THREE old school chums have once again been reflecting on the passing years and how long they've known each other.
"Far too many years to contemplate,"they told The Bugle, "but a lot of happy memories nevertheless."
Tony Goddard, Gordon Parsons and Barry Brazier were born and grew up in the Beeches Road area of Blackheath and all three attended Beeches Road School back in the 1940s.
In 1947 all three were members of the all conquering school football team that managed a clean sweep of every competition they entered, a group of players that should now probably figure in the school's folklore.
Last week they were given the opportunity to return to the school (now called Highfields Primary School) where their friendship first blossomed all those years ago, and thanks to the generosity of head teacher Mrs Helen Heap and her staff, not forgetting the children, the three Black Country buddies were given a guided tour of the school.
Tony told us: "It's amazing, considering all the changes that have taken place to buildings, and the education system in general, but I reckon some of our old classrooms looked just the same as they did the day we left school."
Head teacher Helen was delighted for the three pals to visit and spoke enthusiastically about welcoming them back in the future to talk to some of children about the "good" old days.
Christmas rehearsals were taking place in the main hall as Mrs Heap rallied some of her troops, teachers and pupils alike, to join Tony, Gordon and Barry in a photo shoot, and everyone seemed to enjoy the moment.
Afterwards Tony passed on to us some of his personal memories of days gone by.
"It all started about 1941, slap in the middle of a world war, when three schoolboys began their educational journey here at Beeches Road School. I'm not familiar with its new name (Highfields), so for the purposes of these memories I will refer to the school as Beeches Road.
"Education is always at the top of any decent politician's agenda, an important ingredient of any civilised society and helps to point willing children in the right direction for life, and it was no different for myself, Gordon and Barry as it is for the children here today.
"Nothing changes there then, but everything else seems to have changed a lot!
"We all lived close to the school; well, let's put it this way, a six-foot fall of snow wouldn't have stopped us attending lessons.
"In those days you always went to the school you lived next door to (the Junior version), none of this hopping into a car and travelling miles, or catching a bus.
"You might have to if you were transferred to a senior school, but once again, in those days most of us started work at 14/15 years of age.
"Discipline was always just a whisker away and if you broke the rules you would expect to be punished, first by your teacher, and then a clip around the ear by your mom when she heard about your misdemeanour when you got home.
"We had teachers we looked up to, much the same as they do today. There was Mr Nock who guided us to footballing glory, Fanny Lee, Miss Elmhurst, Miss Griffiths, and the very respected headmaster Mr Parkes.
"Back in our day the school was very popular and had four access gates, two in Beeches, one in Highfield and one in Gorsty Hill. We also had a large air raid shelter that seemed massive to us tiny tots. Thankfully, we never had to use it in anger but did plenty of drills just in case.
"What did we do for pocket money? The three of us earned a few bob taking dinners down to Stewarts & Lloyds to men who lived near the school; that was a nice little earner.
"We also picked blackberries and mushrooms when they were in season and used the money from our labours to go to the cinema on a Saturday morning, the famous Saturday morning matinees.
"Invariably it was either a comedy or they showed all the good old cowboys and Indians films. Of course, 1947 was one of the worst winters ever recorded and that was another way we found to earn a few pennies, shifting snow.
"We did have a few mates who came from further afield, those who lived in Whiteheath. Most of them would have to catch a bus, the No. 217 Oldbury to Halesowen, which stopped outside the Gorsty Hill school gate. Right opposite the school in Beeches Road we were lucky to have one of the finest tuck shops around, and of course it tended to get very busy in the lunch hour, with almost everything costing just a penny. Even so, Harry Haden, who was the shopkeeper, must have made a fortune out of us kids!
It's great looking back and after all these years I'm proud to say that the three of us are still the best of friends.
"After leaving Beeches Road we all ended up in the forces and then embarked on different flight paths. Barry became a provisions manager, Gordon a toolmaker and myself a betting shop manager.
"I suppose it was our love of football that finally cemented our friendship together and I wonder if there are any other former team members still out there who remember us?"
You can contact Gordon on 0121 561 4882, Barry on 01384 833894, and Tony on 01384572175.
What were your memories of Beeches Road School or education in the 1940s?
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