Our Century

Street parties for the Queen

The Queen

The Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II on June 7 opened with a week of nationwide celebrations.

It was a cheering time for the Great British public which, after years without any great royal celebrations, suddenly rediscovered its love affair with the monarchy.

Although the national celebrations, including a procession through London and a giant bonfire in Windsor Park, were a great success, the real triumph of the Jubilee was at grass-roots level.

It was an event that brought neighbours together in a way that had rarely been seen since VE-Day in 1945 and the Coronation in 1953. Roads were decked in red, white and blue bunting, and street parties were held throughout Britain.

In Wolverhampton more than 200 street parties went ahead, despite the threatening weather, and seven Jubilee babies were born at the town's New Cross Hospital

Rugeley saw one of the strangest street parties, for the appropriately named Queen Street. Houses in the street had been demolished the year before. But a local businessman, Roy Burns, decided to organise a street party for all the families who used to live there.

At Stone a procession of 24 floats marked the Jubilee while Stafford hosted dozens of street parties.

But not everyone was happy with the celebrations. At Wednesbury, Councillor Ray Partridge pointed out: Wherever you go, the big and small traders have decked their premises with flags and bunting.

"But there are no decorations, not even the Union Jack, on any crown buildings, apart from the police station."

It was evidence, he claimed, that "that nationalised industries have no patriotism whatsoever."

Jubillee Street Party
Edith Dixon and helpers at the street
party in Woden Ave, Wednesfield.

They're all shook up in West Bromwich as The King dies: Elvis Presley died in August and a wave of mourning swept around the globe. "The King" was only 42 but was a pathetic shadow of his former self, bloated by compulsive over-eating.

Elvis diesAn estimated 30,000 fans trooped past his open coffin at his home, Gracelands, and more than twice that number had to be turned away.

It was a similar story, although on a smaller scale, when a memorial service and disco was held at West Bromwich.

Scores of fans had to be turned away from the packed Oakdale Social Club and the response promoted organisers to hold an identical event the following night.

The vicar of All Saints' Church, the Rev. Dennis Ede, held a short memorial service during an interval in the disco.

"Mr Ede made the night for us," said organiser Brian Law. "It was a fantastic service - out of this world."

Rev Dennis Ede (right) conducts the West Bromwich memorial service for Elvis Presley in August 1977. On the left is the event organiser, Brian Law.

Anger as child killer escapes: Twenty-year-old Mary Bell, jailed when she was 11 for killing two children, faced punishment for escaping from a Staffordshire open prison in September.

Bell had absconded on September 11 with another prisoner from Moor Court open prison, near Cheadle.

She was recaptured in Derby after three days and two men later appeared before magistrates, charged with harbouring her.

Bell was ordered to lose prison privileges for 28 days by a board of prison visitors.

Families living near Moor Court dem-anded an inquiry into the escape.

It's a clean sweep for Ada: A mother of five brushed aside all opposition to become the first woman roadsweeper in Sandwell. Mrs Ada Tomes, 55, pf Elizabether Crescent, Oldbury, applied for the post after seeing it advertised at Smethwick Job Centre. Her job was to keep 60 roads and four shopping areas clear of litter.

'The shortest distance between 15 sets of traffic lights' September 27 saw the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Birmingham New Road.

In a retrospective feature, the Express & Star had mixed opinions.

We recalled how some had dubbed it "the killer road" while for others it was "the shortest distance between 15 sets of traffic lights."

Opened by the then Prince of Wales (later the Duke of Windsor) in 1927, the road had been intended to speed up traffic between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

The Express & Star hailed it as "a bracing story of the triumph of imagination and faith over what at one time appeared to be insuperable difficulties."

But as traffic volumes grew beyond the dreams of the 1920s planners, the New Road took a terrible toll in its first 50 years.

In 1976 alone it had claimed eight lives and left 40 people seriously injured.

In 1938, recalled the newspaper, the West Bromwich coroner, Lyon Clark, had described the road as "bewitched."

In ten years, he said, he had investigated 100 deaths. It was the most dangerous road he had ever known.

The trees planted along the road near Coseley are in memory of the local men who were killed in the First World War.

Some people wrongly believed that they commemorated the road's own victims.

Paul Cowley
The government still appears riddled with scandal and corruption.