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News > OVA News > A Letter From America – Prof. Tom Madden (BVGS 1931-1937)

A Letter From America – Prof. Tom Madden (BVGS 1931-1937)

Professor Tom Madden (OV1937) provides a little history detailing his early life in the West Midlands.
2 Apr 2020
OVA News
A Letter from America
A Letter from America
1.How we came to move to the Royal Borough (Is it still?)     

I was born in our first house on Alexandra Road, Wedenesbury (Staffs);close enough to my fathers engineering works (employed as an engineer and draughtsman) to permit him to come home for lunch and thus according to A.F. (4+ years older [and Tom’s brother] ) to sing me to sleep with lullabies such as “The Merry Widow Waltz” and “The Lilly of Laguna”. It was a nice house with a lovely back garden.
When we moved to 18 Victoria Road, Darlaston, it was to live behind and above our Aunt Adelaide’s tobacco shop. From our bedroom we heard (with the “Bulls” (sirens) summoning to work) the tramp of the heavy boots of the workmen going down to the Works. The Works included Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, Rubery Owen an E.C.R. J KEAY.

In the opposite direction were the wooden clogs of the young women going to the nut & bolt factory (direction Bullstake to Hings Hill) I think all our childhood drawings were of smoke stacks and slag heaps. Clear days in the town were rare. After all we were in the Black Country (S. Staffs.). We had two languages, “Black Country” with our mates, with marbles, hoops and later Yo-Yos in back yards; and a switch inside the front door to the speech expected from our teacher mother.

While I was at the crawling stage on Alexandra Road, my brother had his first nine-month episode of rheumatic fever and from the kitchen toy cupboard to his bed I carried a couple of alphabet bricks at a time and was the pulled up over the eiderdown and taught to read. Thus before my fourth birthday I read my first full length Captain Marryat novel! “The Children of the New Forest”, which I would think is still a good read and very memorable.

Three years after me our brother John’s birth turned out to be a somewhat traumatic affair for bothy mother and child. On one side of the square at Wednesbury stood the office of Drs Dingley and Wilson. Lionel Dingley who was our home visiting doctor was also the lead general surgeon at Dudley Hospital. It was he who advised our mother to move the family to a healthier area. We had moved from Darlaston to Wednesbury to be closer to its reputed Boys High School – (and so to Sutton Coldfield.)
  1. Ideal Choices versus Loving Self Sacrifice

Our mother ( without I.T.) found Sutton Coldfield with its Tudor Grammar School and 9 square mile hunting chase. It isn’t all that far away in miles but I guess that with half a mile from 18 Royal Road to the train stop on Trinity, awaiting a ram to Walsall and then another to Wednesbury, our father must have added an hour to morning and evening transport and continued to do it into his early 80’s. He was the site engineer to the building of County Hall, Westminster, a first combination of steel and brick structures. In WW1 they made platoons (“pontoons”?)to carry troops and tanks across rivers and in WW2 parts of the Mulberry Harbours.
  1. Street names were sometimes those of monarchs, local big-wigs or family names.

Your notes from Anderton Close again invoke memories of my first year at BVGS. 2A11 was reached down the gravel drive until, on the right, an arched brick passage led through to the school yard. At its entry, a sharp turn left led past S.M’s Tuck Shop. Sargent  Major supplemented his income by selling us “tuck” at several times of day. Essentially his job was to train and drill the cadets, plan and put on the Tattoo of 1934. At the end of the corridor a glass door opened onto 2A11.

The in charges, our dear Mr Thorpe (Thorpey) first took a roll call. E were all in pairs on double desks and the chorus started Anderson/Ayres; Bathgate/Bears; Brookes/Brown; Bryant/Carlton;Casson/Clarke; Coulton/Cowley and so on – via Lukeman/ Maddento gallop home with Rainbow/Smith; Thorpe/Whitehead; Whilil/Young. Anderso/Ayres, their backs to the cupboards were our Book Monitors, distributing exercise books (different colour jackets for different subjects) and our pre-paid new Text Books. There were also Ink Monitors who filled our white porcelain inkwell at the top right of every half desk. Beside me sitting in front of the coke oven with its “escape pipe”, Stan Lukeman was our Coke Monitor.

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