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Walsall reader's Christmas memories

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: January 20, 2014

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DURING the mid-1950s my aunt and uncle lived in Clockmill Cottages which were just outside Albrighton. Their cottage was one of three, which I think belonged to Austin's Farm.

Uncle Bill was a farm worker and Aunt Laura was a Nursing Auxiliary at Cosford Hospital.

The holiday began with three crowded bus journeys on the late afternoon of Christmas Eve from Walsall to the terminus at the "Shrewsbury Arms" at Albrighton.

I remember well the long bus queues in Walsall and Wolverhampton on cold and sometimes snowy days.

Also my parents' moans and frustrations as they waited for buses, with heavy suitcases competing for seats with shoppers loaded down with Christmas presents.

Years later I found out that the suitcases contained my Christmas presents.

The walk from the bus terminus to "Clockmill" was only a few hundred yards, so the Shrewsbury Arms was always a welcome sight.

We always received a warm welcome and after the evening meal I met my friends who lived next door and were the children of the neighbours, when we exchanged thoughts and dreams of "what we wanted from Father Christmas".

Bedtime was about nine o'clock; I'll always remember the big feather bed which I used to sink into.

I was then a believer so I went to sleep quickly, but I was sure that I heard the bells on Santa's sleigh.

Christmas Day was most memorable. In the morning after opening my presents we had breakfast before walking the short distance to church for the morning service.

Lunch, I recall had been prepared earlier. The turkey was one that Uncle Bill had reared during the year. He also grew the vegetables in his garden.

The Christmas pudding had been made by Aunt Laura some weeks before, and I remember the silver three-penny bits in it.

After church, I compared my presents with my friends from the other cottages.

Christmas lunch was, as much as you could possibly eat, and you were expected to finish it.

It was frowned on to leave any.

After lunch we settled down to watch the Queen's speech on a little 9-inch black and white television, I remember well, Uncle Bill fiddling with the aerial in order to get a picture.

Television in those days was still in its infancy and not many families had them, so the neighbours were invited in to watch Her Majesty's speech to the nation.

The evening was full of joy and fun. The neighbours stayed and joined in the party.

The centre piece was the "Snow house" which had been a large cardboard box, painted to resemble a house.

It contained presents for everyone. An old piano, played by a neighbour provided the music, everybody joined in the sing-along.

At the end of a happy but tiring day, everyone went to their beds.

Boxing Day morning after breakfast I went to the farm with Uncle Bill to tend to the pigs and cows and to feed the chickens.

After lunch we all walked to the hospital at RAF Cosford, to visit the wards where Aunt Laura worked.

Most of the patients were airmen who lived faraway and were too unwell to go home for Christmas. Therefore a visit from a friendly face and a little present cheered them up tremendously.

This was followed by the nurses and patients singing carols around the tree, then a weary walk back to Clockmill, and after supper, to bed.

Next morning, it was time to pack up my presents, say cheerio to my pals, and catch the buses back to Walsall.

Clockmill Cottages are long gone.

But whenever I travel through Albrighton, my thoughts go back to those happy Christmas days in the 1950s.

Bob Griffiths,

bob.griffiths0@gmail.com

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