression against Cuba threatens the lives of the peoples of the world."

Prayers were offered in local churches during the Cuban missile crisis, a long week in nuclear politics.

Sour vinegar and wormwood . . .


The various companies extol the virtues of their own particular brews and the more expensive, particularly bottled and keg beer, is excellent.

The average working man, however, with his limited financial capacity, invariably drinks the ordinary draught mild beer and I would say that the quality has deteriorated somewhat.

Time was when the glass of beer had its own bouquet, the same as a good wine.

The aroma of hops, malt and balm combined to make it as deliciously wholesome as a well-baked loaf.

A fairly palatable drink is available in various localities but sometimes it is an insipid concoction that occasionally is reminiscent of sour vinegar liberally laced with wormwood.

On these occasions what the connoisseur seeks as a refrshing stimulant is more in the nature of a powerful emetic.

J Brown,

Wellesbourne Close, Castlecroft, Wolverhampton.

Aidan Goldstraw
As I raged for those lost, golden reaches of childhood, I wondered whether he was thinking the same...