Jill Guest, of Cradley Then and Now, hasn't let her time recovering from a recent operation go to waste, and whilst trawling through reams of historical data and documents at home, she's sorted out a couple of old receipts and a photograph that, after rekindling a few childhood memories for herself, she thought might be of interest to other readers. Jill writes: "Whilst recovering here at home with my arm in a sling and reading the Voice of the Black Country, as ever, I came across an article with some old receipts from Cradley Heath. I'll tell you something, my mom was a devil for saving every receipt, because she liked to keep a careful eye on all the money she spent; I expect there were many more like her. And now of course these scraps of paper have become invaluable fragments of social history.
“The two receipts I found are from 1957, yes, 56 years ago! Can you believe it? The first one was for our very first television, dated December 22. It cost £80 17s 0d (‘aerial to be charged separately’) which was a great deal of money in those days, and Mom made an initial payment of £20 so we could have it over Christmas; the rest of the balance she no doubt paid in instalments.
“It was bought from T.A. Harris & Sons at the corner of Graingers Lane and Cradley Road at Five Ways, Cradley Heath (a premises now occupied by a hair salon). Harris & Sons was a popular shop and accredited dealers in His Masters Voice, Ekco, and other leading makes of radio and television, and according to the receipt they also sold bicycles, Hoovers, and held a complete stock of records and record players. I can't remember what we watched on the box that Christmas, but out of curiosity I looked up the programme listings for both the BBC and ITV for Christmas Day, 1957, on the internet and it made intriguing reading. At 3pm, on both sides, it was the Queen's Christmas Day Message from Sandringham, the first time it had been broadcast in vision; there was a sports results round up at 6.05pm on the BBC, and I've since discovered it was the last time a full Football League programme was played on Christmas Day.
Other highlights included Billy Smart’s Family Party (BBC), Pantomania presents The Babes in the Wood (BBC), The Carol Levis Christmas Show (ITV), and the film You Were Never Lovelier starring Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire (ITV). I'm sure we were all glued to whatever was showing that Christmas Day.
“The other receipt also came from a shop in Cradley Heath, ‘The Furnishing House’, at No.
62 High Street, where Mom bought a twin doll pram for my sister Wendy for Christmas, a replica of the one presented to the Queen for Princess Anne when she came to Halesowen. It was very grand and Wendy, who was 6 at the time, was chuffed to bits on Christmas morning. The picture shows Wendy with her pram and me, aged 9, looking after my dolly in the pushchair, little Alice.”