A Sunbeam in Shenton Street…

May Freer. This promotional photo was taken at the Zarb studio in St Saviour's Road.

May Freer. This promotional photo was taken at the Zarb studio in St Saviour’s Road.

A Sunbeam Alpine sports car, that is – won by Roy Freer’s mother May in 1961 in a competition to write a slogan for the Britvic Cherry B drink!

The family lived in Shenton Street, and ‘I pestered Mum to enter the competition’, Roy writes. He helped her with the first part, which was to put six singers of songs about Cherry B in order (they were recorded onto a flexi-disc). The second part was to write the slogan:

for the Cherry B twins to promote a new sparkling version. Her winning slogan was so simple that I suspect that was what won the competition: ‘It’s good to have a choice of twins, with Cherry B one always wins!’. The slogan was condensed to ‘Cherry B – always a winner’ on the float that Britvic toured around lots of seaside resorts, with fairground horses ridden by the Cherry B twins (one blond, one brunette).

CherryB_car_Britvic_letter1 (2)Imagine opening this letter on a Saturday morning! Such excitement! Mum woke me up. I was a lazy, typical teenager, but I was soon jumping up and down on the bed. Mum had to go to the phone box to ring Dad’s workplace to tell him the news.

The prize was presented to May at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool by the radio and TV presenter David Jacobs. She was accompanied by her husband Albert, Roy, and Roy’s aunt, who also won £50 for passing on the entry form to his mother. This was followed by a dinner at the Savoy Hotel – ‘all free, first class train tickets too!’.

CherryB_Car_May_David_Jacobs_Roy (2)

David Jacobs presenting May with the car keys. Roy is on his right.

Roy confesses to being ‘a bit disappointed’ with the first prize:

I wanted the third prize, a top of the range Decca stereo radiogram. None of us wanted the second prize – a Lambretta scooter. My prize for helping to win the car (apart from the trip to Blackpool, the fun times in the car and seeing my Mum and Dad so happy) was the Philips tape recorder that they bought me.

May and Albert with the car in Shenton Street

May and Albert with the car in Shenton Street

It was Albert who actually drove the car, which was a ‘bright Pippin red’. Roy was too young – ‘and Mum never learned to drive’!

Many thanks Roy for passing on this great story and the photos. Definitely something a little different… And if you’d like to see the original advert to promote Cherry B, someone has uploaded this and the songs from the flexi-disk to YouTube at https://youtu.be/z117s0oMjbk.



Charnwood Street school photos from the 1950s…

Roy Freer has sent me his class photos from Charnwood Street School from 1954 – 59. Some of you may recognise him – he’s the one on the right with fair wavy hair in the wigwam photo. This was taken in the playground after the class photo, and ‘was staged as an idea of the photographer and maybe the teacher, I guess. I think various groups of us had a similar photo taken after swapping blankets and headdresses’.

Roy's Indian pow-wow lo-res (2)In the photo below he recalls the female teacher’s surname as Bywater or Bywaters: ‘Miss or Mrs, I’m not sure, but we called all lady teachers Miss back then’. He thinks the male teachers in the other photos may have been Mr Evans and (the tall thin one) Mr Eaton, but he’s not sure. Can anyone help?

Roy at Charnwood Street School 1 lo-res (2)

Charnwood Street (1)

Roy lived in Shenton Street, but when he left Charnwood Street School he went to Ellis Boy’s School on Ellis Avenue, near the Melton turn on Belgrave Road, rather than Dale or Moat, the nearby schools: ‘I was the only one from Charnwood Street… so I lost touch with all but two of my classmates. Dale Street was a Secondary Modern, and Moat was one of the so-called Intermediate schools. Moat was full, and I didn’t qualify for a place at Grammar school, so the two Intermediate school options were Ellis or King Richard, and my parents chose Ellis for me’.

Roy at Charnwood Street School 2 lo-res (2)

Charnwood Street (2)

‘It turned out to be a good thing that Moat was full. Both Dale and Moat were originally mixed boys and girls schools, but after a year or so  of me going to Ellis, Dale and Moat joined together. The boys all moved from Dale to Moat, and the girls from Moat moved to Dale, and both became Secondary Modern, Moat losing its Intermediate status’.

Roy at Charnwood Street School 3 lo-res (2)

Charnwood Street (3)

Hardly any Secondary Modern schools had the option of taking GCE ‘O’ levels, but being at an Intermediate school meant that I could (and did) take them in the 5th year’. Roy adds that ‘I could have gone onto a Grammar school to take ‘A’ levels, but I went to Charles Keene College to take mine’.

Roy at Charnwood Street School 4 lo-res (2)

Charnwood Street (4)

Many thanks to Roy for sending the photos and his memories. If you recognise yourself or someone else, please leave a comment and let me know!


Winding wool – and the Dorothy Café…

Pam Smith, who used to live in Occupation Road, left a comment recently at ‘A Charny Family’ (https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/a-charny-family/) asking if anyone had a photo of the wool shop on Charnwood Street. I wonder if this was the one called Wool-n-Wear at 173 Charnwood Street, where James Jelly previously had his funeral director’s business? It was still there in 1969, just before the street was demolished.

