You may or may not know that I, in similar fashion to many children, had two homes throughout my childhood and adolescence.
The reason for my dwelling duo being that, weekdays, I was a privately fostered child and at the weekends I stayed with my birth mum, meaning two completely different families, living by two different sets of rules, two different sets of friends and neighbours and, of course, two different sets of resident cars.
My mum’s road, Royal Road, Sutton Coldfield, was not a particularly regal affair. A mixture of dwellings, built, with one exception, between the 1900s and 1930s, its head teeing off the busy Coleshill Road, its tail ambling nonchalantly into council stock-lined Jerome Road, with a stunted spur, known as Kathleen Road creating a short cut out and away to the right. The left-hand side, which included my home, was blocked by a tall railway embankment carrying the Sutton Park line past the back of the houses. It’s a wonder I didn’t become a dyed in the wool railway enthusiast.
A road of mixed fortunes brought with it an excellent mix of cars during the 1970s, although by no means all of the households were car owning at the time and only visiting cars parked in the street, which gave us children a broad vista, even if we weren’t allowed to cross the road on our own.
Next door to my mother’s postage stamp-sized three bedroomed semi, on the other side of a much knuckle-wrapped wall lived the Everetts. Mr Everett passed away at the start of the 70s, but Mrs Everett (I never knew her name, but her of the ever so sensitive ears) and their daughter, Rosemary, kept for many years the little hearing-aid beige, 1953ish Hillman Huskey that he once drove so proudly, finally selling it to our gruff neighbour Paul, on the other side of the house in the 1980s, as a little used classic, which I believe remained mouldering in his garage until his own demise decades later. Paul spent much of the 70s nursing his other car, a somewhat temperamental white Triumph TR6, out on occasional outings, but again it didn’t see much action and, kept on the drive, began to rust prodigiously.
Before Paul’s arrival, Pauline and Sam Dear had lived there, first with a 1966 ‘D’ registered Austin (pronounced ‘Orstin’) 1100, which was then replaced by a similar MkII version, in the same white livery. Cars were in short supply down the road, on our side, there being the Hicks family, with JJW251D, a rather fine Triumph 2000 and a trendy-looking couple with an early 70s Mazda estate of small proportions, carrying the distinctive personal plate ‘1LOL’.
Across the road in the exception to the rule 1950s/60s bungalow, was entrepreneurial builder, Bill Packer, with a substantial and imposing blue and grey Rover P5B Coupe, perhaps in many ways the finest car on the street. It was certainly very new when it arrived. He also owned a Transit van, in which he kindly transported me and my drums to an early gig. Thanks Bill!
There was a dearth of cars heading up towards Coleshill Road, on the other side of the street, save for a a young professional couple and their Datsun 100A, the Aston family, with an exotic Simca estate and the Turnbulls, with a fine-looking Mk2 Ford Consul. Resident at one of the fine large houses at the head of the street were two MGA coupes, neither of which I ever saw on the road, but the owner often confided in me his wish to restore them, such classics only then just beginning to become appreciated.
Back to our side of the road and working towards home, saw the other house I was most familiar with, 17 Royal Road, where my chums Peter and Robert Holmes lived, along with their parents, Ted and Irene, and numerous older siblings, vis; Lisa, Ricky, Johnny, Barbie and Billy. The first family car I recall them owning was a Vauxhall Viva HB, which was replaced in 1973/4 by a Morris Marina 1.8, in red, by which time crush-loading had been alleviated by the fledging of the older siblings, or their graduation to powerful early Japanese or British motorbikes.
I only remember one ride in the Marina, to an early bus and steam rally, probably at Tyesley, Birmingham, in 1974. Most of the time, us rowdy boys could be found using our ‘rat run’ at the foot of the railway bank or braving our way through the undergrowth to the unfenced line, where we could experience earth tremors as heavy diesels plodded by, pulling freight, only freight, high above our gardens, guards waving to us from their cosy-looking brake-vans.
Almost back home, next to the Holmes’, was a pale-yellow Vauxhall Victor FB, a car I was never fond of, followed by an Arrow series Hillman Hunter at number 21. Thoroughly modern couple, Madeleine and Colin, at number 23 had (or their predecessors had), a Manx cat-like, ‘bobtail’ Ford Zephyr MkIV for a while. Finally, at 25, a little seen, cosseted 1967 registered Mk1 Ford Cortina Estate was resident.
At my mum’s house during the 1970s, no car was ever resident, but in the 1980s I was about to put that right.
- Fuzz t