1926 followed the same pattern: Easter tea, Crucifixion, several chorus items from the Messiah, walks to Clent at Easter and Whitsun holidays with the usual crowd. During this year Clarence had found one of the trebles had a wonderful voice and with his training he developed into a star performer at many concerts singing solos and sometimes with the choir in Mendelssohn's "O for the wings of a dove". While he still retained his young voice it was a joy to hear some of the solos he gave in church. I recall his moving singing of "How beautiful are the feet" from the Messiah. In one of his solos he used to finish with a top C, a terrifically high note for a boy. A concert was held at the church hall of St Luke's, Dudley, with him, Fred Rowberry and others. About a dozen of the crowd attended and what a long walk back it seemed as there were no buses running.

It was in 1926 that Nora took me to tea at her home (what an ordeal that was!) and from then on I was a regular visitor. We would take the tram to Kinver and walk along Kingsford Lane for about two miles, returning home about 10 o'clock. Nora and I used to meet very frequently and visit the cinema, usually the King's Hall, and often walked back to her home across the Long Fields. We always sat near to the orchestra led by Norris Stanley and the Slaneys who played the piano and cello. Although most of the music was classical the patrons always seemed to love it. When the film "Broken Blossoms" came the King's Hall was decorated up in a Chinese style and the attendants wore Chinese dresses and hats.

Clarence and Kathleen's romance broke up as expected - it could not have lasted - and then she fell in love with a Spaniard (a student) whose father was reputed to be a millionaire. Her parents soon put a stop to that when she said she would marry him and live in Spain.

It was in 1926 that another event occurred which made a great change to some of our lives. Clarrie Mac (I know not how he was called by that name but everyone knew him by it) had been with some fishing friends to Arley and talking about it on one of our after-choir-practice walks he said what a marvellous place it would be to go camping, and he had an address (Bank Farm) where the farmer was named Colers. A letter was written and a small party of us arranged to go there on the August bank holiday. Clarence, Clarrie Mac, Harry Smith, Charlie Price, Jack Jones and myself. Jack Jones was going to borrow a tent from the church scouts but after this was arranged he dropped out as apparently he had no permission to borrow it.

We took the tent, however, and got Erdwick Bellamy to take it to Bank Farm. They were all installed there before I got down on the Saturday afternoon and Clarence walked to meet me at the station for I had no idea where the place was and would never have found it. It was about a mile upstream in a valley with a tiny brook dividing Worcestershire from Shropshire and was named on the map as Border Valley.


We were visited on the Monday by Nora although I cannot remember how she got there. I know her parents had gone to Llandudno and she was staying with an aunt and uncle and her cousins Leonard, Trixy and Donald, at their farm near Bromsgrove. I think I must have met her at the station but all memory of that has disappeared. We had a happy day together. The vicar and his wife came the next day and she brought with her a very large home-made cake which went down well. Some men were cutting down some trees accompanied by particularly vile and vulgar swear words so we had to tell them about the vicar to shut them up, which they did.

This was my first experience of camping and I did love that beautiful valley where we stayed and which later on was to become a part of my life. The road to it led from the main Bewdley to Cleobury-Mortimer road through the Wyre Forest and turned off at Button Oak and became very rough, after about a mile, as it led one down to Bank Farm. We were the only campers there on that 1926 August bank holiday and its solitude and the majestic silence of the night atmosphere gave to me its great beauty. Alas, a great tarmac highway goes to that valley now and about a hundred caravans and chalets cover the lovely valley.

Some nights we used to walk to Arley station and over the road to the Harbour Inn for a pleasant drink there and return back at about ten, walking to the valley along the railway track. One of the amazing sights along this track was the profusion of wild flowers of all kinds and colours along its banks but what was uncommon about it, particularly on a dark night, were dozens of lights dotted about from the fireflies which abounded there. It was always a mystery to me how they could switch their lights on and off. We collected a few in a jar and took them to the camp to see exactly what made the light but unless some plants were also brought with them they did not seem to work. In the darkness of the tent it was possible to tell the time by a wrist watch with the grreenish light from some of the more powerful of these tiny beetle-like insects.

In 1930 I was so impressed with the walk along this line, now the Severn [Valley] Railway, that I wrote a small poem about it to put in the photograph album.

One day we went out into the Wyre Forest, which ended at the bottom of the valley. We thought to catch a rabbit for dinner, hoping to club one with a stick, and although we saw several it was an impossible mission for us. The days and nights wore on and our time (and food) began to run out. On the Friday, Clarrie (Mac) had to return to Stourbridge to sign on at the Labour Exchange, as it was then called by the unemployed, and he set out to walk it back (via Bewdley, Wolverley and Kinver) to Stourbridge. Of course it was not worth his while to return as we were all clearing away on the Saturday. We packed up the tent etc, burned all the straw we had slept on and left the valley tidy and clean for another time. We all agreed that it was the best holiday we had ever had in our lives.

In the June of 1926 it was suggested that a carnival be held in Stourbridge. Our glee party dressed up in fancy costumes, singing in the street and gathering money in collection boxes in aid of the Corbett Hospital which we started doing about a week before the actual day of the parade.

This was such a great success that a larger event was proposed for the following year, 1927, and Nora's dad suggested to me that I should get appointed to the committee, which I did. The main idea was that I should propose they write to Mrs Herald of Lye to see if she would repeat her play of "The Dream" in the carnival year of 1927 and they would get the council to grant the free use of the Town Hall for three nights. When I said that it would be quite easy to raise a sum of one hundred pounds they then agreed to proceed and in this way the performance of the "Midsummer Night's Dream" came to be presented. There was a slightly changed cast and Clarence was no longer the musical adviser and pianist, owing to some dispute between himself and Mrs Herald causing him to drop out and Harold Jackson of Wollescote to take his place. That carnival committee used to hold its meetings in the former council chamber above the Market Hall in Stourbridge and for the first two years it was chaired by the Mayor, Leonard J. Cook, and the secretary was a Mr A. Parsons, an income tax inspector. Several members of the council and interested citizens (like me) also took part.


Glee Party

The Christmas of that year (1926) I was honoured by being invited to tea at Nora's home, a bit of an ordeal for me. This set the pattern for some years following. Nora's uncle and aunt, Jack and Nellie Homer, with their young sons Jackie and Cyril, would always be at her home from the afternoon till about midnight. Nora's mum and Aunt Nellie used to vie with each other about who made the best trifle. Crackers and paper hats, card games, Monopoly and a bit of singing would take place until the party broke up at midnight and the rest and I would take our leave and walk down Crabbe Street and Love Lane to High Street where I went home while they continued down to Lye Cross. The following Boxing Day the whole party would be repeated in the Homer family's home, over the ironmongery shop. I can still remember seeing Nora's dad and mother smiling at each other when they noticed us holding hands under the table. Then at night, when the party broke up, I would walk with them to Crabbe Street before turning in myself.

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Copyright © A.H.Pardoe and W.D.Pardoe 1991