I read a letter recently that said how good the 1970s were.The author of the letter mentioned how great it was that we had shops, doctor's surgeries were we actually could see our doctor the same day if necessary. In fact there were many, many things that were so different back then.
This reminded me that I had written about our small town when we moved here in 1969. What a vibrant, thriving market town it was then. I decided to publish an extract from my book and I've also added a few extra thoughts of mine at the end of it.
Happy shopping days back then. No Amazon, hence no on-line shopping!!
Lodge Road, Brereton
We moved into a new semi-detached three-bedroom house, in Lodge Road, Brereton, in 1969.
The house had a decent-sized front garden, and a wider-than-average drive leading to a large back garden which was covered with builders rubbish. It seemed to take me forever to clear. I did wonder at times what I had let myself in for. To move from the hustle and bustle of city life to a quiet country village was, to put it mildly, quite a culture shock. It took me a long time to settle down, and to begin to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.
I gradually began to get to know the neighbours.
The shops were not built in Lodge Road, Brereton, at that time, and there was no bus service round the estate. We used to walk the mile or so into Rugeley three times a week, on market days, to fetch our main shopping.
Market stalls were on the ground floor in the Town Hall. At this time Rugeley was not pedestrianised, and cars were parked in the Market Square where the outdoor market is now held. I remember how narrow and clogged with traffic the town centre was.
We shopped at Paddy’s (Brewery Street). Goods were sold from cardboard boxes, to keep prices low. Malcolm Campbell’s shop was also in Brewery Street, this was a double-fronted shop. His shop was packed tightly with household goods of every description. I got to know two of his staff quite well. Angela, the young girl who worked there, eventually married a butcher who at that time owned a stall in the top market. He also owned a shop in Walsall. For a short time Angela gave tarot card readings in a room alongside their market stall. The older lady who worked at Malcolm Campbell’s shop unfortunately died not long after it closed.
We also used the Coop (Market Street) for our groceries. Both shops are now closed. I always enjoyed walking round Woolworth. My daughter and husband can remember when the shop had wooden floors. I can recall when the assistants actually sold goods from behind the counters. It was a pity when it all changed. But I still enjoyed my walk round the shop. Sundays, when my husband was at work, was a good day to pop to Woolworth – I would buy a book, and in years to come a CD, and raid the Pic'n'Mix. Plus I would nearly always meet someone I knew and have a chat.
Occasionally we had evenings out at the Plaza cinema, and our children attended the Saturday-afternoon matinee. If there was a queue outside, Mr Hudson would keep everyone in order with the help of his megaphone. My son often tried to get in to see a film that he wasn’t old enough to watch. I think he managed it a few times, but there was one usherette who knew him, so much to his disgust he was often turned away.
I remember hugging the old-fashioned pipes, in a desperate attempt to keep warm. Even in the summer it was cold in the cinema, let alone the winter. I used to think of taking a blanket and a hot-water bottle with me. You’d hear people muttering loudly, “Turn the heat up, Mr Hudson.” He never did. I was really glad at times when the film finished. It was warmer outside than in. Plus the walk home helped get our circulation going again.
There was only one screen in those days. There were old-fashioned perfume machines in the ladies’ toilets; you put a small amount of money in and got a squirt of your favourite perfume. These were situated on the first floor. It all looked very elegant in that area. It was nicely carpeted, and seating was provided for customers waiting for the last performance to end and the next one to commence.
I applied for a job at the cinema. Mr Hudson offered me the position as an usherette. I turned it down. The next thing I knew I saw him parking outside our house; he had come to ask me why I didn’t want to work for him. Such were the times when employment was easy to find.
The Burger Bar cafe was our first port of call whenever we went shopping town. I would go with Sandra and her children, she lived across the road. Maureen who lived next door to me would sometimes come along with her son, and Pam, a friend from two doors away, would accompany us with her two children, Penny and Lorraine. Our children formed strong friendships that lasted many years.
The cafe had an excellent cook; she made the most delicious sausage rolls and apple pies. This was our weekly treat. One of us would sit in the window seat on the high stools watching the sleeping babies in the prams. They were quite safe as even if one of us visited the toilet there was always someone watching. There wasn’t room to take the big prams into the cafe. In those days we never used pushchairs until the babies were older. Pushchairs have evolved since the time my children were younger and can be pushed around many stores nowadays, although bigger prams seem to be making a comeback.
