Memories are Made of This by Bob Garlick
So went the song that Perry Como used to sing. Perry who? Some will say, but not us oldies, who have been around the block a few times.
I recently met a chap in the local pharmacy. We got chatting and he said he and his pals enjoyed something I had written about earlier days in Coventry, so I thought I would reminisce again… I spent most of my younger years living on Binley Road in Stoke, that’s in Coventry for any out of town readers. A mere child of about five, I remember being lined up on Stoke Green with the rest of the school to salute King George VI as he was driven to the Rootes factory in Aldermoor Lane. Boys were told to raise their caps as he passed. The school was Stoke National and I remember a very lively young girl pupil called Billie Whitelaw who lived locally. Sadly Billie passed away recently after having a distinguished career as an actress. I didn’t really know her, but always followed her progress.
A few years on, after WWII my pals and I were in our early teens and used to sit on a bench on Binley Road and watch the cars go by, with great interest in the styles as the various makers started to tart up their models for export. Headlamps were embodied into the front mudguards initially, and then they got a bit more adventurous, as the radiator grilles which had been vertical were made horizontal, into what was known as the Dollar Grin. This was to render an Americanised look.
In those days cars were driven from the factories to the docks by car delivery drivers, who would drive in convoys of ten or up to twenty cars at a time. Every evening Humber Road would be lined with Hillman Minxes awaiting pick up by the drivers.
We saw the introduction of the Standard Vanguard. This was the ultimate in American type styling and introduced a ‘One Model’ policy at the Standard Motor Co. This was later expanded by van and pick-up versions and a few years on by a whole range of smaller cars.
As lads, we didn’t realise the full significance of the manufacturing potential in the city, we were becoming more interested in anything else that might pass by. Like girls, for instance. Our bench sitting moments moved from Binley Road, and into the park at Stoke Green. Better than watching cars! What we didn’t appreciate was the amount of industry and employment in Coventry. A red top newspaper printed a banner headline pronouncing Coventry as ‘Boom City’. They came from all points and there were jobs. Some of the companies from memory were Humber at Stoke and Ryton; Standard at Canley, Torrington Avenue, Radford and Banner Lane; Morris at Courthouse Green, Churchill Avenue, Mile Lane; GEC at Stoke, Browns Lane, Ford St, Helen St, Spon St; Jaguar at Lockhurst Lane; Alvis at Holyhead Rd; Daimler at Radford; Sir Alfred Herbert, provided skilled workers to the world as well as machine tools; Gauge and Tool; Wickmans; AW Aircraft at Whitley and Baginton; Coventry Radiator and Presswork; Dunlop; Motor Panels; Carbodies; Armstrong Siddeley; BTH. Later, Massey Ferguson, in Banner Lane, was to become the largest tractor manufacturer in the world. All these major manufacturers relied on smaller companies to supply them, such as Brico, The Coventry Swaging Company, and Unbrako. As I say, these are all from memory and there are, I am sure, many omissions for which I apologise.
It was still possible to park in the centre of Trinity Street, Corporation Street and even in Market Way. The wonderful Coventry Theatre had Pantomimes that ran until March and then a spring show that ran for many weeks. I remember seeing the musical, ‘The White Horse Inn’, on ice, would you believe?
And what about the cinemas? Unique to Coventry kids were the ‘Gormont’ and the ‘Scayler’. I didn’t know anyone who called them the ‘Gomont’ or the ‘Scarla’. The Empire, Opera, Savoy, Forum, Crown, Globe and many more. There were also the dance halls, The GEC, The Rialto, Courtaulds (oh yes, another major manufacturer) and the Matrix, like the cinemas it was always referred to as the ‘Mattrix’ never the ‘Maytrix’.
I could go on but you may think I have ‘Gone On’ long enough. Another time, perhaps…have a good 2015!
© 2015 Bob Garlick