Memories, family history and hard historical facts, not to mention contemporary news items like the nationwide tour of the Olympic Torch, were all covered in The Voice of the Black Country during 2012, proving once again how important the Bugle is as a worthy vehicle to climb aboard if you want to remember the good old days, learn new facts about your very own neck of the woods, and of course be entertained.
Every week it's a team effort to publish the next edition; the Bugle's army of readers; its regular contributors; correspondents from around the country and the globe all combine to help to make it the unique publication it is, and long may it continue.
Roy Langford, a story teller of some renown, is steeped in his own contemporary history of Dudley, and on many occasions over the years we have also enjoyed his exploits as a sprinter representing Tipton Harriers Athletic Club in his youth. But it's back to Dudley we go on another of Roy's trips down memory lane for a story that in fact began in 2002. Roy writes: "I would like to point out the rare photograph of seven beautiful belles who were members of the Blue Coat School netball team in 1950/51.
It's a picture that came into my possession from Down Under in June 2002 and was sent by my old school chum Alan Reynolds. The arrival of the photograph through the post was a nice surprise but wasn't completely unexpected, unlike a letter I received from Alan a month earlier via the Bugle. Our paths hadn't crossed for many a long year because he had emigrated to Australia in 1967, and in the letter he told me how intrigued he had been after receiving from his family still in Dudley one of the stories I had published in the Bugle under the general heading of ‘Childhood memories of Dudley.’ “The story he read (published in April 2002) referred to him in person and gave an account of one particular schoolboy adventure he, myself and other mates at the time had experienced in amongst the railway trucks down Shaw Road sidings. There was Roy Beard, Harry Beard, Tommy Reynolds (no relation), Gordon Taylor, Kenny Rogers and Gordon Davies, all from Shaw Road, and the adventure was one of many we acted out in that immediate post-war period, 1946-49.
“The Shaw Road sidings, which were attached to Blowers Green Station, were a magical playground, a theatre of dreams for us kids, but it was also a nogo- area, a dangerous place, and we never contemplated getting caught because of the trouble we'd find ourselves in.
But despite everything the gang's mischievous incursions through the broken fence and into the forbidden territory continued with an increasing amount of daring. The railway officials who patrolled regularly were the enemy, we were the good guys, and survival was paramount.
“It was a warm, sunny day during the school holidays and the gang as usual were in the sidings playing as freedom fighters.
I clambered aboard one of the empty, stationary goods wagons.
You could smell the timber floor and the oil and grease around the couplings, giving our stage a more authentic feel; the enemy was nowhere to be seen. But danger was nearer than we thought, and suddenly I fell through a trap door at the bottom of the wagon.
I was eleven years old, still wearing short trousers, and had no defence as my left thigh took the full force of the fall through the hole.
“With blood pouring from a deep graze, the adventure was abandoned and I was carried virtually all the way home by the gang. I lived at 49 Oakeywell Street, and there was no way I could tell my gran, who I lived with at the time, what really happened to me, so I spun a yarn that I did the damage whilst playing football. My gran Susan believed my story as I was always playing football, well nearly always, and subsequently patched me up.
“That evening I probably breathed a sigh of relief, however, nobody really prospers from telling porkies and they usually catch up with you in the end. This one caught up with me almost straight away.
Next Day a caring Alan Reynolds called round to find out how I was. I didn't get chance to tell him about the excuse I'd used the night before, and inevitably I was left to face the music.
“He relived the story for my gran with a certain amount of exuberance, oblivious of the impending consequences.
Immediately after he'd gone I had an almighty clip around the earhole from gran for telling bare-faced lies and was banned from seeing my mates for a week.
“On that particular day in our childhood the pain was obviously all mine, as Alan couldn't remember the incident. But then again it wasn't he who fell through the trap door and ended up with a nasty graze and a clip around the ear. (At the time Alan lived at No. 32 John Street with his mom and dad, Elizabeth and Joseph, next door to the old defunct lodging house pub called the Acorn).
“At the end of the first letter from Alan he asked me if I could get hold of copies of the other stories in the series, and with help from Carol and Sandra at Bugle House, I duly obliged. As a returned favour I asked Alan to send me some pictures of himself and his family that might be suitable for me to use in a future story, and the surprise package was the netball team. Here I am, ten years after corresponding with Alan, recalling those happy schooldays, sharing the playground with my mates and those beau belles of the Blue Coat School netball team.
“The reason Alan had the team photo in the first place was because he eventually married the handsome wench holding the ball, Patricia Sibley, in 1958. She lived with her family at No. 15 Constitution Hill, and after being happily married for nine years at their home in Lower Gornal, they made the bold decision to emigrate, taking their two children Christopher and Tracy with them.
“It's at this point my story should have had a happy ending, catching up with a mate after all those years and reliving our adventures in sidings at Shaw Road. I wanted to ask Pat to name the rest of her team mates, who all except Valerie Whorton to her left (cousin) remain unnamed. But sadly Alan told me Pat had died of cancer in 1996.
“This devastating news at the time somehow makes the publication of the team photo now all the more important. Can any Bugle readers help us by naming Pat's team mates? Are you one of them, and have you any memories from that time in the early 1950s? Her warm smile in the picture still exudes a childish happiness, a legacy of memorable days."