WHEN retirement caught up with three Black Country lads who have known each other since their schooldays in Blackheath, decisions had to be taken about what to do on those long hot summer days that stretched out before them.
Tony, Barry and Gordon have long held the view that discussing memories has a positive effect on their quality of life and the more times they can meet up and talk about the good old days the better. A casual conversation about nothing in particular can introduce a subject that sends them on a hop, skip and a jump down memory lane, and when Blue Bird toffees was mentioned, there was no stopping them, and a visit to the site of Harry Vincent's factory which still survives out in the sticks at Hunnington in the beautiful Worcestershire countryside was a port of call they just couldn't refuse.
The three likely lads met the Bugle at the former toffee factory and Tony chipped in with a few recollections: "Memories of the Blue Bird, no not a fine feathery friend or the white cliffs of Dover, but a sweet we all enjoyed way back when. Situated here in Hunnington with the Clent Hills as the perfect backdrop, what a splendid place to build a factory, and that's exactly what the Vincent family did at the back end of the 19th century, 1898 to be precise, and it's been sixteen years since the Blue Bird brand disappeared from our neck of the woods.
"My favourite was the liquorice and for many years they were one of the best selling confectionery lines in the Black Country. I remember receiving pocket money from my mother and the first thought was an hour or two spent at the local cinema. But it wouldn't have been the same without a few Blue Bird toffees to tide you over. The pennies would rain down on the counter and the shop keeper brought the giant jar down off the shelf with the Blue Bird logo on it and tipped a quantity onto a set of brass scales. A quick weigh up of pennies against quantity and they would be slipped into a little paper bag for eating in the cinema. If I remember I'd already tucked into the bag way before the cinema.
"It must have been a brilliant place to work here at Blue Bird, even though it was a factory. The workforce came from far and wide, and many from the Black Country, and in the summer it must have felt like enjoying a day out in the countryside, rather than a short trip to start work on a production line. The company always laid on coaches for the workers and I believe Mr Vincent was a decent bloke, often visiting the factory to thank the workforce for their hard graft and loyalty.
"Whenever I visited my auntie Floss the Blue Bird toffees were soon in evidence, 'Just watch your teeth', she would always say. Whenever the Blue Bird toffees are mentioned these days people are always asking the question, 'Why on earth did they stop making them'? I know it's only a sweet but Barry, Gordon and myself were brought up on Blue Bird toffees and they will never be forgotten."
In conversation outside the former toffee factory under a blazing sun, we wondered whether the Blue Bird factory had been involved in war work of any description during both the First and Second World Wars. The three lads couldn't supply an answer, but they reckoned someone in the army of Bugle readers would know. If you can help with any details at all, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.