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Memories of The Can centre in Ocker Hill

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 23, 2014

Don Boyce with the youth centre minibus

Don Boyce with the youth centre minibus

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I WOULD like to tell you about the Ocker Hill Youth Centre in St Mark's Road, Ocker Hill, Tipton, later christened "The Can".

In the late 1960s I went on a course for part-time youth leadership. I was encouraged by the Rev Politt who was the vicar of St Peter's Church, Greets Green, West Bromwich. Geoff Smith was in charge of youth projects based at "Highfields" on the High Street, West Bromwich.

I attended the course and two residential weekends and I passed to become a part-time youth leader. I stayed with the youth club at St Peters a little while. The church had decided to take members only if they attended church once a month. Although I went to church at St Peter's I did not agree with that policy at all.

When I was offered a post at Ocker Hill Youth Centre the club was on the edge of an area called the 'Lost City'. I accepted it and never regretted it.

The club leader was Frank Andrews and I became assistant three nights per week. I can't remember how long I was an assistant but I loved the job.

During that time we had a float in Tipton Carnival and the members made bricks out of biscuit boxes. We had two girls who were brilliant at art and they decorated the play bricks. I borrowed a beautiful rocking horse from the infants school at Greets Green, West Bromwich.

The girls all wore short skirts and had giant lollipops. I borrowed a nurse's uniform from the works nurse Barbara at Conex Terna in Great Bridge where I worked at that time.

We also had a 13-mile sponsored walk to raise funds which were always needed. Frank had decided to move to another area and when I was offered the post as leader I accepted. In the mean time my husband Don had been on the same course and he passed and was offered the post of assistant leader which worked out very well.

During the next few years we built up a good but small Youth Centre that Don, myself and Mrs Griffiths (caretaker) were proud of. We did not have a lot of money then so we decided to have discos. When the members were dancing they said that they were like sardines in a can. We thought that was the new name for the club "The Can" and it was so.

We had a friend Harry Green who built boats and he loaded a speedboat on the lorry, decorated it with bullrushes from the local canal. Our female members wore bikinis and male members were fishermen. The float was entered as "Tipton Venice of the Midlands". We cane second and we were so pleased.

My husband had friends who had a mountain hut near Beddgelert so we did some fell walking and with the help of a trained mountaineer a small group climbed Mt Cnicht.

We used old Wednesbury baths for swimming outings, it was warmer than anywhere else. We also tried roller skating a couple of times in Wolverhampton. The female members of the club tried netball for which we travelled to the Grammar School in Dudley.

We had a Christmas dinner for 20 senior citizens and the members entertained our guests with songs from The Sound of Music, the piano accompaniment was by a friend Sylvia Cooksey, now deceased. We all helped in food preparation but the turkey was in the hands of my mother Maud Westwood, now deceased.

Another year we had a Christmas party for children from the area with a lovely tea with all the Christmas trimmings, a magician to entertain them and goodie bags to take home.

The last social event for another Christmas we raised funds by having a jumble sale and we were able to take 20 boxes of items for Christmas to elderly people in the 'Lost City'. That was very rewarding for the club members.

Last but not least I must commend to you Mrs Griffiths now deceased. She was the caretaker and she loved helping the club.

Two of her sons, Glynn and Clive, were active members of "The Can." The centre became a baby clinic on Tuesday or Wednesday, so the equipment had to be cleared away after club activities on Monday.

Nurse Malpass was very strict so we tried not to upset her.

I hope that the members, the Williams, the Heads, the Woods, the Waltons, the McCandles, the Whales and the Lovells among others still feel some of the affection I feel for "The Can".

Last, but definitely not least, was the minibus which was invaluable to us.

The vehicle was donated to Ocker Hill Y.C. and Toll End Y.C. by the Pigeon Fanciers Club based at the Three Horseshoes on St Mark's Road, Ocker Hill.

If there are members out there who remember the club please get in touch.

Don and I now live in Somerset, he is 83 years old and I am 81. We've had a wonderful life and "The Can" played a big part in that.

Margaret and Don Boyce,

Ocker Hill Youth Leaders.

boycemiriam@hotmail.com

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