The owner of the Burger Bar was Ken Brindley, I seem to remember that at one time he had something to do with the Town Council. After the cafe closed his wife (who worked there) had a job in Rugeley market for quite a long time. The Burger Bar is now a Mexican cafe.
Odds and ends we would fetch from the small Spa grocery shop (known as Brian’s) on the main A5l road. Nearby there was a hairdressing shop and a butcher’s shop. There was also a sub-post office; when it closed Brereton Antiques took it over, it has since closed.
On the corner of Lea Hall Lane was a small garage. They sold second-hand cars and petrol. I am fairly certain it was called Midway Service Station; the proprietors were two brothers, their surname was Austin. I worked there for a short time cleaning cars. I used to clean the cars in a cold, dark building which was situated on the garage forecourt.
We were frequent visitors to the local branch library. Despite it being rather small it always had a good selection of books. It was opened in March 1960. When we lived in Brereton, Margaret Smith (now Neal) was the Head Librarian and Jackie Meek (now Horn) was her assistant.
Margaret retired and in time became Secretary of the Landor Society, the local history society. She has now retired from the post but still holds the archives for the Landor Society. Jackie is Library Manager. The library opened until seven o’clock two evenings a week in the seventies. Due to cutbacks it is now closed all day Wednesday and Friday mornings. Since writing this book Brereton Library closed and reopened in new premises. Jackie is still Branch Manager.
My daughter Helen recalls helping at the library on Saturday mornings when she was ten.
The British Legion almost faced Brereton Vicarage across the A5l.
A group of ladies organised a play-group for the younger children in the Legion premises, and my two children enjoyed spending three mornings a week playing with the other children in the main room. The building is no longer owned by the Legion, and is a private club known as Baggys.
Update 2014 – The club was demolished a long time ago, and a housing estate has been built on the land.
The local vicarage for St Michael’s Church is no longer there. I recall the vicar and his wife who lived there in the late 1960s/70s. They seemed the perfect couple. She was a small, dark-haired woman. I used to see her pushing her pram around the village with her babies in it. I think they had five children in the time I knew them. She was a busy soul. Always cheerful, she had a permanent smile on her face, and she would stop and chat to anyone and everyone. Her husband christened our son, at St Michaels Church. I remember feeling so sad when I heard he had died of some tropical disease. I think he contracted it when he was working abroad for a charity.
I don’t know what happened to his wife and children. I do hope they found happiness.
My children Helen and Paul commenced their schooldays at Hob Hill Infants School (previously known as George Vickers), which was situated on the A51, Brereton then progressed to the Junior School in Armitage Lane. George Vickers School was founded as Brereton Day School in 1888. It was rebuilt in 1905, but has since closed.
My main memories of the school are the welcoming and helpful attitude of the staff. Nothing was ever too much trouble for the Headmaster Mr Perry or his Deputy Head, Miss Jones. The teachers I came into contact with were always ready to assist. My children also have happy memories of the school.
My husband (John) worked at Three Spires Garage, Lichfield, as a motor mechanic for a short time. Then, wishing to work closer to home, he found employment at Bradbury & Brown’s Garage, Armitage Lane, Rugeley. His hours were 8.00–5.30pm. He was on 24-hour breakdown service. John was often called out just as we were preparing to go out for the evening. He worked at the garage for about seven years until he started work at Lea Hall Pit as a fitter. He worked the three shifts 6.00–2.00pm, 2.00–10.00pm, 10.00–6.00am. John was made redundant in 1991 when Lea Hall was closed. The site of Bradbury & Brown is now houses.
Fortunately my husband soon obtained work at the Milk Marketing Board (Dairy Products) as an HGV mechanic. He worked there for three years, when unfortunately he was made redundant again. He was lucky to be taken on as a driver with the same company. In July 1994 the Milk Marketing Board was broken up and subsidiaries sold off. From 1st August the company became Lloyd Frazer Dairy Supplies. From November 1st 1994 the company was Milk Marque.