I don’t have a photograph, but a couple of people did remember a wool shop, maybe the same one, run by a Miss Seward, described as ‘thin and bespectacled’ with dark hair. Hand knitting was very popular at the time – and back into fashion again recently – but as some people will remember, the wool wasn’t always sold in a ball ready for knitting. A lot of it came as a ‘hank’, when it was wound into a large circular shape and then twisted on itself to keep it in place. It then had to be rolled into a ball, usually while someone else – often a child – held it either side around their hands. This wasn’t a popular job, but sometimes it was a way of getting some extra sweets…

Ruth Wragg remembers that her mother bought wool by the hank in Charnwood Street:

and you had to sit with your hands held up so she could roll it into a ball – but if you volunteered to do it for the wool lady she would give you either an aniseed ball, a gobstopper or a stick of liquorice wood or a sherbert flying saucer, which was my favourite.

Dorothy Café at 143 Charnwood Street.

Dorothy Café at 143 Charnwood Street (Michael Westmoreland)

Ruth’s mother kept the Dorothy Café at 143 Charnwood Street, to the left of Milner’s butcher’s in the photo above. Previous occupants of 143 included the Midland Diving Equipment Company, who appear there in a directory in 1960, and the boot repairer Fergus Wright, who was there from at least 1925 to 1954, maybe longer.

I think there were other cafes on Charnwood Street – someone mentioned one called the Venezia – but here’s an advert for the Dorothy suggesting the hard work that was involved in staying open for 14 hours a day, every day of the week…

Many thanks to Ruth for her memories and the advert, and to Michael Westmoreland for permission to reproduce the photograph of the café.

School hymn books and other memories of Charny…

I was contacted recently by Tricia Todd with some of her memories of Charnwood Street. She’s happy for me to share them, so here they are:

The Post Office on the corner of Charnwood Street and Farnham Street (Paul Dorrell)

The Post Office on the corner of Charnwood Street and Farnham Street (Paul Dorrell)

I came to 56 Farnham Street with my parents Lillian and Denis Wright, who took over the corner grocery shop opposite the Post Office in Charnwood Street in the late 1950s. I have an older sister Judith, and we became very good friends with Paul Dorrell whose parents owned the Post Office. I attended Charnwood Street nursery, infant and junior school. The teachers were in our 1st year, Mrs Charlesworth, then moved up into the tower to Mrs O’Conner, then to Mr White, and our last year was Miss Simpson, who became Mrs Wade.

I remember the class Christmas party. I think that there were at least two more classes in each year, and we had to take our own cutlery and plates and bowls with a marker on it (normally a piece of sticking plaster, something that didn’t come off when washed), and then into the hall for games, and one year some dancing. Every morning we attended assembly, and we came in to the hall to Grieg’s’ “Morning” symphony. If you lost your hymn book you quickly acquired another one (by fair means or foul)!

Mum’s maiden name was Gent, whose family lived in St Saviour s Road, so when she saw the post about the bombing in Grove Road she was very interested (see https://cib2.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/we-could-hear-the-bombs-falling/).

Merry Christmas…


Dolls made by the Leicester company Cascelloid

Dolls made by the Leicester company Cascelloid (with thanks to East Midlands Oral History Archive)

A very Happy Christmas to everyone, and all best wishes for 2016.

Christmas set me thinking about a shop not far from Charnwood Street. I recalled it as Berridge’s, on Humberstone Road, but have been reminded that it was actually called Burbage’s and was on Uppingham Road. I think it sold mainly bicycles and electrical goods, but they had toys as well that could be chosen for Christmas and then paid for week by week. I remember having a doll from there one year as a Christmas present. My Mum and I used to stop off at Sparrow Park on the bus into the city centre and make the payment – and I could see the doll lying in its box on the shelf for weeks on end before it was actually time for it to be collected!

*There are some memories of Charny at Christmas from previous years at https://cib2.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/christmas-in-charny/ and https://cib2.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/christmas-shopping-in-charny/.


Upper Charnwood Street…

Here are some pictures of Upper Charnwood Street taken by Denis Calow in December 1970, just before it was demolished.

Corner of Upper Charnwood Street and Vulcan Road in December 1970

88 – 106 Upper Charnwood Street and the corner of Vulcan Road in December 1970

These were mainly houses rather than shops, though a few businesses were run from them over the years. In 1932 there was one shopkeeper, Mrs Frances Gertrude Dendle at number 48, a lady’s hairdresser, Mrs Dorothy Bagshaw, at number 4, and Horace Bellamy, a gents’ hairdresser at number 2.

Upper_Charnwood_Street_96106_1970In 1966 there was a hairdresser, Mrs Margaret Walker at number 2, and a butcher, C. Henshaw, at number 48, next to the entrance to the foundry of Taylor and Hubbard, crane makers.

Photographs: copyright Denis Calow, reproduced here in accordance with in accordance with My Leicestershire History licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/. My Leicestershire History website http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/myleicestershirehistory. 

We could hear the bombs falling…

Earlier this week there was an article in the Leicester Mercury about the bombs that fell in the Charnwood Street area in November 1940. This featured Greta Taylor nee Wenlock, who was eight years old at the time and attended Charnwood Street School. The family lived close to Grove Road, which was ‘turned into a huge crater. The hole in the road was absolutely massive and the houses around it were rubble’. Greta also remembers having to carry a gas mask to school every day, ‘and there were drills to make sure we could put them on properly’.

Bomb damage in Grove Road, November 1940

Bomb damage in Grove Road, November 1940

One of the people she recalls was the landlord of the Black Boy pub nearby, Mr Parker, who brought her a ticket for a street party once Victory in Europe was announced. She was ‘desperate to go out and join one of the parties’ – but the ticket was for a party in Sherrard Street, and when she got there she wasn’t allowed to join in as she lived across from the street rather than in it…

There are other memories of World War 2 in the Charny area at https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/charny-at-war/ and https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/more-about-charny-at-war/.