Update 2014 – The Company is now closed.
There was plenty of work available in the late sixties and early seventies. If you disliked your job you could leave and start a new one the next day. I had numerous jobs during this time. When I first sought work, I applied at an employment agency, just off the Market Square in Rugeley (this closed a number of years ago). They quickly found me a position in the offices at Thorn Automation, Brereton. Thorn Automation opened as Lancashire Dynamo in 1947, it manufactured advanced forms of electronic equipment. My hours were 8.30–5.00pm. This soon proved too much, as I wanted to spend more time with the children, plus I thoroughly disliked the office I was working in. Well, not so much the office, the staff seemed to look on me as an intruder from the word go, and hardly spoke to me. Apart from, that is, my office junior, who was a nice friendly girl. I looked for work with fewer hours, which I found at The Imperial Garage, Armitage Lane, cleaning cars and making the tea. I also served petrol. My hours were 9.00–1.00pm.
My friend who lived two doors away would look after the children during the morning. In the afternoon she went to work and I looked after her children, along with mine. The Imperial Garage has long since closed. Texas DIY owned it for a while. The site is now owned by Armitage Shanks.
Cottages originally stood on the site. The ghost of an old lady has been seen to cross the road by the site early in the morning, and she disappears through the hedgerow bordering the canal. Apparently where the ghostly lady vanishes was originally a wharf.
Bradbury & Brown was my next place of work, where I served petrol and cleaned cars in the car showrooms. I worked the afternoon shift. My hours were 1.00–5.00pm. Of course petrol pumps had not gone “self-serve” in those days, so I always prayed for good weather.
Harry Price worked in the car showrooms. Cyril was the driver, he worked part-time, he was retired, and Amby Jones did the odd jobs. Amby worked part-time, he had retired and took the job at the garage as an added interest. I seem to recall he owned a shop in Redbrook Lane at one time. When he retired from the garage he would walk his Alsatian dog (Julie) down to the garage everyday. He was liked by everyone who knew him. His daughter Norrie Jones was my daughter’s teacher at Hob Hill School, Brereton.
The decline in our newspapers is something I mourn. I dislike reading online. At one time we had local newspaper offices in town. There was the Stafford Newsletter, The Rugeley Post, The Lichfield Mercury. Of course the internet has not helped as people now advertise for free on the internet leading to the closure of these popular friendly offices. The only free paper left is The Chronicle. Pluse The Lichfield Mercury has very little news for our area so we do not know what is happening in our area. Until it’s happened that is and then it’s too late to complain! Good for some but not the citizens of our town.
When they stopped the traffic coming through the town always made me think it was the beginning of the end for the smaller shops. People had the opportunity when driving through the town to see what was on display in the shop windows and what a busy little town we were with lots of individual shops. Not chain stores. Apart from Woolworths of course.
Other shops along the High Street were, Joette’s, a ladies clothes shop. The Army & Navy Stores. I can recall at least four shoe shops. Two shops that sold wallpaper and paint. Second Generation that was originally a second hand shop that sold good quality furniture. Yvonnes women’s clothes shop was at the top of Upper Brook Street. There was Jack Hills along the Horsefair, Windsor Furniture, In Upper Brook Street there was a record shop, that later became a video shop. In fact there were many shops all popular and well supported.
Only last Saturday I was shocked to see how our popular outdoor market had shrunk to a few stores. A great pity
Back in the day we had family doctors who knew us and our families by our Christian names! Now they are so overworked they have to do many consultations by telephone. In fact I’ve never seen my own doctor despite being on her books for many years. It’s a case of pot luck now who you see. Although, I do think our doctor’s surgery and all the staff are quite wonderful. They are always rushed off their feet but always do their best for you.
I know it’s always said that people look at the past with rose coloured glasses. Well, this time it’s truye the past was a far better place when we had shops in town, markets that thrived, libraries that had new books now and again.
We had fields where we took our children fishing in the brook, we had picnics, we walked our dogs without fear of being knocked over by mountain bike cyclists. This is on the so called Heritage Walk. We’re not allowed to walk the fields now. Our grand-children will never know the joys of the open countryside that we did. A great pity.